Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mr. Hathaway, a Backyard Brawl APB

Spent the final few minutes of the 102nd Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia – a game won 19-16 by the Mountaineers – on the field at Milan Puskar Stadium Friday night.

The first person I ran into on the sidelines was former Carmichaels High School two-sport standout Bobby Hathaway. One of the toughest high school football players I've seen, Hathaway was invited to walk-on at West Virginia by former coach Rich Rodriguez.

Hathaway earned a scholarship by his sophomore year of eligibility and eventually became a starting linebacker for the Mountaineers.

Hathaway is "living in the real world" as he put it, engaged and living in Morgantown. He said he's employed and working in Bridgeport, W.Va.

Every time I talk to the young man, I keep going back to a quote John Menhart – Hathaway's high school football coach – had as Hathaway was being ignored by most Division I programs.

"If Bobby Hathaway isn't a Division I player then nobody else around here is."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Picking the Winners, WPIAL Championships

A 6-2 record in the WPIAL semifinals took the record to 44-12 (.786 percentage) during the postseason. Time for one final week of picks.

Class AAAA
Woodland Hills over Gateway
Class AAA
Hopewell over West Allegheny
Class AA
Aliquippa over Greensburg Central Catholic
Class A
Clairton over Rochester

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Fall of Peters Township

Peters Township claimed the second PIAA and WPIAL girls tennis team titles in school history. Julie Stroyne and Caroline Nixon won the state girls doubles tournament. The Indians field hockey team won their first WPIAL title.

And the wild thing is Peters Township didn't have as good a fall sports season in 2009 as it did in 2008.

Still, Peters Township remains the area's leader in athletics.

The success of the girls tennis and field hockey teams highlight another successful sports season.

Peters Township girls soccer played in the WPIAL Class AAA championship match a second consecutive year. The Indians controlled much of the action but lost to Seneca Valley on penalty kicks. They were bounced in the PIAA quarterfinals by Erie McDowell in another match where Peters Township controlled play but was unable to finish. In 2008, PT reached the state championship.

With North Carolina State recruit Shelli Spamer leading a strong cast of returning players (Hannah Caso, Olivia Roberson, Christina O'Connor, etc.), Peters Township should achieve similar success in 2010.

Peters Township boys golf also fielded a roster loaded with underclassmen. The Indians won a difficult section and reached the finals of the WPIAL Division I team championship, which they won in 2008 with a senior-laden roster.

Peters Township boys soccer exited the WPIAL playoffs in the quarterfinals with a loss to Bethel Park. The Indians just weren't themselves in that match and watching them lose so early in the postseason is kind of like watching Thomas Jefferson lose to West Allegheny in the football playoffs. It's a rarity.

And, for the first time since 2003, Peters Township football finished with a winning record. At 5-4, the Indians managed two wins over Class AAAA teams (Canon-McMillan, Kiski Area) and returns several top players, most notably quarterback Austin Hancock and running back/defensive back Andrew Erenberg.

APB, Where Are They Now?

The fall sports season is officially over in these parts and high schools began practicing for winter sports (basketball, wrestling, swimming/diving, rifle) last Friday. The first play date for rifle is Dec. 7 and Dec. 11 for all other winter sports.

This week's All Points Bulletin is for Shane Tonkavitch, one of the better shooters on one of the best teams in California High School history.

Tonkavitch played four years of varsity (one for coach Don Martin and three for Steve Luko) and, as a senior, joined the 1,000-point club. A shooting guard, Tonkavitch provided the perfect complement for forward Rick Cope as California advanced to the WPIAL Class A semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals in 2003.

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Picking the Winners, WPIAL Semifinals

Missed on two WPIAL quarterfinals to up the overall postseason record to 38-10 (.792 win percentage).

Class AAAA
Gateway over North Hills, Woodland Hills over Bethel Park
Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over West Allegheny, Hopewell over Hampton
Class AA
Aliquippa over Beaver Falls, Keystone Oaks over Greensburg Central Catholic
Class A
Rochester over North Catholic, Clairton over Laurel

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Avella in the Times, again

In New York City, it's the Yankees, the Giants, the Knicks, the Jets, the Mets, the Rangers … and Avella football.

The Eagles made the New York Times a second time.

Trinity softball coach hired; West Greene opens football position

The Trinity School Board hired Bill Loar Thursday night as varsity softball coach and West Greene opted to open the head football coaching position held the past three years by Charles Harris.

Loar previously coached softball at Washington High School, where he guided the Prexies to two WPIAL Class AA championship game appearances in 2005 and 2007. Wash High also made the PIAA playoffs three times during his tenure.

A teacher at Washington and former member of the Trinity School Board, Loar replaced Linda Rebish, Trinity's highly successful softball coach. Rebish guided the Hillers to two WPIAL championship game appearance and, in 2009, Trinity was one win from playing for a PIAA championship.

