Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Top 10 Male Athletes (Sept. 1999 to present)

Blogger's note: This is the final installment of the 10th anniversary series, commemorating the best of local high school sports in the past 10 years. Today's topic - top male athletes.

10. Joby Lapkowicz, Carmichaels
Lapkowicz accomplished so many things at Carmichaels, Mikes fans believed he could complete a pass to himself or catch one of his 88-90 mph fastballs at home plate. Lapkowicz was Carmichaels' primary offensive threat in football, a defensive-minded guard who could put up points in basketball and one of the best pitchers the area has seen in years. He lost two games on the mound in four years.

9. Nick Wilcox, Peters Township
Wilcox offered glimpses of greatness during his junior year. He assisted on both goals in Peters Township's state soccer championship and averaged nearly 18 ppg in basketball. His senior year goes down in the record books. Wilcox earned all-state honors in soccer and basketball, in addition to winning WPIAL championships in both and making another state title appearance in soccer.

8. Robert Heller, Ringgold
Heller set a NCAA single-season rushing record for freshman at Waynesburg two years ago. Many people forget that he was a standout in three other sports at Ringgold. In basketball, Heller's determination turned him into a reliable scorer. In his only year running track, Heller qualified for the PIAA championships. In baseball, Heller was one of the top leadoff batters in the WPIAL.

7. Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan
Consider Hull's ranking incomplete as he has his senior year to finish. The Penn State recruit's football exploits are stuff of legend in Canonsburg, as is his single-season rushing record and 300-plus tackles. As a sophomore, Hull placed at the PIAA wrestling meet and, that year, batted leadoff for the Big Macs state championship baseball team.

6. Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg
Every time Simpson carried the football for Waynesburg, a group of die-hard fans yelled, "He's too big." Simpson was also too good. Quick, nimble and agile for his size, Simpson rushed for more than 4,000 yards and was a two-time all-state linebacker in high school. He was a WPIAL wrestling champion and, for good measure, Simpson placed second in the shot put at the state meet his senior year.

5. Andrew Sweat, Trinity
Like Heller, people tend to think of Sweat strictly from a football perspective. That's slighting the man selected as the 2007 O-R Boys Athlete of the Year. Sure, he's one of the best high school linebackers Washington County has seen during the decade, but his skill set in basketball was far better than he receives credit for and his big bat was a big reason Trinity made the state playoffs that year. Missing that bat (Sweat graduated early) might have kept them from winning the 2008 state title.

4. Lee Fritz, Waynesburg
Arguably the most clutch athlete to come through the area the past decade, Fritz found ways to win more big games over a three-year stretch than some high schools have ever won. The quarterback and safety on three of the greatest football teams in Waynesburg history - including the 1999 WPIAL championship quad - Fritz became the first district player to run and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. His bat and pitching arm also got Waynesburg to one PIAA championship game and a WPIAL championship.

3. Coleman Scott, Waynesburg
Will Scott be the last three-time PIAA champion to wrestle in these parts? Chances are he's not but until someone else comes along, the guess here is my esteemed colleague Joe Tuscano (operator of the Mat Matters blog) would name Scott the "Wrestler of the Decade." Maybe wrestling fans should encourage him to do one. (After all, he needs something to do). Scott's wrestling abilities make him a shoo-in for this list but what ranks him so high is that he was also an outstanding all-section soccer player.

2. Dan Mozes, Washington
Recently named by the Varsity Letters as the best local football player of the past 10 years, readers don't likely need reminded of Mozes' havoc-wreaking ways on the football field. I can still see him spending most of the 2001 game versus Waynesburg chasing the Raiders' quarterback everywhere. Mozes also played basketball on some excellent Prexies teams in a role similar to what Bryan Thomas provided during the 2008-09 season. In the spring, Mozes played first base and annually ranked among the top offensive producers in the WPIAL for Wash High's baseball team.

1. Jim Gallagher, Peters Township
Speaking of baseball, the area has not seen a better player the past decade than Peters Township's Jim Gallagher, who was inexplicably not selected as the O-R Boys Athlete of the Year in 2004 by the sports staff (he got my vote). A top-notch defensive outfielder, Gallagher hit with the best of them and did it in clutch situations, like the PIAA playoffs. A dual-threat quarterback, Gallagher had scholarship offers from as far away as Stanford.

Monday, September 28, 2009

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Monday, September 28, with school’s district in parentheses, followed by the school’s record and last week’s ranking. NR means not ranked. Honorable mention teams listed alphabetically.
1. Bishop McDevitt (3) 4-0 2
2. North Penn (1) 4-0 3
3. Gateway (7) 4-0 4
4. St. Joseph’s Prep (12) 3-1 9
5. McKeesport (7) 3-1 5
6. La Salle College (12) 3-1 1
7. Abington (1) 3-0 NR
8. Downingtown West (1) 4-0 10
9. Pgh Cent. Catholic (7) 3-1 NR
10. McDowell (10) 3-1 NR
Honorable mention
Bethel Park (7) 3-1, Cardinal O’Hara (12) 4-0, Central Dauphin (3) 3-1, Cumberland Valley (3) 3-1, Father Judge (12) 4-0, Henderson (1) 4-0, Neshaminy (1) 3-1, Norristown (1) 4-0, North Allegheny (7) 3-1, Pennsbury (1) 4-0, Ridley (1) 4-0, Shaler (7) 4-0, State College (6) 3-1, Upper St. Clair (7) 3-1, Woodland Hills (7) 3-1.

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 4-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 4-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 4-0 3
4. Cathedral Prep (10) 3-1 4
5. Manheim Central (3) 4-0 5
6. Hopewell (7) 4-0 6
7. Pottsgrove (1) 4-0 7
8. Abington Heights (2) 4-0 8
9. Bayard Rustin (1) 4-0 9
10. Allentown C.C. (11) 4-0 NR
Honorable mention
Berwick (2) 3-1, Bradford (10) 4-0, Chartiers Valley (7) 4-0, Cocalico (3) 3-1, Dallas (2) 4-0, Daniel Boone (3) 4-0, Elco (3) 4-0, Greencastle-Antrim (3) 4-0, New Castle (7) 3-1, North Pocono (2) 4-0, Shikellamy (4) 4-0, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 4-0, West York (3) 4-0.

1. Wilmington (10) 4-0 1
2. Beaver Falls (7) 4-0 2
3. Dunmore (2) 4-0 3
4. West Catholic (12) 4-0 4
5. Lancaster Catholic (3) 3-1 5
6. Martinsburg Central (6) 4-0 6
7. Montoursville (4) 4-0 7
8. Jeannette (7) 4-0 8
9. Aliquippa (7) 3-1 9
10. General McLane (10) 4-0 10
Honorable mention
Honorable mention: Bok (12) 4-0, Burrell (7) 3-1, Catasauqua (11) 4-0, Center (7) 4-0, Ford City (7) 4-0, Forest Hills (6) 4-0, Fort LeBeouf (10) 4-0, Freeport (7) 3-1, Hughesville (4) 4-0, Karns City (9) 4-0, Keystone Oaks (7) 3-1, Northern Lehigh (11) 3-1, North Schuylkill (11) 4-0, Richland (6) 4-0, Seton-LaSalle (7) 4-0, Shady Side Academy (7) 4-0, South Fayette (7) 4-0, Sto-Rox (7) 3-1, Towanda (4) 4-0.

1. Rochester (7) 4-0 1
2. Farrell (10) 4-0 2
3. Bishop McCort (6) 4-0 3
4. Laurel (7) 4-0 6
5. Clairton (7) 3-1 7
6. Steelton-Highspire (3) 2-1 8
7. Portage (6) 4-0 10
8. Fort Cherry (7) 4-0 NR
9. Serra Catholic (7) 3-1 5
10. Bellwood-Antis (6) 4-0 NR
Honorable mention
Avonworth (7) 4-0, Bloomsburg (4) 3-1, Cameron County (9) 4-0, Conemaugh Twp. (5) 3-1, Line Mountain (4) 4-0, Linesville (10) 4-0, Marion Center (6) 4-0, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 4-0, Moshannon Valley (6) 4-0, North Catholic (7) 2-2, Old Forge (2) 4-0, Schuylkill Haven (11) 3-1, Sharpsville (10) 4-0, Southern Columbia (4) 2-2, South Side Beaver (7) 3-1, Springdale (7) 3-1, Upper Dauphin (3) 4-0.

Top 10 female athletes (Sept. 1999 to present)

Blogger's note: The following is the fifth in a series commemorating the best in local high sports of the past decade. Today's topic – best female athletes.

10. Brittany Taylor, Canon-McMillan

Part of a trio which included Natasha Williams (on the basketball team at Akron) and Cameron Jones (an incredible athlete who stopped playing sports before her senior year at C-M), Taylor was an exceptional talent when healthy. Whether it was volleyball, basketball or track, Taylor excelled at all three. On full scholarship at Ohio Valley University for basketball.

