Saturday, January 31, 2009

Football carousel

Heading into February, two of Washington County's more tradition-rich athletic programs are searching for football coaches, while a third has yet to full its position.

With Jeff Petrucci's retirement after two years as head football coach at Ringgold, the Rams are searching for another coach. Over the past 11 years, Ringgold has been coached by Chuck Colborn, Scott Venick, Jeff Matty, Russ Moore, Steve Campos and Petrucci. One challenge for Ringgold athletic director Lloyd Price will be finding a coach who not only is looking to stay but one who can work at the school.

Washington High School is searching for Bill Britton's replacement and either it's a very secret search or there has not been much movement. I've asked several people and none claim to have an idea of who may become the Prexies' next football coach.

While Ringgold and Washington are two traditional programs, California High School is a regular in the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Joe Kuhns, who never missed the postseason as the Trojans' coach, filled the opening at Waynesburg Central, where he faces the task of rebuilding the Raiders back to what they were during the days of Moore and Dave Serra. Word is Colborn - an assistant coach at Beth-Center the past two years - is a possible hire but nothing has been made official.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Local basketball rankings

The Varsity Letters offers a shoutout to Coach Gary Goga for the plug in today's P-G.

1. Peters Township (AAAA) 16-1
2. Washington (AA) 17-2
3. South Fayette (AA) 16-3
4. Burgettstown (AA) 11-7
5. Monessen (AA) 8-8

1. Peters Township (AAAA) 10-8
2. South Fayette (AA) 14-4
3. Washington (AA) 15-4
4. Fort Cherry (A) 15-3
5. Monessen (A) 15-5

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Separated at birth

Observer-Reporter sports editor Chris Dugan relayed some information to me when I got into the office this afternoon that came courtesy of Valley Independent sports editor Brian Herman.

Dugan and Herman covered Wednesday night's IUP-Cal U men's/women's doubleheader. According to Herman, I look a little like Joe Berenato, one of Cal U's men's players. Hey, as I motor past 34, I'll take a comparison to a college sophomore anyday.

I know, I know. My photo is way on the dorky side but it's the only one I could find. Not into posting my pics on the Internet.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Local scoring leaders

With a little more than a week remaining in the regular season, the boys and girls scoring leaders are taking shape. The following are from teams within the Observer-Reporter coverage area.

Through Jan. 25
Player, Team Games Points Ave.
Zach Bellhy, Fort Cherry 16 384 24.0
Nick Wilcox, Peters Twp. 16 345 21.6
Cole Heckman, Avella 16 336 21.0
Nick Bryant, Washington 16 268 16.8
Eli Obade, Charleroi 15 252 16.8
Derek McIlvaine, Char-Houston 18 289 16.1
Kevin Bielecki, Burgettstown 18 282 15.7
Cody Turner, Fort Cherry 16 240 15.0
Craig Wolcott, Peters Twp. 16 240 15.0
Dave Bassi, Ringgold 17 253 14.9
Levi Whited, Beth-Center 15 222 14.8
Josh Valentic, Trinity 16 228 14.3
Josh Green, Carmichaels 14 197 14.1
Ian McCombs, Carmichaels 14 194 13.9
Mike Lamberti, S. Fayette 18 247 13.7
Troy Wilson, Washington 16 218 13.6
Kiante Davis, Canon-Mac 17 228 13.4
Jarrett Porterfield, Mapletown 13 171 13.2
Josh Carlisle, Avella 16 207 12.9
Nate Bellhy, Fort Cherry 16 206 12.9
Chad Hagan, Canon-Mac 17 213 12.5
Terrance Stepoli, Monessen 13 163 12.5
Pat Zedreck, S. Fayette 18 215 11.9
Mike Burroughs, S. Fayette 18 208 11.6
Kurt Bonnet, Canon-Mac 17 198 11.6
Andrew Hoye, Bentworth 13 148 11.4
Robert Anderson, Washington 16 180 11.3
Mark Jones, Char-Houston 18 202 11.2
Jason Jansante, Bentworth 14 154 11.0

Through Jan. 25
Player, Team Games Points Ave.
Jocelyn Floyd, Washington 17 350 20.6
Emily Correal, Peters Twp. 16 329 20.6
Samone Stepoli, Monessen 18 307 17.1
Jordan Duke, Carmichaels 16 271 16.9
Emily Schartner, Ringgold 16 267 16.7
Marissa Miles, Fort Cherry 16 263 16.4
Megan Sowers, Beth-Center 13 205 15.8
Kaitlyn Novak, Mapletown 14 200 14.3
Jessica Diggs, Monessen 15 212 14.1
Aly Lee, Charleroi 16 224 14.0
Marissa Pattison, McGuffey 16 214 13.4
Morgan Iacovino, Charleroi 16 203 12.7
Samantha Ritzer, Bentworth 16 203 12.7
Kristina Wagner, California 11 130 11.8
Anastasia Barr, Avella 16 186 11.6
Katie Rosemeier, C-H 17 195 11.5
Elisa Schober, McGuffey 16 183 11.4
Geena Shrader, Monessen 15 170 11.3
Amanda Kennedy, Bentworth 15 169 11.3
Tessa Bonacci, Burg. 17 188 11.1

