Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kovak's Corner

As the mind wandered on a day off, I started thinking about the things that make covering high school football an often unusual and interesting experience. Throughout the years, I've been to nearly every venue imaginable. I've seen hundreds of marching bands (all of whom seem to play Styx at some point). I've tasted the wares of many local concession stand (had a tooth break in half on a "soft" pretzel before the start of last year's Bethel Park at Canon-Mac game). I've witness some good football. I've covered some incredible athletes. I've also seen my share of stinkers.

So, in an effort to break from the ordinary, I compiled a list of favorites, likes and dislikes about the local high school football scene.

Best aura: Wash High Stadium
Just an old-school stadium. Upon entering, it just feels like a place legends played. And so many have, from Brian Davis to Dan Mozes to Ted Vactor. Also, you have to respect a place that has fielded six WPIAL champions and the only PIAA football champion from Washington and Greene counties.

Best concessions: Beth-Center
Avella is noted for pepperoni rolls. South Side Beaver makes some great stuff as well, but nothing compares to the diverse and tasty menu offered at Beth-Center.

Favorite moment: Ringing the ball after a Charleroi home win
Nestled outside the end zone on the way to the home locker room, a long-standing bell is rung every time the Cougars win at home. Think about the all-time greats who rang that bell.

Wildest moment: Haven't covered the Monessen at Charleroi game in some time (too bad the game couldn't happen this year) but I can remember Monessen fans situating a giant "M" on the hillside along the Westmoreland County side on the Mon River. The Greyhounds didn't need any water, they just let the sign burn.

Best facility: South Fayette. The Lions home field is not only the best WPIAL facility I've covered a game from, it's nicer than most small college stadiums in the area. The WPIAL should start hosting events there.

Scariest steps: Some stadiums are rickety, some are in dire need of repair, but it takes a special person to climb the steps which lead to the press box at Ringgold's Joe Montana Stadium. Word to the wise, in case of an ice storm, stay in the stands.

Loudest students: Canon-McMillan, hands down.

Oddest site: On a cool fall Friday night, nothing says eerie like playing a Tri-County South Conference game at Jefferson-Morgan's Parker Field. A cemetery is situation beside the field. Across the street is one of the more high-pressure car washes money can buy. J-M also wins the prize for best press box food. Nothing like the annual prime rib night in Jefferson.

Favorite entrance: Fort Cherry walking down the hill to Jim Garry Stadium.

Most imposing sign: If Ringgold isn't motivated with the giant Joe Montana Stadium sign lingering between the visitor's sideline and the baseball field, I can't imagine what the Rams would need for motivation.

Readers, the Varsity Letters wants to know what makes your favorite place to watch high school football unique.


Anonymous said...

I could go a whole game just watching the canon mac "mac pac" and i would be completely entertained. They are very unique. I was laughing when you mentioned that, seriously they crack me up!

And any place with a good concession stand is where I'd like to be (:

Anonymous said...

The "Ram Pound" could give the "mac pac" a run for there money!

Anonymous said...

they arent called the mac pac, they are called the canon crazies

Moe said...

I have to agree. I went to the USC vs. C-M game last Friday. That was the first time I went to a game in 2 years because my son no longer plays football. He is now a 'Canon Crazy' with most of the other retired players. As I approached the gates I looked over and watched my son, along with about 15 other students painting up. The spelled out 'We Believe' on their chests. They cheered the entire game and did some real crazy things. Hence the name. Mr. Helinski motivated them by asking them to show their pride and throwing up his arms for more. One thing I can definitely say for C-M is they have a lot of pride. The band danced and cheered and were so into the game. It wasn't like that when I went to school there. The thing that got my attention most, besides the fireworks each time they scored and at the end of the game, was the singing of the alma mater before the game and then all the students, players, band members and teachers on the field in a circle singing it at the end of the game. Each one of those students knew their alma mater word for word and sang it with pride. Now that's school spirit! Mike you say C-M is the loudest, and I'm taking that as a compliment, but it's more like they have the most school spirit, hands down.

Anonymous said...

The crazies are known for some wild stuff. When I was a student through 05 we got kicked out of several basketball games for cheering too loud. I recall one very cold night, it was CM @ USC when both teams were undefeated in 2003. The crazies all dressed up as the school mascot in kilts. One student actually ended up with pneumonia for refusal to put on a jacket. That's dedication I'd like to see any student section rival.

Moe said...

I made all the boys kilts for the first home game this year. Some of them wore them last week too. A couple of weeks ago, it was cold and raining out so they decided to sport blue n gold swim wear and of course shirtless.

Anonymous said...

The Canon Crazies are a huge part of the landscape of CM sports however last year
during basketball season, even the crazies stepped up to a new level. The state playoff game against CC at CV was the most remarkable event I’ve ever seen .
CM played the second game of a double hitter on that memorable evening, and seconds before the first game was completed, the CM Crazies literally took over the entire stands in one choreographed movement. Forcing other CM fans who came ½ prior to the schedule start, to venture to the other side of the gym. Still an amazing sight and to view the reaction of the CM coaches & players as they entered the gym from the opposite side
Was truly Kodak moment that will be etched my mind forever. GO MACS!!!!!