9. Shellie Cotton, Charleroi

The 2001 Observer-reporter Girls Athlete of the Year, Cotton was an outstanding soccer player who led the Cougars to back-to-back PIAA Class AA championship appearances in 1999 and 2000. Her 199 goals are a Pennsylvania girls high school record. Cotton was also a basketball standout.

8. Stephanie Kuhn, Ringgold

The 2003 O-R Girls Athlete of the Year, Kuhn was another three-sport standout (soccer, basketball and track). Kuhn received a full ride from Robert Morris for track and soccer. She was a multiple NCAA-qualifier in the javelin. At the high school level, Kuhn scored more than 50 goals and holds the school record with 52 assists.

7. Rachel Rohanna, Waynesburg
A freshman at Ohio State University, Rohanna carved a golfing legacy within the borders of Greene County. Besides golfing with (and often beating) the boys, Rohanna won two WPIAL and PIAA individual championships. In addition, she was a four-year starter the softball team.

6. Jocelyn Floyd, Washington
At one point during her senior basketball season, Floyd recorded six consecutive triple-doubles. In each game, she topped double figures in points, rebounds and steals. A member of Duquesne University's basketball team, Floyd is arguably the best defensive basketball player Washington County has seen. She was also contributed heavily to the softball team.

5. Amanda Kennedy, Bentworth
Kennedy, part of the Marshall University track team and the 2009 O-R Girls Athlete of the Year, had yet to graduate from Bentworth and was already being called the greatest female athlete in school history. Hard to argue. Kennedy was an All-WPIAL talent in volleyball, the Bearcats' record holder in rebounds and the first athlete in Bentworth history to win multiple PIAA track and field medals.

4. Paige McMenamin, Peters Township
These days, McMenamin is winning national championships as part of the Northwestern University women's lacrosse team. During the 2006-07 school year, McMenamin put together one dominating performance after another. Besides being one of the WPIAL's premier field hockey players, McMenamin led Peters Township to a WPIAL lacrosse championship and earned All-America status. She was also the 2007 O-R Girls Athlete of the Year.

3. Brianna Liebold, Chartiers-Houston
Whether it was soccer or track, Liebold's considerable abilities drew considerable attention during her days at Chartiers-Houston. The most recent track great from Washington County, Liebold won four PIAA gold medals (two long jump, two triple jump) and remains among the top 12 in WPIAL history in each event. The 2006 O-R Girls Athlete of the Year, scored 139 goals in soccer.

2. Jaci Timko, Chartiers-Houston
Timko's offensive production may never be matched. A three-time O-R Softball player of the Year, Timko hit 32 home runs during her four years with the Bucs. She batted over .500 with a near .700 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage over 1.000. Timko played in one state championship game and helped C-H win three consecutive WPIAL Class A titles. Timko's softball abilities landed her in Sports Illustrated.

1. Charel Allen, Monessen
Allen left Monessen with one state title and an amazing 3,110 points. That total ranks second in WPIAL history (to fellow Greyhounds great Gina Naccarato) and fifth in state history. Allen went on to Notre Dame, where she was a team captain and a two-time All-Big East first-teamer. She played one year in the WNBA with Sacramento.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Three teams enter (or re-enter) the Class AAAA rankings following a tumultuous week in which Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Erie McDowell each lost. And, for the first time since the preseason, a Washington County team is ranked.

(Last week's ranking in parenthesis)
Class AAAA
1. Gateway 4-0 (1)
2. McKeesport 3-1 (4)
3. Woodland Hills 3-1 (NR)
4. Shaler 4-0 (NR)
5. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 3-1 (NR)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 4-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 4-0 (2)
3. Chartiers Valley 4-0 (3)
4. West Allegheny 3-1 (NR)
5. New Castle 3-1 (3)

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 4-0 (1)
2. Seton-La Salle 4-0 (2)
3. Mt. Pleasant 4-0 (3)
4. Jeannette 4-0 (4)
5. South Fayette 4-0 (5)

Class A
1. Rochester 4-0 (1)
2. Laurel 4-0 (3)
3. Clairton 3-1 (5)
4. Avonworth 4-0 (4)
5. Fort Cherry 4-0 (NR)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Top 10 programs (Sept. 1999 to present)

Blogger's note: The following is the fourth in a series celebrating the best of local high school sports from the past decade. Today's topic – top programs.

10. California baseball
California won WPIAL Class A championships in 2001 and 2006. The Trojans also had a runner-up finish in 2007. All were under the direction of head coach Don Hartman, a key player on California's 1983 WPIAL Class AA championship team. Cal finished one run short of playing for the 2007 PIAA Class A championship.

9. Washington boys basketball
The Prexies win games, usually more than 20 per year and claimed at least a share of eight section titles during the decade. In 2009, Wash High held a 12-point lead in the PIAA Class AA semifinals. Wash High never missed the playoffs during the stretch and reached the PIAA quarterfinals on two other occasions for recently retired head coach Ron Faust.

8. Washington girls basketball
Like the boys, the Wash High girls dominate play in Section 5-AA most years whether the coach is Mike Maltony, Jim Tidball or the combo of Bill Fleissner and Frank Yanni. Wash High loses a section game as often as the United States votes for a president. They've topped the 25-win plateau on four occasions, reached the PIAA semifinals once, the state playoffs seven times and played for one WPIAL title.

7. Monessen boys basketball
Last time Monessen missed the WPIAL playoffs was 1981, an incredible streak of 28 straight years. That number is tops in the WPIAL. Led by head coach Joe Salvino, the Greyhounds won WPIAL Class A titles in 2001 and 2002. Since moving to Class AA, Monessen remains a power and qualified for the PIAA playoffs in consecutive years.

6. Peters Township boys golf
When it comes to competing for WPIAL Division I team titles, Peters Township always contends for head coach Dave Kuhn. In addition to producing a long list of NCAA Division I golfers, the Indians have won WPIAL team titles in 2004 and 2008. Last year, they became the first WPIAL team to compete in the PIAA team tournament and placed second. This year, Peters Township is undefeated.

5. Carmichaels baseball
Thanks to the fundamentally-sound approach of head coach Dave Bates and an outstanding string of quality pitchers, Carmichaels has been the standard-bearer for Class A baseball in the WPIAL. The Mikes won WPIAL titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008 with runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2009. Carmichaels reached the 2008 PIAA Class A championship and made the semifinals in 2004.

4. Monessen girls basketball
Major Corley, the recently retired head coach of Monessen girls basketball, has been blessed with incredible talent, including the top two scorers in WPIAL history (new head coach Gina Naccarato and Charel Allen). With Allen leading the way, Monessen won WPIAL and PIAA Class A championships in 2004. In 2006, an underdog group won a WPIAL championship.

3. Peters Township baseball
Playing at the sport's highest classification, whether it's been Class AAAA or AAA, Peters Township has qualified for postseason play eight consecutive years. Coached by Joe Maize, the Indians reached the 2003 PIAA semifinals; the PIAA Class AAA championship game in 2004 and 2005. They enjoyed an undefeated 2006 regular season. Peters Township capped that by winning WPIAL Class AAAA titles in 2007 and 2008.

2. Chartiers-Houston softball
Chartiers-Houston won WPIAL Class A championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007, all for coach Tricia Alderson, once dubbed "Queen of the No-Hitter" by the Observer-Reporter during her playing days. The Bucs also played for a PIAA Class A title in 2005. They did the same in 2003 and 2000 when Dan Ross was head coach.

1. Peters Township boys soccer
Go back 25 years and it's difficult to find any team that can top the success enjoyed by the Peters Township boys soccer team.

And, over the past 10 years, no one has done more.

A steady stream of Division I talent, All-State players and a few All-Americans have continued a tradition of winning.

Peters Township won WPIAL Class AAA titles in 2003 and 2008. The first one with head coach Rob Eldridge. The second with head coach Bob Dyer. In between the two championships, Peters Township finished as WPIAL runner-up in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

In 2007, Peters Township won the PIAA Class AAA championship (the third in its short history) when Shane Pruitt's overtime goal gave the Indians a 2-1 win over Downingtown West. Peters Township returned to the state title match a year later, this time losing to Downingtown West.

Friday night thoughts, Week 4

In speaking with people not associated with Fort Cherry football, the consensus concluded that 2010 would be the Rangers year.

That may be true, but 2009 is starting to look good. I mean really good.

Fort Cherry's 42-34 victory at Serra Catholic Friday night came with several factors of impressiveness.

1. Fort Cherry rallied from a 21-7 first-quarter deficit. Not an easy thing to do for a team rife with underclassmen who just took their first long bus ride to an away game.

2. After the Rangers dominated most of the second quarter, Serra Catholic scored just before halftime to take a 28-16 lead into the locker room. Against most teams, game over.

