Sunday, December 30, 2007


Due to space restrictions, it is difficult to include entire WPIAL boys and girls basketball standings so, normally, we run the standings from section that include local teams.
I'm asking readers of the Varsity Letters if it would be useful to run full WPIAL basketball on this site? Let me know.

O-R basketball rankings

The Ringgold girls continue to ascend the Class AAA rankings while the Peters Township girls make their debut after a convincing win over New Castle on a neutral court in Ambridge.

Came close to placing the Canon-McMillan boys in my Class AAAA top five at No. 5 but I went with McKeesport in that spot. The Big Macs beat the Tigers by nine Friday night at Trinity but I need to see a little more from C-M before I'm sold.

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 11-1
2. North Allegheny 11-1
3. Moon 8-4
4. Upper St. Clair 11-2
5. McKeesport 9-1
Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 10-1
2. Montour 9-3
3. Hopewell 10-2
4. Highlands 8-4
5. Steel Valley 8-2
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 9-3
2. Jeannette 3-3
3. North Catholic 10-2
4. Aliquippa 7-5
5. Riverside 12-1
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 7-1
2. Union 8-2
3. Lincoln Park 7-2
4. Bentworth 8-2
5. California 7-3

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 13-0
2. Norwin 11-0
3. Upper St. Clair 10-1
4. Butler 13-1
5. Peters Township 9-2
Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 9-3
2. Hopewell 9-2
3. Ringgold 8-2
4. Elizabeth Forward 9-2
5. Hampton 10-2
Class AA
1. Washington 11-0
2. OLSH 11-1
3. Brentwood 10-3
4. Bishop Canevin 8-4
5. South Park 7-5
Class A
1. North Catholic 9-2
2. Monessen 12-0
3. Serra Catholic 5-2
4. Mt. Alvernia 6-4
5. Vincentian Academy 7-4

Friday, December 28, 2007

APB, Where are they now?

Last week's All Points Bulletin received a hit. Former Fort Cherry sharpshooter Dan Davis is alive and well and preparing to join the men's basketball team at CCBC. The Varsity Letters wishes Dan all the best.

This week's APB is for a former McGuffey boys basketball standout (Yeah, I know a lot of people don't know McGuffey plays basketball) Jason Scott.

A three-year starter at guard, Scott ran the offense on McGuffey's most successful team, the 2000-01 section champions. It was the only boys basketball section championship team in McGuffey history.

Scott could shoot the three and break down a defense. Not to mention he was one of the few local players to ever sport "dreadlocks". Anyone with information on the greatest point guard in McGuffey history is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Big on the Bearcats

A strong senior class, led by the oft-explosive scoring efforts of twin brothers Jon and Joe Kennedy, made Bentworth a WPIAL Class A playoff contender entering the 2007-08 boys basketball season.

Now, eight games into the schedule, the 7-1 Bearcats look like championship material.

Wednesday's 75-58 victory over California on a neutral court in Charleroi indicates Bentworth may be ready to make a major move this postseason. Not only did the Bearcats impressively beat a strong team by 17 points, Jon Kennedy's 38 points shows that Bentworth has a go-to guy in big-time games.

I admit I had a few reservations about the Bearcats entering the year. I knew they had talent but they lacked signature wins. This year, they've beaten OLSH, Clairton, Cornell, Carmichaels and California. Don't be surprised if all five of those teams play this postseason.

And expect Bentworth to make a postseason run.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

O-R basketball rankings

The Bentworth boys continue to impress. The Bearcats play Dec. 26 against California and at home Jan. 2 against Serra Catholic. We'll know more after those two games.

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 10-0
2. McKeesport 8-0
3. North Allegheny 10-0
4. Moon 6-4
5. Upper St. Clair 8-2
Class AAA
1. Hopewell 8-1
2. Chartiers Valley 10-1
3. Montour 7-3
4. Hampton 6-3
5. Steel Valley 6-1
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 7-2
2. Jeannette 2-1
3. Aliquippa 5-4
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 8-1
5. Washington 10-1
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 5-1
2. Bentworth 6-1
3. Union 6-2
4. California 6-2
5. Lincoln Park 6-2

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 10-0
2. New Castle 7-0
3. Norwin 9-0
4. Upper St. Clair 8-1
5. Butler 9-1
Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 7-2
2. Blackhawk 7-1
3. Hopewell 7-2
4. Elizabeth Forward 8-1
5. Ringgold 6-2
Class AA
1. Washington 10-0
2. OLSH 8-1
3. Sto-Rox 8-1
4. South Park 7-3
5. Brentwood 8-3
Class A
1. North Catholic 7-2
2. Monessen 10-0
3. Serra Catholic 3-2
4. Mt. Alvernia 4-4
5. Avonworth 6-2

Happy Holidays

The Varsity Letters wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas.

Enjoy the Lakers game.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Left out

Trinity seniors Andrew Sweat and Michael Yancich deservedly were first-team selections at linebacker to the Associated Press Class AAA all-state team. Sweat became the first area player in more than a decade to earn two straight first-team mentions. Yancich was the O-R Player of the Year.

The Class AAAA team was released Saturday and it had one glaring omission - Canon-McMillan sophomore Mike Hull.

In two varsity seasons, Hull has been named first-team All-Great Southern Conference unanimously. He's an excellent two-way player as he established a C-M single season record with 1,300 rushing yards and he added 120 tackles. For my money, Hull was the runner-up in the Player of the Year competition with Sweat third and Burgettstown's Dan Conley fourth.

Granted, Quad-A is loaded with exceptional talent but Hull is one of the state's best football players and his omission is a shame. Hull deserves a second-team mention.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

APB, Where are they now?

This week's All Points Bulletin issued by the Varsity Letters is for former Fort Cherry sharpshooter Dan Davis.

Davis, who played his senior year at Fort Cherry following three years at Pittsburgh's Peabody High School, was the O-R Boys Basketball Player of the Year and led Fort Cherry to one of its best regular season records in the 2004-05 season. Davis averaged 27 points per game and led the state in three-point field goals.

He went to a top-notch junior college in Florida where Davis started and led the team in scoring. According to my sources, Davis, who drew interest from Pitt, failed to complete the year.

Anyone knowing of Davis' whereabouts is urged to contact the Varisty Letters.

Things to watch - 2008

Hard to believe another calendar year is rapidly approaching. The 2007-08 winter sports season is in full bloom and several intriguing story lines are taking shape and worth following.

1. Will C-M senior Colin Johnston rebound from last year's disappointment at the PIAA championships to win another state title?
2. Can the Wash High girls, already 9-0, complete the regular season undefeated? The guess here is no, it's simply too difficult, but the Prexies are legit WPIAL Class AA championship contenders.
3. Will the Peters Township and Canon-McMillan boys basketball teams remain in playoff contention as the Section 4-AAAA season heats up? Yes, but I don't see both teams making the playoffs. Right now, I'd say PT has a slight edge of C-M but the Big Macs are playing well since a winless trip to Florida.
4. The Washington boys basketball team will win another Section 5-AA title. The question is can the Prexies find a consistent, reliable, go-to scorer that playoff teams need?
5. Will local teams return to the championship podium at the end of the WPIAL team wrestling playoffs?
6. Can the Ringgold girls compete for the WPIAL Class AAA title without Bethany Warren? It appears the Rams can. Emily Schartner is the area's second-best player (Peters Township's Emily Correal tops the list) and Alina Selby dominates at times in the post. Plus, head coach Joe Ravasio knows the game like few others. The guy deserves more credit.
7. Time for the least bold prediction of the winter sports season - the Trinity rifle team will win the WPIAL championship.
8. If the Bentworth boys basketball team beats Serra Catholic on Jan. 2, the Bearcats have to be considered the team to beat in Section 3-A. Jon and Joe Kennedy are proven scorers and Bentworth will be a major factor this postseason.
9. So will the California boys.
10. On Jan. 19, the Wash High boys play at South Fayette. These two used to play for the Section 5-AA title, now they get together once per year in a great non-section contest. SF coach Rich Bonnaure consistently wins and he's 7-1 this year with two freshmen starters.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

High on the Highlanders?

Headed to McGuffey High School last Friday night for the California at McGuffey boys basketball non-section game. Why? Well, the main reason being Cal coach Phil Pergola was one win from No. 500. No Washington County-based high school basketball coach previously reached the milestone.

Before tip-off I chatted with O-R photographer Greg Tarr and Rob Burchianti, a sports writer at the Herald-Standard in Uniontown. I told both of them that I would not be shocked to bee the Highlanders hold off Pergola's pursuit of 500.


Well, McGuffey is an improving basketball team and they showed as much during a 43-32 win over California, one of Class A's best teams.

The 3-5 record may not indicate such but this is McGuffey's best boys team since 2002, the most accomplished boys basketball team in school history.

Tom Alrutz, a former coach at Avella, is in his third year with McGuffey and the results are noticeable. Point guard Luke Baker is the type of player coaches love. He doesn't force the issue, is a great shooter and he plays defense. Baker is one of several strong perimeter players for McGuffey, who won't challenge Chartiers Valley for the Section 4-AAA title but the guess is the Highlanders will contend for the playoffs.

And that would be big news.

2007 - Year of the WPIAL

With three undefeated PIAA football champions (Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Thomas Jefferson, Jeannette) the WPIAL completed, arguably, its most dominant season of varsity football.

Three teams 16-0. Impressive.

And the manner in which PCC, TJ and Jeannette dominated along the way certainly lends credence to the notion that some of the best high school football in the nation is still played in Western Pennsylvania.

Serra Catholic's loss to Steelton-Highspire prevented a WPIAL sweep at Hersheypark Stadium but 2007 marked the third time the WPIAL won three of four. It happened in 2005 and also in 2001, when Washington won the Class AA title.

Until this year, that Washington team was the best WPIAL Class AA team I've seen (dating back to 1997). No longer. Jeannette certainly deserves the recognition. Terrelle Pryor is the best high school football player I've ever seen. That title previously belonged to Steve Breaston of Woodland Hills with Aliquippa's Darrelle Revis awfully close.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

O-R basketball rankings

At 8-0, the Peters Township boys sport the best record in Class AAAA. The surprise of the WPIAL basketball season, the Indians make their debut in the O-R basketball rankings.

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 7-0
2. McKeesport 6-0
3. Moon 5-2
4. North Allegheny 7-0
5. Peters Township 8-0
Class AAA
1. Hopewell 6-1
2. Highlands 7-0
3. Chartiers Valley 8-1
4. Hampton 5-2
5. Steel Valley 5-0
Class AA
1. Jeannette 0-0
2. Beaver Falls 4-2
3. Greensburg Central Catholic 6-1
4. Washington 7-1
5. Aliquippa 3-3
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 2-1
2. Lincoln Park 4-1
3. Bentworth 4-1
4. Union 4-2
5. California 4-2

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 9-0
2. New Castle 6-0
3. Norwin 7-0
4. Upper St. Clair 7-1
5. Butler 7-1
Class AAA
1. Elizabeth Forward 7-0
2. Hopewell 6-1
3. Hampton 7-2
4. Ringgold 5-2
5. Indiana 8-1
Class AA
1. Washington 8-0
2. OLSH 7-1
3. Sto-Rox 7-1
4. Bishop Canevin 5-2
5. South Park 5-2
Class A
1. North Catholic 6-2
2. Monessen 8-0
3. Mt. Alvernia 4-3
4. Serra Catholic 2-2
5. Avonworth 6-2

Monday, December 17, 2007

Recruiting impact

Michigan's hiring of WVU football coach Rich Rodriguez figures to make a major impact throughout the WPIAL.

