The Bethel Park football team was projected to be one of the favorites in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference after a 7-4 finish last season. Through two games in the 2013 WPIAL season, it has done little to abandon that confidence so many had in it. After a 14-3 road victory last week against Mt. Lebanon, the Black Hawks are off to their first 2-0 start since 2009, a year in which they went 10-2 and were within a field goal of advancing to the WPIAL championship game.
ANCHOR OF THE LINE
At 6-foot-6, Mike Grimm is the tallest member of any huddle that Bethel Park could assemble, but his height is not the only thing that causes him to stand out -- most of all, it's his exceptional play. Grimm is the most highly touted offensive lineman in the WPIAL, a designation that comes with a four-star ranking from Rivals.com. Last season, Grimm paved the way for a productive Black Hawks offense, one that averaged 27.1 points per game. Grimm, a 308-pounder, has committed to play next season at Pitt. "They're recruiting a type of player down there -- they want big kids, tall kids who can pack on the weight," Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny said. "Mike is a big guy who moves pretty well. They're after those kind of guys, so I think he fits their mold."
FAST LEARNER WITH FAMILIAR NAME
Like Grimm, Levi Metheny stands out among his Bethel Park teammates. Unlike Grimm, it's not because of his size but rather his name, as he is the coach's son. While the idea of the coach's son starting at quarterback may reek of nepotism to some, Levi showed last season that he belonged on the field, even as a freshman. In leading the Black Hawks to the WPIAL quarterfinals, Metheny completed 81 of 135 passes for 1,071 yards, seven touchdowns and only two interceptions. This season, he already has four touchdowns, all of which have come on the ground. For Jeff, the chance to coach his son has been rewarding. "I don't know how enjoyable it is for him during the week, but on Friday nights, it's fun," he said of coaching Levi. "He's a pretty tough kid. He gets along well with his teammates and he works hard. That part of it makes you smile for sure."
FEWER AND FEWER BODIES
A recent survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations, one discussed at length in a Sept. 6 Varsity Xtra cover story, found that 25,000 fewer kids played high school football than they did four years prior. While the reasons for that drop are widespread, a number of local teams have felt the impact, including Bethel Park. As recently as 2009, the Black Hawks had 77 players on their varsity football roster. This season, that number is down to 53, a 31.2 percent drop. Since 2009, the number fell to 64 in 2010, rose to 68 the following year and sunk to 62 last season, giving the 2012 Black Hawks nine more players than the current team.
CHANCE FOR A STATEMENT
Bethel Park's 2-0 start has been impressive, but the victories came against Plum and Mt. Lebanon, team's in the process of replacing players at several key positions. Its biggest test of the season to date will come Friday with a home game against Woodland Hills, the Post-Gazette's top-ranked Class AAAA team in the preseason. The Wolverines are surprisingly off to an 0-2 start, but they have not lost to the Black Hawks since 2008 and they won the meeting between the two schools last year, 35-7. With a victory Friday, Bethel Park would have its first 3-0 record since 2009. "I think if we can find a way to win this game, we'd be in the thick of things," Metheny said.
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org