3. Fort Cherry won the game up front. The lineman played well from the opening series.

4. The Rangers dazzled with speed. Junior tailback Gary Kiefer can bounce off tacklers but he can also pull away from the defense. He showcased both abilities with an outstanding 66-yard run. Junior receiver Nicholas Hurley also outran Serra on a couple occasions.

5. Despite allowing 34 points, Fort Cherry played solid defense. Three-first half turnovers and a few additional miscues were directly responsible for 21 of Serra's points.

They contained SC quarterback Rob Heatherington in the second half, holding him to 22 yards rushing. Plus they returned two of three interceptions for touchdowns.

Serra Catholic entered the game ranked No. 5 in Class A according to the Patriot-News of Harrisburg and most Western Pennsylvania newspapers had the Eagles ranked second or third in the WPIAL.

Maybe Serra Catholic was overrated or, just maybe, a lot of us underestimated Fort Cherry.

Either way, when Clairton plays at Fort Cherry Friday, the winner is likely to end up as conference champion.

* With back-to-back high-profile wins over Keystone Oaks and Sto-Rox, South Fayette sure looks like the team to beat in the Century Conference.

Junior quarterback Christian Brumbaugh, an emerging standout, passed for four touchdowns at Sto-Rox Friday night. If Brumbaugh continues his high level of play, there's no reason to believe the Lions won't be a factor in the Class AA playoffs.

** Speaking of factors, Beth-Center's special teams played a significant role (again) in its victory over Jefferson-Morgan.

Count me among those who believed the Rockets were ready to play with the Bulldogs this year. Uhhhh, wrong.

Beth-Center blocked two punts and rushed for 341 yards - sophomore DeShan Brown gained 143 with two scores - en route to an easy victory.

During last week's win over Carmichaels, Brown scored two special teams touchdowns and one defensive touchdown.

People can say what they want about the Tri-County South but no one can knock what Beth-Center accomplishes year-in, year-out. The Bulldogs find ways to win games, whether it's with defense, special teams or a potent running game.

*** Nice bounce-back win for Burgettstown at Chartiers-Houston.

The Blue Devils came into the game 1-2 after a blowout loss to Serra Catholic. They had also played South Side Beaver and Beth-Center. Chartiers-Houston was 3-0 but had yet to play any team remotely resembling what Burgettstown encountered.

As stated on this blog many times, competition matters.

**** Good to see Chad Hagan rush for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries as Canon-McMillan shut out Butler. Great story, great young man who had a great game.

***** Peters Township moved to 4-0 with its win over Indiana. The Indians have defeated just one Quad-A team to open the year but they are finding ways to win, something they hadn't done since 2003.

Here's another rarity - Peters Township is the lone unbeaten team in the Great Southern Conference.

Granted, the strength of schedule leaves a lot to be desired, but Peters Township opens conference play this week against a struggling Baldwin. A win moves PT to 5-0, 1-0 and with one additional victory, the Indians would make the Quad-A playoffs.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Top 10 football players (Sept. 1999 to present)

Blogger's note: This is the third installment of the 10th anniversary series. It covers the top 10 football players and it was, by far, the most difficult to judge. There are WPIAL record setters and big-time Division I players who did not make this list.

10. Jim Gallagher, Peters Township
Gallagher was so good at baseball, most people forget he remains one of the most heavily recruited quarterbacks from Washington County the past 15 years. An excellent passer, Gallagher could hit the deep receiver, complete the touch pass or rifle it into traffic. His best attributes were his feet and his knowledge of the game.

9. Doug Rheam, Canon-McMillan
The perfect fit for the Big Macs' offense, Rheam was a quarterback who could outrun defenders, run them over and pass with surprising accuracy. As a linebacker, he was one of the WPIAL's best and, thanks to his stellar senior year, the O-R quit naming an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year because he was both.

8. Ernest "Mick" Williams, Monessen
A dominating nose tackle at Pitt, Williams was a fullback and linebacker for the Greyhounds and one of the best small-school players in recent memory. Delivered the biggest hit I've ever witnessed at a high school game when, on the final play at Carmichaels, he leveled the Mikes running back near the sideline. Still can't get the sound of that impact from my memory.

7. Travis Thomas, Washington
Thomas graduated Washington as the No. 3 rusher in school history, heady company for the future Notre Dame special teams captain. A rare combination of size, speed and power, Thomas could break a 90-yard run as easily as he could grind out three yards on fourth-and-1. He was also an outstanding linebacker.

6. Andrew Sweat, Trinity
A four-year starter (his freshman year was at safety), Sweat emerged during Trinity's 2005 WPIAL Class AAAA playoff run. His quarterfinal performance against Mt. Lebanon and a game at West Mifflin during his junior year go down in Hillers history. Sweat might be the surest tackler to hit Washington County in decades.

5. Lanfer Simpson, Waynesburg
Simpson's junior year was every bit as good as Sweat's junior year at Trinity. The bruising fullback rushed for 1,000 yards or more in three straight season to finish with 4,010 in his career. As a linebacker, he's one of the best in school history plus he played in two WPIAL Class AA championships, winning one.

4. Lee Fritz, Waynesburg
Fritz was never much of a talker, he let his play do everything for him and, to this date, I've yet to cover an athlete at the high school level who found as many ways to win as he did. Fritz could do everything on the football field and, until recently, was the only quarterback in WPIAL history to run and throw for 1,000 yards in the same season. The scary thing is he was a better defensive back.

3. Bobby Hathaway, Carmichaels
Watching Hathaway punish opponents during his playing days with the Mikes could be frightening. In every game and versus every opponent, he was clearly the best player on the football field. A dominating runner, Hathaway could run at fullback or tailback with equal success. At linebacker, few players every finished a tackle as thoroughly as the leading scorer in Carmichaels history.

2. Mike Hull, Canon-McMillan
Who knows? By the end of his senior year, Hull could top this list. He's that good. A starter since his freshman year, Hull adds a dimension of game-breaking speed to the fullback position and he's nearing 3,000 rushing yards for his career. At middle linebacker, Hull has no peers. That's why many believe he'll be the next great one at Penn State.

1. Dan Mozes, Washington
When Wash High needed one-yard for a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 in the 2001 PIAA Class AA championship, the play call was the run behind Dan Mozes. And J.R. Ward found a huge hole to go through as the Prexies went on to win. An All-American center at West Virginia (he even appeared in Playboy), Mozes was the most dominant defensive lineman this area has seen in some time. That's why he was the 2001 Defensive Player of the Year.

He's also the best high school football player this area has had the past decade.

Honorable mention (all these players were considered for the Top 10)
Perry Ivery (Fort Cherry), Mike Vernillo (Fort Cherry), Robert Heller (Rinngold), Mike Yancich (Trinity), Ben Jennings (Trinity), Donte Valentino (California), Mike Sutton (Washington), Andrew DiDonato (South Fayette), Marques Parks (South Fayette),Cody Endres (Trinity), Doug Fife (Peters Township), J.J. Knabb (Peters Township), Dan Conley (Burgettstown), Rocky Doman (Carmichaels)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Wednesday, September 23, with school’s district in parentheses, followed by the school’s record and last week’s ranking. NR means not ranked. Honorable mention teams listed alphabetically.
1. La Salle College (12) 3-0 2
2. Bishop McDevitt (3) 3-0 3
3. North Penn (1) 3-0 5
4. Gateway (7) 3-0 6
5. McKeesport (7) 2-1 8
6. Neshaminy (1) 3-0 10
7. Central Dauphin (3) 3-0 NR
8. Upper St. Clair (7) 3-0 NR
9. St. Joseph’s Prep (12) 2-1 7
10. Downingtown West (1) 3-0 9
Honorable mention
Abington (1) 2-0, Bethel Park (7) 3-0, Cardinal O’Hara (12) 3-0, Cumberland Valley (3) 2-1, Easton (11) 3-0, McDowell (10) 3-0, North Allegheny (7) 2-1, Pennsbury (1) 3-0, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 2-1, Ridley (1) 3-0, State College (6) 2-1, Wilson (3) 2-1, Woodland Hills (7) 2-1.

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 3-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 3-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 3-0 3
4. Cathedral Prep (10) 2-1 4
5. Manheim Central (3) 3-0 5
6. Hopewell (7) 3-0 7
7. Pottsgrove (1) 3-0 8
8. Abington Heights (2) 3-0 6
9. Bayard Rustin (1) 3-0 9
10. Berwick (2) 3-0 10 Honorable mention
Allentown Central Catholic (11) 3-0, Bradford (10) 3-0, Chartiers Valley (7) 3-0, Cocalico (3) 3-0, Daniel Boone (3) 3-0, New Castle (7) 3-0, Strath Haven (1) 3-0, Strong Vincent (10) 2-1, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 3-0, Upper Moreland (1) 2-1, West York (3) 3-0.

