Progress has not always come quickly for Andrew DiDonato since taking control of the Grove City football program.

“Our journey is a unique one,” the eighth-year Wolverines coach said Saturday. “I mean, 2017, we ended a 33-game losing streak. My first class in ’16 went 0-10.”

Those memories could not feel any more distant now.

DiDonato led Grove City to a 56-14 rout of visiting Bethany at Robert E. Thorn Field Saturday to clinch at least a share of a Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship, the Wolverines’ first conference title since 1997, in addition to the school’s first NCAA Division III postseason berth.

No. 21 Grove City, which earlier this year earned its first national ranking in school history, is now 9-0 for the first time with the program, which played its first game in 1892.

“We’ve never been to the NCAA playoffs,” said DiDonato, a Bridgeville native and South Fayette graduate. “It’s such a special institution. I went here, my brother, my wife. To do something and get us on the national stage in football and an NCAA berth is such an honor to represent our institution in that way.”

It was the high-powered Grove City (9-0, 9-0) offense, which led the way early against a feisty Bethany team (0-8, 0-8), that initially kept the game interesting. The Bisons only trailed, 21-7, at halftime before being outscored, 35-7, in the second half.

Running back Nico Flati, a West Allegheny graduate, carried the ball 18 times for a game-high 109 yards and two touchdowns, while Clayton Parrish added 67 yards and two scores of his own for Grove City.

“This is exactly what we came here for,” said Flati, who opened the game’s scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run. “This is what this program has been talking about since we came here, ‘Good to great each rep, 1-0 each week, we’re competing for PAC championships.’ We finally got it. It feels great.”

Grove City sophomore linebacker Ben Bladel, a Moon product, celebrates in the end zone after returning a blocked punt 5 yards for a touchdown Saturday against Bethany at Robert E. Thorn Field in Grove City. (Courtesy of John Hake)

Peters Township graduate Logan Pfeuffer also threw for 131 yards for the Wolverines and completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Ryan Heckathorn, a Blackhawk graduate.

“I definitely was way more excited today than for any other game because of what was on the line,” Flati said. “I think everyone was a bit more excited, had goose bumps, had butterflies in their stomach, but it felt good to come out on top.”

Grove City standout receiver Scott Fraser, a Knoch graduate, also caught four passes for a game-high 102 yards. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior is now second all time for the Wolverines in receptions with 187 and receiving yards with 2,757.

“This is so important,” Fraser said. “This is all we worked for. I would rather be a PAC champion than all-conference or anything. It just means so much just to have a team accomplishment. It’s amazing.

“I’ve never been on a team that had a winning season in football,” he added. “I’ve never been on a team this good. I’ve never played in a playoff game. I’ve never won anything for football, not really won anything for sports. This is definitely my biggest accomplishment I’ll ever have. I appreciate it a lot.”

As strong as the Wolverines’ offensive output was against the Bison, the defense was equal to the task.

Penn-Trafford graduate Jack Jollie and South Fayette product Ryan Fleming each had seven tackles and a sack for Grove City, while safety Dom Magliocco, a Montour graduate, chipped in seven tackles of his own.

Junior defensive end Bryce Spolnik, a South Fayette product, had five tackles and two sacks for the Wolverines. Sophomore linebacker Ben Bladel added five tackles and two sacks of his own for Grove City.

Bladel also returned a blocked Bethany punt 5 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.

“This is surreal,” said Bladel, a Moon graduate. “We probably go to practice every day to compete for a PAC championship. This feeling, it’s amazing.”

Grove City outgained Bethany, 440-247, limiting the Bison to 196 yards through the air and just 51 on the ground. Wolverines defensive back Boden Davidson also returned a third-quarter interception 28 yards for a touchdown.

“We were just going out there living in our vision,” Spolnik said. “We were trying to do our jobs, trying to help out the offense, get the ball back in their hands so they could put up points. Not everything went that way and the defense ended up putting up a few points, which is awesome. I love to see that.”

Grove City will now turn its attention toward the Division III postseason.

After an open date next Saturday, the Wolverines will round out the regular season on the road against Thiel in Greenville with the battle for the Mercer County Cup.

“We are going to go in and go 1-0 each week,” Bladel said. “That’s the goal every week. That’s what’s been all nine weeks so far. Nothing is really going to change. It’s just different opponents that we’re not used to seeing.”

