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High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – PIAA Football Quarterfinal Preview

By Matt Popchock
Chayse Dillon

West Allegheny running back Chayse Dillon scored twice in last week’s WPIAL Championship win over West Mifflin. (Photo credit: Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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(mpopchock@kdka.com)

The Indians are chasing history…or, to be more precise, Chayse-ing it.

Sophomore running back and wildcat quarterback Chayse Dillon, often the folcrum of Bob Palko’s unconventional offense, has ramped up his game in the postseason, and West Allegheny (12-1) hopes it eventually leads them to the exit ramp for Hersheypark Stadium.

But first the WPIAL champs must get past District 10 flag-bearer Erie Cathedral Prep (12-0) in the PIAA Class AAA Quarterfinals at Erie Veterans Stadium Friday at 7:00.

Six of Dillon’s 11 touchdown runs and half his total rushing yards came in the district playoffs, including 121 and a pair of TD’s versus West Mifflin in the WPIAL Class AAA Final.

Dillon was humble in triumph last weekend, and as one might expect of a humble player, he credited his linemen for the team’s offensive success via himself, Tory Delmonico, Armonde Dellovade, and Nick Halbedl.

“I think it’s just power. You can’t prepare for power,” he said last Friday. “They always give me room to work with. They’re incredible. [My touchdowns] came on an outside reach play; there was a nice hole around the corner, and I just ran through it.”

“He’s been battling some injuries, and while Tory took over, we knew he’d come along,” Palko said after winning his sixth WPIAL title in as many tries. “The neat thing is, in this offense, in the end, it’s not ‘that’ guy, or ‘that’ guy. It’s ‘us.'”

The Ramblers enter this contest ranked No. 5 in the Commonwealth, regardless of classification, by MaxPreps, and a major key will be whether or not the wildcat can keep pace with Cathedral Prep’s offense, which averages 51 points per game.

By that same token, it’s up to Palko’s defense to continue its inspired play against stiff competition. In wins over Ringgold, former WPIAL champ Montour, previously unbeaten Thomas Jefferson, and finally, the Titans, the Indians allowed 24 total points.

Their objective is to contain senior tailback and Michigan State commit Delton Williams, who has amassed over 1,500 all-purpose yards and 25 total TD’s, while collecting 25 solo tackles and four interceptions as a defensive back.

Williams scored three times–once on a run, once on a fumble return, and once on a punt return–in last week’s win over General McLane.

West A’s only state title in football came with future Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko at the trigger in 2001. The Ramblers got their only taste of PIAA gold one year earlier, when they stunned Central Bucks West in overtime.

That victory, by the way, ended a record-setting win streak that was broken by Tom Nola’s Clairton Bears (13-0) at Heinz Field last Friday. They will try to collect their 61st in a row when they take on District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley (11-1) at Somerset’s Golden Eagle Stadium tonight at 7:00.

Clairton has cracked MaxPreps’ top ten state-wide rankings, as well as its national “small schools” top ten, and now the individual records are starting to fall as well.

Undecided college prospect Tyler Boyd, who has already run for 2,123 yards and scored over 40 times this year, is on the verge of breaking Pitt running back Rushel Shell’s WPIAL career touchdown mark. He added two more scoring runs in the second half of his team’s historic victory over Sto-Rox, which gave the Bears five district titles in a row.

The Mountaineers’ offense, which reads a little more conventionally than Sto-Rox’s, is led by fellow senior Drew Glotfelty, who has collected 1,933 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging over seven yards per attempt.

The other two remaining unbeatens in the WPIAL will also kick off Friday at 7:00. Aliquippa (13-0) will host Karns City (10-3) at Central Valley’s Sarge Alberts Stadium, while three-time Quad-A champ North Allegheny (13-0) braces for a test from former conference rival Erie McDowell (7-5) at Seneca Valley’s NexTier Stadium.

Aliquippa racked up over 500 team rushing yards in a dominant win over Washington at Heinz Field, including over 400 from D-1 prospect Dravon Henry and sidekick Terry Swanson. The junior backfield duo has combined for 2,643 yards and 43 touchdowns on the ground.

Furthermore, the Gremlins, the District 9 Class AA champs, face a tall task in trying to overcome what might be the top defense in its classification in the Commonwealth. The first string for Mike Zmijanac has been scored upon less than ten times in 2012.

Karns City will try to spread out that defense with its own junior star, quarterback Tyler Kepple. He has thrown for over 11 TD’s and over 1,100 yards, while running for 523 yards and five more touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Art Walker’s Tigers hope their dual-threat senior quarterback, Mack Leftwich, can strong-arm them to another victory after throwing for three TD’s in a gritty win over Woodland Hills.

Leftwich, who will play for FCS program Stephen F. Austin next fall, has completed over 60 percent of his passes for 2,631 yards–second-most in the WPIAL–and 35 touchdowns on the year.

To return to Hershey, however, North Allegheny, rivaled by few along the offensive line, must also get its running game going again after a quiet day against the Wolverines. Senior Alex DeCiantis has 1,024 yards and 14 TD’s on the season, but was limited to 57 yards at Heinz Field.

The stubborn defense of the Tigers, which allows less than eight points per game, faces a unique matchup in the Trojans’ triple-option offense. They have several players who can hurt opponents on the ground, including Pitt defensive end recruit James Conner.

Conner has rumbled for 1,645 yards, averaging a first down per carry, and 21 touchdowns, while also hauling in four TD passes.

N.A. enters Friday’s game the top-ranked team in PA by MaxPreps and has moved up to No. 21 in its national Xcellent 25 (human-based) rankings.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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