1. Wilmington (10) 3-0 2
2. Beaver Falls (7) 3-0 3
3. Dunmore (2) 3-0 5
4. West Catholic (12) 3-0 6
5. Lancaster Catholic (3) 2-1 1
6. Martinsburg Central (6) 3-0 7
7. Montoursville (4) 3-0 8
8. Jeannette (7) 3-0 NR
9. Aliquippa (7) 3-0 9
10. General McLane (10) 3-0 10 Honorable mention
Bok (12) 3-0, Burrell (7) 3-0, Catasauqua (11) 3-0, Center (7) 3-0, Ford City (7) 3-0, Forest Hills (6) 3-0, Karns City (9) 3-0, Keystone Oaks (7) 2-1, Lewisburg (4) 3-0, Littlestown (3) 3-0, Northern Lehigh (11) 2-1, North Schuylkill (11) 3-0, Richland (6) 3-0, Seton-LaSalle (7) 3-0, South Fayette (7) 3-0, Sto-Rox (7) 3-0.

1. Rochester (7) 3-0 1
2. Farrell (10) 3-0 2
3. Bishop McCort (6) 3-0 3
4. Southern Columbia (4) 2-1 4
5. Serra Catholic (7) 3-0 5
6. Laurel (7) 3-0 6
7. Clairton (7) 2-1 7
8. Steelton-Highspire (3) 1-1 8
9. Schuylkill Haven (11) 3-0 9
10. Portage (6) 3-0 10 Honorable mention
Bellwood-Antis (6) 3-0, Bloomsburg (4) 2-1, Cameron County (9) 3-0, Chartiers-Houston (7) 3-0, Clarion (9) 3-0, Conemaugh Twp. (5) 3-0, Linesville (10) 3-0, North Catholic (7) 1-2, Old Forge (2) 3-0, Sharpsville (10) 3-0, South Side Beaver (7) 2-1, Springdale (7) 2-1.

Records are current. Previous ranking indicates the team’s position in last week’s
atriot-News rankings.

Games of the Week - Week 4

There's a three-pack of excellent games involving local teams.

South Fayette (3-0, 3-0) at Sto-Rox (3-0, 3-0)
These Century Conference rivals are two of the top teams in Class AA and each features one of the WPIAL's better quarterbacks.

Sto-Rox has Penn State recruit Paul Jones, who returned last week from an ankle injury to throw for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to Pitt recruit Andrew Carswell.

The Lions counter with junior Christian Brumbaugh, who passed for three scores in last week's win over Keystone Oaks. Tailback Jeff Davis has rushed for over 100 yards in all three games and has scored nine touchdowns.

Fort Cherry (1-0, 3-0) at Serra Catholic (1-0, 3-0)
A key early season contest in the Class A Black Hills Conference will likely come down to how well Fort Cherry, playing its first road game, handles senior quarterback Ron Heatherington.

A first year starter at quarterback, Heatherington is an absolute menace. He's passed for 308 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 367 yards and another five scores. He's coming off a huge performance at Burgettstown.

Sophomore Tanner Garry is the Rangers' first-year quarterback and he's played well to date, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns. For Fort Cherry to beat Serra, which it did a year ago, establishing Gary Kiefer (306 yards, 7 TD) is essential.

Jefferson-Morgan (1-0, 3-0) at Beth-Center (1-0, 2-1)
Looking for an intense rivalry? This is it. These neighboring schools districts always play a tight game, no matter the disparity between the teams.

And this year, there's little disparity to find as both look like early contenders in the Class A Tri-County South Conference.

The Rockets opened with three easy victories and got the offense rolling in each. They're the highest scoring team in WPIAL Class A with 123 points as Hans Lubich, Ryan Knight, Derek Haiden and quarterback Brandon Kozich are all enjoying fine seasons.

The Bulldogs are still searching for an identity on offense having scored just one offensive touchdown during a win last week over Carmichaels. As always, Beth-Center plays some of the toughest defense in the classification. The Bulldogs have allowed 19 points and no more than seven in any game.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Top 10 Moments (Sept. 1999 to present)

Blogger's note: This is the second in a series covering the last 10 years of local high school sports. Today's topic – best moments.

10. Zach Jeney's home run lifts California to WPIAL Class A title
Jeney's arm carried Cal through the playoffs. His bat won the Trojans' third WPIAL baseball title. Jeney blasted a one-out, two-run home run over the centerfield fence at Consol Energy Park in the top of the seventh inning to give Cal a 5-4 lead. Jeney then struck out two in the bottom of the seventh to beat Geibel.

9. Jordan Jankowski goes yard – four times
Jankowski won two WPIAL Class AAAA championships at Peters Township and graduated as the district's all-time home run hitter. What he did on a chilly April afternoon in 2007 against Mt. Lebanon may not be topped any time soon. Jankowski went 5-for-5 with four home runs and eight RBI.

8. Christian Goetz wins WPIAL in dramatic fashion
After 18 holes, Burgettstown's Goetz was tied with three others, including John Popeck (then of Trinity), for first place at the 2005 WPIAL Boys Golf Individual Championship at Sewickley Heights Country Club. On the second playoff hole, Goetz drained a 65-foot chip to win the tournament. He went on to win a share of the PIAA title.

7. Trinity upsets Penn Hills
Mike Wise's 25-yard field goal with 7.5 seconds remaining lifted 15th-seeded Trinity over Penn Hills in the first round of the 2005 WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. It remains one of the biggest upsets since the WPIAL expanded to a 16-team playoff format. Wise also kicked a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and Ben Jennings for 264 yards and two scores.

6. Ringgold brings back its legends
Ringgold opened the 2006 season in style. First, the school honored its inaugural Hall of Fame class. The inductees were Joe Montana, Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Sr. and Fred Cox. Only Musial was unable to attend. In addition, the football field was renamed Joe Montana Stadium for the man many believe to be the best quarterback in NFL history.

5. Timko sisters beat the boys
Karli Timko and Tanya Timko won PIAA and WPIAL Class AA doubles championships while representing the Chartiers-Houston girls tennis team. When that team folded before the 2008 school year, the Timkos opted to join the boys team. Both proved to be dominant singles players and, when it came time for postseason doubles play, they drew considerable attention.

The Timko sisters rolled through the WPIAL Class AA boys bracket, becoming the first girls to win the District 7 boys doubles title on May 1, 2009. Their quest to become state champions ended in the first round.

4. Jim Gallagher steals spotlight
Fans flocked to Consol Energy Park on June 7, 2004 to watch Pine-Richland's Neil Walker play baseball on the day the Pittsburgh Pirates made him the 11th overall selection in the Major League Baseball Draft. In this PIAA Class AAA first-round game, Walker belted a home run that may still be the longest hit at the Wild Things' ballpark.

Gallagher, however, tied the game in the seventh with a dramatic solo home run before his eighth-inning single lifted the Indians to an 8-6 win. PT went on to play for the state title.

3. Mike Vernillo sets WPIAL rushing record
Fort Cherry's Mike Vernillo found a hole in the middle of the Cornell defense and, seven yards later, entered the WPIAL record books. The culmination of countless 20, 40, 60 and 80-yard runs, Vernillo's seven-yard run broke the WPIAL record of 6,512 set by Penn-Trafford's Matt Gavrish in 1997.

Vernillo, a three-time Observer-Reporter Offensive Player of the Year, finished his playing days at Fort Cherry (1996-99) with 7,646 yards. It's a record than may never be broken.

2. Retirement talk sparks Wash High comeback
Frustrated with Washington's play during the first half of its 2001 PIAA Class AA championship versus Pen Argyl, head coach Guy Montecalvo ran out of things to yell about. So, he told the Prexies he was retiring after the game. It was so convincing, Montecalvo's assistants believed him until he took them aside.

Pen Argyl led 12-6 at halftime thanks to three first-half turnovers. Washington won, 19-12, after J.R. Ward ran behind Dan Mozes on a fourth-and-goal at the 1 with 6:33 remaining and Darnell Barnes' second interception secured the win.

1. Shane Pruitt's golden goal wins state championship
It's a moment any athlete in any sports craves – the opportunity to win the big game in a clutch situation. For Peters Township's Shane Pruitt, the dream became reality at the 2007 PIAA Class AAA boys soccer championship.

National power Downingtown West led 1-0 with nine minutes remaining when the Indians' Mark Majoras tied the championship off a Nick Wilcox assist. With 6:18 remaining in overtime, another Wilcox pass found Pruitt. The physically dominating Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year, sprinted past the defender marking him and his left-footed shot went inside the far post.

Pruitt's goal was his sixth of the state playoffs, an extraordinary number considering the competition. It also provided PT its third state soccer championship.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Top 10 teams (Sept. 1999-present)

Blogger's note: This is the first is a series covering the best in local high school sports from Sept. 1999 to present. Today's topic – teams.

10. 2000 Burgettstown boys golf.
A dominant program at the turn of the decade, Burgettstown won four consecutive WPIAL Division II team championship from 1998-2001. For argument's sake, we'll pick the 2000 squad as the best from the past 10 years.

