Saturday, October 31, 2009

WPIAL Football Playoffs

Friday night thoughts and protecting the playoff seeds will be later this weekend due to a WPIAL soccer tripleheader today at Chartiers Valley.

Class AAAA
Big East
1. Woodland Hills, 2. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 3. Penn Hills, 4. Plum
1. Gateway, 2. McKeesport, 3. Latrobe, 4. Penn-Trafford
Great Southern
1. Bethel Park, 2. Upper St. Clair, 3. Mt. Lebanon, 4. Baldwin
Northern Six
1. North Allegheny, 2. Shaler, 3. Seneca Valley, 4. North Hills

Class AAA
Big Seven
1. Thomas Jefferson, 2. Chartiers Valley, 3. Belle Vernon, 4. Trinity
Greater Allegheny
1. Mars, 2. Franklin Regional, 3. Knoch, 4. Hampton
1. Greensburg-Salem, 2. Uniontown, 3. Derry Area, 4. Laurel Highlands
1. Hopewell, 2. West Allegheny, 3. New Castle, 4. Montour

Class AA
1. Shady Side Academy 2. Freeport, 3. Burrell, 4. Kittanning
1. South Fayette, 2. Keystone Oaks, 3. Sto-Rox, 4. Steel Valley
1. Mt. Pleasant, 2. McGuffey, 3. Greensburg Central Catholic, 4. Washington
1. Center, 2. Beaver Falls, 3. Aliquippa, 4. Beaver

Class A
Big Seven
1. Rochester, 2. Laurel, 3. Monaca 4. South Side Beaver or Shenango or Western Beaver
Black Hills
1. Clairton, 2. Fort Cherry, 3. Serra Catholic, 4. Burgettstown
1. North Catholic, 2. Avonworth, 3. Brentwood, 4. Springdale
Tri-County South
1. Monessen, 2. Beth-Center, 3. Jefferson-Morgan, 4. Carmichaels

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Games of the Week – Week 9

Playoff spots and postseason positioning will be decided tonight.

Washington (6-2, 6-2) at McGuffey (6-2, 6-2)
With its combination of youthful playmakers, toughness and belief brought on by its first-year coach, Washington has rebounded from a one-win season to a possible second-place team from the always rugged Interstate Conference.

Like the Prexies did last week against Charleroi, the defense must come out and tackle early to establish confidence. McGuffey's stable of physical runners may be the toughest group in the conference.

Here's one of the statistics of the 2009 season: McGuffey has not allowed one point in four home games.

Ringgold (1-4, 3-5) at Trinity (2-3, 3-5)
Anyone think two weeks ago that the winner of this game could make the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs? Let's see those hands.

Ringgold, behind Dylan Patch, is playing spirited, competitive football and the Rams crept back into the Big Seven Conference playoff picture with last week's win over West Mifflin - the first for head coach Lloyd Price. (Ringgold's other two victories were with assistant coach Matt Humbert filling in for the suspended Price.) Think the Rams wish they could have back that performance against Elizabeth Forward?

After a dismal, turnover-filled start, Trinity has won two straight and has beat Ringgold four straight meetings. The Hillers are running the football with greater efficiency while Joe Havrilak, Dustin Avolio and Ken Wilkins are making plays for quarterback Andrew Steratore.

Fort Cherry (4-2, 6-2) at Chartiers-Houston (3-3, 5-3)
Fort Cherry already clinched a WPIAL Class A playoff berth out of the Black Hills Conference but things haven't been easy for the Rangers since a loss to Clairton. To the Rangers' credit, two straight wins but them back in position to claim second place, and a home playoff game, should Serra Catholic lose to Clairton.

Beating rival Chartiers-Houston won't be easy either.

The Bucs' last three wins (Avella, Frazier, Bentworth) has been shutouts. C-H isn't putting up dazzling offensive numbers this year but are winning games with a balanced attack and tough defense. A win here guarantees another trip to the postseason.

Bits and pieces
A victory at Bishop Canevin on Saturday gives South Fayette its first unbeaten and untied season since 1936. Lions quarterback Christian Brumbaugh leads the WPIAL with 22 touchdown passes. … Carmichaels has qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs 11 straight years. California has made it 10 straight. One will miss out this year as the two contend for fourth place in the Tri-County South. Carmichaels plays West Greene. California plays Monessen. The Mikes own the head-to-head tiebreaker. … Mapletown's Jarrett Porterfield leads the WPIAL with 46 receptions. The Maples have attempted 232 passes and completed less than 40 percent of them. … Five players are in contention for the local scoring title. Fort Cherry's Gary Kiefer enters the final week with 98 points and is followed by Carmichaels' Anthonie Farrar (96), California's D.J. Martinak (92), Jefferson-Morgan's Ryan Knight (84) and South Fayette's Jeff Davis (84).

Best friends, Canon-McMillan overcoming obstacles

CANONSBURG – Mike Martin always wanted to be part of the Canon-McMillan High School varsity football team and, in his senior year, the tall, slender and loyal Big Macs booster has found several roles to fill.
Martin (6-3, 178) backs up classmate Zach Hoffman at quarterback. In spot duty, Martin has completed three of seven passes for 53 yards.
He's also Canon-McMillan's third outside linebacker, meaning Martin is one of the first defensive replacements to enter a game. With his holding duties on extra points and field goals, Martin is one busy player at practice.
"Mike has progressed very nicely. I feel we would not be at a disadvantage with him at quarterback if something happened to Zach," Canon-McMillan coach Guy Montecalvo said. "He's come a long way."
And, for most of that journey, Martin has been joined by Big Macs' ballboy and best friend Grant Chupinka.
"He's been my best friend since third grade," said Martin, who wakes up at 5 a.m. most mornings to help rebuild the family barn. "We played football outside our houses because he wasn't allowed to play real football."
Chupinka, a senior at Canon-McMillan, is blind in his right eye and losing the sight in his left. Six months into his life, Chupinka was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer that occurs in the chest and lungs.
With the cancer long gone, Chupinka plans to attend CCAC next fall and eventually work with his father's real estate company. For now, he's enjoying the view from the Big Macs sideline.
One of his favorite moments came during a 37-7 loss at Woodland Hills. Martin scored Canon-McMillan's lone touchdown on a 33-yard interception return.
"Oh yes, that was awesome," Chupinka said.
That play came a little more than a month after Martin's older brother Andrew, a former Canon-McMillan football player, was seriously injured in a dirt bike accident. Martin was flown to UPMC-Presbyterian for treatment.
Adversity is nothing new for Mike Martin. Maybe that's why he maintains a calm demeanor during one trying football season.
Not much has gone right for Canon-McMillan (1-3, 3-5) as the Big Macs prepare for the regular season finale at Great Southern Conference rival Peters Township (0-4, 4-4).
"We're just taking it one game, one step at a time," Martin said. "We're trying to stay healthy and work through everything."
Staying healthy has been the Big Macs' problem.
Canon-McMillan opened the year without Ohio State recruit Chad Hagan, who missed two games recovering from Wolff-Parkinson-White disorder. Key players Dom Broglia (stingers) and Karon Adams (hip) have also missed significant time and both are questionable, at best, against Peters Township.
Adding to the woes last week was a team-wide illness.
Canon-McMillan could not practice last Monday in preparation for defending WPIAL champion Bethel Park and, on Tuesday, 22 players missed school.
"It was the most pervasive case I've ever seen," Montecalvo said. "We tried to get as much done as we could but when you can't practice it greatly impacts preparation."
One of the affected players was Penn State recruit Mike Hull, who is still recovering from the flu.
Hull played against Bethel Park and made 22 tackles (20 unassisted) but was so fatigued when the Big Macs were on offense that he had trouble standing.
"We can only worry about our squad and our health," Montecalvo said. "(Hull) wasn't even allowed to go to the Mt. Lebanon game but we can't worry too much about what's happened. We're trying to field a healthy football team."
Despite the adversity, Canon-McMillan can still qualify for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
The Big Macs must beat Peters Township coupled with a Baldwin loss at Bethel Park.
"We've hit a few rough patches but we're a good team and we feel we should be in the playoffs," Martin said. "We just need to get there."