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barna hired, then fired

Covered the Trinity at Thomas Jefferson boys basketball game last Tuesday along with colleague Josh Yohe of the McKeesport Daily News. During the game, Yohe relayed an interesting story involving Ken Barna, often a popular topic of conversation on this site and the third-base coach of Canon-McMillan's 2008 PIAA Class AAAA championship team.

Yohe was kind enough to share recent stories he wrote for the Daily News. The following are excerpts from the story of Barna being hired as head baseball coach at Thomas Jefferson High School:


Daily News Staff Writer

Ken Barna is Daily News League royalty, the godfather of modern era

He has been a successful Class A minor league manager, became an
immediate hit while guiding a team in the Federation League, enjoyed
terrific stints as manager at numerous colleges and recently served as
manager Steve Bucci's right hand man during Canon-McMillan's run to the
2008 PIAA championship.

Now Barna, 55, has come upon his next baseball challenge.

Barna, who has known nothing but success during a lifetime of baseball,
is the new head coach at Thomas Jefferson.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I've wanted to be a head coach
for a while and I've reached the time in my life where my schedule
allows me to do it. It's a great situation for me."
Time to fast-forward a few paragraphs.

Barna hasn't lost his sense of humor over the years. He once was
involved in a public feud with former DNL manager Phil Martell.

According to Barna, Martell recently suggested some assistant coaches
for the TJ staff.

"But I don't think these guys Phil recommended would pass the criminal
background check," Barna said. "I think I'll pick the guys on my own."

Barna is excited about his opportunity to lead the Jaguars. He has been
involved with Bucci for many years, first at South Park and then at

Although the coaches remain close, Barna has been looking for a chance
to be the man in charge. He isn't appreciative of certain schools who
he believes have scorned him.

"(South Park athletic director) Bill Dabaldo is an (expletive)," Barna
said. "There are plenty of other athletic directors who I don't think
much of. I've dealt with a lot of schools over the years, places like
Elizabeth Forward, Yough, South Park. I don't want anything to do with
those people. Having a chance to work with (Thomas Jefferson AD) Bill
Cherpak will be great. He's a great football coach and a great athletic
director. I look forward to working with him."

Not surprisingly, Barna's stint as TJ baseball coach was short-lived.

Daily News Staff Writer
Ken Barna had big plans for the Thomas Jefferson baseball team.
Only three weeks after being named TJ’s new coach, however, Barna’s
stint has come to an abrupt end.
Barna’s comments in the Dec. 18 edition of The Daily News were not well
received by numerous members of the Thomas Jefferson administration -
to say nothing of Phil Martell and members of the Elizabeth Forward,
Yough and South Park school districts - and he has been dismissed from
the position.
“He’s gone,” Thomas Jefferson athletic director Bill Cherpak said.
TJ has once again opened its baseball coaching job and is currently
conducting a search through next Wednesday.
Cherpak said the school would like to act quickly in naming a coach
because the season starts in less than three months.
“It’s not fair to the kids to not have a coach right now so we’re going
to try and get it done pretty fast,” he said.
Multiple sources close to the situation believe comments Barna made
about Martell, his longtime nemesis, are most responsible for TJ’s
decision to look for a new coach.
Barna said last month that Martell had made some recommendations for
his new coaching staff at TJ.
“But I don’t think these guys Phil recommended would pass the criminal
backround check,” Barna said at the time. “I think I’ll pick guys on my
Barna made the comment in a light-hearted fashion and presumably was
looking for a laugh. Martell, though, was not amused and rumors have
been circulating for weeks that he is considering taking legal action
because of the remark.
The history between Barna and Martell is not pretty.
In 2004, Barna told The Daily News that, while he was still coaching in
the Daily News League, he once left Martell, a pitcher having a
horrible day, in a game for an excessive amount of time.
“I left him in the game until he cried,” Barna said in 2004.
Barna also made comments about Elizabeth Forward and Yough’s athletic
departments and used a derogatory word to describle South Park AD Bill
Although it isn’t believed Cherpak was directly responisble for Barna’s
firing, he enjoys a friendly relationship with EF AD Kerry Hetrick.
It remains unknown who TJ will peg as Barna’s successor.
Jeff Rubinsak, a DNL legend who has dabbled in coaching recently, has
already found a new job. He will assist Steve Bucci on the defending
PIAA champion Canon-McMillan baseball team.
Rubinsak had been in line to be Barna’s top assistant at TJ.
Barna was unavailable for comment Wednesday.