The Blue Devils crushed the competition at the team tournament, winning the championship by 19 strokes over Waynesburg. Burgettstown shot only five stroke off the total shot by Division I winner Upper St. Clair. In addition to that impressive showing, David Vallina and Sean Dove finished first and second at the WPIAL individual championship.

9. 2003 Washington girls basketball.
The No. 1 PIAA Class AA team in the preseason, big things were expected from the Washington Prexies and they came close to delivering.

Led by Class AA Player of the Year and future Seton Hall starter Amber Harris, Washington lost to Girard in the state semifinals by five points to finish 25-5. Wash High lost to Girard in four straight state playoffs.

8. 2004 Peters Township baseball.
They didn't win the WPIAL. They needed to win a third-place game to enter the state tournament. Once there, they nearly won a state title and beat Pine-Richland along with first-round draft pick Neal Walker in a memorable contest along the way.

The 2004 Indians were a senior-laden group led by Jim Gallagher, Anthony Rossi, Aaron Janusey and Sean Karpen. In total, six seniors went on to play college baseball, three at the Division-I level. The group reached the PIAA semifinals for a second straight year and made the first of two straight state championship games for PT.

7. 2005 Chartiers-Houston softball.
Top-to-bottom, the C-H softball teams of the last 1990s may have boasted more talent, but this group started a run of three straight WPIAL Class A championships and reached the state final.

Led by a fresh-faced freshman named Jaci Timko, the Bucs lost one regular season game to Trinity. They won a WPIAL championship by beating powerhouses Beth-Center and Leechburg. Then, the Bucs beat the Bulldogs again in the state semifinals before losing to Minersville in the championship.

6. 2008 Carmichaels baseball.
The 2003 Mikes scored more runs but this group gutted out wins and became the first sports team from Carmichaels since the softball team won it all in 1999 to play for a state championship. (Note to bloggers: the Mikes' 1999 PIAA Class AA title was won before my hire date. Thus they are ineligible for this list.)

Led by pitcher Joby Lapkowicz and Chuck Gasti, Carmichaels could win the close games and blow outs lesser opponents. The Mikes won their third WPIAL Class A championship for head coach Dave Bates and finished with a 23-2 record.

5. 2006 Peters Township girls tennis.
Alison Riske spent one year with the Peters Township girls tennis team and the Indians made it count. As Riske smashed her way to PIAA and WPIAL singles championships, she carried the Indians to the PIAA Class AAA team championship.

Now at Vanderbilt, Riske was considered the No. 2 college tennis recruit in the country. Another key member in the title run was Julie Stroyne, then a freshmen

4. 1999 Waynesburg football.
Many believe these Raiders were the state's best Class AA team in 1999 as Lee Fritz and Lanfer Simpson formed a powerful one-two punch. Waynesburg rolled through the WPIAL, beating Wash High in the championship at Three Rivers.

A tough defense, fueled by middle linebacker Greg Carson and a great defensive front, helped Waynesburg to a 13-0 record before the Raiders made a couple costly mistakes in the red zone during the PIAA semifinals versus Tyrone, which won the state title.

3. 2008 Canon-McMillan baseball.In winning the 2008 PIAA Class AAAA championship so convincingly, the Big Macs can stake a claim that they are the best baseball team from the Washington-Greene region to play since the state tournament was adopted. It's a claim that would be difficult to dispute.

C-M needed to win the WPIAL third-place game to enter the state tournament. The Big Macs did, by one-run, and slipped past Allderdice in the first round. From there, all-staters Matt Pierpont and Chris Dittmar led a great cast of supporting players as they routed their final three opponents.

2. 2007 Peters Township boys soccer.
Shane Pruitt's overtime goal sealed the third PIAA soccer championship in Peters Township history. It also capped the story of one of Washington County's greatest teams.

PT finished 24-2 and No. 12 in the country according to the NSCAA rankings. Pruitt, now at Bucknell, was the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year and an All-American.

1. 2001 Washington football.
The only team from Washington and Greene Counties to win a PIAA football championship and compile a 15-0 record, Wash High had it all - high-powered offense, grind-it-out offensive line, dominating pass rush, hard-hitting linebackers and a lock-down secondary.

The individual talent speaks for itself, so do the 612 points in 15 games - a number that ranked second in WPIAL history at the time.

Dan Mozes went to West Virginia, where he became a consensus All-America center. Travis Thomas started on offense and defense in addition to being a special teams captain at Notre Dame. Justin Gregula played baseball at Old Dominion. J.R. Ward, Tom Giles, Tom Sypula, Dale Calloway, Brian Skaggs and Vontey Johnson were just a few of the standout players.

This team, coached by Guy Montecalvo, literally had no weakness. The Prexies made solid teams like Waynesburg and Seton-La Salle pedestrian. They rolled through the WPIAL playoffs and rallied to beat Pen Argyl in the state championship.

Hats off to the Prexies. The best of the past 10 years.

10th anniversary week

A lot can happen in a decade. For me, I've spent the entire 10 years covering sports at the Observer-Reporter. My first shift at the O-R was on Sept. 28, 1999 and that night I did my first story for the publication - a small feature on then South Fayette High School quarterback Niel Loebig.

He went one to become one of the top passers in WPIAL history and the starting quarterback at Duquesne University.

I went on to ... well, not a lot has changed for me professionally.

As the 10th anniversary date approaches, I felt it might be fun to take a look back at the past decade.

Each day, the Varsity Letters will release a new Top 10 list. Some of it will be lighthearted fun. Hopefully, much of it will bring back memories for followers of local high school sports.

The lists begins later today when I reveal my Top 10 local high school teams of the past decade. The series will conclude next Monday with the Top 10 high school athletes.

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Letters wants to thank the Fort Cherry faithful for answering the blog's last APB on former two-sport standout J.C. Pesto, who is at Slippery Rock University.

This week, we're issuing an All Points Bulletin for former Peters Township football and basketball player Bob Ruff.

One of the toughest guys to travel through Peters Township in the past decade, Ruff played football exactly how his last name is pronounced. And he was good enough to be invited to walk-on at Virginia Tech, where he played for four years and participated in some big-time bowl games. Ruff was also an excellent rebounder for the Indians basketball team and came up with clutch points.

Anyone knowing Ruff's whereabouts is urged to contact The Varsity Letters.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

TVL's WPIAL football rankings

Lots of shakeup in the Class AAAA and AA rankings as Central Catholic, North Allegheny, Aliquippa and Keystone Oaks lost in Week 3. There are six new teams to enter this week's rankings.

And, finally, Clairton fans can rest easy. The Bears are back.

(Last week’s ranking in parenthesis)
Class AAAA
1. Gateway 3-0 (1)
2. Upper St. Clair 3-0 (4)
3. Bethel Park 3-0 (5)
4. McKeesport 2-1 (NR)
5. Erie McDowell 3-0 (NR)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 3-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 3-0 (2)
3. New Castle 3-0 (3)
4. Chartiers Valley 3-0 (4)
5. West Mifflin 3-0 (NR)

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 3-0 (1)
2. Seton-La Salle 3-0 (4)
3. Mt. Pleasant 3-0 (5)
4. Jeannette 3-0 (NR)
5. South Fayette 3-0 (NR)

Class A
1. Rochester 3-0 (1)
2. Serra Catholic 3-0 (2)
3. Laurel 3-0 (3)
4. Avonworth 3-0 (4)
5. Clairton 2-1 (NR)

Friday night thoughts, Week 3

Three weeks into season and it's become obvious that, despite some strong individual talent, local high school football remains in a down cycle. The reasons why are plentiful.

Bloggers on this site simply want to blame coaching. Closer inspection and an impartial eye reveals other factors.

One thing that jumps out is a lack of size among offensive/defensive linemen. Where have all the 6-4, 250 kids gone? Did they move? Transfer? There have to be more able-bodied big men out there than are on local football teams. Even at the larger schools, a lack of size is impacting won-loss records.

Another is roster size.

Avella isn't the only local team struggling with numbers. I covered Friday night's Class A Black Hills Conference game between Serra Catholic and Burgettstown. Not only were Serra's big men bigger than Burgettstown's, there were more to chose from.

Not surprisingly, Serra Catholic wore down Burgettstown.

Then, there's ego inflation.

This week on this board, upset Trinity posters mentioned how well the current varsity players performed at various levels growing up.

Guess what?

It doesn't matter.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, "This team went undefeated in seventh grade" or "This kid is the next Brian Davis" or "They didn't give up a point in fifth grade," I could retire.

One poster asked what could possibly change from junior high to varsity. Here are a few: growth, players moving out, no one moving in, disinterest, trouble with grades, trouble with the law, better facilities, speed programs, migrating to other sports and injuries.

Every time I hear about the next Brian Davis, chances are the young man doesn't end up as a starting tailback. Every time I hear about an undefeated eighth-grade team, chances are that team gets mercy-ruled in 11th grade.

