Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coaching milestones

Carmichaels boys basketball coach Don Williams became the third active boys coach from Washington and Greene counties to join the 400-win club after the Mikes defeated Geibel, 81-38, Tuesday night.

Williams has been the Mikes coach for 33 years. He joins Washington's Ron Faust and California's Phil Pergola as boys coaches with at least 400 career victories. Pergola won his 500th game during the 2007-08 season. Faust won his 500th game five games into this year.

Several other coaches have already hits career victory milestones this season.

  • Canon-McMillan boys coach Rick Bell picked up win No. 300 last week.
  • Avella girls coach Jim Matalik has 301 career victories.

Top ten stories

The Observer-Reporter sports staff compiled its list of the Top 10 local sports stories of 2008 for last Sunday's edition. Here's a quick list of the Top 10:

1. Avella football makes headlines
2. Canon-McMillan wins PIAA Class AAAA baseball championship
3. Saga of Waynesburg University running back Robert Heller
4. Peters Township's boys and girls soccer success
5. High school football's Black Friday (0-9 in the playoffs)
6. Wild Things miss playoffs for first time
7. Coleman Scott wins NCAA wrestling championship
8. Burgettstown's Dan Conley wins PIAA wrestling title
9. Mike Friedman makes Olympic cycling team
10. Success of small college football teams

According to O-R sports editor Chris Dugan, this year marked the first time that the sports staff unanimously voted the same story No. 1. (Earlier in the decade, Pittsburgh-based sports stories were included in the list.)

I'd like to hear what sports stories readers followed during 2008.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Local basketball rankings

The No. 1 spot in the boys rankings will be on the line this Friday when Peters Township plays at Washington in a non-section game between two good basketball teams.

Boys rankings
1. Peters Township (AAAA) 6-1
2. Washington (AA) 8-1
3. South Fayette (AA) 4-3
4. Charleroi (AA) 8-1
5. Fort Cherry (AA) 7-1

Girls rankings
1. Peters Township (AAAA) 6-3
2. Fort Cherry (A) 7-1
3. Washington (AA) 6-3
4. Monessen (A) 6-3
5. Trinity (AAAA) 3-4

O-R girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 8-0
2. Butler 7-0
3. Bethel Park 8-0
4. Norwin 7-2
5. Fox Chapel 5-1

Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 7-2
2. Hopewell 6-1
3. Mars 7-1
4. Hampton 6-1
5. South Park 7-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 9-0
2. Avonworth 7-0
3. Beaver 9-0
4. Ford City 9-0
5. East Allegheny 9-0

Class A
1. North Catholic 4-3
2. Vincentian Academy 6-2
3. Fort Cherry 6-1
4. Monessen 5-3
5. Winchester Thurston 6-2

My apologies

Just wanted to apologize for the recent lack of activity on the site. I've been without Internet the past several days in an attempt to do some drilling through concrete walls and install an electrical outlet in a room without one.

All the work finally paid off when I was able to connect to Internet today with quite the sense of pride.

The task couldn't help but make me think about the number of odd jobs I've learned since buying a house. Never knew a thing about plumbing, wiring, etc. for most of my life. Figuring things out on your own can be frustrating but, when it works out, it can also be fun.

Anyway, keep checking back as I plan on getting caught up on all the posts I've missed the last few days. The Varsity Letters will have local basketball rankings (boys and girls), WPIAL girls basketball rankings, a little bit of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and, who knows, maybe an All Points Bulletin.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Burned out

Just read an interesting piece on ESPN.com about Elena Delle Donne, who, less than a year ago, was considered the top girls high school basketball player in the country. Delle Donne originally planned to play basketball at UConn. Now, she's playing volleyball at Delaware.


O-R boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Central Catholic 6-1
2. Mt. Lebanon 7-1
3. Latrobe 7-1
4. Upper St. Clair 8-1
5. Fox Chapel 9-1

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 8-0
2. Hampton 6-2
3. Thomas Jefferson 6-1
4. Moon 6-3
5. Ambridge 5-3

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 6-1
2. North Catholic 6-0
3. Quaker Valley 6-1
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 6-2
5. Washington 8-1

Class A
1. Serra Catholic 7-0
2. Sewickley Academy 4-2
3. Clairton 1-0
4. OLSH 5-2
5. Lincoln Park 5-3

Boys scoring leaders

Here's the first look at the 2008-09 boys basketball scoring leaders, compiled by O-R staff writer Doug Street:

Through Dec. 25
Player, Team Games Points Ave.
Zach Bellhy, Fort Cherry 8 212 26.5
Ryne Niemiec, Beth-Center 5 118 23.6
Cole Heckman, Avella 8 175 21.9
Nick Wilcox, Peters Twp. 6 131 21.8
Nick Bryant, Washington 9 178 19.8
Eli Obade, Charleroi 7 122 17.4
Dave Bassi, Ringgold 8 135 16.9
Kiante Davis, Canon-Mac 6 98 16.3
Kevin Bielecki, Burgettstown 9 142 15.8
Levi Whited, Beth-Center 6 95 15.8
Derek McIlvaine, Char-Houston 10 156 15.6
Mike Lamberti, S. Fayette 4 62 15.5
Kurt Bonnet, Canon-Mac 8 119 14.9
Cody Turner, Fort Cherry 8 117 14.6
Ian McCombs, Carmichaels 8 113 14.1
Nate Bellhy, Fort Cherry 8 110 13.8
Josh Carlisle, Avella 8 110 13.8
Josh Valentic, Trinity 10 134 13.4
Terrance Stepoli, Monessen 7 94 13.4
Craig Wolcott, Peters Twp. 6 78 13.0
Ben Carson, Caliornia 4 50 12.5
Robert Anderson, Washington 9 112 12.4
Pat Zedreck, S. Fayette 4 49 12.2
Dylan Bongiorni, Burgettstown 9 108 12.0
Josh Green, Carmichaels 8 94 11.8
Mark Jones, Char-Houston 10 114 11.4
Nick Tasz, Burgettstown 9 93 11.0
C.J. Gottardi, Avella 8 85 10.6
Joby Lapkowicz, Carmichaels 8 85 10.6
Chad Hagan, Canon-Mac 8 84 10.5
Tyler Henry, S. Fayette 4 42 10.5
Taylor Andrisko, Charleroi 7 73 10.4
Ryan Scott, Char-Houston 10 103 10.3
Joe Silko, S. Fayette 4 41 10.3
Will Glendenning, Canon-Mac 7 71 10.1
Clay Roman, Bentworth 5 50 10.0
Jason Jansante, Bentworth 5 50 10.0

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

The Varsity Letters wishes everyone a Happy Holidays. Have fun. Be safe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

O-R girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 8-0
2. Butler 6-0
3. Bethel Park 7-0
4. Norwin 6-2
5. Fox Chapel 4-1

Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 7-1
2. Hopewell 6-1
3. Mars 7-1
4. Hampton 6-1
5. South Park 7-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 9-0
2. Avonworth 7-0
3. Beaver 8-0
4. Ford City 8-0
5. East Allegheny 7-0

Class A
1. North Catholic 4-3
2. Vincentian Academy 6-2
3. Monessen 5-2
4. Fort Cherry 6-1
5. Quigley Catholic 5-1

Monday, December 22, 2008

Banas named all-state

Chartiers-Houston senior Brad Banas, who played quarterback, running back, receiver, punter and linebacker, was named to the Associated Press Pennsylvania Class A all-state team as a first-team linebacker.
For the second consecutive year, Banas was selected to the Black Hills Conference Media All-Star Team as a running back and punter. He was also named to the Observer-Reporter’s Elite 11 the past two years.
As a senior, he rushed for 1,155 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. At quarterback, Banas completed 19 of 44 passes for 421 yards and five touchdowns. He even caught nine passes for 110 yards.
Playing most of the year with a broken thumb, which limited his time at quarterback, Banas made 72 tackles and had two quarterback sacks, two recovered fumbles, two forced fumbles and five pass break-ups.

The good, the bad, the ugly - boys edition

The Good
Peters Township, led by first-team all-district senior Nick Wilcox, is off to a 2-0 start in Section 4-AAAA and a 5-1 mark overall. The Indians have shown the ability to win close defensive games and put up points against lesser teams. PT hosts McKeesport on Tuesday in an intriguing non-section contest.

The Bad
Canon-McMillan played without two starters during Saturday's 40-point loss to Washington at Burgettstown in the Chuckie Mahoney Classic. The Big Macs went 3-for-35 (8.6 percent) from three-point range and scored a combined four points during the second and third quarters.

The Ugly
Looks like the West Greene Pioneers are in for a long season. At 0-6, West Greene is averaging a WPIAL worst 14.8 points per game - the next lowest average is 40.3 points (St. Joseph) - and were held under 10 points twice.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

This week's All Points Bulletin is inspired by the all-state football teams and the handy Pennsylvania Football News Resource Guide.

The Varsity Letters is looking for former Ringgold High School football standout Vernon Kirk, a first-team all-state linebacker at Ringgold in 1983. In those days, the Associated Press released one all-state team for all classifications.

Kirk played at Pitt from 1986-88, a time when the Panthers were a NFL factory. The tight end was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the ninth round of the 1989 NFL Draft. He tested positive for anabolic steroids in 1989 and received a four-game suspension. The Steelers signed Kirk in 1990 but he is not included on their all-time roster.

Anyone knowing Kirk's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

All-state football

Canon-McMillan junior Mike Hull became the third football player from Washington County to be named to an Associated Press Pennsylvania All-State team when he earned first-team Class AAAA honors on Saturday.

Hull, a Penn State recruit and the Observer-Reporter 2008 Player of the Year, is one of five linebackers on the first team.

In an interesting side, Hull is the first Big Macs player to make AP first-team all-state since 1983 when Sean Stopperich was named as an offensive lineman. Stopperich was an USA Today All-American that year and went to Southern Methodist (SMU), then an elite program. Stopperich received payments, among other things, to attend SMU and it was these violations which eventually led the NCAA to give SMU's football program the Death Penalty. SMU did not play football in 1987 and 1988.

