Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wash High to hire Gaither

Former Bethel Park and Ringgold boys basketball coach Mark Gaither was hired by the Washington School Board as the Prexies' boys basketball coach at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Wash High athletic director Joe Nicolella will be his assistant.

Gaither coached three years at Ringgold, where he compiled a 27-45 record. He replaced Phil Pergola, who won a PIAA Class AAAA championship at Ringgold and is the athletic director/boys basketball coach at California High School.

Gaither spent the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons at Bethel Park, where he replaced Mike Mastroianni. The Black Hawks went 19-28 in his two years.

Gaither replaces Ron Faust, who won 520 games, four WPIAL titles and two PIAA championships at Washington. Faust retired at the end of the school year.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

O-R Athletes of the Year

2009 - Nick Wilcox, Peters Township
2008 - Dan Conley, Burgettstown
2007 - Andrew Sweat, Trinity
2006 - Robert Heller, Ringgold
2005 - Jeff Weiss, McGuffey
2004 - Coleman Scott, Waynesburg
2003 - Colby Giles, Carmichaels
2002 - Dan Mozes, Washington
2001 - Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg
2000 - Michael Sutton, Washington

2009 - Amanda Kennedy, Bentworth
2008 - Jenna Phillips, Washington
2007 - Paige McMenamin, Peters Township
2006 - Brianna Liebold, Chartiers-Houston
2005 - Ashley Young, Canon-McMillan
2004 - Samantha Slagle, Beth-Center
2003 - Stephanie Kuhn, Ringgold
2002 - Jessica Perry, Peters Township
2001 - Shellie Cotton, Charleroi
2000 - Kristen Lancas, Ringgold

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Top 5 scholastic sports stories of 2008-09

1. Saga of Avella football
Beaten down by years of losing, Avella High School's football team opened practice in the oppressive August heat with only 18 players, a new head coach with a can-do attitude and little fanfare.

Then, Avella canceled its first scrimmage when mounting injuries made a trip to Laurel pointless.

As losses mounted and players defected, coach Frank Gray and the Eagles refused to fold. They never asked for sympathy, even as 140-pound freshmen tried to block for 150-pound quarterback Jesse Noble.

Avella played games with 11 players. One game, against WPIAL Class A champion Clairton, featured a running clock for four quarters. Anastasia Barr, a cheerleader, donned a football uniform in hopes of helping.

Their determination earned the respect of many and drew considerable attention. From the Observer-Reporter to the New York Times, the Avella football team's struggle to survive became a hot topic. Canon-McMillan's football program was so inspired by Avella's determination that the Eagles were invited to watch the Big Macs' playoff game against Shaler from the sidelines.

Avella, like in so many other seasons since the school's last WPIAL playoff appearance in 1976, failed to win a game. They've lost 51 of the last 52 and the offense scored more than 10 points on just two occasions. The defense yielded 40 or more in every game but one.

Still, an overmatched roster facing difficult odds played every game on Avella's schedule and proved high school sports is about much more than winning.

2. Resurgence of Wash High basketball in Faust's final season
Washington High School boys basketball is one of the WPIAL's proudest traditions. By the end of the 2008-09 season, the Prexies added another impressive chapter to its illustrious history.

The year began with a "Meet the Prexies Night" designed by former players to bring alumni and current players together to honor head coach Ron Faust, who would retire after a wildly successful 28 year stint.

Five games into the year, Faust became the second coach from Washington County (Phil Pergola was the first) to win his 500th game.

And the wins kept coming for Washington, which won a 16th section title in Faust's career, and advanced to the PIAA playoffs. Once there, Nick Bryant, Troy Wilson and an excellent supporting cast made it a long journey.

Washington advanced to the Class AA semifinal for the first time since 1990 and led North catholic by double digits in the fourth quarter before losing in overtime. Faust finished his career with 520 wins, four WPIAL titles and two PIAA championships.

3. Peters Township soccer doubles up
The Peters Township High School boys and girls soccer teams were championship fixtures in 2008 and made a little PIAA history in the process.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Peters Township boys reached the WPIAL Class AAA championship match. For the first time since 2003, the Indians came away victors, winning their sixth district title. Led by all-state seniors Christian Brandstetter, Nick Wilcox and Virginia Tech recruit Greg Weimer, Peters Township won seven straight postseason matches and reached the PIAA final for a second straight year. There, the Indians lost to Downingtown West, 2-1.

