Bethel Park stuns Gateway for first WPIAL title
Written by: Josh Funk on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
PITTSBURGH – Standing in the tunnel near the home locker room after the “AAAA” WPIAL final, you could have heard a pin drop. Aside from cleats hitting concrete, and an occasional sniffle, there was no sound.
Just disappointment. Just shock. That was the reaction after arguably the biggest upset in these 2008 playoffs and what one media professional said “shocked the nation.”
Gateway (12-1), ranked #3 by the USA-Today, and in the Top-6 in three other national polls, was contained to just 107 yards of offense and seven first downs as Bethel Park (13-0) stunned the Gators 10-6 to claim the WPIAL “AAAA” championship at Heinz Field.
With the victory, the Black Hawks will play District 6/8/9/10 sub-regional champion State College Area, a 22-10 winner over Erie McDowell, next weekend at North Allegheny High School. A date and time is yet to be determined.
Gateway head coach Terry Smith said his team didn’t feel any pressure at all from all of the statewide and national hype.
“They (Bethel Park) came and played harder…they played better,” Smith said. “It had nothing to do with pressure.
“They made the plays. This isn’t about what we did – this is about what Bethel Park did.”
And what Bethel Park did was seize the challenge presented before it: take down a team that, quite possibly, was one of the greatest compilations of overall individual talent the WPIAL had ever seen.
“Credit our defensive coaches,” Bethel Park head coach Jeff Metheny said. “We really struggled on offense.”
Credit the defensive coaches for an effort which forced three Gator fumbles and picked off two passes.
Also, credit the defensive coaches for dialing up the pressure on the Gators in the second half – and not allowing Gateway a first down in the entire third quarter.
Finally, credit the defensive coaches for devising a scheme which held Gateway’s potent 256-yards-per-game rushing average to a meager 55 yards on 34 carries – a 1.61 yards per carry average. Gateway also finished with just 52 passing yards – nearly 100 yards below its season average.
Metheny also credited his team, which won what is easily the biggest game in its history.
“Our kids are very smart,” he said. “On those stages (like Heinz), they haven’t shown that they get uptight for a game. That’s their best asset.”
Senior running back Lyle Marsh (27 rushes, 113 yards) got Bethel Park on the board in the first quarter when he scored from two yards out, and the Black Hawks had a 7-0 lead.
Gateway answered the Bethel score with one of its own – a Dorian Bell one-yard run – but Ryan Lichtenstein’s extra point attempt was blocked, so Bethel Park still held a slim 7-6 lead.
The story of Gateway’s night, though, could best be summed up by the end to the second quarter. Forced to punt, the snap sailed over Lichtenstein’s head, resulting in a 33-yard loss and giving Bethel Park possession at the Gateway 9.
A Patrick Lydon field goal made it 10-6, Black Hawks, and capped the scoring for the game with just 36 seconds left in the half.
From there, Bethel Park held the Gators to just 18 yards of offense in the third quarter, and, in the fourth, forced a fumble, picked off a pass, and turned the Gators over on downs.
Bethel Park finished the game with just 180 yards of offense and eight first downs.
Brian Williams finished his career with 22 carries for 58 yards; teammate Dorian Bell ran for 36 yards.
So where does Gateway go from here?
“We go back to the drawing board and regroup,” Smith said.
Bethel Park, however, goes on to face District 6, which has never beaten the WPIAL in the “AAAA” playoffs.
Upon hearing that, Metheny did one of those head rolls, you know, the one that signifies, “Can’t we just enjoy the win for one night?”
Something, however, leads one to believe the municipality of Bethel Park will be enjoying this one more than just one night.
Follow WesternPAFootball.com on Twitter @WPAFootball