Inside the Program: Bethel Park football
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Three games into the 2012 WPIAL season, it looked like it would be something of a down year for the Bethel Park football team. After a 1-2 start with a freshman as the starting quarterback, the team was looking for answers, hopeful that things could turn around quickly.
Fortunately for the Black Hawks (5-2, 5-2), that has been the case as they have won four consecutive games and are now among the top teams in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference. Two of Bethel Park's first three wins came against teams with losing records, but last week the Black Hawks proved against conference foe Upper St. Clair that its recent winning ways were no fluke. The Black Hawks handed the then-No. 2 Panthers their first loss this season despite gaining just 107 total yards on offense.
"It's good to get that win for your program where you know you're going to be making the playoffs again," Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny said. "St. Clair was a really good opponent -- they are one of the better teams in our league. The kids worked hard at it, we had some breaks, and the kids are pretty fired up."
Metheny shares the same last name with his starting freshman quarterback, and it is no coincidence. Levi is his son. Despite being thrust into a starting role on a Class AAAA team in his first season, Metheny has risen to the occasion, throwing for more than 600 yards with five touchdown passes and one interception. He has also been a force on the ground, rushing for more than 150 yards in seven games and has scored three touchdowns. Obviously, Levi's ascension had nothing to do with nepotism. For his father, it has been a rewarding experience to watch and guide his son. "It's been a lot of fun," Jeff said. "It's hard on him. It's not the easiest situation, but it's very gratifying. On the field, it's pretty much coach and player, and, at home, it's a little different. It's pretty comfortable for both of us."
When many coaches are asked about an overlooked strength of their respective teams, special teams usually is the answer, but Metheny is adamant that his special teams unit has been an integral part of Bethel Park's success. Against Upper St. Clair, the Black Hawks had three first downs the entire game, but special teams played a critical role. It came primarily from a 92-yard kickoff return by sophomore Chiante Pryor that tied the game, 7-7, in the first quarter. The importance of special teams was established from the outset of the season for Bethel Park, as it got touchdowns from a kick return and a blocked punt in its opener, a 55-14 victory against Plum.
With his son serving as a prime example, Metheny noted that he has a significantly younger roster than usual, and one that wins in the WPIAL's largest-school class. The Black Hawks' youth is not in the traditional sense of having extremely young players -- Metheny is one of two freshmen on the varsity -- but it is more about a lack of seniors. Of the 62 players on the Bethel Park roster, 20 are seniors, but there are 24 juniors and 16 sophomores.
Long before he arrived at Bethel Park, Metheny got some early lessons in the coaching craft at West Virginia University, where he worked as a graduate assistant under Don Nehlen. While in Morgantown, he worked alongside former Mt. Lebanon coach Chris Haering, who left the Blue Devils after 17 seasons to accept a job as a linebackers coach at Pitt where he works for longtime friend Paul Chryst. Metheny said that, like Haering, there could be situations that could pull him away from Bethel Park, but that, overall, he's happy to be where he is. "I've thought about that before, but I enjoy working with the high school kids and kind of molding them and helping them grow as they mature," Metheny said. "I'm probably in the right place."
First Published October 19, 2012 12:00 am