Rebish retired from teaching in 2009 and expressed interest in returning as coach. She applied but was not hired by the school board.

West Greene nearly ousted Harris during the 2009 regular season but elected to keep the coach on the sidelines.In three years, the Pioneers went 3-24. Harris went 3-1 in his first four games as coach.

West Greene enters the 2010 season on a 23-game losing streak.

Soccer fight

Covered a lot of soccer, seen a few fights in the stands and the occasional exchange between players. I've never witnessed a all-out brawl like this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Local enrollment numbers

The following are PIAA enrollment numbers for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years:
School Boys Girls
Avella 80 73
Bentworth 136 158
Beth-Center 149 149
Burgettstown 188 178
California 139 100
Canon-McMillan 577 540
Carmichaels 125 129
Charleroi 233 198
Chartiers-Houston 148 134
Fort Cherry 162 122
Jefferson-Morgan 104 101
Mapletown 69 68
McGuffey 317 287
Monessen 106 123
Peters Township 541 550
Ringgold 418 416
South Fayette 266 250
Trinity 429 405
Washington 263 241
Waynesburg 267 233
West Greene 112 108

Friday Night Thoughts, Final Edition

Beth-Center's loss to Laurel in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals and South Fayette's loss to Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals closes another high school football season locally.

How did 2009 compare to 2008? Let's take a look.

Five teams - South Fayette, McGuffey, Beth-Center, Monessen and Fort Cherry - hosted first-round playoffs games this year. That's one more than a year ago when the latter three previously mentioned plus Canon-McMillan were home for the first round.

Looks like a positive, albeit small, step.

Two teams - South Fayette and Beth-Center - won first-round games. The top seed in the Class AA playoffs, South Fayette routed Beaver. Beth-Center, seeded seventh in Class A, knocked off Serra Catholic. That's one more first-round victory than the area produced last year when Monessen beat Serra.

Looks like a positive, albeit small, step.

The bad news for the Lions and Bulldogs was neither could advance past the quarterfinals. South Fayette watched a 12-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate against defending WPIAL champion Aliquippa in a well-played, highly entertaining game. Beth-Center made too many mistakes during the first half against a very good Laurel team and the Spartans won in a runaway.

The good news for the Lions and Bulldogs is that both return key players. Christian Brumbaugh, Jeff Davis and Tyler Challingsworth are among a handful of returnees for South Fayette. Beth-Center brings back standouts such as Sal Faieta, Jake Sofran and Deshan Brown.

Both teams should factor into their respective WPIAL championship pictures once again.

There were other intriguing story lines.

1. Canon-McMillan senior Chad Hagan was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome in April and was told the heart condition could mean the end of his athletic career. The Ohio State football recruit not only beat the condition, he returned to the field by Week 3.
2South Fayette put together its first undefeated regular season in 73 years.
3. Avella won two games, including a conference contest against Fort Cherry. The lovable loser tag no longer exists for the Eagles.
4. Washington went from a one-win team in 2008 to a WPIAL playoff team this year and one that played for a possible home playoff game in the final week of the season. The Prexies accomplished all of that with strong play from Zach Barnes, Bryan Thomas and Marquis Brown and a new head coach in Mike Bosnic who was hired in May.
5. McGuffey shut out WPIAL semifinalist Greensburg Central Catholic and did not allow a point at home until the fourth quarter of the final regular season game. The Highlanders hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1994.
6. Waynesburg bumped its win total to three and were considerably more competitive under the direction of head coach Joe Kuhns, who spent the previous seven years at California.
7. Peters Township finished with a winning record for the first time since 2003 but failed to qualify for the Class AAAA playoffs.
8. Charleroi tailback Quentin Briggs continues to dazzle. The sophomore topped 1,000 yards a second-consecutive season and it's not a stretch to say he's the best running back in the area.
9. Ringgold, with one returning starter and a new head coach in Lloyd Price, showed its future is a promising one.
10. Carmichaels made the postseason for the 12th straight year, tops among local teams.

There were some odd story lines.

