Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scholastic A-Z

A – Austin Hancock
Heading into his senior year, Peters Township's Hancock could become the most coveted football player in the area. The quarterback led the Indians to their first winning record in football since 2003 and, given his baseball talents, Hancock is the early favorite to be to 2011 Athlete of the year.

B – Big Ten-bound
In a continuing trend, the area's highly sought-after talents are headed to Big Ten universities. AOY's Mike Hull (football) and Taylor Schram (soccer) are at Penn State. Chad Hagan (football), Hull's teammate at C-M, is at Ohio State. Trinity's Ken Wilkins, who did not play up to expectations during his final football season with the Hillers, is at Michigan.

C – Cody Weircioch and Connor Schram
Wiercioch, from Charleroi, and Schram, from Canon-McMillan, provided a significant boost to the local wrestling scene in their respective freshmen seasons. Wiercioch won at Powerade and went on the win Charleroi's first PIAA wrestling championship. Schram became the latest in a long line of state champs from Canon-McMillan. Both have the opportunity to win four gold medals.

D – Deschamps is the champ
McGuffey's J.T. Deschamps dominated the 300 intermediate hurdles throughout his senior year and he ran his best on the biggest stages. At the WPIAL championships, Deschamps broke a 12-year Class AA record in the event then he went to the state meet and became the second athlete in McGuffey history (Jeff Weiss) to win PIAA gold. Deschamps became the first Washington County athlete since Chartiers-Houston's Brianna Liebold in 2006 to win state track gold.

E – Ed Dalton drama
Coaching stories often dominated the headlines during the 2009-10 school year. None drew more attention, whether positive or negative, than the seven-month saga between Trinity's Ed Dalton and the newly elected school board. After months of public haggling, Dalton is out as Trinity's athletic director but remains as football coach.

The board does not want administrators to coach and there has been a growing trend toward moving away from the athletic director/football coach combination.

Dalton, who took over one of the worst teams in Western Pennsylvania high school football, got Trinity to the playoffs regularly and produced a string of Division I players. According to Dalton, he believes his run as Hillers football coach won't last past the 2010 season.

"I'm sure they'll open the football job as soon as they get a chance," Dalton said. "This has been like six months of defamation. One day, they're firing me. The next day, they're bringing me back and they've been doing that over a long period of time."

F – Fort Cherry's Nate Bellhy
In a section that produced the PIAA Class AA state champion (South Fayette) and WPIAL champion (North Catholic), Bellhy was a highly productive offensive player. A solid 6-5, Bellhy flirted with a 30-point scoring average through most of his junior year and his 28.9 ppg were second in the WPIAL to T.J. McConnell of Chartiers Valley. Bellhy also medaled at the PIAA track championships in the high jump.

G – Gym-clearing brawl
The January meeting between Section 5-AA heavyweights Washington and Monessen at Monessen High School was marred when a fight between females broke out during halftime in the hallway. Things escalated and spilled into the gymnasium. Tasers and police dogs were employed and the gym was cleared of spectators before the second half started.

H – Henry's putback
Probably the smallest player on the court in the final minute of the PIAA Class AA championship game between South Fayette and Strawberry Mansion, Henry made the game's biggest basket and scored the two most important points in South Fayette basketball. Henry raced through the lane to grab a missed layup from Mike Lamberti and his putback with 25 seconds left put the Lions ahead, 49-47.

I – "I'm as happy right now as I've been in my whole life."
Those were the words Avella football coach Frank Gray told an Observer-Reporter reporter after Avella pulled the shocker of the WPIAL football regular season – a 22-21 conference win over Fort Cherry in Week 6. Avella opened the season with a victory over Geibel which snapped a 27-game losing streak.

"I'd say the spread would have been about 40 points," Gray said. "To beat a team like Fort Cherry ... Wow! This is one for the ages."

J – Julie Stroyne
As a freshman in 2006, Stroyne played a critical role at No. 2 singles (Alison Riske played first singles) as Peters Township won the PIAA Class AAA team championship. In her senior year, Stroyne led the Indians another state championship, this time at first singles. In addition to her two teams titles, Stroyne was part of a WPIAL team championship and two PIAA Class AAA doubles championships.

K – K (strikeouts)
When it came to strikeouts, South Fayette's Dillon Haviland and Washington's J. Jay Paskert fanned more batters than any other WPIAL pitcher during the regular season. Haviland, a Duke recruit who was drafted by the Pirates in the 48th round, struck out 96. Paskert, who will pitch at Slippery Rock with fellow locals Joby Lapkowicz and Zack Jeney, struck out 91.

L – Levi Bristor leaving?
In only four years as head coach of Trinity baseball, Levi Bristor guided the Hillers to four WPIAL Class AAA playoff appearances and three PIAA postseason appearances. Trinity reached the PIAA semifinals in 2008 and Bristor won an astonishing 12 playoff games. He may be removed as varsity baseball coach at the next board meeting due to his administrative position as Trinity's transportation director.

M – Montecalvo resigns
Only one football coach within the O-R coverage area has won a PIAA football championship. Guy Montecalvo accomplished the feat in 2001 at Washington. In April, Montecalvo resigned as Canon-McMillan's football coach after seven years following a 23-year tenure at Wash High. Montecalvo went 225-107-2 (only Fort Cherry's Jim Garry won more games) with a pair of WPIAL championships and four WPIAL runner-up finishes. Montecalvo also coached the Wash High girls to the 1996 PIAA championship and two of his boys track teams at the High won WPIAL titles.