Stopperich, who died in 1995, transferred to Temple after he agreed to cooperate with the NCAA during its investigation to recruiting violations at SMU.

A day before Hull's selection, Trinity junior Ken Wilkins was named Class AAA first team as a defensive lineman and offensive lineman Nate Lojek earned second-team honors.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Williams approaching milestone

Carmichaels boys basketball coach Don Williams picked up career victory No. 397 over Geibel Thursday night.

Williams has been the Mikes head basketball coach since the mid 1970s and can become the third active coach from Washington and Greene counties to reach 400 career victories - Washington's Ron Faust and California's Phil Pergola are the others. Faust and Pergola each have more than 500 wins.

Carmichaels is 6-2 overall with a 2-0 mark in Section 2-A. Undefeated against Class A teams, the Mikes could get Williams to win No. 400 on Jan. 9 at Bentworth.

Local basketball rankings

The Varsity Letters welcomes two teams - Fort Cherry and Chartiers-Houston - to its local boys basketball rankings. The Rangers are 6-0 and can improve on the win total tonight with a tough home game against Seton-La Salle. Chartiers-Houston is also off to strong start. The Bucs' eight-point loss to Wash High is the Prexies' smallest margin of victory this season.

Boys rankings
1. Washington (AA) 6-0
2. South Fayette (AA) 3-1
3. Peters Township (AAAA) 5-1
4. Fort Cherry (AA) 6-0
5. Chartiers-Houston (AA) 6-2

Girls rankings
1. Peters Township (AAAA) 5-1
2. Trinity (AAAA) 3-3
3. Fort Cherry (A) 5-1
4. South Fayette (AA) 4-2
5. Monessen (A) 4-2

Two big boys games tonight as South Fayette travels to undefeated Nort Catholic and Wash High goes to Monessen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O-R girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 6-0
2. Butler 5-0
3. Bethel Park 5-0
4. Peters Township 4-1
5. Norwin 4-2

Class AAA
1. West Mifflin
2. Hopewell 4-1
3. New Castle 4-0
4. Mars 4-1
5. Hampton 4-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 6-0
2. Avonworth 5-0
3. Beaver 5-0
4. Ford City 6-0
5. East Allegheny 4-0

Class A
1. North Catholic 2-3
2. Vincentian Academy 3-2
3. Rochester 4-1
4. Monessen 3-2
5. Fort Cherry 5-1

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O-R boys basketball rankings

There was considerable movement in Class AAAA as the only team to hold onto its spot from last week was No. 1 North Allegheny. In Class AA, Washington jumped to No. 3 after beating South Fayette while Quaker Valley moved into No. 2 after beating previously ranked Aliquippa.

Class AAAA
1. North Allegheny 3-0
2. Central Catholic 3-0
3. Gateway 2-0
4. Mt. Lebanon 3-1
5. Latrobe 3-1

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 5-0
2. Uniontown 4-0
3. Mars 3-0
4. Hampton 3-1
5. Thomas Jefferson 1-0

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 4-0
2. Quaker Valley 5-0
3. Washington 5-0
4. South Fayette 2-1
5. North Catholic 3-0

Class A
1. Serra Catholic 5-0
2. Sewickley Academy 3-1
3. Clairton 0-0
4. OLSH 4-2
5. Lincoln Park 2-3

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Faust wins No. 500

In the feature game of Hoopfest at Trinity High School between Wash High and Trinity, the Prexies won 69-37 to give head coach Ron Faust his 500th career victory. Faust becomes just the second coach from Washington County to earn 500 wins. Phil Pergola, with Ringgold and currently California, is the other.

In Faust's 28 years, the Prexies have won 16 section titles, four WPIAL championships and two state titles (1984, 1986). Faust is in his final year as coach, teacher and athletic director at Wash High.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Local basketball rankings

Each Friday, we're going to rank the top five boys and girls teams from within the Observer-Reporter coverage area.

Boys rankings
1. Washington (Class AA) 3-0
2. South Fayette (Class AA) 1-1
3. Peters Township (Class AAAA) 2-1
4. Canon-McMillan (Class AAAA) 1-1
5. Monessen (Class AA) 1-2

Girls rankings
1. Peters Township (Class AAAA) 3-1
2. South Fayette (Class AA) 3-0
3. Trinity (Class AAAA) 2-1
4. Fort Cherry (Class A) 4-0
5. Monessen (Class A) 3-1

Shaler basketball coach dies


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kuhns to Waynesburg

As reported by the Observer-Reporter, the Central Greene School Board has hired Joe Kuhns as the varsity football coach at Waynesburg High School. Kuhns, 38, spent the past seven years as the head football coach at California High School.

Kuhns guided the Trojans to the WPIAL Class A playoffs in each of those seven years and made two quarterfinals appearances. He also coached Donte Valentino, the leading rusher in California's history and a member of the WPIAL 4,000-yard club.

He replaces Scott Orndoff, who picked up one win in two years at Waynesburg. Kuhns went 38-33 at California.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

Thanks to the readers who informed the varsity Letters that former Ringgold High School girls basketball standout Brittany Warren is a proud Duquesne U grad and working in accounting.

This week, TVL is issuing an All Points Bulletin for former Burgettstown boys player Jason Young. A 1,000-point scorer during his days with the Blue Devils (early 2000's), Young was a double-double machine.

Anyone with information on Taylor's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Monday, December 8, 2008

O-R boys basketball rankings

1. North Allegheny 2-0
2. Hempfield 2-0
3. Mt. Lebanon 2-0
4. McKeesport 1-1
5. Central Catholic 2-0

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 2-0
2. Hampton 2-0
3. Greensburg-Salem 2-0
4. Blackhawk 1-1
5. Hopewell 1-1

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 2-0
2. Aliquippa 1-0
3. South Fayette 1-0
4. North Catholic 2-0
5. Washington 2-0

Class A
1. Serra Catholic 2-0
2. Clairton 0-0
3. Sewickley Academy 1-1
4. Cornell 2-0
5. Lincoln Park 0-2

O-R girls basketball rankings

Welcome to the first edition of the Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings. The boys rankings will follow.

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 2-0
2. Butler 2-0
3. Bethel Park 2-0
4. Peters Township 1-1
5. Shaler 2-0

Class AAA
1. Hampton 2-0
2. Hopewell 1-1
3. West Mifflin 2-0
4. New Castle 2-0
5. Chartiers Valley 1-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 2-0
2. Avonworth 2-0
3. Seton-La Salle 2-0
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 1-1
5. OLSH 1-1

Class A
1. Winchester Thurston 1-0
2. North Catholic 0-2
3. Monessen 1-1
4. Mt. Alvernia 0-1
5. Quigley Catholic 2-0

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Streak snapped

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — The nation’s longest active high school football winning streak — and fourth longest ever — came to an end Saturday in Tennessee when Hillsboro beat Maryville 10-7 for the Class 4A state championship.
Jacob Noe kicked a 20-yard field goal with 8:52 left, and the Burros (13-2) held on to hand Maryville (14-1) its first loss since Nov. 28, 2003. The Rebels came into the game as four-time defending champions and had won 74 consecutive games.
Maryville owned the nation’s longest active streak less than 24 hours. South Panola (Miss.) had its winning streak snapped at 89 when Meridian won the Mississippi Class 5A title in overtime Friday night.
De La Salle (Calif) holds the record with 151 in a row from 1992-2004. Charlotte (N.C.) Independence won 109 in a row from 2000-2007.

Headed to Hershey

Caught the final minutes of regulation in addition to all three overtimes on the drive to work as Bethel Park clinched its first appearance in the PIAA Class AAAA football championship with a 38-35 victory over Wilson-West Lawn Saturday.

Kudos to Black Hawks coach Jeff Metheny, whose first head coaching job was at Waynesburg High School.

As a former BP resident, it's nice to see the Black Hawks reach the title game and it's always good to see the WPIAL well represented next weekend at Hersheypark Stadium. Bethel Park plays Bethlehem Liberty Saturday at 7 p.m.

My only gripe from the game was that, during the final minutes of regulation, the WEAE-AM radio announcers continued to talk about the possibility of overtime. For those of us who had just tuned in, we went the better part of 10 minutes before hearing the score. I asked the radio for the score on at least three occasions.

Congratulations also goes to Thomas Jefferson, who will play for its third PIAA Class AAA championship. The Jaguars play Archbishop Wood Friday at 7 p.m.

Clairton makes its first PIAA Class A championship appearance and faces defending champs Steelton-Highspire Friday at 1 p.m. Steel-High is led by Jeremiah Young, the PIAA's all-time leading rusher. The WPIAL hasn't won a Class A title since Rochester in 2001.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Corley to retire

Major Corley, Monessen High School's long-time girls basketball coach, informed the school district Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2008-09 season.

Corley, who enters his 23rd season tonight as Monessen plays Greater Latrobe, owns a career record of 440-143, an eye-popping .755 win-percentage.

Under Corley's direction, Monessen has played in nine WPIAL Class A championship games and won titles in 1995, 2004 and 2006. In 2004, Monessen won the PIAA championship and a school-record 29 games.

A total of four Division I players – Gina Naccarato (Duquesne), Tish Williams (WVU/St. Francis (Pa.), Charel Allen (Notre Dame) and Christina Chukwuedo (Bucknell) – have played for Corley.

Monessen will celebrate Corley's career on Jan. 29, 2009 when Monessen hosts Mapletown at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recruiting frenzy

Anyone reading the Wednesday sports section of the Observer-Reporter may have noticed two stories on local athletes headed to Division I programs to play sports.

Peters Township's Greg Weimer will play soccer at Virginia Tech.

Chartiers-Houston's Karlyn Timko will play tennis at Marshall.