Maybe it's because they're being told this from the time they are 10-year-olds.

* No local team has reached the WPIAL championships since 2001, when Washington won PIAA and WPIAL Class AA titles and Fort Cherry lost to Rochester in the Class A final. In the time since, only Beth-Center, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan and Monessen have reached the semifinals.

In 2008, Monessen won a playoff game. Teams from Washington and Greene counties went 0-9.

Rock bottom? Well …

Who could place blame on anyone who thinks a repeat performance is approaching? Results from Canon-McMillan, Trinity and Washington weren't encouraging.

Maybe Fort Cherry, McGuffey and South Fayette can put the area in the win column. Each team looks strong through three weeks.

** Speaking of South Fayette, the Lions' 28-22 victory over Keystone Oaks could be called its best since moving to Class AA.

*** Ringgold's coaching situation is unsettled but the Rams shrugged off the distraction and are 2-1 heading into next Friday's game against Thomas Jefferson.

**** Finally, The Varsity Letters wants to thank the fellas working the press box at Burgettstown's Hill Memorial Stadium. Led by local legend Troy Elich, there's never a dull moment during a Blue Devils home game.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Price not coaching

The Observer-Reporter has confirmed that Lloyd Price is not coaching the Ringgold football team tonight as the Rams face Southmoreland in a non-conference game at Joe Montana Stadium.

As previously reported, Price was suspended for last week's 41-38 win at Albert Gallatin.

Assistant coach Matt Humbert will serve as head coach for the second consecutive week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kentucky coach acquitted

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Kentucky high school football coach was found not guilty Thursday in the death of a player who collapsed at a practice where the team was put through a series of sprints on a hot summer day.
It was a rare criminal prosecution of a coach in a player’s heat-related death.
Former coach David Jason Stinson, 37, was charged after 15-year-old Max Gilpin collapsed at an August 2008 practice as the team ran a series of sprints known as “gassers.” He died three days later at a Louisville hospital of heat stroke, sepsis and multiple organ failure. His temperature reached at least 107 degrees.
The jury deliberated for less than two hours, and Stinson hugged defense attorney Brian Butler after the verdict was read.
“That’s why they came back quickly, because he was innocent,” said Butler, who characterized the prosecution as a “witch hunt.” Stinson left without speaking to reporters.
Players said he ordered the gassers as punishment for the lack of effort they showed at practice on a day where the temperature and heat index were both 94 degrees.
Prosecutors relied on a series of Gilpin’s teammates who testified that several teens became ill during the gassers, vomiting or bowing out of the running with ailments.

Week 3- Games of the Week

With the exception of Quad A (where far too many teams make the playoffs), all other conferences are playing games that matter in the standings. Despite that, the local slate of games is a little lean this week.

Keystone Oaks at South Fayette
South Fayette opened play in the Century Conference with blowouts over South Park and Quaker Valley - games the Lions should win and games they had trouble with a year ago.

Keystone Oaks has been a dominant team in conference play since dropping to Class AA and many believe the Eagles are on of the elite teams in the classification. Their defense must find a way to slow Lions running back Jeff Davis, who already has eight touchdowns.

They didn't have any problems a year ago as KO came away a 53-3 knockout winner.

Serra Catholic at Burgettstown
At 1-1, Burgettstown is drawing much attention in Class A but the Blue Devils have payed well. They were tied with South Side Beaver (a team in the state rankings) with three minutes left in the fourth quarter of Week 1 and put together an impressive win at Beth-Center last week.

Now, Burgettstown plays Serra Catholic, the fifth-ranked team in Class A. Talk about a brutal three-game stretch.

Canon-McMillan at Woodland Hills
Canon-McMillan shut out Woodland Hills a year ago. No doubt the talented Wolverines are looking for revenge.

In a game filled with Division I recruits, many eyes will be focused on the return of Big Macs senior and Ohio State-bound Chad Hagan. After missing the first two games with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, Hagan is cleared to play.

This non-conference game will not impact either team's playoff standing, but it could be a determining factor come seeding time for the WPIAL playoffs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Monday, September 14, with school’s district in parentheses, followed by the school’s record and last week’s ranking. NR means not ranked. Honorable mention teams listed alphabetically.


1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 2-0 1
2. La Salle College (12) 2-0 2
3. Bishop McDevitt (3) 2-0 3
4. State College (6) 2-0 4
5. North Penn (1) 2-0 5
6. Gateway (7) 2-0 6
7. St. Josephs Prep (12) 2-0 7
8. McKeesport (7) 1-1 8
9. Downingtown West (1) 2-0 9
10. Neshaminy (1) 2-0 10
Honorable mention
Abington (1) 2-0, Bethel Park (7) 2-0, Cardinal OHara (12) 2-0, Central Dauphin (3) 2-0, Cumberland Valley (3) 1-1, McDowell (10) 2-0, North Allegheny (7) 2-0, Parkland (11) 2-0, Pennsbury (1) 2-0, Wilson (3) 1-1, Woodland Hills (7) 1-1.

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 2-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 2-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 2-0 3
4. Cathedral Prep (10) 1-1 4
5. Manheim Central (3) 2-0 5
6. Abington Heights (2) 2-0 6
7. Hopewell (7) 2-0 7
8. Pottsgrove (1) 2-0 8
9. Bayard Rustin (1) 2-0 9
10. Berwick (2) 2-0 10
Honorable mention
Allentown Central Catholic (11) 2-0, Chartiers Valley (7) 2-0, Strath Haven (1) 2-0, Strong Vincent (10) 1-1, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 2-0, Upper Moreland (1) 1-1, West York (3) 2-0.

1. Lancaster Catholic (3) 2-0 2
2. Wilmington (10) 2-0 3
3. Beaver Falls (7) 2-0 4
4. Dunmore (2) 2-0 5
5. Keystone Oaks (7) 2-0 6
6. West Catholic (12) 2-0 NR
7. Martinsburg Central (6) 2-0 7
8. Montoursville (4) 2-0 8
9. Aliquippa (7) 2-0 9
10. General McLane (10) 2-0 10
Honorable mention
Honorable mention: Bok (12) 2-0, Brockway (9) 2-0, Jeannette (7) 2-0, Northern Lehigh (11) 1-1, Palisades (11) 2-0, Sto-Rox (7) 2-0.

1. Rochester (7) 2-0 1
2. Farrell (10) 2-0 2
3. Bishop McCort (6) 2-0 3
4. Southern Columbia (4) 1-1 4
5. Serra Catholic (7) 2-0 5
6. Laurel (7) 2-0 6
7. Clairton (7) 1-1 7
8. Steelton-Highspire (3) 1-1 8
9. Schuylkill Haven (11) 2-0 NR
10. Portage (6) 2-0 10
Honorable mention
Bellwood-Antis (6) 2-0, Bloomsburg (4) 2-0, Cameron County (9) 2-0, Old Forge (2) 2-0, South Side Beaver (7) 2-0, Springdale (7) 2-0.

Ringgold football

First-year Ringgold High School football coach Lloyd Price was handed a one-game suspension by the school district for last week's game at Albert Gallatin.

The Rams picked up their first victory of the 2009 season, 41-38, thanks to a couple defensive touchdowns. Matt Humbert, an assistant coach who played football at Cal U, served as head coach for Ringgold.

According to one report, there will be an executive session at Wednesday's school board meeting to determine the status of the 26-year-old Price, who is Ringgold's athletic director, and that the football team would attend on his behalf.

Price had no comment and the Observer-Reporter was unable to confirm such action would be taken at the school board meeting.

A previous post by Ringgold Legend on the Varsity Letters stated "Lloyd Price was suspended for fighting for two of his players against the school boards will. I will not say what the kids did, but he represented them or took the stand or something for the kids and Ringgold's Administration was not happy about it."

Price became Ringgold's seventh head football coach in 11 years when he replaced Jeff Petrucci.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The ramblings of an angry poster

Editor's note: The following post is from one of the frequent anonymous posters who have made it their life to smear all things C-M and, lately, me. This is kind of funny to read. It's also disturbing in that the poster sends this or something very similar every five minutes or so.

Mike, this would make sense if it were balanced. You have permitted some vicious things to be said about some coaches and left the accusations & posts up but if there were any that were negative about your hero you removed them.

I have know doubts this will not be posted because it is true and you have difficulty with those that prove you wrong. So you contine to be that little fish in a little glass and flaunt your "power" and feed your ego. But here's another a "work" for the freakin OR. Hardly considered the elite of journalistic publications.

Rock on little guy. Keep hiding the truth and protecting him. I don't care if you post are reading it and that's all that counts.


There are High schools that have larger circulations than your little rag.

What a great career....Beaver Valley Times & the OR. LOLLLLLL.

What's next the GreenSheet.

Editor's postscript: He found me out.

Editor's second postscript: This poster has sent about 40 posts mocking the O-R. Best part is this poster keeps coming back here. Second best part is this poster sent about 10 other posts today quoting O-R stories.