Ps…never thought I would say this..GL USC this weekend!!!!

VCTMbrian said...

Anon, I recall that USC game from '03. It was COLD! I remember Zach Bowman turning purple. The game was at USC and CM's bleachers were not only just as packed as the USC side, but they were packed and hour before kickoff. That year was something special, I'll never forget that CM vs Mckeesport double overtime thriller. Andronas i believe recovered a fumble and then i think it was Steele who scored the winner. The crowd that night was absolutely insane.
Basketball games at CM are something else. Up until this year CM had always been competitive but never able to get over the hump, but that never stopped the students and fans from supporting their team. I remember a game against USC when they had Sean Lee and were ranked #1 in the Wpial. The game went into double overtime before USC could win it,(CM actually should have one in the first ot) but a large reason for this was the crowds influence. A home game against Moon a few years back was the same way. The thundersticks were out for that one and despite the roads being in horrible conditions, CM's fans packed the gym. And as mentioned before, the playoff games last year were absolutely PACKED.

Anonymous said...

Since we are on the subject of Student Sections, I think these guys put on a pretty good show for Class A girls basketball...

J.D. Billy said...

Moon remembers the crazies all too well from last basketball season hence all the complaints lol... loved it!

Chris Dugan said...

Mike, I thought I'd pipe in on this subject.

My favorite place for a game is Parker Field in Jefferson. Great atmosphere. There is very little room between the bench areas and stands. The fans seem to be right on top of the field. That's old-school football. Some of these stadiums with artificial turf and running tracks (these places all look the same) lose the atmosphere that Parker Field maintains.

While on the subject of old school, the new fieldhouse at Parker Field is nice, but I miss the old schoolhouse that used to be used for locker rooms. That was one of the few unique things about high school football in our area.

One more thing about Parker Field: It has the largest crown (especially on the side in front of the Jefferson-Morgan bench) of any field in the area, and possibly the entire WPIAL. Stand on the J-M sideline and all you see of the people on the opposite sideline are necks and heads.

Here's a question for you Mike (or your loyal blog readers):

1. With Charleroi not playing Monessen this year, and Trinity and Wash High not playing for many years, what is the two-county area's best remaining football rivalry?

VCTMbrian said...


I think one of them HAS to be CM vs Trinity. CM and PT feud a bit too but not like trinity....

Anonymous said...

haha Last year trinity painted CM's bell, port-a-potty, and bell. We were a bit concerned about trinity after we found that they graffitied (spelling error?) our portajon (spelling error?) sorry if I spelled things wrong I know everyone gets mad when someone spells wrong on here! Anyways, i would agree that trinity and CM are huge rivals!!

Too bad for trinity we beat them this year already (: GO MACS!

and if anyone is a trinity fan please don't leave any mean comments I'm not trying to like "diss" you.

mike_kovak said...

C-M and Trinity wasn't much of a rivalry before Coach Montecalvo went to C-M.

It may be the area's marquee early-season game, but I don't count it as the best rivalry.

Excluding Wash High-Trinity and Charleroi-Monessen, the most spirited games I have covered at Beth-Center versus California, Fort Cherry versus Chartiers-Houston and Carmichaels versus Jefferson-Morgan.

I'm leaning toward the Beth-Center/California game as the best rivalry of those three.

VCTMbrian said...

Mike, i must disagree with you there. CM vs Trinity is and has been a big deal in EVERY sport. Sure the addition of Coach Montecalvo gave the rivalry publicity, but him coming to CM sure didn't start it.

R. Keith Taylor said...

Ringgold vs. Belle Vernon has turned into a pretty nice rivalry game.

mike_kovak said...

I agree that Trinity and C-M, when it comes to football and on occasion boys basketball, is a high-rofile game. They have generated more college football players the past few years than other Washington County schools.

But we're talking rivalries, not high-profile non-conference games. In the WPIAL, rivalries mean you must add tradition to the equation. And, no offense, but there isn't much football tradition at Trinity or C-M. Both have field a few nice teams this decade. After that, you have to go back decades to find great teams from those schools.

Also, I get the feeling I'm one of the few people on this board who watches a rotating schedule of teams throughout the region. I've seen the crowds for Beth-Center and California, Jefferson-Morgan and Carmichaels.

I was at an absolutely packed house last night for the Clairton vs. Chartiers-Houston contest.

Two years ago, the B-C/California crowd was the second largest regular season crowd I've seen for a high school game (with the C-M at USC game which was recently discussed on a previous post being the largest).

So, as rivalries go, Trinity and C-M is turning into a good one but it has years to go to be considered great.

As Chris Dugan pointed out, the best local rivalries are Charleroi-Monessen and Trinity-Wash High. It's too bad neither were played this year.

mike_kovak said...

And, R. Keith, you are correct.

Ringgold vs. Belle Vernon is a top-notch rivalry that dates back to the 1970s, when both schools churned out ridiculous amounts of talent. I wasn't aware of the tradition between the two until this summer, when the Big Seven coaches gathered for the preseason press conference.

Anonymous said...

Eric Givens is the best fan of all time... Ultimate super fan...