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