Pope, Panthers get revenge as he rumbles for two touchdowns

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On the desk in Mac Pope's bedroom is a newspaper clipping about the Upper St. Clair-Bethel Park football game a year ago. Highlighted and laminated, it provided motivation for him every day since his Upper St. Clair team had its undefeated record broken.

He has one of the paragraphs nearly memorized.

"It's highlighted, the part that says 'even being outran by 300 yards, [Bethel Park coach Jeff] Metheny said that they out-physicaled us,' " Pope said. "That played in our minds every day."

Pope used that motivation as he steam-rolled his way to two first-half touchdowns that were the difference Friday night in No. 1-ranked Upper St. Clair's 28-13 Southeastern Conference win.

"I wouldn't call it revenge," Pope said, "but we definitely played with a chip on our shoulder. We came in wanting to win, obviously, and we were going to do anything possible to win."

But it wasn't just something the players thought about.

"We held them to three first downs last year, and then their coach said that they outplayed us," Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render said. "They had two long kickoff returns that decided the game, and we had two touchdowns that were taken away from us. Did we dial it up? We've been thinking about this for a year.

"Our players ... they know what's going on."

Bethel Park's 13 points broke a streak of five consecutive shutouts for Upper St. Clair -- which had outscored opponents, 204-0, over that stretch -- and more than doubled the amount of points Upper St. Clair allowed this season, but the Black Hawks never truly threatened to win the game.

Bethel Park faced fourth-and-goal from the 4 late in the second quarter, already trailing Upper St. Clair, 14-0. A touchdown could have gotten the Black Hawks back in the game against the No. 1 team in the WPIAL, Metheny sent out kicker Danny Christenson and the field-goal team, who converted on a 20-yard attempt.

Facing a similar situation in the third quarter, Bethel Park went with the field goal once again, this time hitting from 23 yards to make it 14-6.

It wasn't much, but it gave Bethel Park something -- anything, against this Upper St. Clair defense -- to try to build off. The Panthers defense just wouldn't budge on its way to 7-0, including 6-0 in the conference. Bethel Park fell to 5-2, 5-2.

Bethel Park went three-and-out on its first four possessions before picking up a first down less than four minutes before halftime.

It would be forced to punt shortly thereafter, but Upper St. Clair didn't catch the ball cleanly, and Bethel Park took over 16 yards from the end zone. That eventually set up its first score.

But field goals wouldn't be nearly enough. The 6-foot, 220-pound senior Pope bulldozed his way into the end zone twice in the first half while starter Trevor Morrow ran in from 7 yards and Stephen Mackowick scored from 32 in the fourth.

Pope's first score, a 1-yard plunge, came after Bethel Park had stopped Morrow on the 1 the play before to force Upper St. Clair into a tough fourth-down decision, but Bethel Park was called for a facemask penalty that set up a first-and-goal situation. Pope plunged in on the first play after that.

Upper St. Clair was driving deep into Black Hawks' territory on its next possession but fumbled a hand-off at the 19. Bethel Park couldn't do anything and had another three-and-out, with running back Alexander Minton hit helmet-to-helmet in open field on a third-down screen pass. That knocked his helmet off and cut his forehead open. There was no penalty on the play.

Mackowick did the work on the drive to set up Pope's second score, with a 22-yard pass reception and a 37-yard run he took down to the 2. Pope scored from the 2.

Pope finished with 26 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Mackowick had 94 yards on five carries and Morrow ran 16 times for 76 yards.

Bethel Park's second field-goal drive, coming in the third quarter, was the first time the Black Hawks offense got into Panther territory without benefit of a Upper St. Clair turnover.

Starting on their 23, they drove 71 yards to the 6, but again the Panthers defense flexed its muscles for a red-zone stand.

With 4:14 in the game, Levi Metheny threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Greiner, who tapped his toes in the left corner of the end zone to make it 28-13.

USC's Ben Southorn took a shot on the ensuing onside kick but came up with the ball, and the Panthers ran out the clock.


Nick Veronica: nveronica@post-gazette.com and Twitter @NickVeronica. First Published October 11, 2013 8:25 PM


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