Since the start of September, Upper St. Clair football has outscored opponents 204-0.
That's five shutouts in a row for the team ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA. To be fair, its opponents during that stretch are a combined 11-19, but that hardly makes the streak any less impressive.
Bethel Park (5-1, 5-1) will be the best opponent USC has faced since knocking off then-No. 1 Woodland Hills in the opener, but Black Hawks coach Jeff Metheny knows the challenges that await his team tonight in the Post-Gazette Game of the Week.
"They haven't been scored on since the 17th play of the first game," Metheny said, "so that should tell you something. They're really good defensively."
Bethel Park has three shutouts of its own and its only loss was against Woodland Hills, 38-23, but staying with USC is going to take everything the Black Hawks have.
"We've got to play pretty much a perfect game," Metheny said. "Do things right, clean up penalties and some special teams things and, you know, we need to get a couple breaks.
"We need to be consistent, keep the ball away from them and play good special teams, and hopefully get a couple breaks."
But Upper St. Clair isn't big on giving breaks, second chances, or really any type of opportunity. Especially against the team that ruined its perfect season last year.
Senior Trevor Morrow leads the power running game for Upper St. Clair, going for 533 yards on 84 attempts, but a handful of Panthers backs have had success running the ball. In fact, of the 15 players who have attempted at least one of Upper St. Clair's 224 runs this season, only three average fewer than 5 yards per carry, and they only have seven rushes between them.
A key for Bethel Park to stopping USC's offense could be 6-foot-3, 290-pound senior Ryan Sosnak, the nose tackle in the middle of the Black Hawk's 3-4 defense, who Metheny said has played exceptionally well this year.
"They're physical. If we can hold our own and make them work for their yards, I think we've got a shot," Metheny said. "If they overpower us and those backs keep going ... if they keep the ball 13, 14 plays, they're going to wear you down over the course of the night."
Tabbed with attacking the USC defense for Bethel Park are running backs Alexander Minton and Zach Enick, who both average 6 yards per carry, with Minton running exactly twice as often (82 times to 41) for exactly twice as many yards (496 to 248). Minton also leads the team in receiving.
Metheny also made mention of fullback Gary Gerst, who has been effective on the ground, averaging 7.3 yards on 32 attempts. He may factor in to this week's game plan as well, with the coach seeing a steady grind as the road his team has to travel to have a shot at victory.
"We haven't made the big plays -- plays of more than 30 yards -- throughout the course of the year, so against a good defense I don't see us doing that a whole lot," Metheny said. "We're going to have to grind it out, we're going to have to break some tackles and move the chains."hsfootball
Nick Veronica: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @NickVeronica. First Published October 10, 2013 8:00 PM