Weimer and Timko are part of a flurry of local recruiting activity of late. A few posters enjoy knocking the state of area high school football, but there's no denying Washington and Greene counties are supplying Division I teams with student-athletes.

Other recent recruits include:

Canon-McMillan Mike Hull, a junior who committed to Penn State for football;

Ringgold pitcher Corey Young, who will play at Lafayette;

Carmichaels infielder Chuck Gasti (Cleveland State);

Canon-McMillan infielder Matt Pierpont (Winthrop);

Canon-McMillan girls soccer player Taylor Schram (Penn State);

McMurray resident and former Peters Township tennis players Alison Riske (Vanderbilt);

Waynesburg golfer Rachel Rohanna (Ohio State);

Peters Township basketball player Emily Correal (William & Mary);

Wash High girls basketball player Jocelyn Floyd (Duquesne);

and Ringgold girls basketball player Emily Schartner (New Jersey Institute of Technology).

It's an impressive list, one that does not include a pair of Division II recruits in Carmichaels' Joby Lapkowicz (Slippery Rock, baseball) and Beth-Center's Ryne Niemiec (Cal U, basketball).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The good, the bad, the ugly – boys preseason edition

A quick look at some story lines for the upcoming boys basketball season.

The Good
Several of the area's top teams return a slew of starters. Peters Township, Monessen, South Fayette, Washington and Carmichaels all have top scorers back and each is excited about its chances for the upcoming season.

Coaches in Section 2-A aren't likely to be overly upset about California's move up to Section 5-AA. The Trojans have dominated the section after Monessen moved into 5-AA. The veteran lineups at Carmichaels and Beth-Center are the early favorites.

Wash High coach Ron Faust needs five wins to reach 50 in his career. California coach Phil Pergola has won 511 games. Carmichaels coach Don Williams has coached the Mikes for 33 years.

The Bad
It might be difficult watching a few teams in Section 2-A defend Beth-Center's Ryne Niemiec, a consistent 22-point per game scorer at the Class AA level and a Califonia University of Pennsylvania recruit.

Bentworth lost four starters from a team which reached the PIAA Class A quarterfinals. Inexperience may hurt the Bearcats early, but a move to Section 2 and the potential on a 19-player roster will keep them in the playoff hunt.

The Ugly
Avella lost coach Joe Johnson after he was arrested in early October. Assistant coach Joe Hough takes over the Eagles, who return three starters and should once again field a competitive Class A team.

The Odd
On Jan. 13, 2009, Chartiers-Houston travels to Burgettstown in a Section 5-AA contest. The Bucs are coached by Jerry Cypher. The Blue Devils are coached by Brenden Cypher, Jerry's son and a 1,000-point scorer at C-H. The two meet again in the regular season finale on Feb. 6.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The good, the bad, the ugly – girls preseason edition

The following are a few story lines to follow during the 2008-09 local girls basketball season:

The Good
Three local players already made decisions to join Division I teams next year. Peters Township senior Emily Correal, the nation's No. 68 recruit according to ESPN HoopGurlz, is headed to William & Mary. Wash High senior Jocelyn Floyd will play at Duquesne. Ringgold senior Emily Schartner will play at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Peters Township reached the WPIAL Class AAAA championship last year. In addition to the return of Correal and Lexi Kamphaus, the Indians will be coached by Pete Serio.

Last year was Mike Maltony's first as the head coach at Wash High. The Prexies were 24-3 and opened the year with 19 straight victories.

The Bad
Trinity went just 7-17 a year ago. That includes a 0-12 mark in Section 4-AAAA. Weeks before this year started, Becky Siembak resigned as head coach, after only one year. Luckily for the Hillers, she's been replaced by Jim Webb, who previously guided Trinity to the PIAA playoffs.

West Greene and Jefferson-Morgan combined to win five games.

The Ugly
The return of Bethany Warren (who attended Mount de Charmel last year) figured to bolster Ringgold's postseason chances as the Rams move back to Class AAAA. Two years ago, when Warren, Schartner and Alina Selby were all in the starting lineup, Ringgold qualified for the PIAA Class AAA tournament. Selby suffered a knee injury during volleyball season, and the Rams were dealt injuries to several other players. It figures to make things a little more challenge for new coach Nick Mandich, a successful head coach at Trinity and West Greene.

APB, Where are they now?

With the high school basketball season five days from tip-off, the Varsity Letters is starting to search for former high school basketball standouts from the area. This week, an All Points Bulletin is being issued for Brittany Warren, one of the better girls players in Ringgold history.

In high school, Warren was a do-it-all guard. She could score - as her 1,676 career points demonstrates, dish, dribble, rebound and defend. Warren also kept the Rams competitive and playoff-caliber.

The 5-9 Warren earned a scholarship to Robert Morris, where she started five games and averaged 18.6 points before transferring to Duquesne.

With the Dukes, Warren became a regular but a knee injury put a premature end to her senior season. Brittany's sister Bethany will be a senior forward/center on the Rams in 2008-09.

Anyone with information on Warren's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

The Varsity Letters wishes all its readers a Happy Thanksgiving.

Be happy. Be safe.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Prexies celebration

The 2008-09 WPIAL boys basketball season will the 28th, and final, year for Washington High School coach Ron Faust. To celebrate, the high school is hosting a "Meet the Prexies Night" on Saturday, Nov. 29 at Wash High Gymnasium beginning at 5 p.m.

The event was organized by Tony Ellis, a basketball official and the point guard on Washington's 1984 PIAA Class AA championship team.

The event includes an introduction of this year's boys and girls varsity teams, intra-squad scrimmages, a highlight film and an alumni game featuring approximately 30 former Faust players from the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s.

During his first 27 years, Faust has won 495 games, 16 section titles, four WPIAL championships and two state titles.

Those attending are asked to bring a donation of a non-perishable food item for the Greater Washington County Food Bank. A Chinese Auction will benefit the Rebecca Rogers Foundation.

Hull to Penn State

Penn State clinched a spot in the Rose Bowl with its 49-18 thrashing of Michigan State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions also kicked off its 2010 recruiting class with a splash when Canon-McMillan junior Mike Hull made an oral commitment.

Hull (6-1, 215) held offers from Michigan, Pitt and West Virginia, among others and was recently ranked among the Rivals 250 to Watch for the 2009 high school football season. He was recruited by Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Tom Bradley as either a linebacker or a safety.

Injuries limited Hull during his junior year, but he still rushed for 803 yards and six touchdowns going against one of the toughest schedule's in Class AAAA. Hull was a first-team all-conference selection as a freshman and sophomore and had more than 100 tackles in each of his first two varsity season.

As a sophomore, Hull led all WPIAL Quad-A rushers with a single-season school record 1,300 yards during the regular season.

Hull's father Tom Hull played linebacker at Penn State.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The "Fighting" Tigers

This story, from Sunday's Post-Gazette, showcases all that is wrong with high school sports and why I would never want to coach at the varsity level.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Separated at birth?

A year ago, Robert Heller enjoyed one fine college football season when, as a freshman at Division III Waynesburg University, he set NCAA freshmen rushing records in yards (2,176) and touchdowns (26). He averaged nearly 200 rushing yards per game.

This year, Texas University junior quarterback Colt McCoy is having a Heisman Trophy-type year. Through 11 games, McCoy has thrown for 3,134 yards, 30 touchdowns and completed an astronomical 77.2 percent of his passes.

Not only are Heller and McCoy fine football players, both look like they could be separated at birth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Picking the winners, WPIAL championship edition

After a 7-1 showing in the WPIAL football semifinals, this prognosticator enters the WPIAL championships Saturday at Heinz Field with a healthy 47-9 record and a .839 win percentage.

Class AAAA championship
Gateway over Bethel Park

Class AAA championship
Thomas Jefferson over Blackhawk

Class AA championship
Beaver Falls over Aliquippa

Class A championship
Monaca over Clairton

Anyone else disappointed that FSN Pittsburgh is breaking up its live coverage of the four titles games to broadcast the Pens game? This blogger sure is.

The Class AA game between Beaver Falls and Aliquippa will not air until 11 p.m. on FSN. I know the station is obligated to bring Pens coverage, but how many times a year are the WPIAL football championships played? The break between the Class A and Class AAA games takes a little luster off the entire package for those of us not attending Heinz Field.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Deuce" The documentary

Midway through "Deuce", a documentary covering the life and times of statistician and Western Pennsylvania sports figure Lawrence "Deuce" Skurcenski, one of the many persons interviewed said the word unique is the most misused word in the English language.

Unique is a one-of-a-kind happening, which aptly describes Deuce. Strange, quirky, energetic, charismatic and affable also fit the man who has kept stats for more than five decades for no one in particular.

Pittsburgh natives Mark and Joe Graziano spent parts of the past two years chronicling Deuce as he bounces from Woodland Hills football games to sparsely populated high school basketball games to meetings with coaches to the barbershop in his hometown of Braddock. Some of the footage is hilarious, particularly interviews with Deuce's father and mother.

Yes, Duece, after 51 years of keeping stats at WPIAL, City League and PIAA events, still lives at home. And, in an odd twist, his bedroom - with a twin bed - is filled with old stats from games Deuce has attended.

Basically, Deuce knows everyone who is someone in local sports and the documentary reflects as much. From Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon to West Virginia men's coach Bob Huggins to newspaper reporters to local coaches, all played a part in the documentary of a man who always remembers your name the first time he hears it.

On my way to the movie, I got to thinking or reminiscing about a couple of my early experiences with Deuce, experiences any sports reporter in Western Pennsylvania has probably endured at some point.

In the fall of 1998, I worked for the Beaver County Times and was at Three Rivers Stadium to cover the WPIAL Class A championship between Monaca and Rochester as well as the Class AAA game between Moon and Blackhawk.

My seat was beside Deuce - for all four games!

After the Class A game, it was time to write during the Class AA final between Wash High and Shady Side Academy. Deuce, known to talk out loud at all times, failed to recognize my situation. If he asked me, "Who had that carry? Was it Ruggerio or Alexander?" one time, he asked me 110 times.