TVL's WPIAL football rankings

McGuffey's 6-0 victory over Greensburg Central Catholic knocked the Centurions out of the Class AA rankings and put Beaver Falls at the No. 1 position. In Class A, Laurel vs. Rochester is looking like the game of the year.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 2-0
2. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 2-0
3. North Allegheny 2-0
4. Upper St. Clair 2-0
5. Bethel Park 2-0

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 2-0
2. Hopewell 2-0
3. New Castle 2-0
4. Chartiers Valley 2-0
5. Belle Vernon 2-0

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 2-0
2. Aliquippa 2-0
3. Keystone Oaks 2-0
4. Seton-La Salle 2-0
5. Mt. Pleasant 2-0

Class A
1. Rochester 2-0
2. Serra Catholic 2-0
3. Laurel 2-0
4. Avonworth 2-0
5. Springdale 2-0

Complaint city

I understand the complaints about the new format. That's why I gave readers so many (and I mean so many) opportunities. I truly did not want it to come to this.

Despite all the opportunities, a landslide of immature, often unfounded and frequently slanderous posts continued.

So, when I have an off day or two, like I did over the weekend, I would return to work and literally spent 2-3, sometimes more, hours sifting through the countless posts in an attempt to remove the ridiculous ones. Because of the setup, I often missed a few.

Remember readers, you aren't the ones likely to hear from an attorney.

Not only did I tire of wasting countless hours reading the same slanderous posts over and over, I tired of spending time I could be spending with my family or providing our newspaper with stories about local student-athletes in doing so.

I have a full-time job. This blog is part of it. Monitoring it became another full-time job. Sorry, that's not going to fly because a few jerks want to be consistent and persistent idiots.

Maybe we'll return to the old way someday. That won't come until the person who runs this blog can trust its readers.

And remember, you can still offer opinion and critique. Those posts will be published. You can not wage personal attacks on others or call out high school kids.

Those have always been the rules.

Start following them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday night thoughts, Week 2

After a night when McGuffey shut out the top-ranked team in Class AA, the Varsity Letters is still trying to grasp some of the results from Friday night.

Greensburg-Salem 10, Trinity 7.
Geibel 27, Bentworth 21.
Waynesburg 27, South Allegheny 7.
Burgettstown 7, Beth-Center 6.
Clairton 46, Monessen 0.

What a wild Friday night. Depending on your point of view, wild might not be the word.

* Maybe McGuffey's win over Greensburg Central Catholic - a team that was in every one's Class AA state rankings - will shed some light on the incredible progress the Highlanders have made the past three years.

McGuffey wasn't much of a football team when Derek Bochna took over as coach. It took some time. There were some rumblings. The Highlanders proved themselves yet again with a 6-0 win over GCC.

Think about that for one second. McGuffey shut out one of the more potent, balanced offenses around.

* If a few other Wash High players follow the lead of Bryan Thomas and Zach Barnes and start tackling near the line of scrimmage, the Prexies will contend for a playoff spot out of the Class AA Interstate Conference.

* Speaking of the Interstate Conference, Mt. Pleasant enters Week 3 as the early favorite. Remember, it's Week 3.

* Pittsburgh Central Catholic's Damian Jones-Moore is a special offensive talent.

Covered the Wash High-Mt. Pleasant game but caught the replay of the Canon-McMillan/PCC game on PCN. Looked like C-M played excellent defense for three quarters. Also looked like the Big Macs' front lines were worn down by a bigger, more experienced group.

* What a win for Burgettstown.

Not sure if the average TVL reader knows how tough it is to win at Beth-Center or how good the Bulldogs have been the past 6-7 years.

The Blue Devils have a big one coming up when Serra Catholic comes to Hill Memorial Stadium.

* Kudos to Waynesburg for bouncing back after a tough opening loss. Then again, that's what Joe Kuhns-coached teams did at California for years. Maybe it shouldn't be so surprising.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week 2 - Games of the Week

Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Canon-McMillan
Tonight's game will be broadcast live on PCN. ESPN Radio from Pittsburgh will be in attendance. That means this non-conference game carries significant interest outside the region.

And why not?

Pittsburgh Central Catholic is the state's top Class AAAA team according to the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. The Vikings, as usual, are loaded with talent. Sophomore running back Damian Jones-Moore, all 5-6 of him, rushed for 204 yards in the season opener. Canon-Mac must find a ways to limit his impact.

I want to see how Canon-McMillan's offensive line handles PCC's defensive front. The five new starters performed well against Trinity as the Big Macs rushed for over 300 yards.

East Allegheny at Charleroi
One thing that sets WPIAL football apart from other regions across the country is tradition and some of the proud Cougars tradition will be on display tonight.

Members of Charleroi's 1959 WPIAL Class AAA championship team will be honored in a pregame ceremony. How good were those Cougars? Well, nine starters went on to play Division I football.

Both teams may be 0-1 but East A played Jeannette and Charleroi faced Greensburg Central in Week 1. The Varsity Letters believes Charleroi is a playoff contender this year. If sophomore Quentin Briggs finds holes behind lineman Zach Hooks tonight, expect Charleroi to even its record.

Greensburg Central Catholic at McGuffey
On paper, this looks like a mismatch. GCC is ranked No. 1 Class AA team in the state by the same publication that has PCC on top of Class AAA. The Centurions have quarterback Trent Hurley, running back David Miller, a massive front line and great receivers.

It's looked like a mismatch on paper the past two years as well but both proved to be competitive contests.

McGuffey upset GCC in 2007 and, last year, were trailing by five midway through the third quarter.

Mt. Pleasant at Washington

Prexies faithful came away encouraged by the season-opening shutout victory at Waynesburg. Wash High utilized several playmakers in the contest, while quarterback Marquis Brown and running back Zach Barnes turned in strong performances.

Wash High will need more of that tonight against Mt. Pleasant, a team which qualified for the Class AAA playoffs two years ago.

The Vikings defeated McGuffey in the season opener and held the Highlanders to 105 total yards.

The Varsity Letters also is looking forward to see how Burgettstown competes at Beth-Center. The Blue Devils look like an improving team. Playing at Beth-Center is a difficult task.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A new direction

Thanks to an.....individual(s) who stop personal, unwarranted attacks, The Varsity.....Letters will.....have comment moderation..... from this point. .....

APB, Where are they Now?

According to one anonymous poster, last week's target – former Ringgold two-sport standout Lorenzo Gardner is living in Donora and has a son.

This week, The Varsity Letters issues an All Points Bulletin for another multi-sport athlete – J.C. Pesto of Fort Cherry.

At 6-6, Pesto was one of the larger linemen in Class A during his playing days with the Rangers. He also was a center on the Rangers' basketball team.

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ten to watch

Football dominates conversation on The Varsity Letters during the fall but, non-revenue sports often generate headlines for success and individual talent.

Here's 10 student-athletes (in alphabetical order) from non-revenue sports to keep an eye of during the 2009 fall sports season:

1. Kayla Keddal, Peters Township
Cross Country
As a junior, Keddal placed seventh at the WPIAL championships and sixth at states.

2. Trent McPherson, Peters Township
A freshman transfer from West Virginia, McPherson has been the Indians' top golfer in recent matches.

3. Emily Rohanna, Waynesburg
Rohanna replaces older sister Rachel on the Waynesburg boys team. Already has a couple of second-place finishes on her team.

4. Taylor Schram, Canon-McMillan
One of the top goal scorers in the country, Schram (pictured) committed to Penn State as a junior. Part of the U-17 national team pool.

5. Sarah Shashura, California
California doesn't field a girls tennis team. That didn't stop Shashura from winning a WPIAL Class AA title last year.

6. Shelli Spamer, Peters Township
Along with Schram, Spamer could go down as one of the great girls soccer players from Washington County. Also part of U-17 national talent pool.

7. Rachel Spridik, Bentworth
Only a sophomore, Spridik earned All-WPIAL honors last year. In her first match this year, she posted a triple-double.

8. Julie Stroyne, Peters Township
In her scholastic career, Stroyne (pictured) has won a PIAA team championship and was part of a state championship doubles team.

9. Nate Troscinski, Peters Township
Troscinski scored the Indians' goal in last year's state championship match. Already owns PIAA and WPIAL gold medals.

10. Matt Venanzi, Peters Township
As a freshman, Venanzi occasionally started but often provided an offensive spark off the bench. Could be a big-time goal scorer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This could be the last time …

that these two sentences are written in during the 2009 season or for some time.

Thanks to alphabetical order, Avella stands atop the Black Hills Conference with a 1-0 record with four other team. With 44 points scored, the Eagles are the WPIAL's highest scoring team in Class A.

Please read

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.