All-state forward Ali Forbrich paced a high-scoring Peters Township girls team, one that advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA championship for the first time. The Indians lost to Mt. Lebanon in the title game but rallied to make its inaugural appearance in the state championship – a 2-1 loss to Conestoga.

Peters Township became the first school to place both its boys and girls soccer teams in the PIAA finals during the same season.

4. Timko sisters make splash, beat the boys
Sisters Karli and Tanya Timko didn't join the Chartiers-Houston boys tennis team for attention but, by the time postseason tournaments were played, they were among the most talked about non-professional players in the country.

Karli, a Marshall University signee who went undefeated as a singles player versus the boys, and Tanya, who lost just twice, opted to play in doubles tournaments. It was a good decision.

The Timkos won the Section 1-AA tournament then garnered national attention by becoming the first girls team to win a WPIAL doubles championship.

They were deluged with media requests, including a call from the CBS Morning Show about a possible appearance, during preparation for the PIAA tournament. Once there, they lost in the first round.

5. Black Friday for local football
Since 2002, high school football teams from Washington and Greene counties are a woeful 16-65 in the WPIAL playoffs. None of the previous six postseasons produced one as unproductive as 2008.

Nine local teams qualified for the playoffs. Nine local teams lost in the first round.

For the first time since 1988 – when only two teams from each conference qualified for a postseason berth – local teams went winless in the playoffs.

Canon-McMillan, Ringgold, Trinity, McGuffey, Beth-Center, California, Carmichaels, Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry were the participants. The average score of defeat was 34-11.

Top 10 teams of 2008-09

1. Peters Township boys soccer
WPIAL Class AAA champions – sixth in school history
PIAA runner-up – won title in 2007

2. Peters Township boys golf
WPIAL Division I champions – second in four years
PIAA runner-up – first WPIAL team to compete for state title

3. Peters Township girls soccer
WPIAL Class AAA runner-up
PIAA runner-up – first state title appearance

4. South Fayette baseball
PIAA Class AA runner-up – first state title appearance for any South Fayette team
WPIAL third-place team

5. Trinity softball
WPIAL Class AAA runner-up – second WPIAL title appearance
PIAA semifinalist – never won PIAA game before

6. Peters Township girls lacrosse
WPIAL champion – third-consecutive title
PIAA quarterfinalist – first WPIAL team to win a PIAA match

7. Washington boys basketball
PIAA Class AA semifinalist – lost in overtime in semifinals
WPIAL quarterfinalist

8. Peters Township boys basketball

WPIAL Class AAAA champion – first basketball title in school history
PIAA first-round

9. Carmichaels baseball
WPIAL Class A runner-up – fifth time since 2003 in title game
PIAA first-round

10. Trinity rifle
WPIAL champion – 10th title under coach John Husk

Coming attractions

The Observer-Reporter will run its annual boys and girls athletes of the year in Sunday's edition. The stories are the highlight of a year-end package that celebrates the local 2008-09 scholastic sports year.

The following athletes were considered for Boys Athlete of the Year (read Sunday's paper to find out who was selected):
Ben Carson, California;
Alex Frey, Trinity;
Chuck Gasti, Carmichaels;
Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan;
Joby Lapkowicz, Carmichaels;
Brad Strimel, Canon-McMillan;
Nick Wilcox, Peters Township.

The following athletes were considered for Girls Athlete of the Year:
Emily Correal, Peters Township;
Jocelyn Floyd, Washington;
Amanda Kennedy, Bentworth;
Ashley Morran, Trinity;
Rachel Rohanna, Waynesburg;
Taylor Schram, Canon-McMillan;
Sidney Walter, Fort Cherry.

Due to space constraints, the Varsity Letters will supplement the year-end package normally reserved for the pages of the O-R. Posts tomorrow will include the top 10 sports teams of the 2008-09 school year and the top 10 high school sports stories from the past year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

O-R Softball All-Stars

Player of the Year
Ashley Morran, Trinity
Junior, OF
A first-team PSCA Class AAA all-state selection, Morran hit .330 with 6 HR, 23 RBI, 20 runs as Trinity reached WPIAL finals and PIAA semifinals. Has school record for HR.

