For the second week in a row, a No. 1-ranked team went down in stunning and dramatic fashion.
One week after Seton LaSalle knocked off defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Steel Valley in overtime, Moon went on the road to Penn Hills (3-1, 1-0) and shocked the Class 5A No. 1 Indians, 14-13, in their backyard to pick up its first win of the season. A bad snap late in the fourth quarter led to a fumble recovery by the Tigers deep in Penn Hills territory to seal the triumph.
“One of the kids said at halftime, ‘Let’s shock the world,’” said Moon coach Ryan Linn. “I said, ‘Listen, you only shock the world when you shouldn’t be here. You have to believe that you belong.’ I think they showed that tonight.”
The Tigers (1-3, 0-0) took a 7-0 lead into halftime thanks to an inspired defensive effort, then saw that lead evaporate in a hurry after back-to-back touchdowns put the Indians on top, 13-7. A blocked extra point after Penn Hills’ go-ahead touchdown would loom large going into the fourth quarter, though, and Moon took advantage after an 80-yard touchdown run by Josh Bladel gave the Tigers a 14-13 fourth-quarter lead.
After punting the ball back to the Indians with a little more than two minutes remaining, Moon recovered a bad snap inside the 10 and ran out the clock to secure the monumental upset. It’s only the second win for the Tigers in their past 14 games, only two years removed from going undefeated in the regular season and reaching the WPIAL Class 5A title game in 2021.
“It’s not easy replacing that group of seniors we had in 2021,” Linn said. “We put 11 new starters on both sides of the ball. We’ve had a lot of growth and a lot of maturity over the last year and a half. We trusted in each other, trusted the staff, and that’s why we won tonight.”
The younger brother of former standout Ben Bladel, widely considered the best player on that 2021 team, Josh Bladel rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the win. He may not resemble his older brother in stature, but Linn called him the “heart and soul” of this year’s group, just like Ben was in 2021.
“Ben was 235 pounds. Josh is maybe 180 pounds, and 5 pounds of it is in his mullet,” Linn said. “But he’s so tough. They’ve got the same grit, same toughness and same football IQ, just in a different body.”
Despite his team’s 0-3 start to the season, Linn knows there’s still plenty of time for Moon to string together some wins and make a run at the postseason. And if the Tigers can harness the way they played on Friday and carry it over into conference play, they could find themselves in the mix for a potential Allegheny Six Conference title.
“We beat a great team and a great program,” Linn said. “You could see the excitement, that relief, just the utter joy you get from athletics. It was so cool to see. … It was a big win for us, and hopefully it springboards us into the next six games.”
BEAVER STAYS PERFECT WITH BLOWOUT AGAINST SOUTH PARK
With Class 3A No. 5 South Park (3-1, 0-1) coming to town for a battle of undefeated conference rivals, a back-and-forth game ensued at Beaver that saw plenty of lead changes, big plays and momentum swings on both sides. In the end, the Bobcats (4-0, 1-0) dominated the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 49-23 win that could prove pivotal down the road in the Western Hills Conference standings. Amari Jackson caught five passes for 125 yards and two TDs, and Qualan Cain rushed 23 times for 122 yards and a score in the win. Jackson also scored on an 89-yard kick return TD, and Cain added an 86-yard kick return TD in the final quarter before Caleb Berardeli capped the scoring with a 74-yard pick-six.
PETERS TOWNSHIP POUNDS SOUTH FAYETTE
Few teams in the WPIAL have been more dominant so far this season than Class 5A No. 2 Peters Township (4-0, 1-0), which remained unbeaten with a 35-0 rout at South Fayette (2-2, 0-1). Nolan DiLucia completed 16 of 27 attempts for 292 yards and two TDs while tacking on a rushing score, and Vinny Sarcone tallied 63 yards rushing and two TDs on 15 carries. Through four games in 2023, the Indians are outscoring foes by a combined score of 152-14.
GATEWAY SURGES PAST FRANKLIN REGIONAL FOR FIRST WIN
After opening the season as the No. 1 team in Class 5A, Gateway stumbled to an 0-3 start while getting outscored by a combined score of 81-15. It took 14 quarters of play, but the Gators offense finally came to life with 37 points in the second half of a 44-24 win against visiting Franklin Regional (2-2, 0-1). With star senior quarterback Brad Birch back in action on Friday, Gateway (1-3, 1-0) scored 17 points in the third quarter and 20 more in the fourth to pull away from the Panthers. Birch finished with 270 yards passing and 41 yards rushing to go with four total TDs.
KNOCH STYMIES SOUTHMORELAND IN BATTLE OF UNBEATENS
Dual-threat quarterback Codi Mullen rushed for 102 yards and two scores on only seven carries while completing 10 of 18 passes for 96 yards and a TD, lifting Knoch to a 27-0 victory against Class 3A No. 4 Southmoreland (3-1, 0-0). After holding heralded Scotties running back Da’sjon Craggette to just 11 yards on 20 carries en route to the shutout win, the upstart Knights (4-0, 0-0) already have surpassed their win total from the previous three seasons combined.
BELLE VERNON OVERPOWERS PENN-TRAFFORD
Another day, another stifling defensive performance by defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A champion Belle Vernon. The Class 3A No. 1 Leopards (3-0, 0-0) continued their strong start to the season with a 21-0 win at Penn-Trafford (1-3, 0-0) for their second shutout in three weeks. Braden Laux and Quinton Martin each scored on touchdown runs, and Jake Gedekoh found the end zone on a 25-yard pick-six to round out the scoring.