Forecast of inclement weather has caused the postponement of several WPIAL basketball games and also the WPIAL wrestling team tournament. Included in the basketball games is tonight's showdown between Class AAAA No. 1 Peters Township and No. 2 Latrobe in McMurray. No makeup date has been announced.

Also postponing games, as of 3:45 p.m., are California (at Brownsville), Washington (at Frazier), Chartiers-Houston at Monessen, Avella at Mapletown and Bentworth at West Greene in boys play. In girls, Chartiers-Houston at Clairton and Bentworth at Yough were postponed.

In the wrestling team tournament, the Class AAA first-round and quarterfinal matches at Canon-McMillan were moved to Thursday (6 and 7:30 p.m.). In Class AA, quarterfinal and semifinal matches were moved to Thursday at 6 and 7:30 p.m. For more information on the wrestling, go to

Monday, January 26, 2009

O-R girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 17-0
2. Bethel Park 16-1
3. Butler 15-1
4. Fox Chapel 11-3
5. Norwin 13-4

Class AAA
1. Indiana 16-1
2. New Castle 14-2
3. Hampton 13-3
4. Hopewell 13-3
5. Mars 13-3

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 17-1
2. Beaver 16-1
3. Seton-La Salle 12-4
4. Shady Side Academy 14-2
4. OLSH 12-4

Class A
1. North Catholic 11-5
2. Vincentian Academy 12-5
3. Serra Catholic 13-3
4. Quigley Catholic 13-2
5. Fort Cherry 13-3

Sunday, January 25, 2009

O-R boys basketball rankings

If the rankings hold, Tuesday's Latrobe at Peters Township game could ultimately prove to be for the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoff pairings.

Class AAAA
1. Peters Township 16-1
2. Latrobe 16-2
3. North Allegheny 12-4
4. Mt. Lebanon 13-4
5. McKeesport 12-5

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 17-0
2. Hampton 15-3
3. Blackhawk 11-5
4. Greensburg-Salem 14-3
5. Highlands 13-5

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 13-3
2. Quaker Valley 12-3
3. North Catholic 14-1
4. South Fayette 15-3
5. Washington 16-2

Class A
1. Sewickley Academy 11-4
2. Clairton 8-4
3. OLSH 13-4
4. Serra Catholic 14-2
5. Lincoln Park 11-5

Friday, January 23, 2009

High school football charged

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Football players know them as “gassers” — sprints up and down the field to build stamina.
Sophomore Max Gilpin and his Pleasure Ridge Park teammates spent the tail end of a three-hour practice on a sweltering August day in Louisville running the drill that is a coaching staple across the country, hoping to impress enough to earn varsity playing time that fall.
They sprinted 12 times in 94-degree heat, sometimes with helmets and pads, as the coaches pushed them to go harder and harder. It was a drill like those on many football fields across the country, right up until Gilpin, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound offensive lineman collapsed on the turf just 15 minutes after a teammate went down.
Three days later, the 15-year-old Gilpin was dead from heat stroke, with authorities saying his body temperature was 107 degrees when he reached the hospital. Five months later, his first-year head coach David Jason Stinson is facing a reckless homicide charge, with a prosecutor saying the coach should have realized a player could collapse from heat stroke in the broiling weather.
Harold Jarrard, whose grandson played on the offensive line, was there Aug. 20 and said coaches were shouting at the players, encouraging them to pick it up as practice wound down.
“It was just a normal day of practice,” he said. “They always run gassers at the end. It’s a daily activity. Nothing was different that day. I never heard anything out of the ordinary.
“You hear them being threatened every day, stuff like ’If you don’t straighten up, you’re out of here.’ It was just regular,” he said.
Interviews with witnesses and a review of filings in a civil lawsuit brought by Gilpin’s parents against the coaching staff, including depositions, Stinson’s handwritten notes and weather logs filed with the school, shed some light on what happened that day.
For Brian Bale, who was watching his daughter play soccer on an adjacent field during most of football practice, the way coaches were yelling at players was “appalling,” he said in an e-mail to the school district two days later. Bale declined an interview request from The Associated Press on Friday.
But he wrote in the e-mail: “Those coaches thought that they were training young teenagers for the Navy SEALS team instead of a football team. I never once in the time I was there saw anyone offered a water break. I did, however, hear the coach say numerous times that all he needed was one person to say that they quit the team and all of the suffering and running and heat would be over.”
That’s exactly what Kim Englert’s son, David, did — quit that day.
David Englert said “Coach Stinson made the team run sprints until someone quit,” Gilpin’s mother, Michele Crockett said in court filings.
Heat exposure deaths happen occasionally in football from the sandlot to the pros, the most famous example being Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer in 2001. Lawsuits have been filed in many of those cases, but it doesn’t appear that a coach has ever been criminally charged.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel declined to say why he chose this case for a grand jury. Stinson, a technical teacher at the school who has been reassigned pending the outcome of the case, is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
His attorney, Alex Dathorne, did not return calls from The Associated Press on Friday.