TVL's WPIAL football rankings

Hope everyone enjoyed the Labor Day Weekend. Summer's over folks and it's time to rank the WPIAL football teams.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 1-0
2. Pgh Central Catholic 1-0
3. North Allegheny 1-0
4. Upper St. Clair 1-0
5. Bethel Park 1-0

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 1-0
2. Hopewell 1-0
3. New Castle 1-0
4. Franklin Regional 1-0
5. Chartiers Valley 1-0

Class AA
1. Greensburg Central Catholic 1-0
2. Beaver Falls 1-0
3. Aliquippa 1-0
4. Keystone Oaks 1-0
5. Seton-La Salle 1-0

Class A
1. Rochester 1-0
2. Serra Catholic 1-0
3. Laurel 1-0
4. Avonworth 1-0
5. Springdale 1-0

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday night thoughts, Week 1

Random thoughts as Saturday morning quarterbacks scramble to fire coaches after double-digit victories.

How bout them Eagles?

Avella's 44-28 victory Friday night over Geibel Catholic in a non-conference game my not go down as one of the great wins in school history but it has to be one of the most satisfying.

The Eagles went into the year with 18 players dressed and 19 on the training camp roster. They also came into the year with a 27-game losing streak and were 1-51 in their previous 52 games.

During a visit to camp, Avella's players and coaches talked about winning one game and what that would mean for a program on the brink of extinction. The Eagles got that win and did so convincingly.

Congratulations Avella. The players and coaches deserve it.

* We all know about the considerable talents of Canon-McMillan senior Mike Hull, which were on display during Friday night's win at Trinity. What we didn't know was how well the Big Macs' other skill position players would perform under the lights.

Well, it sure looks like quarterback Zach Hoffman, running back Alex Adams and receiver Alec Schram are good football players. Hoffman made play after play during the first half to keep drives alive. Adams played like, well, a lot like Mike Hull. Schram, at 5-7, led C-M in rushing and receiving.

* Scratch the prediction about McGuffey finishing second in the Class AA Interstate Conference following its season-opening loss at Mt. Pleasant. To me, that was the most surprising result of the night.

McGuffey managed just 105 yards of offense in the 17-6 defeat. With games against Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette, finishing second will be difficult unless the offense gets going.

* I picked South Fayette to finish fourth in the Class AA Century Conference. While I may have overrated McGuffey, I may have underrated South Fayette based on its 34-6 victory over South Park.

How's this for production? Lions running back Jeff Davis has six carries for 118 yards and four touchdowns.

Of course, in a conference that includes Keystone Oaks, Seton-La Salle and Sto-Rox, finishing higher than fourth would be a nice achievement for a young South Fayette team.

* Beth-Center came into the year with new starters at quarterback, running back and fullback. The Bulldogs beat Carlynton, 24-6, last night behind a balanced offense. DeShan Brown rushed for 100 yards and Sal Faieta threw for 100.

Carlynton is far from a WPIAL power, that's not the point. What the Varsity Letters wants to say is that, over the past six to eight years, Beth-Center has been Washington County's most consistent football team and that's a tremendous credit to head coach Ed Woods and his coaching staff.

No matter the turnover, B-C wins and, more often than not, contends for conference championships. At a school with a declining enrollment, that's a difficult task.

* Trinity must get better play from its defensive line.

Part of it was the offensive schemes run by Canon-McMillan, the other part of it was being worn down by Mike Hull, but the Hillers front four struggled to make plays. They'll have to for Trinity to make an impact at the Class AAA level.

* Two of the last three games John Menhart has coached at Carmichaels have been against Fort Cherry.

Last night, the Mikes lost to the Rangers, 28-12. Back in 2002, Carmichaels crushed Fort Cherry in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals. That ended up being the last game coached by Jim Garry.

Menhart returned to coach the Mikes this year after Mike Bosnic took the post at Wash High.

* If Washington's offensive line plays as well as O-R sports writer Joe Tuscano said it did against Waynesburg, there's no reason for the Prexies not to compete with McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant and others for the final two playoff spots in the Interstate Conference.

Wash High always has the skill players. It needs the tough guys up front to go with them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Week 1 – Games of the Week

No more scrimmages, two-a-days or discussions about the depth chart. The WPIAL football season kicks off Friday and the Varsity Letters is providing readers with the best local games to watch.

1. Canon-McMillan at Trinity
The Big Macs owned the previous two meetings but the Hillers believe this is their year. C-M features Penn State recruit and reigning Observer-Reporter Player of the Year Mike Hull. The Big Macs also have depth at receiver but are searching for the right combinations along the offensive and defensive lines. Trinity boasts Michigan recruit Ken Wilkins and linebacker Kyle McWreath, one of the WPIAL's top juniors. The Hillers must find ways to contain explosive running games to make a playoff run.

Also of note, this is the first game in the coverage area to kickoff at 7 p.m.

2. Monessen at Rochester
If Monessen is to climb into the elite of Class A, it starts with an impressive performance at perennial power Rochester. Last year, the Rams shut out the Greyhounds in a defensive battle.

3. McGuffey at Mt. Pleasant
File this into the "Not sure if you noticed" file but every full-timer on the O-R sports staff picked McGuffey to finish second to Greensburg Central Catholic in the always-tough Class AA Interstate Conference. In order for that to happen, the Highlanders must find a way to beat the Vikings on the road. Not an easy task.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

APB, Where are they now?

With all the talk on this blog about teams being hyped in the preseason and not realizing full potential, the Varsity Letters got to thinking ... gosh, they are plenty of individual athletes who fit that description.

Let's start the search for one this week.

The Varsity Letters issues an All Points Bulletin for former Ringgold quarterback Lorenzo Gardner, who commandeered the Rams' offense earlier this decade.

On the football field, Gardner mixed speed, athleticism, shiftiness and a strong throwing arm. A two-year starter at quarterback for Ringgold and a long-time defensive back, Gardner drew some Division I interest. TVL recalls Syracuse being among those interested.

Garnder routinely made the spectacular play. He also often left those watching scratching their heads in wonder. For all his talent, the thing TVL remembers Gardner for the most was during Ringgold photo day his junior year. Gardner continually mean-mugged his way through photos and flashed an occasional sign or two. To this blogger, it came across as amusing. To the person taking the pictures, it was highly irritating.

Anyone with information regarding Gardner's whereabouts is urged to contact The Varsity Letters.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

State football rankings

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg just released its initial high school football rankings. Take a gander.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 8-3 NR
2. LaSalle College (12) 9-3 NR
3. McKeesport (7) 9-3 8
4. Bishop McDevitt (3) 10-3 NR
5. State College (6) 12-1 6
6. Liberty (11) 15-1 1
7. Penn Hills (7) 8-4 NR
8. Downingtown West (1) 11-2 NR
9. North Penn (1) 14-1 4
10. Woodland Hills (7) 14-1 3

Honorable mention: Central York (3) 10-2, Cumberland Valley (3) 12-2, Gateway (7) 12-1, George Washington (12) 10-2, McDowell (10) 8-4, Neshaminy (1) 12-2, Pennsbury (1) 9-3, St. Josephs Prep (12) 8-4.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 15-1 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 13-2 4
3. Wilson Area (11) 12-1 8
4. Cathedral Prep (10) 7-5 NR
5. Manheim Central (3) 11-3 10
6. Abington Heights (2) 10-2 NR
7. Hopewell (7) 8-3 NR
8. Upper Moreland (1) 10-2 NR
9. Pottsgrove (1) 10-2 NR
10. Bayard Rustin (1) 12-2 9

Honorable mention: Archbishop Wood (12) 12-3, Blackhawk (7) 11-2, Berwick (2) 11-3, Chartiers Valley (7) 7-3, Trinity (7) 5-5, West York (3) 13-2.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Greensburg Central Catholic (12) 10-1 NR
2. Lancaster Catholic (3) 13-2 4
3. Wilmington (10) 15-1 1
4. Beaver Falls (7) 12-1 5
5. Dunmore (2) 11-2 9
6. Keystone Oaks (7) 8-2 NR
7. Martinsburg Central (6) 12-2 8
8. Montoursville (4) 10-3 NR
9. Aliquippa (7) 12-3 3
10. Brockway (9) 5-5 NR

Honorable mention: Jeannette (7) 10-2, Northern Lehigh (11) 4-6, Palisades (11) 9-4, Tyrone (6) 10-2, West Catholic (12) 14-2.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (7) 15-1 3
2. Rochester (7) 10-2 10
3. Farrell (10) 12-3 5
4. Bishop McCort (6) 12-1 8
5. North Catholic (7) 8-3 NR
6. Steelton-Highspire (3) 16-0 1
7. Southern Columbia (4) 10-3 9
8. Serra Catholic (7) 6-4 NR
9. Monessen (7) 7-4 NR
10. Portage (6) 12-1 NR

Honorable mention: Bellwood-Antis (6) 10-2, Bloomsburg (4) 8-3, Cameron County (9) 12-2, Schuylkill haven (11) 14-1, Springdale (7) 6-4.