Baldwin’s breakthrough season continues with double OT win over Bethel Park

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Friday, October 11, 2019 | 11:46 PM


During pregame homecoming ceremonies Friday night, the 1999 Baldwin Highlanders football team was recognized on the 20th anniversary of the program’s last conference championship.

It was fitting.

A few hours later, Joe Moeller’s 23-yard field goal gave Baldwin a thrilling 31-28 double-overtime victory, beating rival Bethel Park for the first time since 1999.

The Highlanders have won four games in a row for the first time since — you guessed it — 1999.

For a while, it looked like the Highlanders (5-3, 4-2) might coast to a breezy 21-7 victory.

But after being stifled for the first three-and-a-half quarters, Bethel Park (5-2, 4-1) came alive in the final 2 minutes, 15 seconds, scoring two touchdowns in 1:59 to tie the game, 21-21.

On the first of the two possessions, Sean McGowan struck for the Black Hawk’s longest play of the game, a 62-yard run, before scoring his second touchdown from 3 yards out with 1:28 to go.

With no timeouts, Bethel Park had no choice but to try an onside kick. Zac Cashman recovered, setting up the Black Hawks at the Baldwin 41-yard line. With 16 seconds left in regulation, Anthony Chiccitt’s 1-yard touchdown run sent the game to overtime.

“You’re hoping at that time what you practice, the kids can execute,” Bethel Park head coach Brian DeLallo said. “We have an up-tempo component to our offense, so we know we can score quickly. As for the onside kick, we practice it every week, and we hoped we got that high second bounce and got it.”

The chaos continued in overtime and didn’t stop until the final whistle.

Baldwin opened overtime on offense and faced a third-and-goal from the 15-yard line before Mason Stahl found Naseer Penn for a touchdown for the second time in the game. Bethel Park responded on its opening possession with McGowan’s third touchdown run from a yard out.

In the second overtime, Bethel Park faced fourth-and-goal from the 1, and a miscommunicated snap count led to a botched snap and Baldwin fumble recovery. On third down, after a false start on the 1-yard line, Baldwin elected to kick the field goal and Moeller nailed a 23-yarder to win the game.

On the second overtime possession, Baldwin, which already lost wide receiver Jarren Kelly to injury, also lost Penn for a play. Coach Loren Cooley knew his team was prepared for that moment.

“We have that mentality of next guy up,” Cooley said. “We’ve talked about that from day one and that’s what’s special, especially this late in the season.”

Baldwin came into the contest not sure if starting running back Angelo Priore would be able to go, but he was ruled out late.

Stahl took the reins of the offense both in the air and on the ground, throwing for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 6 of 13 passing and rushing for 93 yards on 19 carries and another score.

Cooley had nothing but praise for his quarterback after the game.

“He’s special,” Cooley said. “He’s a fearless leader. He didn’t panic and when Angelo went down. He said he’s got this.”

Penn was the beneficiary of Stahl’s passing yards, snagging three passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.

Bethel Park gave Baldwin a heavy dose of McGowan, who rushed 28 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s our toughest runner,” DeLallo said. “He’s explosive, doesn’t dance around a lot, and he runs like an offensive lineman. He loves contact. He’s the catalyst for our offense when he carries the ball.”

Baldwin is hoping to keep the 1999 history rolling and win six games for the first time since that year. It will venture outside the Allegheny 8 next week to meet defending Class 5A state champion Penn Hills.

Despite clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2013, Baldwin has no sights set on resting anyone in the big nonconference showdown.

“We’re going into the game with a playoff mentality,” Cooley said. “We’re going there to win the football game. We need a great week of practice. That’s a great team, well coached, so we are going with the mentality to win.”

Bethel Park is now smashed in a three-way tie with Moon and Peters Township for first place. Coming up next week is Peters Township, followed by Upper St. Clair. DeLallo knows there is work to do.

“We can’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We came into the game in first place and we are still in first place. We have to watch the film and see what to work on, eliminate penalties and eliminate turnovers. You can’t beat good teams making those mistakes.”

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