Local basketball rankings

Got to give Peters Township credit, not only are the Indians winning, they are playing a tough schedule. If PT can get past a home-and-home series with Bethel Park tonight and Saturday, Tuesday's home game versus Latrobe could end up being for the top seed in the Class AAAA bracket.

1. Peters Township (AAAA) 14-1
2. Washington (AA) 15-2
3. South Fayette (AA) 14-3
4. Monessen (AA) 8-7
5. Fort Cherry (AA) 10-4

1. Peters Township (AAAA) 10-6
2. South Fayette (AA) 12-4
3. Washington (AA) 13-4
4. Fort Cherry (A) 13-3
5. Monessen (A) 13-4

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Triple-digit blowout

One of my favorite things to say in the office before covering an expected blowout is that the final score will be 98-3. It mostly applies to football and basketball.

One day, I hope to here of a 98-3 score involving local teams. For now, I must settle for an Associated Press story from Texas.

DALLAS (AP) — A high school girls basketball team that beat an opponent 100-0 has a case of blowout remorse.
The winning school now says it wants to do the right thing by seeking a forfeit and apologizing for the margin of victory.
“It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened,” the head of the school said Thursday on The Covenant School’s Web site. He added that Covenant has made “a formal request to forfeit the game recognizing that a victory without honor is a great loss.”
Covenant, a private Christian school in Dallas, defeated Dallas Academy 100-0 last week. Covenant was up 59-0 at halftime.
A parent who attended the game told The Associated Press that Covenant continued to make 3-pointers — even in the fourth quarter. She praised the Covenant players but said spectators and an assistant coach were cheering wildly as their team edged closer to 100 points.
“I think the bad judgment was in the full-court press and the 3-point shots,” said Renee Peloza, whose daughter plays for Dallas Academy. “At some point, they should have backed off.”
Dallas Academy coach Jeremy Civello told The Dallas Morning News that the game turned into a “layup drill,” with the opposing team’s guards waiting to steal the ball and drive to the basket. Covenant scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and “finally eased up when they got to 100 with about four minutes left,” he said.
Dallas Academy has eight girls on its varsity team and about 20 girls in its high school. It is winless over the last four seasons. The academy boasts of its small class sizes and specializes in teaching students struggling with “learning differences,” such as short attention spans or dyslexia.
There is no mercy rule in girls basketball that shortens the game or permits the clock to continue running when scores become lopsided. There is, however, “a golden rule” that should have applied in this contest, said Edd Burleson, the director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Both schools are members of this association, which oversees private school sports in Texas.
“On a personal note, I told the coach of the losing team how much I admire their girls for continuing to compete against all odds,” Burleson said. “They showed much more character than the coach that allowed that score to get out of hand. It’s up to the coach to control the outcome.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Predicting the seeds

A favorite past time toward the tail end of the high school basketball season is guessing how the WPIAL basketball committee might seed the boys and girls tournaments. It's an inexact science and only the people responsible for the seedings truly know how the selection process works.

Here's one person's guess as to the top half of each bracket:

Class AAAA
1. Peters Township (14-1), 2. Latrobe (14-2), 3. North Allegheny (11-4), 4. McKeesport (11-4), 5. Seneca Valley (9-5), 6. Mt. Lebanon (12-4), 7. Penn Hills (10-5), 8. Kiski Area (11-6)
Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley (15-0), 2. Hampton (13-3), 3. Blackhawk (10-5), 4. Uniontown (13-3), 5. New Castle (11-5), 6. Thomas Jefferson (12-2), 7. Laurel Highlands (12-4), 8. Valley (10-6)
Class AA
1. Beaver Falls (12-2), 2. North Catholic (13-0), 3. Jeannette (12-3), 4. Quaker Valley (12-2), 5. Washington (15-2), 6. South Fayette (14-3), 7. Mohawk (14-2), 8. Ford City (12-5)
Class A
1. Clairton (7-3), 2. Serra Catholic (13-2), 3. Sewickley Academy (9-4), 4. Lincoln Park (9-5), 5. OLSH (11-4), 6. Neshannock (10-5), 7. Carmichaels (13-3), 8. Union (9-6)

