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West Allegheny makes statement in rout of Moon

Kevin Gorman
| Saturday, Sept. 8, 2001

They introduced themselves to the WPIAL as sophomores against these Moon Tigers with a dramatic play that saw Tyler Palko avoid a rush, shortstep his way to the sideline and loft a 16-yard touchdown pass to Joe Slappy. They returned as seniors prepared to give an encore.

Again, Palko avoided a rush. Again, he rolled to his right. Again, he saw Slappy.

This time, Palko fired a bullet that Slappy caught in stride, stretching his long arms to grab it with his fingertips as he strode across the goal line. It signaled that this was going to be another blowout, the same way that West Allegheny had defeated Moon in what represented their debut two years earlier.

It was just one play, but one that led top-ranked West Allegheny to a 41-0 victory over No. 7 Moon on Friday night at Tiger Stadium.

'It's our last chance to set foot on Moon's stadium, and you can't go out any better than this,' Palko said. 'It was important for us to come and leave our mark here.'

Palko completed 13 of 20 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 58 yards and another touchdown for West Allegheny (2-0), which outgained Moon (0-2), 381-82. Slappy caught two passes for 31 yards and had a 31-yard interception return that set up Dionte Henry's 2-yard touchdown run.

'Expectations are high with those seniors,' West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said. 'They played enough football and they're seasoned. When we get into a big game, it's nice to see their eyes light up.'

West Allegheny's initial drive lasted 9 minutes, 27 seconds, and even though it ended with a 23-yard field goal by Derek Javarone, set the tone that the Indians would rule this night. Javarone had a big night, adding a 43-yarder that made it 27-0 and booting six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

Moon never established a running game, as Austin Sykes was held to four yards on eight carries and the Tigers never broke the double-digit mark until the fourth quarter. By then, the PIAA's mercy rule was invoked and the clock ran without stopping.

Palko had a 69-yard touchdown run on a play-action bootleg nullified by a clipping penalty, but West Allegheny continued its drive and Slappy scored on a 4-yard end around to make it 10-0. Henry, who rushed for a game-high 76 yards on 13 carries, broke a 42-yarder to set up Palko's 4-yard touchdown run.

Moon made its first drive of the game, but Jeff Bradford missed a 35-yard field goal. That's when Palko led the two-time defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Indians on the scoring drive that resulted in his 16-yard strike to Slappy that made it 24-0.

It was the second time in three years that West Allegheny shut out Moon, its former Parkway Conference archrival. The Indians have won the past five games, including the past three by a combined 110-7.

'You never anticipate coming in and doing that,' Bob Palko said. 'You always try to do that but it's not always realistic. But our kids rose to the occasion.'

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