1. Trinity's Ken Wilkins, an all-state defensive end as a junior, wasn't playing much defense through a large portion of the Hillers' schedule. The Michigan recruit also missed several games late in the year.
2. Canon-McMillan's Mike Hull, a Penn State recruit who is ranked among the nation's top seniors, endured an injury-plagued year. Hull missed the Big Macs' game versus Mt. Lebanon with illness and was limited the remainder of the year. Hull also missed the finale against Peters Township as he watched from the sidelines on crutches.
3. Wilkins, Hull and Hagan graced the cover of the Observer-Reporter's preseason football edition. The trio combined to miss no fewer than seven games. Is there an O-R cover jinx?
4. Trinity didn't produce a 500-yard rusher.
5. Mapletown averaged more than 30 passes per game.
6. Jefferson-Morgan's Hans Lubich was on pace to rush for 1,000 yards and have 500 yards receiving before breaking a leg against West Greene.
7. Price was suspended by the Ringgold school board for two games early in the schedule. Assistant coach Matt Humbert served as interim head coach and guided the Rams to their first two wins.
8. Charleroi coaches were livid at the end of the Washington game when officials ruled that Briggs had fumbled after picking up a first down that would have ended the game and sealed a spot in the postseason for the Cougars. Instead, Wash High's Brown returned the fumble for a score, the Prexies won and Charleroi wasn't in the postseason.
9. Postgame antics ensued after Clairton beat Fort Cherry in Week 5. Among the activity were pushups from Clairton players and a fight between two Rangers.
10. Avella led all WPIAL Class A teams in scoring after the opening week.

There are a few story lines to follow.
1. There is a chance Mapletown has played its last football game.
2. Rumors are swirling about WPIAL football realignment. A few Class AA powers may be moving down, which should drastically change the landscape of local conferences.
3. Ringgold, Washington, California and Waynesburg had new coaches in 2009. Which schools will have new coaches in 2010?

Monday, November 16, 2009

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Anyone have North Hills and Hampton in the WPIAL semifinals? Anyone surprised Greensburg Central Catholic made it this far?

Last week's ranking in parentheses.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 11-0 (1)
2. Woodland Hills 10-1 (2)
3. Bethel Park 10-2 (3)
4. North Hills 6-5 (8)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 11-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 11-0 (2)
3. West Allegheny 9-2 (3)
4. Hampton 7-4 (8)

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 10-1 (3)
2. Beaver Falls 10-1 (5)
3. Keystone Oaks 10-1 (6)
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 9-2 (7)

Class A
1. Rochester 11-0 (1)
2. Clairton 10-1 (2)
3. Laurel 10-1 (3)
4. North Catholic 9-2 (4)

APB, Where Are They Now?

During the 2009 girls tennis season, Peters Township won its first WPIAL team title since 1996 and a second PIAA Class AAA championship. The first came in 2006. In addition, the doubles team of Julie Stroyne and Caroline Nixon won a PIAA championship. For Stroyne, it was the third PIAA gold of her scholastic career.

The 2006 team was led by standout Ali Riske. In one year with Peters Township, Riske won PIAA and WPIAL individual gold and held the team to its first state championship.

This week's All Points Bulletin is for Ali's sister Sarah Riske.

In the latter part of the 1990s, Riske was a dynamic player at Peters Township, where she became the first Washington County player to win WPIAL and PIAA individual championships.

Riske went on to Vanderbilt, where she also excelled. She was a four-time All-American at the SEC school.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

State Football Rankings

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

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 10-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 10-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 10-0 3
4. Manheim Central (3) 10-0 4
5. Hopewell (7) 10-0 5
6. Bayard Rustin (1) 10-0 6
7. Pottsgrove (1) 10-0 7
8. Cathedral Prep (10) 8-2 8
9. Allentown Cent. Catholic (11) 9-1 10
10. Interboro (1) 10-0 NR
Honorable mention
Abington Heights (2) 9-1, Archbishop Wood (12) 8-2, Berwick (2) 7-3, Conrad Weiser (3) 8-2, Dallas (2) 9-1, Franklin Regional (7) 8-2, Greencastle-Antrim (3) 7-2, Hershey (3) 8-2, North Pocono (2) 9-1, Northern (3) 8-2, Oliver (8) 9-1, Owen J. Roberts (1) 9-1, Strong Vincent (10) 8-2, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 9-1, West Allegheny (7) 8-2, West York (3) 9-1.

1. Dunmore (2) 10-0 1
2. West Catholic (12) 8-2 2
3. Center (7) 9-1 2
4. Beaver Falls (7) 9-1 4
5. Aliquippa (7) 9-1 5
6. Lancaster Catholic (3) 9-1 6
7. Wilmington (10) 9-1 7
8. South Fayette (7) 10-0 9
9. General McLane (10) 10-0 8
10. Keystone Oaks (7) 9-1 10
Honorable mention
Bok (12) 9-0, Burrell (7) 7-3, Danville (4) 8-2, Delone Catholic (3) 9-1, Forest Hills (6) 10-0, Freeport (7) 8-2, Greensburg Central Catholic (7) 8-2, Lewisburg (4) 9-1, Littlestown (3) 8-2, Loyalsock Twp. (4) 7-3, Martinsburg Central (6) 9-1, Milton Hershey (3) 7-3, Mount Pleasant (7) 10-0, North Schuylkill (11) 10-0, Shady Side Academy (7) 8-2, Sto-Rox (7) 8-2, Towanda (4) 10-0, Tyrone (6) 8-2, Wilkes-Barre GAR (2) 8-2.

