Career game for Papson paces North Allegheny over Bethel Park
Bethel Park’s never-say-die attitude was on display again Friday night, but North Allegheny’s sensational senior Alex Papson refused to let his Tigers lose another playoff game to the Black Hawks.
Papson rushed for a career-high 301 yards on 45 carries and scored three touchdowns — including a key 62-yard score late in the game — as No. 5 seed North Allegheny held off Bethel Park, 23-13, in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal playoff game at Pine Richland Stadium.
“They were a great football team,” Papson said. “We knew they were going to battle for four quarters. That was a great win for us.”
With the victory, the Tigers (10-1) avenged their 42-21 playoff loss to the Black Hawks in 2008 and set up a semifinal showdown with undefeated Central Catholic, which shutout Gateway, 10-0.
“I’ve had some great battles with Jeff Metheny,” North Allegheny’s Art Walker Jr. said. “We knew they were going to play us tough. His kids are always prepared.”
Playing on the big stage of the WPIAL playoffs did little to deter the league’s third-leading rusher, as Papson repeatedly tore off chucks of yardage against a Black Hawks defense that focused on stopping him. The senior also eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark on the season, as the Tigers built an early 14-0 lead behind his touchdown runs.
North Allegheny also was able to end standout Bre’ Ford’s career at Bethel Park on a sour note as the senior was limited to one touchdown. Ford entered the game as Bethel Park’s all-time leading rusher and finished with 124 total yards, with 61 coming on 17 carries.
“I’d fight for any of the guys on this team,” Ford said. “Even though we lost, we fought hard. This produced some of the most memorable moments of my life.”
It appeared that North Allegheny would cruise to a victory, but after being dominated for much of the first half — just as they did in last week’s upset of McKeesport — the Black Hawks (5-6) came storming back.
Bethel Park turned Louis Dibble’s 52-yard pass to Evan Schweitzer on a reverse pitch into a Danny Christenson 22-yard field goal, and Ford scored from 2-yards out cut the deficit to 14-10.
Christenson exchanged field goals with North Allegheny’s Alex Greenblatt in the third quarter and the Black Hawks marched toward another score with North Allegheny clinging to a 17-14 lead. But Anthony Cinello was intercepted by sophomore Brendan Coniker in the end zone and North Allegheny was able to run out the clock.