First team
Kilee Bonazza, Trinity
Senior, SS
Honorable mention all-state. Batted .486 (35-for-72) with 12 doubles and 21 runs.
Emily Bosworth, Waynesburg
Junior, P
Batted .484 (30-for-62) with six 2B, three 3B, two HR and 22 RBI. Finished with 13-4 record.
Shayleigh Busti, Carmichaels
Senior, SS
First-team Class A all-stater. Batted .667 (42-for-63) with seven 2B, five 3B and five HR. Busti drove in 30, scored 33 and stole 14 bases.
Kiersten Conwell, Chartiers-Houston
Sophomore, P
Led WPIAL with 229 strikeouts and was an honorable mention all-state selection. Went 14-8 with a 1.06 ERA.
Kelsey Cunningham, Peters Township
Junior, SS
Posted a .959 fielding percentage and batted .333 with seven steals.
Kaitlyn Hoop, Fort Cherry
Senior, P
A Division II Hillsdale (Mich.) recruit, Hoop went 14-2 with 174 strikeouts and batted .360.
Allison Kleinhans, McGuffey
Junior, P
Honorable mention all-stater went 13-3 with 126 strikeouts. She batted .539 with nine 2B, 29 RBI and 16 runs scored.
Sam Shumaker, Canon-McMillan
Senior, OF
Batted .519 (28-for-54) with seven 2B and three HR. Scored 20 of the Big Macs' 52 runs.
Julie Taylor, Peters Township
Junior, 2B
Leadoff batter hit .362 with two HR and eight steals in addition to strong defensive play.

Second team
Brynne Bashioum, Bentworth, Sr., P
Liz Bombara, Washington, Sr., OF
Lynne Christopher, Carmichaels, Jr., 1B
Caitlyn Dengler, Burgettstown, Fr., 3B
Michelle Massie, Trinity, Sr., P
Samantha Milliken, West Greene, Sr., 1B
Marissa Pattison, McGuffey, Jr., SS
Rachel Rohanna, Waynesburg, Sr., 2B
Rachel Tucker, Chartiers-Houston, Fr., SS

Thursday, June 25, 2009

O-R All-star baseball team

Baseball Player of the Year
Matt Pierpont, Canon-McMillan
Senior, P/SS
Batted .596 (34-for-57) with 18 doubles, 22 runs scored, two HR, 26 RBI. Went 6-2 with 38K, 1 save. Signed with Winthrop University.

First team
Evan Bukowski, Trinity
Senior, C/P
Section 4-AAA co-MVP. Batted .313 (21-for-67) with 16 runs, seven doubles, 19 RBI. Went 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA, 34 K and 1 save.
Ben Carson, California
Senior, P/IF
Batted .485 (32-for-66) with four triples, 3 HR and 26 RBI. On-base percentage was .583. Went 5-3 with a 1.14 ERA and 63 K. Signed with George Mason.
Alex Frey, Trinity
Senior, P/OF
Lefty pitcher went 6-1 with a 1.14 ERA. Teams batted .141 against Frey, who struck out 83 in 49 IP. Batted .306 (18-for-62) with 14 runs. Will play at Youngstown State.
Chuck Gasti, Carmichaels
Senior, SS/P
Batted .535 (38-for-71) with 6 HR, 32 runs, 5 3B, 9 2B and 19 RBI. Went 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 44 K. Signed with Cleveland State.
Jack Hareza, Peters Township
Senior, IF
Rebounded from injury which formed Hareza to miss his junior year. Batted .404 (23-for-57) with 12 RBI and 13 runs.
Joe Havrilak, Trinity
Junior, OF
Batted .484 (31-for-65) with 35 runs, 10 SB and 16 RBI. Hits seven 2B, three HR and had a .607 on-base percentage.
Joby Lapkowicz, Carmichaels
Senior, P/OF
Went 7-1 with 117 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings and a 0.84 ERA. Batted .475 (29-for-61) with 19 RBI, four 3B and nine 2B. Signed with Slippery Rock.
Jason Paris, Chartiers-Houston
Senior, SS/P
Slick fielder batted .466 with 21 runs and 25 RBI. Went 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA. Signed with Clarion.
Eric Poland, Washington
Senior, P/3B
Batted .481 (25-for-52) with five 2B, six HR and 27 RBI. Went 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 23 K.