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Picking the Winners, WPIAL Quarterfinals

The Varsity Letters only hit on 24 of 32 winners last week for a .750 win percentage. The games get tougher to predict this week.

Class AAAA
Gateway over Penn Hills, North Allegheny over North Hills, Woodland Hills over Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Bethel Park over Shaler
Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over Franklin Regional, West Allegheny over New Castle, Hopewell over Mars, Hampton over Uniontown
Class AA
South Fayette over Aliquippa, Beaver Falls over Sto-Rox, Keystone Oaks over Mt. Pleasant, Greensburg Central Catholic over Center
Class A
Rochester over Brentwood, North Catholic over Springdale, Laurel over Beth-Center, Clairton over Avonworth

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Friday Night Thoughts, First-Round Playoff Edition

Beth-Center 38, Serra Catholic 17.

Beth-Center's WPIAL Class A first-round playoff victory over visiting Serra Catholic Friday night might not seem like much to the outside observer but the victory carries some significance.

For the Bulldogs, who lost their entire starting backfield from last year due to graduation or moving or lack of interest in the sport, it proved that they're a little ahead of schedule when it comes to recapturing the success achieved in 2006. That team went 11-1 and reached the WPIAL semifinals.

Now, this doesn't mean Beth-Center (8-2) is going to knock off No. 2 seed Laurel (9-1) Friday night in Beaver, but any time a team as youthful as B-C can win in the postseason, it serves a strong barometer for future success.

And, in typical Beth-Center fashion, the Bulldogs won the game with a balanced offense, big special teams play and five forced turnovers. Those have been characteristics of every Beth-Center team since head coach Ed Woods rebuilt the Bulldogs.

This might be the biggest reason Beth-Center is still playing: the defense has forced 34 turnovers in 10 games. The Bulldogs have recovered 21 fumbles, picked off 13 passes and have around 50 tackles for loss on the year.

++ South Fayette put up an impressive 35 points against a strong Beaver defense. It's the same Beaver that lost at Aliquippa, 7-0, in Week 4.

South Fayette, undefeated and the top seed in Class AA, plays Aliquippa Friday night at Chartiers Valley High School in a game to be televised by FSN. It might be the night the casual WPIAL football fan gets to know Lions quarterback Christian Brumbaugh.

++ Beth-Center's victory did more than notch the Bulldogs fourth WPIAL playoff victory since 2005, which is tops among teams within the Observer-Reporter's coverage area.

It broke the postseason winless streak for teams from Washington and Greene Counties.

In 2008, those teams went a combined 9-0 in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs. This year, the record was 1-7. Trinity, McGuffey, Washington, Fort Cherry, Jefferson-Morgan, Burgettstown and Carmichaels each lost.

Trinity, Washington and Fort Cherry were shutout.

++ While the season continues at Beth-Center and South Fayette, it's over for the rest of the area and it figures to be an interesting offseason.

Which school booards will force out coaches?

Which coaches will find other jobs?

Will any schools drop football?

And will conferences look anything like they did the past two years? There promises to be plenty of teams dropping in classification for the next two-year cycle.

Monday, November 9, 2009

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Last week's ranking in parenthesis.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 10-0 (1)
2. Woodland Hills 9-1 (2)
3. Bethel Park 9-1 (3)
4. North Allegheny 9-1 (5)
5. Pgh Central Catholic 8-2 (NR)
6. Shaler 9-1
7. Penn Hills 5-5
8. North Hills 5-5

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 10-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 10-0 (2)
3. West Allegheny 8-2 (3)
4. New Castle 8-2 (NR)
5. Mars 7-3 (NR)
6. Franklin Regional 8-2
7. Uniontown 7-3
8. Hampton 6-4

Class AA
1. Mt. Pleasant 10-0 (1)
2. South Fayette 10-0 (2)
3. Aliquippa 9-1 (3)
4. Center 9-1 (4)
5. Beaver Falls 9-1 (5)
6. Keystone Oaks 9-1
7. Greensburg Central Catholic 8-2
8. Sto-Rox 8-2

Class A
1. Rochester 10-0 (1)
2. Clairton 9-1 (2)
3. Laurel 9-1 (3)
4. North Catholic 8-2 (4)
5. Avonworth 8-2 (NR)
6. Springdale 8-2
7. Beth-Center 8-2
8. Brentwood 6-4

WPIAL Football Quarterfinals Set

All games Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

WPIAL Football Quarterfinals
Gateway (10-0) vs. Penn Hills (5-5) at Norwin High School
North Allegheny (9-1) vs. North Hills (5-5) at Pine-Richland High School
Woodland Hills (9-1) vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (8-2) at West Mifflin High School
Bethel Park (9-1) vs. Shaler (9-1) at Baldwin High School