Wilson's parents sue hospitals

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The parents of a western Pennsylvania high school football player who died after sustaining massive head injuries during practice are suing two hospitals for malpractice.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle Wilson, a running back for Central Catholic in Pittsburgh, died a year ago at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He had been in the hospital for several days after collapsing while watching a game the day after his injuries.

The suit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Tuesday, claims Childrens' and West Penn Allegheny Health System doctors failed to recognize and treat his head injuries despite symptoms including repeated vomiting and decreased consciousness.

Children's didn't immediately comment and West Penn declined comment.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

State Football Rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, October 27, 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) 8-0 1
2. North Penn (1) 8-0 2
3. Gateway (7) 8-0 3
4. St. Joseph’s Prep (12) 6-1 4
5. McKeesport (7) 7-1 5
6. La Salle College HS (12) 6-1 6
7. Woodland Hills (7) 7-1 7
8. Pennsbury (1) 8-0 8
8. McDowell (10) 6-2 9
10. Cardinal O’Hara (12) 7-1 10
Honorable mention
Avon Grove (1) 7-1, Bethel Park (7) 7-1, Council Rock South (1) 6-2, Cumberland Valley (3) 7-1, Downingtown West (1) 7-1, Easton (11) 7-1, Garnet Valley (1) 7-1, Neshaminy (1) 7-1, North Allegheny (7) 7-1, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 6-2, Ridley (1) 8-0, Shaler (7) 7-1, State College (6) 7-1, Wilson (3) 7-1.

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 8-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 8-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 8-0 3
4. Manheim Central (3) 8-0 4
5. Hopewell (7) 8-0 5
6. Bayard Rustin (1) 8-0 6
7. Pottsgrove (1) 8-0 7
8. Cathedral Prep (10) 6-2 8
9. West York (3) 8-0 9
10. Allentown Cent. Catholic (11) 7-1 10
Honorable mention
Abington Heights (2) 7-1, Berwick (2) 6-2, Chartiers Valley (7) 7-1, Dallas (2) 8-0, Greencastle-Antrim (3) 6-2, Hershey (3) 6-2, Interboro (1) 8-0, North Pocono (2) 7-1, Owen J. Roberts (1) 7-1, Strong Vincent (10) 6-2, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 7-1, West Allegheny (7) 6-2.

1. Dunmore (2) 8-0 2
2. Center (7) 7-1 NR
3. Beaver Falls (7) 7-1 1
4. Aliquippa (7) 7-1 4
5. West Catholic (12) 6-2 6
6. General McLane (10) 8-0 5
7. Lancaster Catholic (3) 7-1 7
8. Wilmington (10) 7-1 9
9. South Fayette (7) 8-0 10
10. Keystone Oaks (7) 7-1 NR
Honorable mention
Bok (12) 8-0, Burrell (7) 6-2, Forest Hills (6) 8-0, Freeport (7) 7-1, Lewisburg (4) 7-1, Loyalsock Twp. (4) 6-2, Martinsburg Central (6) 7-1, Middletown (3) 6-2, Montoursville (4) 7-1, Northern Lehigh (11) 7-1, North Schuylkill (11) 8-0, Shady Side Academy (7) 7-1, Sto-Rox (7) 6-2, Towanda (4) 8-0, Trinity (3) 6-2, Tyrone (6) 7-1.

1. Rochester (7) 8-0 1
2. Farrell (10) 8-0 2
3. Bishop McCort (6) 8-0 3
4. Laurel (7) 7-1 4
5. Clairton (7) 7-1 5
6. Steelton-Highspire (3) 5-2 6
7. Old Forge (2) 8-0 7
8. Bellwood-Antis (6) 8-0 8
9. Portage (6) 8-0 9
10. Serra Catholic (7) 7-1 10
Honorable mention
Avonworth (7) 7-1, Calvary Christian (1) 6-1, Cameron County (9) 8-0, Conemaugh Twp. (5) 7-1, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 8-0, North Catholic (7) 6-2, Sharpsville (10) 7-1.

Playoff breakdown

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

WPIAL Football Playoff Clinchings

Check Wednesday's Observer-Reporter for as detailed a breakdown of the current Garnder Points/WPIAL playoff situation as one can find courtesy of WJPA's Bob Gregg, Western Pennsylvana's authority on Gardner Points.

For now, here's who is in the WPIAL football playoffs:

Class AAAA
Big East - Woodland Hills, Penn Hills, Pittsburgh Central Catholic
Foothills Conference - Gateway, McKeesport, Greater Latrobe
Great Southern - Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair
Northern Six - North Allegheny, Shaler, Seneca Valley, North Hills

Class AAA
Big Seven - Thomas Jefferson, Chartiers Valley
Greater Allegheny - Mars, Franklin Regional, Knoch, Hampton
Keystone - Greensburg-Salem, Uniontown, Laurel Highlands, Derry Area
Parkway - Hopewell, West Allegheny, Montour, New Castle

Class AA
Allegheny - Shady Side Academy, Freeport, Burrell
Century - South Fayette, Keystone Oaks, Sto-Rox
Interstate - Mt. Pleasant, McGuffey
Midwestern - Center, Aliquippa, Beaver Falls, Beaver

Class A
Big Seven - Rochester, Laurel, Monaca (in its final season)
Black Hills - Clairton, Serra Catholic, Fort Cherry
Eastern - North Catholic, Avonworth, Brentwood
Tri-County South - Monessen, Beth-Center, Jefferson-Morgan

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 8-0 (1)
2. McKeesport 7-1 (2)
3. Woodland Hills 7-1 (3)
4. Bethel Park 7-1 (4)
5. North Allegheny 7-1 (5)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 8-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 8-0 (2)
3. West Allegheny 6-2 (3)
4. Greensburg-Salem 7-1 (4)
5. Chartiers Valley 7-1 (5)

Class AA
1. Mt. Pleasant 8-0 (2)
2. South Fayette 8-0 (3)
3. Aliquippa 7-1 (3)
4. Center 7-1 (5)
5. Beaver Falls 7-1 (1)

Class A
1. Rochester 8-0 (1)
2. Clairton 7-1 (2)
3. Laurel 7-1 (3)
4. North Catholic 6-2 (4)
5. Serra Catholic 7-1 (5)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday night thoughts, Week 8

Pinpointing when a youthful football team begins to mature is difficult and for Washington High School, there are several options for consideration.

