Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pink out at Trinity

Trinity Area School district encourages anyone attending Friday night's Class AAA Big Eight Conference game between West Mifflin and Trinity at Hiller Stadium to wear pink in support on cancer awareness. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Pink bracelets and necklaces will be for sale at the game, and there will also be a raffle.

Throughout the week, varsity football players are carrying buckets with five members names of Trinity faculty on the buckets. The bucket with the most money at the end of the week means that teacher must kiss a pig at an upcoming assembly.

Players will wear helmets with a pink ribbon.

Pitt lands top forward

Pitt's football team may be struggling but men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon just landed the highest-rated recruit of his head coaching career.

Power forward Khem Birch, a junior at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., is the No. 4 prospect in the Class of 2012 according to and the top-ranked power forward. He made an oral committment to Pitt Wednesday night. Birch (6-8, 180), a native of Sunnybrooke, Quebec, is rated No.2 overall by ESPN and he picked Pitt over West Virginia, Ohio State, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas and Syracuse.

Birch is Dixon's second commitment for 2012. New Zealand center Steve Adams committed over the summer.

* In other basketball recruiting news, South Fayette senior Mike Lamberti recently received his first Division I offer from Tennessee-Chattanooga. Lamberti, a 6-5 guard/forward, led the Lions to the PIAA Class AA championship last year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 5 picks

Kovak's fearless prognostications hit its stride last week as a perfect 6-0 record upped the overall season mark to 18-6, a more respectable .750 win percentage. It's hard to believe October is upon us.

On to the picks ...

Bethel Park (2-2) at Peters Township (3-1)
The Great Southern Conference finally kicks off league games this week and Peters Township, coming off an overtime win at West Mifflin, takes a three-game win streak into the important games. Bethel Park isn't used to being 2-2 at this juncture but one of the losses came against Pittsburgh Central Catholic.

The Indians are tough to figure. They did what was expected in blowout victories in Weeks 2 and 3. They lost the opener to a Penn-Trafford team that was crushed by Mt. Lebanon. Then, there's the overtime game at West Mifflin. Expect Austin Hancock to take more of a role in the PT offense than he needed to during the non-conference games. Just not sure Peters Township's defense is ready to match the offense. Bethel Park, 28-21.

New Castle (3-1) at Montour (4-0)
I entered the season skeptical about Montour, who went from a 5-5 team a year ago to near the top of preseason rankings by many local publications. The Spartans, behind runner Julian Darden, have convinced me they're one of the top two teams in what I see as the WPIAL's weakest classification. Montour, 36-17.

Fort Cherry (2-2) at Brentwood (4-0)
Fort Cherry shook off a rough start - one that included a puzzling home loss to Western Beaver to open the season - and has rebounded to win Black Hills Conference games against Avella (avenging last year's loss) and Carlynton. Brentwood handed Fort Cherry a 22-0 loss in the first round of last year's playoffs. Now, the Spartans are in the conference and are 4-0 against a weak schedule. Going back to that playoff win, Brentwood has allowed 13 points in its last five wins. Brentwood, 10-7.

Bishop Canevin (4-0) at Springdale (3-1)
Between Bishop Canevin's Bob Jacoby and Spingdale's Chuck Wagner, there's more head coaching experience in this game (83 years) than all the Washington County high schools combined by decades. Seriously. Bishop Canevin is enjoying its return to Class A. The party in Pittsburgh's Oakwood section continues. Bishop Canevin, 20-13.

North Catholic (3-1) at Monessen (4-0)
It's an odd time for a non-conference game in Class A but, after four straight weeks of play in the Tri-County South Conference, undefeated Monessen wants to see how it stacks up come playoff time. In recent years, it hasn't gone well for the Greyhounds out of conference. This one should be highly competitive and the temptation to go with Monessen's big-play defense is there ... North Catholic, 14-13.

California (2-2) at Beth-Center (4-0)
One of the oldest rivalries around means a packed house at Beth-Center for these two neighbors. The first year the rivalry was renewed and played in front of a capacity crowd at California University's Adamson Stadium was the hardest hitting high school game I've witnessed. California's 2-0 start is a distant memory following losses to Riverview and Monessen. The Trojans need a signature win as the schedule gets a lot easier after this one. Could Beth-Center be looking ahead to next week's game at Monessen? No way. Beth-Center, 42-14.

