Maybe Bob Palko and West Allegheny should try to play all of their games at Heinz Field.
Palko and his Indians are a perfect 6-0 in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game after a 34-8 whipping of West Mifflin at the downtown stadium. West Allegheny has won three titles at Heinz and three at old Three Rivers Stadium under Palko.
"It's a tribute to the kids. It's not me. It's us. It's all about us," Palko said. "It's what we've tried to establish here. I guess it's working."
Behind a powerful offensive line and what Palko called the Mt. Rushmore of running backs, West Allegheny bulldozed West Mifflin. Senior Nick Halbedl ran for 148 yards, sophomore Chayse Dillon ran for 121 yards, and sophomore Armand Dellovade ran for another 88. The trio received the bulk of the carries in the absence of the fourth face of West Allegheny's Rushmore, Tory Delmonico.
"It's just our linemen, really," Dellovade said. "I got hot in the second half and (Dillon) got hot in the first half. We just kept it rolling."
Dillon scored the games first two touchdowns, with a 5-yard run opening the scoring and a 39-yard run giving West Allegheny a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter. Dillon's scores capped typical West Allegheny drives out of the team's Wildcat formation: Both went ten plays, at least 60 yards, and took up at least 4:50 off the clock.
Up 13-0 at the half, West Allegheny turned to Dellovade and Halbedl more in the second half. Dellovade got on the board first, taking a swing pass from sophomore quarterback Andrew Koester and scoring with ease from ten yards out. Then, as West Allegheny got the ball deep in West Mifflin territory thanks to a bad punt snap, Dellovade scored on a 34-yard run to turn the game into a rout.
Halbedl erased all hope of a West Mifflin comeback with a thrilling run just a minute and a half later. He took the ball at the West Mifflin 35-yard line, made a few moves, and appeared to be caught around the 5-yard line. But Halbedl, a 5-foot-9, 195 pound plug of a back who also plays linebacker, dragged a handful of West Mifflin tacklers over the goal line.
The senior back was a freshman scout team player on the last West Allegheny championship team, and he said there was no way he would be denied a touchdown at Heinz Field.
"Not here," he said. "I was thinking all day how great it would be to score a touchdown here of all places. Right around the five I felt a guy on my back and I thought there was no way he was bringing me down."
West Allegheny was overlooked to start the season behind powerful Montour, Thomas Jefferson, and Central Valley. But behind an experienced coach and a tight knit team, West Allegheny has its sixth WPIAL Class AAA title in 16 years.
PaPreps publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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