West Allegheny's defense has been on an impressive eight-game run of allowing only one touchdown or less, but now the Indians run into an offense that has been close to unstoppable.
West Allegheny won the WPIAL championship last week, and it earned the Indians a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal game at 7 tonight at Veterans Stadium in Erie against Erie Cathedral Prep, a team that averages more than 50 points a game and has a record-setting Division I college recruit at quarterback.
It is clear that, among the four WPIAL champs, West Allegheny has the toughest PIAA quarterfinal game. Erie Cathedral Prep is 12-0 and the No. 2-ranked team in the state behind Bishop McDevitt of Harrisburg.
Cathedral Prep is led by senior quarterback Damion Terry, the all-time leading passer in District 10 with 6,527 yards. Terry is a Michigan State recruit who this season has completed 175 of 256 passes for 2,860 yards and 43 touchdowns. He is 6 feet 4, 220 pounds and is one of the main reasons Cathedral Prep is the No. 2 scoring team in the state at 51 points a game.
"He's very athletic, can run the ball and has one of the best arms I have ever seen on a high school kid, as far as strength and ability to deliver the ball," Cathedral Prep coach Mike Mischler said. "What makes him dangerous, in my opinion, is his knowledge of our offense after running it for three years, and having intimate knowledge of what we're trying to do as coaches. I think we had six games this year where he got the ball to eight different receivers."
Terry is not just a pure dropback passer who doesn't move well. He has 457 yards rushing on 80 attempts.
"We do a lot of different things with him, but what amazes me is his ability to escape pressure in bigger games," Mischler said.
Terry is one of two Michigan State recruits for Cathedral Prep. The other is running back-receiver-defensive back Delton Williams. He is the team's leading rusher with 550 yards on 61 attempts and also leads in receptions with 48 for 660 yards.
Although Cathedral Prep's offense vs. West Allegheny's defense is an intriguing matchup, the key to the game could be how well Cathedral Prep's defense does against West Allegheny's running game.
Cathedral Prep will have to deal with a West Allegheny offense that is unlike any other it has seen. West Allegheny often runs from the wildcat formation. In the WPIAL final last week, three different running backs took direct snaps from center while quarterback Andrew Koester played very little.
The West Allegheny offense is in HDs -- Halbedel, Dellovade and Dillon. Dillon leads with 868 yards rushing, Dellovade has 766 and Halbedl 623. They might add another 'D' to the mix this week. Because Tory Delmonico could return after missing a few games with a knee injury. Delmonico has 730 yards rushing.
Those West Allegheny running statistics tell how the styles of these two teams are drastically different. Cathedral Prep's leading rusher (Williams) doesn't even have 700 yards rushing, while West Allegheny has three with more than 700.
On the other hand, Cathedral Prep has four receivers with at least 23 catches. West Allegheny's leading receiver, Zach Medved, has 17.
"We've seen a lot of wing-T offense and obviously the spread offense, but we haven't seen much of this wildcat or single wing -- or whatever you want to call it," said Mischler. "You pull your hair out trying to replicate it in practice."
This is the second time in four years West Allegheny has played Cathedral Prep in the PIAA playoffs. Two years ago, West Allegheny defeated Cathedral Prep, 36-21, in the quarterfinals.
This is Mischler's second stint as the Ramblers' coach. He coached from 1998 through 2004, winning a PIAA title in 2000. He came back in 2009.
"We've played some Quad-A schools this year and West Allegheny is as good as any of them," Mischler said. "First off, and I'm not just blowing smoke, but [West Allegheny's] Bob Palko is one of the best coaches around. They are extremely well-coached, which means they don't make many mistakes.
"They are very disciplined and aggressive. They're one of the most physical teams we've seen in a long time."