No. 1 Moon shuts out Bethel Park, clinches Allegheny Six title

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Friday, October 22, 2021 | 10:45 PM


Moon has a fondness for physical football, clock-consuming drives and 225-pound running backs.

It’s a combination that worked again Friday night. But with their usual big-bodied back limited by an injury, tight end/defensive end Ben Bladel became the team’s battering ram and scored the first points in a 30-0 victory over Bethel Park to clinch at least a share of the Allegheny Six title.

Four different running backs reached the end zone for the top-ranked Tigers (9-0, 4-0), who rushed for 296 yards. They ran the ball 52 times and held possession for 35 minutes in a 48-minute game. Joe Cotton led with 102 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Bethel Park (5-4, 3-1) was held to 9 yards from scrimmage in the first half and finished with only 62.

“It’s smash-mouth football,” Bladel said. “We knew this game was probably the biggest game we’d played all year, and probably one of the biggest we’ll play all season.”

Moon’s leading rusher Dylan Sleva was limited to playing defense Friday to protect an ankle he injured last week, so Bladel filled in as that physical runner despite not playing running back in high school.

The 225-pound senior rushed for 63 yards on five carries, including a bruising 26-yard touchdown run that set the first-quarter tone for Moon’s offense.

“We needed that hammer,” Moon coach Ryan Linn said. “We looked around and said, ‘OK, Ben’s the guy, be the hammer,’ and he was tonight.”

Bladel also had a strip-sack of Bethel Park quarterback Max Blanc in the third quarter, a key play in the defense’s second shutout of the season. Ryan Hazen recovered the fumble, halting Bethel Park’s best drive at Moon’s 30-yard line. Bethel Park also squandered two possessions when they misplayed a couple of short kickoffs and Moon recovered both.

The Black Hawks’ offense had the ball for only 49 seconds in the fourth quarter.

“There are no excuses,” Bethel Park coach Brian DeLallo said. “You can’t hide behind something in a game like this. They outplayed us. They outcoached us. Everyone needs to look in the mirror and take responsibility, but me more so than anyone. I guess we weren’t ready for their physicality.”

Moon can clinch the conference title outright with a win next week at West Allegheny (4-4, 1-3). The title is the team’s second in three years.

The Tigers led 9-0 at halftime on Bladel’s touchdown run and a 34-yard field goal by Jacob Wieland. The lead was only nine points but Moon had dominated time of possession.

Bethel Park’s offense had the ball for about 6 minutes in the first half. The Black Hawks totalled only 12 offensive snaps, three punts and a kneel down before halftime.

“That’s what they’re good at, they take the air out of the ball,” DeLallo said. “You might only get two or three possessions in a half. … If you can’t get them off the field on third down and you can’t stay out there when you have the ball, it’s a long night.”

Cotton extended Moon’s lead with a 21-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, before Jeremiah Dean and Ian Foster each scored in the fourth. Dean reached the end zone on a 4-yard run and Foster’s touchdown covered 7 yards.

Both teams embrace a hard-nosed style, but Moon’s grit at the line of scrimmage won the day.

“We wanted to come out and set the tone,” Linn said, “toe the line of scrimmage a little bit and say, ‘Hey, if you want to play our style, here it is.’”

Bladel agreed.

“We’re the most physical team in this conference,” he said, “and maybe in the WPIAL.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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