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon (16-0), 2. Bethel Park (15-1), 3. Butler (15-1), 4. Fox Chapel (10-3), 5. Norwin (12-4), 6. Oakland Catholic (10-6), 7. Peters Township (9-6), 8. North Allegheny (9-7)
Class AAA
1. South Park (13-3), 2. Hampton (12-2), 3. Indiana (14-1), 4. West Allegheny (11-4), 5. New Castle (12-2), 6. Mars (12-3), 7. West Mifflin (11-5), 8. Thomas Jefferson (6-7)
Class AA
1. Sto-Rox (16-1), 2. Shady Side Academy (13-2), 3. Beaver (15-1), 4. Seton-La Salle (11-3), 5. Burrell (11-4), 6. South Fayette (12-3), 7. Riverside (12-4), 8. Ford City (14-2)
Class A
1. North Catholic (9-5), 2. Serra Catholic (10-3), 3. Quigley Catholic (12-2), 4. Vincentian Academy (11-5), 5. Monessen (12-4), 6. Fort Cherry (12-3), 7. Rochester (12-4), 8. Carmichaels (9-5)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Projecting the field (boys)

Here are the teams I see making the WPIAL playoffs:

Class AAAA
(Section 1) Latrobe, Kiski Area, Hempfield, Penn-Trafford, (Section 2) McKeesport, Penn Hills, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, (Section 3) North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, North Hills, Shaler, (Section 4) Peters Township, Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park.

Class AAA
(Section 1) Hampton, Valley, Highlands, Mars, (Section 2) Blackhawk, New Castle, Center, Ambridge, (Section 3) Uniontown, Laurel Highlands, Indiana, Greensburg-Salem, (Section 4) Chartiers Valley, Moon, West Mifflin, Keystone Oaks, (Section 5) Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, Belle Vernon, Yough.

Class AA
(Section 1) Ford City, West Shamokin, Burrell, Springdale, (Section 2) Mohawk, New Brighton, Rochester, Riverside, (Section 3) North Catholic, South Fayette, Seton-La Salle, Carylnton, (Section 4) Jeannette, Shady Side Academy, Greensburg Central Catholic, Steel Valley, (Section 5) Washington, Monessen, Charleroi, Burgettstown, (Section 6) Beaver Falls, Quaker Valley, Aliquippa, Avonworth.

Class A
(Section 1) Neshannock, Lincoln Park, Union, Monaca, (Section 2) Carmichaels, Avella, Beth-Center, Bentworth, (Section 3) Clairton, Serra Catholic, St. Joseph, Leechburg, (Section 4) Sewickley Academy, OLSH, Cornell, Vincentian Academy.

Projecting the field (girls)

Time to predict the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs.

Class AAAA
(Section 1) Norwin, Hempfield, Kiski Area, Latrobe, (Section 2) Fox Chapel, Oakland Catholic, Gateway, McKeesport, (Section 3) Butler, North Allegheny, Shaler, North Hills, (Section 4) Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair.

Class AAA
(Section 1) Hampton, Mars, Knoch, Highlands, (Section 2) New Castle, Ambridge, Hopewell, Blackhawk, (Section 3) Indiana, Uniontown, Mt. Pleasant, Greensburg-Salem, (Section 4) South Park, West Allegheny, West Mifflin, Chartiers Valley (Section 5) Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Forward, Belle Vernon, McGuffey.

Class AA
(Section 1) Burrell, Ford City, Apollo-Ridge, Freeport, (Section 2) Beaver, Riverside, Mohawk, New Brighton, (Section 3) Seton-La Salle, South Fayette, OLSH, Bishop Canevin, (Section 4) Shady Side Academy, Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, East Allegheny (Section 5) Washington, Brownsville, Charleroi, Beth-Center (Section 6) Sto-Rox, Avonworth, Beaver Falls, Aliquippa.

Class A
(Section 1) Quigley Catholic, Rochester, Union, Sewickley Academy (Section 2) Serra Catholic, Fort Cherry, Avella, Clairton, (Section 3) Monessen, Carmichaels, Geibel, Mapletown, (Section 4) North Catholic, Vincentian Academy, Mt. Alvernia, Winchester-Thurston.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

O-R girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 15-0
2. Bethel Park 14-1
3. Butler 13-1
4. Fox Chapel 9-3
5. Oakland Catholic 10-5

Class AAA
1. Mars 12-2
2. New Castle 12-2
3. South Park 12-3
4. West Mifflin 11-4
5. Indiana 13-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 15-0
2. Beaver 15-0
3. Seton-La Salle 11-3
4. Ford City 13-2
5. OLSH 11-3

Class A
1. North Catholic 8-5
2. Monessen 12-3
3. Vincentian Academy 10-5
4. Quigley Catholic 11-2
5. Serra Catholic 10-3

O-R boys basketball rankings

In celebration of Championship Sunday, it's time to publish the weekly update of the Observer-Reporter's WPIAL boys and girls basketball rankings. There was considerable movement in the boys rankings, though three of the four No. 1 teams (Peters Township, Chartiers Valley and Beaver Falls) remained in place.