Already, less than 24 hours after the announcement, Jeannette superstar Terrelle Pryor and Gateway's Shayne Hale crossed WVU off its list. Pryor added Michigan to his top five, which also includes Ohio State, believed to be his top choice. Hale may now follow Gateway teammate Cam Saddler to Pitt.

Michigan has always been able to recruit WPIAL talent and with Rodriguez, who did an outstanding job securing lesser known WPIAL players and turning them into standout players, the Wolverines may take more than usual. Rodriguez will take Tony Gibson with him and Gibson is the main recruiter for WVU.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Class A football

Caught a good portion of today's PIAA Class A football championship between Steelton-Highspire and Serra Catholic, a game won easily by the District 3 champs.

While watching, a couple things were clear:
1. Steel-High was huge. Serra could not match up.
2. Steel-High was fast. Serra could not match up.
3. Class A football on the Western side of the state must not have been good this year.

APB, Where are they now?

Last week's All Points Bulletin for former Carmichaels' three-sport standout Colby Giles was answered. Not surprisingly, Giles is an ace student at Washington & Jefferson College.

This week's APB is for former South Fayette two-sport stud Javon Hines.

Hines was an all-state football player for the Lions' and a former Observer-Reporter Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He teamed with Paul Ruhmann and Dan Pickens on a hoops team that made a deep run in the PIAA Class AA playoffs, a team that upset Aliquippa in the WPIAL playoffs at Ambridge of all places.

Hines played football at IUP. While there, Hines was involved with a few other football players in an altercation with another student that was caught on video. Hines did not play football for the the school after that incident.

Anyone knowing of Hines whereabouts is urged to answer this week's APB.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Picking the state champions

Four undefeated WPIAL teams are playing for the state championship and a couple area players are starters for Pittsburgh Central Catholic.

Following the weekend, however, I do not believe that WPIAL will be leaving with all four championships.

Class AAAA
Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Parkway. Close, close game. PCC will win with defense.

Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over Garnet Valley. Can't remember a team that has won as many big games as TJ. Coul TJ coach Bill Cherpak be headed to Pitt after the season? Probably not, but wouldn't he be a great fit as the Panthers' OL coach?

Class AA
Jeannette over Dunmore. After the win the Jayhawks take their place as the best Class AA team since the PIAA started having playoffs in 1988.

Class A
Steelton-Highspire over Serra Catholic. Heard Serra Catholic barely beat North Star in the PIAA quarterfinals. I grew up in Somerset County and I know for a fact that, with the exception of Windber, they do not play good football weher I come from.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

O-R basketball rankings

Time for the first installment of the Observer-Reporter Boys/Girls WPIAL basketball rankings. Check out who is No. 1 in Girls Class AA!

WPIAL boys
Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 5-0
2. McKeesport 4-0
3. Upper St. Clair 6-0
4. Moon 3-2
5. North Allegheny 4-0
Class AAA
1. Hopewell 4-1
2. Highlands 4-0
3. Greensburg-Salem 4-1
4. Chartiers Valley 5-1
5. Steel Valley 4-0
Class AA
1. Jeannette 0-0
2. Beaver Falls 2-2
3. Aliquippa 2-2
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 4-1
5. Washington 4-1
Class A
1. Serra Catholic 2-1
2. Sewickley Academy 2-2
3. Lincoln Park 2-1
4. California 4-1
5. Carmichaels 2-1

WPIAL girls
Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 6-0
2. New Castle 4-0
3. Norwin 5-0
4. Upper St. Clair 6-1
5. Butler 5-1
Class AAA
1. Elizabeth Forward 5-0
2. Hopewell 4-1
3. Indiana 6-0
4. Steel Valley 4-0
5. Southmoreland 5-0
Class AA
1. Washington 5-0
2. OLSH 4-1
3. South Park 4-2
4. Bishop Canevin 3-1
5. Beaver 4-1
Class A
1. North Catholic 3-2
2. Monessen 5-0
3. Avonworth 5-1
4. Serra Catholic 2-2
5. Mt. Alvernia 2-3


2007 Consol Energy Hoopfest
at Trinity High School
Saturday, Dec. 14
Main gymnasium
(Home team listed second)
West Greene girls vs. Fort Cherry girls, 10 a.m.
Laurel Highlands girls vs. Monessen girls, noon
Chartiers-Houston boys vs. Peters Township boys, 2 p.m.
Monessen boys vs. McGuffey boys, 4 p.m.
Washington girls vs. Trinity girls, 6 p.m.
Washington boys vs. Trinity boys, 8 p.m.
Auxiliary gymnasium
Fort Cherry boys vs. Carmichaels boys, noon
Burgettstown boys vs. Mapletown boys, 2 p.m.
Peters Township girls vs. Albert Gallatin girls, 4 p.m.
McGuffey girls vs. Chartiers-Houston girls, 6 p.m.

There are several neat things about Hoopfest. One, proceeds benefit charity. Two, fans get to see unique matchups between local teams. And, three, O-R staff writer Joe Tuscano will announce the final two games in the auxiliary gym.

For those who don't know, Tuscano knows wrestling. So much so that he's covered it for approximately 42 years here at the O-R. Take it easy on him folks. He thinks the three-point line is only 15 feet from the hoop.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Indians resurgence

The Peters Township boys basketball team stands as the surprise on the local scene thanks to an impressive 5-0. It's been years since the Indians were a Class AAAA force but that may change this year.

Covered the Fox Chapel at Peters Township game. Not only was it well-played but I cam away thinking PT junior Nick Wilcox, one of the heroes of the PIAA Class AAA soccer championship, is the area's most polished all-around boys player. His offensive skill set is strong. He can break a defense down off the dribble, drive to the basket and he's a very strong three-point shooter.

As PT coach Gary Goga said, "He's a fantastic all-around player."

It's Goga's third year and the first two weren't winning seasons. Credit PT for sticking with Goga as his style is clearly suiting this group.

The Indians can improve to 6-0 and 2-0 in the incredibly difficult Section 4 with a win at Baldwin.

Not sure if PT is ready to challenge Moon and Upper St. Clair for section supremacy but I'm convinced it will be involved in the playoff race.

It's suggestion time (again)

Well, the Mike Kovak All-Time football team, consisting of student-athletes who played in the O-R coverage area from Sept. 1999 to the present, appeared to be a success. And the controversy surrounding the team and its back-ups made me think - why not put together an all-time hoops team, boys and girls.

So, the Varsity Letters asks readers to offer up suggestions of great hoopers who played from the 1999-2000 season to today. There's some obvious ones, especially on the girls side, but I want to hear from you.

Later this winter, we'll publish my all-time team.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Backyard impact

Covered the Backyard Brawl last week and as I stood on the field at the end of the game, not only did I see the Mountaineer slump to the turf and bawl, an unopened, sealed bottle of Grey Goose vodka flew from the stands and landed at my feet.


And the cops told me to keep it.

The victory gave Pitt momentum heading into the offseason and head coach Dave Wannstedt commented afterward on how the victory should help recruiting.

The dividends were immediate as Pitt secured a commitment from Gateway speedster Cam Saddler, who could immediately help Pitt as a kick returned and a possible LaRod Stephens-Howling type of player. Saddler's commit also means Pitt has a better chance of landing Gateway stud Shayne Hale, one of the nation's most coveted recruits. The word is Pitt is also closer to landing Aliquippa receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

Friday, December 7, 2007

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters welcomes back the much-loved and oft-imitated APB, Where are they now?

This week's edition is looking for former Carmichaels' standout Colby Giles.

A three-sport standout (football, basketball, baseball) Giles formed a dynamite one-two punch with Bobby Hathaway in 2002 as Carmichaels reached the WPIAL Class A football semis. He also led the Mikes to the WPIAL baseball championship in 2003. Giles was named the O-R Boys Athlete of the Year before heading to W&J to play football and baseball.

Giles didn't last long on either team at W&J and the Varsity Letters encourages anyone knowing of his whereabouts to post.

My apologies

The Varsity Letters apologizes for the last several days of inactivity. I've been out of the office since Tuesday and my home Internet had been down since Monday evening. Stupid, unreliable Comcast high-speed.

I'm here to dispell rumors that "Mat Herpes" was the cause of the lull. I'm back on board and ready to return to the fun.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The good, the bad, the ugly

The first weekend of high school basketball is over and, as usual, there were some interesting happenings locally.

The good: Bentworth's Brittany Speed went 16-for-16 from the foul line during a win versus Avella.
Fresh off two assists in the PIAA soccer champions, Peters Township's Nick Wilcox scored a combined 56 points in the first two games.
Charleroi's Eli Obade has 27 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks Saturday night.

The bad: Cameron Jones opted not to play. Brittany Taylor is on crutches. A couple other players moved away. The C-M girls are 1-1.

The ugly: The Jefferson-Morgan girls scored 11 points in its season opener. The Waynesburg girls netted 16 the same night.

Friday, November 30, 2007

On the mark

The Trinity rifle team is one of the most dominant teams in the WPIAL. The Hillers showed why Friday against Mt. Lebanon.

They fired an 800-77x. A perfect score is 800-80x. Trinity needed the expert shooting as Mt. Lebanon scored 800-69x.

O-R sportswriter F. Dale Lolley, the outdoors editor and staff rifle expert, said he has never seen a team put up a higher score.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

All-time backups

Last week, I published the highly anticipated "Mike Kovak's All-Time Football Team" which consisted of high school players within the Observer-Reporter coverage area and who played from the 1999 season to present.

The list included major college football award winners, Major League Baseball draft selections and even a couple current student-athletes.

Readers were asked to offer up some ideas for inclusion several months ago and there were a few interesting names.

Now, it's time to reveal the players who were considered but failed to make the starting lineup.

QB – Cody Endres (Trinity), Andrew DiDonato (South Fayette), Niel Loebig (South Fayette)
RB – Mike Vernillo (Fort Cherry), Rocky Doman (Carmichaels), Ben Farrell (Fort Cherry), Jeremy Cole (Ringgold)
WR – Mike Sutton (Washington), Blake Williamson (Chartiers-Houston), Scott Macerelli (Canon-McMillan), Eric Taylor (Canon-McMillan), Brandon Jackson (Monessen)
TE – Derek Mears (Waynesburg), Jeremy Gayman (Waynesburg), Mark Faldowski (Trinity)
OL – John Testa (Trinity), Josh Novotny (Carmichaels), Greg Carson (Waynesburg)

DL – Vontey Johnson (Washington), Brandon Doppleheuer (Waynesburg), Steve Hvizda (Beth-Center)
LB – Mike Harrington (Fort Cherry), Darnell Hawkins (Ringgold), Jared Dumm (Charleroi), Dan Conley (Burgettstown), Greg Carson (Waynesburg), Matt Stay (Beth-Center), Mike Randolph (Chartiers-Houston), Dave Grillo (Charleroi), Lloyd Price (Ringgold)
DB – Marques Parks (South Fayette), Chris Byrd (Monessen), T.J. Carden (Ringgold), Mark Clark (Washington), Troy Cree (Waynesburg)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters is gearing up for the winter sports season (and we've issued an open challenge to Joe Tuscano and his Mat Matters blog as to which is better – as if it's a contest) but we're still tracking down former scholastic sports standouts from the Washington-Greene region.

This week's All Points Bulletin is for former Wash High product Mike Sutton, a multi-sport standout in football, basketball and track.

