Inside the Program: West Allegheny football
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While a 5-3 final score may remind some more of a baseball game than a high school football contest, the West Allegheny football team couldn't care less, especially since it was on the victorious side. Last week against Montour, which entered the game as the No. 1 team in Class AAA, the Indians got a much-needed signature win with a field goal and a safety and caused a stir in the race for the top seed in the Parkway Conference. West Allegheny was successful on the defensive side, surrendering just a field goal to a Spartans offense that had been averaging 38.7 points per game. The Indians also found a way to stop Montour's do-everything star Devin Wilson, who was held to 20 yards on eight carries, well below his season average of 7.8 yards per carry. This week, West Allegheny goes on the road to face a 2-6 Chartiers Valley team that has lost four consecutive games. If the Indians win, they will finish the regular season 8-1 and likely finish in a three-way tie for the conference title with Montour and Central Valley and have a shot at getting home-field advantage for the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.
Not too long ago, Indians quarterback Tory Delmonico was playing football for Blackhawk, another Parkway Conference school. After spending his freshman season with coach Joe Hamilton and the Cougars, Delmonico transferred to West Allegheny. Serving in a limited role as a sophomore behind then-starting quarterback Dylan Bongiorni, Delmonico scored three touchdowns last season. This season, Delmonico has flourished, posting team highs in rushing yards (593) and touchdowns (seven). Perhaps most important for the Indians and their quarterback, Delmonico has helped lead the team to two more wins than it had last season.
Former WPIAL players sometimes find a way to make it back into the league in some capacity. West Allegheny assistant Andrew Johnson is proof of that. A standout at North Hills, where he rushed for 1,276 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior season, Johnson originally committed to Pitt, but opted instead to sign with Miami (Fla.). After getting only 35 carries in three years with the Hurricanes, Johnson transferred to Akron for his final collegiate season, where he rushed for 278 yards and two touchdowns. "We enjoy having Andrew here," West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said. "He has some great insight on things and he does a really good job with the kids."
With five WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship on his resume, Palko's name is one that is well-known across Western Pennsylvania, and the family name certainly doesn't begin and end with Bob. Tyler Palko played for his father at West Allegheny, where he led the Indians to a PIAA football title in 2001. From there, he went to Pitt, where he finished second in school history in career touchdown passes (66) and career passing yards (8,343). Tyler played professionally from 2007-11 and, after getting released from the Kansas City Chiefs, has moved back to Pittsburgh where he works for Washington Mutual. "That's where he's taking his life -- he's excited about it," his father said. "He's just plugging away and working hard every day. It's nice to have him back." Another one of Palko's sons, Luke, is a scout for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Indians employ one of the more unconventional offensive sets in the WPIAL, alternating between a wildcat-style rushing attack and a more conventional passing game. Delmonico is at the center of the wildcat look, but West Allegheny has a number of notable running backs. Through the first eight games, junior Chayse Dillon, sophomore Armonde Dellovade and senior Nick Halbedl combined to rush for 1,242 yards and 12 touchdowns. This group makes up a majority of the offense, but it also gets contributions from sophomore quarterback Andrew Koester, who is the team's primary passer (Delmonico has had only six pass attempts this season). Koester has thrown for 578 yards and three touchdowns through the first eight games, though he has thrown six interceptions in 77 attempts. "I don't know if [the multiple contributors] gives us any advantages," Palko said. "We just have a lot of talented kids and we want to take advantage of all they can do."
First Published October 26, 2012 12:00 am