Bethel Park did not win any football titles this fall but the Class of 2020 will be long remembered.
During a 17-13 season-ending loss to Gateway in the WPIAL 5A quarterfinals, the Black Hawks started 20 seniors in the 22 offensive and defensive spots. On the roster were an additional five seniors who helped the Black Hawks to one conference title, consecutive playoff appearances and a 21-10 record in the past three years.
The top offensive performers included quarterback Anthony Chiccitt, Sean McGowan, Jehvonn Lewis, Cooper Shoemaker and John Gummo.
A three-year starter, Chiccitt went over the 1,000-yard passing mark by completing 11 of 17 attempts for 145 yards against the Gators.
McGowan was both the team’s top receiver with 28 receptions for 336 yards as well as rusher with nearly 1,000 yards.
Lewis (19 for 370) and Shoemaker (14 for 309) were among Chiccitt’s other top targets.
Behind McGowan and Lewis, Gummo ranked third in scoring behind McGowan and Lewis with 55 points (31 extra points and eight field goals).
Among the top defenders were two-way linemen like Alexander Dudowski, Brandon Cole, Nathan Currie, Brandon Hartman and Austin Cortopassi, who also handled the punting duties. William Patrizio and Ben Opie helped anchor the back seven.
Other key senior contributors included: Jared Miller, Dominic Esposito, Jacob Wodarek, Zachary Comella, Liam Sauer, Zachary Cashman, Fredric Sauer, Azalynn Coblentz, Tyler Thimons, Jack Evans, Joey Fertal, Caleb Buchowski and James Carte.
“The seniors made it so much easier than it’s supposed to be for a first-year head coach,” said Brian DeLallo. “Their leadership was amazing. Though we didn’t win a championship this year, someday we will, and they will be a part of it, because they have laid the foundation for what is yet to come.”
While this year’s 7-4 season is history, next season’s success will hinge on underclassmen that number only 23 players currently in grades 10-11.
“We will be very young,” DeLallo conceded. “That said, we still have high expectations for many of our returning players. For us to be good, our senior group must do a great job of leading, and our younger guys must develop faster than usual.”
The eight-would-be seniors expected to set the tone are Jacob Ackerman, Jack Kirchner, Jason Muench, Sylvio McCauley, Dylan Fusca, Lawrence Kusan, Zachary Haddox, Eric Halligan and Connor McGann.
Additionally, the Hawk experienced success on the junior varsity and freshmen level. Thus, DeLallo is even more optimistic.
“We have a lot of great kids coming up, and our staff is excited to coach them,” he said.
Hence the Hawks expect an equalling thrilling 2020 campaign. In 2019, BP steamrolled through the conference until losing back-to-back games to Baldwin (in overtime) and Peters Township, the conference co-champion with Moon. The Hawks beat the Tigers in overtime and won a thriller against rival Upper St. Clair that earned them home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. After dispatching Kiski, 45-16, the Hawks lost in the final 38 seconds to the Gators, who are ranked No. 2 in the Class 5A division.
“I am very proud of the way we performed,” said DeLallo, especially during what has been a transition period for the program.
In January, Jeff Metheny resigned as head coach after 25 seasons to watch his son, Levi, play at Albany. DeLallo, who trained under Lou Cerro as an assistant at Montour and under Jim Render as an assistant at Upper St. Clair, moved into the vacated position.
DeLallo said he “learned so much” this season and noted that much of being a head coach is that of also being an administrator. He had to deal with “ancillary” things such as busses, team meals and purchasing equipment.
“I thought I knew what it would be like but I didn’t,” he said. “The biggest change is that you don’t get to coach the game as much.”
DeLallo, however, always got his players’ best efforts. He said his staff could not have asked for more.
“I look at how hard our kids played in so many close games this year, and win or lose, the effort was always there,” he said.
DeLallo cited the USC victory, 14-13, as an example. The Panthers, he said, wore teams out with their tempo and by making defenses chase their versatile quarterback. Ethan Dahlem not only passed for more than 2,000 yards, he was USC’s leading rusher as well.
“Our kids just had to grind and fight for 48 minutes. With regard to effort, this was a special group,” DeLallo continued. “Our young kids need to replicate that kind of effort, in the years to come.”