Stung by injuries, Bethel Park ends remarkable season with WPIAL semifinal loss

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Saturday, November 19, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Bethel Park’s banner football season came to an end in the rain Nov. 11 at Canon-McMillan in the semifinal round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

The Allegheny Six Conference champion Black Hawks lost to rival Upper St. Clair, 17-7, on a dreary night to finish 10-2 overall.

“Although the end was disappointing, we had a nice run this season. We had so many seniors and had great leadership,” coach Brian DeLallo said. “Our kids played hard and played for each other. We talk about a brotherhood a lot in football, and these kids have it. They were a fun group to coach.

“We expect our returning players to learn from the examples of this senior class, to build on the momentum we have generated this season and to continue the tradition of winning football here. I’d like to add how much our staff appreciates our school, its administration and our community. This is a heck of a place to play and coach. The support and sense of community is so strong. We are very lucky.”

After starting out 2-1, Bethel Park won seven consecutive games to finish with a 9-1 regular-season record and No. 1 ranking in the Trib HSSN rankings.

The Black Hawks then edged North Hills, 19-17, in a rematch from their season opener before meeting USC for a second time this season.

After going winless with a sophomore-dominated squad in 2000 and finishing 5-6 following a 27-23 first-round playoff loss to Woodland Hills in 2021, Bethel Park was aiming for a WPIAL title this year.

“Bob Palko once told me, ‘To win a WPIAL championship, you have to be good, have some luck and stay healthy,’” DeLallo said. “Unfortunately, we suffered some key injuries down the stretch that we weren’t able to overcome.

“Of course, we are disappointed we didn’t go farther, but there are so many positives. This group went from zero wins to a conference championship and the WPIAL semifinals in two years. I am not sure if that has ever been done.”

The Black Hawks have a couple of superstars in the making in sophomores Tanner Pfeuffer and Ryan Petras.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Pfeuffer, who assumed the team’s field generalship duties this season, was highly efficient in the passing department. He completed 105 of his first 157 passes for 1,418 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“Tanner’s development was fun to watch,” DeLallo said. “Our offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Phil Peckich, did a great job working with Tanner.”

Petras, a 5-9, 167-pound speedster, led the team in receiving with 44 catches for 578 yards (13.1 ypc) and in scoring with 17 touchdowns (102 points). He also finished second in rushing with 587 yards.

Petras was voted co-offensive player of the year in the conference.

“That doesn’t happen in 5A football very often as a sophomore,” DeLallo said. “He is a smart, explosive player, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He will only get better because he is such a hard worker.”

The next three leading receivers for Bethel Park were seniors: running back Austin Caye, tight end Aidan Currie and wideout Dinari Clacks.

The 5-10, 190-pound Caye, a three-year starter, paced the team’s ground game with 707 yards on 172 carries and scored six scores.

“Austin is a warrior and a great teammate,” DeLallo said. “He puts his body on the line for his brothers, and all he wants is for the team to win. He is one of my favorite kids I have ever coached. Wherever he ends up, that school is getting a great player and a great teammate.”

Caye is a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.9 GPA.

Caye, along with Petras and senior lineman Toby D’Andrea, missed the semifinal playoff game with injuries.

“Overall, I think our team had a really good season and even though we exceeded just about everyone’s expectations, we knew we would be in that position even though most didn’t think so,” Caye said. “That was obviously a tough loss in the playoffs. We would’ve liked to have won and still be playing but like Coach D always says, ‘We’re not going to sit here and make excuses.’ St. Clair was simply just the better team that night.”

Caye made an impact in the football program for three years despite battling an assortment of injuries.

“My thoughts about my career at Bethel Park are nothing but good things,” Caye said. “All the coaches sacrifice a lot of time to be away from their families to do everything in their power to get us ready to play on Friday nights, and I thank them for that. It was really my family away from home.

“I feel that I had a really good season, but I’m a little annoyed it was cut short by dealing with injuries. My favorite memories would have to be beating Mt. Lebanon in overtime or winning the conference championship this season.”

Caye was complemented by Petras, senior FB/RB Gavin Moul (6-1, 225) and senior RB Blake Striegel. Moul, a Delaware recruit, was a four-year starter.

The Black Hawks’ ground game was powered by a small but talented group of offensive linemen that included the likes of D’Andrea, seniors Sam Sciullo, Logan Pettigrew, Braedon Del Duca and Currie along with juniors Jake Brown and Dylan Prindle.

Petras stood head and shoulders above the crowd in the scoring department. He was followed in the scoring column by Pfeuffer, Moul, Caye and junior kicking specialist Kaden Wetzel.

Team leaders on defense included Moul (LB), Currie (LB), Ty Stewart (LB) and Clacks (S) and seniors Jack Reilly (CB), Jason Nuttridge (CB), Jeremiah Hamilton (S), Dom Horton-Capone (NG) and Coby Goelz (DE).

Bethel Park outscored the opposition 335-191, averaging 27.9 points per game offensively and 15.9 defensively.

So what is the team’s first order of business as far as preparing for next year?

“Taking a month off and getting our bodies healthy and our minds right as we head into offseason training,” DeLallo said.

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