5 takeaways from Week 3: Quarterback’s 485 yards among all-time WPIAL best

Saturday, September 14, 2019 | 8:26 PM

Gaudy statistics by WPIAL quarterbacks aren’t unusual anymore, but occasionally there’s a number that stands out among the rest.

Upper St. Clair’s Ethan Dahlem posted one of those eye-popping numbers Friday night.

The junior passed for 485 yards in the Panthers’ 45-41 victory over Woodland Hills. Dahlem completed 22 of 33 attempts and nearly joined the WPIAL’s exclusive 500-yard club.

“I was surprised when the stats came in at the end of the game,” said USC coach Mike Junko, a former quarterback. “I knew we had a lot, but I didn’t know that it was that high. That’s something else, isn’t it?”

Riverside’s Jason Dambach was the WPIAL’s first 500-yard passer with 551 in 2015, an effort that remains the WPIAL single-game record. Bentworth’s Josh Hughes threw for 501 later that same season, and Penn Hills’ Cam Tarrant had a 530-yard game in 2016.

“You start to think about a few that we dropped or just missed,” Junko said, laughing. “We left a few out there. You say to yourself what could have been, but it’s certainly not something we’re looking to do every game.”

USC trailed 34-17 and 41-24.

Dahlem (5-foot-10, 173 pounds) contributed to six touchdowns: three passing and three rushing. His longest was a 57-yarder to David Pantelis, who had 13 catches for 269 yards.

“I think what’s lost is that (Nahlen) also ran for 77 yards,” Junko said. “It was the decisions that he made not to throw the ball in certain situations that was so impressive about what he did.”

2. Basketball standout shows skills

Laurel Highlands freshman Rodney Gallagher has a bright basketball future ahead, but this fall he’s showing the WPIAL that he’s also a pretty good football player.

Gallagher had an 80-yard touchdown catch and a 73-yard touchdown run Friday, the first of his high school career. The 5-11, 150-pound wideout-cornerback is a standout on the AAU basketball circuit where he’s played alongside LeBron James’ son, Bronny.

Illinois and Rhode Island offered Gallagher basketball scholarships this summer.

“He’s pretty impressive,” Laurel Highlands football coach Rich Kolesar said. “Sometimes we have to remind ourselves he’s a freshman. We put a lot on his plate. Sometimes we have to take a few things off just because it’s a lot for a young kid. But he loves it. He loves competing.”

Kolesar, a first-year coach, is working to transition the team’s offense to a spread after years of triple-option. The Mustangs are 0-4 after Friday’s 63-13 loss to Belle Vernon.

3. Only 1 yard away

Central Catholic’s Johnathan Opalko made a 54-yard field goal Friday that came close to tying a WPIAL record. His kick was 1 yard shorter than the all-time mark set in 2002 when East Allegheny’s Josh Miller made a 55-yarder.

Opalko, who also is an all-section soccer player, is one of the WPIAL’s top kickers. He was almost automatic as a junior, making all 34 extra-point attempts and five field goals in a perfect season.

His field goal Friday gave Central Catholic a 17-7 halftime lead over Hempfield.

The Vikings won 31-14.

4. Watching the weather

Severe weather hadn’t caused much trouble this season but wind and lightning affected some games this week.

Among them, California and Laurel ended their nonconference game at halftime after a 45-minute lighting delay. Laurel, leading 15-0, received the win.

Northgate and Union postponed the conclusion of their Big Seven Conference game to Saturday after lightning forced a third-quarter delay with Union leading 34-21.

Other teams faced gusty but less dangerous conditions.

5. Winless start for Wolverines

Woodland Hills is 0-4 for the second year in a row, a disappointing start to say the least, but the Wolverines know better than most that the playoffs are still within their reach.

An 0-4 loss would spell trouble in most classifications but not necessarily in Class 5A. A year ago, Woodland Hills lost its first four games (and five of its first six) but finished 5-7 and earned a spot in the 16-team WPIAL playoff field.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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