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North Allegheny relying on diverse running game

October 6, 2018
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North Allegheny’s Ben Maenza scores past Norwin’s Tanner Queen during the second quarter Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, at Norwin High School.

North Allegheny senior running back Ben Maenza never worries about having to light up the scoreboard to win football games.

With how the Tigers play defense, North Allegheny is comfortable taking time to find itself on offense.

“It makes everything easier to rely on that defense, knowing they will get a stop,” Maenza said. “It encourages the offense to do better, honestly.”

Maenza stepped into a starting role this season and has a team-high 659 yards on 89 carries for the Tigers (6-0, 5-0). North Allegheny averaged 36.2 points entering its Week 6 Class 6A conference matchup against Butler.

Thus far, the Tigers’ offense has been built around the run. North Allegheny has rushed for 265.2 yards per game. Gunnar Fisher (231 yards), Percise Colon (220) and Luke Colella (125) have all made contributributions on the ground.

Each has served a different purpose. All of them have helped take pressure off first-year starting quarterback Ben Petschke.

“Colon is more a speed and on the outside,” Maenza said. “I’m not the biggest back. I think I can still run up the middle pretty well and use the power that I have.”

Colella, a wide receiver, made major contributions in North Allegheny’s 10-6 win over Seneca Valley. He led the team with 49 yards rushing and finished with 101 yards on four receptions.

“He was a starter as a sophomore last year,” Tigers coach Art Walker told the Trib High School Sports Network after the game. “He’s quick. He’s got the ability to make plays. We’re glad that we got him the ball a couple of different ways, and he did good things with them. He made the most of his opportunities. I think he grew up a little bit tonight and became more of a junior, and a guy that we can depend on.”

Maenza, who has scored 11 touchdowns, credited his teammates for helping succeed the graduated Turner White as the starting running back.

“I worked hard in the offseason and my teammates encouraged me,” Maenza said. “I knew we’d be fine. I had to step up and play well.”

That’s something everyone on North Allegheny is focused on. The Tigers are holding opponents to 11.2 points per contest. With a strong rushing attack, Maenza hopes the sum of North Allegheny’s parts can lead to a top two seed come playoff time.

“I don’t think there is a weakness in our defense, honestly,” Maenza said. “We have a big defensive line, great middle linebackers and the best secondary in 6A with Joey Porter back there. That helps a lot.”

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