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.