A funnier story happened the following year, my first at the Observer-Reporter.

During halftime of the Class AA championship between Waynesburg and Wash High, I ended up heading to the restroom right behind Deuce. During the first two quarters, Waynesburg's Lanfer Simpson played like an indestructible force and the Raiders were well on the way to the championship. Well, speaking in a public restroom is something I'm not fond of, but Deuce kept looking over. I knew he was dying to tell me something.

"What's on your mind Deuce?"

"Awwww. Lanfer Simpson," Deuce said, in full character.

Deuce then dropped into a two-point stance, put both hands in the air, shook them and let out a loud, "Oooooohhhoooooohhhhooooohhhhh."

That's Deuce. That's the man whose passion is local sports. The man who can rattle of the Cal U men's starting five from 1994 or the top 10 rushers in Woodland Hills history without blinking or thinking.

The documentary did an excellent job of catching that side of Deuce - a man with the same girlfriend for more than 30 years without asking her to marry him - and often did a funny job telling it. The end clip of Deuce and Duquesne University football coach Jerry Schmitt is excellent.

There were a few questions I wanted answered. Why does Deuce still live at home? Why does he keep all those old stats? How does he get to all these camps on a limited budget?

Maybe those will be answered in the sequel: Deuce 2 Statistical Bugaloo.

Deuces wild

Tonight marks the second premier of "Deuce", a documentary of local high school statistician Lawrence "Deuce" Skurcenski. The showing takes place at the South Side Works Cinema and the film was made by Pittsburgh natives Joe and Mark Graziano.

A previous screening took place last week at the Three Rivers Film Festival.

A WPIAL/City League/PIAA/local small college fixture over the past five decades, Skurcenski, by his own accounts, has attended more than 9,000 basketball games and 3,000 football games, keeping stats on every one.

The Varsity Letters expects to be in attendance tonight so stay tuned for a movie review.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top five of the fall

With the fall sports season coming to its conclusion in the Washington-Greene region following Saturday's PIAA soccer finals, O-R staff writer Kevin Jacobsen and myself tossed around the teams we thought were the best of the fall season.

Here's a few we came up with and a couple more I added:

1. Peters Township boys soccer
WPIAL Class AAA champions. PIAA runners-up. Won seven straight postseason matches and produced three all-state players in Nick Wilcox, Christian Brandstetter and Greg Weimer (a Virginia Tech recruit).

2. Peters Township boys golf
WPIAL Division I team champions. PIAA runners-up. Finished second at the PIAA Western Regional. The unique thing about this team is no individual qualified for the PIAA boys championship.

3. Peters Township girls soccer
WPIAL Class AAA runners-up. PIAA runners-up. The Indians never played for a state title before. Seniors Ali Forbrich and Lauren Ray excelled. Sophomore Shelli Spamer is already one of the state's premier players.

4. Canon-McMillan boys cross country
Washington County champions. WPIAL Class AAA fifth-place finishers. The Big Macs missed qualifying for the PIAA team championships by one place. Senior Matt Gregory won the WPIAL championship and finished sixth at states, securing a place on the all-state team.

5. Avella football
From the New York Times to the Observer-Reporter, Avella drew headlines nationally and locally for playing through the season with as few as 10 players in some games. The Eagles never won a game, or came close, but the kids who stayed with the team from beginning to end displayed courage, passion and pride.

Monday, November 17, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

Sadly, last week's All Points Bulletin for Ringgold High School graduate and former NFL linebacker Anthony Peterson went unanswered. Undeterred, the Varsity Letters continues its quest to uncover the former great of the region.

This week, TVL issues and APB for any and all members of the 1991-92 Canon-McMillan wrestling team.

The Big Macs accomplished a rarity back in 1992 - they won the PIAA Class AAA team wrestling championship without having an individual state champion. Canon-McMillan also placed atop the national wrestling rankings that year.

Anyone with information on any members of the 1992 team, or anyone knowing of Anthony Peterson's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

PIAA Boys Class AAA soccer final

Downington West (District 1) avenged its loss in the 2007 state championship by defeating Peters Township, 2-1, Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium.

The Whippets scored early and it looked like they would score often, dominating the opening 25 minutes and scoring less than four minutes in on a goal by Travis Cantrell.

Indians goalkeeper Ryan Koepka kept his team in the game with a save on Chris Harmon's penalty kick 12 minutes into the second half, but Downington went ahead 2-0 on Joe Sales' goal with 23 minutes to play.

Nate Troscinski got the Indians on the board with a free kick goal three minutes later.

Peters Township, making its fifth appearance in the state title game, finished 20-6.

PIAA Girls Class AAA soccer final

Conestoga (District 1) defended its PIAA Class AAA girls soccer championship with a 2-1 victory over Peters Township Saturday evening at Hersheypark Stadium.

The game was scoreless at the half before Conestoga's Murphee Greeley netted the game's first goal at the 38:20 mark. Less than 50 seconds later, an Ali Forbrich shot bounced off both posts and was collected by Lauren Ray, who tied the game, 1-1.

With less than 12 minutes remaining, Conestoga scored the game-winner when Casey Steidle headed in a Greeley corner kick.

It was the first PIAA title game appearance for Peters Township, which finished 21-3-2.

Sign of the (old) times

Part of the ambiance of the press box at Hersheypark Stadium are all the commemorative posters signifying certain Big 33 Classics. For those not in the know, the Big 33 is an all-star high school football game played between Pennsylvania and Ohio. Back in the day, Pennsylvania played the Maryland all-stars.

The 1990 poster, one seven in the press box, sported a likeness of former Hopewell High great Tony Dorsett, who served as the honorary chairman that year.

While looking at the poster, one signature caught my eye. It was of Derek Bochna, who wore No. 10 for PA that year. Bochna, the current McGuffey coach played at Mapletown, before starting at Penn State.

Coach Bochna, what's with the sloppy penmanship?

Hershey bound

In a few, Observer-Reporter staffer Kevin Jacobsen and yours truly will be headed to Hershey for the PIAA boys and girls Class AAA soccer championships. Each match involves Peters Township.

Here are a few facts regarding the championships:
1. Peters Township becomes the first school in PIAA history to send its boys and girls soccer teams to the state championships in the same year. It's an amazing accomplishment.

2. Tonight's Boys Class AAA final against Downingtown West marks the fifth appearance in a title game for the Peters Township boys, easily the most of any local team.

3. The Peters Township boys are 2-1-1 in its previous four appearances. The Indians won the Class AAA title in 2007. They won the Class AA title in 1988 and shared the title in 1989. In 1998, they were runners-up.

4. PT boys head coach Bobby Dyer has been a part of each PT championship team. He played on the 1988 and 1989 teams before playing soccer at Pitt. He coached the 1998 team and returned to coach in 2007.

5. The Peters Township girls are playing for its first PIAA title.

6. PT girls head coach Pat Vereb is in his second year with the team after a successful stint as head girls coach at Mt. Lebanon.

7. The Downingtown West boys are the nation's No. 3 team according to the latest NSCAA/adidas rankings.

8. Last year, DW was also nationally ranked before losing to PT on Shane Pruitt's overtime goal.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pierpont to Winthrop

Matt Pierpont has signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Division I Winthrop University, a member of the Big South Conference.
The starting shortstop and a pitcher for Canon-McMillan's 2008 PIAA Class AAAA championship team, Pierpont has one year remaining with the Big Macs.
A first-team selection to the Observer-Reporter All-District Baseball Team, Pierpont led Canon-McMillan in batting average (.471), on-base percentage (.562), slugging percentage (.694) and RBI (28).
In addition, he scored 29 times, hit 10 doubles and posted a 6-1 record with 50 strikeouts.
Pierpont, whose brother Gary is a senior pitcher at Duquesne University, chose Winthrop over Maryland, Ohio and the Dukes.

Gasti to Cleveland State

Carmichaels High School senior Chuck Gasti will sign a National Letter of Intent on Friday to play baseball at Division I Cleveland State, a member of the Horizon League.

Gasti, a shortstop, was a first-team selection to the Observer-Reporter all-district baseball team after he helped Carmichaels win the 2008 WPIAL Class A championship and reach the state title game. He batted .477 with a WPIAL-leading 42 runs. As a pitcher, he posted a 9-1 record with 81 strikeouts and a 1.05 ERA.

Joby Lapkowicz, Gasti's teammate, is close to signing with Division II Slippery Rock.

Also, Waynesburg senior Rachel Rohanna signed a letter of intent on Wednesday to join the Ohio State University women's golf team. Rohanna, a two-time WPIAL and PIAA champion, committed to the Buckeyes last year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Picking the winners, WPIAL semifinals

After a strong 14-2 showing (didn't know GCC would be without David Miller) in the quarterfinals, my record stands at 40-8 (83.3 percent) through two rounds of the WPIAL football playoffs.

In a quest for perfection, here are my picks for a great slate of semifinal games:

Class AAAA
Gateway over Penn Hills
Bethel Park over McKeesport

Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over New Castle
Blackhawk over Highlands

Class AA
Beaver Falls over Jeannette
Aliquippa over Shady Side Academy

Class A
Rochester over Clairton
Monaca over Avonworth

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PT boys, girls advance to state finals

The Varsity Letters is live from the Chambersburg Panera after covering the PIAA Class AAA boys soccer semifinal between Peters Township and Central Bucks East.

The Indians advanced to Saturday's state championship for the second straight year with a 2-0 victory. They will play at Hersheypark Stadium at 7 p.m.

The Peters Township girls advanced to the PIAA Class AAA girls final for the first time with a 3-0 win over Hampton. The Indians play at 5 p.m. Saturday, also at Hersheypark Stadium.

The Varsity Letters will have much more on both teams in the upcoming days.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

PIAA soccer semifinals set

A total of 20 high school soccer teams in the state of Pennsylvania are still playing. Two of them are from Peters Township.

