No. 7 North Allegheny routs No. 5 Mt. Lebanon in opener
North Allegheny may have lost several seniors from its 2012 state championship team, but the Tigers still know how to take advantage of other teams' mistakes.
As No. 5 Mt. Lebanon committed turnovers and drive-killing penalties, No. 7 North Allegheny stayed steady and got a few big plays on its way to a 55-7 season-opening nonconference win Friday night at Newman Stadium. The victory extended the Tigers' WPIAL winning streak to 31 games.
Senior wideout Elijah Zeise was responsible for most of the highlights, racking up four catches for 129 yards. He broke free for receptions of 44, 41 and 39 yards. That, in turn, opened space for running back Josh Bergman to rush for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Zeise, a Pitt recruit, also gave new quarterback Jeff Clemens a safety valve, catching half of his eight completions.
“There were a couple balls that could have gone either way,” Zeise said. “My role was to help him out.”
The three-time defending WPIAL champion Tigers (1-0, 0-0) got a touchdown from a big guy when 245-pound senior defensive lineman Dario Denillo picked off Mt. Lebanon's Kellan Stout and scored to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
That play was symbolic of the many mistakes that cost Mt. Lebanon (0-1, 0-0).
In addition to the costly turnover, the Blue Devils were tagged with eight penalties for 134 yards.
“We played a terrible game, not taking anything away from North Allegheny,” Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk said. “Every time we made a play, we made a penalty.”
Penn State recruit Troy Apke was a bright spot, catching four passes for 39 yards. Jake Rolfsen gained 79 yards on 15 carries, and his touchdown with just over two minutes left came after the Tigers had scored 55 straight points to open the game.
By night's end, North Allegheny outgained Mt. Lebanon, 472-188.
“You never know what you're going to be like or what's going to happen until you're in a live contest,” NA coach Art Walker said. “I'm really happy with how they answered the call.”
Adam Bittner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.