There was a dominating three-game stretch where the Prexies outscored East Allegheny, Brownsville and South Allegheny, 107-14.

Then there's last Friday's gutty win over Jeannette where Washington scored the final 18 points.

How about last night's thrilling 20-18 win over a good Charleroi team when Marquis Brown picked up a Quentin Briggs fumble and returned it 66 yards for the tying touchdown before adding the winning points on a two-point run?

All solid choices.

For me, the moment came during the fourth quarter of a loss to Mt. Pleasant in Week 2. The Vikings led 28-0 before Washington scored 15 points. Those points looked meaningless at the time but it showed this group of Prexies isn't about to quit.

That attitude has shown through the past two weeks against strong competition.

So did Washington's toughness and evolving maturity.

Last night, for example, several key plays came from a variety of underclassmen. Freshman Daron Whitaker, all 5-4 or 5-5 of him, rushed for a team-high 62 yards and moved the chains during the first half. In the second half, freshman Jaylin Kelly came in and picked up 16 yards. Doesn't sound like much but he converted two third downs and added a touchdown.

Runs like the ones Kelly had and just about every yard picked up by Zach Barnes were as important in beating Charleroi as Brown's fumble.

Washington needed to match Charleroi's desire up front and it did. Sure, Briggs rushed for 180 yards but the Prexies tackled him early. Keeping Briggs contained on those first few drives had to give Washington's defense a boost.

Grinding out tough yards had to as well.

And, no matter how many big-play athletes Washington has, it's the ability to tackle and pick up tough yards that produce victories in the postseason.

** Doubt this will be the popular opinion on the board but it looked like Briggs was down when he lost the football that was scooped up by Brown for Washington's game-winning touchdown.

** Jefferson-Morgan's 21-20 victory at California in a key Tri-County South Conference game added to one dramatic Friday night.

Ryan Knight's 17-yard touchdown reception from Brandon Kozich with 1:01 remaining provided the winning points and clinched a playoff berth for the Rockets, who are in third place.

The loss hurts California's playoff chances. The Trojans close the regular season at first-place Monessen. Carmichaels, tied with California for fourth place but owner of the head-to-head tiebreaker, concludes its conference slate with winless West Greene.

The Mikes have reached the WPIAL Class A playoffs 11 consecutive years. California has been in the last 10 playoffs.

** Covered high school football for 13 years an can honestly say that I have never seen an ending like Charleroi at Washington.

** South Fayette clinched a share of the Class AA Century Conference championship with an impressive 21-0 victory at Steel Valley. It's the Lions first conference title since moving up from Class A.

South Fayette shared the Ohio Valley Conference title with Bishop Canevin and Chartiers-Houston in 2000 and with Fort Cherry and Brentwood in 1999.

Here's something to consider, with Beaver Falls losing to Center, will South Fayette receive the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs if they beat Bishop Canevin to wrap up a 9-0 record.

South Fayette and Mt. Pleasant are the only remaining undefeated teams in WPIAL Class AA.

** Trinity's Ken Wilkins has three touchdown catches the past two weeks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Games of the Week – Week 8

For playoff-contending teams, or teams trying to make Week 9 meaningful, the final two games are must-win situations.

Charleroi (5-2) at Washington (5-2)
Last week, McGuffey demonstrated how to slow Charleroi running back Quentin Briggs - gang tackling. The Highlanders are a physical football team but that doesn't mean Wash High can't take some of those tactics, use their overall speed and put them to use.

That could be the key to this key Interstate Conference game. If Wash High makes tackles near the line of scrimmage early, it will benefit the Prexies greatly. Charleroi, meanwhile, must find ways to slow the Prexies' emerging group of playmakers.

One way to do so is to pressure quarterback Marquis Brown, who can break down a defense with his scrambling.

Burgettstown (3-4) at Fort Cherry (5-2)
For all the tribulations Fort Cherry went through in weeks five and six, the Rangers can still finish in second place in the Black Hills Conference and host a home playoff game. To do so, beating Burgettstown is a must as is Serra Catholic losing to Clairton next week.

The Rangers shook off two bad performances last week at Frazier. Not an easy thing to do for a team rife with underclassmen.

Burgettstown, on the other hand, needs this game to stay in the playoff picture. The Blue Devils have good skill players but depth and lack of size have hurt against top teams. Size and depth don't always matter in a rivalry as heated as thi.

Peters Township in girls tennis final

The Peters Township girls tennis team can win its first WPIAL team title since claiming the 1996 Class AA crown today when it faces Upper St. Clair in the Class AAA final at 12:45 p.m. at Club For Life in Monroeville.

Peters Township (18-1), coached by Brandt Bowman, defeated Shady Side Academy, 3-2, in Thursday's semifinal. Caroline Nixon and Laura Stroyne won singles matches. USC defeated Pine-Richland, 4-1, in its semifinal.

Led by Alison Riske, Peters Township won the 2006 PIAA Class AAA team championship with a 3-2 win over Shady Side Academy.

Aluminum bat safety trial

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Fighting off a Helena Senators’ fifth-inning rally, pitcher Brandon Patch checked the runner on first base. The 18-year-old Miles City Mavericks’ southpaw then went into his windup, delivering what looked sure to be another strike.
Instead, the Senators’ hitter connected squarely, smacking the baseball so hard that it was nearly impossible to follow — until it ricocheted off Patch’s head. The ball eventually fell behind first base after traveling, by some accounts, as high as 50 feet in the air.
Patch, pitching in what was to be one of his final games with his American Legion team, collapsed on the mound. He managed to speak briefly to his father and coaches, and to some of the teammates from the eastern Montana town of Miles City, who had rushed to help him. Minutes later, Patch went into convulsions as a horrified crowd watched on from the bleachers.
Within hours, Patch had died from head injuries suffered while playing the game he had loved since he’d been a small child.
“It was just so quick. Everything happened so fast,” Mavericks’ first baseman Kevin Roberts recalled more than six years later in a courtroom, where the bat’s manufacturer is being sued by Patch’s mother for allegedly producing an unreasonably dangerous product.
At issue in the trial that is expected to last at least until early next week is whether anyone could have known the danger that could come from using an aluminum baseball bat, and whether the manufacturer should be held liable for Patch’s death.
“There is absolutely no warning anywhere ... that this bat can create a situation where a pitcher is defenseless,” said Joe White, the Patchs’ attorney.
Metal bats came into vogue in amateur sports in the 1970s. More recently, however, they have come under increased scrutiny and criticism as injuries from fast-moving balls hit by the lightweight bats have mounted.
What makes aluminum bats different from their wooden counterparts is that the weight is distributed more equally in the metal ones, making it easier to swing faster and harder. They’re also generally shaped to have larger sweet spots, the area that produces hard-hit balls.
In 2002, the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission ruled that there was inconclusive data to support a ban on metal bats in youth and high school baseball games. Its study found that from 1991 to 2001, there were 17 deaths nationwide due to batted balls. Of those, eight were from metal bats, two from wood and another seven were of unknown origin.
But Patch’s death in 2003 cast new light on the issue when his team refused to use metal bats or play American Legion games against those who did.
Since 2007, high school teams in North Dakota and New York City have also played only with wooden bats. States including Montana and Pennsylvania, home to the Little League World Series, have also considered state laws banning metal bats since Patch’s death, although none has passed.

