By Josh Shreckengost
Kiski Area's Matthew Hilty celebrates after a 49-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' 21-7 win over Butler. Hilty led all receivers with four catches for 80 yards and a score.
VANDERGRIFT, Pa. -- When asked how he felt after his team's season-opening win over Butler, Kiski Area head coach Sam Albert kept his answer concise.
"We'll take it," Albert said.
It wasn't the prettiest of victories, but Albert's Cavaliers made enough plays and got an excellent effort out of the defense to down the visiting Golden Tornado, 21-7. Kiski had some miscues -- especially in the red zone where they committed two big turnovers, the last of which led to Butler's only points -- but a win is a win and Albert was happy with the end result.
"The first game, you expect mistakes. I'm just happy we won," Albert said. "Butler is a very good football team, big up front and they have some skill kids. I was really pleased our overall performance. I thought our defense played well and again, we made mistakes. Those are things that you hope you get over in the first game. We're lucky we won because of the mistakes we made, but they're all correctable."
Neither team mounted much offense in the first half and the teams were scoreless for over 23 minutes in the first two quarters until Cavaliers quarterback Logan Johnson made a dazzling run which set up his own 5-yard touchdown scamper to break the ice. Johnson showed a dynamic playmaking ability when the pocket broke down and Kiski's first touchdown drive of the night was a direct result of the 6-0, 185-pound senior making plays with his legs.
"[Johnson's touchdown run] was big, that really gave us momentum going into the second half," Albert said. "He really showed the legs in this game. He's like that street ball kid. You have all those keys to read and all of your progressions and he plays just like he's in the backyard. He made some big plays for us and he brings that ability. When he gets the ball in his hands, you really don't know where he's going or what he's going to do with it. He reads well in the pocket and when to run and he saw the openings and ran it down. The touchdown was all him. That's just ad-libbing on his part and getting into the end zone."
The Cavaliers did not allow the Golden Tornado to get moving at all during four quarters of suffocating defense. The Kiski defensive line was stout and their seasoned linebacking corp was up to the task all night. Brock Wilkins was particularly effective as he doled out more than a few big hits which set the tone early and showed Butler that yards on the ground would be extremely hard-earned.
"Brock's a beast. We call him 'The Manster,' half-man, half-monster," Albert said. "He's a beast on both sides. When you see him and Matt Hilty, they never leave the field. They play both sides and they're on special teams, too. I though Brock played very well. What he does for us defensively, he's our captain out there. He and Brayden Dunmire have both been four-year starters so it's like a coach being out there, he directs everything. I was proud of both of them, the way they played."
Wilkins and Hilty would also add touchdowns in the second half which put Kiski ahead comfortably 21-0 with 6:19 left to play. Wilkins finished with 45 carries on 13 attempts with a 1-yard touchdown run. Hilty led all receivers with four catches for 80 yards including a 49-yard touchdown catch. Hilty's score was an excellent play as he took a dump-off from Johnson and eluded a couple of would-be Butler tacklers before streaking down the left sideline and into the end zone.
The Cavaliers defense held Butler in check all night long and were it not for a turnover deep in their own territory, Kiski would have shut out the Golden Tornado. The aforementioned linebacking trio of Wilkins, Hilty and Dunmire swallowed up anything which got to the second level and the defensive line got push throughout the games and ate up several Butler plays in the backfield. Albert noted the performance of ILB/DE Deshaun McBryde as one that stood out during the Week Zero win.
"Deshaun McBryde, the week before he was an inside linebacker for us and we have a defense where we drop him down to defensive end and he did an unbelievable job for us at that d-end position," Albert said.
The Cavaliers made the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 and are now out to a 1-0 start in 2021 with an eye squarely on the playoffs. Albert was thankful for the win over Butler, but even more thankful that his team emerged from the game unscathed. Though cramping was an issue on a night when the temperature at kickoff hovered around the mid-80s and the humidity was punishing, Kiski made it through healthy, something that will be extremely important as the Cavaliers host visiting Franklin Regional this Friday.
"That's the biggest thing for us. Our first 11 that we put on the field are going to be pretty good," Albert said. "After that, we have to reach and especially in 5A, we don't have the numbers nor the depth that a lot of teams have. Staying healthy is a key for us."