Sutton's name came up recently on the Varsity Letters as he narrowly missed making Mike Kovak's all-time football team circa 1999-present. Sutton was the Observer-Reporter's first Boys Athlete of the Year and all 11 varsity teams he played on made the WPIAL playoffs.

Sutton, easily one of my favorite high school student interviews, went to Lehigh, where he played some football. Anyone knowing what Sutton is up to is urged to post to the Varsity Letters.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Top 10 (Fall sports edition)

Football suffered another down year locally but there was an extrordinary number of outstanding achievements in other sports this fall.

1. Shane Pruitt's golden goal in overtime of the PIAA Class AAA championship gave Peters Township a 2-1 win over Downingtown West and the state title. PT soccer was dominant throughout the year and the Indians' third PIAA title was well-deserved.

2. Rachel Rohanna won her second PIAA and WPIAL girls golf championships. A junior at Waynesburg, Rohanna is already the most accomplished scholastic female golfer in Washington-Greene history. She also won a truck after shooting below 70 on the first day of the PIAA championship.

3. Karli Timko returned to the Char-Houston girls tennis team and was joined by Tanya Timko, her sister and a freshman. The two led the Bucs to an undefeated regular season. Then, the Timko sisters won PIAA Class AA and WPIAL girls doubles championships.

4. Peters Township girls tennis is on an unprecedented two-year run. Last year, the Indians won PIAA team gold while Ali Riske won PIAA and WPIAL titles. This year, the doubles team of Julie Stroyne and Emily Palko kept the gold rush rolling when they won the PIAA Class AAA girls doubles championship.

(Sidenote: All four PIAA gold medals awarded for girls doubles tennis this fall reside in Washington County.)

5. Pruitt's postseason run was impressive but PT did not win the title solely because of him. Mark Majoras scored several clutch goals, including an overtime winner against Char Valley in the WPIAL semifinals, and the Indians defense allowed one goal in the state tournament. One goal in four PIAA playoff matches!

6. The Monessen football team went 11-1 and advanced to the WPIAL Class A semifinals for the first time since 1996. Plus, the Greyhounds won their 600th game this year. So did Wash High.

7. Burgettstown football enjoyed a six-game improvement from 2006. The Blue Devils finished 7-3 and advanced to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

8. The Peters Township girls soccer team rolled through the regular season with an undefeated record for the second straight year.

9. Trinity's Mike Yancich (Penn State) and Andrew Sweat (Ohio State) proved why they're among the nation's top players. Burgettstown's Dan Conley showed he's worthy of playing at the next level and Canon-McMillan sophomore Mike Hull established himself as the top sophomore in the WPIAL.

10. Bentworth boys soccer won a section title and advanced to the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the first time. Jon Kennedy led the district with 43 goals.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

WPIAL championships

Enjoyed a rare Friday off and did not watch a minute of the WPIAL football championships but its looks like a few interesting things took place.

Jeannette put up 60-plus points on a good Beaver Falls team. It might be time to call these Jayhawks the best WPIAL Class AA team ever. I do not see any way Jeannette will not win the state championship.

Two fourth-and-1 quarterback sneaks for a TD and a missed extra point in OT. Pittsburgh Central Catholic beat Gateway for the Quad-A championship in what is being called a classic.

Can anyone tell me how Springdale held Serra Catholic to 10 points?

TJ won another Class AAA title. Yawn. But the Jags beat a good Montour team, 35-0. Wow! People either love or dislike TJ coach Bill Cherpak but I have never seen a high school head coach who consistently has a team as prepared as his.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Picking the WPIAL champions

The WPIAL finals are Friday and for the sixth straight year, there are no teams from the Washington-Greene region.

Here are your 2007 WPIAL football champions:
Class AAAA - Gateway over Pittsburgh Central Catholic
Class AAA - Thomas Jefferson over Montour
Class AA - Jeannette over Beaver Falls
Class A - Serra Catholic over Springdale

Taking a couple days off. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mike Kovak's all-time team

OK, I've teased it for months. It's finally time to unveil my all-time high school football team.

Followers of the Varsity Letters might remember the two exceptions to the team:
1. The player must come from the Observer-Reporter coverage area.
2. The player must have played high school football during a point from Sept. 1999 to the present, which covers my period of employment here.

Note: At some point, I'll list the others who nearly made the cut.

QB – Jim Gallagher, Peters Township
RB – Bobby Hathaway, Carmichaels
Robert Heller, Ringgold
Ben Jennings, Trinity
FB – Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg
TE – Doug Fife, Peters Township
OL – Elliott Bates, Chartiers-Houston
J.J. Knabb, Peters Township
Colin Miles, Washington
Andy Miller, Trinity
Dan Mozes, Washington
WR – Javon Hines, South Fayette
Perry Ivery, Fort Cherry
K – Todd James, Ringgold
DL – Don Harbison, Fort Cherry
Dan Mozes, Washington
Dan Pickens, South Fayette
Mick Williams, Monessen
LB – Doug Rheam, Canon-McMillan
Andrew Sweat, Trinity
Travis Thomas, Washington
Mike Yancich, Trinity
DB – Dale Calloway, Washington
Lee Fritz, Waynesburg
Josh Kemp, Fort Cherry
Donte Valentino, California
P – Joe Farkas, South Fayette

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We need football stats

High school football coaches and statisticians:

Would you PLEASE send in the year-end statistics? Getting real tired of asking.

To date, the following schools have sent final stats:


Stats can be e-mailed to or faxed to 724-225-2077.

Fall's best teams

Congratulations to the Peters Township boys soccer team on winning a well-deserved PIAA Class AAA championship with a 2-1 overtime win over Downingtown West Saturday night.

The Indians top the list of fall athletic achievements locally. The following are the teams who enjoyed the best fall season:

1. Peters Township boys soccer
(No one else comes close but here are the rest)
2. Monessen football
3. Bentworth volleyball
4. Peters Township girls soccer
5. Chartiers-Houston girls tennis

Saturday, November 17, 2007

PIAA soccer final

Final score:

Peters Township 2, Downingtown West 1 (OT)

Unreal match. Shane Pruitt scores the golden goal. Read more in Sunday's O-R.


PIAA soccer finals update

Coming to you live from Hersheypark Stadium as I'm covering the PIAA Class AAA boys soccer championship betweem Peters Township and Downingtown West.

At halftime, the score is 0-0.

Both teams have had excellent scoring opportunites. PT goalie Ryan Koepka made a sprawling save in the 17th minute to keep the game scoreless. The Indians also avoided a potential foul in the box that would have awarded DW a penalty kick.

DW outplayed PT early, but the Indians controlled the final 20-25 minutes of the first half.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Simply shocking

Anyone else stunned that Aliquippa is playing a WPIAL football game outside of Beaver County? The Quips end up playing more games per year at Ambridge than the Bridgers.

This week's Class AA semifinal between Aliquippa and Jeannette is being played at Highlands.

APB, Where are they now?

Last week's All Points Bulletin for former California High School running back Bobby Houston was answered. According to a former Trojans assistant coach, Houston is living and working in Roscoe. The Varsity Letters appreciates the feedback.

This week's APB, Where are they now is for former Canon-McMillan running back Kendall Davis. One of the most talented runners in Big Macs' history, Davis was a potential Division I recruit who was supposed to head off to junior college. Davis' mom still attends home football games and is one of C-M's most visable fans.

Anyone with information on Davis, please post to the Varsity Letters.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday morning QB

Here's an interesting read from ESPN Page 2:

Sorry, can't seem to insert links. Copy and paste into your browser.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Picking the winners, semifinals

It's all about Peters Township boys soccer, Pitt basketball, preparing the 2007 O-R all-star football team and getting ready for high school basketball in my work world now that local football has come to another early end, but that doesn't mean I quit following the WPIAL playoffs.

Class AAAA
Pittsburgh Central Catholic over McKeesport
Gateway over North Allegheny
Class AAA
Pine-Richland over Thomas Jefferson (upset special)
Montour over Knoch
Class AA
Jeannette over Aliquippa
Beaver Falls over Riverside
Class A
Clairton over Springdale
Serra Catholic over Monessen

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday night thoughts, final edition

Checking in a final time with thoughts and observations on local high school football.

Friday night Trinity coach Ed Dalton said that, for whatever reasons, the Hillers "can't seem to get over the hump." And he's right. They can't win the big one. Here's one possible reason - team speed.
Trinity football players need to get over to the track team this spring. Few teams are as strong as Trinity and I've never seen a group look as imposing coming off the bus. But when it comes time to play, Trinity lacks speed. That was evident last night.

Montour won the game because it was more physical than Trinity, but also because the Spartans had superior speed.

Wasn't overly impressed with Montour's offense, though I think QB Edgar Banks is a premier playmaker, but the Spartans defense should carry the team to the WPIAL championship game. And teams that play defense like that always have a chance to win titles.

The varsity football careers of Andrew Sweat and Mike Yancich, the two most heavily recruited players in Trinity history, came to an end last night. Both played superior defense. Both will be solid college football players. I truly believe Sweat has a chance to play Sundays and guys like Yancich come around about once a lifetime. Yancich has the speed and strength to make a big-time impact at the next level.

Congrats to Monessen on win No. 600 - no sweeter way to get it - and advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 1996. The Greyhounds are 11-0. 11-0! That's impressive, but not as impressive as Serra Catholic, their opponent in the semis.

Local football is coming to an end but that does not mean the Varsity Letters will stop. Keep checking in as, this week, my all-time all-star team from my time at the O-R will be published. Also, we'll be talking soccer, basketball, heck, we'll even hit up rifle.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Questions and keys

The following questions won't be answered until Trinity lines up against Montour:

1. Can Trinity tackle Montour's Christian Wilson and Edgar Banks?
Andrew Sweat and Mike Yancich can but it's up to the rest of the defense to respond with its best effort for the Hillers to advance.
2. How many points will Trinity need to score?
Montour is going to move the football. The guess here is Trinity must put up 35-38 points to win.
3. Is the Hillers' passing offense capable?
It's getting better. Alex Frey is making plays. This game could come down to quarterback Ian Haley's ability to make throws under pressure.

Keys to victory
1. Sweat must be more physical than Wilson.
"Wilson's an outside linebacker so we can run away from him," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "But those two are going to meet up quite a bit."
2. Create turnovers.
Trinity's defense intercepted three passes and had three sacks last week against Mt. Pleasant. Getting pressure on Banks is a must.
3. Get ahead.
The Hillers play their best with the lead. Given their old-school offense, an early deficit could spell a blowout.

APB, where are they now?

The Varsity Letters knows its following in the Mon Valley is as rabid as a wild pack of raccoons scouring South Park following the Rib Cook Off.

So, maybe, just maybe, we'll finally have a hit on an All Points Bulletin, where are they know?

Installment Four concerns the whereabouts of former California High School running back Bobby Houston. He wasn't big and did not have breakway speed but Houston had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 1998 and 1999 for the Trojans.

Anyone knowing of Houston's whereabouts is asked to post to the Varsity Letters.

PIAA soccer sites

Class AAA boys
WPIAL runners-up Peters Township (21-2-2), a 6-0 winner over Altoona in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, plays its quarterfinal match against Central Bucks East (20-4-1) Saturday, Nov. 10 at Chambersburg High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Class AAA girls
The Peters Township girls (22-1-0), fresh off a dramatic win over Upper St. Clair, faces Penn-Trafford (19-3-1) Saturday in a quarterfinal at Hempfield. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Picking the winners, quarterfinals

Hit on 24 of 32 winners in the first round. Went 7-1 in Class AAAA and AAA, while my 4-4 record in Double-A reflected my inability to pick favorites over lower seeds.