APB, Where Are They Now?

Sadly, last week's All Points Bulletin issued for former Washington High School and California University football player Jason Ellis went unanswered. The search continues.

This week, The Varsity Letters wants to look back at one of the great football traditions in Washington County - Beth-Center High School.

Besides being the most successful area football team over the past seven years, Beth-Center boasts a proud tradition, one that has sent players on to college and professional playing careers in additions to contending for WPIAL championships.

One of the great players in Bulldogs history is Keith Miller. The Varsity Letters issues an APB for the former B-C running back.

When Miller graduated, he ranked fifth in WPIAL history with 5,121 yards and he remains in the top 10 all-time. Along with quarterback Jason White, Beth-Center boasted one of the best backfields in the state.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Soccer rivalry takes civil turn

In terms of tradition and championship hardware, the boys soccer teams from Peters Township and Canon-McMillan couldn't be farther apart despite sharing a border.

In terms of on-field results, competition between the two has improved significantly as Canon-McMillan makes progress under the direction of fourth-year head coach Michael Garet.

Both Peters Township and Canon-McMillan will represent Section 5-AAA in the WPIAL playoffs. For Peters Township, it's an opportunity to reach the PIAA title game a third straight year and defend its WPIAL championship. For Canon-McMillan, it's an opportunity to establish itself. The Big Macs are making just their second postseason appearance.

"They're a very good team," Peters Township coach Bob Dyer said following last week's 2-0 victory at Canon-McMillan. "Mike's done a good job weeding out the undisciplined play."

Another area where this rivalry took a turn for the better, at least during last Thursday's match, is sportsmanship.

In recent matches, things have been a little heated between the Big Macs and Indians.

Last year, there were several player ejections in one late-season match. This year at Peters Township, a Canon-McMillan fan accosted the Peters Township coaches.

There was little of that nonsense last Thursday and none between the players.

"This is probably the first match in a while where there was no caution or sending off," Garet said. "It's good to see with a rivalry. I think it can be as intense and the emotion can be as powerful if players keep it in check."

Blogger's note: Photo from Peters Township at Canon-McMillan match provided by Fred Perino, father of Big Macs goalie Doug Perino.

Monday, October 19, 2009

WPIAL Team Golf Results

Boys Team Final
Division I
Cedarbrook Gold Course (Par 72)

1. Latrobe 397 Medalist – Ben Gjebre 73

2. Fox Chapel 404 Medalist – Thomas Lawson 77

3. Central Catholic 411 Medalist – Corey Wagner 78
4. Peters Township 412 Medalist – Hunter Stanchak/Jeff Chastel 81

5. Bethel Park 415 Medalist – Brian Omslaer 78

6. Penn Trafford 423 Medalist – Kevin Loutsenhizer 74

Boys Team Final
Division II
Cedarbrook Gold Course (Par 72)

1. Bishop Canevin 412 Medalist – Matt Zerishnek/Frank Vance 77

2. Sewickley Academy 414 Medalist – Ian Bangor/Jordan Chang 79

3. Neshannock 415 Medalist – Jono Acosta 79

4. South Fayette 436 Medalist – A.J. Morelli 86

5. California 442 Medalist – David Beck 77

6. Seton-La Salle 456 Medalist – Dan Mazur 88

Girls Team Final
Cedarbook Red Course (Par 71)

1. Shady Side Academy 345 Medalist – Kendall Allen 74

2. Fox Chapel 347 Medalist – Nadia Luttner 80

3. Center 368 Medalist – Brittany Massie 89

4. Upper St. Clair 376 Medalist – Danielle Von Waldow 86

5. Penn Trafford 383 Medalist – Brittany Borkovich 83

6. Bethel Park 406 Medalist – Liz Creighton 94

7. Butler 410 Medalist – Marissa DeCola 82

8. Mt. Pleasant 418 Medalist – Megan Smith 93

Standish, Keddal Win County XC Titles

Trinity senior Mike Standish and Peters Township senior Kayla Keddal came away winners in their respective varsity races at the 2009 Washington County Coaches Cross Country Meet at Mingo Creek County Park.

Standish edged Canon-McMillan's Travis Arrigoni by one second as Standish (16:52) caught the Big Macs standout as they neared the finish line. Keddal (19:34) dominated her race, winning by 1:12.

Canon-McMillan swept the team titles.

For more information, read Tuesday's Observer-Reporter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 7-0 (1)
2. McKeesport 6-1 (2)
3. Woodland Hills 6-1 (3)
4. Bethel Park 6-1 (4)
5. North Allegheny 6-1 (5)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 7-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 7-0 (2)
3. West Allegheny 5-2 (4)
4. Greensburg-Salem 6-1 (5)
5. Chartiers Valley 6-1 (3)

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 7-0 (1)
2. Mt. Pleasant 7-0 (2)
3. South Fayette 7-0 (3)
4. Aliquippa 6-1 (4)
5. Center 6-1 (NR)

Class A
1. Rochester 7-0 (1)
2. Clairton 6-1 (2)
3. Laurel 6-1 (3)
4. North Catholic 5-2 (4)
5. Serra Catholic 6-1 (NR)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday Night Thoughts, Week 7

Friday night's game did little to clear up the jumble in the Class AA Interstate Conference. If anything, the conference is tighter going into the eighth week.

Consider, McGuffey outmuscled Charleroi, 22-9, behind a heavy dose of power running and gang tackling. Washington scored the final 18 points to upend Jeannette, 24-16, in what had to be a fun game to watch. And, finally, Greensburg Central Catholic blanker Brownsville.

So, after first-place Mt. Pleasant (7-0), which wrapped up a playoff berth given its victories over McGuffey, Wash High and Greensburg Central, there is a five-team tie for second place.

That's right five teams.

The Highlanders, Prexies, Cougars, Centurions and Jayhawks are all 5-2.

Here's a small sample of upcoming games:

Charleroi vs. Washington,
Washington vs. McGuffey,
Mt. Pleasant vs. Charleroi,
Greensburg C.C. vs. Jeannette.

It's going to be a wild two weeks.

