Bethel Park has had little trouble downing its competition this season, as a stingy defense has the Black Hawks pegged as one of the top teams in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference.
Its next opponent has an even more impressive resume, so Friday's game will have a lot to say in exactly how good the Black Hawks are.
Bethel Park (5-1, 5-1) travels to top-ranked Upper St. Clair (6-0, 5-0) for a key conference matchup. Upper St. Clair stands atop the conference standings, with Bethel Park and Woodland Hills (4-2, 4-1) both one loss behind.
"[A win] would give us a chance to have a share of the conference championship," Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny said. "We're excited to play a very good USC team. They have dominated the competition so far this season. It's at their place. It's going to be a tough game."
Bethel Park has been rock solid defensively. The Black Hawks have given up 10 points per game, which is the fourth-fewest in Class AAAA. They have shut out three opponents and held one other to three.
The Black Hawks' success on that side of the ball starts up front with senior nose guard Ryan Sosnak. Metheny said the top overall unit might be at linebacker, where senior Carmen Jansante, junior Alex Minton, senior Gary Gerst and sophomore Levi Metheny (the coach's son) are the starters. The key player in the secondary is senior strong safety Danny Emma.
"It's a pretty good group," Jeff Metheny said. "They've done a really nice job. They've really improved. We've had a few injuries, so we've gone through a lot of guys. The coaches have stayed positive and the players have really executed. I'm really proud of them."
But as good as Bethel Park's defense has been, Upper St. Clair's has fared even better. The Panthers have allowed 10 points all season, ranking them as the No. 1 defense in the WPIAL. The Panthers have not given up a point since the season opener and have outscored their opponents, 204-0, during the past five games.
"They have an outstanding defense. It's one of the best in the state and maybe in the country," Metheny said.
Upper St. Clair limited Butler to 54 total yards last week.
Don't expect Bethel Park to be fearful of those numbers. The Black Hawks knocked off Upper St. Clair, 24-17, last season. The Panthers have won 17 conference home games in a row dating back to 2008, but their last loss was to Bethel Park, 10-6.
Bethel Park is coming off a tight 21-19 win at Penn Hills last week, which stretched their winning streak to three games. Bethel Park's only loss was to Woodland Hills, 38-23.
When it comes to striking for long touchdowns, few teams do it as well as Monessen.
The Greyhounds have scored 14 touchdowns of 50 yards or longer, including a season-high five in last week's 55-19 win against Serra Catholic. Clintell Gillaspie was on the receiving end of touchdown passes of 53 and 68 yards from Noah Rullo, Demond Jordan had an 85-yard run, and Javon Brown added a 95-yard run, followed by a 90-yard kickoff return.
Gillaspie, who is second in the WPIAL with 19 touchdowns, continues to be one of the most explosive players in the area. He's averaging 11.3 yards per carry (598 yards) and 29.3 yards per catch (352 yards). Of his 12 receptions, seven have gone for touchdowns. He has seven touchdowns of at least 50 yards and 10 of at least 40 yards.
Elizabeth Forward (4-2, 4-2) at Ringgold (4-2, 4-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday -- A sneaky-good game that will likely decide who finishes third in the Class AAA Big Nine Conference behind West Mifflin Area and Thomas Jefferson. Both teams feature a quarterback who can do damage through the air and on the ground. Ringgold's Nico Law has passed for 1,049 yards and rushed for 709, while Elizabeth Forward's JaQuan Davidson has passed for 586 yards and rushed for 562.
South Park (4-2, 4-1) at Steel Valley (2-4, 2-3), 7 p.m. Friday -- Very quietly, South Park has won four games in a row. Quaker Valley and Seton-LaSalle -- both 5-1 in the Class AA Century Conference -- play Friday, meaning a South Park win would move the Eagles into third place. Meanwhile, Steel Valley is in dire need of a victory. After winning their first two games, the Ironmen have dropped four in a row, scoring a total of 35 points during that time.
First Published October 9, 2013 8:00 PM