This week, we're going for a perfect record.

Class AAAA - Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Bethel Park (barely), McKeesport over Norwin, North Allegheny over Penn Hills, Gateway over Upper St. Clair

Class AAA - Thomas Jefferson over West Allegheny, Chartiers Valley over Pine-Richland, Trinity over Montour, Knoch over Highlands

Class AA - Jeannette over Shady Side Academy, Aliquippa over Mars, Ford City over Riverside, Beaver Falls over Steel Valley

Class A - Clairton over Rochester, Western Beaver over Springdale, Serra Catholic over Apollo-Ridge, Monessen over Monaca

Monday, November 5, 2007

Football sites

The WPIAL released sites for the football quarterfinals a few minutes ago.

In Class AAA, No. 2 Montour (10-0) plays No. 10 Trinity (7-3) Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Canon-McMillan.

In Class A, No. 3 Monessen (10-0) plays No. 6 Monaca (8-2) Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Ringgold.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

First-round playoff thoughts


Three weeks into the regular season, results like we saw last night for local football teams wouldn't have been so surprising. Heck, at the time, I wasn't sure any area teams would win.

Then, Burgettstown started beating good teams. Jefferson-Morgan got on a roll. Chartiers-Houston played tough defense. Fort Cherry had burgeoning confidence. Canon-McMillan started to tackle and eliminate poorly timed mistakes. Ringgold took to the air.

Welcome back to reality.

No matter the spin, local performance last night can be summed up in one word - dismal.

Trinity and Monessen, the only winners.

Canon-McMillan, Ringgold, Burgettstown, South Fayette, Fort Cherry, Chartiers-Houston, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan and Beth-Center were eliminated.

That's a 2-9 record. Add California's loss to Western Beaver today and it's 2-10.

Folks, with the exception of South Fayette, these games weren't close.

As bleak as it is, there is hope. Fort Cherry and Chartiers-Houston return most of their top players. Canon-Mac always has talent and Ringgold gets another year with Jeff Petrucci.

Hey, it can't get any worse.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Peters Twp. in WPIAL soccer final, again

When it comes to winning games and producing Division I talent, no local program is better than the Peters Township boys soccer team (with the possible exception of the Peters Township baseball team).

Thanks to a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over Chartiers Valley (the Indians third victory over the Colts this year), Peters Township returns to the WPIAL Class AAA championship a third straight year. The Indians play rival Bethel Park Saturday, 7 p.m. at Elizabeth Forward.

The Black Hawks beat PT for the championship a year ago and took a stunning 5-0 victory earlier this year. This match will be different. Not sure if the Indians will win, but they are playing their best soccer of the year in the postseason, when it matters most.

Plus, victory or not, three straight district titles games in an outstanding achievement, particularly when you consider the level of talent playing soccer at the Class AAA level. I've covered the last three matches and, as a soccer enthusiast, it's hard finding flaws in their game, from strikers Shane Pruitt and Mark Majoras to goalie Ryan Koepka.

And this marks Peters Township's fourth championship appearance since 2003. For those not counting, that's four in five years. Impressive.

Soccer fans should head out to EF for this title match. And sports nuts that like to watch teams at the top of their respective games, should get there as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Picking the winners

No reason to expect many top seeds to lose early in the playoffs this year, though it is possible in Class AAA and in Class AA as I don't believe that Steel Valley is as strong as the record suggests. Expect the heavyweights to get through to the championship and here's one guess at how the WPIAL football playoffs may go:

Class AAAA
First round
Central Catholic over Plum, Bethel Park over Seneca Valley, McKeesport over North Hills, Norwin over Woodland Hills, North Allegheny over Hempfield, Canon-McMillan over Penn Hills, Gateway over Penn-Trafford, Upper St. Clair over Shaler
Central Catholic over Bethel Park, Norwin over McKeesport, North Allegheny over Canon-McMillan, Gateway over Upper St. Clair
Central Catholic over Norwin, Gateway over North Allegheny
Gateway over Central Catholic

Class AAA
First round
Thomas Jefferson over Laurel Highlands, West Allegheny over Belle Vernon, Pine-Richland over Keystone Oaks, Chartiers Valley over Franklin Regional, Montour over Ringgold, Trinity over Mt. Pleasant, Knoch over New Castle, Blackhawk over Highlands
Thomas Jefferson over West Allegheny, Chartiers Valley over Pine-Richland, Trinity over Montour, Blackhawk over Knoch
Thomas Jefferson over Chartiers Valley, Blackhawk over Trinity
Thomas Jefferson over Blackhawk

Class AA
First round
Jeannette over Seton-La Salle, Shady Side Academy over South Fayette, Burgettstown over Aliquippa, Valley over Mars, Ford City over Laurel, Beaver over Riverside, East Allegheny over Steel Valley, Beaver Falls over Greensburg Central Catholic
Jeannette over Shady Side Academy, Valley over Burgettstown, Ford City over Beaver, Beaver Falls over East Allegheny
Jeannette over Valley, Ford City over Beaver Falls
Jeannette over Ford City

Class A
First round
Clairton over North Catholic, Rochester over Fort Cherry, California over Western Beaver, Springdale over Chartiers-Houston, Serra over Riverview, Jefferson-Morgan over Apollo-Ridge, Monessen over Beth-Center, Monaca over Carmichaels
Clairton over Rochester, Springdale over California, Serra over Jefferson-Morgan, Monessen over Monaca
Clairton over Springdale, Serra over Monessen
Clairton over Serra

APB, where are they now?

Two All Points Bulletins issued by the Varsity Letters have yielded no hits to date, but, undetered, we're back for another edition of "Where are they now?"

The Varsity Letters is looking for former Fort Cherry football standout Ben Farrell, the starting tailback when the Rangers played for the 2001 WPIAL Class A championship.

The last we heard from Farrell, he was a freshman at California University, where he planned to play football for Coach John Luckhardt. That was several years ago. Farrell, a big, strong, fast bruiser, was said to be one of the best pure athletes ever to put on a Fort Cherry uniform.

Anyone with info on Farrell, please post.

Monday, October 29, 2007

WPIAL football pairings

WPIAL football playoffs
Class AAAA
First round
Friday, Nov. 2
All games at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted
Plum vs. Central Catholic at Fox Chapel, 7 p.m.; Bethel Park at Seneca Valley; North Hills at McKeesport; Woodland Hills at Norwin; Hempfield at North Allegheny; Canon-McMillan at Penn Hills; Penn-Trafford at Gateway; Shaler at Upper St. Clair
Dates, sites, times to be determined
Bethel Park-Seneca Valley winner vs. Plum-Central Catholic winner; North Hills-McKeesport winner vs. Woodland Hills-Norwin winner; Hempfield-North Allegheny winner vs. Canon-McMillan-Penn Hills winner; Penn-Trafford-Gateway winner vs. Upper St. Clair-Shaler winner

Class AAA
First round
Friday, Nov. 2
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Laurel Highlands at Thomas Jefferson; West Allegheny at Belle Vernon; Keystone Oaks at Pine-Richland; Franklin Regional at Chartiers Valley; Ringgold at Montour; Trinity at Mt. Pleasant; New Castle at Knoch; Highlands at Blackhawk
Dates, sites, times to be determined
Laurel Highlands-Thomas Jefferson winner vs. Belle Vernon-West Allegheny winner; Pine-Richland-Keystone Oaks winner vs. Chartiers Valley-Franklin Regional winner; Ringgold-Montour winner vs. Trinity-Mt. Pleasant winner; New Castle-Knoch winner vs. Highlands-Blackhawk winner

Class AA
First round
Friday, Nov. 2
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Seton-La Salle at Jeannette; South Fayette at Shady Side Academy; Burgettstown at Aliquippa; Valley at Mars; Laurel at Ford City; Beaver at Riverside; East Allegheny at Steel Valey; Greensburg Central Catholic at Beaver Falls
Dates, sites, times to be determined
Seton-La Salle-Jeannette winner vs. Shady Side Academy-South Fayette winner; Burgettstown-Aliquippa winner vs. Valley-Mars winner; Ford City-Laurel winner vs. Beaver-Riverside winner; East Allegheny-Steel Valley winner vs. Greensburg CC-Beaver Falls winner

Class A
First round
Friday, Nov. 2
All games at 7:30 p.m.
North Catholic at Clairton; Rochester at Fort Cherry; Chartiers-Houston at Springdale; Riverviw at Serra; Apollo-Ridge at Jefferson-Morgan; Beth-Center at Monessen; Carmichaels at Monaca
Saturday, Nov. 3
California at Western Beaver, 1:30 p.m.
Dates, sites, times to be determined
Clairton-North Catholic winner vs. Fort Cherry-Rochester winner; Western Beaver-California winner vs. Springdale-Chartiers-Houston winner; Serra-Riverview winner vs. Jefferson-Morgan-Apollo-Ridge winner; Monessen-Beth-Center winner vs. Monaca-Carmichaels winner

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Seeding the football playoffs

Is there such a thing as a clear-cut favorite this year in the WPIAL? Well, yes. There's Pittsburgh Central Catholic in Class AAAA, Thomas Jefferson in Class AAA, Jeannette in Class AA and Clairton in Class A. But, with the exception of Jeannette, no team carries the Invincible label.

The WPIAL football committee has its hands full trying to seed this year's playoffs. Here's my attempt

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (9-0)
2. North Allegheny (9-0)
3. Gateway (8-1)
4. McKeesport (8-1)
5. Seneca Valley (6-3)
6. Upper St. Clair (6-3)
7. Norwin (6-3)
8. Penn Hills (5-4)
9. Bethel Park (6-3)
10. Shaler (6-3)
11. North Hills (4-5)
12. Canon-McMillan (4-5)
13. Woodland Hills (3-6)
14. Penn-Trafford (3-6)
15. Hempfield (3-6)
16. Plum (2-7)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson (9-0)
2. Montour (9-0)
3. Chartiers Valley (7-2)
4. Knoch (7-2)
5. Pine-Richland (8-1)
6. Blackhawk (7-2)
7. Highlands (7-2)
8. Trinity (6-3)
9. Mt. Pleasant (7-2)*
10. Belle Vernon (5-4)*
11. Franklin Regional (5-4)
12. West Allegheny (5-4)
13. New Castle (6-3)
14. Ringgold (4-5)
15. Keystone Oaks (3-6)
16. Laurel Highlands (3-6)
* - lower seed but gets home game in first round

Class AA
1. Jeannette (9-0)
2. Ford City (9-0)
3. Steel Valley (9-0)
4. Aliquippa (7-2)
5. Beaver Falls (8-1)
6. Mars (8-1)
7. Shady Side Academy (8-1)
8. Riverside (8-1)
9. Beaver (8-1)
10. Greensburg Central Catholic (7-2)
11. South Fayette (7-2)
12. Valley (7-2)
13. Burgettstown (7-2)
14. East Allegheny (6-3)
15. Seton-La Salle (6-3)
16. Laurel (6-3)

Class A
1. Clairton (8-1)
2. Serra Catholic (9-0)
3. Western Beaver (8-1)
4. Monessen (9-0)
5. Springdale (7-1)
6. Monaca (7-2)
7. Jefferson-Morgan (7-2)
8. Fort Cherry (6-3)
9. Rochester (6-3)
10. Apollo-Ridge (5-4)
11. Chartiers-Houston (4-5)
12. Carmichaels (5-4)
13. Beth-Center (5-4)
14. California (5-4)
15. Riverview (3-6)
16. North Catholic (4-5)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday night thoughts, Week 9

If Trinity draws the second-place team (Belle Vernon) from the Keystone Conference in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, the Hillers will roll to a victory. Don't be shocked if the Hillers find a way to reach the semifinals. The talent is there. The glaring weakness is pass defense. A matchup against a good quarterback with tall, quick receivers could undo Trinity's playoff hopes.

