West Allegheny hopes to write better ending to 2023 story

By:
Friday, August 11, 2023 | 11:31 PM


For a program that has historically finished as well as any, West Allegheny’s end to the 2022 season is something it hopes to rectify. And fast.

The Indians stormed out of the gates last fall, establishing themselves as a potential championship-caliber team with a 7-1 record and narrow, three-point loss to eventual Class 4A champion Aliquippa.

But injuries took over the program, and West Allegheny fell in its final three games, including a 44-15 loss to Laurel Highlands in its playoff opener — the program’s first postseason appearance since 2018.

“We came out and were playing well,” coach Dave Schoppe said. “We knew that we needed to have depth in many positions, but as we proceeded into the season, we were getting banged up pretty good.

“We played a heck of a game against Aliquippa and really overachieved in many facets of the game. But it took a physical toll against our team. … And we were never able to get back to full form. But the kids gave us everything they had, which is typical of West A kids.”

Schoppe is set to begin his fifth season leading his alma mater, which became a power in the WPIAL over the last couple of decades under the guidance of Bob Palko. But West Allegheny stumbled following Palko’s departure following the 2018 season, with three straight losing seasons and a 10-15 record.

“We’ve got the program headed back in the right direction,” Schoppe said. “The seniors from last year led the young guys well, and now our underclassmen have to pick things up and take the next step.”

West Allegheny returns a key player who impacts both sides of the ball in Brock Cornell. As a sophomore, he ran for 772 yards and 13 touchdowns and was also the team’s second-leading receiver. Cornell led the Indians’ defense in tackles (96) and hauled in three interceptions.

“He’s going to take a lot of carries for us,” said Schoppe of Cornell, who has collegiate offers from Duquesne and Albany. “And as a safety, he makes all the calls. It’s like having a coach on the field. He knows where everybody has to be.

“His desire and leadership is what stands out most. He’ll get banged up, but you can’t take him off the field. And when you watch film, the game speed he plays at is one of the best I’ve seen in the 30 years I’ve coached. He’s special.”

Roman Police and Cornell’s younger brother, Brody, will provide depth in the run game. Teagan Tomei and Scott Macher will be the team’s main pass catchers.

Under center, there will be a change. Gage Upton, who passed for more than 1,000 yards in 2022, has graduated. Senior Max Psaros and sophomore Brody Malatak will compete for the spot, and Schoppe is encouraged by their progress, while leaving the door open plenty for a West Allegheny offensive staple.

“If you’ve ever watched West A, you know we have some wildcat guys with our running backs,” he said. “The wildcat has been here a long time, and we have running backs with a tremendous amount of athletic ability. You have to put the ball in those guy’s hands as much as you can.”

Schoppe is encouraged by the skill positions, but does acknowledge that the preseason will be key to develop depth in the trenches.

AJ Hughes, a second-team all-conference selection last year, anchors the lines on both sides of the ball. Brock Stickley is a returning starter, as well. Tommy Redlinger, Cam Danna and JC Bozic round out the projected line.

Many of those players will turn around and play defense, and that’s where Schoppe feels West Allegheny will be best.

“We’ll be very active in man coverage and zone, we like to blitz, and we like to create issues for the offense,” he said. “The system’s been in place for a long time now, and the kids know it. As a player, you can play fast and you can play physical. And that’s defense at West A.”

Last season provided the West Allegheny players with a taste of the success they grew up watching on Friday nights. And now, despite playing in a Parkway Conference that features elite programs like Aliquippa and Central Valley, the Indians feel they’re in position to take another step forward, to potentially join those ranks, and to get back to those glory days.

“We had 50 or 60 kids in the weight room in the offseason,” Schoppe said. “They’re buying in … and they’re looking forward to the competition.”

West Allegheny

Coach: Dave Schoppe

2022 record: 7-4, 4-3 in Class 4A Parkway Conference

All-time record: 385-366-14

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.25 Moon, 7

9.1 at South Fayette, 7

9.8 Ringgold, 7

9.15 at New Castle*, 7

9.22 Aliquippa*, 7

9.29 at Chartiers Valley*, 7

10.6 Ambridge*, 7

10.13 at Blackhawk*, 7

10.20 Central Valley*, 7

10.27 at Montour*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Gage Upton*

73-161, 1,042 yards, 10 TDs

Rushing: Brock Cornell

118-772 yards, 13 TDs

Receiving: Nick Longo*

17-283 yards, 4 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• West Allegheny has won eight WPIAL titles, all since 1997.

• Brock and Brody Cornell’s father, Bryan, is the West Allegheny defensive coordinator and has won four WPIAL titles as the school’s baseball coach.

• Schoppe is a 1988 graduate of West Allegheny.

• Also on West Allegheny’s coaching staff are former Seneca Valley head coach Dave Vestal and former Pitt tight end Scott Orndoff.

Tags:

More Football

GoFundMe posted for former Norwin football player Josiah Pastories, who was killed in auto accident
WPIAL rules Aliquippa rising junior ineligible following transfer from North Hills
Riverview football standout Carlo Buzzatto excited to compete on global stage
Terrelle Pryor, Dick Hoak, Joe Mucci to enter National High School Football Hall of Fame
After prolific career at Allegheny, former Norwin receiver moving up to Division I FCS level