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Palko Becomes First Coach with 7 Outright Titles
It is official. West Allegheny just doesn’t lose when it plays for a WPIAL championship.
The Indians (13-0) made it seven for seven with a 16-6 victory over Central Valley (11-2) to clinch the Class AAA title on a wintry autumn evening at Heinz Field. In the process, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko became the first WPIAL grid boss to win seven outright WPIAL crowns.
The other Indians titles came in 1997, 1999-2001, 2009 and 2012.
West Allegheny won the game with its usual method of success. That would involve controlling the ball and taking large chunks of time off the clock on long, methodical drives. The Indians controlled the ball for 29:12, while Central Valley had the ball for just 18:48.
However, Central Valley started the scoring with one of those drives. This was a 16-play, 89-yard masterpiece that took 7:24 off the clock and culminated with one-yard touchdown run by Preston Johnson. Johnson’s run was set up on a nifty 11-yard pass from John George to Jeremy Steffine that placed the ball at the West Allegheny one-yard line. A missed extra point left Central Valley in the lead by a 6-0 score.
West Allegheny answered with a long drive of its own traveling, 65 yards on 13 plays, holding the ball for 6:57. Tory Delmonico put the initial points on the board for West Allegheny with a three-yard run. The point after was kicked by freshman D.J. Opsatnik to put West Allegheny on top 7-6.
The lead was increased to 10-6 when Opsatnik booted a 30-yard field goal with 3:28 to play in the first half. West Allegheny took over the ball at the Central Valley 32-yard line when the snap never found George’s hands and wound up in the arms of Sean Orsini.
West Allegheny took advantage of another fumble in the third quarter when Johnson lost the ball and it was recovered by Jed Buck at the Central Valley 44. The Indians’ possession stalled, but Opsatnik came through again to make sure West Allegheny put some points on the board. The freshman drilled a 32-yard field goal into the open end of the field and West Allegheny extended its lead to 13-6 at the 4:11 mark of the quarter.
Opsatnik’s third field goal was set up on was a 72-yard pass from Andrew Koester to Chayse Dillon. Koester’s creativity was the key to the electrifying play. The junior quarterback stepped up in the pocket and flipped the ball to the speedy Dillon, who sprinted to the Central Valley 13-yard line. Once again, the Central Valley defense stiffened. As was the case on two previous occasions, Opsatnik was true on a 24-yard kick.
Delmonico paced the West Allegheny rushing attack with 82 yards on 21 carries. Dillon pitched in with 59 yards on 17 carries. Koester completed seven of nine passes for 120 yards. Dillon was on the receiving end of five of those aerials for 100 yards.
Johnson rushed for 58 yards on 15 carries to lead Central Valley. John George completed seven of 13 passes for 71 yards.
The championship marked the fifth straight from a team out of the Parkway Conference, the second straight for West Allegheny.
West Allegheny advances to the PIAA quarterfinals to take on Erie Cathedral Prep Friday at North Allegheny High School.
Central Valley 0 – 6-0-0 - 6
West Allegheny 0 - 10-3-3 - 16
(11:40) – Central Valley – Preston Johnson 1-Yard Run (Kick Missed)
(4:38) – West Allegheny – Tory Delmonico 3-Yard Run (D.J. Opsatnik Kick)
(0:54) – West Allegheny – Opsatnik 30-Yard Field Goal
(5:28) – West Allegheny – Opsatnik 32-yard field goal
(8:32) – West Allegheny –Opsatnik 22-yard field goal