BETHEL PARK, Pa. — Coming off of a season in which they went 0-7, and 0-5 in conference play Bethel Park coach Brian DeLallo and his Blackhawks football team knew that they had to have a big bounce-back season in them. When the team started the year 1-3, there were definitely signs of concern for a group that was often a Class-5A contender.
However, a win over Franklin Regional led them into conference play where they have now rattled off three straight against West Allegheny, South Fayette, and Peters Township. The latest win was 38-8 over Peters Township, their biggest blowout of the bunch and their most complete game of the season.
A team that seemingly could not get out of their own way just last month is now competing for a conference championship in their final two games.
“We started 15 sophomores last year,” explained coach DeLallo of the down season in 2020. “If you look now we are basically starting 15 juniors this year. It’s all these kids who played last year, they took their lumps as sophomores, and they knew how to play. They got better in the offseason, but they didn’t learn how to win yet. Early on we were doing things that bad teams do, we were committing turnovers, penalties, giving up plays on special teams.”
“These last four weeks, we’ve turned the ball over twice in four weeks, one was a couple of seconds left in the half and Max took a shot, so we’ve limited turnovers, we limited penalties, so when you do not commit turnovers and penalties you are going to be tough to beat.”
On Friday you saw the payoff. They hardly committed penalties and were often clapping when the opposing offense committed a false start. They also won the turnover battle and scored 14 points on two turnovers.
Leading 14-0 in the first half Peters Township quarterback Sam Miller did not see Austin Caye who jumped a route and set the Blackhawks up with a short rush to go into the half up 21-0. Bethel Park got the ball at the half and it seemed as though the game was over from there.
“That was the turning point of the game,” DeLallo said of turning the 14-0 lead into 21-0 before the half. “We knew up 21 they had to start throwing in the second half that’s when we started to feel pretty good.”
The game was truly put away on a fumble that was recovered by Gavin Maul and taken to the house to make the game 38-8 late.
“This league, any points you can get, any momentum shifts you can get, it is really something special,” said quarterback Max Blanc on the game-changing turnovers.
When you win the turnover battle and win 14-0 in points off of turnovers, you are going to be hard to beat. When you add in the discipline and lack of shooting themselves in the foot and you have a special team heading into the most important part of their schedule.
“And tonight our special teams played great,” raved DeLallo of his team. “Our kick-off team played like lunatics tonight it was great.”
You need a complete performance from all three phases to win a conference and WPIAL championship, and that is what Bethel Park has positioned itself to do in the next two games. They start with their biggest game of the season next week at Moon. Moon is undefeated and the two sit atop the conference standings with a game to go after they meet next week.
In two weeks they play Upper St. Clair, who already beat West Allegheny and Peters Township, and has their only loss to Moon. It is fair to say that while Bethel Park has risen to the challenge so far, their toughest two games are their last two.
“I love our league, and I hate our league.” laughed DeLallo of the upcoming task. “It’s a big game every week, it’s fun, the environment is great, but the reward when you win a game is to go play someone else really good next, and really anyone in our league can beat anyone. You go 3-0, and your reward is Moon and Upper St. Clair.”
Still, DeLallo knows that for a team that was on the other end of these games last season, he is cherishing being in the spotlight. Blanc, and the rest of the team has a similar mindset. They are focused on themselves and keeping a day-by-day approach.
“Keep doing the same thing we are doing,” said Blanc on the key to winning a huge game against Moon. “working hard and keep going and working towards what’s ahead.”
What is ahead is a shot at their first conference title since 2017, and their first WPIAL title since 2008.