UPPER ST. CLAIR, Pa. — Bethel Park handed Upper St. Clair its first loss of the season on Friday night, as the Blackhawks knocked off its South Hills rivals 27-14 in a WPIAL Class-5A showdown. Heading into Friday night’s game, Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the WPIAL Class-5A classification. Both teams are now 6-1 on the season, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they met again in the playoffs.
On Upper St. Clair’s opening drive of the game, Delaware commit Gavin Maul strip/sacked Upper St. Clair quarterback Julian Dahlem and the Blackhawks came up with the loose ball at their own 30-yard line. Two big runs by Austin Caye and Ryan Petras set the Bethel Park up deep in Upper St. Clair territory. After a fourth-and-short conversion by Caye, Petras capped the 70-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown off a jet sweep to give Bethel Park a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers went three-and-out on the ensuing possession. On the first pass of the game by both teams, Bethel Park quarterback Tanner Pfeuffer connected to Maul on wheel route for a huge gain. Two plays later, Pfeuffer scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak to put the Blackhawks up 13-0. The extra point was no good.
Upper St. Clair answered with a 53-yard touchdown pass by Dahlem to Division 1 recruit Aidan Besselman to cut Bethel Park’s lead to 13-7.
Austin Caye finished off a methodical drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to enhance the Blackhawks’ lead to 20-7 midway through the second quarter. Caye got the majority of the carries on the drive, as Bethel Park was committed to pounding the ball on the ground.
On fourth-and-1 in Bethel Park territory, Dahlem got stuffed on a quarterback sneak, and Bethel Park took over from their own 35-yard line. The Panthers forced a three-and-out and started their next possession from the 26-yard line. Dahlem led the Panthers 74 yards down the field and capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Cody Marn to cut Bethel Park’s lead to 20-14 at halftime. The Panthers scored with just four seconds left in the half. On the scoring play, Marn did a great job of high pointing the fade pass by Dahlem.
Bethel Park got into Upper St. Clair territory on its opening drive of the second half, but it came to a halt after a false start penalty on fourth-and-1, which set up fourth-and-6. Bethel Park elected to go for it, and Pfeuffer’s pass fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs and Upper St. Clair taking over from their own 38-yard line.
After a quick Bethel Park defensive stop, the offense continued to rely on Caye and the rushing attack. After a couple of successful runs, it set up a 38-yard touchdown pass by Pfeuffer off play-action to Petras to give the Blackhawks a 27-14 lead with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 13 points and time winding down, Dahlem threw an ill-advised pass and got picked off by Petras. Upper St. Clair wasn’t able to do anything offensively for the rest of the game, and Bethel Park drained the clock to secure the win.
Bethel Park hosts Moon Area next Friday night, while Upper St. Clair travels to Canon-McMillan.