** Trinity receives plenty of criticism on this board from posters and I'm guessing none of them envisioned the Hillers going to West Mifflin and blanking the previously 5-1 Titans, 28-0.

I'm wondering if even the most die-hard Hillers supporters saw that happening.

Ken Wilkins caught two long touchdown passes and Trinity, which can still make the playoffs, showed a lot of guts in dominating a good football team.

** Baldwin's 21-17 victory over Upper St. Clair makes things quite interesting in the Great Southern Conference, where Bethel Park looks like a lock to win again.

Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon, a 41-20 winner over a Canon-McMillan team which played without Mike Hull (illness), are tied for second place. Meanwhile, USC and C-M have one win apiece and Peters Township sits in last place.

The Indians can make the playoffs with wins against USC and C-M in the upcoming two weeks.

** Must agree with a post I just read from a Wash High fan. There's no need to apologize or use conditions as an excuse for the Prexies' win over Jeannette. Both teams played on the same field.

The same thing could be said for about half the games played last night in Class AA and A.

As for Washington, it marks the biggest win since a shutout at Aliquippa in the first round of the 2005 playoffs. Yep, Washington became a team to reckon with last night.

And the Prexies will continue to improve as they find ways to get the football to Bryan Thomas and Zach Barnes.

** Put Fort Cherry in the same category as Trinity - a team facing considerable adversity which came away with a convincing win.

Friday, October 16, 2009

McG-Charleroi site changed

The site for tonight's football game between McGuffey and Charleroi has been changed from Charleroi's stadium to Joe Montana Stadium at Ringgold High School. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Charleroi Athletic Director Bill Wiltz said the field at Charleroi's stadium was torn up during last Friday's rainy game. Crews attempted to repair it, but the rainy weather the past few days has made it unplayable. He said that after the weather dries out, the field should be playable for future games.

Fan fights with referee

Games of the Week - Week 7

Only three weeks remain to the WPIAL football regular season. Playoff races remain open in most conferences, particularly in the Class AA Interstate. Six teams are separated by two games.

Canon-McMillan (1-1, 3-3) at Mt. Lebanon (1-1, 3-3)
Chances are the winner of this finishes third in the Great Southern Conference. Last week, Mt. Lebanon scored on a variety of big plays at Peters Township. The Indians defense had no solution for running back Luke Hagy.

Canon-McMillan evened its conference record against Baldwin last week and are in search of a signature victory. The Big Macs three wins have come against teams (Trinity, Butler and Baldwin) with a combined two wins. How quickly linebacker Mike Hull and the rest of the defense get to Hagy could key their chances.

McGuffey (4-2, 4-2) at Charleroi (5-1, 5-1)
The power offenses of these two Interstate Conference playoff-contenders along with the weather means a healthy dose of running, and then a few more carries.

Which offensive line will dictate? Can McGuffey open holes for Nick Shuman, Trenton Bedillion and company or will the Cougars, behind Zach Hooks, soften a tough McGuffey defense for sensational sophomore Quentin Briggs, who is closing in on a second 1,000-yard season.

Both teams have played like playoff teams to date but the loser could be in trouble. McGuffey still has Wash High on the schedule. Charleroi still has Wash High and first-place Mt. Pleasant.

Jeannette (5-1, 5-1) at Washington (4-2, 4-2)
Wash High has yet to beat a team with more than one victory. The Prexies need to break that trend soon to bolster their playoff chances. Junior Zach Barnes is developing into a feature running back and when Washington finds ways to involve Bryan Thomas in the offense, they produce points.

Jeannette is one of the few teams in the Interstate Conference who can match Wash High's athleticism and speed at the skill positions. Jayhawks runner Toddy Harris is coming off a monster game against McGuffey.

California (3-1, 4-2) at Beth-Center (3-1, 4-2)
As previously stated on The Varsity Letters, topping the intensity in this rivalry, which was heightened when Beth-Center joined the Tri-County South Conference, is difficult.

California took a big hit during last week's loss to Carmichaels. Quarterback D.J. Martinak, who has had a hand in 17 touchdowns, is doubtful. So is receiver Wade Stinnett and running back Mike Evans.

The Trojans must find some way to match Beth-Center's intensity because scoring points on the Bulldogs is tough. They've allowed 53 points, lowest in the conference.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

APB, Where are they Now?

Last week, The Varsity Letters issued an All Points Bulletin for former Trinity quarterback Michael Chicone and, thanks to readers, found out he's working as a senior accountant and living in Pittsburgh.

TVL travels across town to rival Wash High for this week's All Points Bulletin.

We're looking for former Wash High multi-sport athlete Jason Ellis.

A running back/linebacker for the Prexies, Ellis played for a couple WPIAL Class AA championships during his playing days. He was also a starter on the basketball team.

Ellis went on to California University of Pennsylvania, where he played linebacker earlier this decade along with former high school teammate and current Wash High assistant coach Chet Henderson. The two are pictured. Ellis is on the left.

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

Wild finish to high school game

It always pays to know the rules.

Check this out:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Championship stretch

The WPIAL championship season has begun and things get busy beginning this week.

Girls tennis already crowned singles and doubles champions, among them being Chartiers-Houston junior Tanya Timko (Class AA singles). Timko previously won WPIAL titles in girls and boys doubles with her sister Karli.

Timko's win continued a championship trend in a sport with little tradition locally until recent years.

California's Sarah Shashura and former Peters Township standout Alison Riske won WPIAL singles titles in recent years. The Timko sisters won doubles titles as the district and PIAA level. Julie Stroyne, also of Peters Township, won a PIAA Class AAA doubles title with Emily Palko and will attempt for another with partner Caroline Nixon when the state tournaments begin Friday, Nov. 6.

Between Burgettstown, South Fayette and Peters Township, boys golf is well-established and all three of those teams – along with five others – play in Wednesday's WPIAL Division I and II semifinals at various locations.

Peters Township, the 2008 WPIAL Division I champion and PIAA runner-up, is undefeated. So is Bentworth, which is playing in the Division II semifinals, along with Jefferson-Morgan, Waynesburg, California and Chartiers-Houston.

The WPIAL team golf championships will be contested Monday, Oct. 19 at Cedarbrook Gold.

The WPIAL girls team tennis playoffs also begin that week, as do the boys and girls soccer playoffs. WPIAL volleyball playoffs start the last week of October and the cross country championships will be run Thursday, Oct. 29.

Monday, October 12, 2009

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Monday, Oct. 12, 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) 6-0 1
2. North Penn (1) 6-0 2
3. Gateway (7) 6-0 3
4. St. Joseph’s Prep (12) 5-1 4
5. McKeesport (7) 5-1 5
6. La Salle College (12) 5-1 6
7. Downingtown West (1) 6-0 8
8. McDowell (10) 5-1 9
9. Woodland Hills (7) 5-1 10
10. Pennsbury (1) 6-0 NR
Honorable mention
Abington (1) 4-1, Bethel Park (7) 5-1, Cardinal O’Hara (12) 6-0, Council Rock South (1) 5-1, Cumberland Valley (3) 5-1, Downingtown East (1) 5-1, Easton (11) 5-1, Father Judge (12) 4-2, Freedom (11) 5-1, Neshaminy (1) 5-1, North Allegheny (7) 5-1, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 4-2, Ridley (1) 6-0, Shaler (7) 5-1, South Western (3) 6-0, State College (6) 5-1, Williamsport (4) 5-1, Wilson (3) 5-1, Upper St. Clair (7) 4-2, York (3) 6-0.