Said it before and it's time to say it again, Chartiers-Houston quarterback Brad Banas is one tough hombre. Banas is a very impressive football player.

The number of teams with losing records in the WPIAL playoffs continues to prove too many teams qualify. Eight teams per classification is plenty.

If Donte Valentino does not return to the California lineup for the first round – and all indications are Valentino is out for the remainder of the year – the Trojans' postseason stay figures to be a short one. No disrespect to Carmichaels, winners of five straight, but a 47-8 loss at home is no way to enter postseason play.

Speaking of Carmichaels, the Mikes have serious momentum heading into the playoffs and Class A is a wide-open field after the top two teams (Clairton, Serra Catholic). Fort Cherry also is on a big-time roll and getting it done on both sides of the football.

Since people like to point out my mistakes, I'd like to point out something I predicted correctly. I did pick McKeesport to beat Canon-McMillan but told everyone within earshot that the Big Macs would give the Tigers fits, which they did. C-M matches up speed-wise with any Class AAAA team and will be an incredibly difficult opponent for either a conference champion or second-place team in the first round.

Without any knowledge of playoff matchups, my predicted first-round winners are Canon-McMillan, Trinity, Monessen and Jefferson-Morgan. Still on the fence about Fort Cherry. The Rangers are awfully young and could be playing Rochester in the first round.

Friday, October 26, 2007

WPIAL football playoffs

Big East – 1. Gateway, 2. Penn Hills, 3. Woodland Hills, 4. Plum
Foothills – 1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 2. Norwin, 3. Penn-Trafford, 4. Hempfield
Great Southern – 1. McKeesport, 2. Upper St. Clair, 3. Bethel Park, 4. Canon-McMillan
Nothern Five – 1. North Allegheny, 2. Seneca Valley, 3. Shaler, 4. North Hills **
** – North Hills qualified as the Quad-A wildcard. Erie McDowell finished fourth but is not eligible for the WPIAL playoffs.

Class AAA
Big Seven – 1. Thomas Jefferson, 2. Chartiers Valley, 3. Trinity, 4. Keystone Oaks
Greater Allegheny – 1. Knoch, 2. Pine-Richland, 3. Highlands, 4. Franklin Regional
Keystone – 1. Mt. Pleasant, 2. Belle Vernon, 3. Ringgold, 4. Laurel Highlands
Parkway – 1. Montour, 2. Blackhawk, 3. West Allegheny, 4. New Castle

Class AA
Allegheny – 1. Ford City, 2. Shady Side Academy, 3. Valley
Century – 1. Steel Valley, 2. South Fayette, 3. Burgettstown, 4. Seton-La Salle **
Interstate – 1. Jeannette, 2. Greensburg Central Catholic, 3. East Allegheny
Midwestern – 1. Aliquippa, 2. Beaver Falls, 3. Beaver
Tri-County North – 1. Mars, 2. Riverside, 3. Laurel
** – Seton-La Salle qualified as the Double-A wildcard.

Class A
Black Hills – 1. Serra Catholic, 2. Fort Cherry, 3. Chartiers-Houston, 4. Beth-Center
Big Seven – 1. Western Beaver, 2. Monaca, 3. Rochester, 4. Undecided
Eastern – 1. Clairton, 2. Springdale or Riverview, 3. Apollo-Ridge, Springdale or Riverview, 4. Apollo-Ridge or Riverview
Tri-County South – 1. Monessen, 2. Jefferson-Morgan, 3. Carmichaels, 4. California

Weighing in on a coaching rumor

The last few times I've spoken with local football coaches and area fans, the same question has popped up.

And no, it's not "How's Jim Boone?"

Much discussion has circulated about Trinity football coach/athletic director Ed Dalton leaving after this year. It's my turn to weigh in on the matter.

Yes, like many of you, I've heard the stories of how Dalton is headed to Erie and that he told the football boosters as well as the players that this is his last year. By all accounts, he did. That doesn't mean he's leaving.

Coaches, like all other humans, change their minds. I recall a few years ago, getting a phone call from legendary Blackhawk boys basketball coach John Miller. As a former writer for the Beaver County Times, I knew Miller and vice versa. Actually, I was one of two guys on the staff that he got along with. We chatted for a few and he told me he was retiring at the end of the season and that I could quote him and go with the story.

I did. Guess what? Miller coached for three more years.

So, no matter what is being said, I will not be convinced Dalton will leave Trinity until he hands in his resignation.

And, if Trinity fans want him gone, well, that's just shameful.

Dalton has done a tremendous job with a football program that was THE joke of the WPIAL. The only thing I knew about Trinity before starting at the O-R in Sept. 1999 was that Trinity always lost. Now, Trinity contends for the playoffs on a yearly basis and, more importantly, Dalton sends his players to college programs. Not just talking Ohio State. There are times a coach is more proud of sending a marginal athlete to a team like Denison than he is of having a big-time recruit. Dalton is one of those guys.

Must-see games, Week 9

Important games dot the landscape tonight. The following are the ones worth seeing:

1. Fort Cherry at Chartiers-Houston. The winner gets a home playoff game, the loser is the third seed from the Class A Black Hills Conference. Contrasting styles clash here as the Rangers' balanced, high-powered offense take on the only defense that did not permit Serra Catholic the 35-point Mercy Rule this year.

2. Ringgold at Belle Vernon. Same scenario as FC-CH. A win gives Ringgold a home playoff game. A loss puts them on the road. The Rams offense is potent but Belle Vernon is on a four-game win streak and has given teams like TJ and New Castle decent games.

3. Carmichaels at California. Both teams are in the playoffs but California enters this Tri-County South showdown without Donte Valentino and Brandon Rossi. If Carmichaels can pass in this weather, the Mikes could finish third instead of fourth.

Other WPIAL games:
Class AAAA - McKeesport at Canon-McMillan, Norwin at Penn-Trafford, Mt. Lebanon at Upper St. Clair
Class AAA - Highlands at Knoch
Class AA - McGuffey at Washington, Beaver Falls at Beaver
Class A - Monaca at Rochester, Bentworth at Beth-Center

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WPIAL volleyball pairings

WPIAL girls volleyball playoffs
Class AAA
First round
Mt. Lebanon, bye
Wednesday, Oct. 24
Penn-Trafford at Shaler, 7:30 p.m.
Laurel Highlands at North Allegheny, 7:30 p.m.
Greater Latrobe vs. Moon at Plum, 6 p.m.
Trinity at Upper St. Clair, 7:30 p.m.
Pine-Richland at Plum, 7:30 p.m.
Seneca Valley vs. Franklin Regional at North Allegheny High School, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 25
Connellsville vs. Fox Chapel at Franklin Regional, 7 p.m.

Class AA
Preliminary round
Tuesday, Oct. 23
Yough 3, Apollo-Ridge 0
Elizabeth Forward 3, Quaker Valley 2
First round
Wednesday, Oct. 24
Ringgold at Hopewell, 7:30 p.m.
Montour at Knoch, 7:30 p.m.
Mars vs. Blackhawk at Knoch, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 25
Yough at West Allegheny, 7:30 p.m.
Indiana at Thomas Jefferson, 7:30 p.m.
Beaver at South Fayette, 7:30 p.m.
Freeport vs. Greensburg-Salem at Elderton, 6 p.m.
Elizabeth Forward at Derry, 7:30 p.m.

Class A
Preliminary round
Tuesday, Oct. 23
Brentwood 3, Burgettstown 1
North Catholic 3, Union 0
Jefferson-Morgan 3, Beth-Center 0
Bishop Canevin 3, Western Beaver 0
First round
Wednesday, Oct. 24
Frazier vs. O.L.S.H. at Upper St. Clair, 6 p.m.
Avonworth vs. Vincentian Academy at Shaler, 6 p.m.
Laurel vs. South Side Beaver at Hopewell, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 25
Seton-La Salle vs. Brentwood at South Fayette, 6 p.m.
Bentworth vs. Bishop Canevin at West Allegheny, 6 p.m.
Geibel vs. West Shamokin at Derry, 6 p.m.
Greensburg Central Catholic vs. Jefferson-Morgan at Thomas Jefferson, 6 p.m.
North Catholic at Elderton, 7:30 p.m.

Playoff atmosphere

As the resident soccer guru at the Observer-Reporter, covering the WPIAL and PIAA soccer playoffs is a yearly ritual for me. And, over the years, a few local teams have proven quite enjoyable to watch - the 2006 Peters Township boys immediately comes to mind.

Having been involved with the sport either by playing it or covering an event, soccer has been a part of my life for nearly 30 years, started playing at the age of 4.

And, during that time, I never saw anything quite like Monday night's Bentworth boys playoff game at Bentworth Athletic Field.

The place was a zoo.

The crowd compared in size to what attends the WPIAL Class AAA boys championship match and they were into it - both Bentworth fans as well as a decent sized contingent from East Allegheny.

Tempers flared in the stands but nothing more than words was exchanged, and mostly it was the East Allegheny fans taking abuse for cheering its Wildcats. Cowbells rang. Announcements were made to stop the cowbell (personally, I think we need more cowbell).

The Bearcats were physically tough, despite losing 2-1 in overtime. They weren't the most skilled team but they never wavered in effort. Too bad a few Bentworth players got a little too caught up in the emotion. There were a couple cheap shots and some needless taunting.

In the end, however, this reporter hasn't had as much fun covering an event this school year.

Monday, October 22, 2007

WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 8-0
2. North Allegheny 8-0
3. Gateway 7-1
4. McKeesport 7-1
5. Bethel Park 5-3

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 8-0
2. Montour 8-0
3. Chartiers Valley 6-2
4. Pine-Richland 7-1
5. Highlands 7-1

Class AA
1. Jeannette 8-0
2. Ford City 8-0
3. Beaver 8-0
4. Steel Valley 8-0
5. Beaver Falls 7-1

Class A
1. Clairton 7-1
2. Serra Catholic 8-0
3. Monessen 8-0
4. Western Beaver 7-1
5. Springdale 6-1

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Class AA wild card race

Washington's last second touchdown at Southmoreland appears to be for naught as the Prexies do not have enough Gardner Points to qualify for the WPIAL Class AA wild card, even if the Prexies defeat McGuffey Friday night.

McGuffey, on the other hand, remains alive for the wild card and must beat Washington to have any chance.

In the Allegheny Conference, Freeport and Kittanning are still alive for the wild card but Freeport plays unbeaten Ford City. Kittanning's chances are better as it plays West Shamokin.

One of three teams - Burgettstown, South Fayette or Seton-La Salle - could qualify for the wild card from the Century Conference, and it seems one of these teams have the best chance to do so. All three have winnable games this week.

By the way, the Gardner Points system is stupid. Time to upgrade WPIAL.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday night thoughts, Week 8

Sure the Southmoreland fans weren't happy, but I love Washington's decision to go for a late touchdown with the win already secure. The Prexies have won four straight and, at 5-3, are fighting for the WPIAL Class AA wild card berth. They're a long shot, but that last-second TD run by Chad Smith could come in handy a week from now if Washington beats McGuffey.

