Friday, July 31, 2009

Rohanna 14th at Junior PGA

Rachel Rohanna, a 2009 Waynesburg High School graduate, had another impressive finish at a big tournament. This time, Rohanna tied for 14th at the Junior PGA Girls Championship, held at TPC River's Bend in Mainesville, Ohio.

Rohanna finished the four-round tournament with a total of 294. Her final two rounds were even-par and her first round was one-under. Only a seven-over 79 on the second day kept Rohanna, part of The Ohio State University's incoming women's golf recruiting class, from finishing higher.

The only two-time WPIAL and PIAA girls golf champion from the Washington-Greene region, Rohanna was 22 strokes off the pace set by 14-year-old Alexis Thompson, who shot a winning score of 272.

Thompson, of Coral Gables, Fla., also won the event in 2007, when she was 12.

Twitter Nation

Can't count me among the technologically advanced.

Never operated a My Space page.

Still refuse to join Facebook. Heck, upon finding out wanted money, haven't been back to that site.

Still own a VCR, cassette tapes, PlayStation 2 and a record player. Don't own a flatscreen television or a laptop. When it comes to ammenities, an iPod and a cell phone are about as advanced as I get.

Cheap? Stupid? Old-fashioned? Yeah, probably all of the above.

So, naturally, Twitter is not something that's been embraced by this antiquated sports writer. Checked it out at the urging of old friend Chad Walter, an Internet entrepreneur smart enough to start a website

that has attracted many of the top professional athletes around, from Terrell Owens to Lance Armstrong to Serena Williams.

Never really cared that Jennie Finch is looking for "strong Japanese coffee" or that Dahntay Jones used to love the apple danishes at Starbucks.

Maybe I should.

Athletes are joining Twitter by the thousands and, after a recent conversation with a local sports writer who must track every Pittsburgh professional athlete's Twitter page, it's evident that more and more are breaking news via Twitter.

I'm wondering how many high school athletes out there are using Twitter and I'd like to hear from those who are or those who think it's nothing more than a social networking site. Could high school sports eventually use Twitter to break stories? Are varsity athletes already using Twitter for such purposes?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

Information concerning our last All Points Bulletin came from all directions. In searching for former Ringgold High and Waynesburg U. football standout Robert Heller, the Varsity Letters learned that Heller is either a) preparing to play football at Slipper Rock, b) preparing to play football at Marietta, c) at Marietta but abandoning football for boxing or d) not much of anything.

Thanks for all the feedback. Hopefully, Heller surfaces soon.

This week, we're issuing another All Points Bulletin for a former Observer-Reporter Athlete of the Year. This one is for former Canon-McMillan standout Ashley Young.

Young's senior year (2004-05) was one to remember. Nicknamed "Cheetah", she won the WPIAL Class AAA long jump as a senior and also set the event record at the Washington-Greene County Coaches Track Meet. She was also a four-year letterwinner in soccer.

Young, shown in this 2005 photo with former C-M track standout Adam Penn, attended Edinboro University. Tragedy struck during her junior year when her sister Aaleigha Young died at the age of 13 after collapsing during gym class at Canonsburg Middle School.

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WPIAL track legend dies

In 1989, Thomas Jefferson High School's Marla Puryear ran the 100-meter dash in a scorching 11.2 seconds. No female runner from the district has even done it faster at the high school level, before or since.

Puryear died Monday after a lengthy illness.

In addition to her 100 mark, Puryear owns the sixth-fastest WPIAL time in the 200 (24.3). Trenton Coles, her son and a sophomore at Clairton High School, won the WPIAL Class AA 400 as a freshman.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

PIAA football staying with four classes

If the PIAA strategic planning committee recommendations hold up, Pennsylvania high school football will look a lot like it did the past two years.

The committee met in Mechanicsburg and decided to recommend to the PIAA Board of Control to keep only four classifications for football and maintain a 16-week season for teams which qualify for the PIAA championships. The 17-member committee is made up of representatives from the state's 12 districts. It voted 11-5 against the six-classification proposal (one member absent) and then 12-4 to keep four classifications and the 16-week season.

PIAA Executive Director Brad Cashman wanted to add two classifications for football only, starting in 2010. Many districts outside of the WPIAL were believed to be in favor of the move.