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 6-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 6-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 6-0 3
4. Manheim Central (3) 6-0 5
5. Hopewell (7) 6-0 6
6. Bayard Rustin (1) 6-0 9
7. Allentown Cent. Catholic (11) 6-0 10
8. Pottsgrove (1) 6-0 7
9. Cathedral Prep (10) 4-2 4
10. West York (3) 6-0 NR
Honorable mention
Abington Heights (2) 5-1, Bradford (10) 6-0, Chartiers Valley (7) 6-0, Dallas (2) 6-0, Greencastle-Antrim (3) 6-0, Henderson (1) 5-1, Hershey (3) 5-1, Interboro (1) 6-0, North Pocono (2) 5-1, Owen J. Roberts (1) 6-0, Scranton Prep (2) 5-1, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 5-1, West Allegheny (7) 5-1, West Mifflin (7) 5-1.

1. Beaver Falls (7) 6-0 1
2. Dunmore (2) 6-0 2
3. Montoursville (4) 6-0 3
4. Aliquippa (7) 5-1 4
5. General McLane (10) 6-0 5
6. West Catholic (12) 3-2 6
7. Lancaster Catholic (3) 5-1 7
8. Martinsburg Central (6) 6-0 8
9. Hickory (10) 4-1 9
10. Wilmington (10) 5-1 10
Honorable mention
Bishop McDevitt (12) 6-0, Bok (12) 6-0, Burrell (7) 5-1, Center (7) 5-1, Charleroi (7) 5-1, Forest Hills (6) 6-0, Freeport (7) 5-1, Jeanette (7) 5-1, Karns City (9) 6-0, Keystone Oaks (7) 5-1, Mid-Valley (2) 5-1, Northern Lehigh (11) 5-1, North Schuylkill (11) 6-0, Shady Side Academy (7) 5-1, South Fayette (7) 6-0, Sto-Rox (7) 5-1, Towanda (4) 6-0, Trinity (3) 5-1, Tyrone (6) 5-1, York Suburban (3) 5-1.

1. Rochester (7) 6-0 1
2. Farrell (10) 6-0 2
3. Bishop McCort (6) 6-0 3
4. Laurel (7) 5-1 4
5. Clairton (7) 5-1 5
6. Steelton-Highspire (3) 4-1 6
7. Old Forge (2) 6-0 7
8. Bellwood-Antis (6) 6-0 8
9. Portage (6) 6-0 9
10. Serra Catholic (7) 5-1 10
Honorable mention
Avonworth (7) 5-1, Cameron County (9) 6-0, Clarion (9) 5-1, Conemaugh Twp. (5) 5-1, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 6-0, Mount Union (6) 5-1, North Catholic (7) 4-2, Port Allegany (9) 5-1, Sharpsville (10) 5-1, Springdale (7) 5-1, Upper Dauphin (3) 6-0.

Records are current. Previous ranking indicates the team’s position in last week’s Patriot-News rankings. Honorable mention teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Martinak doubtful

California High School senior quarterback D.J. Martinak is doubtful for Friday's Tri-County South Conference game at rival Beth-Center.

Martinak suffered an ankle injury during a 44-26 loss to Carmichaels last week and did not play during the second half. California does not know the extent of the injury but Trojans head coach Brady Barbero said there are no broken bones.

"It doesn't look good for this week," Barbero added.

Martinak has rushed for 732 yards with 13 touchdowns and passed for 455 with three touchdowns.

California and Beth-Center are each 3-1 in conference and 4-2 overall.

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 6-0 (1)
2. McKeesport 5-1 (2)
3. Woodland Hills 5-1 (3)
4. Bethel Park 5-1 (5)
5. North Allegheny 5-1 (NR)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 6-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 6-0 (2)
3. Chartiers Valley 6-0 (3)
4. West Allegheny 5-1 (4)
5. Greensburg-Salem 5-1 (NR)

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 6-0 (1)
2. Mt. Pleasant 6-0 (2)
3. South Fayette 6-0 (3)
4. Aliquippa 5-1 (NR)
5. Charleroi 5-1 (NR)

Class A
1. Rochester 6-0 (1)
2. Clairton 5-1 (2)
3. Laurel 5-1 (3)
4. North Catholic 4-2 (NR)
5. Springdale 5-1 (NR)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday night thoughts, Week 6

Avella 22, Fort Cherry 21

For more, click:

Is it:

1. The product of Avella being far superior to Eagles teams of the past 10 years? Certainly.

2. Leftover effects from last Friday's loss to Clairton, in which the post game events have been discussed in detail on this site? Quite possibly.

3. The biggest upset WPIAL small school football has seen in years? Can't immediately think of a bigger one.

Following the completion of the Mt. Lebanon at Peters Township game (a topic for later in this post), I called into the office to report the final score. That's when someone said, "Avella 22, Fort Cherry 21." Didn't believe it until someone in the sports department called back and said the same thing.


After taking an early 6-0 lead, Avella rallied from a 21-6 deficit and scored the game's final 16 points, including a 57-yard pass from Cameron Geresti to fullback Aaron Mangari. The final two came on a Jared Magon conversion run to take the 22-21 lead with 7:52 remaining.

Anyone else like the decision to go for two?

Great call. Great win for Avella.

The question remains, what becomes of the playoff picture in the Black Hills Conference with this upset and Frazier's win over Burgettstown?

Clairton is the clear-cut favorite and Serra Catholic eased back into second place when it looked like Fort Cherry had settled into that position. Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry, Frazier and Burgettstown are all tied for third, which should make for some interesting matchups during the final three weeks.

** Mt. Lebanon scored on four its first five touches during a 47-27 win at Peters Township. Never witnessed anything like it before.

Peters Township, which is 0-2 in the Great Southern Conference after opening the year with four straight wins, is a much improved football team over recent seasons. Where the Indians lack is run defense, though they did do a better job of tackling Blue Devils tailback Luke Hagy in the second half.

Came away impressed with the play of PT junior quarterback Austin Hancock.

After a shaky start, Hancock settled in and made a variety of throws - the type of plays college recruiters notice. The only throw he struggled to complete was an out pattern to the opposite sideline.

Also liked the toughness of Andrew Erenberg, the speed of Justin Miller and the pass-catching skills of the receivers.

** Speaking of playoff races, Carmichaels knocked the Tri-County South out of order with an impressive showing at California.

Read Mikes coach John Menhart's comments in the Observer-Reporter after the game. Sounds like he delivered one heck of a message to his players Friday night.

