West Xtra: Stars are coming out at West 'A'

Craig Meyer's High School Football Notebook

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The term "star power" is one that gets thrown around at all levels of football, one that is used to describe a team as a collective unit but is really meant to gauge just how good a team's best players are. Sure, all teams have standout players, but do they have that unmeasurable star quality?

It's a phrase Bob Palko hears thrown around a lot about his West Allegheny football team, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. The Indians, as they are often described, are a team devoid of stars or players who immediately stand out to a casual observer. Yet, somehow, they find success, evidenced by their 2012 WPIAL Class AAA championship and their current undefeated record.

In some way, it should be a compliment to Palko's coaching ability, but instead, it's something he finds to be off-base.

"I don't understand what 'starpower' means," Palko said. "I would tell you this -- that's the beauty of these kids, that they don't care who gets the credit.

"When we play on the field, we've got 11 kids who can all run and who are great athletes. Sometimes, you might not have that one guy, but for us, we have about five or six really good players."

Indeed, just as they did last season, the Indians have defined themselves by a deep and balanced roster, one that has carried them to a No. 1 seed in Class AAA and a spot in the WPIAL semifinals.

Through the first 11 games of the season, West Allegheny had three players with at least 400 rushing yards, a group that included sophomore Chayse Dillon (974 yards, 10 yards per carry), senior Tory Delmonico (678 yards) and sophomore Terence Stephens (401 yards).

Additionally, the Indians pre-sent different offensive looks with a two-quarterback system that operates with either a "wildcat" quarterback in Delmonico or a more traditional pocket passer in junior Andrew Koester (1,272 yards passing, 18 touchdowns, one interception).

It's a strategy that has paid dividends, as the Indians have scored at least 35 points in all but one of their 11 games this season.

Defensively, the team has been just as strong, allowing opponents to score only 9.8 points per game, the fourth-best mark among Class AAA teams. The strength of both the team's offense and defense has allowed it to outscore opponents by an average of about 31 points per game this season, a trend that has continued into the playoffs as it has outscored its two opponents by a combined 76-13 margin.

With so many holdovers from last season's team still on the West Allegheny roster, comparisons are almost inevitable, but what Palko sees is a group of young players who have aged a year and have changed in the process.

"This is a different team, different personalities," Palko said. "It's a lot of the same faces and names, but even they've changed in the way they work and approach the game from a mental standpoint and prepare from a physical standpoint."

Brumbaugh goes in the books

South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh didn't need to do anything outlandish to prove that he's perhaps the best quarterback in the WPIAL. But in the WPIAL quarterfinals last Friday, the junior threw for a WPIAL-record 463 yards in the Lions' 31-7 victory against Seton-LaSalle.

For a quarterback who has taken significant steps even after a strong sophomore year, the accomplishment was the next one in an ever-growing list.

"He didn't start strong, but for him to bounce back and make some big time throws was awesome," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said.

History facing Vikings

Sto-Rox doesn't likely need any reminders of how much trouble it has had defeating Clairton. In each of the past two seasons, the Vikings lost to the Bears in the WPIAL Class A championship game, both of which were decided by more than 35 points.

If Sto-Rox manages to beat Clairton and advance to its third consecutive WPIAL championship, it would mark it's first victory against the Bears since 2003.

Games of interest

Thomas Jefferson vs. Central Valley, 7:30 p.m., Chartiers Valley -- Just one team has come within 21 points of beating TJ this season, but if a team is up to the task, it may well be the Warriors, who allow just 6.7 points per game.

South Fayette vs. Beaver Falls, 7:30 p.m., Montour -- The Lions and Tigers both made strong claims during the season for why they should be the No. 2 team in Class AA. Expect a lot of points in this one, as both teams average more than 40 per game.

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG


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