The PIAA soccer semifinals (boys and girls) kick off Tuesday, Nov. 11.

Here are the sites and times for the teams from Peters Township:

Peters Township (19-5) vs. Central Bucks East at Chambersburg High School, 6 p.m.

Peters Township (20-2-2) vs. Hampton (21-1-1) at Shaler High School, 7 p.m.

Of note, the PT boys played at Chambersburg in the previous two state tournaments, going 1-1. Central Bucks East, the fourth seed from District 1, has not allowed a goal in two state matches. The Indians, meanwhile, have outscored two PIAA opponents, 8-1.

The PT girls, making their second semifinal appearance this decade, are the only team to beat Hampton this year. The Indians beat the Talbots, 1-0, in the WPIAL semifinals.

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters' most recent All Points Bulletin for former Burgettstown and Ambridge football coach Rich Druga was answered by several people, including Druga himself. He's married, working and a father. As he said in an e-mail, "Life is good."

This week, the Varsity Letters is searching for former Ringgold football standout Anthony Peterson, the last man from a Washington County High School to play in an NFL game.

Peterson, a former stud linebacker at Notre Dame, played six seasons in the NFL (1994-99) mostly with the San Francisco 49ers. In 1995, Peterson won a Super Bowl as part of the 49ers defense.

Anyone knowing of Peterson's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

WPIAL football rankings

It's down to the semifinals. So, there is no need to rank five teams per classification.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 11-0
2. Bethel Park 11-0
3. McKeesport 9-2
4. Penn Hills 8-3

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 10-1
2. Highlands 11-0
3. Blackhawk 10-1
4. New Castle 8-3

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 11-0
2. Shady Side Academy 11-0
3. Jeannette 10-1
4. Aliquippa 9-2

Class A
1. Clairton 11-0
2. Monaca 10-1
3. Avonworth 11-0
4. Rochester 10-1

Looking at the semifinalists, it strike me that the WPIAL did a good job seeding each bracket. Four of the top five seeds in Class AAAA are still playing. The top four seeds in Class AAA advanced, as did the top four in Class A. In Class AA, seventh-seed Aliquippa upended Greensburg Central Catholic, who was without tailback David Miller, the WPIAL's leading scorer.

With most of the top seeds advancing, it could be one of the best semifinals in recent memory.

Bethel Park-McKeesport
Beaver Falls-Jeannette

Those games are worthy of Heinz Field.

No Friday Night Lights

Friday night felt a little odd. It was only the 10th week of the WPIAL football season and I was nowhere near a high school football game after local teams went 0-9 in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Varsity Letters is a little curious.

What did local high school fans do Friday night?

Did you attend a game anyway?

Did you check out Michael Cavanaugh singing Billy Joel hits at Heinz Hall?

Did you get ready for Pitt-Louisville, WVU-Cincinnati or Penn State-Iowa?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Town of Champions, Part VIII

Due to the hectic fall sports season, the Varsity Letters temporarily shelved the Town of Champions series. During the months of August and September, we occasionally examined the rich athletic histories of our many communities.

To date, we've looked at the people, teams and communities involving Wash High, Monessen, Peters Township, Chartiers-Houston, Waynesburg, Ringgold and Fort Cherry.

The current lull in activity offers the perfect time to renew the series and hopefully remind readers part of what makes this area great.

Today, in our eighth installment, we look at the communities involving Canon-McMillan High School.

When it comes to Canonsburg, people think former New York Giants great Doug Kotar (pictured), Perry Como, Bobby Vinton and Sarris Candy.

When it comes to Canon-McMillan or old Canonsburg High School, the first sport which comes to mind is wrestling.

The tradition is mind-boggling.

With 922 victories, Canon-McMillan has the most wins of any high school wrestling team in the PIAA. Waynesburg ranks second on the list and Trinity is fifth. Since the WPIAL started holding team championship competitions, the Big Macs won team titles in 1983, 1985, 1991, 1993 and 1995. The 1992 team won the PIAA team title and won the mythical national championship.

Individually, Canon-McMillan has produced 35 PIAA wrestling champions. None sport more impressive scholastic careers than Manuel Pihakis, who went 91-1-1 with three state titles from 1950-52 and George Custer. He finished with a 76-0 record and three state titles from 1938-40.

Canonsburg High School was also an early boys cross country power, winning the first five WPIAL championships (1935-39). Matt Gregory added to the tradition this fall when he won the WPIAL individual championship.

Back in 1935 and 1936, Canonsburg won WPIAL baseball championships. In 2008, the Big Macs became the second Washington County team to win a state championship when it cruised to the Class AAAA titles.

The boys track team won the WPIAL Class AAA title in 2008.

Cecil Township won the 1935 WPIAL boys basketball title.

And, in 1950, Canonsburg High split the WPIAL Class AA football title with New Brighton.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Picking the winners, WPIAL quarterfinals

Last week, I went 26-6 (81.2 percent) in the WPIAL first round playoff games. I incorrectly picked Canon-McMillan, Trinity, Keystone Oaks, Sto-Rox, Beth-Center and Serra Catholic.

Time for the quarterfinals selections.

Class AAAA
Gateway over Shaler
Penn Hills over North Hills
Bethel Park over North Allegheny
McKeesport over Central Catholic

Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over Hopewell
New Castle over Indiana
Highlands over Montour
Blackhawk over Mars

Class AA
Beaver Falls over Ford City
Jeannette over Beaver
Greensburg Central over Aliquippa
Shady Side Academy over Center

Class A
Clairton over Monessen
Rochester over Western Beaver
North Catholic over Avonworth
Monaca over South Side Beaver

WPIAL 4,000-yard club

Over the years, the Observer-Reporter did its best to keep up with the WPIAL 4,000-yard club. With the recent influx of additions, it became difficult to maintain. Thanks to Post-Gazette staff writer Mike White, we were able to update the list.

With the local season over, it seemed like a good time to take a glance.


Name, School Year Att Yards Avg
Mike Vernillo, Fort Cherry 1999 927 7,646 8.2
Matt Gavrish, Penn-Trafford 1997 962 6,512 6.8
Rodney Wilson, West Greene 1993 825 6,304 7.6
Jason Barr, McGuffey 1993 732 5,749 7.9
Chico Williams, Aliquippa 1992 660 5,417 8.2
Darrell Harding, Charleroi 1991 760 5,410 7.1
Max Suter, Greensburg C.C. 2006 628 5,252 8.4
Todd Harris, Duquesne 2001 795 5,224 6.6
Keith Miller, Beth Center 1994 669 5,121 7.7
Jason Murray, Belle Vernon 1996 572 5,046 8.8
Marcus Furman, Connellsville 2000 536 5,041 9.4
Derek Bochna, Mapletown 1989 674 4,793 7.1
Jon Green, Mon Valley Catholic 1981 569 4,709 8.3
Bill Bair, Mars 2007 516 4,702 9.1
Monte Ashby, East Allegheny 2008 608 4,699 7.7
Pudgy Abercrombie, Aliquippa 1984 735 4,603 6.3
Brian Chizmar, Swissvale 1985 754 4,544 6.0
Zaire Washington, Clairton 2007 586 4,539 7.7
Justin King, Gateway 2004 544 4,519 8.3
Brian Davis, Washington 1984 461 4,480 9.7
Blair Sweet, Wilmington 1988 653 4,451 6.8
Donte Valentino, California 2007 456 4,406 9.7
Essex Law, Rochester 1991 420 4,368 10.4
Jake Wickline, Riverside 2007 669 4,361 6.5
Lavar Arrington, North Hills 1996 711 4,357 6.1
Nick Kalcevic, Belle Vernon 2000 409 4,343 10.6
Warren Taylor, Western Beaver 2004 585 4,307 7.4
Ryan Mendel, Brentwood 2002 747 4,301 N/A 5.8
Trent Wissner, Blackhawk 1998 668 4,282 6.4
Lucas Heakins, Riverview 1998 668 4,276 6.4
Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette 2007 435 4,238 9.7
Brandon Williams, Valley 1997 414 4,214 10.2
Daine Williams, Beaver Falls 2003 560 4,210 7.5
Rocky Doman, Carmichaels 1999 649 4,145 6.4
Nathan Peters, California 1996 638 4,125 6.5
Todd DiBacco, Monaca 1999 572 4,079 7.1
Jerry Patterson, Chartiers-Houston 1969 458 4,075 8.9
John Fuhrer, Keystone Oaks 2007 759 4,038 5.3
Brad Tokar, Fort Cherry 1986 659 4,027 6.1
Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg 2000 615 4,010 6.5
Steve Paskorz, Hampton 2006 610 4,000 6.6

Not a finisher?

I was at the Peters Township girls PIAA Class AAA first round match Tuesday against DuBois and received what I thought was a funny quote from Lauren Ray.

After Ray said the team has a "lot of good finishers," I said she was one of them.

She responded by saying, "I wouldn't consider myself one of those."

I don't know if she was simply being modest or what, but here's why it was funny: she had just scored four goals - including a first-half hat trick - in a state playoff game against a district champion. And they were scored in various ways. She headed in a cross from Ali Forbrich, converted a penalty kick by placing the shot just past the goalkeeper's fingertips, shot with enough force from 18 yards that even though the goalie got both hands to the shot it still went in, and banged in a rebound off a Shelli Spamer free kick. She scored her hat trick in a span of five minutes.

That's what I call a finisher.

Ray is a senior defender, but coach Pat Vereb plays her at forward when it's necessary. If memory serves correctly, she started at forward for the Indians' first two playoff games and again Tuesday. Against Mt. Lebanon in the WPIAL final, she started at defender and was later moved up to forward (she scored then too). I didn't see their semifinal game so I don't know where she started, but in a 1-0 overtime game, she had to have seen time at forward.

"She's a very very special athlete," Vereb said. "We situationally use her as needed based on the opponent and the score. She's very hungry in front of the net, very busy, very determined. She scores a lot of blue-collar goals."