Associated Press Pennsylvania high school football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, September 28, with school’s district in parentheses, followed by the school’s record and last week’s ranking. NR means not ranked. Honorable mention teams listed alphabetically. (P-PIAA champion.)

Team Rec Pvs
1. Ridley (1) 4-0 1
2. La Salle College HS (P) (12) 3-1 2
3. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 4-0 3
4. North Allegheny (7) 4-0 4
5. Cumberland Valley (3) 3-1 5
6. Easton (11) 4-0 6
7. North Penn (1) 3-1 7
8. Downingtown East (1) 3-1 8
9. Neshaminy (1) 4-0 9
10. Wilson (3) 4-0 10
Teams to watch
Central Dauphin (3) 4-0, Council Rock South (1) 4-0, McDowell (10) 3-1, Mount Lebanon (7) 4-0, North Hills (7) 4-0, Roman Catholic (12) 3-1, Upper St.Clair (7) 3-1.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Allentown C.C. (11) 4-0 1
2. Thomas Jefferson (7) 3-1 2
3. Archbishop Wood (12) 4-0 4
4. Montour (7) 4-0 5
5. Cardinal O’Hara (12) 4-0 9
6. Abington Heights (2) 4-0 8
7. Clearfield (9) 4-0 NR
8. West Allegheny (7) 3-1 6
9. Lampeter-Strasburg (3) 4-0 NR
10. Pottsgrove (1) 3-1 10
Teams to watch
Bishop McDevitt (3) 2-2, Cathedral Prep (10) 2-2, Dallas (2) 4-0, Greencastle-Antrim (3) 4-0, Manheim Central (3) 2-2, North Pocono (2) 3-1, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 3-1.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Lancaster Catholic (P) (3) 4-0 1
2. Greensburg C.C. (7) 4-0 2
3. Aliquippa (7) 4-0 3
4. North Schuylkill (11) 4-0 4
5. South Fayette (7) 4-0 5
6. West Catholic (12) 2-2 6
7. Forest Hills (6) 4-0 7
8. Tyrone (6) 4-0 8
9. Keystone Oaks (7) 4-0 9
10. Northern Lehigh (11) 4-0 10
Teams to watch
Beaver Falls (7) 3-1, Danville (4) 4-0, General McLane (10), 3-1, Lewisburg (4) 4-0, Seton-LaSalle (7) 4-0, Trinity (3) 3-1, Wilmington (10) 4-0.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 4-0 1
2. Rochester (7) 4-0 2
3. Southern Columbia (4) 4-0 3
4. Mercyhurst Prep (10) 4-0 4
5. Farrell (10) 4-0 5
6. Riverside (2) 4-0 6
7. Dunmore (2) 2-2 7
8. Bellwood-Antis (6) 3-1 8
9. Sharpsville (10) 4-0 9
10. Sto-Rox (7) 3-1 NR
Teams to watch
Avonworth (7) 3-1, Beth-Center (7) 4-0, Bishop Canevin (7) 4-0, Line Mountain (4) 3-1, North Catholic (7) 3-1, Schuylkill Haven (11) 3-1, Springdale (7) 3-1.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A month into ...

We're four games into the 2010 WPIAL football season. That's ample time to make some observations.

1. Several candidates are emerging as Player of the Year possibilities.

Beth-Center's Jeff Tarley may have been the frontrunner before a knee injury and teammate Sal Faieta is off to a fantastic start. Trinity's Kyle McWreath, the Ringgold duo of Derrick Fiore and Quad Law, along with South Fayette seniors Christian Brumbaugh and Nolan Spicer are at or near the top of the list along with Peters Township junior Andrew Erenberg.

Who are your POY candidates?

2. Making the semifinals of the WPIAL Class A playoffs is a destination landing.

Clairton and Rochester are the class of Class A and it looks like Sto-Rox is close behind. Does that mean everyone else is playing to get to the semifinals?