N – N.C. State lands Spamer
Peters Township's Shelli Spamer may possess the strongest leg in PIAA girls soccer but it's her all-around abilities that makes the senior-to-be one of the nation's top players. Spamer, an all-state selection, accepted a scholarship to North Carolina State during the fall.

O – Offensive production
Thanks to the spread offense trickling down to the lower classes in high school football and a proliferation in the passing game, points are on the increase. Teams like South Fayette (33.9 points per game) and Beth-Center (29.2) seemingly scored at will. Even teams with sub-.5-- records like Canon-McMillan (23.0), Ringgold (23.5) and California (25.9) fielded strong offensive teams.

P – Price resigns
In the year's most bizarre scholastic sports story, Lloyd Price abruptly resigned as Ringgold's athletic director and football coach at the beginning of April. No explanation was given other than personal reasons and Price never returned calls left from various media outlets. Price was hired as Ringgold's athletic director at the age of 24. At the time, he was the youngest AD in the state. Ron McMichael replaced Price as athletic director on June 1 and Matt Humbert was recently hired as head football coach.

Q – Quentin Briggs
The sophomore from Charleroi is over half-way toward becoming a 4,000-yard rusher. Through two years, Briggs has rushed for 2,295 yards. He was also at the center of a controversial play in a key Interstate Conference game at Wash High Stadium. Charleori led in the fourth quarter with the ball in Prexies' territory when Briggs took a handoff and was stood up past the first-down marker. At some point, the ball came loose and Washington's Marquis Brown raced for a touchdown. Charleroi's playoff hopes were crushed.

R – Rocket queens (Jefferson-Morgan volleyball)
The Rockets made athletic history during the fall when they became the first volleyball team from any of the five Greene County high schools to qualify for the PIAA tournament. All-stater Mabel Culp was a driving force for head coach Ron Headlee, who resigned to become Waynesburg University's wrestling coach. Jefferson-Morgan, Bentworth and Beth-Center are the only local schools to represent at the PIAA volleyball tournament.

S – Sarah Shashura
In two years at California High School, Shashura gave Trojans tennis a championship face. As a freshman, she won the WPIAL Class AA girls singles title and finished in the top four at the state tournament. Shashura, who recently transferred to Brownsville, became the second girls player to win a WPIAL Class AA boys singles title when she did so this spring.

T – Tanya Timko
The year before Shashura won the WPIAL boys title, Tanya Timko and her older sister Karli drew considerable attention when the Chartiers-Houston duo won the WPIAL Class AA boys doubles title. The Timko sisters already won PIAA and WPIAL girls doubles titles the year prior. As a junior, Tanya won the WPIAL girls individual title and was PIAA runner-up. To cap her varsity career, Timko plans to compete for the WPIAL boys championship. If successful, Timko will win a WPIAL tennis grand slam.

U – Underdogs
Three teams – Peters Township girls tennis, South Fayette boys basketball and Chartiers-Houston softball – won PIAA team championships during the 2009-10 school year. None of those teams could be considered favorites when the playoffs started and only one – PT tennis – won a WPIAL title.

V – Vaulting tradition
Every year at the WPIAL track and field championships, Waynesburg places a pole vaulter – female, male or both – on the medals stand thanks to the expertise of vaulting coach Butch Brunell. In May, Raiders' sophomore Marissa Kalsey won a WPIAL Class AA gold medal then placed second at the state meet.

W – Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
Chad Hagan's blossoming athletic career was nearly cut short when the Canon-McMillan standout, who will play football at Ohio State, when he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. WPW can creates symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat.

Hagan recovered quickly and returned to the Big macs football team in Week 3, a couple weeks ahead of the original projection date. Symptoms returned early in basketball season and Hagan only played a handful of games but returned for senior night and was C-M's best player over the final three games.

X – Extra innings (I know, I know)
Chartiers-Houston softball sure knew how to drive the coaching staff and fans crazy. Starting with the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals against Brentwood, the Bucs played four consecutive extra-innings games.

C-H beat Brentwood and Bentworth before losing to Vincentian Academy in the WPIAL championship. The theme continued into the state playoffs, as the state champs needed extra innings to get by Conneaut Valley in the first round.

Y – Youth is served
Dominant underclassmen were everywhere.

Freshman Kayla Briggs was the area's top offensive player for Chartiers-Houston softball.

Trinity baseball featured several top underclassmen, including All-District first-teamer Nick Riotto.

Canon-McMillan's Michael Burchesky flashed potential in the hurdles at the WPIAL team championship meet.

At California, sophomore T.D. Conway put together a dominant season in baseball. He even picked up a win and a save in the same playoff game.

The Fort Cherry girls basketball team nearly made the PIAA Class A playoffs with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Monessen did.

Z – Zach Hooks, other top athletes trasnfer
A string of student-athlete transfers started when Division I football prospect Zach Hooks transfered from Charleroi to Aliquippa. Approximately six weeks later, Dylan Bongiorni went from Burgettstown to West Allegheny. Finally, Terrance and Josh Stepoli left Monessen during basketball season and the brothers are enrolled at Greensburg Central Catholic.

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