When a pair of WPIAL Class AAAA heavyweights square off in a mid-season battle, one player can make all the difference.
On Friday night, that player was Bre Ford.
Ford led his Bethel Park Black Hawks (5-1, 2-0) past the Upper St. Clair Panthers (4-2, 1-1), 16-14 in a highly contested game at Bethel Park Stadium.
The junior halfback-cornerback extraordinaire scored two first-half touchdowns, one on the ground and the other in the air, to stake the Black Hawks to an early lead. A botched punt snap attempt in between Black Hawk touchdowns gave Bethel Park two critical points that would come in handy later in the game.
Such a poor first half performance did not sit well with Upper St. Clair head coach Jim Render.
"We didn't show up," Render said to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I'm not proud of that effort."
Leading 16-0 late in the fourth quarter, it appeared Ford's early game exploits would be more than enough for the Black Hawks to stave off their long-time rival.
The Panthers would not go down quietly.
Upper St. Clair quarterback Alex Park started the Panther comeback attempt by hooking up with Mitchell Fawcett and Connor Scott for a pair of key receptions to bring the Panthers within ten points. Park's two-point conversion attempt was a success, hitting tight end Mike Deitrick to cut the score to 16-8.
The Panther defense quickly forced the Black Hawks to punt again, giving Park and the Panther offense ample time to the tie game.
Park's hot hand stayed on fire, as he completed multiple passes to Fawcett, before Scott carried the rock into the end zone to set up a decisive two-point conversion attempt.
With all the momentum on their side, it appeared the Panthers were on the cusp of tying the game.
But did you forget?
This was Ford's night.
A well-timed blitz by the Black Hawk defense forced Park to make a hasty decision. Ford, lined up at strong safety, heard the roar of the crowd as his blitzing linebackers neared Park. Knowing full well Park would not take the sack, Ford gambled and jumped the route his man was running. The result was a game-saving interception for Bethel Park.
"When I heard the crowd, I glanced up and I saw Park under pressure, and I knew he was just going to toss it up," Ford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "So I just stuck close to my man. When he threw it, I just attacked the ball."
Ford put the cherry on top of his dominating performance by rushing for two first downs to kill the clock as Bethel Park held on for the tight victory.
Football is a team sport. But for one night in early October, Bre Ford was the only player the Bethel Black Hawks needed.