"I told the kids that if we lost this game, we were done, that we'd have no shot at the playoffs," said Mikes head coach John Menhart. "This game was for the season."

And if California is without quarterback D.J. Martinak, Wade Stinnett and Mike Evans for an extended time, the Trojans playoff chances take a big hit.

** Six teams in the Class AA Interstate Conference are within two games of each other. Mt. Pleasant (6-0) sits atop, Charleroi (5-1), Jeannette (5-1), McGuffey (4-2), Greensburg Central Catholic (4-2) and Washington (4-2).

Mt. Pleasant has games remaining against Jeannette and Charleroi. The Cougars back-ended schedule includes Washington and McGuffey. GCC has the easiest road with games left against two bottom-feeders and one versus Jeannette. Wash High has Jeannette, Charleroi and McGuffey. The Highlanders also play Waynesburg.

There's a possibility that only one team clinches heading into the final week.

** Really thought Trinity had a chance to win the remaining games in its schedule. Wrong again.

** May be a little premature to call a conference champion, but South Fayette sure went a long way in securing the Century Conference with its win over Seton-La Salle. The undefeated Lions have wins over Keystone Oaks, Sto-Rox and the Rebels.

** Got a feeling the winner of this week's game between Canon-McMillan and Mt. Lebanon finishes third in the Great Southern Conference. Don't think that's big? Could be the difference between playing a first-round game at McKeesport or Shaler.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Games of the Week – Week 6

If this week's slate of top games generates as much discussion as last week's, The Varsity Letters is going to be a busy place.

McGuffey at Jeannette
McGuffey enters this key Class AA Interstate Conference contest with the best defense in the classification in terms of points allowed (32). The Highlanders have given up all their points on the road, which is where they will be this week. At 4-1, McGuffey is tied with Jeannette, Charleroi and for second place. Mt. Pleasant (5-0) is first.

Jeannette is coming off a 26-20 home loss to Charleroi. The Cougars, behind Quentin Briggs, chewed up more than 400 yards of offense and held off a late rally. The Jayhawks were without a couple regulars.

Weather could play a significant factor in this game. Chances are McGuffey won't mind a steady rain.

South Fayette at Seton-La Salle
After beating Keystone Oaks and Sto-Rox, South Fayette has its sights set on an outright Class AA Century Conference title, which would be the team's first since moving up to Class AA. Quarterback Christian Brumbaugh and running back Jeff Davis are in the midst of outstanding season.

For Seton-La Salle (4-1), avoiding an early deficit at Chartiers Valley Stadium is a focus. The undefeated Lions have jumped on all five opponents.

Baldwin at Canon-McMillan
Baldwin went into last week's game against Peters Township without a win and left with a 1-0 record in the Great Southern Conference. Beating the Big Macs would guarantee the Highlands a spot in the WPIAL playoffs.

C-M beat Baldwin, 53-6, at Baldwin a year ago. The Big Macs are coming off a loss to Upper St. Clair, which plays Bethel Park in a contest where the winners becomes the conference favorite. Canon-McMillan isn't worried about speculation, it just wants to win a conference game.

APB, Where are they Now?

Last week, The Varsity Letters learned former Canon-McMillan three-sport standout and Waynesburg University Brendon Steele is happily married and employed as an Intensive Care nurse at a hospital in Virginia. Thanks for the information and best wishes to the Steele family.

This week, TVL issues an All Points Bulletin for Trinity High School graduate Michael Chicone.

With Connecticut's Cody Endres returning to the area this weekend to start at quarterback against Pitt, it seemed fitting to find a former Hillers quarterback. Chicone was Trinity's QB 10 years ago. He also played basketball in addition to being part of a successful Washington Pony team. Chicone went on to play basketball for a year or two at Washington & Jefferson College.

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Crimson Crushers

According to the state rankings, there's a decent chance the WPIAL Class A champion could bump into Bishop McCort of Johnstown during the PIAA playoffs.

Here's an quick read about the Crimson Crushers from the

Monday, October 5, 2009

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Monday, October 5, 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) 5-0 1
2. North Penn (1) 5-0 2
3. Gateway (7) 5-0 3
4. St. Josephs Prep (12) 4-1 4
5. McKeesport (7) 4-1 5
6. La Salle College (12) 4-1 6
7. Abington (1) 4-0 7
8. Downingtown West (1) 5-0 8
9. McDowell (10) 4-1 10
10. Woodland Hills (7) 4-1 NR
Honorable mention
Bethel Park (7) 4-1, Cardinal OHara (12) 5-0, Cumberland Valley (3) 4-1, Father Judge (12) 4-1, Henderson (1) 5-0, Neshaminy (1) 4-1, North Allegheny (7) 4-1, Pennsbury (1) 5-0, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 3-2, Ridley (1) 5-0, Shaler (7) 5-0, State College (6) 4-1, Upper St. Clair (7) 4-1.

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

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

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

Judge: Suspect in Iowa coach death can stand trial

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A judge ruled Monday that the man accused of gunning down a legendary Iowa high school football coach is mentally competent to stand trial.
Mark D. Becker, 24, can appreciate the first-degree murder charges against him, understand the proceedings and assist with his defense, according to an order filed Monday by Butler County District Judge Stephen Carroll.
Becker had been scheduled to stand trial last month in the June shooting death of Aplington-Parkersburg High coach Ed Thomas, who led the team in northeast Iowa for 34 seasons and was named the NFL’s High School Coach of the Year in 2005.
The case was put on hold pending a mental competency ruling after experts agreed Becker, who once played for Thomas, hallucinates and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but differed on whether he was mentally fit to stand trial.
Carroll ordered a new trial date set.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 5-0 (1)
2. McKeesport 4-1 (2)
3. Woodland Hills 4-1 (3)
4. Shaler 5-0 (4)
5. Bethel Park 4-1 (NR)

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

Class AA
1. Beaver Falls 5-0 (1)
2. Mt. Pleasant 5-0 (3)
3. South Fayette 5-0 (5)
4. Center 5-0 (NR)
5. McGuffey 4-1 (NR)

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday Night Thoughts, Week 5

Lots of things to get to, so let's get started.

Going to touch on last night's Clairton victory at Fort Cherry a few times here in Thoughts. We're going to get started with what I saw during the pre-game.

As one poster already stated, the officials were instructed to bring Clairton down the side of the stadium, as is practice at Fort Cherry. In speaking with one FC school administrator after the game, he said Clairton was specifically told to come down the side and wasn't sure if the game officials opted to escort them down the path Fort Cherry takes instead.

Regardless, after Clairton did its pregame huddle in the end zone, the majority of players ran to the sideline. Three or four stragglers walked VERY SLOWLY and continued to look back for Fort Cherry. Once the Rangers arrived, those players turned and began talking.

Can't really blame Fort Cherry for trying to protect their home field before the game and refusing to be intimidated. Some blame can be placed on the refs for not recognizing a situation that people could see develop from a distance.

