Bethel Park writing remarkable bounce-back tale
Saturday, October 23, 2021 | 11:01 AM
After shaking last year’s winless record, Bethel Park’s football team played its way to a WPIAL playoff berth with four impressive midseason victories.
The Black Hawks started off their bounce-back year with a 1-3 record before dialing in wins against Franklin Regional (28-13), West Allegheny (26-10), South Fayette (27-7) and Peters Township (38-8).
So, how does a team go from just one win in its first four games to winning four in a row?
“The players and assistant coaches are the biggest reasons,” said Brian DeLallo, Bethel Park’s head coach. “The players are learning how to play winning football. We are limiting penalties. We are taking care of the ball, and we are not giving up big plays. Add to that playing solid on special teams. That is the recipe for becoming difficult to beat.
“The staff has put together some great game plans, and the kids are executing at a high level. Perhaps the biggest of all reasons for the turnaround is the kids and coaches trust each other. We love this group, and they are buying into what we’re teaching. Even when we were struggling, they continued to be coachable, and through it all we’ve had great leadership.”
Bethel Park improved to 3-0 in the Allegheny Six Conference and 5-3 overall with an Oct. 15 victory over Peters Township and had two games remaining before the start of the playoffs.
The Black Hawks were scheduled to travel to Moon on Oct. 22 for a battle for sole possession of first place. Their regular-season finale is set for Oct. 29 at home against Upper St. Clair.
“We have a great opportunity in that we get to play two top-tier opponents with the conference championship on the line,” DeLallo said. “What more could you want for the final two weeks of your season? We expect to play well and to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence. The team has been improving, and our line play is a big reason for that.”
Bethel Park’s offensive line is powered by the likes of Toby D’Andrea (6-0, 235), Zak Vincent (5-10, 220), Brayden Del Duca (6-2, 240) and Jake Brown (5-11, 260), with Aidan Currie (6-2, 210), Sam Sciullo (6-1, 185) and Joe Thimons (6-0, 205) at tight end.
Vincent and Thimons are seniors while Brown is a sophomore. Sciullo, D’Andrea, Del Duca and Currie are juniors.
The defensive front is anchored by seniors Josh Libell (6-4, 220), Anthony Celletti (6-2, 270) and Thimons and junior Dom Capone (6-0, 300).
The Bethel Park gridders opened October with one of their biggest wins of the season, a 17-point decision against visiting West Allegheny.
“Zak Vincent’s father, Joe, passed away the week of our game,” DeLallo said. “Our kids rallied around Zak and dedicated their performance to his dad. It was a special night, and Zak played the best game of his career.”
Two of the team’s offensive catalysts in 2021 have been, as expected, seniors Max Blanc, a 6-5, 210-pound quarterback, and Troy Volpatti, a 5-11, 195-pound running back.
Blanc, a Youngstown State recruit, passed for 1,1,72 yards and seven touchdowns through eight games, connecting on 86 of 157 attempts.
Volpatti accounted for 1,007 offensive yards and a team-high 15 touchdowns. He ran for 803 yards on 143 carries and had 19 receptions for another 204 yards.
“Max and Troy are doing a great job of taking care of the ball, in addition to making big plays,” DeLallo said. “When we eliminate turnovers, we win games.”
Senior wide receiver Jack Kirchner led the squad in receiving with 27 receptions for 404 yards. Currie chipped in with 18 receptions for 272 yards.
Bethel Park allowed just 38 points in its five wins against Baldwin, Franklin Regional, West Allegheny, South Fayette and Peters Township, an average of 7.6 ppg, and posted a 35-0 shutout against Baldwin.
Volpatti rambled for 263 yards and four scores at Baldwin. He also rushed 148 yards and a TD versus West Allegheny and 181 yards and three scores against South Fayette.
Among the team leaders on defense this season have been Thimons, junior LB Gavin Moul and junior DB Austin Caye.
“It’s tough to name just a few; they are all playing well,” DeLallo said. “Joe, Gavin and Austin are playing very well.”
The Black Hawks methodically rolled to a 21-0 halftime advantage against Peters Township before cruising to the 30-point win.
Volpatti, who leads Class 5A with his 15 TDs, rushed for 101 yards and two scores. Blanc passed for 106 and one touchdown, and scored on a 1-yard plunge.
Thimons forced a Peters Township fumble in the fourth quarter that was grabbed in stride by Moul, who raced 55 yards to the end zone.
“For the third week in a row, I felt we played complementary football by excelling in all three phases of the game,” DeLallo said. “We asked our defensive line to do a lot in this game. We had a couple injuries, so they got no break, and for much of the game we asked them to get pressure from just a three-man pass rush. I was very happy with their play.
“Also, PT really stresses your perimeter defenders. Our corners (Jack Reilly, Dinari Clacks) and strong safeties (Caye, Cody Geddes, Weston Konopka) did a great job on the outside.”
Tags: Bethel Park
More Football• Redbank Valley steals momentum, stops Bishop Canevin short of state finals
• Serra Catholic forces 6 more turnovers, upends Farrell to earn trip to PIAA championship game
• Central Valley makes key defensive stop, keeps state title repeat hopes alive
• 5 things to watch: How many WPIAL teams will reach PIAA football finals?
• Central Catholic’s Donovan Hinish stays committed to Notre Dame as coach Brian Kelly exits