Of the 16 teams remaining in the WPIAL football playoffs, only one features a legitimate four-pronged rushing attack.
"This is the first time in 18 years at West Allegheny that I've had an offense with four running backs," Indians coach Bob Palko said.
West Allegheny has four running backs who have rushed for at least 450 yards and six touchdowns each.
"I've never had a backfield with this much balance," Palko said. "I've had two, maybe three backs who have shared the load in past seasons, but never four."
The foursome of Tory Delmonico, Chayse Dillon, Armand Dellovade and Nick Halbedl have combined to rush for 2,492 yards and 30 touchdowns on 373 carries. That's an average of 6.7 yards per carry.
At least thanks in part to the rare achievements by the Indians rushing attack, West Allegheny has advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals for the eighth time in Palko's career.
"If we had one back who stood above the rest, we might switch to him, but that's not the case in this situation," Palko said. "Each has a different skill set, so I've tried to blend them all together and take advantage of what they all have to offer."
Injuries have also played a part in Palko's decision to feature four running backs, as three of the four have sat out at least one game.
"In the course of a season, running backs take a lot of hits," Palko said. "It's nice to spread the pounding around. It also allows us to be a little more versatile."
Tory Delmonico, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior, has been the most productive of the four backs. He has rushed for 730 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 carries, despite missing three games.
"Tory has been slowed by a couple different injuries this year," Palko said. "He missed last week's playoff game [against Montour] with a knee injury."
That injury could keep Delmonico out of tomorrow's game against top-seeded and undefeated Thomas Jefferson (11-0).
"He's day to day, so I don't know whether he will be available," Palko said.
With Delmonico out of the picture, Dillon had his best performance of the season against Montour. A 5-11, 180-pound sophomore, he rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. His 56-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter iced the 14-2 victory.
It was the third 100-yard rushing performance for Dillon, who has 691 yards and nine touchdowns on 80 carries. He missed two games at the end of the season with a concussion.
"Chayse has great explosion," Palko said. "He can kick it into another gear when he gets some room to run. He has a bright future."
Dellovade, a 5-11, 195-pound sophomore, ranks third in the Indians rushing attack with 618 yards and seven touchdowns on 71 carries, despite sitting out the first week. He's eclipsed the 100-yard plateau three times and leads the team with an 8.7 yards per carry average.
"Armand can play fullback and tailback," Palko said. "He can get the tough yards, and he leads the team in yards per carry."
Halbedl, a 5-9, 195-pound senior, has the most carries of the four. He's taken 116 handoffs and rushed for 453 yards and six touchdowns.
Three of those scores came in West Allegheny's 48-7 win against Ringgold in the first round of the playofs.
"Nick played a lot last year and was emerging as our star tailback when he tore an ACL on an unbelievable touchdown run," Palko said. "It happened when he made a cut during a carry. He actually ran 65 yards for the touchdown, after tearing the ACL."
Halbedl is the only one of the four backs who has played in all 11 games.
"I've never seen a kid work so hard to come back from an injury," Palko said. "Nick is relentless in the weight room. His hard work is really paying off."
Palko also uses the four on defense and special teams. Halbedl starts at outside linebacker, while Dellovade is an inside linebacker. Delmonico and Dillon have seen time at outside linebacker.
"We're fortunate to have so much talent in the backfield," Palko said. "But they wouldn't be doing as well without a solid group of linemen to block for them."
The Indians offensive line consists of tackles Jordan Diven and Dustin Windemaker, guards Shea Beaumont and Brian Frauenz, center Billy Steele and tight end Zach Medved.
• Game: West Allegheny (10-1) vs. Thomas Jefferson (11-0).
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: Bethel Park's Black Hawk Stadium.
• Skinny: The winner advances to Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class AAA title game.hsfootball
First Published November 15, 2012 5:00 AM