Upper St. Clair stuns West Allegheny in overtime

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By Sarah Heastings

In the game of the week between the top two teams in Class 5A Allegheny Nine Conference, Upper St. Clair made a statement with a 21-20 win in overtime at No. 1 West Allegheny on Friday, Oct. 6.

The home crowd was revved up for the rivalry match, but the Indians’ head coach Bob Palko and his squad were calm and collected.

“That’s out of out control,” Palko said of the crowd’s enthusiasm. “Our job is to work hard during the week, get the kids ready, prepare them as well as possible for what we’re going to see, and you let the hype take care of itself.”

The two teams battled it out on the gridiron until 3:34 left in the first quarter when running back Mateo Vandemia rushed for a 20-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.

Vandemia ended up being the only player to reach the end zone on both sides in the first half.

Coming back from the locker room, the Indians looked to gain momentum early in the second half. Putting an end to the Panthers’ opening drive with a fumble recovery, West Allegheny converted the turnover into points when Nico Flati scampered 18 yards for the second Indians score.  

The 14-0 lead would not last long, though. The Panthers visibly started to settle into the dominant pace that had lead them to an undefeated season up to this point.

Running back Colin McLinden helped Upper St. Clair work their way down the field to the goal line. From there, Panther quarterback Jack Hansberry forced his way into the endzone to cut West Allegheny’s lead in half.  

The Indians’ defense tried to contain the explosive Panther offense, but Upper St. Clair could not be stopped. The Indians were called on two interference penalties in their defensive half, putting the Panthers well within touchdown range. Hansberry again found his way into the endzone, tying the game at 14 with 41 seconds left in regulation time.

West Allegheny went for the winning score, but Vandamia was taken down shy of the endzone, forcing overtime.

West Allegheny won the coin toss, and elected to go on defense first.

At fourth and inches, McLinden rushed and found the endzone, giving the Panthers a six point lead. Kicker Sean Martin sent the ball through the uprights to put Upper St. Clair up 21-14. The point was called back on a penalty, but Martin easily earned the extra point a second time.

The Indians knew it was now or never. Working quickly, Flati moved his team to the one yard line. On the third down, Vandamia found the endzone, cutting the score to 21-20.

West Allegheny decided to go for the two-point conversion rather than the extra point. Lining up on the line of scrimmage, Kruze picked his target. Unfortunately, the defense read the play and the pass was intercepted on the goal line to give the Panthers the win.

Palko isn’t worried about the loss, however.

“Sometimes you have games like this that define a season,” Palko said. “If we learn from it then it’s a good thing”

The Indians (5-1, 4-1) look to find victory on the road against conference rival Hampton on Friday.

The Panthers (6-1, 6-0) will go out of conference when they travel to McKeesport.