NORWIN HS — The WPIAL Class 5A final had all the makings of a Bob Palko special. The legendary head coach pulled out all of the stops with trick plays, conversions, and control of the football. However, that was not enough for an undefeated Penn Hills group ready to start a powerhouse of their own. Penn Hills made just enough plays to swing the game, and end the magical run by Bob Palko and the West Allegheny Indians with a 28-18 win.
The game swung on a blocked kick by Dante Cephas midway through the third quarter. West Allegheny led 10-6 and decided to suck all of the life out of the game. They went on a 12 play drive that went 74 yards and ate up over half of the third quarter.
Approaching five minutes to go in the third quarter Penn Hills had not touched the football and looked to be taken entirely out of the game. However, they made a huge stop on third down and an even bigger play on fourth down.
Cephas blocked the kick, and the momentum swing was felt throughout the stadium. West Allegheny worked so hard and got nothing. Penn Hills bent to the max and did not break. Three plays later, Tank Smith took a carry into the end zone to make it 14-10. The tense feel on the sideline became very loose for Penn Hills, as they got into their game from there.
West Allegheny drove on their next possession, but was turned over on downs after a nine-play drive. Penn Hills continued to keep their foot on the gas, and the star of the game, Dante Cephas, took a screen pass 76 yards to cap off a three-play scoring drive and extend the lead to two scores for the first time, 22-10.
Penn Hills used a fourth-down sack on the ensuing drive to take the ball back. From there, the game was all but theirs. The two exchanged late scores before Penn Hills knelt out a 28-18 win.
The game started with West Allegheny in control. They got a turnover on defense and converted it into three points, taking the early 3-0 lead. The West Allegheny defense continued to hold up early, and after using a running back pass to flip the field, West Allegheny was able to punch it in and take a 10-0 lead.
However, with their backs against the wall, we saw the first life out of Penn Hills. Trailing 10-0 late in the first half and getting the ball back to start the half, West Allegheny had a chance to put their stamp on the game.
Penn Hills had less than two minutes in the half to try to break up the run West Allegheny was set to go on. They did just that, and it only took one play. Hollis Mathis stepped back and ripped a deep pass to Dante Cephas. Cephas took it home and recorded a 56-yard touchdown to go into the break down 10-6.
The combination of the touchdown response before the half, the blocked kick in the third quarter and the three play scoring response were what put this team over the edge. They do not win this game without those plays.
This is an undefeated Penn Hills team, and they showed why tonight. They made all of the small plays and never flinched when their backs were against the wall. With that effort, they deserve their undefeated season to finish with a WPIAL championship.