North Allegheny football sets sights on elusive WPIAL Class 6A title

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Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 12:01 AM


North Allegheny has been knocking on the door for three years for a return to the WPIAL championship at Heinz Field since the state expanded to six football classes.

Each time, the Tigers were turned away by a conference rival.

Senior offensive lineman Ben Grafton is eager to get back on the field after how last season ended. The Tigers, who open the season against Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.) on Aug. 23, finished 10-1 last season and lost to Seneca Valley, 31-14, in the WPIAL semifinals.

“We didn’t get the job done that night,” Grafton said. “We came back to get better every day, and we want to win the WPIAL this year.”

Grafton is one of two returning offensive linemen, along with Jacob Lugg, who will look to power a strong North Allegheny offense. The Tigers return starting quarterback Ben Petschke, who passed for 664 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

North Allegheny’s ground game will be led by senior Percise Colon, who ran for 438 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

“We like to try to pound the ball,” Grafton said. “We try to take it to the third and fourth quarter and grind the game down. We’ll run it down their throats.”

Coach Art Walker said the Tigers still are figuring out who will fill in several key roles on offense. How quickly those players adapt will dictate how North Allegheny competes in the Class 6A conference.

“We lost our leading rusher, but there are several guys with experience we are counting on to make plays,” Walker said.

North Allegheny also will try to replicate a defense that was the second-stingiest in the conference. The Tigers held opponents to 14.1 points per game.

Amosis Porter and Nathan Hoke return at linebacker. Sam Sheridan, Grafton and Hayden Sheets bring tenacity to the defensive line.

“We have a nice mix and some new faces,” Walker said. “We have some guys who have valuable experience. High school football is about constantly updating guys after you lose players. We had a good offseason and a solid summer. Heat week is complete, and now we will see how these guys do once pads are on and contact is permitted.”

Grafton believes North Allegheny is on the right track to develop chemistry.

“I think we are already clicking in practice,” Grafton said. “We are looking good, fast and quick. We are clicking before we put the pads on.”

Schedule

Coach: Art Walker Jr.

2018 record: 10-1, 8-0

All-time record: 414-246-14

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.), 8

8.30, Norwin*, 7:30

9.6, at Central Catholic*+, 7:30

9.13, Canon-McMillan*, 7:30

9.20, Mt. Lebanon*, 7:30

9.27, at Seneca Valley*, 7:30

10.4, at Butler*, 7:30

10.11, Hempfield*, 7:30

10.18, West Allegheny, 7:30

10.25, at Pine-Richland*, 7

*Class 6A Conference game

+At Shaler

Statistical leaders

Passing: Ben Petschke

34-91, 664 yards, 7 TDs

Rushing: Ben Maenza*

131-1,073 yards, 17 TDs

Receiving: Luke Colella

14-255 yards, 1 TD

*Graduated

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