Palko’s gamble pays off as West Allegheny edges North Hills in overtime

Saturday, September 9, 2017 | 1:24 AM

During regulation of his team's Class 5A Allegheny Nine Conference game against North Hills, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko repeatedly came up empty on his gambles. In fourth-down situations, West Allegheny went 0 for 4 on short-yardage attempts to gain a first down.

But in overtime, with his team down by one, Palko rolled the dice one last time.

The result was a successful two-point conversion thanks to a 2-yard dive up the middle by senior Will Weber that gave No. 1 West Allegheny a 29-28 win over North Hills (1-2, 0-2) in a tightly-contested battle in Imperial.

“We're really fortunate, very fortunate to come out with a victory. I'm proud to see some of the maturing happen with some kids, but we've got a lot of work to do,” Palko said. “Those were just two good football teams going at it in a hard-fought game.”

It was no surprise Palko called Weber's number after the Indians' jack-of-all-trades player tallied 135 yards and two touchdowns on 25 rushes. But Weber's workhorse contributions didn't stop there, as he completed 4 of 4 passes for 47 yards, hauled in two receptions for 34 yards and even tallied a sack on defense.

“He didn't just show up this year; it's been a work in progress. That's the expectation level for Will. If that's what we got to do, that's what we got to do,” Palko said.

“We did the same thing with Mike Caputo, we did the same thing for Dorin Dickerson. When you have a player like that, you have to take advantage of it.”

Dante Flati also starred for West Allegheny (2-0, 2-0), ripping off 69 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. Tight end Mateo Vandamia added eight receptions for 108 yards.

North Hills gave the defending WPIAL Class 5A champs all they could handle as they put pressure on the West Allegheny defense from the opening kick. The Indians' offensive line opened up big holes for Melvin Blanks, who sped through the gaps for 204 yards and a pair of scores on 23 carries.

Tyler Brennan provided North Hills with an explosive performance, catching five passes for 115 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown reception that helped his team hold a seven-point lead for the majority of the second half.

In overtime, North Hills scored first on a 2-yard rush by Blanks on fourth-and-goal. West Allegheny answered on its own fourth-and-goal effort before going for the 2-point conversion. West Allegheny was denied by the North Hills defense on an earlier fourth-down attempt in overtime, but a questionable pass interference penalty gave the home team one more crack at it.

“I was very proud of our kids' effort. I thought they did everything that we asked of them, and sometimes more. West Allegheny is another team, that's all they are. We played well with them tonight,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said.

“Turnovers cost us, and that was the difference, along with some calls that were made that ended up being heavily in their favor.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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