West Xtra: At West Allegheny, all signs pointed to success on field
Peering out of an end zone on the West Allegheny football field, players can see the wall of the high school gymnasium and the WPIAL championship years scrolled across it.
It served a constant reminder of what past Indians teams have done and what this group aimed to do.
West Allegheny players would often look at the wall as they walked off the field during games or practices. The most recent year they saw was 2009.
Next year when they look at that wall they'll see their 2012 WPIAL banner.
Coach Bob Palko, a six-time WPIAL championship team, had a message he would constantly remind his team, "leave your legacy."
The Indians did that with a 12-2 season, a shared Parkway Conference title and a WPIAL championship behind a stout defense and an unconventional running attack for which few teams had an answer.
"It was neat, every time they walked off the field, you would see a couple pointing at the building," Palko said. "It was neat to see the kids go about their business and push each other in practice, not a game, but practice. As a coach that is a beautiful site to behold."
In the playoffs West Allegheny defeated Ringgold, section rival Montour and Class AAA powerhouse Thomas Jefferson on the way to Heinz Field where it blasted West Mifflin, 34-8.
The Indians season came to an end in the PIAA quarterfinals after a 27-13 loss to District 10 champion Erie Cathedral Prep (13-0).
The PIAA playoff loss marked the first time the West Allegheny defense allowed a team to score more than one touchdown in a game since the fifth week of the season back on Sept. 28.
The West Allegheny season could be perfectly encapsulated with its two games against Montour. In the second to last week of the season the Indians outlasted the Spartans on the road, 5-3.
"Like I sometimes say, I'd rather be lucky than good," Palko said. "We had to not really care about pretty or ugly."
Three weeks later, the Indians once again found a way to win without many style points, knocking off Montour, 14-2, in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
"It was a roller coaster to say the least," senior captain Zech Medved said. "We came into the season with high expectations. The first couple games were bumpy and we had some tough competition but we got back on our horse and ran with it."
Figuratively and literally, the Indians ran with it. Four players topped 600 yards rushing this season, sophomore Chayse Dillon (952 yards), sophomore Armand Dellovade (778), junior Tory Delmonico (726) and senior Nick Halbedl (639).
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Koester was not called on to throw much but when he did, he was efficient, completing 56 of 119 passes for 907 yards. Medved was his top target, finishing with 19 catches for 405 yards.
Medved was the only starter still remaining from the 2009 WPIAL championship team.
"With coach Palko telling us to leave our legacy and with all those signs up on the walls, seeing those every day, we had a constant reminder," Medved said. "We wanted to be one of those elite teams and win a championship."
Palko has coached for 18 years at West Allegheny. He has won six WPIAL championships and one PIAA championship. But even the veteran coach couldn't help but to watch this group come together right before his eyes and smile.
"It was really truly fun to watch this team come together and go on a ride we probably had no business going on," Palko said. "The kids decided to do it together. They enjoyed practicing, they enjoyed playing, the whole process was awesome. It was kind of cool.
"They didn't worry about who was getting the credit, they can justify whatever happened by just getting the 'W.'"
And ultimately a WPIAL championship.
First Published December 6, 2012 12:00 am