Thomas Jefferson (10-0) vs. Franklin Regional (8-2) at Elizabeth Forward High School
West Allegheny (8-2) vs. New Castle (8-2) at North Allegheny High School
Hopewell (10-0) vs. Mars (7-3) at Ambridge High School
Hampton (6-4) vs. Uniontown (7-3) at Yough

South Fayette (10-0) vs. Aliquippa (9-1) at Chartiers Valley High School
Beaver Falls (9-1) vs. Sto-Rox (8-2) at Seneca Valley High School
Mt. Pleasant (10-0) vs. Keystone Oaks (9-1) at Penn-Trafford High School
Center (9-1) vs. Greensburg Central Catholic (8-2) at Fox Chapel High School

Rochester (10-0) vs. Brentwood (6-4) at Montour High School
North Catholic (8-2) vs. Springdale (8-2) at Deer Lakes High School
Laurel (9-1) vs. Beth-Center (8-2) at Beaver High School
Clairton (9-1) vs. Avonworth at Chartiers-Houston High School

High School Sports Hall of fame in Pa.

EASTON, Pa. (AP) — A new museum honoring excellence in scholastic sports is going up in eastern Pennsylvania.
The High School Sports Hall of Fame Museum will be built in Easton, a sporting hotbed known nationally for its wrestling programs and for its century-old football rivalry with neighboring Phillipsburg, N.J.
Easton’s mayor and museum officials made the announcement on Monday.
The $20 million museum will highlight inductees who, as girls and boys, excelled in 20 high school sports. Past inductees have included NBA stars LeBron James and Dwight Howard, American League batting champ Joe Mauer, and Olympic gold medal swimmer Allyson Felix.
The museum is to open in the summer of 2011 and will be run by the National High School Coaches Association.

We're back

The Varsity Letters is up and running once again. Check back periodically throughout the evening for posts. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Games of the Week - First-round Edition

Lots of intriguing matchups throughout the WPIAL playoffs tonight including Penn Hills at Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon at Shaler, New Castle at Greensburg-Salem and Sto-Rox at Shady Side Academy.

Aliquippa (8-1) at McGuffey (7-2)
The Quips were one of three teams from the always-tough Midwestern Conference to finish 8-1 overall and 7-1 in conference. Center and Beaver Falls were the others. Aliquippa finished third thanks, in part, to its loss to Beaver Falls.

The last time Aliquippa lost in the first round came in 2005, when No. 14 Washington shut out the Quips, 7-0. That team was seeded to high. This version sure looks better than a No. 9 seed in Class AA but that's the only place the WPIAL could put Aliquippa because of the third-place finish.

McGuffey has played sound defense all year, particularly at home. The Highlanders allowed 12 points in five home games, all coming last week versus Washington. They'll need to chew up clock with the wing-T offense and create a couple turnovers in this one.

Trinity (4-5) at Mars (6-3)
A month ago, Trinity was 1-5 following what Hillers coach Ed Dalton called "embarrassing" performances against teams like Belle Vernon and Chartiers Valley. Three consecutive wins got Trinity back into the playoffs and one interesting first-round contest.

Sophomore running back Eric Richards has played well for Trinity and it's helped the passing game. Quarterback Andrew Steratore has two reliable targets in Joe Havrilak and Dusty Avolio. They'll need to make some big plays on the road against a tough Mars team.

The Planets run their own version of the wing-T and they'll challenge a Trinity defense that has played well this year despite the record. That defense will be without Ken Wilkins (mono).

Brentwood (5-4) at Fort Cherry (7-2)
Brentwood's regular season mirrors that of Trinity. It started 0-4 with losses to defending PIAA Class AA champion Wilmington, South Side Beaver, Avonworth and North Catholic. The latter two were the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Brentwood finished third thanks to a five-game win streak.

Of those final five wins, only one (Springdale) came against a team with more than three victories.

Fort Cherry has seven wins after rallying to take three straight following a puzzling loss to Avella. With the exception of a loss to Clairton, Fort Cherry finds ways to make big plays at Jim Garry Stadium, whether it's a long run or kickoff return from Gary Kiefer, a Tanner Garry to Nicholas Hurley touchdown pass or a blocked kick.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

APB, Where Are They Now?

The Varsity Letters originally wanted to issue an All Points Bulletin for former Fort Cherry running back and Observer-Reporter Player of the Year Jordan Clemons. Upon a quick search of the O-R archives, Clemons has made several appearances in the paper since his senior year.

So, this week's APB is for Clemons' fullback, Scott Wharton.