Ray may not think of herself as a goal scorer, but her coach certainly does.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Election Day...

I'm positive many readers went to the polls today to cast a vote for our next president. Here at the Varsity Letters, we don't care what your political affiliation is (unless you start to push politics on this board) or who you voted for.

What we want to know is, if you were the WPIAL Executive Director, what would you attempt to change?

For me, I would cut the football playoffs from 16 teams per classification to 12 teams and allow the top four seeds to receive a first-round bye and a quarterfinal home game.

I would also add the games non-revenue sports teams as well as boys and girls basketball teams lost.

In addition, the football championships would no longer be played at Heinz Field.

Monday, November 3, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

Thanks to Observer-Reporter staff writer F. Dale Lolley and reader mailman, we learned that former Peters Township football standout Doug Fife is alive, well and working a sweet gig in Ohio.

This week, the Varsity Letters issued an All Points Bulletin for former Burgettstown head football coach Rich Druga.

The Blue Devils' head coach for three years, Druga's last year at Burgettstown came in 2000. A year later, Burgettstown made the playoffs. Druga then landed the head coaching job at Ambridge High School where he spent two years. He also spent time on the staff at West Allegheny.

Anyone knowing Druga's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

O-R Football Rankings

As we head into the WPIAL quarterfinals, here are the Observer-Reporter's WPIAL football rankings:

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 10-0
2. Bethel Park 10-0
3. McKeesport 8-2
4. North Hills 9-1
5. Penn Hills 7-3

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 9-1
2. Highlands 10-0
3. Blackhawk 9-1
4. New Castle 7-3
5. Hopewell 8-2

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 10-0
2. Greensburg Central Catholic 10-0
3. Shady Side Academy 10-0
4. Jeannette 9-1
5. Ford City 9-1

Class A
1. Clairton 10-0
2. Monaca 9-1
3. Avonworth 10-0
4. Rochester 9-1
5. Western Beaver 7-3

Who's feeling worse this week - the Keystone Conference or the Centrury Conference? Both lost all four of its playoff games. That's hardly a surprise for the Keystone Conference, but the Century sent three teams to the playoffs with 8-1 records.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Super Soccer Saturday

Peters Township soccer, boys and girls, did something our playoff football teams failed to do. Win in the postseason.

The Peters Township girls advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA championship for the first time. The match, against Mt. Lebanon, was this afternoon/evening at Elizabeth Forward High School.

Mt. Lebanon jumped out to a three-goal lead and held on for a 3-2 victory. Mt. Lebanon won its sixth WPIAL soccer title.

The Peters Township boys are currently playing Fox Chapel in a rematch of 2003 title game. No score.

* Nick Wilcox draws a penalty in the box. Greg Weimer makes PK as PT takes a 1-0 lead at halftime.

PT up 2-0 after a Charlie Swisher goal. One minute remaining.

Friday night thoughts, final edition

Wow! What's up with football in Washington and Greene counties?

Shaler 16, Canon-McMillan 0.

Indiana 21, Trinity 6.

Blackhawk 35, Ringgold 7.

Beaver Falls 42, McGuffey 21.

North Catholic 14, Fort Cherry 7.

Rochester 48, Chartiers-Houston 22.

Monaca 56, Carmichaels 22.

Avonworth 35, California 8.

Western Beaver 38, Beth-Center 7.

That's 0-9. There's no sugarcoating. Not good.

The only area team to come away with a victory was Monessen, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a 24-7 victory over Serra Catholic. Add the 1-9 combined record with the mark of the past five years for local teams and it looks bad.

Local teams are now 16-61 in the postseason since 2003. That's a dismal .208 win percentage.

Is it safe to say area football has never been as down as it is right now? That's a tough question to answer but there are a lot of people who have been around the area for a long time that think so.

So, what's going on?

To be fair, a few teams didn't have much of a chance of advancing given their respective seeds. McGuffey would need the game of the ages to beat Beaver Falls. California, Chartiers-Houston, Carmichaels and Ringgold would have also needed a little Halloween hocus pocus to prevail.

Injuries also hurt a few teams. Canon-McMillan lost Mike Hull, Chad Hagan, Steve Roach and Butchie Cumpston during its loss to Shaler. Still, for a school of C-M's size, capable replacements are waiting to play.

"The bottom line is, no matter what you do schematically in football, you have to block and tackle. We did neither of those. We don't want to blame anything on injuries because we had veteran guys out there who didn't block and veteran guys who got run right through. That shouldn't have happened."

That's what Big Macs coach Guy Montecalvo told Observer-Reporter sports editor Chris Dugan following the game. Montecalvo could not be more correct. Not having Hull hurts, not blocking hurts more.

Injuries affect smaller schools more than bigger ones.

Beth-Center has played without sophomore fullback/linebacker Jeff Tarley for a couple weeks. Tarley is arguably the Bulldogs best player when healthy and his presence would have made a difference for Beth-Center. But can one player can't make up a 31-point margin?

"We got beat by a better team," said Beth-Center head coach Ed Woods following the game. "Plain and simple, they were a better team. No excuses, they just lined up and beat us. We had a very good season though. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We are a very young team and we will get right to work for next season"

Couldn't agree with Woods more. Area teams have nothing to be ashamed of, especially if they played to full effort. Still, I'm guessing a lot of local players are a little salty today.

I covered the Trinity at Indiana game and the Hillers did some things very well. Quarterback Andrew Steratore showed he can make difficult throws, while receivers Joe Havrilak and Alex Frey did their best to make plays. Trinity's troubles were key errors at the wrong times and the offensive line's inability to block well on the run. Trinity had a significant size advantage up front but Indiana clearly won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.

I can think of at least two screen passes that went for sizable gains which could have been touchdowns if the players downfield would have blocked.

So, the forum is over to our readers. What did you see last night? Why did the two counties not pick up one victory? What is wrong with local football?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Games of the Week, First round

The WPIAL football playoffs is upon us and, for many teams in Washington and Greene counties, it means the season is usually one game from completion.

Since 2003, area teams are 16-52 in the WPIAL playoffs, a .235 win percentage. Only Beth-Center and Monessen have won three postseason games during that span.

Will 2008 everse the trend? Nine area teams qualified for the WPIAL playoffs. Canon-McMillan, Beth-Center and Fort Cherry are playing at home.

Here are the games the Varsity Letters wants to see:

1. Western Beaver at Beth-Center
Western Beaver, the No. 12 seed, beat Springdale and Monaca earlier in the year. Those are two of the top six seeds in the Class A bracket. The Golden Beavers, much like Beth-Center, likes to spread the carries around the backfield.

The Bulldogs have won eight straight in convincing fashion and playing at home will be a tremendous advantage. Josh Lockett has rushed for 1,088 yards and scored 19 touchdowns, much of it coming after B-C lost sophomore fullback Jeff Tarley to injury.

2. Shaler at Canon-McMillan
Shaler has been steady throughout the year but does not own an impressive victory. Canon-McMillan is much improved over last year and needs a playoff victory to prove it.

3. North Catholic at Fort Cherry
North Catholic's defense, a unit with three shutouts in the last four games, faces a Fort Cherry offense which has put up 40 points or more in a game four times this season. The Rangers offense has rolled even without running back Nate Crossey. Derric Stankus has scored 14 touchdowns.

In its two biggest wins – Serra Catholic and Chartiers-Houston – Fort Cherry made several special teams plays to key the victory.

4. Trinity at Indiana
How often can Trinity be called the established program in a playoff matchup? This is one occasion where it is true. If the offensively challenged Hillers can continue to create points and turnovers with its defense, don't be surprised if they head to the quarterfinals.

Picking the winners, first round

Here's how I see the first round of the WPIAL football playoffs shaking down:

Class AAAA
Gateway over Mt. Lebanon, Canon-McMillan over Shaler, North Hills over Fox Chapel, Penn Hills over Pine-Richland, Bethel Park over Hempfield, North Allegheny over Woodland Hills, McKeesport over Upper St. Clair, Central Catholic over Penn-Trafford

Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over Uniontown, Hopewell over Greensburg-Salem, New Castle over Franklin Regional, Trinity over Indiana, Highlands over Laurel Highlands, Montour over Yough, Blackhawk over Ringgold, Mars over Chartiers Valley

Class AA
Beaver Falls over McGuffey, Keystone Oaks over Ford City, Jeannette over Valley, Sto-Rox over Beaver, Greensburg Central over Freeport, Aliquippa over East Allegheny, Shady Side Academy over Bishop Canevin, Center over Seton-La Salle

Class A
Clairton over Brentwood, Serra Catholic over Monessen, Rochester over Chartiers-Houston, Beth-Center over Western Beaver, Avonworth over California, North Catholic over Fort Cherry, Monaca over Carmichaels, Springdale over S.S. Beaver

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters is issuing an All Points Bulletin for former Peters Township football standout Doug Fife.

An all-conference player during his days at Peters Township, Fife goes down as one of the better high school tight ends from Washington County the past 15 years. During his senior year, the 6-5 pass catcher and favorite target of quarterback Jim Gallagher accepted a scholarship offer from Akron.

According to scout.com, Fife spent four years (2004-07) playing at Akron. A thorough Internet search, failed to uncover any statistical information from his collegiate career.

Anyone with information on Fife's whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Monday, October 27, 2008

WPIAL football playoff pairings

All first round games are Friday, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m.