And Grove City will certainly have its sights set on earning a spot in the Division III national championship game, which is known as the Stagg Bowl.

Salem Football Stadium in Salem, Virginia, will play host to the Stagg Bowl at the end of the Division III playoffs Dec. 19.

“We’ve got to rest up, get healthy,” Fraser said. “Then we’ve just got to keep on doing what we’ve always done — work hard every single day, come to practice, get good to great reps.”

Allegheny receiver Declan O’Brien, a Norwin graduate, beats Thiel defensive back Donelle Thomas to make a catch Saturday afternoon at Frank B. Fuhrer Field in Meadville. (Courtesy of Ed Mailliard)

Norwin graduate Declan O’Brien sets Allegheny receiving yards record in win

Senior receiver Declan O’Brien, a Norwin graduate, caught five passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns to break the Allegheny all-time, single-season receiving yards record in the Gators’ 27-3 PAC victory Saturday against Thiel at Frank B. Fuhrer Field in Meadville.

O’Brien, who already held the single-season receptions mark, now has 82 receptions for 1,091 yards and 18 touchdowns. He passed previous record-holder Alex Victor, who had 1,037 receiving yards in 2017.

Ligonier Valley graduate Kyrie Miller carried the ball 19 times for 72 yards and a score for Allegheny (3-6, 3-6) against Thiel (2-6, 2-6).

Washington & Jefferson junior defensive back Zachai Simmons celebrates after blocking a punt against Case Western Saturday night at Cameron Stadium in Washington. He also intercepted a pass in the game. (Courtesy of Stephen Rydzak)

W&J holds on for win against Case Western

Quarterback Jake Pugh, a Thomas Jefferson graduate, accounted for four of Washington & Jefferson’s five touchdowns Saturday, as the Presidents earned a 38-33 PAC victory against Case Western Reserve at Cameron Stadium in Washington.

Pugh completed 20-of-35 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 17 yards and another score on seven carries. He completed two touchdown passes to Peters Township graduate Jacob Macosko and another scoring strike to sophomore receiver John Peduzzi.

Laurel graduate Kobe DeRosa also returned a blocked Case Western (6-2, 6-2) punt 5 yards for a touchdown for W&J (6-2, 6-2).

Case Western quarterback Alex Fromberg passed for 364 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He completed two scoring strikes to sophomore Noah Coyne, who also caught nine passes for 258 yards.

Receiver Ethan Dahlem, an Upper St. Clair graduate, caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown for Case Western. He also completed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Coyne.

Geneva comes on in fourth quarter to beat Waynesburg

Geneva scored 29 fourth-quarter points and scored six rushing touchdowns Saturday to emerge with a 43-29 PAC victory against host Waynesburg at John F. Wiley Stadium in Waynesburg.

Josh Syster rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns, while David Reid III added two touchdowns of his own to lead Geneva (4-4, 4-4) past Waynesburg (1-7, 1-7).

Receiver Isaac Trout, a Southmoreland graduate, paced the Yellow Jackets with 11 catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Charleroi product Dakota Romantino added five catches for 114 yards and a score.

Derry graduate Justin Flack rushed for a team-high 81 yards and a touchdown for Waynesburg.

Westminster hangs on to defeat Saint Vincent

After taking a nine-point lead into halftime, Westminster did just enough in the second half to hang on for a 22-20 victory against Saint Vincent Saturday in a PAC game at Chuck Noll Field in Latrobe.

Saint Vincent (2-6, 2-6) closed out the game against Westminster (5-3, 5-3) by scoring 20 unanswered second-half points before a potential game-tying, 2-point conversion pass attempt by quarterback Austin Slye to Kaelib McElroy fell incomplete with 4:34 left in the game.

The Bearcats would not score again.

Westminster quarterback Billy Levak threw for 132 yards and a touchdown, while running back Ryan Gomes racked up 120 yards and two scores on the ground.

Slippery Rock defensive back Eddie Faulkner IV, a Shady Side Academy product, breaks up a pass intended for Clarion running back Khalon Simmons Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock. (Courtesy of Slippery Rock athletics)

No. 6 Slippery Rock routs Clarion, wraps up PSAC West title

Quarterback Brayden Long threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns Saturday to lead No. 6 Slippery Rock to a 42-14 victory against Clarion, which clinched the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division championship at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock.