A hard-running fullback and hard-hitting linebacker, Wharton was a lot more than Clemons' lead blocker during the 2006 season, which ended with a first-round playoff loss at Jefferson-Morgan in a game where FC rushed for more than 300 yards. He led the Rangers in receptions and finished with 127 tackles, including 27.5 tackles for loss.

Wharton received some interest at the Division I and II level but ended up at Waynesburg University. He was not on the Yellow Jackets roster this year.

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Picking the winners

One year ago, nine teams from Washington and Greene counties entered the first round of the WPIAL football playoffs. None made it to the quarterfinals.

Eight teams (Beth-Center, Burgettstown, Carmichaels, Fort Cherry, Jefferson-Morgan, McGuffey, Trinity and Washington) qualified this year and three of them (Beth-Center, Fort Cherry and McGuffey) host first-round games.

Will one or more teams break the losing streak? Many outsiders say no. The Varsity Letters sees three teams advancing.

Class AAAA
Gateway over Plum, Upper St. Clair over Penn Hills, North Allegheny over Latrobe, McKeesport over North Hills, Woodland Hills over Baldwin, Central Catholic over Seneca Valley, Bethel Park over Penn-Trafford, Shaler over Mt. Lebanon
Class AAA
Thomas Jefferson over Laurel Highlands, Montour over Franklin Regional, West Allegheny over Knoch, New Castle over Greensburg-Salem, Hopewell over Derry Area, Trinity over Mars, Chartiers Valley over Hampton, Belle Vernon over Uniontown
Class AA
South Fayette
over Beaver, Aliquippa over McGuffey, Beaver Falls over Steel Valley, Shady Side Academy over Sto-Rox, Mt. Pleasant over Kittanning, Keystone Oaks over Burrell, Center over Washington, Greensburg Central Catholic over Freeport
Class A
Rochester over Carmichaels, Fort Cherry over Brentwood, North Catholic over Jefferson-Morgan, Springdale over Monessen, Laurel over Burgettstown, Beth-Center over Serra Catholic, Clairton over South Side Beaver, Avonworth over Monaca

PIAA Football Rankings

Blogger's note: Notice No. 10 in Class A.

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

1. Thomas Jefferson (7) 9-0 1
2. Selinsgrove (4) 9-0 2
3. Wilson Area (11) 9-0 3
4. Manheim Central (3) 9-0 4
5. Hopewell (7) 9-0 5
6. Bayard Rustin (1) 9-0 6
7. Pottsgrove (1) 9-0 7
8. Cathedral Prep (10) 7-2 8
9. West York (3) 9-0 9
10. Allentown Cent. Catholic (11) 8-1 10
Honorable mention
Abington Heights (2) 8-1, Archbishop Wood (12) 7-2, Berwick (2) 7-2, Chartiers Valley (7) 8-1, Dallas (2) 8-1, Greencastle-Antrim (3) 7-2, Hershey (3) 7-2, Interboro (1) 9-0, North Pocono (2) 8-1, Northern (3) 7-2, Owen J. Roberts (1) 8-1, Strong Vincent (10) 7-2, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 8-1, West Allegheny (7) 7-2.

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Football Pairings Breakdown

Class AAAA
Top seeds: 1. Gateway (9-0), 2. Woodland Hills (8-1), 3. Bethel Park (8-1), 4. North Allegheny (8-1)
Defending champion: Bethel Park, lost in PIAA championship game.
Bits and pieces: Six of the 16 teams enter the tournament with a losing record. No. 15 Baldwin won two games. ... Gateway has played for the last two WPIAL titles, losing both games. ... Woodland Hills has not lost to a WPIAL team this year. The Wolverines dropped a Week 1 contest to Steubenville. ... Bethel Park won back-to-back conference titles for the first time.
Sleeper: Bethel Park. Despite the No. 3 seed, few are giving the defending champs much of a chance.
Championship: Woodland Hills over Gateway

Class AAA
Top seeds:
1. Thomas Jefferson (9-0), 2. Hopewell (9-0), 3. Chartiers Valley (8-1), 4. West Allegheny (7-2)
Defending champion: Thomas Jefferson, won PIAA championship.
Bits and pieces: Thomas Jefferson can win a fourth straight WPIAL championship, which hasn't happened since the dominant Braddock teams of the 1950s. Waynesburg lost to Braddock in a WPIAL title game during that era. ... Teams from the Keystone Conference are 0-32 the past eight years and it might be difficult to break the losing streak. Conference champion Greensburg-Salem, seeded fifth, plays New Castle. ... Trinity has gone with a pair of sophomore running backs in recent weeks are enters postseason play on a three-game win streak. ... Hopewell running back Rushel Shell has rushed for 2,000 this season.
Sleeper: New Castle
Championship: Thomas Jefferson over Hopewell

