Bethel Park starts fast in win over McKeesport
McKeesport experienced two of its most excruciating losses in the waning moments of its past two playoff games against Bethel Park.
The Tigers didn't have to worry about that in Friday's WPIAL Class AAAA first-round matchup between the eighth and ninth seeds at Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium.
Bethel Park took care of the outcome right away.
The Black Hawks scored touchdowns on four of their first five drives, held McKeesport's offense in check and went on for a 31-20 victory.
Bethel Park (7-3) will take on top-seeded and undefeated North Allegheny (10-0) — a 42-14 winner over Altoona — in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.
“The kids really deserve this,” Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny said. “They have worked hard. After we lost to Woodland Hills, we really rode them and they responded. Athletics are all about how you respond.”
It was the fifth consecutive playoff loss for McKeesport (5-5) and fourth consecutive year the Tigers were eliminated in the first round — three of which came under the direction of Jim Ward.
“We have played great football the last six weeks, and to come out here and not play like we were capable stings a lot,” Ward said.
Freshman quarterback Levi Metheny had a lot to do with that.
He threw for 138 yards, rushed for 73 more and added touchdowns of 1 and 45 yards. Zach Enick rushed 18 times for 145 yards, and John Mascaro added two short touchdown runs.
McKeesport got 188 yards passing for Eddie Stockett, but the Tigers were held to 76 yards rushing.
“Our defense played extremely well,” Jeff Metheny said. “We came ready to play. Our kids played awful well early. We ran the ball well and had some big, explosive plays, and that is something we haven't had.”
Bethel Park limited McKeesport to 77 yards in the decisive first half.
“They are a much bigger football team than us,” Ward said. “One of the things I was concerned about was their size. And what we were worried about is what really hurt us in the first half.”
Bethel Park pushed around the smaller McKeesport defense, and Enick helped that out by breaking numerous tackles that resulted in big plays.
“We missed a lot of tackles,” Ward said. “We tackled so well the past six or seven weeks that it was disappointing to see.”
Bethel Park wasted no time setting the tone for the game.
The Black Hawks marched 66 yards on its opening drive to take a quick 7-0 lead. Enick ripped off a 33-yard run that set up Mascaro's 5-yard run four minutes into the game.
Bethel Park got on the board again early in the second quarter on yet another tackle-breaking, 29-yard run by Enick. Six plays later, Metheny snuck in from 1 yard on a third down to extend Bethel Park's lead to 14-0.
The Black Hawks didn't let up.
Metheny ran 45 yards for a touchdown following a Stockett fumble to make it 21-0. Bethel Park went up, 28-0, right before the half when a Metheny-to-Enick 51-yard screen pass to the 1-yard line set up Mascaro's second touchdown.
“Pretty much most of our wins were when we were behind at the half,” Ward said. “We have started slow, but you can't do that in the playoffs, and especially against a team like Bethel Park.”
McKeesport added a Stockett touchdown run to open the second half before adding two late scores — a Hodari Christian 1-yard run and a Kevin Allen 5-yard reception from Stockett.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.