Second team
Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan, Jr.
Derek McIlvaine, Chartiers-Houston, Jr.
Sean McKnight, Trinity, Sr.
D.J. Michalski, Canon-McMillan, Jr.
Billy Musgrove, Carmichaels
J. Jay Paskert, Washington, Jr.
Andrew Paul, Peters Township, Sr.
Josh Snatchko, Fort Cherry, Sr.
Jeff Tarley, Beth-Center, Soph.

R.I.P King of Pop

The Varsity Letters is dedicated to high school sports, particularly those involving teams from Washington and Greene counties. Today is going to be a little different.

It's been about 30 minutes since several news sources confirmed the death of Michael Jackson, the undisputed King of Pop and one of the great entertainers of all-time, at the age of 50. MJ's music had a profound impact on this blogger, particularly growing up during the era of "Off the Wall", "Bad" and, of course, "Thriller." Yes, I had the Thriller jacket, the white glove and, as a 10-year-old, I moonwalked any time the opportunity presented itself.

Michael Jackson, rest in peace.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted child star who rose to become the “King of Pop” and the biggest celebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freakish series of scandals, died Thursday. He was 50.
Jackson died at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Ed Winter, the assistant chief coroner for Los Angeles County, confirmed his office had been notified of the death and would handle the investigation.
The circumstances of Jackson’s death were not immediately clear. Jackson was not breathing when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded to a call at his Los Angeles home about 12:30 p.m., Capt. Steve Ruda told the Los Angeles Times. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told the newspaper.
Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album “Thriller” — which included the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” — remains the biggest-selling album of all time, with more than 100 million copies worldwide.
The public first knew him in the late 1960s, when as a boy he was the precocious, spinning lead singer of the Jackson 5, the music group he formed with his four older brothers. Among their No. 1 hits were “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “I’ll Be There.”
He was perhaps the most exciting performer of his generation, known for his feverish, crotch-grabbing dance moves and his high-pitched voice punctuated with squeals and titters. His single sequined glove, tight, military-style jacket and aviator sunglasses were trademarks second only to his ever-changing, surgically altered appearance.
“For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don’t have the words,” said Quincy Jones, who produced “Thriller.” “He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I’ve lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him.”
Jackson ranked alongside Elvis Presley and the Beatles as the biggest pop sensations of all time. In fact, he united two of music’s biggest names when he was briefly married to Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie.
But as years went by, Jackson became an increasingly freakish figure — a middle-aged man-child weirdly out of touch with grown-up life. His skin became lighter, his nose narrower, and he spoke in a breathy, girlish voice. He surrounded himself with children at his Neverland ranch, often wore a germ mask while traveling and kept a pet chimpanzee named Bubbles as one of his closest companions.
In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. He had been accused of plying the boy with alcohol and groping him. The case took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.
Jackson was preparing for what was to be his greatest comeback: He was scheduled for an unprecedented 50 shows at a London arena, with the first set for July 13. He was in rehearsals in Los Angeles for the concert, an extravaganza that was to capture the classic Jackson magic: showstopping dance moves, elaborate staging and throbbing dance beats.
Singer Dionne Warwick said: “Michael was a friend and undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest entertainers that I fortunately had the pleasure of working with........we have lost an icon in our industry.”
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital as word of his death spread. The emergency entrance at the UCLA Medical Center, which is near Jackson’s rented home, was roped off with police tape.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Jackson has just died,” a woman boarding a Manhattan bus called out, shortly after the news was announced. Immediately many riders reached for their cell phones.
In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.
“No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow,” Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend sent to his telephone. “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Prep players oppose NBA age limit

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Le’Bryan Nash is a rising high school junior from Dallas who doesn’t know where he’ll go to college, though he is pretty sure he won’t stay four years.
“For me right now, I’m one year and done,” the 6-foot-7 Nash said.
And he’s not alone according to a survey of highly touted prep basketball stars done at the National Basketball Players Associations’ Top 100 Camp last week.
The NBPA, at the request of The Associated Press, distributed a four-question survey to the players at last week’s camp asking them about the NBA’s age limit that requires athletes to be 19 or a year removed from high school before being eligible to play in the league.
In the anonymous survey, fifty of the 108 players at the five-day camp at the University of Virginia said they do not plan on attending four years of college. And 85 campers disagree with the NBA rule that prevents them from heading to the league straight out of high school.
Nash, considered one of the top recruits in the class of 2011 by scouting services, sees college — for however long he stays — as a bridge between the NBA and high school. He said he is a good student, but pointed out he will make his college choice based on “wherever I think I can fit in, where I could be starting or would give me a chance to go one year and done.”
Some of his fellow campers would rather skip college entirely.
The survey showed that 21 players said they would turn pro right away if the age limit was lowered to 18. And if it was 20, adding another year before they could enter the league, 19 of the campers said they would look into playing professionally overseas after high school.