Class AAAA
No. 16 Mt. Lebanon (2-7) at No. 1 Gateway (9-0)
No. 9 Shaler (7-2) at No. 8 Canon-McMillan (6-3)
No. 13 Fox Chapel (4-5) at No. 4 North Hills (8-1)
No. 12 Pine-Richland (4-5) at No. 5 Penn Hills (6-3)
No. 15 Hempfield (4-5) at No. 2 Bethel Park (9-0)
No. 10 Woodland Hills (4-5) at No. 7 North Allegheny (5-4)
No. 14 Upper St. Clair (6-3) at No. 3 McKeesport (7-2)
No. 11 Penn-Trafford (4-5) vs. No. 6 Central Catholic (7-2) at Fox Chapel

Class AAA
No. 16 Uniontown (6-3) at No. 1 Thomas Jefferson (8-1)
No. 9 Hopewell (7-2) at No. 8 Greensburg-Salem (5-4)
No. 13 Franklin Regional (5-4) at No. 4 New Castle (6-3)
No. 12 Trinity (5-4) at No. 5 Indiana (7-2)
No. 15 Laurel Highlands (4-5) at No. 2 Highlands (9-0)
No. 10 Montour (5-4) at No. 7 Yough (5-4)
No. 14 Ringgold (6-3) at No. 3 Blackhawk (8-1)
No. 11 Mars (6-3) at No. 6 Chartiers Valley (7-2)

Class AA
No. 16 McGuffey (6-3) at No. 1 Beaver Falls (9-0)
No. 9 Keystone Oaks (8-1) at No. 8 Ford City (8-1)
No. 13 Valley (7-2) at No. 4 Jeannette (8-1)
No. 12 Beaver (7-2) at No. 5 Sto-Rox (8-1)
No. 15 Freeport (6-3) at No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic (9-0)
No. 10 East Allegheny (7-2) at No. 7 Aliquippa (7-2)
No. 14 Bishop Canevin (5-4) at No. 3 Shady Side Academy (9-0)
No. 11 Center (7-2) vs. No. 6 Seton-La Salle (8-1) at Baldwin

Class A
No. 16 Brentwood (4-5) at No. 1 Clairton (9-0)
No. 9 Serra Catholic (7-2) at No. 8 Monessen (6-3)
No. 13 Chartiers-Houston (6-3) at No. 4 Rochester (8-1)
No. 12 Western Beaver (6-3) at No. 5 Beth-Center (8-1)
No. 15 California (4-5) at No. 2 Avonworth (9-0)
No. 10 North Catholic (7-2) at No. 7 Fort Cherry (8-1)
No. 14 Carmichaels (5-4) at No. 3 Monaca (8-1)
No. 11 South Side Beaver (6-3) at No. 6 Springdale (6-3)

Seedings projections

The WPIAL football playoff pairings meeting will be held later tonight. Until then, check out one person's guess at the seedings.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 9-0, 2. Bethel Park 9-0, 3. McKeesport 7-2, 4. North Hills 8-1, 5. Penn Hills 6-3, 6. Central Catholic 7-2, 7. Canon-McMillan 6-3, 8. North Allegheny 5-4

9. Upper St. Clair 6-3, 10. Shaler 7-2, 11. Penn-Trafford 4-5, 12. Pine-Richland 4-5, 13. Woodland Hills 4-5, 14. Fox Chapel 4-5, 15. Hempfield 4-5, 16. Mt. Lebanon 2-7

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 8-1, 2. Highlands 9-0, 3. Blackhawk 8-1, 4. New Castle 6-3, 5. Chartiers Valley 7-2, 6. Indiana 7-2, 7. Yough 5-4, 8. Greensburg-Salem 5-4

9. Hopewell 7-2, 10. Mars 6-3, 11. Trinity 5-4, 12. Montour 5-4, 13. Ringgold 6-3, 14. Franklin Regional 5-4, 15. Laurel Highlands 4-5, 16.Uniontown 6-3

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 9-0, 2. Greensburg C.C. 9-0, 3. Shady Side Academy 9-0, 4. Jeannette 8-1, 5. Sto-Rox 8-1, 6. Aliquippa 7-2, 7. Ford City 8-1, 8. Seton-La Salle 8-1

9. East Allegheny 6-3, 10. Keystone Oaks 8-1, 11. Valley 7-2, 12. Center 7-2, 13. Beaver 7-2, 14. McGuffey 6-3, 15. Freeport 6-3, 16. Bishop Canevin 5-4

Class A
1. Clairton 9-0, 2. Monaca 8-1, 3. Avonworth 9-0, 4. Rochester 8-1, 5. Fort Cherry 8-1, 6. Beth-Center 8-1, 7. Springdale 6-3, 8. Monessen 6-3

9. North Catholic 7-2, 10. Serra Catholic 6-3, 11. Western Beaver 6-3, 12. South Side Beaver 6-3, 13. Chartiers-Houston 6-3, 14. Carmichaels 5-4, 15. Brentwood 4-5, 16. California 4-5

Sunday, October 26, 2008

O-R Football Rankings

Following a tumultuous weekend, the WPIAL football rankings in Class AA and Class A take on a different look.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 9-0
2. Bethel Park 9-0
3. McKeesport 7-2
4. North Hills 8-1
5. Penn Hills 6-3

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 8-1
2. Highlands 9-0
3. Blackhawk 8-1
4. New Castle 6-3
5. Hopewell 7-2

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 9-0
2. Greensburg Central Catholic 9-0
3. Shady Side Academy 9-0
4. Sto-Rox 8-1
5. Jeannette 8-1

Class A
1. Clairton 9-0
2. Monaca 8-1
3. Avonworth 9-0
4. Rochester 8-1
5. Beth-Center 8-1

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Endres update

Trinity High School graduate Cody Endres made the start at quarterback today for Connecticut and helped the Huskies to a 40-16 win over Cincinnati in the Big East Conference.

Endres, a redshirt freshman, made his first start and became the first quarterback from Washington County to start a college football game in one of the six BCS conferences since Ringgold grad Scott Zolak played at Maryland.

Endres finished 18-of-42 for 196 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions as the Huskies improved to 6-2.

Friday night thoughts, Week 9

Looks like the Monessen defense, blessed with a strong secondary, is ready for postseason play.

A week after shutting out Carmichaels - no small feat since the return of Joby Lapkowicz - and finishing with nine sacks, the Greyhounds sacked California quarterback D.J. Martinak 11 times and posted another shutout.

As the second-place team in the Tri-County South, Monessen is likely to draw the best third-place team in Class A as it's first-round opponent in the playoffs. Now, it sure seems like the Greyhounds are more prepared for better competition than they were to open the year.

** At times this year, Trinity has drawn criticism from Hillers fans questioning the offense to outsiders calling them pushovers. Say what you want, but Trinity coach Ed Dalton has accomplished the unthinkable - Trinity is a perennial playoff team.

The Hillers' 14-7 win at Ringgold Friday night continues a trend. Trinity wins regular season games when it has to win them. The Hillers defense will cause problems in the postseason. The offense will determine if Trinity can advance.

** Fort Cherry defeated Chartiers-Houston, 14-6, to clinch second place, and a home playoff game for the second straight year, in the Black Hills Conference but the Bucs got the better of play in the final three quarters.

It goes to show, it's not how many chances you get, it's what you do with them. Fort Cherry made the most of its early chances thanks to some great throws by quarterback David Phillips in the first quarter. Chartiers-Houston squandered a few opportunities and it cost them.

** Has anyone else noticed Beth-Center tailback Josh Lockett is tearing up defenses the last few weeks?

Even without Jeff Tarley, B-C's backfield is scary good.

** Not much Mike Hull, no problem for the Big Macs thanks to a breakout performance from Chad Hagan and another strong defensive effort.

If Canon-McMillan is to advance in the postseason, the vast improvement on defense will be the reason why.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Games of the Week, Week 9

Hard to believe, but the final Friday of the WPIAL regular season is upon us. Locally, most playoff spots are already secured. Trinity can clinch with a win at Ringgold and South Fayette can clinch with a win over Bishop Canevin and some help.

In most years, the final week of the regular season is home to rivalries. There are a couple tonight, but a few others - McGuffey/Washington, Canon-McMillan/Peters Township come to mind - don't look as promising as they did at the beginning of the season.

Here are the games the Varsity Letters wants to see tonight:

1. Trinity at Ringgold
Talk about a contrast in styles. Trinity plays smash-mouth football, while Ringgold can score points with its balanced attack. It's no secret the Hillers have struggled all year on offense but the defense and special teams are finding ways to score points and make big plays. In case anyone has forgotten, Trinity's defense - with Kenny Wilkins, Jack Jamerson and Kyle McWreath - is better than you remember.

Trinity's task will be stopping Ringgold's run game, led by senior Simon Bekavac. If the Hillers can do that, Rams quarterback Shane Mountain will try to win the game with his arm and a talented group of pass catchers.

Trinity is in with a win, while Ringgold can clinch third with a win. A loss puts the Rams in fourth place. The Hillers can make the postseason with a loss and a loss by Belle Vernon.

Very intriguing matchup in a conference where little separates the second-place team (injury-ravaged Chartiers Valley) from the seventh-place team (Elizabeth Forward).

2. Chartiers-Houston at Fort Cherry
This Class A Black Hills Conference contest is the weekend's top local rivalry game. These two teams do not like each other, at all.

The Bucs, who escaped with a one-point win over Bentworth last week, must find ways to get the passing game going. Brad Banas is six yards from 1,000 and will be the focal point of Fort Cherry's defensive game plan.

The Rangers have allowed 71 points the past two weeks - and won both games. Fort Cherry's pass defense appears suspect. Can Chartiers-Houston exploit it?

If so, expect another shootout as the Rangers are one of Class A's best offenses.

The Times at Avella

The New York Times pays Avella a visit.

Extra time

Some additional thoughts from the Peters Township girls/boys soccer doubleheader at Chartiers Valley Thursday night (probably mainly from the girls as I was writing during the boys):

**PT's girls roster says Shelli Spamer is just a sophomore. That means she's likely to improve her skills, and that means trouble - well, more trouble - for everyone in the WPIAL and the PIAA. She's an incredible player. She scored both goals for PT Tuesday on rocket shots and she was everywhere on the pitch Thursday. She took throw-ins from deep in the defending territory, deep in the attacking territory, goal kicks, free kicks, corner kicks, you name it. She played the full 110 minutes and scored in the penalty kick shootout, nearly firing the ball through the net. If the goalkeeper got a hand to it, I think she might have broken her wrist.