How good is Class AA? Good enough that Jeannette, the defending state champs, have not cracked the top five despite a 12-3 record.

Class AAAA
1. Peters Township 13-1
2. Latrobe 13-2
3. North Allegheny 10-4
4. McKeesport 10-4
5. Mt. Lebanon 11-4

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 14-0
2. Hampton 13-2
3. Thomas Jefferson 11-2
4. Uniontown 12-3
5. Blackhawk 10-4

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 12-2
2. North Catholic 12-0
3. Quaker Valley 11-2
4. Washington 14-2
5. South Fayette 13-3

Class A
1. OLSH 11-3
2. Sewickley Academy 8-4
3. Clairton 6-3
4. Serra Catholic 12-2
5. Lincoln Park 9-5

Friday, January 16, 2009

Local basketball rankings

Thanks to its recent surge, Trinity cracks the local boys rankings for the first time this year. Critics point to the Hillers' section but they have turned their season around with a large group of underclassmen.

1. Peters Township (AAAA) 12-1
2. Washington (AA) 13-2
3. South Fayette (AA) 11-3
4. Monessen (AA) 7-6
5. Trinity (AAA) 7-8

1. Peters Township (AAAA) 8-6
2. South Fayette (AA) 10-3
3. Monessen (A) 12-3
4. Washington (AA) 10-4
5. Fort Cherry (A) 11-3

Thursday, January 15, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

Last week's All Points Bulletin for former Carmichaels boys basketball standout Justin Voithofer was answered. An anonymous reader believes Voithofer may be a Catholic priest. The Varsity Letters would appreciate any conformation.

Moving on ...

This week the varsity letters is searching for former Ringgold High boys basketball star Mike Horan.

A 6-9 shot-blocking center, Horan swatted 210 shots during his varsity career with the Rams and his play led Ringgold to the 1995 PIAA Class AAAA championship. He averaged 18.4 points as a senior and made the USA Today Pennsylvania Honorable Mention All-America list. The PA player of the year in 1995 was Kobe Bryant.

Horan earned a scholarship to Fairfield, where he played in 66 games and made one appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Anyone with information regarding Horan is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Taking a look back

LeSean McCoy declaring for the NFL Draft Wednesday got me thinking about the massive number of underclassmen who've already announced their intentions – whether logical or not – to play professionally in 2009.

Among the underclassmen is Ball State quarterback Nate Davis.

He burst onto the college scene this year as Ball State won its first 12 games and finished 12-2. Davis put up some gaudy stats, he also has an interesting tie to Washington County basketball.

Davis was a football and basketball standout at Bellaire (Ohio) High. During his scholastic days, many believed basketball was in Davis' future and I heard plenty about him as Bellaire agreed to participate in the annual Hoopfest, a day-long local basketball extravaganza.

Davis and Bellaire played Sean Lee and Upper St. Clair during the 2003 and 2004 Hoopfests. Lee, before busting heads as a Penn State linebacker, outplayed Davis both times and USC won 88-76 in 2003 and 69-58 in 2004. The latter game was played at Wash High Gymnasium.

After seeing Davis play basketball twice, he made the right decision playing football at the Division I level and it appears he'll be a first-day selection during this year's draft.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wash High opens varsity football coaching positions

The Washington School Board voted Monday night to open all of the high football coach positions.

Bill Britton had been the head football coach for six years before the decision was made to reopen the position.

The vote came after a lengthy executive session.

Britton, a long-time Prexies assistant before becoming head coach in 2003, had a career record of 27-30-1 and he guided Washington to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals in 2005. In 2008, Washington finished 1-8 – its worst record since 1969.

For more information, read Wednesday’s Observer-Reporter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

O-R girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 12-0
2. Bethel Park 12-1
3. Butler 11-1
4. Baldwin 10-2
5. Oakland Catholic 9-5

Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 8-3
2. Mars 10-2
3. New Castle 10-1
4. West Allegheny 8-3
5. Indiana 11-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 14-0
2. Beaver 13-0
3. Seton-La Salle 9-3
4. Jeannette 8-4
5. Ford City 11-2

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 10-3
2. North Catholic 7-4
3. Monessen 10-3
4. Fort Cherry 10-2
5. Quigley Catholic 10-2

O-R boys basketball rankings

Surprise! The Peters Township boys are the new No. 1 team in Class AAAA.