Butler hires former major leaguer as basketball coach

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — Matt Clement, a right-hander who won 87 games during nine major league seasons, has been hired as the boys basketball coach for the western Pennsylvania high school he attended.
Clement is to coach at Butler High School, which is about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. The 34-year-old Clement last pitched in the majors for Boston in 2006 before shoulder problems ended his career. He had his best season in 2005, going 13-6 with a 4.57 ERA for the Red Sox and making the AL All-Star team.
Clement won 10 or more games five times, going 14-12 for the Cubs in 2003. He ended his career with an 87-86 record for the Padres, Cubs, Marlins and Red Sox.

Monday, June 22, 2009

All-star intensity

Saturday night's Tri-County Football Coaches Association BeeGraphix Football Classic at South Fayette Stadium was a victory for the North Squad, thanks to the offensive fireworks of running back Brad Banas and quarterback Erik Olson.

It was also unusually chippy, with moments bordering on poor sportsmanship.

On at least two occasions, when the South delivered a hard hit to a North player, the South player stood over the just decleated for a little taunt.

The post-game handshake didn't go very well. In fact, the North coaches called their players over to keep away from some of the pleasantries being exchanged. Those of us observing the scene - which included college and high school coaches - couldn't help but wonder why.

According to Banas, the North Offensive MVP and the game's best player, the South "talked trash all week." There's no doubt they were after the game.

North coach Joe Rossi said there was a little talk at the banquet on Friday night and that he was pleased with how his players remained composed. "There were a couple times it looked like kids were going to get ejected," Rossi said.

And that's a shame.

The BeeGraphix Football Classic had a substantial share of entertaining moments - from Banas' four-touchdown performance, to the arm of Olson, to watching the Monessen pair of Lorenzo Newsuan and Kevin Park play excellent defense to watching Alex Frey making big play after big play and, finally, seeing Joby Lapkowicz cap an extraordinary high school career with three touchdowns.

Frey, the South Offensive MVP, didn't seem to grasp all the animousity.

"I just wanted to come here and have fun. That's what I did," he said.

Fortunately, game director Bill Ellis, as well as both coaching staffs, kept things from getting out of hand.

Here's hoping nothing similar takes place next year.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

All-star football games

On Friday night, the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association's annual East-West All-Star Game took place in Altoona.

Tonight, the Big 33 Football Classic kicks off in Hershey. Locally, the Tri-County Football Coaches Association BeeGraphix Football Classic (holy long title) starts at 7 p.m. at South Fayette.

It marks the 13th time the TCFCA game, formerly called the Pro Grass Football Classic, will be contested.

The game, and all other all-star football games taking place this weekend, gives one final showcase for Division I players before heading off to various programs throughout the country. That's especially true of the Big 33. The local game offers some recent high school graduates a final opportunity to play organized football. Others get a chance to play with future teammates, whether it be at Waynesburg, Washington & Jefferson or Robert Morris. For coaches, it's an opportunity to do what they love with a week of practices and game planning.

Personally, those reasons aren't enough to play these games.

Look back no further than last summer when former Trinity standout Mike Yancich was injured during practice for the Big 33. Yancich was not able to play in the game and it hindered preparations for his freshman year at Penn State.

I spoke with Yancich during his week in Hershey for the Big 33 and, despite the injury, he said he would do it again if given the opportunity. Got to respect Yancich's desire to play against top competition and experience something new. For me, that wouldn't be worth the risk.

Then, there's the timing of the games. It's just peculiar, even if there are few viable options.

Playing an all-star football game following the conclusion of the high school season has its flaws - winter weather being one and winter sports being another. That said, playing these games in mid-June, after the completion of the PIAA sports season, takes something away from it.

I'd like to open the forum to players, coaches, assistant coaches, players parents, all-star organizers and whomever would like to chip in. Let me know why you like these games and why they should continue. Tell me how off-base I am. Maybe you have an idea that could add a little luster to the games. Maybe you know another time they could be played.

Or maybe you agree with me.

This thread is yours.