Class AA
Top seeds:
1. South Fayette (9-0, 2. Mt. Pleasant (9-0), 3. Center (8-1), 4. Beaver Falls (8-1)
Defending champion: Aliquippa, lost in PIAA semifinals
Bits and pieces: Aliquippa, the No. 3 team in the Observer-Reporter Class AA rankings, is the No. 9 seed and plays at No. 8 McGuffey in the first round. The Quips finished third in the Midwestern Conference. ... Greensburg Central Catholic, considered the top Class AA team in the state by some publications entering the year, finished third in the Interstate Conference and plays at Freeport. ... Aliquippa and Beaver Falls are on the same side of the bracket but could not meet until the semifinals. ... McGuffey is hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1994. ... The last time Washington made the playoffs was 2005 when the 14th-seeded Prexies shut out Aliquippa, 7-0. Washington is seeded 14th again this year and plays at Center.
Sleeper: Greensburg Central Catholic
Championship: Beaver Falls over Mt. Pleasant

Class A
Top seeds:
1. Rochester (9-0), 2. Laurel (8-1), 3. Clairton (8-1), 4. North Catholic (7-2)
Defending champion: Clairton, lost in PIAA championship
Bits and pieces: Rochester is the only undefeated team in the bracket. The Rams have played in six championship games this decade. ... Beth-Center, the No. 7 seed, drew Serra Catholic in the first round. The Eagles may be without quarterback Rob Heatherington, who was knocked out of the Week 9 loss to Clairton with a shoulder injury. ... Laurel opened eyes with a Week 1 win against Rochester. The Spartans have lost just once, by seven points to Rochester. ... Carmichaels is in the WPIAL playoffs for the 12th consecutive year. ... Monessen head coach Andy Pacak was re-instated by the PIAA after it was ruled he was incorrectly ejected from the Greyhounds' last game against California.
Sleeper: Springdale
Championship: Rochester over Clairton

Monday, November 2, 2009

WPIAL football playoff pairings

First Round
Friday, Nov. 6
All games begin at 7:30 p.m.
No. 16 Plum (3-6) at No. 1 Gateway (9-0); No. 9 Penn Hills (4-5) at No. 8 Upper St. Clair (6-3); No. 13 Latrobe (4-5) at No. 4 North Allegheny (8-1); No. 12 North Hills (4-5) at No. 5 McKeesport (7-2); No. 15 Baldwin (2-7) at No. 2 Woodland Hills (8-1); No. 10 Seneca Valley (5-4) vs. No. 7 Central Catholic (7-2) at Fox Chapel; No. 14 No. Penn-Trafford (3-6) at No. 3 Bethel Park (8-1); No. 11 Mt. Lebanon (5-4) at No. 6 Shaler (8-1).
Sites to be determined
Plum-Gateway winner vs Penn Hills-Upper St. Clair winner; Latrobe-North Allegheny
winner vs. North Hills-McKeesport winner; Baldwin-Woodland Hills winner vs. Seneca Valley-Central Catholic winner; Penn-Trafford-Bethel Park winner vs. Mt. Lebanon-Shaler winner.

First Round
Friday, Nov. 6
All games begin at 7:30 p.m.
No. 16 Laurel Highlands (3-6) at No. 1 Thomas Jefferson (9-0); No. 9 Montour (5-4) at No. 8 Franklin Regional (7-2); No. 13 Knoch (3-6) at No. 4 West Allegheny (7-2); No. 12 New Castle (7-2) at No. 5 Greensburg Salem (8-1); No. 15 Derry (3-6) at No. 2 Hopewell (9-0); No. 10 Trinity (4-5) at No. 7 Mars (6-3); No. 14 Hampton (5-4) at No. 3 Chartiers Valley (8-1); No. 11 Belle Vernon (5-4) at No. 6 Uniontown (6-3).
Sites to be determined
Laurel Highlands-Thomas Jefferson winner vs. Montour-Franklin Regional winner; Knoch -West Allegheny winner vs. New Castle-Greensburg Salem winner; Derry-Hopewell winner vs. Trinity-Mars winner; Hampton-Chartiers Valley winner vs. Belle Vernon-Uniontown winner.

First Round
Friday, Nov. 6
No. 16 Beaver (5-4) at No. 1 South Fayette (9-0); No. 9 Aliquippa (8-1) at No. 8 McGuffey (7-2); No. 13 Steel Valley (6-3) at No. 4 Beaver Falls (8-1); No. 12 Sto-Rox (7-2) at No. 5 Shady Side Academy (8-1); No. 15 Kittanning (6-3) at No. 2 Mount Pleasant (9-0); No. 10 Burrell (7-2) at No. 7 Keystone Oaks (8-1); No. 14 Washington (6-3) at No. 3 Center (8-1); No. 11 Greensburg Central Catholic (7-2) at No. 6 Freeport (8-1).
Sites to be determined
Beaver-South Fayette winner vs. Aliquippa-McGuffey winner; Steel Valley-Beaver Falls winner vs. Sto-Rox - Shady Side Academy winner; Kittanning-Mount Pleasant winner vs. Burrell-Keystone Oaks winner; Washington-Center winner vs. Greensburg Central Catholic -Freeport winner.