Coach Pat Vereb called her the premier ball-striker in the WPIAL and after watching some of the strikes she hit Thursday, it's hard to argue with him.

If Seneca Valley mustered any offense aside from one chance, it wouldn't have surprised me to see Spamer on the back line blocking a shot from going in. Oh, and she nearly scored on another free kick from 30 yards out. Instead, a great save by Seneca's Keara Lydon resulted in a corner kick, and Spamer's kick was headed in by Ali Forbrich to tie the match. Spamer nearly won the match in the first overtime when her shot from 45 yards just went a couple feet over the crossbar.

Again, only a sophomore.

**Speaking of offense, the PT girls dominated in terms of possession and shots their second-straight playoff game but managed just the one goal. By my count from Tuesday, PT held a 17-1 shots advantage (9-0 shots on goal) against Franklin Regional and, against Seneca Valley, the defending WPIAL champs, a 22-4 shot edge (11-2 shots on goal).

Despite so much possession and opportunities, PT has scored just three times. Now, most of the shots Thursday were right at the keeper but they had several nice chances. That means either PT's having trouble finishing or they're due for a breakout offensive game. With Spamer taking free and corner kicks, they're dangerous on set pieces.

**If they handed out the award in high school, Spamer probably would have won player of the match Thursday, but if she didn't, defender Hannah Weyrick would've. Weyrick, a senior, made a strong tackle two minutes after Seneca went ahead 1-0 that broke up a two-on-one play and almost surely would've resulted in a 2-0 score. She was hurt on the play and was on the sidelines for over 10 minutes, but didn't miss a beat when she returned.

Less than three minutes into the first overtime, the Raiders countered off a corner kick and got another 2-on-1, this one even more clear-cut. Weyrick blocked the intended pass which would've sent a Seneca player in alone on goalkeeper Megan Junker.

Apart from those two huge plays, Weyrick was part of the backline that held the Raiders to very few quality scoring chances in the match.

"I'm always confident with Hannah back there," Junker said after the game.

**The adage says in a shootout, you need just one save from your goalkeeper. Junker made one save (though a second was called back) and PT won the shootout. She didn't get many chances during the match to show how well she's recovered from her injury, but she read quite a few plays well and was aggressive in cutting off long passes before they could cause trouble.

**Peters Township's defense wasn't just Weyrick. Lauren Ray, Shannon O'Connor, Devon Burkholder, and, at various times, Christine Aaron and Karen Jackson also did excellent jobs (I may be missing one or two.) As did the midfielders (Dani's Hume and Castillo and of course Spamer).

The Raiders had just two offensive chances in the first half. On one, PT caught a break when the referee called for a foul - on PT. That set up a free kick which PT was able to defend easily, otherwise the play could have been a breakaway. The other was the goal PT allowed, which was a fine individual effort by Katie Kelly. Seneca Valley did better in the second half and it was much more even, but PT dominated overtime as well. A little luck helped PT. Apart from the 2-on-1 Weyrick broke up, the Raiders had just one chance in OT, and that was when a cross hit the crossbar.

**As for the boys, Thursday's match was far more to their liking. They were a little lucky against Central Catholic Tuesday to come away with a win, but that is what good teams do - find a way to win when not playing their best.

Coach Bobby Dyer took some of the blame after Tuesday by saying he as a coach failed to prepare the team properly for the game against the Vikings. I think he did an alright job for Thursday.

PT came out and pretty much dominated the entire game. Butler entered with a record of just 9-6-4 but the Golden Tornadoes earned an impressive 2-0 win at fifth-seeded Penn-Trafford. As Dyer said after Thursday's game, anyone can beat anyone, so they couldn't take Butler lightly.

And the Indians didn't. When Christian Brandstetter scored his first goal, you had the sense of, "okay, the floodgates are about to open." And you'd have been right. He scored again 10 minutes later, then capped his natural hat trick two minutes after that. Butler was completely overmatched.

**Goalkeeper Ryan Koepka made an outstanding leaping save to his right eight minutes into the second half when PT was up 4-0. If that ball goes in, then who knows, maybe that gives Butler life and starts a comeback attempt. Instead, Koepka's save kept them off the board. Granted, the Tornadoes scored on a penalty kick three minutes after, but there was hardly a cause for concern from the PT faithful.

"He doesn't see a lot of shots back there, but he has to be focused and he was," said Dyer.

**After that PK goal, however, the Indians responded and didn't give Butler a chance to come back, and the Wilcox boys hooked up for the game's sixth and final goal 10 minutes later. The game had essentially been over before that, but restoring the four-goal lead was a pretty nice response.

**Finally, a congratulations to the girls team for qualifying for the PIAA playoffs. The top five finishers in girls Class AAA advance, so in an ironic twist, Seneca Valley now has to root for PT to win the WPIAL. If the Indians do that, guess who they play in the first round of states? Right, Seneca Valley (who PT beat earlier in the season, 2-1).

As for the boys, the top two finishers in Class AAA advance, so PT needs one more win.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the clubhouse

The Varsity Letters spent the previous two days at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, aka the White Rose City, covering the PIAA Golf Championships.

Besides the weather being a bit nippy in the morning - Monday's tee times were pushed back two hours as frost blanketed the area - and overall length of each round - both lasted the better part of six hours, the area was well-represented on the medals stand.

Waynesburg senior Rachel Rohanna finished tied for third.

The Peters Township boys team placed second, only three points behind a talented Cathedral Prep (Erie).

Brittany Andrews, from McDonald, was part of Shady Side Academy's gold-medal winning girls team.

I followed the majority of both of Rohanna's rounds as she attempted to win her third state championship. On both days, Rohanna played in top-notch foursomes. Each made some magical shots on occasion. Afterward, even after Rohanna struggled during the second round, she took ample time to answer my lengthy list of questions with thought, analysis and some humor. The Ohio State women's golf team has a good recruit in Rohanna.

I also got a chance to catch a few holes of the Peters Township boys quest to become the first WPIAL team to win a state team title. (It should be noted the PIAA has only held the team competition for three years and this is the first year the WPIAL participated.)

The second-place finish was impressive enough, but it was nice to see how the Peters Township players support each other.

Head coach David Kuhn started his four seniors - Jon Ross, Corey Martinez, Chris Resnik and Geoffrey Locher - both days. Not only did each golf well, the majority of Peters Township's golf team, many parents and supporters were there in support. To watch guys not participating cheering for teammates like they were playing themselves speaks volumes for the type of student-athletes Kuhn has on his team.

Johnson arrested

For the second time in a little more than three years, surprising and disturbing news concerning a local sports figure hits the newspapers today.

By now, many likely know that Joe Johnson, the Avella boys basketball coach until Monday, was arrested on web child-probe charges.

Here's the story in Wednesday's O-R:
Read here.

Here's another story from Wednesday's O-R concerning a former colleague:
Read here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

O-R Football Rankings

Very little movement this week.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 8-0
2. Bethel Park 8-0
3. McKeesport 7-1
4. North Hills 7-1
5. Penn Hills 5-3

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 7-1
2. Highlands 8-0
3. Blackhawk 7-1
4. New Castle 5-3
5. Hopewell 6-2

Class AA
1. Jeannette 8-0
2. Beaver Falls 8-0
3. Keystone Oaks 8-0
4. Greensburg C.C. 8-0
5. Shady Side Academy 8-0

Class A
1. Clairton 8-0
2. Rochester 8-0
3. Avonworth 8-0
4. Beth-Center 7-1
5. Monaca 7-1

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday night thoughts, Week 8

I left last night's Canon-McMillan at Bethel Park game with a couple distinct impressions.

1. Bethel Park receiver John Schademan is a clutch, big-game performer. He's done it all year and he did it again last night.

2. The Black Hawks have nice offensive balance. They might be good enough to get to Heinz Field. We'll see.

3. Canon-McMillan is vastly improved on defense. The Big Macs took away Bethel Park's power running game and as Coach Guy Montecalvo said after the game, "Nobody has really run on us all year."

The defensive line played another great game. And it seemed linebacker Brad Strimel was in on every tackle. On one play, he picked up the Bethel Park ball carrier and tossed him to the turf like he weighed 30 pounds.

4. That said, C-M still has a propensity to yield the big play and it cost them against Bethel Park. Whether it's a misread or a blown coverage, seems that pass defense lets C-M down in big games. It's getting better, but it must get better in order to contend for a WPIAL championship.

5. C-M quarterback Steve Roach wasn't particularly accurate last night, but he made plays when needed. He had a couple big third down conversions and he looked like the fastest offensive player in the game.

** McGuffey clinched its first playoff berth since 1994 with last night's win over Waynesburg and South Allegheny's loss. The Varsity Letters said all year that the Highlanders were a tough, playoff-caliber squad.

Given how hard they played Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette, I doubt any conference champ wants to draw McGuffey in the first round.

** Any on else surprised to see the 14-0 win for Monessen over Carmichaels? The Varsity Letters expected a shootout.

** Fort Cherry coach Tim Garry told me earlier in the week he was very worried about how well Burgettstown's offense matched up against the Rangers' defense. The Blue Devils, behind freshman quarterback Dylan Bongiorni, can throw the ball. They did, but they also ran well.

Still, despite the 34-33 score, don't get down on the Rangers. Good teams find ways to win games like this.

And Burgettstown is a much better football team than it was a month ago.

** I'll say the same thing about Ringgold. The 7-3 win over West Mifflin doesn't look impressive, but it is a win and it guaranteed Ringgold a playoff berth with a winning record for the first time this decade.

In it's previous three playoff appearances, Ringgold had losing records.

** Remember last week when the Varsity Letters said to remember Charleroi freshman running back Quinten Briggs?

Well, he put up 267 yards and three touchdowns against Wash High Friday night.