Friday, June 19, 2009

No sophomore slump

Bryce Harper already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. He's been compared the Alex Rodriguez and (Washington County-born) Ken Griffey Jr. He has an agent in Scott Boras and been tabbed by as "The Chosen One."

Harper is only 16-years-old.

Age means nothing for the Las Vegas resident as Harper, who recently completed his sophomore year, opted for a GED in hopes of pursuing a professional baseball career by enrolling in a community college and being eligible for the 2010 draft.

Here are a few links:



Monday, June 15, 2009

Big Seven to start at 7 p.m.

Chartiers-Houston played at Fort Cherry in the 2008 regular season finale for both WPIAL playoff-bound Class A football teams. Bad weather, a plethora of incomplete passes and a running back who continually ran out of bounds protecting the lead were key contributors to the game running late.

It's 9:30 p.m. with no end in sight; 9:45, 10, 10:10. Finally, the game ended near 10:30 p.m. Following a couple brief post-game interviews, this reporter headed back toward any area where wireless Internet may be available.

Then came the next snag.

A wreck between Fort Cherry High School and Hickory forced traffic to be re-routed. Suddenly, it's nearing 11 p.m. and I'm driving through McDonald. Getting my story filed and sent by 11:25 or 11:30 was not looking good.

That's just one of the many, many reasons media outlets covering high school football throughout Western Pennsylvania are praising the decision made the Class AAA Big Seven Conference and a few other WPIAL teams to push games up 30 minutes, from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Ringgold and Trinity are among the schools experimenting with the early start. Kudos to both, and not because it helps the media make deadline on a hectic Friday night. (Though it's greatly appreciated.)

Other positives include:
1. The 11 p.m. deadline on junior licenses;
2. Saturday morning college boards;
3. Saturday morning junior varsity games;
4. Time for adults who attend games to hit their favorite post-game place before the kitchen closes.

As Trinity coach Ed Dalton said, "We honestly had trouble coming up with any disadvantage."

Ringgold coach Lloyd Price also offered a few other positives including missing traffic delays en route to away games.

"We also feel this will give us more exposure," said Price. "We didn't want to use that as a driving force but it was a factor."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

Former NFL kickers Bruce Gossett (Cecil) and Fred Cox (Monongahela) are the best ever produced by Washington County high schools at the position. Gossett spent 11 years in the NFL (1964-74) with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. He was All-Pro in 1966. Cox, in addition to an integral role in the creation of Nerf football, played halfback at Pitt from 1959-61 and spent 15 years in the NFL with Cleveland (1961-62) and Minnesota (1963-77). Cox played in four Super Bowls.

More recently, former Ringgold standout Todd James joined the list of all-time great kickers from the area. This week, the Varsity Letters issues an All Points Bulletin for James.

A strong-legged kicker and punter at Ringgold, James' kickoffs were rarely returned by the opposition. Mainly because they landed past the goal line. As a senior, James earned all-state honors then went on to West Virginia, where he was a kicker and punter during various stages of his college career.

Anyone with information regarding James' whereabouts is urged to contact the Varsity Letters.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Almost teammates

Following Trinity's loss to eventual PIAA Class AAA finalist Chartiers Valley in the semifinals of the WPIAL playoffs, Colts coach Jim Jaskowski said of Hillers pitcher Alex Frey, "If he isn't the best pitcher in the WPIAL, he's one of the top two or three."

After Carmichaels lost to Serra Catholic, another PIAA finalist, in the WPIAL Class A championship, Eagles coach Brian Dzurenda called Mikes pitcher Joby Lapkowicz, "The best pitcher in the WPIAL, without a doubt."

Lapkowicz, who lost only one game during his final two years of varsity baseball, is a hard-throwing lefthander who regularly hits 88 mph throughout a game. He signed with Slippery Rock University to play baseball earlier in the school year.

Frey, another hard-throwing lefty who stays around 84-85, nearly joined Lapkowicz at the Rock before choosing Youngstown State.

"I know Joby and I've watched him pitch a few times. He's really good," said Frey, who – like Lapkowicz – is not tall for a power pitcher. "I almost joined him."

Slippery Rock's loss is Youngstown State's gain. The Rock, however, shouldn't be feeling too bad about not landing Frey. They've plucked several of the area's top talents in recent years.