First Round
Friday, Nov. 6
No. 16 Carmichaels (4-5) at No. 1 Rochester (9-0); No. 9 Brentwood (5-4) at No. 8 Fort Cherry (7-2); No. 13 Jefferson-Morgan (7-2) at No. 4 North Catholic (7-2); No. 12 Springdale (7-2) at No. 5 Monessen (7-2); No. 15 Burgettstown (4-5) at No. 2 Laurel (8-1); No. 10 Serra (7-2) at No. 7 Beth-Center (7-2); No. 14 South Side Beaver (6-3) at No. 3 Clairton (8-1); No. 11 Monaca (5-4) at No. 6 Avonworth (7-2).
Sites to be determined
Carmichaels-Rochester winner vs. Brentwood-Fort Cherry winner; Jefferson-Morgan - North Catholic winner vs. Springdale-Monessen winner; Burgettstown-Laurel winner vs. Serra - Beth-Center winner; South Side Beaver-Clairton winner vs. Monaca-Avonworth winner.

TVL's WPIAL Football Rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 9-0 (1)
2. Woodland Hills 8-1 (3)
3. Bethel Park 8-1 (4)
4. McKeesport 7-2 (2)
5. North Allegheny 8-1 (5)

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 9-0 (1)
2. Hopewell 9-0 (2)
3. West Allegheny 7-2 (3)
4. Greensburg-Salem 8-1 (4)
5. Chartiers Valley 8-1 (5)

Class AA
1. Mt. Pleasant 9-0 (1)
2. South Fayette 9-0 (2)
3. Aliquippa 8-1 (3)
4. Center 8-1 (4)
5. Beaver Falls 8-1 (5)

Class A
1. Rochester 9-0 (1)
2. Clairton 8-1 (2)
3. Laurel 8-1 (3)
4. North Catholic 6-2 (4)
5. Monessen 7-2 (NR)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Predicting the seeds

The WPIAL Football PLayoff Pairings will be released Monday. The Varsity Letters offers ts thoughts on how the brackets should be seeded. Keep in mind a few things: 1. No same-conference opponents in the first round; 2. The WPIAL tries to avoid pairings teams who played each other during the year (for example Trinity and Greensburg-Salem); and, 3. If an attractive first-round matchup can be drawn (i.e. Washington at South Fayette), it gets done.

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 9-0
2. Woodland Hills 8-1
3. Bethel Park 8-1
4. McKeesport 7-2
5. North Allegheny 8-1
6. Shaler 8-1
7. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 7-2
8. Upper St. Clair 6-3
9. Penn Hills 4-5
10. Seneca Valley 5-4
11. Latrobe 4-5
12. Mt. Lebanon 5-4
13. North Hills 4-5
14. Penn-Trafford 3-6
15. Baldwin 2-7
16. Plum 3-6

Class AAA
1. Thomas Jefferson 9-0
2. Hopewell 9-0
3. Chartiers Valley 8-1
4. West Allegheny 7-2
5. Greensburg-Salem 8-1
6. Mars 6-3
7. Franklin Regional 7-2
8. Uniontown 6-3
9. New Castle 7-2
10. Montour 5-4
11. Belle Vernon 5-4
12. Hampton 5-4
13. Trinity 4-5
14. Knoch 3-6
15. Derry Area 3-6
16. Laurel Highlands 3-6

Class AA
1. South Fayette 9-0
2. Center 8-1
3. Beaver Falls 8-1
4. Mt. Pleasant 9-0
5. Keystone Oaks 8-1
6. Shady Side Academy 8-1
7. Freeport 8-1
8. McGuffey 7-2
9. Aliquippa 8-1
10. Sto-Rox 7-2
11. Greensburg Central Catholic 7-2
12. Burrell 7-2
13. Beaver 5-4
14. Steel Valley 6-3
15. Kittanning 6-3
16. Washington 6-3

Class A
1. Rochester 9-0
2. Laurel 8-1
3. Clairton 8-1
4. North Catholic 7-2
5. Monessen 7-2
6. Avonworth 7-2
7. Fort Cherry 7-2
8. Beth-Center 7-2
9. Serra Catholic 7-2
10. Brentwood 5-4
11. Monaca 5-4
12. Springdale 7-2
13. South Side Beaver 6-3
14. Jefferson-Morgan 7-2
15. Burgettstown 4-5
16. Carmichaels 4-5