• A clash between two undefeated teams with new head coaches in Class 6A proved to be a mismatch, as top-ranked Central Catholic (4-0, 1-0) went on the road and steamrolled No. 3 Mt. Lebanon (3-1, 0-1), 49-0. Senior quarterback Payton Wehner kept up his prolific pace by accounting for three TDs (two passing, one rushing), giving him 19 scores through the first four games of the season. Elijah Faulkner added three rushing TDs for the Vikings.
• Not to be outdone, Class 6A No. 2 North Allegheny (4-0, 1-0) put the scoreboard operator to the test in a 67-20 win at Baldwin (1-3, 0-1). After taking a 61-0 lead into halftime, the Tigers took their foot off the gas coming out of the break, but they still managed to top Central’s offensive output from the Vikings’ 62-46 win against Bethel Park a week ago. The two high-powered offenses and longtime rivals will collide in a must-see matchup for Class 6A supremacy next week.
• Class 6A No. 4 Canon-McMillan went on the road and took care of business at Bethel Park (1-3, 0-0), and the Big Macs (3-1, 1-1) can thank senior running back Zach Welsh for the victory. Welsh might be a bit sore in the morning, but it should be well worth it after he carried the ball 35 times for 240 yards and two TDs in Canon-McMillan’s convincing 28-8 win.
• Class 4A No. 5 Montour (3-1, 0-1) hung tough for most of the game at top-ranked Aliquippa, but in the end, the Quips (3-0, 1-0) had too much firepower for the Spartans to overcome as they pulled away for a 42-18 win. Tiqwai Hayes rushed for a trio of first-half TDs to lead Aliquippa to victory in its first game of conference play.
*** — Khalil Taylor, Seton LaSalle. A freshman wideout quickly emerging as one of the top overall talents in the 2027 class, Taylor produced perhaps the finest performance of his young high school career, catching four passes for 139 yards and two TDs in the Rebels’ 49-0 blowout of Quaker Valley.
** — Julian Dahlem, Upper St. Clair. After splitting time at quarterback with Ethan Hellmann last season, Dahlem has transitioned into a hybrid halfback-receiver role as a junior, and it seems to be working wonders for the unbeaten Panthers. Dahlem caught nine passes for 119 yards and two TDs on Friday while adding 47 yards rushing on five carries in a 34-0 win against Fox Chapel.
* — Jonah Williamson, Trinity. Williamson had a game for the ages for the Hillers in a thrilling 41-40 victory at Connellsville, completing 12 of 14 passes for 234 yards and three TDs while rushing 23 times for 233 yards and three additional scores, finishing with 467 total yards and six TDs.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
WPIAL CLASS 6A
Tri-County Five Conference
Central Catholic 49, Mt. Lebanon 0
WPIAL CLASS 5A
Allegheny Six Conference
Peters Township 35, South Fayette 0
Big East Conference
Gateway 44, Franklin Regional 24
Norwin 30, Plum 23
Woodland Hills 21, North Hills 20
WPIAL Class 4A
Big Seven Conference
McKeesport 55, Laurel Highlands 3
Thomas Jefferson 41, Latrobe 14
Trinity 41, Connellsville 40
Greater Allegheny Conference
Hampton 35, Kiski Area 26
North Catholic 19, Highlands 0
Mars 42, Indiana 6
Aliquippa 42, Montour 18
Ambridge 22, Blackhawk 16
Central Valley 34, Chartiers Valley 0
West Allegheny 46, New Castle 0
WPIAL Class 3A
Western Hills Conference
Avonworth 45, Hopewell 6
Beaver 49, South Park 23
Seton LaSalle 49, Quaker Valley 0
WPIAL Class 2A
Burrell 8, Serra Catholic 7
Derry 22, Yough 21
Ligonier Valley 34, Apollo-Ridge 14
Steel Valley 17, Imani Christian 6
McGuffey 43, Brentwood 18
Sto-Rox 24, Charleroi 8
Waynesburg 12, Keystone Oaks 0
Beaver Falls 63, New Brighton 20
Ellwood City 34, Freedom 14
Mohawk 45, Riverside 0
Neshannock 27, Western Beaver 26
WPIAL Class 1A
Big 7 Conference
South Side 55, Northgate 6
Rochester 42, Summit Academy 6
Black Hills Conference
Cornell 41, Avella 0
Fort Cherry 51, Chartiers-Houston 0
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 22, Carlynton 6
Clairton 35, Riverview 3
Jeannette 54, Frazier 0
Leechburg 48, Springdale 25
Tri-County South Conference
Bentworth 28, Monessen 0
Beth-Center 20, Freedom 6
California 48, Jefferson-Morgan 21
West Greene 47, Carmichaels 14
Perry 14, Allderdice 8
Albert Gallatin 36, Uniontown 0
Armstrong 52, Freeport 16
Belle Vernon 21, Penn-Trafford 0
Berlin Brothersvalley 27, Laurel 0
Brashear 52, Carrick 24
Canon-McMillan 28, Bethel Park 8
Deer Lakes 48, Greensburg Salem 14
East Allegheny 41, South Allegheny 20
Elizabeth Forward 42, Shady Side Academy 14
Hollidaysburg 33, Butler 13
Knoch 27, Southmoreland 0
Moon 14, Penn Hills 13
Mount Pleasant 25, Valley 6
North Allegheny 67, Baldwin 20
Pine-Richland 35, Seneca Valley 13
Shadyside (Ohio) 37, Brownsville 16
Shaler 33, Hempfield 17
Upper St. Clair 34, Fox Chapel 0
Washington 31, Greensburg Central Catholic 7
West Mifflin 48, Ringgold 8