One thing is certain about Trinity, the Hillers bounce back from losses with impressive performances. Brandon Weaver (177 yards) and Mike Yancich (150 yards) led a ground game that chewed up 415 yards against Keystone Oaks. Trinity should get past the first round of the playoffs this year. After that, it's all about the matchup. (Later this week, the Varsity Letters will address the Ed Dalton situation.)

He's only a sophomore but Canon-McMillan's Michael Hull may be the best player in the Great Southern Conference. The Big Macs looked impressive the last two weeks with big wins over Mt. Lebanon and Baldwin to secure a playoff berth. The guess here is they'll give McKeesport a good game in the regular season finale.

Fort Cherry quarterback David Phillips can play the position at the next level. Very impressive arm, good mobility and even better composure.

California won't have Brandon Rossi this Friday against Carmichaels and Donte Valentino was injured last night. That hurts Cal's defense as much as the offense. The Trojans have allowed 18 points during a three-game win streak.

With two minutes remaining, Monessen trailed Mapletown, 15-14. The Greyhounds won, 35-15. Amazing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pet peeves

Here's a quick list of 10 job-related things that drive me bonkers (stay tuned for what I enjoy about high school sports)"

1. Giving the score without naming the teams. Readers probably wouldn't believe how many times a game comes in over the phone, a staffer asks for the score and we hear, "Four to one." The guys used to crack up every time I said, "Ok, Who had the four? Ok, now you had the one?" Next time I get one of these, maybe it's time to start making up teams.

2. Giving the score of the losing team first. Come on, ever see the losing score printed first? Ridiculous. This runs rampant in youth baseball. Maybe a course should be offered on score giving. The simplest thing has proven very difficult for many to accomplish.

3. Unprepared callers. Nothing better than spending 10 minutes taking a golf match over the phone when it should take two. To all the coaches out there who call in and know the order the O-R needs things, we appreciate your efforts as you are a rare and dying breed.

4. Histrionics by high school athletes. Nothing wrong with a little trash talk (especially between rivals such as CM-Trinity) or unrehersed celebration but is anyone else tired of seeing some 5-10, 190-pound junior bump his chest after breaking up a pass or making a tackle?

5. Seeing more sports stories about the kids from old Duquesne High School. I understood at the beginning of the football season but enough is enough. Unfortunatley, basketball season is just around the corner. Get ready for another wave.

6. Football coaches who feel the need to mock an O-R sports writer after a game because the writer picked the other team in Thursday's paper. Last time I checked, other than Monessen, no teams who make the sports pages are undefeated.

7. Fans who believe the Wild Things could give the Pittsburgh Pirates a game. I've never heard anything so stupid.

8. Statisticians, hangers-on, etc., who get carried away in the press box. This is one area whwere I give the locals credit. Area press boxes are generally easy to work from, there are others, however, where it makes for an annoying three hours.

9. Cliches. Sometimes, it's hard not to use them. Many of the people I speak with are teachers, and I often wonder if they use the same boring, dreary, drab language in class.

10. Coaches who think they are better than everyone else.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Must-see games, Week 8

Only two weeks remain in the regular season and only four area teams (Ringgold, Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry and Monessen) are in the playoffs. That makes Friday condition critical for just about everyone else, except those already eliminated and the unfortunate teams playing non-conference games.

Canon-McMillan (1-2, 3-4) at Baldwin (1-2, 3-4). The Big Macs and Highlanders are tied with Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon for third place in the Class AAAA Great Southern. In addition, Baldwin is coach by former C-M coach Dan Pallante.

Steel Valley (6-0, 7-0) at South Fayette (5-1, 6-1). Could have been a battle of the unbeatens had South Fayette not lost at Seton-La Salle Saturday night. The Ironmen can clinch the conference with a win. South Fayette can clinch a playoff spot with a win.

Beth-Center (2-2, 4-3) at Fort Cherry (3-1, 4-3). Not many noticed but Fort Cherry is on a three-game win streak and clicking on offense. Beth-Center got a big win last week but have yet to win consectuive games this year.

Other games
Class AAAA – Upper St. Clair at McKeesport, Bethel Park at Mt. Lebanon
Class AAA – Blackhawk at Montour, West Allegheny at New Castle, Trinity at Keystone Oaks
Class AA – Washington at Southmoreland, East Allegheny at Jeannette
Class A – Rochester at Western Beaver (Saturday)

Monday, October 15, 2007

APB, Where are they now?

Sadly, no one got back to the Varsity Letters as to the whereabouts of former Wash High three-sport standout Dale Calloway but, undetered, we're issuing another all points bulletin for a former prep sports "star."

This week's APB is for former Waynesburg High School football player Greg Carson.

Carson, as a senior, was a first-team all-state linebacker for the Raiders, who won the 1999 WPIAL Class AA championship with Carson fueling a very tough defense. Carson was undersized but he played like a lunatic on speed, making tackles all over the field. How tough was Carson? Tough enough to start at center though, by his estimates, he weighed about 190.

Anyone knowing Carson's whereabouts are urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Boys/Girls WPIAL golf pairings

WPIAL boys golf team playoffs
Tuesday, Oct. 16
All matches begin at 10 a.m.
Division I semifinals
Top four teams advance to finals
at Village Green Colf Course (Hickory)
Blackhawk, Elizabeth Forward, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mars, Mt. Pleasant, North Allegheny, Penn-Trafford, Upper St. Clair
at Krendale Golf Course (Butler)
Belle Vernon, Hopewell, Greater Latrobe, Peters Township, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Seneca Valley, Shady Side Academy, Thomas Jefferson

Division II semifinals
Top four teams advance to finals
at Donegal Highlands Golf Club (Donegal)
Ellwood City, Geibel, Quigley Catholic, Riverside, Serra Catholic, South Fayette, Vincentian, Waynesburg, West Shamokin
at Rolling Acres Golf Course (Beaver Falls)
Bishop Canevin, Burgettstown, Burrell, Center, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jefferson-Morgan, Neshannock, Seton-La Salle, Sewickley Academy

WPIAL girls golf team championship
Thursday, Oct. 18, 10 a.m.
at Cedarbrook Golf Club
Blackhawk, Center, Fox Chapel, Mars, Mt. Lebanon, Mt. Pleasant, Penn-Trafford, Peters Township, Shady Side Academy

WPIAL football rankings, Week 7

North Allegheny looks better each week. They might be the best team in Class AAAA but, for now, PCC stays at the top because they have yet to lose. And McGuffey's win at Greensburg Central Catholic knocks the Centurions from No. 3 to unranked in Class AA.

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 7-0
2. North Allegheny 7-0
3. Gateway 6-1
4. McKeesport 6-1
5. Upper St. Clair 5-2

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 7-0
2. Montour 7-0
3. Chartiers Valley 6-1
4. Knoch 6-1
5. Blackhawk 6-1

Class AA
1. Jeannette 7-0
2. Ford City 7-0
3. Beaver 7-0
4. Steel Valley 7-0
5. Beaver Falls 6-1

Class A
1. Clairton 6-1
2. Serra Catholic 7-0
3. Monessen 7-0
4. Rochester 6-1
5. Western Beaver 6-1

Century Conference craziness

Just when it looked safe to say that Burgettstown locked itself into the WPIAL football playoffs, conference co-leader South Fayette loses to Seton-La Salle Saturday. All of a sudden, the playoff picture became more confusing.

Steel Valley (6-0, 7-0) stands alone in first place with conference games remaining against South Fayette and South Park (3-3, 4-3), two difficult tests. The Ironmen have the conference's best offense and need to win one of two to be conference co-champs. Two wins for an outright title. Two losses, a slight possibility, and the Ironmen should still make the playoffs because they've already beat Burgettstown and Seton-La Salle.

South Fayette (5-1, 6-1) lost to surging Seton-La Salle, winners of three of four. The Lions host Steel Valley Friday and finish with Carlynton, a tap-in. Two wins can make the Lions co-champs or outright champs, depending if SV beats SP. If the Lions go 1-1 to finish 6-2 in conference, they own tiebreakers over Burgettstown but not SLS.

Burgettstown (5-2, 5-2) plays out of conference this week and finishes with Charleroi (1-5, 1-6). The Blue Devils should win that one to finish 6-2 in conference. Assuming they do, they're in good shape to get in because their losses are to Steel Valley and South Fayette. Burgettstown beat SLS, SP and Brentwood, teams hovering right behind the top three.

Seton-La Salle (4-2, 4-3) put itself back in the race by beating South Fayette. The Rebels have two winnable games - South Park and Carlynton - but the Rebels loss to Burgettstown could cost them a playoff spot. However, the Century Conference could earn the wildcard playoff berth, and if it does, pencil in SLS.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Serving up medals

It was quite a week for several area student-athletes involved in non-revenue sports as the WPIAL held its championships in girls doubles tennis and boys and girls golf.

The greatest season in the history of Chartiers-Houston tennis continued Friday when Karli and Tanya Timko defeated Vincentian Academy's Elise Held and Alena Tesone for the WPIAL Class AA doubles title. They'll be a team to watch at the upcoming PIAA championships.

And the Timkos won't be the only area doubles teams playing for PIAA gold.

Peters Township's Julie Stroyne and Emily Palko finished second in the Class AAA tournament, losing to North Allegheny's Kim Whalen and Jen Larimore in the finals. Palko, a senior, is a two-time PIAA qualifier in doubles.

In girls golf, Waynesburg junior Rachel Rohanna won her second WPIAL title in three years. On the boys side, C-H senior John Popeck finished second.

Upcoming events this week include the WPIAL girls team tennis tournament. Peters Township and Chartiers-Houston are among the favorites. Also, the PIAA boys and girls individual golf qualifers are Monday; the WPIAL boys team semis are Tuesday and the finals are Thursday. Plus, the soccer playoffs begin with preliminary games next Saturday.

Friday night thoughts

The last time a local team beat a WPIAL power the way McGuffey beat Greensburg Central Catholic last night happened when Trinity stunned Penn Hills in the opening round of the 2005 Class AAAA playoffs.

McGuffey's win certainly bolsters the Highlanders playoff hopes. The Garnder Points earned by beating GCC definitely helps. It could also hurt Wash High's chances. Washington had early-season losses to Jeannette, GCC and East Allegheny and that gives McG the Gardner Points advantage. The season ending game between McGuffey and Washington could be for third place and it's a tribute to both that they've put themselves back in the playoff hunt.

Every time I see Wash High's Ramonte Barfield play football, he makes at least two big plays. He made three Friday night against Yough.

Burgettstown pretty much wrapped up one of three playoff spots in the Century Conference with last night's win over Brentwood. Matt Taylor gets my vote for coach of the year.

This might sound strange but the Chartiers-Houston defense deserves recognition for its recent performances against Serra Catholic and Monessen. The Bucs held Serra, the state's second highest scoring team, to 33 points Friday. The week before, they held a powerful Monessen offense to 15 points in an overtime loss.

The winner of the upcoming Beth-Center at Fort Cherry game could end up with a home playoff game.

If Canon-McMillan can manuever itself into the postseason, I still believe the Big Macs will be a very difficult matchup.

If the season ended this weekend, I'd probably name Trinity's Mike Yancich as the O-R Player of the Year. California's Donte Valentino, Trinity's Andrew Sweat, Burgettstown's Dan Conley and C-M's Mike Hull also deserve consideration.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Popeck finishes 2nd, Tagliaferro 4th

Chartiers-Houston senior John Popeck narrowly missed winning the WPIAL boys golf championship Tuesday at Latrobe Country Club. Popeck finished second, one-stroke behind Hopewell's Brock Pompeani, who finished with a 74. Popeck, surprisingly, has never won a WPIAL golf championship depite finishing in the top four three times.