To me, the majority of the blame goes to Clairton's coaching staff for not commanding the authority to get their players to the sidelines.

* My eight-month-old daughter woke me up early this morning so I watched the On Demand broadcast of the Trinity at Chartiers Valley game, which the Colts won, 30-12.

Several things continued to creep into my head during the game.

1. As I've said before, Trinity is not a bad football team. As writers from other papers have told me this year, Trinity is not a bad football team. The Hillers are, however, plagued by penalties and turnovers at critical moments. In the first quarter, Trinity starts near its own goal-line and marches toward midfield. A holding penalty kills that drive. Miscues like those happened to Trinity too many times to beat Chartiers Valley.

2. Only saw Ken Wilkins play two defensive series in the game but he was in there for nearly every offensive snap.

3. CV sophomore quarterback Wayne Capers was injured during the game but Trinity did a nice job containing him, particularly as a runner.

4. If Trinity can limit those mistakes, the Hillers can win the remainder of their schedule and qualify for the postseason.

** Those who've never watched Charleroi play don't know much about sophomore running back Quentin Briggs, who came into last night's game against Jeannette with more than 1,500 career rushing yards.

It's time to take notice as Briggs gashed the Jayhawks defense for 193 yards and two touchdowns as Charleroi notched a 26-20 win, probably the Cougars' biggest win in 10 years.

At 4-1, Charleroi is tied with Jeannette and McGuffey for second place in the Interstate Conference. Mt. Pleasant (5-0) is first.

*** Charleroi hosts McGuffey on Oct. 16. The winner finds itself in great position to host a home playoff game and possibly win the conference. The Cougars close the regular season by hosting Mt. Pleasant.

**** Back to Clairton 45, Fort Cherry 6.

Clairton is so good, the Bears can commit a bunch of penalties/mistakes and still blow out a good team. Fort Cherry, despite the score, remains a good team. Clairton has the makings of a great team. Size, speed, strength and the Bears love to hit.

***** Monessen's one-point victory over Beth-Center gives the Greyhounds the inside track to the Tri-County South Conference championship. For the Bulldogs, both of their losses have been by one point.

California (3-0, 4-1) is tied with Monessen atop the conference standings. Thanks to multi-purpose quarterback D.J. Martinak, in the midst of a statistically ridiculous season, the Trojans have scored 40-plus points in three straight. They play at Beth-Center in two weeks and at Monessen in the regular season finale.

****** Have to agree with what Fort Cherry coach Tim Garry said after last night's game. Clairton is the team to beat in WPIAL Class A.

******* Little surprised that a newspaper referred to Baldwin's win over Peters Township as a "surprising upset."

Granted Baldwin was winless and Peters Township was unbeaten but the Highlanders had played Shaler, Gateway, Seneca Valley and North Hills. The Indians had played Ringgold, Kiski Area, Knoch and Indiana.

Competition matters.

******** Finally, the post-game scene at Jim Garry Stadium was unfortunate.

From my on-field perspective, the ceremonial handshake went to script. After that, things quickly eroded between Clairton and Fort Cherry.

For whatever reason(s) the Clairton players have, the Bears enjoy dropping down and doing push-ups following the hand shake as a way of showing up their opponent. Plus, at least one Clairton player made a point of hovering and taunting as Fort Cherry tried to huddle up.

Saw Clairton do those push-ups last year at Chartiers-Houston. Thought it was an incredibly juvenile display of poor sportsmanship then. Think it's even worse that they to do them now. Why can't a 45-6 victory stand for itself?

At Chartiers-Houston, the Bucs players refused to overreact but when the coaching staff asked Clairton's coaches to get their kids away from C-H's post-game talk, two Bears assistants came charging over and said, "Who's got the ring? How many you got?"

Nice. Great example.

Still, there's no excusing the over-reaction of several Fort Cherry players. Coming off a humbling loss, the Rangers weren't in the mood to be taunted and became enraged at the site of Clairton showing them up. Curse words flew. Threats were made. One FC assistant and one Clairton assistant had to separated.

Then, as Clairton head coach Tom Nola was speaking to me, a pair of Rangers got into an on-field skirmish. One of the players involved did not play in the game but took umbrage with Clairton's actions. The other FC player told him to quiet down. It escalated from there though I did not see any punches thrown.

Sad to see a high school sporting event turn into needless drama.

The question is, as Clairton continues to win games, pile up points and do post-game push-ups, what happens when one opponent has enough and pulls what Oregon's LaGarrette Blount did to Boise State's Byron Hout after Hout taunted Blount following a loss early in this college football season?

Could see it happening. Sure hope it doesn't. I'd rather remember Clairton as a possible WPIAL and PIAA champion than a bunch of guys would rather do push-ups.

Friday, October 2, 2009

APB, Where are they Now?

The Varsity Letters issues an All Points Bulletin for former Canon-McMillan three-sport standout Brenden Steele.

Steele excelled in football, wrestling and baseball during his days with the Big Macs and despite a lack of size, he managed to crack the starting defense at Waynesburg University where he played safety/linebacker.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Games of the Week – Week 5

Two Class A games will receive ample attention Friday night. Laurel plays at Rochester in a Big Seven Conference contest while Clairton is at Fort Cherry in a Black Hills game. Those teams comprise four of the five sports in the Class A rankings.

Clairton (2-0, 3-1) at Fort Cherry (2-0, 4-0)

Since losing at Laurel in Week 1, Clairton – the defending WPIAL Class A champion and PIAA runner-up – has run roughshod over three opponents. Monessen, Frazier and Bentworth were outscored by a combined 161-7. The Bears enter Jim Garry Stadium with the most potent offense in WPIAL Class A, having scored 169 points.

Fort Cherry earned recognition with its victory at Serra Catholic last week. Led by talented underclassmen and a solid offensive line, the Rangers ranked second in WPIAL Class A with 163 points.

Beth-Center (2-0, 3-1) at Monessen (2-0, 2-2)
Through four games, Beth-Center's defense has been excellent. Not only do the Bulldogs yield an average of 8.0 points per game, the defense and special teams find ways to put up points. Last year, Beth-Center returned an interception for a touchdown on the game's third play en route to a 35-13 victory. The Bulldogs went unbeaten in the Tri-County South.

No doubt Monessen wants to extract revenge and win a conference championship. Those chances can take a turn for the better by beating B-C. If the Greyhounds do, it will be their first victory against a team with a win this year.

Canon-McMillan (0-0, 2-2) at Upper St. Clair (0-0, 3-1)
Can Canon-McMillan put together two wins in a row? Can the Big Macs defense build off last week's impressive performance against an inferior team? Can Upper St. Clair bounce back from losing handily to Pittsburgh Central Catholic? Will the winner of this game contend for a Great Southern Conference title?

Some of those questions will be answered Friday night. Who knows, maybe this year's game can top last year's?

In 2008, USC went for a two-point conversion pass in overtime in hopes of stealing on in Canonsburg. The Big Macs broke up the pass and came away with a thrilling 28-27 victory.