BUTLER TWP — No punts, no penalties, no turnovers.
And no more playoff drought for Butler.
The Golden Tornado (4-4, 3-3) played nearly flawless football Friday night and punched their ticket to the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs with a 49-7 win over Fox Chapel at Art Bernardi Stadium.
Butler qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1998.
“We have wonderful kids and great team chemistry. That's what got us through,” Butler coach Clyde Conti said. “I'm so happy for these boys, but I don't want us to stop here.
“We have to get ready for a very good Central Catholic team next week.”
The Tornado scored touchdowns on seven of their nine possessions. They took a knee to end the first half and ended the game with possession of the football at the Fox Chapel 30-yard line.
Friday's loss ended any playoff hopes for the Foxes (1-7, 1-5).
“They destroyed us. Our defense was pathetic. They just ran right through us,” Fox Chapel coach Eric Ravotti said.
After Butler scored on its first possession, Fox Chapel scored on its first play from scrimmage. Nigel Garnett got loose around right end for an 82-yard touchdown burst to knot the game at 7 with 9:20 left in the first quarter.
The Foxes managed four first downs and 65 yards of offense the rest of the game.
“We knew we were coming back to win this game,” Butler senior running back Jake Olenick said. “We believed in ourselves. We're 11 guys playing as one. That's how it's been all year.”
Quarterback Jordan Cratty had 13 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown — all in the first half. His 63-yard touchdown scamper opened the evening's scoring.
Butler tallied 53 carries for 365 yards on the night.
“Hempfield took away our mid-line run last week, but it was there tonight,” Cratty said. “Our line was on its blocks and they just blew holes open.
“We knew coming in that Fox Chapel would be bigger than us up front. Our line was challenged to execute and those guys came through.”
Olenick ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns for the Tornado, while Claude Clark had 77 yards and a score, Bob Vernick 40 yards and a pair of TDs.
Cratty also connected with Canan Roskovski for a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second half.
“Our kids quit on themselves and when that happens, the other team often smells blood,” Ravotti said. “Butler put on a dominant performance tonight.”
Vernick saw it coming.
“You could tell in practice all week. ... We won at Hempfield (last week), but we knew we could play better,” he said. “We put it together tonight. We knew what this game meant to everybody.”
Defensively, Keenan Barlow recovered a fumble in the only turnover of the game by either team. On Fox Chapel's second possession, Stephen Shoemaker stopped Garnett for a 6-yard loss and Curtis Hunka sacked Brandon Mitchell on successive plays to force the game's first punt.
The plays turned momentum in Butler's direction for good.
“This is bittersweet for me because of my close relationship with Eric,” Conti said of Ravotti. “I wanted Butler to win and Eric Ravotti to win tonight. Fox Chapel is very lucky to have him.”
As disappointed as Ravotti was in his team's performance, he was happy for Conti.
“I'm thrilled for Clyde, absolutely thrilled,” Ravotti said. “What he's done up here with this program is a testament to his coaching ... an incredible accomplishment in such a short time.”
Conti couldn't help but smile as Butler's student section and football players raced across the field to celebrate with the band after the victory.
The Tornado football players presented Conti with the game ball in the locker room after the contest.
“Any time you see a bunch of kids in a rush of emotion, happy, celebrating, it makes any adult feel good,” Conti said.
Cratty echoed such sentiments.
“This is awesome, absolutely awesome,” the quarterback said.