Winless a year ago, Bethel Park challenges Moon for conference title in Allegheny Six

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Friday, October 22, 2021 | 12:46 AM


A year after going winless, the Bethel Park football players have a chance this week to call themselves champions of the Allegheny Six.

This, without question, is the team’s biggest game in quite a while when No. 1-ranked Moon (8-0, 3-0) hosts Bethel Park (5-3, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, but Black Hawks coach Brian DeLallo has tried to keep his players from stressing too much about the big-game hype.

“We talked to our kids about that: ‘Hey, don’t be nervous,’” DeLallo said. “We haven’t played in a big game in a couple of years around here. You earned the right to be there by what you’ve done over the last month. You’ve earned the chance to go play in a big football game.”

They recognize that the team on the other sideline has title hopes too. Moon is trying to win its second conference title in three years.

So, it’s a big game for everyone involved.

“It’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Moon coach Ryan Linn said. “Friday is our senior night for this group of seniors that’s put so much time, effort and energy into this program. They’re trying to cement their legacy as one of the top teams ever to come through Moon.”

While Moon’s roster is senior-heavy, Bethel Park has a bunch of juniors. The team finished 0-7 last season including 0-5 in the conference as DeLallo started 15 sophomores.

They knew — or at least they hoped — better days would be ahead.

“He knew this class was going to be a good class, and I’ve always thought they would be the team to beat next year, for sure,” Linn said. “But I also knew they’d be giving everyone fits this year.”

A conference title would be Bethel Park’s first since 2017, so a little nervousness is only natural. But DeLallo said last week’s 38-8 win over Peters Township has him feeling more confident that jitters won’t be an issue.

That, too, was big game.

“I was worried about them being nervous last Friday, but we were pretty loose,” said DeLallo, a guest this week on the Rebel Yell Podcast on TribLive HSSN. “A couple of my assistants sort of cautioned me that this team plays better when they’re loose. Don’t get on them. Don’t be too tough on them on Thursday. Don’t be too tough on them in pregame. Let them be loose. They play better when they’re loose.

“I tend not to be so loose, particularly on Friday night,” he added with a laugh, “so I’m trying to dial myself back a little bit and let the kids have a little more fun.”

No doubt, Bethel Park is having way more fun this year — especially lately. After a 1-3 start to the season, the Black Hawks have run off consecutive wins over Franklin Regional (28-13), West Allegheny (26-10), South Fayette (27-7) and Peters Township.

“We knew we weren’t as bad as that (1-3) record showed,” DeLallo said. “We played a really hard schedule. We opened with three 6A schools and Gateway. We felt if we could just clean up a couple of things, particularly turnovers and penalties, we were going to be a much more difficult team to beat.

“We’ve done that these last four week. We have two turnovers in four weeks.”

Both teams have similar philosophies on offense in terms of playing an old-school physical style.

Bethel Park has found balance behind quarterback Max Blanc and running back Troy Volpatti. Blanc, a Youngstown State commit, has thrown for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns. Volpatti has 803 rushing yards and 15 scores. Tyler McGowan leads Moon with 928 passing yards and seven touchdowns while running back Dylan Sleva has 660 yards and six scores.

“We’re both very similar as that throwback style,” Linn said. “They take more snaps under center than we do. If you look at our conference, I think we’re the only two teams that have taken under-center snaps pretty much the whole year.”

Whoever wins is guaranteed at least a share of the conference title. Bethel Park hosts Upper St. Clair next week and Moon visits West Allegheny.

“It’s the biggest game that we’ve had in these parts for a long time,” DeLallo said. “The community is excited. The school is excited. We’re just trying to keep our heads down and work hard and get ready for Friday night.”

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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