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PIAA “AAAA” Western Final – Bethel Park Preview

Written by: on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The Game: PIAA “AAAA” Western Final

Date: Saturday, Dec. 6th, 2008, from Memorial Stadium in State College

At stake:Winner will play either North Penn or Bethlehem Liberty for the “AAAA” state championship, Saturday, Dec. 13th, at Hersheypark Stadium.

When it comes to the PIAA “AAAA” Western Finals, the WPIAL has dominated.  The district is 17-3 (.885) in semifinal games.  The only three losses came to Erie Cathedral Prep in 1991 (28-21), 1999 (27-23), and 2000 (39-14).

Since 2000, WPIAL schools are 7-0 in “AAAA” state semifinals, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 200-61 margin (28 to 8 average).

Bethel Park (14-0), making its first-ever PIAA semifinals appearance, has more history on its side.  WPIAL “AAAA” schools making only one appearance in a PIAA semifinal are 4-2 all-time.  Connellsville Area (1991) and Mount Lebanon (2000) are the only two teams to lose.

But, there’s also a not-so-good side to schools making only one PIAA semifinals appearance.  Overall, such schools own a record of 30-45 (.400).  Western Pennsylvania schools with such a distinction are 20-26 (.434).

So what could possibly go wrong for Bethel Park?  History gives their geographic region a very distinct advantage at this juncture of the season.  Yes, Wilson, also 14-0, boasts an efficient offense and a very nasty, unrelenting defense, but Bethel Park’s resume to this point has been very impressive.

In the WPIAL portion of its schedule, nine of the 13 teams the Black Hawks faced either played in or won a WPIAL championship.  Bethel Park has defeated former WPIAL champions in Penn Hills, North Hills, Woodland Hills, Mt. Lebanon, and Upper St. Clair in consecutive weeks by a combined margin of 129-66.

Bethel then went out and hung a 42-spot on North Allegheny, who reached the “AAAA” semifinals in the WPIAL in 2006 and 2007, and shut down McKeesport Area a week later.

The landmark victory for the Black Hawks came at Heinz Field when the orange and black defeated Gateway 10-6.  Bethel held the USA-Today’s #3-ranked team in the nation to just 107 yards of offense, 1.61 yards per carry, and six first downs.  BP also forced five turnovers in the game.

Currently, Bethel Park is ranked #21 in the country by the USA-Today.  The highest a Great Southern conference team has been ranked by the national newspaper is #17 – McKeesport Area and Upper St. Clair both attained that rank after winning PIAA titles in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

The Black Hawks are led by senior running back Lyle Marsh and senior wideout John Schademan, both of whom were Pittsburgh Post Gazette Fabulous-22 selections.  Marsh has run for 1,211 yards and scored 22 touchdowns; Schademan has hauled in 41 passes for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Quarterback Erik Olson has thrown for 1,518 yards and 16 touchdowns – 176 of those yards have come in the last two weeks.

Bethel Park averages 28 points per game while allowing 13.1.

Bethel Park stats are from the WPIAL finals program and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; PIAA semifinals information is from the 2007 PIAA finals media guide.

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