Long, who also rushed for a score, completed a game-high nine passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns to receiver Kyle Sheets for the Rock (9-0, 6-0), which also saw Cohen Russell catch six passes for 135 yards against an overwhelmed Golden Eagles (2-7, 1-5) secondary.

Logan Ramper and junior tight end Kam Kruzelyak, a West Allegheny product, also caught touchdown passes for Slippery Rock.

Running back Khalid Dorsey carried the football 12 times for 60 yards and one touchdown for the Rock.

California University of Pennsylvania running back Bobby Boyd Jr., a McKeesport graduate, rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown Saturday afternoon against Mercyhurst at Adamson Stadium in California. (Courtesy of Nate Kurtz)

California rebounds from Slippery Rock loss, runs over Mercyhurst

Freshman running back Bobby Boyd Jr., a McKeesport graduate, rushed for 213 yards and one touchdown, while Eric McKan III added 61 yards and a pair of scores as California University of Pennsylvania racked up 345 yards on the ground en route to defeating Mercyhurst, 58-19, Saturday at Adamson Stadium in California.

Quarterback Davis Black threw for 184 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Vulcans (6-2, 5-1) to a bounce-back victory against the Lakers (2-7, 1-5), after dropping their first PSAC West game of the season to Slippery Rock a week earlier.

Eric Willis III, D’Avay Johnson and Kiski graduate Jack Colecchi all caught touchdown passes for California.

Craggette leads Seton Hill to victory against Edinboro

Connellsville native Ky’Ron Craggette rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries to lead Seton Hill to a 38-28 PSAC West victory Saturday against Edinboro at Offutt Field in Greensburg.

Running back Jake McGriff also added 90 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries for the Griffins (4-5, 3-3), which outgained the Fighting Scotts (2-7, 1-5) on the ground, 321-37.

Receiver Mark Bails Jr. also caught five passes for 165 yards and a touchdown for Seton Hill.

Gannon running back Donny Marcus eludes IUP lineman Logan Danielson, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson, as he picks up yardage Saturday at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana. Marcus carried the football 28 times for 171 yards to lead Gannon to victory. (Cameron Horning/IUP Athletic Communications)

IUP drops one-point decision to Gannon for second-straight loss

Gannon held Indiana University of Pennsylvania scoreless in the second half and scored 10 points over the final two quarters Saturday to emerge with a 16-15 road victory at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana.

Donny Marcus carried the ball 28 times for 171 yards to lead Gannon (5-4, 3-2) past IUP (4-5, 2-4)

Freshman quarterback Jayden Whitaker threw for 129 yards and two interceptions, while also adding a touchdown on the ground for Seton Hill.

Dayjure Stewart rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown to pace the Crimson Hawks’ offense.

Duquesne running back Edward Robinson celebrates with tight end Logan Lutz after scoring a 33-yard touchdown Saturday against Sacred Heart at Campus Field in Fairfield, Conn. (Courtesy of Duquesne athletics)

Duquesne defense dominates Sacred Heart to remain undefeated in NEC

Northeast Conference first-place Duquesne overwhelmed host Sacred Heart Saturday, conceding just 179 yards of total offense, in a 27-0 victory at Campus Field in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Junior linebacker Gianni Rizzo, a Norwin graduate, led the Dukes (5-3, 4-0) defense with seven tackles and a sack. The Sacred Heart (1-8, 1-5) offense managed just 98 yards on the ground and 83 through the air.

Duquesne quarterback Darius Perrantes threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He threw both of his touchdown passes to Darryl Powell Jr., who finished with two catches for 63 yards.

Running back Edward Robinson also rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for the Dukes.

Robert Morris drops fourth straight game

Quarterback Anthony Chiccitt, a Bethel Park graduate, threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns with an interception Saturday, as Robert Morris fell to visiting Tennessee Tech, 38-13, at Joe Walton Stadium in Coraopolis.

Senior linebacker Jamar Shegog, a Seton LaSalle product, had nine tackles, two for a loss, for the Colonials (2-6, 0-3) against the Golden Eagles (3-5, 1-2) in a Big South-OVC game.

Pitt run over by No.14 Notre Dame in South Bend

No. 14 Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 288 yards and running back Audric Estime rushed for 114 yards and three touchdowns as the Fighting Irish dominated visiting Pitt, 58-7, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Sophomore quarterback Christian Veilleux passed for 127 yards and four interceptions for Pitt (2-6, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), which was outgained, 535-255, by Notre Dame (7-2).

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at