It's going to take something special to beat the Bears or the Rams - penalities, turnovers, injuries. If a Beth-Center or Monessen reached the semis, that signifies a highly successful season considering the talent at the top.

3. A kicker might be at the head of the class.

It's impossible to determine which seniors will make significant impacts at the collegiate level but one guess is Trinity's Mike Cleveland ... as a kicker.

Cleveland has the most powerful leg I've seen on a high school kicker since Ringgold's Todd James, and he served as kicker and punter at West Virginia. Cleveland's skills are still raw but with college coaching, he has the leg to kick at the Division I level.

4. The WPIAL lacks depth when it comes to quality teams and top-flight talent.

5. The top local games remaining on the schedule are Beth-Center at Monessen, Keystone Oaks at South Fayette and Franklin Regional at Ringgold. Beth-Center, Monessen, South Fayette and Ringgold all have opportunities for unbeaten regular seasons and high seeds in the WPIAL playoffs.

6. There's a lot of discussion from Class A followers on the board. Just wondering if they think the bottom four teams in the Tri-County South Conference are better than the bottom four in the Black Hills Conference. I say they are.

7. Trinity's Pat Frey is the top freshman I've seen. Frey runs hard, breaks tackles and can make defenders miss.

8. Success at the lower levels guarantees nothing at the varsity level. I can't recall how many times I've heard a story of Player X dominating in junior high only to see that same player hit the varsity squad at 5-8 and 142 pounds with no desire to hit the weight room.

9. What is more surprising - Ringgold at 4-0 or Charleroi at 0-4? I go with the latter. The Cougars looked like a playoff team to me coming into season.

10. I can't remember a season with more one-sided outcomes and the season is only one month old.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
Team Record Last week
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 4-0 Beat Woodland Hills, 24-7
2. North Allegheny 4-0 Beat Erie McDowell, 21-10
3. Mt. Lebanon 4-0 Beat Hopewell, 28-20
4. North Hills 4-0 Beat Shaler, 28-7
5. McKeesport 3-1 Beat Seneca Valley, 20-6

Dropped out: Erie McDowell

Class AAA
Team Record Last week
1. Montour 4-0 Beat Canon-McMillan, 42-14
2. Thomas Jefferson 3-1 Beat Baldwin, 35-20
3. West Allegheny 3-1 Lost to Upper St. Clair, 28-20
4. Ringgold 4-0 Beat Greensburg-Salem, 14-7
5. Knoch 4-0 Beat Fox Chapel, 40-21

Dropped out: Greensburg-Salem

Class AA
Team Record Last week
1. Greensburg C.C. 4-0 Beat Yough, 49-0
2. Aliquippa 4-0 Beat Freedom, 53-6
3. South Fayette 4-0 Beat Washington, 35-8
4. Keystone Oaks 4-0 Beat South Allegheny, 48-6
5. Beaver 4-0 Beat Ellwood City, 21-3

Dropped out: none

Class A
Team Record Last week
1. Clairton 4-0 Beat Chartiers-Houston, 48-0
2. Rochester 4-0 Beat Sto-Rox, 35-32
3. Beth-Center 4-0 Beat Carmichaels, 35-7
4. Bishop Canevin 4-0 Beat Frazier, 41-0
5. Sto-Rox 3-1 Lost to Rochester, 35-32

Dropped out: none

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday night thoughts, Week 4

Could Ringgold win the Keystone Conference? The Rams took a major step by beating Greensburg-Salem. Difficult games remain against Franklin Regional and Uniontown.

* South Fayette puts up spectacular offensive numbers. From quarterback Christian Brumbaugh - the latest Lions signal caller to top 4,000 career passing yards - to running back Jeff Davis to sure-handed receivers Tyler Challingsworth and Josh Patterson, South Fayette is balanced, disciplined and intelligent on the offensive side of the football.

Against Washington Friday night, the Lions were dominant defensively.

And that type of play is what gives South Fayette a chance to contend for the WPIAL Class AA championship.

Nolan Spicer, who will play at Liberty, spent most of the evening tackling Prexies running backs in the backfield. When Spicer wasn't making plays, Nick Faraci, Eric Myers, Davis or Brian Haney did.

