Bethel Park aims to rebound from rare winless season

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Bethel Park has been a perennial WPIAL playoff contender on the gridiron.

The 2020 season was an aberration.

The Black Hawks, coming off 18 consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances and eight winning seasons in a row, did not win a game last fall and finished 0-7.

They expect to turn things around in a big way this year.

“Our expectations are to push for a conference championship, qualify for the playoffs and make a deep playoff run,” coach Brian DeLallo said.

The Black Hawks were young and inexperienced in 2020, with only two returning starters at the season’s onset.

But they now have a rock-solid group of building blocks they hope establishes a firm foundation for this year’s team.

Troy Volpatti, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior running back/defensive back/kick returner, and Gavin Moul, a 6-1, 225-pound junior running back/linebacker, were first-team all-conference selections a year ago. Both are third-year starters.

“Troy and Gavin will be two of our leaders,” DeLallo said. “They are both talented and tough players who put team success ahead of individual accolades. Their unselfishness is infectious and permeates our team.”

Volpatti led the Black Hawks in rushing in 2020. Moul was one of eight sophomore starters on defense.

Other skill position players back from last year include a trio of seniors in QB/LB Max Blanc, WR/DB Jack Kirchner and TE/LB Joe Thimons; as well as the following juniors, WR/DB/QB Jason Nuttridge, TE/LB Aidan Currie and wideouts Dinari Clacks, Tyler Stewart and Jack Reilly.

“Joe Thimons is our ‘Swiss Army knife,’ He plays tight end and fullback on offense, and linebacker and end on defense,” DeLallo said. “Joe does whatever we ask him to do and never complains. He is a great teammate and always puts the team first.”

Blanc is a 6-5, 210-pound signal caller who is noted for having a strong arm. The Youngstown State recruit hit on 49 of 92 passes for 436 yards last season.

“Max will be our leader on offense. We expect great things from him,” DeLallo said. “He has a ton of responsibility, from making sure the play call is right, to seeing that we are aligned correctly, making his pre-snap read(s) of the defense and executing the play.

“His football IQ is better than any high school quarterback with whom I have ever worked, so we ask a lot of him. We believe he is going to have a great season.”

Nuttridge is a 5-11, 165-pound athlete who runs well and will take snaps at wide receiver, running back and quarterback. He also plays cornerback on defense.

“My teammates and I have high expectations,” Nuttridge said. “We’ve been working hard to become the team we want to be, and that has created a great bond and camaraderie between us, and we hope it will translate to the field.”

The line play will be powered by seniors Anthony Celletti (6-2, 270), Zak Vincent (5-10, 220), Mark Pesci (6-2, 290) and newcomer Josh Libell; along with a strong group of juniors led by Braedon Del Duca (6-2, 240), Toby D’Andrea (6-0, 220), Mike Frost (6-0, 272), Dom Capone (6-0, 300), Aidan Campbell (6-1, 240) and Nick Fabus (6-3, 260).

“We expect our line play to be vastly improved this year,” DeLallo said. “We have most of our starters on the offensive and defensive lines returning. There will be great competition for playing time on both lines.”

Bethel Park needs to display improvement on offense to contend for a playoff berth this season. The Black Hawks mustered just 49 points in seven games last fall, reaching double figures only once.

It’s something they’ve focused on this summer, and with rewarding early results.

Behind Blanc, Volpatti, Kirchner, Moul, Currie, Clacks and Stewart, Bethel Park won a 7-on-7 tournament in June at Washington & Jefferson.

“A lot of our starters are back from last year,” Volpatti said, “with only four or five starters graduating from last year’s team. We’re gonna be more ready than ever because of the workouts the team has been putting in during the offseason.”

Others aiming to make an impact, particularly in the secondary, include senior Weston Konopka, juniors Jeremiah Hamilton and Austin Caye, and WR/DB/KR Blake Striegel.

“Blake is one of the fastest players in the state,” DeLallo said. “He has been injured; we need to get him healthy.”

Seniors Cody Geddes (WR/LB), Luke Helfrich (RB/DL) and Mark Sigafoos (OL/DL) are expected to provide depth at key positions, along with juniors John Barr (QB/DB), Sam Sciullo (TE/LB) and Coby Goelz (OL/DL).

There are 70 players listed on the team roster this year — 12 seniors, 22 juniors, 14 sophomores and 22 freshmen.

Bethel Park

Coach: Brian DeLallo

2019 record: 0-7, 0-5 in Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference

All-time record: 463-386-31

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 Mt. Lebanon, 7

9.3 at Baldwin, 7

9.10 Canon-McMillan, 7

9.17 Gateway, 7

9.24 at Franklin Regional, 7

10.1 West Allegheny*, 7

10.8 at South Fayette*, 7

10.15 Peters Township* 7

10.22 at Moon*, 7

10.29 Upper St. Clair*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Max Blanc

49-92, 436 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Troy Volpatti

110-518, 3 TDs

Receiving: Jack Kirchner

18-126

FAST FACTS

• Bethel Park won back-to-back conference titles in 2016-17 and 2008-09. The Black Hawks were WPIAL champions and PIAA runners-up in 2008, going 15-0 before reaching the state finals.

• Troy Volpatti was an all-WPIAL and all-section player in boys lacrosse. He ended the spring season as the team’s leading scorer with 32 goals and 21 assists.

• Nick Kwiatkoski, a Las Vegas Raiders linebacker and former West Virginia standout, funded the costs to renovate the football locker room at Bethel Park, his alma mater.

• Cody Geddes (INF/P), Jason Nuttridge (OF) and Coby Goelz (P) were members of Bethel Park’s state championship baseball team this spring.

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