West Xtra: Penn-Ohio game good time for West Allegheny players

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All-star games in professional sports have been taking criticism for the non-competitive nature of the games, but don't tell that to Dylan Bongiorni.

A recent West Allegheny High School graduate, Bongiorni was selected to compete in the Penn-Ohio Classic. A quarterback, Bongiorni was named the Pennsylvania team's most valuable player after he led the team in rushing with 55 yards and passed for its only touchdown.

Bongiorni was more concerned with the fact Pennsylvania lost, 19-7, in a lightning-delayed game this past Friday in New Middletown, Ohio.

"It was special to win that [award], but it would have been better if we got away with a win," he said. "The goal wasn't to go out and win MVP; it was to go out and win a game. We fell short in winning the game."

Bongiorni joined defensive back Mike O'Donnell and fullback Mike Frankowski as West Allegheny representatives at the game. Each of the three will play football in college, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said -- Bongiorni at NCAA Division II Mercyhurst, O'Donnell at Case Western and Frankowski at Westminster, both Division III programs.

"I was proud of all of the kids," Palko said. "They represented their teams and community well, but all-star games are different sometimes. Who knows when your number is going to get called? We're very proud all three of them played.

"Someone gets recognized like that for MVP, but that's not the reason he played, and he will be the first to tell you I don't think the goal is to be the game's MVP. But it's nice he got selected. It's a good thing, a nice little way to end his high school career. And the same with Mike and Mike. It was good."

Bongiorni reports to Mercyhurst's Erie campus Aug. 7. After hearing his reaction to winning the MVP of the Penn-Ohio Classic, it should come as no surprise what Bongiorni says his goals are with the Lakers.

"I'm just going to go up there, work hard and do the best I can and try to win," Bongiorni said. "As a team, have a winning record and by the time I leave, win a few championships."

Until he arrives at Mercyhurst, Bongiorni said he will spend the summer training with other West Allegheny graduates who either will play or are still playing college football.

On a given day, the exact players may vary, but Bongiorni estimates that a "steady 15-20" attend for Palko-led workouts.

"It's kind of neat to have all the other college players in the same atmosphere and work out with them," he said.

Many of the players attending were part of the Indians' 2009 WPIAL Class AAA championship team. The fact that there are so many playing in college is a testament to how successful the West Allegheny program has been.

Bongiorni, O'Donnell and Frankowski served as senior captains this past season for a team that went 5-5 and lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs to eventual finalist Knoch.

"All three of us together, we just raised our game another level," Bongiorni said. "I feel like West Allegheny prepared us to meet [our goals], and all three of us should fare well.

"[O'Donnell and Frankowski] both should do really well at the next level because of the preparation West Allegheny gave us, just having coach Palko and the whole staff teaching us."

The week-and-a-half of practice the West Allegheny trio had with the Pennsylvania team for the Penn-Ohio Classic also was a benefit. The roster was primarily made up of players from Beaver County and surrounding areas with Ellwood City coach Don Phillips serving as Pennsylvania's head coach.

"It was a fun experience playing with new guys I never played with before," Bongiorni said. "It was a nice way to enter into college."

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