Burgettstown's Anthony Tagliaferro finished fourth. He carded a 77.

Read more in Wednesday's O-R.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ranking the conferences

Six weeks of observation, research and networking have led me to believe which WPIAL football conferences are for real, and which are not. Here's how I see strength of conference in each classification:

Class AAAA
1. Great Southern. Hard to argue with Canon-McMillan coach Guy Montecalvo's claim that the Great Southern is the state's toughest league. Easily the best in the WPIAL.
2. Northern Five. North Allegheny and Shaler are both 6-0.
3. Big East. Gateway, Penn Hills and Kiski Area make for a nice top three.
4. Foothills Conference. Pittsburgh Central Catholic is the O-R's No. 1 Class AAAA team. Norwin is the best 3-3 team around, but the rest of the conference is mediocre to poor.

Class AAA
1. Parkway Conference. Montour, Blackhawk and New Castle are pleasant surprises and show how strong this league is – remember, Hopewell and West Allegheny were preseason picks and are in fourth and fifth place.
2. Greater Allegheny. Knoch and Pine-Richland are contenders. Highlands is pretty good and Indiana is better than most would believe.
3. Big Seven Conferemce. Could have been ranked second but Char Valley took a hit with Santino Coury's injury. Thomas Jefferson is still the team to beat and Trinity is quickly improving. Not sold on the rest of the conference.
4. Keystone Conference. This won't change until the league picks up some postseason wins.

Class AA
1. Interstate Conference. Jeannette, Greensburg Central, and teams like East Allegheny, Washington and McGuffey could be in first place in at least one other conference.
2. Midwestern Conference. One of the WPIAL's most tradition-rich leagues, the MAC is loaded once again.
3. Allegheny Conference. Ford City is the O-R's No. 2 Class AA team. Shady Side Academy, Burrell and Valley add depth.
4. Century Conference. It's a down year for the Century but that should not discredit the 6-0 records of South Fayette and Steel Valley.
5. Tri-County North Conference. The Keystone of Class AA.

Class A
1. Big Seven Conference. Top-heavy with Monaca, Rochester and Western Beaver. Would not be shocked if Rochester made it back to the WPIAL championship.
2. Tri-County South Conference. This is a shaky ranking but Monessen and Jeff-Morgan are quality teams. California can be one when healthy and Carmichaels is coming on strong in recent weeks.
3. Eastern Conference. Clairton is the class of the classification and Springdale is strong. The rest of the conference is not.
4. Black Hills Conference. Serra Catholic is an explosive team. The rest of the conference is 4-11 outside the league.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

O-R Football Ranking, Week 6

Still, not sure what to think of Class AAAA. Central Catholic struggled against Norwin and Gateway has yet to impress. New teams to the rankings are Blackhawk (AAA), Steel Valley (AA) and Rochester (A).

WPIAL Football
Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 6-0
2. North Allegheny 6-0
3. Gateway 5-1
4. McKeesport 5-1
5. Shaler 6-0

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 6-0
2. Montour 6-0
3. Chartiers Valley 5-1
4. Knoch 5-1
5. Blackhawk 5-1

Class AA
1. Jeannette 6-0
2. Ford City 6-0
3. Greensburg Central Catholic 6-0
4. Beaver 6-0
5. Steel Valley 6-0

Class A
1. Clairton 5-1
2. Serra Catholic 6-0
3. Monessen 6-0
4. Monaca 6-0
5. Rochester 5-1

Friday night thoughts, Week 6

Burgettstown outplayed Steel Valley during the first half of Friday night's Century Conference game, which was won by the Ironmen, 39-7. The Blue Devils, however, made too many mistakes to win.

Quarterback Brenden Bongiorni can play football at the next level. He displays a strong arm and a nice touch, particularly on deep throws. Burgettstown receivers dropped two long passes that should have been touchdowns. If those were caught, the outcome may have changed.

Blue Devils linebacker Dan Conley is a stud. He dominated the first half. If I'm a Cal U coach, I'm after this kid big time.

Ringgold will finish second in the Keystone Conference and host a playoff game. Mark it down.

Chartiers Valley is the second best team in Class AAA. I'm choosing to ignore the Colts' second-week loss to undefeated Montour. CV vs. TJ is the Class AAA Game of the Year.

Trinity should finish third in the Big Seven. Could the Hillers be headed to Ringgold for a first-round playoff game?

When's the last time Wash High won a game on a last-second field goal? (Staff writer Jim Montecalvo claims he did it at least six times during his Prexies' career.) Honestly, I have no idea. Kudos to E.J. Powell on his 25-yarder with four seconds left to give Washington a 16-14 win at Brentwood. It may have been non-conference but it's Washington's biggest win since shutting out Aliquippa in the first round of the 2005 WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Was Bentworth inspired by me picking Avella? Wow, 67 points. Didn't see that coming.

Valentino cracks 4,000 yards

California High School's Donte Valentino became the first local player to eclipse 4,000 career rushing yards since 2000 after he rushed for 165 yards Saturday during a 33-6 win at Geibel in a Tri-County South Conference game.

Valentino has 4,052 career yards and already has 1,001 rushing yards this year. He became the area's first since Waynesburg fullback Lanfer Simpson finished with 4,010 yards. In an interesting sidenote, Simpson eclipsed the mark during the 2000 WPIAL Class AA championship game.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Airing it out

OK, the Class AAA Keystone Conference is far from the WPIAL's best, but Ringgold appears to be hitting its stride in time for a playoff push. The Rams are 2-1 in conference and play a key game Friday night at Uniontown.

One reason for Ringgold's midseason resurgence is a surprisingly strong passing game. Jeff Petrucci, a veteran coach in his first year as Ringgold's head, has opened up the offense and quarterback Jordan Fowler is prospering. Fowler ranks third in the WPIAL with an impressive 921 passing yards and his eight touchdowns is tied for the lead among local quarterbacks.

Fowler has 199 more passing yards than any local QB. The next closest? Peters Township senior Tyler Porco, who has thrown for 722 yards and eight touchdowns.

Numbers like the ones Fowler and Porco are putting up show how much more passing takes place in high school football, and is another reason why games often don't end until after 10 p.m.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

APB, where are they now?

Putting out an all points bulletin for former Washington High School standout Dale Calloway, who played football, basketball and track. Calloway even played a little baseball early in his scholastic career.

Calloway got a scholarship to West Virginia to play defensive back, was supposed to head to junior college in Alabama and I haven't heard of him since. Last time I saw him was when Terrelle Pryor, then a freshman, led Jeannette to a win over the Prexies in the WPIAL hoops playoffs.

Any one with info on Calloway, please share.

Stay tuned for future APB's.

Must see games, Week 6

Hard to believe only four weeks remain to the regular season. It's not only time to start thinking about the postseason, it's time to think about postseason positioning and seeding.

1. Burgettstown (4-1, 4-1) at Steel Valley (4-0, 5-0). Burgettstown can move into second place with a win, or first place if South Fayette somehow loses to South Allegheny. It's time for the masses to believe in the Blue Devils, who are getting great play from a 13-man senior class. If Dan Conley and the defense can find a way to slow Steel Valley quarterback Ryan Sabo, beating the Ironmen is possible.

2. Monessen (2-0, 5-0) at Jefferson-Morgan (3-0, 4-1). Just when Monessen looks like a potential WPIAL contender, it struggles at Chartiers-Houston, needing overtime to beat the improving Bucs. Still, matching the Greyhounds speed is a difficult for any team. Jefferson-Morgan has won four straight and looked impressive at California last week. The winner will win the Tri-County South Conference.

3. Beth-Center (1-1, 3-2) at Serra Catholic (3-0, 5-0). Nobody has slowed down Serra, which leads Class A in points scored (263) and is second in scoring defense (39 points). Not sure if Beth-Center can, but if one team from the Black Hills is capable, it's the Bulldogs.

Other WPIAL games
Class AAAA – McKeesport at Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan at Upper St. Clair, Baldwin at Mt. Lebanon
Class AAA – Blackhawk at New Castle, Pine-Richland at Highlands, Ringgold at Uniontown
Class AA – Aliquippa at Beaver, Ford City at Burrell, Center at New Brighton
Class A – Riverview at Clairton

Monday, October 1, 2007

O-R Football Rankings, Week 5

Not much movement this week.

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 5-0
2. North Allegheny 5-0
3. Gateway 5-0
4. McKeesport 4-1
5. Bethel Park 4-1

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 5-0
2. Montour 5-0
3. Chartiers Valley 4-1
4. Highlands 5-0
5. Knoch 4-1

Class AA
1. Jeannette 5-0
2. Ford City 5-0
3. Aliquippa 4-1
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 5-0
5. Beaver 5-0

Class A
1. Clairton 4-1
2. Serra Catholic 5-0
3. Monessen 5-0
4. Western Beaver 5-0
5. Monaca 5-0

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday night thoughts week 5

Let's actually start with Saturday's result – Burgettstown 21, Seton-La Salle 3. How bout those Blue Devils?! At 4-1 overall and 4-1 in the Class AA Century Conference, Burgettstown stands alone in third place, behind South Fayette and Steel Valley, which are both 5-0.
Burgettstown is, without a doubt, the best local story of the high school football season.

Don't be surprised if Jefferson-Morgan finds itself back in the WPIAL Class A semifinals. The Rockets are a tough, well-disciplined bunch and they learned how to win last year. This week's game against Monessen should determine the Tri-County South Conference championship.

Canon-McMillan is so close to becoming a very good Quad-A football team. The skill set is there. The Big Macs need to tackle better and eliminate the costly mistake.

Mapletown will make the playoffs. Mark it down.

I really like the way Trinity bounces back from losses. They won two straight after losing to C-M and beat West Mifflin after losing to Char Valley. Not that any loss looks good, but maybe Trinity doesn't feel so bad after the Colts shutout Hopewell, 27-0, last night.

If Donte Valentino plays Saturday for California at Geibel, he will pass 4,000 career rushing yards. Mark it down.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Must see games, Week 5

We're at the midway point and there are several big games this week.

1. Bethel Park at Canon-McMillan – Bethel Park is the surprise team of Class AAAA. The Black Hawks are 3-1 and narrowly lost to North Allegheny. They also put up 62 points last week. Canon-Mac had a chance to put last week's game away at Shaler but failed to do so and lost. It's the conference opener for both and the winner could stake a claim as the favorite to win the title.

2. West Mifflin at Trinity – The scenario is simple. If Trinity loses, it's postseason chances decrease dramatically. A win makes a third-place finish in the Big Seven Conference possible.

3. Mapletown at West Greene – The winner establishes itself as a contender in the crowded Class A Tri-County South Conference playoff picture. The winner also improves to 4-1.

