No. 3 West Allegheny uses wrinkle in quarterfinal win over Franklin Regional
With a coach as wily as Bob Palko in charge, there’s no telling what West Allegheny will run on offense from week to week.
On Friday night, the wildcat offense came back in full force.
The No. 3 seed Indians, which used a balanced pro-style attack through nine-plus weeks, became direct snap-happy and bullied No. 6 Franklin Regional for stretches of their 37-14 win in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals at Martorelli Stadium.
Senior Chayse Dillon and juniors Whitney White and Terence Stephens combined for 328 yards on 47 carries and scored all five of the defending WPIAL champion’s touchdowns.
West Allegheny (10-1) will meet No. 2 Thomas Jefferson (11-0) in the semifinals.
“It’s all different (each week),” Palko said of the offense. “And that’s a tribute to the kids. You come in with all our different packages and personnel, and they’re unselfish.”
Dillon broke open a tight game with West Allegheny’s first play of the third quarter, as he raced 61 yards down the right hash for a touchdown that put the Indians ahead 30-14.
He scored on a 14-yard keeper midway through the fourth and finished with 23 carries for 158 yards.
Stephens had 18 carries for 119 yards.
The ball carriers put the postgame spotlight on their blockers, though.
“We were changing it up a little and going back to the old wildcat that we always ran,” senior guard/center Blake Abel said. “It definitely gives us good numbers. We even get an extra fullback in the backfield, so it’s not just the line.”
Both teams entered the quarterfinal allowing about 13 points per game, yet they headed to the locker room at halftime in a high-scoring affair, with West Allegheny ahead, 23-14.
West Allegheny scored during its first four possessions of the first half.
Its opening drive ended with a 44-yard field goal by sophomore kicker D.J. Opsatnik.
Stephens reaped the rewards in the offense in the first half, as he scored on runs of 6, 4 and 13 yards. His 13-yarder finished a three-play, 22-yard drive set up by a muffed Franklin Regional kick return.
Franklin Regional (7-4) also exhibited offensive efficiency in the first half, as it produced touchdowns on the first two of its four first-half drives.
Senior Brett Zanotto’s 7-yard keeper as a Wildcat quarterback wrapped up a 10-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Santino Birty capped the Panthers’ second possession of the night with a 10-yard TD pass to junior Todd Summers in the first play of the second quarter.
“We knew we wouldn’t shut this team out, and we’d probably have to match them score for score,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “I think the big turning point in the game was the kick return we botched.”
The Panthers managed just two first downs in the second half.
“We knew that they were predominantly the team we played a year ago, minus a few people,” Botta said, referencing the Panthers’ 21-12 loss to West Allegheny in the 2013 semifinals. “We knew we’d have to play a perfect game to beat them, because they were back with bigger, stronger, faster kids.”