West Allegheny defends WPIAL Class AAA title
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West Allegheny defended its WPIAL title, and Bob Palko became the first coach to win seven championship games with Saturday night's 16-6 victory over Central Valley in the Class AAA final at Heinz Field.
The Indians leaned heavily on their ball-control style to remain perfect in championships. Senior tailback Tory Delmonico had a 3-yard touchdown run, and freshman D.J. Opsatnik made field goals from 20, 32 and 24 yards as No. 1-seeded West Allegheny (13-0) added another title to those won in 1997, 1999-2001, 2009 and 2012.
“It's so hard to get here,” Palko said, “and to beat a quality opponent like Central Valley really says a lot.”
West Allegheny became the first Class AAA team to defend its title since Thomas Jefferson won three straight in 2006-08.
“It feels amazing,” said Delmonico, who missed last year's championship game with a knee injury. “This is what we've been working toward since last January. To see it pay off is special.”
West Allegheny rushed for 158 yards on 43 carries, including 82 yards by Delmonico on 21 carries. The Indians also forced two turnovers, and junior quarterback Andrew Koester completed 7 of 9 passes for 120 yards, with a 72-yarder to junior Chayse Dillon in the fourth quarter.
That allowed the Indians to dominate time of possession, 29:12 to 18:48.
No. 3 Central Valley (11-2) was trying for its second WPIAL championship, joining the title it won in 2010 as a first-year program.
This was a Parkway Conference rematch of a Week 5 game that West Allegheny also won, 13-7.
“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.”
New Castle's Phil Bridenbaugh won seven WPIAL titles while coaching the Red Hurricanes from 1924-49, but not all involved winning a championship game and one was a co-championship. Palko becomes the first coach to win seven outright WPIAL championships all on the field.
“We're a close-knit family,” Palko said. “I'm just happy for the program.”
Central Valley built a 6-0 lead, but West Allegheny scored the final 16 points. The Indians neutralized Central Valley junior Jordan Whitehead, who rushed for 13 yards on three carries and caught one pass for 18 yards.
Central Valley's John George completed 7 of 14 passes for 71 yards. Central Valley rushed for 106 yards on 29 carries.
A 1-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Preston Johnson gave Central Valley a 6-0 lead on its first possession. The drive covered 89 yards in 16 plays and consumed more than seven minutes, ending two plays into the second quarter.
West Allegheny answered with two scoring drives. A 13-play, 65-yard touchdown drive ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Delmonico. With 4:38 left before halftime, West Allegheny led 7-6.
West Allegheny linebacker Sean Orsini helped the Indians score again when he recovered a fumbled snap at Central Valley's 39-yard line. Opsatnik kicked a 30-yard field goal with 54 seconds left before halftime.
West Allegheny held a 10-6 halftime lead.
The fumble was the first of three for Central Valley, which lost two. Johnson fumbled a handoff from George at 9:39 in the third quarter, a turnover recovered by West Allegheny's Jed Buck.
Johnson's fumble led to Opsatnik's 32-yard field goal and a 13-6 Indians lead.
Opsatnik added a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter, his seventh field goal this season.
“We work on our kicking game a lot,” Palko said. “If we didn't think he could make them, we wouldn't have tried.”
Staff writer Jason Mackey contributed. Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
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