Besides Lapkowicz, current Rock players include Waynesburg High grad Mitch Monas and South Fayette's Matt Kosik, who finished second on the team in batting average as a freshman. Plus, former California High ace and Observer-Reporter Player of the Year Zach Jeney is on the roster.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Menhart back with the Mikes

The Carmichaels School Board hired a new varsity football coach at Monday night’s board meeting and it’s a familiar face to the program.
John Menhart, Carmichaels’ head football coach from 1989 to 2002, was hired by a 6-0 vote of the school board. One board member abstained.
Menhart replaces Mike Bosnic, who left Carmichaels to take the head coaching position at Washington High School. Bosnic coached the Mikes from 2003-08.
The principal at Carmichaels Area Junior/Senior High School, Menhart spent the past three years as an assistant football coach at Waynesburg University.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stats needed

The Observer-Reporter needs baseball and softball coaches from its coverage area to send in final stats for all-star consideration if that task has yet to be done.

Stats can be sent to mkovak@observer-reporter.com, orsports@observer-reporter.com, faxed to 724-225-2077 or called in to 724-222-2200.

Montana's son headed to Washington

SEATTLE (AP) — Just like his dad, Nick Montana will wear a golden helmet in college. Unlike his famous father, he’ll be doing it on the shores of Lake Washington and not under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus.
Nick Montana, the son of former Notre Dame and NFL great Joe Montana, has given a verbal commitment to play his college ball at Washington. He will be a senior at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif. this fall. He told his coach Bill Redell on Tuesday night of his decision to become a Husky after visiting the school last weekend.
“I’ve put probably seven, eight, nine guys in Division I programs and he’s one of the top guys I’ve ever had,” Redell said by phone Wednesday. “He’ll do nothing but get better.”
Montana is considered one of the top prep quarterbacks for the class of 2010, rated by Scout.com as the No. 13 quarterback prospect in the country. Last season as a junior, he led Oaks Christian to a 14-0 record, threw for more than 2,500 yards and 33 touchdowns.
With one high school season left, Montana is already accepting the task of helping rebuild the once proud program at Washington.
“I just felt they had the best opportunity for me,” Montana said in a radio interview Wednesday with KJR-AM in Seattle.
Landing Montana is a huge boost for the Huskies, as new coach Steve Sarkisian tries to rebuild from last year’s 0-12 season.
Last week, high school junior Jake Heaps, from Skyline High School in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish and considered the top high school quarterback in the country, spurned an offer from the Huskies and verbally committed to BYU.
Montana had offers from most major colleges in the country, including Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Georgia and his dad’s alma mater, Notre Dame.
In the radio interview, he said Washington wasn’t high on his list but that changed after visiting the school with his parents and meeting with Sarkisian.
“When I got up there I just had a great feeling and a feeling I couldn’t turn down,” Montana said. “I knew I had to be there.”
The school cannot comment on Montana’s decision until he signs a national letter of intent in February. But Sarkisian wrote on his Twitter page late Tuesday, “The Dawgs are barking loud tonight!!!”
Washington fans will soon get a chance to see Montana up close. His Oaks Christian team plays at Heaps’ Skyline squad on Sept. 18.
“The parents made it clear it was his decision. I don’t think Joe or anybody put any pressure on him to go to Notre Dame or not go to Notre Dame,” Redell said. “They left that decision up to him.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wilkins picks Michigan

Ken Wilkins, a senior-to-be at Trinity High School, made an oral commitment to play football at the University of Michigan Tuesday at a noon press conference held at the football field behind the high school.

Wilkins selected Michigan over 24 other offers. His final five choices were Michigan, Pitt, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

At 6-4, 235, Wilkins could play outside linebacker but also has the frame to grow into a defensive end, which is where he spent his junior season at Trinity. Wilkins was a first-team all-state selection as a junior and finished the year with more than 80 tackles and 10-plus sacks.

He is the seventh Division I recruit Trinity has produced the past five years and the 43rd Hillers player to decide to play football at the college level during that span.

With Wilkins set to join the Big Ten in 2010, he'll be the fourth Trinity player in the conference. Andy Miller and Andrew Sweat are at Ohio State. Mike Yancich is at Penn State.

When's the last time one local high school had four players in the Big Ten?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Trinity loses, South Fayette wins

The Trinity softball team had its hopes of winning a PIAA Class AAA title end with Monday's 6-2 loss to Greencastle-Antrim at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg.

