Bethel Park Eliminates Defending WPIAL AAAA Champ
by Rick Smith, Nauticom Sports Network
Photos by Pete Gyrich
There will be a new WPIAL Class AAAA champion in 1999. Bethel Park (8-2) took care of that Friday night at Taggert Stadiun in New Castle. The Black Hawks used a big play offense to defeat the 1998 champion Red Hurricanes (6-4), 25-19.
Big Nick Marmo warms up before the game
Bethel Park now advances to the quarter finals for the second consecutive year. The Black Hawks will play #1 seeded Woodland Hills (10-0) at a neutral sight Friday night.
The teams traded scores on their second possessions of the game. Bethel Park got things started with a 9 yard touchdown run by senior tailback Dan Richmond. The 6' 190 pound speedster set up his own score two plays prior to the touchdown with a 35 yard run that advanced the ball to New Castle's 7 yard line.
The Red Hurricanes evened things up with 9:44 left in the first half. Corey Lemmon's 1 yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak capped off a 12 play, 65 yard drive that ate up 5:28 from the clock. Pasquale Romano's extra point tied the score at 7-7.
The Black Hawks took just 21 seconds to regain the lead. Nick Hickton, a 6'1" 200 pound senior quarterback, hit a wide open Gabe August for a 72 yard catch and run that gave Bethel Park a 13-7 edge. On the evening, Hickton completed 6 of 15 passes for 147 yards.
"It was an excellent fake by our backs," said August, "It was a blown coverage".
A short punt late in the half gave Bethel Park excellent field position at the New Castle 40 yard line. Aided by a facemask penalty, the Black Hawks quickly took advantage with a 2 yard touchdown plunge by Richmond to extend the lead to 19-7 at halftime. Richmond led all rushers with 23 carries for 129 yards on the night.
Following a scoreless third quarter, New Castle notched two quick touchdowns to tie the contest. Senior running back John Rosati scored from 6 yards out on the 15th play of an 80 yard drive with 10:41 to go in the game.
Just 2:37 later, Lemmon exploded for a 69 yard touchdown. Lemmon led the Red Hurricanes with 121 yards rushing on 14 carries. Romano's extra point attempt sailed wide left and the score was knotted at 19-19.
An interception by junior cornerback Brian Ruscello at the Bethel Park 25 yard line stopped New Castles' attempt to take the lead for the first time in the game. It also set up the final game winning heroics for the Black Hawks.
New Castle kicker Pasquale Romano
From the New Castle 30 yard line, Hickton again found August wide open, this time in the corner of the end zone, for the winning strike with under 3 minutes to go in the game.
"I thought I was out of bounds," said August, "It was a perfect throw from Nick."
From defending champ to just about everyone's favorite, things don't get any easier for Bethel Park.
"I think we have a great shot (against Woodland Hills)", said August, "We have as good a chance as anyone else to win it all."
The Bethel Park "Terrible Towel"