Baldwin runs over Fox Chapel in season opener

September 16, 2018

Baldwin has not had a winning football season in 15 years, but it opened in impressive fashion Friday, rolling past visiting Fox Chapel, 34-7, in a Week Zero nonconference matchup.

Fox Chapel advanced to the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs last season and went 6-5 overall. And the Foxes defeated Baldwin by scores of 19-13 and 35-14 the past two years, both in Allegheny Nine Conference games.

The Fighting Highlanders finished 1-8 last season in coach Loran Cooley’s first year as field boss.

It was the team’s first season-opening victory since 2014.

“All in all, we played a good game but not a great game,” Cooley said. “We have to tweak some things, and we still have to learn to finish games and play four quarters.”

Baldwin returns 20 lettermen, including several at key positions.

“I feel pretty good about this team,” Cooley said. “It’s truly like night and day (from last season). We’re sharper and more confident. We’re ready to rock and roll.”

The Fighting Highlanders jumped to a 24-0 lead in the first two quarters against the stunned visitors, then tacked on 10 second-half points.

Angelo Priore, a powerfully built 5-foot-10, 220-pound junior running back, amassed 102 yards on seven carries in the first quarter, including a 57-yard touchdown burst with 39 seconds remaining.

“Angelo is a hard-nosed runner with breakaway speed,” Cooley said. “He has 4.5 speed. He’s legitimate Division I.”

Priore sat out the remainder of the game nursing a sore hamstring.

“If we needed him to go, he could have,” Cooley said. “It gave us an opportunity to play some other guys at running back.”

Baldwin collected 339 yards on 44 running plays, and Cooley was pleased by the performance of his offensive linemen: seniors Lucas Perfetti (6-0, 260), Elyon Phiri (6-0, 250), Harry DePetro (6-0, 240), Jason Depretis (6-0, 265) and junior Joey Pracel (6-0, 200).

“All five did an amazing job,” Cooley said. “We ran the football well today. It all starts up front.”

Fox Chapel’s veteran coach Tom Loughran agreed.

“They are good up front,” Loughran said. ”(And) their defensive front is big, aggressive and athletic.

“They have some good weapons. They’ve got a big strong tailback and a big strong quarterback.”

Baldwin QB Mason Stahl, a 6-2, 200-pound junior and, like Priore, a second-year starter, hit on 8 of 18 passes for 82 yards and two scores, and he also picked up 59 yards on seven carries.

Stahl, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.65, was the quarterback MVP at the 2/10ths High School Football Showcase in May at Baldwin Stadium.

“We’re going to go as far as 6 (Stahl) takes us,” Cooley said. “He’s a leader not only by example, he’s like a coach out there.”

Priore and sophomore Luke Loeffet (11 yards) scored Baldwin’s two rushing touchdowns. Naseer Penn, a junior, and Connor Lavelle, a sophomore, had touchdown receptions of 8 and 20 yards.

Jackson Brandwene kicked 31- and 36-yard field goals, along with four extra points.

Fox Chapel (0-1) finished with 112 yards in total offense, including 48 on the ground.

Foxes junior quarterback Shane Susnak connected on 10 of 16 passes for 64 yards and one touchdown, a 3-yard toss to junior Warner Macklin late in the first half.

“It’s been a grind,” Loughran said. “We’re just trying to get better.”

Fox Chapel kicks off its Northern Conference schedule Aug. 31 at home against North Hills. The Foxes play four of their next five games on their home turf.

Baldwin hosts Class 6A Butler on Aug. 31 in another nonconference matchup before hosting Upper St. Clair a week later in its Allegheny Eight Conference opener.

“We can compete in this conference,” Cooley said. “It’s a great conference. We’re a good football team. We’ve got to be a great football team. The guys are starting to understand that; they hold themselves accountable.”

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