Class AAAA
1. Peters Township 11-1
2. Latrobe 11-2
3. Mt. Lebanon 10-3
4. Penn Hills 8-4
5. North Allegheny 8-3

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 11-0
2. Hampton 11-2
3. Highlands 9-4
4. Uniontown 11-2
5. Thomas Jefferson 9-1

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 10-2
2. North Catholic 10-0
3. Quaker Valley 10-2
4. Washington 12-2
5. South Fayette 10-3

Class A
1. Serra Catholic 11-1
2. Sewickley Academy 8-4
3. Lincoln Park 8-5
4. OLSH 8-3
5. Clairton 3-3

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What I've learned

One half of the section season remains and some things are becoming clear when it comes to local WPIAL basketball.

Here's what I've learned to date:

1. Peters Township is more than the best local team. The Indians might be the best team in the WPIAL, at least through the first six weeks of the season. With Player of the Year candidate Nick Wilcox leading the way, Peters Township is 11-1 overall and 4-0 in Section 4-AAAA. That's the best record in the classification and it's come against a difficult schedule.

2. Wash High and South Fayette are good. Plus the other top teams in Class AA don't look unbeatable. For some reason, however, the Prexies can't win at Monessen and the Lions can't win at North Catholic. Then again, Monessen and North Catholic are two of the better Class AA teams.

3. Trinity has a legitimate opportunity to win the Section 5-AAA championship. The Hillers' rally from a 17-point second-half deficit against Belle Vernon was an inspired effort – the type that can define a season.

4. OK, so Serra Catholic is the top team in Class A. Who's second? Sewickley Academy? Clairton? Lincoln Park? OLSH? Carmichaels? How about Bentworth?

The Bearcats scored a big victory Friday night when they rallied to beat Carmichaels. It's time to recognize a strong coaching job by Bob Kennedy. Bentworth lost four starters and about 90-95 percent of its offense from last year's PIAA quarterfinalist. At 4-1 in Section 2-A, the Bearcats are tied with the Mikes for first place.

1. In the bold statement department, Washington's Jocelyn Floyd is the best girls defensive player I've seen at the high school level.

2. The two teams primed for postseason runs are both in Class A. Fort Cherry and Monessen both sit high in the Observer-Reporter rankings. The trouble is, getting to the WPIAL championship means that teams like Vincentian Academy and North Catholic will have to lose.

3. Peters Township needs a No. 3 option. Emily Correal is facing more junk defenses than any other local player. Samantha Higgins has turned into a strong second option but a third will be needed if the Indians are to get back into the WPIAL playoff picture.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Local basketball rankings

After beating Upper St. Clair by 25 points, can there be any doubt that Peters Township is the area's premier basketball team? Regardless of what happens tonight against Mt. Lebanon, the Indians look like contenders.

Also, watch out for South Fayette. The Lions were 3-3 but have rattled off six straight, including a victory over Aliquippa.

Boys rankings
1. Peters Township (AAAA) 10-1
2. Washington (AA) 10-2
3. South Fayette (AA) 9-3
4. Carmichaels (A) 10-2
5. Monessen (AA) 5-6

Girls rankings
1. Fort Cherry (A) 10-2
2. Washington (AA) 8-3
3. Monessen (A) 9-3
4. Peters Township (AAAA) 6-6
5. Trinity (AAAA) 6-5

APB, Where are they now?

Carmichaels was regarded as one of the better Class A teams in the WPIAL during a brief period in the early to mid 1990s. Following the 1992-93 season, the Mikes' Chad Lechner was named the Observer-Reporter's Boys Player of the Year.

In 1995-96, Carmichaels made a lengthy run in the PIAA playoffs – the Mikes made the quarterfinals – in what has to be the best team during the 33 years of head coach Don Williams.

Well, the senior-laden Mikes are pretty good again and look like an early contender in the WPIAL Class A picture. This makes it a good time for the Varsity Letters to issue an All Points Bulletin for former Carmichaels basketball standout Justin Voithofer.

The 1995-96 Observer-Reporter Boys Player of Year, Voithofer averaged 27.4 points per game during his senior year. The 6-1 guard was even named the WPIAL Class A Player of the Year by the Post-Gazette. He scored more than 1,600 points during his varsity career.

Anyone with information regarding Voithofer is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Floyd hits 1,000

Washington High School senior Jocelyn Floyd spent the first two years of varsity basketball career at Mount de Chantal – a Catholic girls school located in Wheeling, W.Va. from 1848 to 2008. Upon her arrival at Wash High last year, it was evident that Floyd was one of the area's top girls players.

Floyd, listed as a 5-9 senior guard/forward, is a Duquesne University recruit. She's also topped 1,000 career points.

