West Allegheny's defense makes the difference in title game
Asked what it would be like to play the Central Valley football team a second time, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko's response drew a laugh.
“We didn't want to face them the first time,” Palko said.
Whether the Indians wanted to may be up for debate, but there's no question West Allegheny did a number on the Warriors in both meetings, the most recent a 16-6 victory in Saturday's WPIAL Class AAA championship game.
West Allegheny (13-0) held Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead in check, something few WPIAL teams have been able to do. Whitehead entered the game with 663 rushing yards, 299 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns.
“Jordan Whitehead is a tremendous talent, but he's not the only one,” Palko said. “The other kid we had to worry about was their quarterback (John George) because he extended plays.
“Proud of the kids and proud of the defensive staff for the game plan they came up with. But it's not easy.”
Whitehead finished with one catch for 18 yards, which came in the first half. He carried three times for 13 yards. George was 7 of 13 for 71 yards.
West Allegheny limited Central Valley to 177 total yards — just 71 after halftime — and 10 first downs.
“We wanted to be tougher than them,” linebacker Armand Dellovade said. “I think we did that.”
Linebacker Tory Delmonico credited defensive coordinator Bryan Cornell with devising the game plan and for forcing the Indians to watch an absurd amount of film this week.
“We dedicated (last) week to watching more film than we have ever watched,” Delmonico said. “We knew our checks. We were sharp. It paid off because we knew all the things they could do from every formation.”
Dellovade took it a step further.
“If we wouldn't have done that, then we wouldn't have won,” he said. “I think it helps that much.”
Although the Indians were unable to intercept George, who took over for injured starter Nate Climo during a Week 7 win over Moon, they did force three fumbles, recovering two of them — by linebacker Sean Orsini and defensive back Jed Buck.
“The kids executed,” Palko said. “They came out and took it to us a little bit. The kids responded.”
Dellovade and Orsini led the charge with 11 tackles, including nine solo stops apiece. Each, along with defensive end Matt Holmes, also had a sack.
Defensive back Nic Daigle recorded five tackles, while Delmonico and defensive end Averi Rose each added four.
In 13 games, West Allegheny has allowed more than a touchdown just five times. One of the eight was a 13-7 win over Central Valley (11-2) on Sept. 27, a game in which neither JaQuan Pennington nor Whitehead was able to take over. West Allegheny used a trick play — a 32-yard Delmonico pass to Robert Threet — to sneak past the Warriors.
The Indians' dominant defense allowed significantly more wiggle room Saturday.
“I always think it's harder to beat a team twice in a season, especially how we beat them last time,” Delmonico said. “I'm sure they were pretty upset about that. We came away with a victory, so I'm happy.”