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Canton football falls to Bishop Guilfoyle in PIAA Class A semifinals

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Canton's Riley Parker powers through the line for a touchdown against Bishop Guilfoyle on Friday at Mansion Park in Altoona in the PIAA Class A semifinals.

ALTOONA — For the past two weeks, Canton football has been making program history with its first two state playoff wins ever. Fresh off an overtime thriller against top-ranked Old Forge, the Warriors were primed to write another chapter in the book of 2021.

That book ended with a 20-7 loss to District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle in the Class A state semifinal at Mansion Park Stadium Friday behind three rushing touchdowns from Marauders quarterback Karson Kiesewetter.

With the win, Bishop Guilfoyle (9-5) will face the winner between Redbank Valley/Bishop Canevin in the Class A state final at Hersheypark Stadium Thursday at 1 p.m.

“It was a great year. We became really close as a team,” junior running back Riley Parker said. “The further we got, it just made us even hungrier for it all. In the end, we didn’t play our best when we needed to.”

Parker commanded Canton’s backfield with 22 carries for 130 yards and the Warriors’ sole touchdown.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent A Bishop Guilfoyle player stiff arms a Canton defender on Friday at Mansion Park in Altoona in the PIAA Class A semifinals.

Heading into the half, Canton (13-1) was in a familiar situation. Having overcome a 14-0 deficit the week prior, the Warriors were tasked with climbing out of the same hole once more. The Marauders were winning in every phase despite a missed field goal early on.

“I told them we’ve been here before, last week,” Canton coach Tyler Sechrist said. “I said, ‘We’re not gonna quit. We’re not gonna quit no matter what happens. We have to be able to run the ball, we have to start controlling the ball at the line of scrimmage and run the ball.'”

Ran the ball they did.

Parker opened the third quarter with a 16-yard carry on the first snap, followed up with another 15-yard run through the trenches. The Warriors’ offensive line began to create holes for the 6-foot, 190-pound running back.

On 4th-and-1 at Bishop Guilfoyle’s 1-yard line, Parker took it up the gut to chop Canton’s deficit in half, 14-7.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Canton's Weston Bellows makes a reception against Bishop Guilfoyle during Friday's PIAA Class A semifinal at Mansion Park in Altoona.

“I wanted it really bad,” Parker said. “I felt like it was in my hands to try and win this game.”

Canton was plagued with eight penalties for a loss of 67 yards. The bulk of flags coming the Warriors’ way were encroachment calls on the defense after the half.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Canton's Weston Bellows runs against Bishop Guilfoyle during Friday's PIAA Class A semifinal at Mansion Park in Altoona.

“I think kids wanted to get off the ball and make a play,” Sechrist said. “Very uncharacteristic of us to have that many mistakes like that. Mental mistakes.”

Kiesewetter found his first touchdown on a 5-yard keeper up the middle with 3:22 left in the first quarter. He added another with 13 seconds left before the break on an 8-yard skirt to the outside to cap off a seven-play, 60-yard drive.

The Warriors struggled to contain Kiesewetter, who produced 120 yards on the ground through 20 keepers to go with his three scores.

“He is a special kid. We think we have some athletes, but he has some moves,” Sechrist said. “We just couldn’t make the play on him. I think we did better in the second half containing him, but man, he’s something special.”

Upon another missed field goal for the Marauders from 39 yards out late in the final frame, Canton went for a lateral play that ended in a fumble recovery for Bishop Guilfoyle. The Marauders’ offense set up shop and went four plays with a 1-yard QB sneak.

A blocked PAT later, the Warriors had just under one minute, 30 seconds to try and put something together. Senior quarterback Cooper Kitchen was promptly picked off by Vincent Cioffari to ice the game, and Canton’s playoff run.

“Looking back on the season, it’s been amazing,” Sechrist said. “Amazing ride, just a lot of fun.”

The winningest team in the Warriors’ history is losing just six seniors to graduation — none of which are from the backfield. Having broken the Northern Tier League record for wins in a season, Canton will be returning an experienced group in 2022.

“We got good kids coming back. They know how to play and they’ll have been here before,” Sechrist said. “Like I told them, they have to work for it. Nothing guarantees you’re back here next year. Anything can happen, so we have to work hard to try and go a little further next year.”

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