Other games throughout the WPIAL:
Class AAAA – Mt. Lebanon at McKeesport, Penn Hills at Kiski Area, Upper St. Clair at Baldwin
Class AAA – Thomas Jefferson at Keystone Oaks, Indiana at Pine-Richland
Class AA – Brentwood at Steel Valley, Beaver Falls at Sto-Rox, Southmoreland at East Allegheny
Class A – Clairton at Springdale, Jefferson-Morgan at California

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recruiting story

Here's an interesting story that moved late Thursday night:

Associated Press Writer
FRESNO, California (AP) — An assistant football coach at a U.S. high school led his team to a string of victories by improperly recruiting more than a dozen players from American Samoa and offering them housing, according to an investigation by local sports authorities.
The six-month probe alleges a Samoa-based relative of the coach began meeting with the students’ parents as early as 2004, and persuaded them to send their sons from the remote South Pacific island to Stockton, a city 50 miles south of Sacramento. Once there, the coach is accused of housing the students at his home, with his brother or with other coaches.
Fourteen students and their families flew to California on tickets purchased by the coach’s mother, and were put up in motels for a week paid for by Franklin High School personnel, authorities said. The coaches helped the parents get fake utility bills to establish their sons’ residency, and the Yellowjackets gained a new set of recruits to advance their standing within the league, officials said.
“Who knows where they would have been if they hadn’t had those kids,” said Pete Saco, a regional commissioner of the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for high school sports in the state. “Our goal is that everybody has to play by the rules. That’s the essence of what high sports is all about.”
While not criminal, athletic recruiting at the high school level is not permitted by high school sports governing bodies in United States, along with exercising “undue influence” to coerce young students to switch schools, sports authorities said.
Still, administrators in the Stockton Unified School District questioned the report’s focus on students from one ethnic group.
Dozens of students of Samoan descent play on other teams in the Central Valley area, and all three Samoan students enrolled at Franklin High School are in compliance with the rules, said Superintendent Jack McLaughlin.
“We viewed this in the beginning as kind of an attack on a culture,” McLaughlin said. “We did not violate anything.”
Messages left for the high school’s assistant principal and athletics departments were not immediately returned Thursday.
Local sports authorities started probing allegations that parents of students at five high schools in the capital city, Pago Pago, were being paid to fly to California, and that their children were being housed with American coaches, according to the investigation.
In June, a consultant and a Sacramento lawyer flew to Samoa, where they interviewed student recruits, parents and administrators.
Saco would not say how much the investigation cost, but a federation spokeswoman said it was the most extensive inquiry undertaken in California in recent years.
If Saco finds the school violated the rules, Franklin High may have to forfeit games when the accused students were on the team or could be suspended from playing in section championships, the federation said.
Stockton Unified School District officials must respond by Oct. 5.

Non-revenue success

Chances are a few readers will be mad with a column I've written for tomorrow's Observer-Reporter concerning that woes of local football as a whole. While there are some great individual talents, team success seems to be suffering more than any year in recent memory.

Consider this: only six teams from the area (South Fayette, Monessen, Burgettstown, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown and West Greene) have winning records.

Now consider the abundant success some area teams hve enjoyed recently in non-revenue fall sports. Attempting to pick the best is difficult.

My vote goes to Peters Township boys soccer, but several teams certainly rival the Indians' success, they just don't produce as many Division I players.

There's Burgettstown and South Fayette boys golf. How about Bentworth volleyball? The Bearcats are beating schools in larger classifications rather handily. Don't forget about Peters Township girls soccer or South Fayette boys soccer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Help wanted, part 2

Time to put this old post back at the top of the blog. Hopefully a few more suggestions come this way. So far, the names Drew Denham, Dom Wytovich and Lloyd Williamson have been suggested. Looking for those hidden gems or forgetten players.

Here's the original:
Spent part of the day compiling something I hope turns out interesting. Working on my all-time high school football team (yeah, I know, not much of a life). There's two conditions:
1. The player must be from the Observer-Reporter coverage area.
2. The player have played high school football at any time from 1999 to the present. This exludes the likes of Wash High's Brian Davis or Ringgold's Joe Montana. The reason? I started at the O-R in 1999, and I'm still here.

There are a few definites on the club and I'm working on a starting lineup with the possibility of a few backups. I'm asking for help. Offer your suggestions. Any player, within reason, can be considered.

Monday, September 24, 2007

O-R football rankings, Week 4

The Class AAA rankings take on a new look as my No. 1 (Pine-Richland), No. 2 (Hopewell) and No. 5 (Trinity) teams all lost. Also, in Quad-A, Upper St. Clair goes from No. 1 to unranked after its home loss to North Allegheny.

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 4-0
2. North Allegheny 4-0
3. Gateway 3-1
4. McKeesport 3-1
5. Bethel Park 3-1

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 4-0
2. Montour 4-0
3. Highlands 4-0
4. Chartiers Valley 3-1
5. Knoch 3-1

Class AA
1. Jeannette 4-0
2. Ford City 4-0
3. Aliquippa 3-1
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 4-0
5. Beaver 4-0

Class A
1. Clairton 3-1
2. Springdale 4-0
3. Serra Catholic 4-0
4. Monessen 4-0
5. Western Beaver 4-0

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday night thoughts, Week 4

Can anyone figure out Class A football? California loses to Beth-Center, which lost to Chartiers-Houston, which lost to West Greene. Does that mean the Pioneers are the second-best team in the Tri-County South? Somebody help me.

Monessen might find its way to Heinz Field. The Greyhounds could be peaking early but anyone else notice they have several impressive wins. Clairton is clearly the class of Class A. Second place is up for grabs. Monessen, Springdale and Monaca look like frontrunners for the honor.

The teams I'm most disappointed with? Hard to say because there are so many. Trinity lacks cohesion. Canon-McMillan is 1-2 against Quad-A teams with the lone win against a team that would struggle to make the playoffs in the weak Class AAA Keystone Conference. Washington is 1-3 and are struggling defensively. Waynesburg has yet to score. Peters Township is 1-3. Yikes!!! Are five of the area's biggest schools going to miss the playoffs?

South Fayette may this year's Beth-Center. The Lions aren't impressive but they're 4-0 and 3-0 in the Century Conference. Teams that find ways to win close games win games in the postseason.

Jefferson-Morgan looks like a contender again. I wonder if you took the best players from the other four Greene County schools, gave them two weeks of practice and gave them a game against the Rockets, which team would win? I bet on J-M.

Chartiers-Houston quarterback Brad Banas is one tough hombre.

Hard to believe considering recent success, or a lack of it, but Burgettstown stands as good a chance as any Class AA team in the area of reaching the playoffs.

Are there any stat men out there in the Ringgold, Charleroi and Waynesburg school districts? Start calling games in please.

Hillers helpings

After watching Chartiers Valley whip Trinity Friday night, three things became incredibly clear about the Hillers:
1. Trinity relies on Mike Yancich and Andrew Sweat way too much. A few other players must find ways to contribute immediately or opponents with good coaching staffs won't have much difficulty preparing.
2. Yancich and Sweat have to be incredibly tired after games. They start on both sides, not that unusual, but these guys aren't receivers or defensive backs. They're running backs and linebackers drawing contact and collisions on every play. Another reason why a few other Hillers need to contribute to the cause.
3. I watched head coach Ed Dalton address the team following the game. I watched the reactions on players faces and, I only saw the looks on half the team, but the only player I saw who looked angry or even bothered was Sweat. Please keep in mind, I could only see the faces of half the team. After the talk, Sweat, Yancich and Brandon Weaver had an on-field pow-wow. I bet they're not happy with that 2-2 record.

And another thing, given Friday night's results, Class AAA is wide open with the exception of Thomas Jefferson at the top. Hopewell, Trinity and Pine-Richland all lost. Trinity can still get it done, but the passing game and secondary are the keys to the rest of the season

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Not Wild about the Things

Now, I know this blog is about high school sports, specifically the WPIAL with a concentration on Washington and Greene counties. However, something in Tuesday's sports section of the Observer-Reporter angered me and it's time to comment. (Editor's note: I worte this on Tuesday and am publishing it Thursday afternoon. It still rings true.)

Of course, I'm going to tie in some high school events to my rant.

The Washington Wild Things, losers of three straight playoff games after taking a 2-0 lead in the Frontier League championship series, did not have the maturity or class to speak with sports editor and Wild Things beat writer Chris Dugan after Monday's loss. That loss cost the Things the championship they've sought for six years. And he traveled to Illinois to cover the game.

"Washington's players refused to comment after the game." The Things ignored him in the clubhouse but were brave enough to hurl insults at him as Dugan walked away.

Nice. Grow up. Be professional. Be men. Boo-hoo. You lost. It's not the first time.

And it's not a right to play pro baseball, no matter the level. It's a privilege.

During my time at the O-R, and a couple other places, I've covered countless high school events, a lot of Big East football and hoops, a few Pirates games and a large amount of Steelers home games. I've had words with coaches – once had a high school softball coach chew me out in front of spectators and other reporters because his team's story in a previous edition wasn't as big as another team's story right beside it. I've had a female student-athlete throw a plastic bottle (full of soda) at me for reasons I don't know then jump in front of my car as I tried to leave a parking lot. I've had parents chew me out because their kids aren't in the paper enough. And I've received a lot of angry e-mails over the years from athletic directors to Joe Fan.

But I can't recall the last time a coach or athlete refused comment when I sought one.

I've spoken with freshmen on the Chartiers-Houston girls softball team after they've lost the state championship. I remember speaking with Waynesburg's Lanfer Simpson on the turf at West Mifflin as tears streamed down his eyes following a loss to Tyrone in the state playoffs. Guys like Jimmy Gallagher and Ryan Maize were willing to speak when Peters Township baseball teams lost two straight PIAA championship games.

These are, or were, teenagers. Yet, they showed more maturity than an entire roster of professional baseball players.

Patting myself on the back

A lot of odd looks came my way during the 2005 and 2006 football seasons when I told people the only other WPIAL quarterback I saw with as strong an arm as Trinity's Cody Endres was former Penn Hills standout Anthony Morelli, now in his senior year at Penn State.

Endres puts some serious zing on tricky sideline patterns and could throw the ball a quarter-mile (sorry, Napolean Dynamite reference. Uncle Rico rules!) Seriously, Endres has a big-league arm. His stats suffered some due to a lack of playmakers at receiver, particularly last year. Give him the guys Jim Gallagher (the best Washington Co. athlete I've covered in my days at the O-R) had to throw to at Peters Township and Endres may have had 2,000-yard seasons.

And now Endres is third-string QB at Connecticut as a freshman and he'll return to the area Saturday when the Huskies play Pitt at Heinz Field. UConn wants to redshirt Endres and plans to groom his as its QB of the future.

Read more about the guy who Ed Dalton says, "forced me to become a better football coach" in Friday's O-R.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Must see games, Week 4

A few must-win contests and an intriguing non-conference contest are the ones to watch Friday night.

1. Trinity at Chartiers Valley. The Colts looked good, real good, in lopsided wins over Moon and Peters Township but were shut out by Montour in Week 2. CV has speed and toughness. The Colts are a very tough matchup for Trinity, which plays its first conference game here. The Hillers rebounded from the Week 1 debacle with hard-fought wins over Blackhawk and Hampton, both quality opponents. The winner will challenge Thomas Jefferson for the Big Seven title.

2. California at Monessen. Cordero Jackson is dominating for the Greyhounds, who can actually throw the football with QB Adam Caputo. The last two years, Monessen has not been able to stop Donte Valentino and it must to win this game. The winner establishes itself as the team to beat in the Tri-County South.

3. Canon-McMillan at Shaler. Not a fan of non-conference games at this point, but it's Quad-A and that's how it goes. Canon-Mac rebounded from a blowout at Kiski with a record-setting performance against Latrobe. That game wasn't a test. Playing at 3-0 Shaler will be a big one. If C-M wins here, it might signify the team's biggest win since 2004. Then again, it might not mean much. The Great Southern is looking tougher than anticipated with Bethel Park playing extremely well and Mt. Lebanon overachieving.

Other games:
Class AAAA - Gateway at Norwin
Class AAA - Blackhawk at Hopewell, Montour at New Castle
Class AA - Valley at Ford City, South Fayette at South Park, Beaver Falls at Aliquippa
Class A - Nada. It's a weak slate for the small schools.