Bethel Park staves off USC
Defending WPIAL Class AAAA champion Bethel Park entered its showdown with perennial power Upper St. Clair looking to maintain its position atop the Quad West standings.
The Black Hawks Bre' Ford made sure of just that.
Ford scored two first-half touchdowns before intercepting a game-tying two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter, as No. 5 Bethel Park edged No. 6 Upper St. Clair, 16-14, in a game that will go a long way toward establishing Class AAAA hierarchy.
"The kids deserve a lot of credit," Bethel Park's Jeff Metheny said. "For about three quarters, we handled them pretty good."
Both teams entered the contest with identical 4-1 records, but it was Bethel Park (5-1, 2-0) who dominated play for the game's first three quarters while building a 16-0 lead.
Three minutes into the final period, it looked as if Ford's 9-yard rushing touchdown and 38-yard score on a pass from quarterback Matthew Bliss would be enough, but Upper St. Clair (4-2, 1-1) came storming back in the game's final minutes.
After being held in check for much of game, Upper St. Clair's Alex Park drove his team to consecutive scoring drives while Bethel Park attempted to run out the clock.
Park connected with Mitchell Fawcett at the Bethel Park 20 for a 41-yard gain before finding Connor Scott for an 8-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 16-6. Upper St. Clair went for two after surrendering a first-half safety, and Park's two-point conversion pass to Mike Deitrick cut the Bethel Park lead to 16-8.
Upper St. Clair then forced another Bethel Park punt and moved the ball toward the end zone for a possible tying score. Park's consecutive passes to Fawcett put the ball at the Bethel Park 4, and Scott scored from 2 yards out -- leaving the Panthers a successful two-point conversion away from tying the game.
But Park was pressured before being intercepted by Ford, who preserved the victory on the game's deciding play.
"This was a total team effort," Ford, who finished with 106 yards rushing on 20 carries, said. "We played tough."
Things were much different for Park in the first half. Tthe Black Hawks sacked the senior quarterback five times. Bethel Park also shut down Panthers' standout running back Jack Siwicki, who was held to 54 yards on 17 carries.
"We didn't show up," Upper St. Clair's Jim Render said. "I'm not proud of that effort."
Upper St. Clair's defense had no such luck, as Bethel Park used its rushing tandem of Ford and Jared Pratt to control the ball and the clock.
Ford gave Bethel Park an early 7-0 lead when he scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season from 9 yards out to cap a 10-play, 90-yard drive.
Upper St. Clair was pinned deep inside its own territory when the Black Hawks' Chris Paglia punted out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
The punt triggered a crucial sequence of events for the Panthers, who found themselves down, 9-0, when a fourth-down snap skipped off the hands of punter David Court and out of the end zone for a safety.
Bethel Park's Nick Kwiatkowski returned the subsequent free kick to the Upper St. Clair 38-yard line before Bliss connected with Ford, who ran into the end zone untouched for a 16-0 lead.