The Upper St. Clair football team remembers its last visit to Bethel Park for a WPIAL conference clash.

“Our bus was pelted with hot dogs on the way into the stadium by a group of tailgaters. Fortunately my window was up,” said USC coach Mike Junko. “Their fans are pretty passionate over there.”

The Black Hawks will be fired up when they entertain the Panthers at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 in their regular season finale.

Before playing Moon last week, the Black Hawks recorded their third straight conference win. They handled two-time conference champion Peters Township, 38-8.

The triumph was BP’s best performance of the season and prepared the Hawks for what’s in store against the Panthers.

“I think the Peters game was our best but we still have a lot upon which we can improve,” Bethel Park head coach Brian DeLallo said. “We need to be more disciplined because USC has tough kids and they are well-coached.

“Mike (Junko) might be the best playcaller in the WPIAL,” he added. “I spent a lot of time breaking them down this offseason, and he does some really smart things with formations, tempo and play selection. Add their new Wildcat dimension to it, and it’s a lot of preparation. We have to be able to get lined up and disguise our blitzes and coverages. If they know what we’re doing, they will make us pay.”

BP’s defense, featuring all-conference linebacker Gavin Moul, dominated the Indians. Austin Caye had an interception while Joe Thimons forced a fumble that Moul recovered and raced 55 yards for the final touchdown.

“Defensively they are anchored by the solid play of their linebacking core and their secondary is one of the most skilled groups we have seen all year,” Junko said

“Moul is a throwback linebacker,” he continued. “He plays the game with great intensity and you need to always be aware of where he is on the field. They have done a great job in their scheme of freeing him up to make plays.”

BP made the plays offensively by utilizing its one-two punch of Max Blanc at quarterback and Troy Volpatti at tailback.

Volpatti rushed for 101 yards and two scores of 3 and 32 yards on 19 carries against Peters Township. He leads Class 5A with 15 touchdowns.

A Youngstown State commit, Blanc completed 10 of 19 passes for 106 yards. He hooked up with Jack Kirchner for a 24-yard scoring strike and added a one-yard sneak into the end zone.

Kirchner finished with five receptions for 82 yards.

Gody Geddes contributed the extra points and tacked on a 38-yard field goal.

“Bethel Park continues to improve each week,” said Junko.

“Their run game has been dominant at times this year. Their quarterback is also a Division I talent that has a firm grasp on their system. This has made their offense a very balanced attack.”

USC struggled offensively in its 16-13 loss to No. 1-ranked Moon.

The Panthers managed two field goals, measuring 42 and 31 yards, from Bennett Henderson. Nick Debrubeis recovered a fumble at the 2-yard-line and ran into the end zone on USC’s opening possession.

Defensively, first-year player Tim Speer made a number of key plays in the secondary for the Panthers.

“Even though we didn’t come out on top, I feel like we took another positive step forward as a football team,” Junko said of the Moon loss.

Junko and DeLallo expect the USC-BP battle to be typical of past affairs.

“We anticipate a close game that will be decided in the fourth quarter, which is how just about every game in our league and in this rivalry seems to go,” DeLallo said.

“In order for a successful result, you have to eliminate turnovers, no penalties and don’t give up big plays. That’s the formula.”

The recipe has worked for the Black Hawks and that concerns the Panthers.

“They do a great job of taking care of the football and they have been able to establish a solid run game that limits their opponents’ offensive opportunities. We have to get off the field on third down and control the line of scrimmage to have success,” Junko said.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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