Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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?


Anonymous said...

Im seeing a lot of websites and sports commentators picking Rochester over Clairton in the WPIAL Class A Finals. Honestly, I dont mind this because I think Clairton plays better with a chip on their shoulder anyway. But lets take a look at this Clairton senior class against this Rochester senior class.

In each of the last 3 seasons, Clairton has ended Rochesters season.

This senior group of weatherspoon, howard, ball and others are a combined 3-0 against the rams.

Rochester has not been to Heinz field since 2006 when they were defeated by Clairton 16-13.

Clairton's seniors have made it at least to the WPIAL Class A Semi's in each of its 4 years.

If Clairton makes it to Heinz this year, it will be the 3rd time in 4 years that this group of kids has played for the title (2-0 thus far in championship games).

Clairton's 16-0 victory last year over Rochester is the biggest margin of victory in the last 3 years which shows a Clairton team getting stronger against the Rams.

Rochester's team last year at Keystone Oaks did absolutely nothing on offense against the bears defense and held much hyped RB Trey Johnson in check the entire night.

Both teams would come into that game at Heinz with very similar numbers defensively that they met with last year when, again, everyone was picking Rochester to beat Clairton.

The Clairton critics will point to the bears being an undisciplined team that takes too many penalties to beat a team the likes of Rochester with Gene Matsook as their coach. Again, 3-0 against the Rams over the last 3 years.

If Clairton gets past Laurel Friday night, Rochester and Clairton will meet for the 4th time in as many years and the bears will be looking for the senior sweep...and they will get it at Heinz Field which will almost assuredly set up a Farrell/Clairton rematch for the PIAA Western Region Final and a berth in the PIAA Class A Championship game.

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear a story on the Wilkins kid. Something is fishy there. Also heard that he may be losing his scholarship to Michigan.

What happened? There has to be a big story there!

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for Burgettstown...back up to AA ball in 2010. Laurel also going back to AA.

Sto-Rox dropping down to A next year could be a problem for some traditional "A" powers.

Bishop Canevin, Cornell and OLSH also to join Class A in 2010. Its going to be interesting to see how the conferences are aligned and who goes where.

Anonymous said...

A couple things...
Laurel is not going to lay down for Clairton. The long winded---back patting post above all but assumes a Clairton victory. Also, Why doesn't Rochester and Clairton play up a class? They would have much better games in AA.
How can Canevin move to A ball? What a joke! Either have all Catholic Schools play AAAA or give them their own conference.

Cementhead said...

Can't wait to see the new landscape of AA conferences. The Century Conference lost 5 teams which should likely effect the Interstate Conference which only lost McGuffey. Wouldn't be surprised to see Wash High and possibly Waynesburg moved over to the Century although I think Charleroi was in the Century a few years ago also. Mcguffey will have to play in TJs conference

Anonymous said...

wow...where did everyone go???

Anonymous said...

Ken Wilkins is not losing his scholarship.. What has he done to lose it?? He had mono towards the end of the season and thats why he missed the last two games

Sarcastic Sword said...

Ive gone back and forth regarding Ringgold's "promising future"...

On one hand, they will return 20 or 21 starters..They had a number of kids who were either starters or part-time starters miss time due to injury...But lets look at the results...

At the end of the day, they still only won 3 games, one in the Big 7 (Im not counting the extra game they won played after the season ended against a woefully weak Ambridge team - the two non- conference wins were against teams with a combined record of 3-15)....They beat an overrated West Mifflin team that missed the playoffs - had a chance to beat Char Valley but that team was exposed as a fraud by getting bounced by the #13 seed in the playoffs first round - (Char Valley was a formidable team until Capers (QB) was lost for the season)....Then in a do-or-die game at Trinity (winner makes playoffs) they got creamed...gave up almost 300 yds rushing - too many penalties and an uninspired effort that made you wonder if they wanted the season to end..

I would have more positive thoughts about 2010 if they had a few more wins or a few more close calls like the Char Valley game...I admit I dont have a handle on what teams in the Big 7 return ..But to say they springboard into a playoff spot next yr isnt a given....They have some athletes but OL and DL were weak all season so unless they get some bigger boys (unlikely), I dont see them breaking into the top tier of the Big 7...

R. Keith Taylor said...

Ringgold has potential to be respectable next year. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Another story line to follow is "What will Guy do."

It is no secret with the H.S. football careers of Hagan & Hull now over the cupboard is worse than bare and the program is worse than what he inherited from Dan Pallante. Will Guy continue as the head football coach & AD? Will he stepdown as head football coach and stay on as the AD? Will he leave CM completely? Will the CM school board tired of football mediocrity open the head football coaches position? All fair & worthy questions and definitely worth following because Guy is the biggest name in Wash. County sports and his "fate" is big news.

Sarcastic Sword said...

Mr. Taylor......

Someone once told me that that potential is a dangerous word...Im not respectability is what their goal should be..They could be respectable and not make the playoffs....And once next yr is over, there wont be 20 starters returning....The cupboard will be bare....

You've watched all of their Ringgold's games as have I - are there some athletes? yes....Do they have a lot of improvement on both lines to even get near .500? yes again...

Im not sure that having a head coach and two coordinators with virtually no experience did them any favors either......A young team that needed to cut its teeth this yr did so with a coaching staff that at times made me scratch my head....

Anonymous said...

Sorry but as far as Ringgold's coaches go "Age" has nothing to do with it. Experience maybe but just because a team has a young, fresh staff doesn't mean it is bad. If you haven't noticed in the last few years, Footbal in general is slowly changing. Professional, College and High School are bringing in more innovative, younger coaches. Out with the old, in with the new. Just because someone is 60 years old and has coached for 35 years does not make them a good coach.

R. Keith Taylor said...

I am just being optimistic.

Sarcastic Sword said...

@ anon 11/29 7:24 AM

I agree with you in theory but in college and NFL, the young coaches being hired (i.e. Mike Tomlin) had been coaching elsewhere upon getting hired.....

The head coach and two coordinators at Ringgold are young and inexperienced....When you combine a young team with inexperienced coaches, then you get what happened with them this yr - head scratching decisions....

Here is one example....Halfway thru the season, when rotating QB's stopped and Patch became the full-time QB, the backup QB gets moved to a starting WR position and the young man never had played WR in his life....One of the reasons Ringgold went to a 4 WR spread offense was to take advantage of a glut of skilled WR's - 3 or 4 other WR's were left scratching their heads as to why the backup QB was getting major playing time when he never played there before....And I give that young man credit because he played hard but told people he never felt comfortable with a mid-season position switch...

When the new coach was hired, I thought it was the right hire..He was enthusiastic and energetic and like ANON said, should be able to better relate to his players since hes closer in age to them than the prior head coach (Petrucci) but as the season wore on, teaching went out the window and it was coaching by yelling and screaming and what that happens, teaching goes out the window.

I am a life-long Ringgold fan and I hope Coach Price gets it turned around - but he'll have to decide what worked for him and what didnt and make the proper adjustments for 2010...

Anonymous said...

I agree that the O coordinator has to go. His play calling left me scratching my head as well. On the other hand, a team that starts a lot of sophomores is going to leave you scratching your head. I believe that Ringgold will be in good shape next year. There was a sense of team and community amongst the boys and that is a rarity at Ringgold. The x-factor for the Rams next year is the line. If they hit the weights and do the little things during the off season, the Rams will enjoy moderate success, because the skill is there.