Prexies coach Mike Maltony was able to uncover Floyd's scoring statistics from her days at Mount de Chantal and he determined she has scored around 1,300 points to date. Floyd will be honored for her accomplishments Thursday night when Wash High (7-4, 4-0) hosts Beth-Center (1-2, 6-4) in a Section 5-AA contest at 7:30 p.m.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The good, the bad, the ugly

Most boys teams have two games left to the first half of the section season. Let's review some of the more interesting happenings.

The Good
At 9-1 overall and 2-0 in Section 4, Peters Township not only finds ways to win, the Indians are gaining confidence in a wide open WPIAL Class AAAA. Local college coaches believe senior Nick Wilcox is the top player in Washington County and junior point guard Craig Wolcott is vastly improved from his sophomore season. The Indians play Upper St. Clair tonight. The winner may be labeled the section favorite.

If Wilcox is the top target of local colleges, Washington senior Nick Bryant must be second. Like Wilcox, Bryant plays under control, can dribble drive, hit the floater and make three's. Both also play excellent defense.

Big-school boosters are blasting the Carmichaels' schedule but, at 9-2, not many Class A teams look better than the Mikes a week into January.

The Fort Cherry boys average 72.6 points per game. That's the second best average in WPIAL Class AA, one-tenth of a point behind powerhouse Beaver Falls.

The Bad
Jefferson-Morgan made 8 of 20 free throws during a 14-point loss at Avella.

Monessen lost by 50 points (91-41) to Uniontown. In fairness to the Greyhounds, they play a daunting non-section schedule which often leads to deep postseason runs. This year, Monessen is 4-0 in Section 5-AA and 0-6 in non-section contests.

The Ugly
West Greene's offense continues to struggle. The Pioneers have topped 20 points on four occasions. Three of those games were played against schools from West Virginia. West Greene's highest offensive output against a WPIAL game came when it netted 22 on Dec. 30 against Jefferson-Morgan. That game was played at Clay-Battelle High School, which is in West Virginia.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

O-R boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Upper St. Clair 10-1
2. Central Catholic 7-3
3. Penn Hills 6-3
4. Peters Township 9-1
5. Fox Chapel 9-3

Class AAA
1. Chartiers Valley 9-0
2. Hampton 8-2
3. Moon 7-4
4. Highlands 7-4
5. Indiana 7-3

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 8-2
2. North Catholic 8-0
3. Quaker Valley 8-2
4. Washington 9-2
5. Greensburg C.C. 8-3

Class A
1. Serra Catholic 9-1
2. OLSH 7-2
3. Lincoln Park 7-4
4. Carmichaels 9-2
5. Sewickley Academy 6-4

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Local basketball rankings

Following Friday's 59-53 win at Washington, Peters Township left no doubt it deserves the No. 1 spot in the local boys basketball rankings. The game itself was well-played by both sides and I left with the impression Peters Township and Washington will make significant impacts in the postseason.

Boys rankings
1. Peters Township (AAAA) 9-1
2. Washington (AA) 9-2
3. South Fayette (AA) 7-3
4. Fort Cherry (AA) 8-1
5. Carmichaels (A) 9-2

Girls rankings
1. Peters Township (AAAA) 6-4
2. Fort Cherry (A) 8-1
3. Washington (AA) 6-3
4. Monessen (A) 6-3
5. Trinity (AAAA) 5-4

Friday, January 2, 2009

O-R girls basketball rankings

Coaches from Section 4-AAAA continue to say that Mt. Lebanon is easily the class of the WPIAL. Well, it looks like Bethel Park is pretty good.

Class AAAA
1. Mt. Lebanon 10-0
2. Bethel Park 10-0
3. Fox Chapel 7-1
4. Butler 8-1
5. Peters Township 6-4

Class AAA
1. West Mifflin 8-3
2. Hopewell 8-1
3. South Park 9-2
4. Mars 8-2
5. Indiana 8-1

Class AA
1. Sto-Rox 11-0
2. Avonworth 7-0
3. Beaver 11-0
4. East Allegheny 9-0
5. Ford City 9-1

Class A
1. Vincentian Academy 8-2
2. North Catholic 5-4
3. Fort Cherry 8-1
4. Monessen 6-3
5. Winchester-Thurston 6-2

WTG Mike!

At this time every year, I compile a report of the top 100 stories of the year from our online readership. The results are not determined by votes but by pageviews on our site. The Observer-Reporter receives about 2.6 million pageviews a month. One of Mike Kovak's columns received about 1% of the pageviews on our site.
Mike's Terrell Pryor column received 26,360 pageviews. That is a record here at the O-R. The next story received 8,372. It was the Marianna triple homicide of a mother and her two children.
Sorry, there are no prizes but you can walk around the newsroom with head held higher than the rest.
Way To Go Mike Kovak!