Jim Render shook his head.
"A game like none I've ever been in," Render said.
That is saying something, considering Render has coached almost 500 high school football games. But how else could Render explain his Upper St. Clair team holding Bethel Park to three first downs and 107 total yards -- and losing.
If there was ever a game where statistics didn't matter, it was Bethel Park's 24-17 upset victory against visiting Upper St. Clair Friday night in a WPIAL Class AAAA Southeastern Conference game.
"Wait a minute. They had three first downs? For the game?" Render said in disbelief when a reporter told him the final statistics.
It was a huge victory for Bethel Park (5-2 overall, 5-2 in conference) as the Black Hawks ran their winning streak to four and avenged a 55-point loss to Upper St. Clair last season. It was the first loss of the season for Upper St. Clair (6-1, 5-1), the Post-Gazette's No. 2-ranked WPIAL Class AAAA team.
"It has been a bad couple of days," said Render, who has been a head coach for 483 games in 44 seasons. "Beano Cook passed away. Then, this game. I'll bet the [New York] Yankees lost, too."
No, the Yankees actually beat the Baltimore Orioles. But that didn't seem to satisfy Render much.
For the game, Upper St. Clair had 16 first downs and 319 total yards. But Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny most certainly didn't care about the statistics, except for the numbers that were on the scoreboard at the end of the night. Bethel Park's students rushed the field after the game.
"It's a great win for our school. We haven't seen it like this in a long time," Metheny said. "It's wonderful and it's just tremendous to see the fun back in our kids' eyes."
There were two reasons Bethel Park won -- Chiante Pryor's first kickoff return and another return by Pryor in the third quarter. Pryor, a speedy 5-foot-6 sophomore, had a 92-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter and an 88-yard return to set up a tying touchdown in the third quarter.
"We had Chiante Pryor. That's all we needed," Metheny said. "Special teams were big."
While Pryor made two big plays on special teams, it was a special-teams miscue that led to the winning touchdown. Upper St. Clair had the ball at the Bethel Park 47 and was in punt formation. But backup punter Jesse Slinger bobbled the snap, fumbled, picked it up and was tackled by Bethel Park's Danny Emma at the Upper St. Clair 44 with 7:21 left.
On second down, Zach Enick ran 42 yards to the Upper St. Clair 1 and freshman quarterback Levi Metheny, son of the coach, ran for the touchdown on the next play. Enick's run was Bethel Park's only first down of the second half.
"You usually don't do that to Jim's teams on special teams," Metheny said. "They have hurt us with special teams for years. They're the best at them. To get two kickoff returns like we did and finish them off and play that defense at the end, it's really unbelievable."
Upper St. Clair took a 7-0 lead on the opening possession when the Panthers drove 82 yards in 15 plays. Mac Pope scored on a 2-yard run. But Pryor's kickoff return tied it as he burst through the middle of a wedge, busted to the outside and outraced defenders to the end zone.
Bethel Park went ahead in the second quarter on Danny Christenson's 27-yard field goal. The score was set up when Bethel Park's Zackary Rusch intercepted a Pete Coughlin pass at the Upper St. Clair 20.
Coughlin finished 10 of 17 for 145 yards, but Bethel Park's defense prevented him from making any big plays with runs. Coughlin, a nifty runner, finished with only 12 yards on 15 attempts.
"There was no question we outplayed them," Metheny said, despite being outgained by more than 200 yards. "We just didn't have a lot of offense. But, physically, I think they will tell you that our defense was more physical. Our defense, oh my. From the Woodland Hills game [a loss in Week 3] to now, it's just unbelievable how our kids have played so much more physical."
Bethel Park made one special-teams mistake when a snap sailed over the head of punter Cody Gilchrist and out of the end zone for a safety in the third quarter.
Upper St. Clair then took over at the Bethel Park 45. Two plays later, Steve Mackowick ran off the right side for a 36-yard touchdown with 3:02 left in the third quarter to give Upper St. Clair a 17-10 lead. But the lead was short-lived as Pryor's return set up John Mascaro's 1-yard touchdown run.
"Last week, our special teams were great," Render said. "Tonight, we made mistakes, and they made none. Our defense played very well. Our offense didn't do badly, either."
But it only added up to a Bethel Park victory.hsfootball
First Published October 13, 2012 4:30 AM