West Allegheny junior Chayse Dillon played a lot like former NFL tailback Corey Dillon Friday night, and the Indians needed every bit of his effort.
Dillon rushed for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns, leading West Allegheny to a 21-12 win against No. 4 Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Friday night at North Allegheny.
"It's not a surprise," West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said about Dillon's performance. "It was the opportunity he had, and he took advantage of it."
West Allegheny will play Central Valley for the WPIAL championship next week, and it will mark the third time in the past five years the Indians have reached Heinz Field. But it wasn't easy.
After West Allegheny missed a field goal on its opening possession, Franklin Regional drove 80 yards on 13 plays, capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Charan Singh to Casey Colagrande, to put the Panthers up, 6-0. A bad snap doomed the Panthers' extra-point attempt.
"Our players believed they could win, and our first drive was an indication of that," said Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta.
Then, Dillon went to work. He opened the ensuing drive with a 29-yard run to take the ball inside the Panthers' 35. He carried four more times for 22 yards on the drive, which ended with his 5-yard touchdown run to give the Indians a 7-6 lead after the extra point.
"We didn't really have a specific game plan, we just tried to see what worked," said Dillon.
Later in the half, Dillon made his only mistake of the game, fumbling inside the Franklin Regional 20 to end another scoring threat.
But the Panthers went three-and-out before Colagrande punted the ball 14 yards to put the Indians at the Franklin Regional 30 with 30 seconds left in the half.
That was enough time for West Allegheny, which scored on the fourth play when Andrew Koester found Dillon for a 3-yard touchdown eight seconds before half time to give the Indians a 14-6 lead.
Dillon had 128 total yards at the half, while Koester was 6 of 9 for 55 yards. Koester's three incompletions were two dropped passes and a spike to stop the clock.
"Andrew Koester showed his maturity and growth as a quarterback," said Palko.
But the Panthers showed resolve in the second half.
Franklin Regional began its second drive of the second half at its 5. The Panthers moved the ball 44 yards on nine plays before Singh aired out a long ball for Colin Jonov, who caught it at the 20, shook two Indians' defenders and found the end zone to cut the deficit to 14-12.
Singh, who finished 15 of 22 for 194 yards, told Botta before the game he couldn't throw the deep ball because of a shoulder injury he suffered a week ago against West Mifflin.