Sunday, August 10, 2008
The preseason Fab Five
Practice for fall sports begins Monday. Athletes from cross country to girls volleyball begin official preparation for the 2008 season. Around these parts, despite the success of boys and girls golf, the sport dominating our thoughts is football.
With football in mind, here are five local teams the Varsity Letters expects strong, or at least interesting, seasons from in 2008:
The Big Macs always have speed at the skill positions. That hasn't exactly added up to a lot of wins in recent years. Last year, with a strong senior class and excellent skill players, C-M only won four games. Expect the win total to climb to the six or seven range this year as juniors Mike Hull and Chad Hagan take over. Hull may be the better football player but don't be surprised if Hagan, who did not play his sophomore season, ends up the better college prospect.
The Rangers started 1-3 a year ago but won their final five to finish second in the Class A Black Hills Conference. Clairton was added to the conference during realignment and, coupled with state runner-up Serra, gives the Black Hills two powerhouse. Don't be surprised if Fort Cherry, behind seniors David Phillips, Nate Crossey (pictured) and Josh Snatchko, duplicate its finish. The Rangers open with three road games. If they win all three, it could be another fine season.
The Greyhounds were 11-0 before running into Serra in the WPIAL Class A semis. This year figured to be a big year with juniors Sheldon Miller, possibly the best player in Class A, and David Jeffries along with sophomore Terrance Stepoli back and better. Word is a few defections could hurt Monessen's chances to challenge for a WPIAL title, but the Greyhounds are still the team to beat in the Tri-County South.
Hillers coach Ed Dalton said defending state champs Thomas Jefferson may be better this year. If so, that's bad news for the Hillers and Chartiers Valley, which are TJ's top contenders in the Class AAA Big Seven. Trinity must revamp its offense but seven starters, including Jack Jamerson, are back on defense. Add junior Ken Wilkens to the mix and Trinity's defense should improve.
The Prexies can lay claim to a dubious distinction the past two years – best Class AA team not to make the WPIAL playoffs. This year, Class AA pared down to four conferences from five, which means the top four teams make the playoffs. That's significant. In previous years, only three teams from the five Class AA conferences qualified along with one wild card. With defending state champ Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic and Mt. Pleasant, the Interstate Conference will be rugged but Wash High should be quipped for a postseason berth.