Baldwin knocks off No. 1 Penn Hills
As Baldwin prepared to play top-ranked Penn Hills, Fighting Highlanders first-year coach Mike Silianoff came up with an acronym for victory: WIN.
Be Warriors. Play Intelligent. Never give up.
No player followed those instructions more closely than senior tailback Fred Bacco, who rushed for a career-high 291 yards and three touchdowns on 336 carries.
Bacco scored the game-winner on an 8-yard run with 21 seconds remaining to lead No. 9 Baldwin to a 21-14 upset of Penn Hills Saturday night at Andrew Yuhas Stadium.
“In the history of the school, we’d never beaten a No. 1,” Silianoff said. “This is the biggest win in school history.”
Baldwin (3-1, 1-1) relied on Bacco, a 5-foot-10, 200-pounder who has rushed for 678 yards this season. After running for 61 first-half yards, Bacco had 231 in the second half and was practically unstoppable.
“Fred Bacco is a great runner,” Silianoff said, “but it’s because of his intangibles, his heart and guts. He was exhausted at the end, but you saw an inner strength come out. He said, ‘Give me the ball.'”
Penn Hills (3-1, 1-1) got 206 yards passing from Anthony Morelli, who completed 13 of 18 attempts, and 113 rushing for Kenny Lewis, who had 95 in the first quarter and scored on runs of 3 and 7 yards despite a mild concussion.
The Indians were leading, 14-7, when Bacco led Baldwin on a 10-play, 89-yard drive. He carried nine times for 86 of those yards, including a 7-yard touchdown to tie the game with 6:16 remaining.
When the Indians failed to down a Morelli punt inside the Baldwin 5, the Highlanders had to go 80 yards for the winning touchdown.
Bacco followed the blocking of Keith Huebner, Ryan Buzzelli, Luke Ostermeyer, Nick Laugelli and Ben Iannachionne, a West Virginia recruit, and ran the ball 11 consecutive times until his 8-yard scoring run.
“I told them, ‘Give me the ball. I’m not getting tackled,'” Bacco said. “Our offensive line, when I can’t go anymore, I look into their eyes and they’re there for me.”
Penn Hills started from its own 8 and tried a pair of screen passes to junior David Harvey, who had four catches for 71 yards. The first got the Indians 18 yards. The second went for 24, but Harvey was tackled at the 50.
“We called those slip screens,” Penn Hills coach Neil Gordon said. “We knew we weren’t going to beat them deep. You’re in a no-win situation there.”
The difference in the game, though, was that Baldwin had Bacco. And Penn Hills had no answer for him.
“The kid was so exhausted he couldn’t stand up,” Gordon said. “He is as tough as you could possibly come. If you want to talk about courage, look at No. 10. I hope our kids can learn from Bacco. He epitomizes what it’s all about.”