Greencastle-Antrim scored four runs in the third inning and added two in the fourth. The Hillers made four errors and a few other uncharacteristic mistakes. Ashley Morran homered again for Trinity, her ninth of the season on a line drive to center field.

The South Fayette baseball team, meanwhile, advanced to the PIAA Class AA championship with a surprising 4-0 victory over perennial power Mount Union. The Lions are in the state title game for the first time and beat a Mount Union team which has won three PIAA championships to get there.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trinity hires Kotchman

Former Trinity High School girls basketball standout Jackie Kotchman was hired as the school's varsity girls basketball coach at last week's school board meeting. In an unusual move, Kotchman received a three-year contract worth $4,500 per.

One reason for the deal is Kotchman's background. In addition to her playing days at Trinity, where she and Elaine Sobansky led the Hillers to section championships before graduating in 1980, and Ohio University, Kotchman has held a variety of coaching jobs – from volunteering at the youth level to junior varsity – at Trinity over the past 11 years.

Kotchman replaces Jim Webb, who led Trinity to an 8-14 record on an interim basis during the 2008-09 season. Webb, who coached Trinity from 2001-2006, replaced Becky Siembak. She resigned two weeks before last season started.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Girl wins team track title

This reminds me of when Erie McDowell (District 10) had a dominant performer in Sheena Gordon.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The best small high school track team in Texas is once again a freckle-faced girl named Bonnie Richardson.
Richardson, the valedictorian of her 59-student class in the tiny farming town of Rochelle, — and the lone girl competing in track and field at the school, won the Class A team state title Saturday for the second consecutive year.
She won the gold in the long jump and high jump, took silver in the discus and bronze in the 200 meters. She also finished fourth in the 100 meters.
There are no other girls on the Rochelle High School track team. Richardson is the only girl in state history to win a team title on her own.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Trinity semifinal set

Trinity softball (14-8), in the PIAA semifinals for the first time, plays District 3 champion Greencastle-Antrim in Monday's Class AAA semi at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg (near Altoona) at 6 p.m.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trinity softball advances to semifinals

SLIPPERY ROCK – Ashley Morran’s two-run single with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Trinity past Corry, 7-6, Thursday in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals at Slippery Rock University.
Morran, a junior centerfielder, went 4-for-4 with a solo home run, stolen base and another key single in the fifth inning as the Hillers (14-8) rallied twice in the late innings to advance to the state semifinals for the first time in their history.
Corry (18-5), the District 10 champion for the 10th time in 11 years, had won 18 straight and took a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning before Trinity rallied with a four spot in the bottom of the fifth.
The Beavers took the lead once again in the seventh with the help of an error and a passed ball.
Trinity plays the winner of the quarterfinal between District 3 champion Greencastle-Antrim and District 9 champion Punxsutawney on Monday with a site and time to be determined.
Read more in Friday's edition of the Observer-Reporter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Note to PIAA

As a couple hundred people patiently waited for the completion of Monday's PIAA first-round baseball playoff game between Clarion and Villa Marie high schools at Slippery Rock University's Jack Scritchfield Park, one thing became abundantly clear.

It's an absolutely idiotic idea to schedule baseball tripleheaders on a weekday.

Such was the case Monday at Slippery Rock. The day started with a Class AA game between North Catholic and Franklin and was followed by the Clarion-Villa game, which lasted an excruciating 12 innings.

Meanwhile, fans, players and coaches from Trinity and Grove City sat and waited, and waited, and waited and, yes, waited.

The Hillers and Eagles, scheduled to start their PIAA Class AAA first round game at 6 p.m., didn't see the first pitch until 8:40 p.m. That's a delay of 160 minutes.

Talk about ridiculous.

The game wasn't completed until 10:45 p.m., give or take a minute. That's bad enough. Factor in the 90-100 minute drive back to Washington for the Hillers and they didn't get back until well after midnight.

That should not happen for a high school sporting event during the week.

The PIAA needs to schedule these weekday tripleheaders before the 1 p.m. start of Monday's game or eliminate them completely. I'm for the latter.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wilkins to make decision next week

All-state defensive end Kenny Wilkins, who will be a senior at Trinity High School, plans to announce his college decision at a press conference next Tuesday at noon.

Wilkins has 25 scholarship offers and, according to Trinity athletic director/football coach Ed Dalton, he selected five finalists - Virginia, Maryland, Pitt, Michigan and West Virginia. Recruiting websites continue to report that Michigan is Wilkins' top choice.