Bethel Park and Peters prepare to do battle on the gridiron
When Bethel Park travels to Peters Township for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 8, somebody’s momentum will be halted.
Both football teams are coming off big victories. The Hawks decisively defeated No. 2-ranked North Allegheny, 35-15, in their home opener. Meanwhile the Indians ran their record to 2-0 overall with a second straight victory at home against Seneca Valley, 13-8.
“No question this gives us momentum,” BP head coach Jeff Metheny said of the triumph against the Tigers. “It gives us confidence going into our conference opener against Peters Township.”
Peters head coach TJ Plack echoed that sentiment about the Indians’ victory against the Raiders.
“Our players have confidence, that if we play together as a team, and stick with the plan, we can be a contender,” Plack said. “We are very excited and proud of where our program is at this point.”
Even after their big wins, each team knows there is room for improvement.
For example, the Hawks would like to establish a passing game. Against NA, Luke Surunis completed only 4 of 8 attempts for 89 yards and a touchdown against NA.
“If we get our passing game going, we are going to be tough to deal with,” Metheny said.
The Hawks are tough to beat because of their experienced line. They are extremely difficult to deal with, particularly when it comes to the ground attack. NA learned this fact first hand.
Behind the blocking of James Gmiter, a West Virginia recruit, Liam Williams at center, Dan Kwiatkoski and Gavin Vargesko at the guard slots and Connor Wholey at the other tackle spot, the Hawks rolled up 348 rushing yards. Tanner Volpatti gobbled up 141 yards on 17 carries and John Doleno rolled up 143 yards on eight carries. Volpatti rushed for three scores and caught a screen pass for a 43-yard touchdown. Doleno scored on a 25-yard dash into the end zone.
“It’s easy to call plays when you run the ball like that,” Metheny said. “No question,” he added, “the secret was the line. Our kids are tough up front. We dominated the line of scrimmage and that’s what we are going to have to do.”
“My offensive line,” he said. “They’re the best. That’s why I scored all those TDs. Because of them. It all goes to them. I just was seeing the holes, trusting the coach’s game plan and having fun with it.”
The Indians, however, intend to limit Bethel Park’s fun this Friday night.
“We are protecting our stadium this season, that is a point of emphasis,” Plack said. “We have done that so far, and we don’t expect anything to change.”
Plack doesn’t expect the Hawks to change their game plan but he anticipates his team’s ability to thwart it.
“As always, they are extremely well coached, very competitive, and experienced up front. Their guys up front are very impressive, and we are ecstatic about the opportunity to compete. The game is won in the trenches and we intend to win in the trenches.”
The Indians’ approach may differ from BP’s rushing attack but their offensive line has been providing ample protection for their signal caller. Jake Cortes completed 14 of 22 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown in the win against Seneca Valley. Josh Casilli was his top target with three catches for 124 yards and a 66-yard scoring reception. Ryan Magiske tacked on a two-yard rushing touchdown for PT’s other score.
“Our games, have allowed us to gain valuable experience for our first-year starters,” Plack continued. “We have definitely gone through some growing pains, and will continue, but feel we are moving in the right direction.”
Moving the chains will mean that Bethel Park is headed in the right direction against the Indians. The Hawks are relying on their experience for positive results.
Defense, for example, served the Hawks well against NA as Ben Barnot and Austin Lewis intercepted passes and the team responded to adversity when giving up a touchdown followed by a safety.
“For our kids to comeback after that snap over their heads and that touchdown,” Metheny said. “We proved we could withstand that. We had some adversity and that was good. We overcame it. We played with confidence. We were physical.”
The Hawks plan to be that way against the Indians and all future opponents because Metheny believes his line has a chance to be pretty special. “We are going to keep running the ball. Move the chains,” he predicted. “When you keep the ball, you keep it out of their hands.”
And the ball in the hands of Cortes makes the Indians “dangerous,” added Metheny.