Bethel Park clinches Southeast Conference title with win over rival Mt. Lebanon

Saturday, October 28, 2017 | 12:18 AM

Bethel Park went to Mt. Lebanon on Friday and proved it is the beast of the Southeast.

The Black Hawks topped the Blue Devils, 34-24, to claim the WPIAL Class 6A Southeast Conference title. It was Bethel Park's first win in the series since 2013.

“For our seniors, it is a wonderful night,” Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny said. “They have worked hard and done a good job. It capped off a good year.”

The No. 2-ranked Black Hawks (8-1, 6-0) opened the game with an 11-play, 52-yard drive that drained nearly six minutes off the clock, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Luke Mattola.

“That gave us some confidence,” Metheny said. “No question. It gave us confidence to do what we wanted to do the rest of the way. It starts with our guys up front, and (Tanner) Volpatti is a pretty special player.”

The Blue Devils responded with fast-paced drive that went 73 yards on 11 plays, that end with a John Naylor 1-yard touchdown run.

Bethel Park pulled ahead for good after running back Tanner Volpatti got to the outside and found open field for a 48-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.

The Black Hawks' methodical offense drained six minutes off the clock on a 13-yard drive, capped by a Volpatti 1-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

But Bethel Park left 57 seconds on the clock, and that was all the Blue Devils needed to move down the field. James Stocker connected on five straight passes — three to his top target Aiden Cain — to move into Black Hawk territory. Cain set a new WPIAL regular-season reception record on the drive, topping the previous record of 86 set by Seton-La Salle's Cameron Connolly in 2004.

Bart Barcic ended the first half with a 33-yard field goal to cut the Bethel Park lead to 20-10.

The Mt. Lebanon defense came up with a fumble early in the second half, and the Blue Devils drove the ball 37 yards fir a Stocker 1-yard run.

“Our kids showed a lot of character,” Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk said. “It came down to a couple plays, and they made a couple more than we did.”

Bethel Park responded on its next possession with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Chiccitt to John Doleno to go back up by 10.

The Blue Devils cut the deficit to a single possession early in the fourth quarter as Stocker found Cain in the end zone on a 34-yard pass after a defender tripped in coverage.

But Mt. Lebanon could not pull any closer. The Black Hawks moved to the Mt. Lebanon 5-yard line in the final minutes on a Volpatti 38-yard run, and Chiccitt punched it in from 1-yard out to push the lead to 34-24.

Cain finished the night with 12 receptions for 205 yards. He now has 93 receptions for 1,652 yards — besting the 1,568-yard single-season record set by South Fayette's Justin Watson in 2013.

“It is pretty surreal,” Cain said. “Coming into this year, I had high expectations. But you don't come into the year expecting to break those records. Seeing it happen is kind of crazy.”

Bethel Park's Volpatti finished with 33 carries for 202 yards to go over 1,000 yards for the season.

Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.

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