Bethel Park stands in way of elusive playoff victory for Kiski Area

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 5:40 PM

It’s been 29 years since the last Kiski Area football playoff victory.

On Friday, the No. 10 Cavaliers will get the second opportunity of the Sam Albert era to break that drought when they travel 40 miles south to take on seventh-seeded Bethel Park in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

“That’s as big as it gets,’” Albert said. “When I came here, that was the goal. We want to build a program that goes on, that gets to the championships. It takes time and it’s tough to be patient, but I’m proud of these kids.”

With a young team, the Cavaliers (5-5, 4-3) have had an up-and-down season. Until their final two games of the regular season — wins over Northern Conference opponents Mars and Armstrong — they hadn’t been able to stitch together two wins in a row.

But there have been signs of a team motivated to make a name for itself. The Cavaliers started the season with a one-point win over Allderdice and they pushed defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A state champion Penn Hills to the brink in a 7-3 loss.

When the Cavaliers take the field at Bethel Park Stadium, Albert said his team needs to put it all together.

“We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be able to throw the ball enough to keep them off balance,” Albert said. “They are a great team, they are well coached, and they have some great skilled kids. We may have to play a perfect game, but I know our kids will come to play.”

On the opposite sideline will be a team looking to protect its home field, something it didn’t take advantage of a year ago. As the No. 8 seed last year, the Black Hawks (6-3, 5-2) received home-field advantage and lost to Franklin Regional, but coach Brian DeLallo won’t allow his players to get too comfortable this year.

“We have tried to stress that just because we are at home doesn’t mean they (Kiski) are just gonna drive out here to get beat,” DeLallo said. “We failed to play well early in the past. So our emphasis throughout this week has been, ‘Let’s start fast and not get too comfortable being at home.’”

Both teams implement a physical and run-heavy type of offense. The Black Hawks are led by running backs Sean McGowan and Jehvonn Lewis, seniors who have combined for 1,734 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns.

The Black Hawks also display size across the line with a few players that could cause problems for the Cavaliers. But the Cavaliers believe if they can continue to bring the physical mindset that they have displayed all year, they will be just fine.

“I mean, that’s who we are,” senior running back Peyton McCann said. “That’s all there is to it.”

That physicality won’t be a secret to the Black Hawks, though. After talking with a few other teams and witnessing it first-hand a few years ago while he was at Montour and Albert was at Highlands, DeLallo is aware of the attacking mindset that the Cavaliers bring.

“It was the first characteristic out of people’s mouths,” DeLallo said. “They are always very physical and Sam is just starting to get it rolling in the third year at Kiski, and they’ll get after you.”

The Cavaliers have that mentality on both offense and defense. On offense, they have a mixture of styles. They have the ability to stretch out opponents with quarterbacks Tommy Burke and Lebryn Smith in a spread offense. But they also have running backs Kenny Blake (980 yards, 11 TDs) and Luke Lander (670 yards) to carry the load in a run-heavy style.

The Cavaliers are carrying a two-game win streak into their second playoff appearance in two years and Lander has an idea of what it will take to come out with a victory.

“We just gotta keep playing good football and get rid of the mistakes,” Lander said. “We just need to play all night, not let off the gas and keep playing.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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