This could change during Friday's PIAA Board of Control meeting, but that seems unlikely at this point.

If the recommendation holds up, it goes down as a victory for the WPIAL, which will be able to maintain its current playoff format and play its championship games at Heinz Field.

Why coach?

Blogger's note: Received a couple request from Observer-Reporter readers to post my column from Thursday's edition.

One day after being hired as Carmichaels High School football coach, John Menhart spoke of the high quality and quantity of applicants the opening attracted.
And Menhart, the Mikes’ coach for 14 solid seasons through 2002, should know. He’s the principal.
“You wouldn’t believe the people we heard from,” Menhart said back in mid-June. “It says a lot about what people think of Carmichaels. This is a place where people want to coach.”
These days, not many other places are on that list. Coaching high school sports in tradition-rich and sports-crazed areas like Western Pennsylvania has become increasingly difficult.
A few meddlesome parents spend more time whining about playing time and questioning the coaching staff’s abilities as than they do developing the talents of their children. Hey, how hard can it be to coach when that parent led these kids to some tournament championship back when they were in fifth grade?
From parents to apathetic athletic directors to school board members with agendas to anonymous and unwarranted criticism on the Internet, coaching is hard. Heck, it’s becoming nearly impossible.
In light of recent events, one must wonder why anyone would want to forge into a high school coaching career. With the exception of Carmichaels, where coaches hang around for decades more often than not, it’s far more trouble than it’s worth.
Take the recent action by the Peters Township School Board and the circumstances surrounding opening the varsity softball coach’s position previously held, and with a certain degree of success, by Bea Rhodes.
Following the 2009 season, one in which a previously moribund program qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth time in five years, Rhodes received approval for the 2010 season by athletic director Rich Relich and principal Dr. Thomas Hajzus.
That’s usually all it takes for the school board to approve the hiring.
Not in Rhodes’ case.
In an unusual move, a group of players’ parents met with superintendent Dr. Nina Zetty to discuss issues concerning Rhodes’ handling of the team. Most of the information Rhodes received came from second-hand sources.
“There weren’t any real specifics to let me go,” Rhodes said. “They said I was calling games off too late. Just crazy things that had nothing to do with the team. The funny thing is I never had much of a problem with the players.”
That’s not where most of the problems come from, at least not for high school coaches.
They come from parents, some determined to take any action to garner more playing time or recognition, whether deserved or not. One thing to keep in mind: Postseason awards such as the Observer-Reporter’s annual softball all-star team – with two Peters Township players on this year’s first team and three others on honorable mention – are not determined by coaches.
Those sure seem like frivolous reasons to oust a successful, respected coach.
“I have a pretty good relationship with the coaches and umps around the area,” Rhodes said. “And I have a great reputation. I demand my teams be respected and well-behaved. That’s something that others noticed about Peters Township softball.”
Too bad that wasn’t enough for a coach who took Peters Township to the WPIAL semifinals, an unthinkable achievement 10 years prior, in 2007.
Then again, it’s coming from a district with a growing reputation for being difficult on coaches.
So, who’s next? Whether it’s in Greene County or Washington County, bet it won’t take long to find out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sarra coaching again at Waynesburg Central

In his first year as varsity football coach at Waynesburg High School, Dave Sarra guided the Raiders to an appearance in the 2000 WPIAL Class AA championship game. It marked Waynesburg's second consecutive appearance in the title game but, unlike the 1999 championship, that season ended with a loss to Bernard "Josh" Lay and Aliquippa at Three Rivers Stadium.

A repeat of such a feat would be nothing short of miraculous after Sarra was hired by the school district as its boys basketball coach.

Sarra compiled a 45-26 record in seven season as Raiders football coach. He previously served as varsity girls basketball coach and replaces Aaron Ankrom, a former standout player at Waynesburg. The Raiders went 7-15 a year ago and have not had a winning season since 2004-05.

  • Woodland Hills is hiring Dave Krakoff as its boys basketball coach. Ringgold followers may remember the name. Krakoff was hired as athletic director and boys basketball coach in April, 2004 only to resign later that month. Krakoff has coached at West Allegheny and Pine-Richland.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rhodes out at PT

Long-time Peters Township High School softball coach Bea Rhodes was informed this week that her position has been opened. Rhodes guided Peters Township to an 11-6 record in 2009 and the Indians' fourth WPIAL playoff appearance in five years.

