Seneca Valley students, seen here during a home football game against Central Catholic in September, will be rooting for the Raiders to knock off a strong Bethel Park team on Friday at NexTier Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
DAVE PRELOSKY/CRANBERRY EAGLE
JACKSON TWP — Conference games receive a lot of attention when it comes to WPIAL football. After all, it is a team's conference record that determines whether it makes or misses the playoffs. But there's never a bad time for a nonconference clash between two dangerous teams. It gives the coaches, players and fans a chance to see how their squad stacks up against a solid and sometimes unfamiliar opponent. NexTier Stadium will be the site of one such meeting Friday when Seneca Valley hosts Bethel Park. The Raiders are on a roll, winners of four straight, most recently scorching a stingy North Hills defense in a 40-26 triumph. Bethel Park, a member of the Southeastern Conference, is coming off an impressive 24-17 victory over previously unbeaten Upper St. Clair. Like the Raiders, the Black Hawks have also won four straight games. “To get a win over a team with their résumé, it would certainly help improve our seeding come playoff time,” said SV coach Don Holl. “They have moved the ball against some very good defenses and their defense is physical. They're really a good team.” Bethel Park did not put up impressive statistics in last week's victory — 107 total yards, three first downs — but the team's resolve carried it past its neighboring rival. The Black Hawks trailed the Panthers 17-10 in the third quarter. Running back John Mascaro and quarterback Levi Metheny then scored on 1-yard touchdown runs to cap the scoring. Metheny, a 6-foot, 175-pound freshman, has thrown for 606 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. Bethel Park's ground game is by committee, with Zach Enick, Alexander Minton, Mascaro and Metheny combining for 766 yards on 165 attempts. Enick, a junior, and senior wide receiver Avery Dibble (6-1, 166) are tied for the team lead in touchdowns with five. The Raiders' offense spreads the ball around and has been hitting on all cylinders during the team's winning streak. Jon Dorogy leads the team with 24 receptions, R.J. McCauley has 17 and Forrest Barnes 14. Fourth on the team in catches is wideout Paul Hudanick. His seven grabs may not seem like a pivotal amount, but the senior has come up with plays downfield at crucial moments for the Raiders. Against North Hills, Hudanick caught two passes for 67 yards. The first was good for 39 yards from quarterback Jordan Brown on the team's first play of the second half. It set the Raiders up at the Indians' 14-yard line and led to Brown's scoring pass to McCauley that gave SV a 33-19 lead. For the season, Hudanick has 165 receiving yards. “Paul spends a lot of time blocking, clearing things out for the other guys,” said Holl. “He doesn't get the ball much, but when we do call on him, he's come up big. He does all the little things well and that's a credit to him.” This season, the Raiders have been able to keep their penalties down and it has paid off. In its six wins, SV is averaging under five penalties and just over 44 penalty yards per game. In the emotional game against North Hills, the Indians were flagged 12 times for 88 yards, including three personal foul penalties. The Raiders were penalized just three times for 30 yards, with one personal foul. “Paul Brown said that the best way to get even with your opponent is to beat them,” said Holl. Seneca Valley last played Bethel Park in the first round of the 2007 WPIAL playoffs, with the Black Hawks prevailing 31-20.