Beth-Center remains undefeated, keeps Avella waiting
Beth-Center’s Matt Riggle runs the ball past Avella’s defense for a touchdown in the second quarter of Friday night’s game at Avella.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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AVELLA – The football team at Avella High School has waited 37 years to get another shot at the WPIAL playoffs.
So what’s one more week?
Avella, needing either a win over Beth-Center or a Mapletown loss to Jefferson-Morgan Friday, got neither. The Eagles fell to Beth-Center, 48-28, and Mapletown upended Jefferson-Morgan, 36-21.
That means Avella will have to beat Bentworth in the regular-season home finale to earn the fourth and final playoff spot in the Tri-County South Conference.
“Our goal is still attainable,” said Avella head coach Ryan Cecchini. “That goal is still our goal. One game will decide it all next week. It’s right in front of us.”
The last Avella team to make it to the playoffs was the 1976 team that made its second consecutive appearance in the WPIAL Class A championship game, a 42-27 loss to Western Beaver.
Avella fell to 4-3 in the conference and hosts Bentworth in the regular-season finale. Beth-Center remained undefeated with an 8-0 record and has a nonconference game against Vincentian next week.
Beth-Center (8-0, 8-0), meanwhile, is looking for its first undefeated regular season since the Bulldogs were 9-0 in the Black Hills Conference in 2006.
“I talked to our team about that for the first time tonight,” said B-C head coach Ed Woods. “We haven’t had that in a while here.”
Anthony Welsh led a stable of running backs for Beth-Center, gaining 201 yards on 22 carries and moving to 903 on the season. He scored on touchdown runs of 30, 44 and one yards. Matt Riggle gained 66 yards on 11 tries and scored three touchdowns. Jason Stay had 51 yards on 10 carries and Nico Brown 42 on seven.
“(Welsh) is an exceptional runner,” Woods said. “They are all good. They are all different and they do different things. They all have different skill sets. Some are better runners inside, some are better runners outside.”
Avella quarterback Santino Paris completed 11 of 20 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Thompson caught six of the passes for 124 yards and two scores.
“We moved the ball well,” Cecchini said. “They ran the ball on us. Their running game gave us fits. But I feel good about our offense. And I feel good about going into the playoffs, possibly.”
Beth-Center scored on all but one possession of the first half to take a 35-21 lead. The only possession that did not end up in the end zone was a kneel down to run out the clock at the end of the half.
The Eagles could not stop the run, but the Bulldogs could not stop the pass over the first 30 minutes.
Welsh ran for 125 yards on eight carries and scored on runs of 30 and 44 yards. Welsh and Riggle scored on the Bulldogs’ first two drives to make it 14-0. The second score was set up on a fumble recovery by Brown.
But Avella found single coverage on Thompson and took advantage. Paris and Thompson hooked up from 45 yards to make it 14-7, then again from 25 yards that cut the BC lead to 21-14. In between, welsh scored from 40 yards.
Brown gave Beth-Center a 28-14 lead, cutting off right tackle from the Avella 18, and Avella answered on the next possession when Paris hit Walt Kopko from 51 yards to make 28-21. Beth-Center needed nine plays to make it 35-21. Riggle slipped through the middle of the line for a 10-yard run