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.