Last Ride Extended: West Allegheny, Palko Headed to WPIAL Final
WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. — When two perennial powers such as West Allegheny and Gateway get together, the expectation is a back and forth slug fest between two teams who have had long standing success in the WPIAL.
Friday at Titan Stadium in West Mifflin, we got just that as the two went back and forth, traded leads and West Allegheny landed the final blow, pulling off a 42-28 win.
The game started in favor of Gateway. After a scoreless first quarter, Gateway began to drive. A Derrick Davis run set up an option play for the Gators that resulted in six. Brandon Majocha took the snap, faked a hand off on a read option, spun and took off up field for a 12 year touchdown.
However, the Bob Palko-led Indians have been here before and fought back immediately. West Allegheny began using trick formations and alignments to give direct snaps to their running backs in read option looks. This through Gateway off guard, and led to big runs on consecutive drives that resulted in touchdowns. The second touchdown was a complete breakdown by Gateway that saw Mateo Vandamia break free uncovered for a touchdown. West Allegheny had a 14-7 lead and Gateway was looking for answers.
Thankfully the Gators found some on offense. Brandon Majocha hit two quick throws, his receivers took off after the catch and Gateway was right back in the game. Courtney Jackson caught a 40 yard touchdown over the middle with most of yards coming after the catch. Nonetheless, the game was tied heading into the half at 14.
The back and forth nature of the game bled into the second half. West Allegheny continued to dominate on the ground with a variety of backs taking snaps from shot gun, running backs and quarterbacks. Nico Flati took two direct snaps, one ripping for over 50 yards as West Allegheny took a 21-14 lead.
Gateway answered though, needing a fourth down conversion to do it. Still, they used Derrick Davis to drive straight down the field and punch it in with their back to tie the game at 21.
That is when Gateway took back control of the game. West Allegheny rotated quarterbacks again, but the Gators forced a three and out. From there, they knew it was time to go to their star Derrick Davis.
Two passes to Davis capped off a scoring drive in which he took the second one 56 yards for a touchdown. The Gators took a 28-21 lead.
Of course, West Allegheny answered. While the ground game has been the kryptonite for Gateway, this response was through the air. Kam Kruze laid out a bomb that was tracked and hauled in by Drevon Baldwin for a 75-yard touchdown.
We had seen three lead changes and the Indians were adamant about making the fourth lead change quick. The Indians called an onside kick and recovered. Then, used a play fake on fourth and two to get Nick Flati wide open for a touchdown to retake a 35-28 lead.
The onside kick may been the momentum kick West Allegheny needed to put this game away. Gateway drove back, but an Ian McBain interception set up the Indians with the ball and the lead late into the fourth quarter.
West Allegheny went right back to the ground attack. They churned out two first downs before Nico Flati took the first two possession lead of the game, 42-28.
West Allegheny did everything they needed to win this game. They hung tough, never let the score get away from them, and when they needed to, they went for the kill. It was an impressive win and will propel the Indians to the WPIAL final next week.
Here’s West Allegheny head coach Bob Palko after the game talking about their big win.
Here’s West Allegheny QB Kam Kruze after the game.