An interesting side story to the opening is how Rhodes found out.

According to Rhodes, she along with Peters Township athletic director Rich Relich were under the impression she'd be back for the 2010 season, her 13th as Indians coach, followng Tuesday's school board meeting. On Tuesday night, Relich received an e-mail from superintendent Dr. Nina Zetty informing him that Rhodes' position had been opened.

For more on this story, read Saturday's Observer-Reporter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Big Seven Media Day, Part II

Last August, football coaches and a few athletic directors from Belle Vernon, Chartiers Valley, Elizabeth Forward, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity and West Mifflin converged on Cedarbrook Golf Course for the first Big Seven Football Conference Media Day.

The event, organized by Ringgold athletic director and new football coach Lloyd Price, was unique for WPIAL football.

It's a common practice in college football, however, as most conferences – from the Big East to PSAC – hold media days.

In speaking with several coaches, there was skepticism entering last year's event but after it was over, the reviews were positive. And why not? It created newspaper and Internet copy during a lean time of year and gave the Big Seven additional publicity.

Given last year's success, the Big Seven will host a second Media Day on Wednesday, Aug. 5.
There figures to be an interesting subplot to this year's event considering the comments Elizabeth Forward coach Garry Cathell made about Thomas Jefferson after the two played last year. Cathell issued an apology but the guess here is there haven't been too many pleasantries exchanged since.

For a refresher,

Friday, July 10, 2009


A reminder to posters on The Varsity Letters:

Opinion is accepted and encouraged as long as it is not disguised as fact or in the form of outlandish, unproven accusations.

Steroids tesing for high school athletes

The following story is part of the reason why I don't see Pennsylvania adopting a high school drug testing policy for athletes any time soon.

Texas steroid tests still net few positive results
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ steroid-testing program for high schoolers — the nation’s largest — has returned just eight positive results from the latest 16,000 tests.
The University Interscholastic League said the results announced Friday bring to 19 the total cases of steroids use confirmed by 45,000 tests conducted since February 2008.
Given so few positive results, state lawmakers agreed in May to slash spending on the much-touted program from $6 million to $2 million during the next two years.
The latest round of tests conducted from January through May also deemed 62 cases “protocol positives.” That’s when an athlete has an unexcused absence on the day they’re selected for testing or refuses to provide a urine sample.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Separated at birth?

Kudos to Observer-Reporter switchboard operator Brenda Evans for pointing out this resemblance, one between sports editor Chris Dugan (pictured with boxing legend Roberto Duran) and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

Not too sure about this one. Maybe it's the matching staches.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Top WPIAL football recruit may miss season

According to the Post-Gazette, Sto-Rox quarterback Paul Jones may miss the 2009 football season after breaking his left ankle during a pickup basketball game last week.

Jones, along with Canon-McMillan's Mike Hull, is part of the Nittany Lions' recruiting class for 2010.

He passed for 1,790 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior. ranks Jones as the nation's No. 96 college football prospect in the upcoming senior class.

Sto-Rox finished 8-2 last year and lost Beaver in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. The Vikings compete in the Century Conference, which includes South Fayette.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

With all the discussion concerning the 2009 Observer-Reporter Boys Athlete of the Year, the Varsity Letters decided to issue an All Points Bulletin for a former honoree.

This week, we're looking for former Ringgold High School standout Robert Heller.

Heller enjoyed a fine varsity career at Ringgold, where he starred in football, basketball, baseball and track. Football proved to be Heller's best sport and he turned down at least one Division I offer to play defense to focus on being a running back. After a year at Kiski Prep, Heller went to Waynesburg University.

In his freshman year with the Yellow Jackets, Heller set nearly every record imaginable, including the NCAA all divisions single-season rushing record (2,176 yards), which put him on pace to be the all-time leading rusher in college football history.

Heller suffered a high-ankle sprain during the first game of his sophomore year. From there, things between Heller and Waynesburg U. turned ugly.

Heller never played again for Waynesburg.

Stories circulated about Heller transferring to Mount Union College and Marietta. Neither have been able to be proven correct.

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