MECHANICSBURG — Fort Cherry’s record-setting football season reached its final act Thursday, but Steelton-Highspire got to write the final scenes.
The Rangers, who won their first WPIAL title two weeks ago, were defeated in their first PIAA Class A championship game 40-8 by the Rollers at Cumberland Valley’s Chapman Field.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Sieg, who rushed for over 1,900 yards this season, provided a few highlight moments for the Rangers (15-1). However, the show belonged to the all-time passing leader in Pennsylvania high school history, Roller signal caller Alex Erby.
Erby passed for 340 yards and five touchdowns, going 29 for 39 with a mix of deep passes, short throws and a handful of shovel passes. He also ran for a 37-yard touchdown.
That rushing score was the one that started to turn the game into a rout. Fort Cherry had stopped the Rollers on downs on the previous possession, but six plays into the next series, Erby’s draw play caught everyone off guard and he crossed the goal line 15 yards ahead of everyone. That made it 21-0 with 6:53 remaining in the second quarter.
Nazier Fuller scored two touchdowns on Erby shovel passes, different only in length. He took the quick flip and ran down the right sideline both times. The first was a 17-yard touchdown with 5:09 left in the first quarter. The second was a 77-yard score with 4:31 remaining in the second period.
Erby’s other touchdown throws were a 5-yard pass to Jaeion Perry with 8:23 left in the first, a 32-yard pass to Durrell Ceasar with 3:25 left in the second and a 3-yard touchdown pass to Taevon Legrande with 6:44 left in the third. That last touchdown made it 42-0 and incurred the mercy rule.
“We have a very young secondary,” Fort Cherry coach Tanner Garry said. “All year we’ve been pretty stout stopping the run. We just don’t have the experience on the back end. They played well, but if there’s an area where we’re young, that’s it. You could see the experience show.”
Fort Cherry did not have any dropoff in effort with the running clock. Brayden Kirby intercepted an Erby pass with 1:41 left in the third for the Rangers’ only takeaway, and only the third interception thrown by Erby this year.
In the game’s final minutes, Sieg made his biggest plays to get the Rangers on the board. His 61-yard run set up Fort Cherry on the Rollers’ 4-yard line. Three plays later, he scored his 34th rushing touchdown of the season on a run to the right with 1:47 to play. A 2-point conversion run by Shane Cornali provided the final points of the game.
“It stings that we just lost a state championship, but that kid’s a sophomore, and he’s got talent around him,” Garry said.
The only other scoring threat by the Rangers came in the last minute of the second quarter. They had a first-and-goal at the Steel-High 9-yard line, but two plays later, a wild snap nearly knocked them back 25 yards. Sieg was able to turn the play into an incompletion. Sieg ran 6 yards to the 1-yard line on the next play, but he was stopped for no gain on fourth down with 54 seconds left in the half.
“We never got a chance to get our game going,” Garry said. “Our style is to wear teams down, but that’s a big team up front.”
Sieg finished with 153 rushing yards but was only 4 for 12 for 21 yards with two interceptions throwing the ball.
The next-most productive player on the Fort Cherry offense was Ethan Faletto, who had 33 rushing yards on 12 carries.
It was the Rollers’ fifth state title in five state finals appearances, and third in the last four years. Last December, Steel-High defeated Union, 22-8, in the championship game.