COLLIER TWP. - As the WPIAL playoffs began, there was a general consensus surrounding the Class AAA bracket: Something, or someone, special would be required to knock off defending champion Thomas Jefferson. That someone special turned out to be West Allegheny's Mike Caputo.
Somewhat lost in the Parkway Conference because of the success of conference champ Hopewell and its sophomore sensation Rushel Shell, Caputo is the second leading rusher in the WPIAL. Friday night against a T.J. team that had pitched five shutouts in the regular season, Caputo rushed for 259 yards on 26 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
"He gets better as the game goes on," West Allegheny head coach Bob Palko said. "It's almost like it takes him a while to get into the flow. He knows the down and distance. He knows how to set things up and where the soft spots are."
Caputo's scores came on a 94-yard kickoff return, a 97-yard run, and a 1-yard run that ended up serving as the game winner early in the fourth quarter. The junior transferred over the summer from Blackhawk and has emerged as such a reliable runner that Palko incorporated the Wildcat formation into the Indians' offense despite having a strong quarterback in Jared Buck and tall, rangy receivers like senior Ben Simmen.
"The thing that makes him a really good running back is he's smart," Palko said. "He knew what he was doing."
He knew he was also setting up a potential rematch with Hopewell in the final. Caputo ran for 219 yards in the 34-26 loss to the Vikings in the regular season. "All I know is we're going to come ready and like tonight, play our hearts out."