Last second field goal lifts Gateway into PIAA championship

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Freshman Jayson Jenkins made the biggest kick of his young career on Friday night, lifting Gateway to the Class 5A PIAA championship for the first time in school history.

Jenkins’ 23-yard field goal in the waning seconds broke a 28-28 tie to give the Gators a 31-28 victory against Manheim Central at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. Both of the Gators’ state playoff wins to get to Hershey came in Altoona.

Gateway setup Jenkins through the air and connection of senior Brady Walker and junior Courtney Jackson, who both had career days.

Walker finished the game 36 of 54 for 484 yards and three touchdowns. In the process, he became the second leading passer in WPIAL history, passing Sto-Rox’s Lenny Williams. He now has 8,546 passing yards in his career.

Jackson was the beneficiary of 15 of those passes for 264 yards and touchdowns of 3, 61 and 66 yards. The 15 receptions is a PIAA single game record that was set by Pine-Richland’s Mike Merhaut back in 2014.

Before the game-winning field goal, Gateway executed a 99-yard touchdown drive to take a 28-21 lead with four minutes left, but the defense wasn’t able to keep Manheim Central off the board with the game-tying touchdown to set up Jenkins’ heroics.

Gateway overcame an early 14-0 deficit in the first quarter to tie it up 14-14 at the half on a Walker to Jackson touchdown pass and then a touchdown run by Walker.

After trailing 21-14, the Gators came back again with the two long touchdown passes from Walker to Jackson before the final sequence played out

The Gators improve to 14-1 and will face defending champion Archbishop Wood at 7 p.m. Friday in Hershey.