* Speaking of defense, Washington showed marked improvement on that side of the football from its season-opening loss to Clairton.

Yes, Wash High lost to South Fayette, 35-8, but the Lions didn't put up eye-popping offensive numbers and credit the Prexies defense for that.

Brumbaugh passed for 141 yards and two touchdowns but Washington continually made Brumbaugh look for his second, third and sometimes fourth option on passing plays. The Prexies also held Davis to 88 rushing yards, and more than 50 of them came on consecutive carries.

Washington needs to do a better job tackling in the open field but, if the Prexies are to sneak into the playoff picture, the offensive line must improve.

All of Washington's offensive output came in the second half and the Prexies' lone touchdown was against South Fayette's backups.

* Since 1999, I haven't seen a local quarterback with more zip on the football than Trinity's Cody Endres, who was recently reinstated to the Connecticut football team. And I haven't seen a quarterback launch a deep ball better than Ringgold's Lorenzo Gardner.

When it comes to Brumbaugh, he's the best I've seen at working the middle of the football field, maintaining poise and checking through progressions.

* Geibel in the WPIAL playoffs? Repeat. Geibel in the WPIAL playoffs? The Gators are 2-2 and in decent shape after beating Jefferson-Morgan in the Tri-County South Conference.

Beth-Center and Monessen are no-brainers to qualify from the TCS. Frazier, Carmichaels, California and, yes, Geibel look like they will contend for the final two spots.

* Wash High plays Keystone Oaks and Steel Valley the next two weeks. To make the playoffs, Washington must win one of those two games then win its remaining Century Conference contests.

* Congrats to West Greene for snapping a 26-game losing streak with a win against Mapletown. It's not easy maintaining numbers and morale when losses appear inevitable. Places like West Greene, one of the smallest public schools in the WPIAL, deserve the occasional 'W' just for the student-athletes who are tough enough to keep competing against difficult odds.

* McGuffey is this week's tough-luck loser.

The Highlanders take a late lead at Moon on a 1-yard touchdown run by Derrick Whipkey only to give up a 65-yard kickoff return to Mark Piccolo with 22 seconds left. It was Piccolo's fourth touchdown.

* Peters Township moved to 3-1 with an overtime win over West Mifflin and the Indians lone loss came in extra time to Penn-Trafford.

Still, it's tough to get a read on the Indians.

The non-conference schedule was not overly difficult. Andrew Erenberg is putting up strong numbers behind a strong offensive line. Yet, the defense looks iffy.

This is the same West Mifflin team that scored six points at South Fayette to open the season.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Woodland Hills making NFL impact

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Pittsburgh’s Woodland Hills High School tops USA Football’s list of high schools with the most NFL players with six, while three schools have five players in the league this year.
USA Football based the list on the 1,696 players on opening-week rosters.
The New York Jets’ Jason Taylor, Arizona’s Steve Breaston, New England’s Rob Gronkowski, Pittsburgh’s Ryan Mundy, Miami’s Lousaka Polite and San Francisco’s Shawntae Spencer played at Woodland Hills.
“It is a very disciplined program,” Breaston said. “Coach (George) Novak does a good job of preparing players on the field and off the field. It is a program that prepares you for the future. A lot of Division I athletes come out of that school. You are always competing, not just against other schools, but within that school. It really pushes you and prepares you to compete at the next level.”
De La Salle of Concord, Calif.; Glenville High School of Cleveland; and St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., each have five former players in the NFL.
Fourteen schools have three players in the NFL: Corsicana (Texas); Deep Creek of Chesapeake, Va.; DeMatha Catholic of Hyattsville, Md.; Dorsey of Los Angeles; Dunbar of Washington, D.C.; Eleanor Roosevelt of Greenbelt, Md., Glades Central of Belle Glade, Fla.; Lake Highlands of Dallas; Los Alamitos (Calif.); Madison (Wis.) Central; South Panola of Batesville, Miss.; Tustin (Calif.); Vista (Calif.) and Wayzata of Plymouth, Minn.
In rankings by state, California is the leader with 211, followed by Texas (181), Florida (177), Ohio (85) and Georgia (80). Houston tops the hometowns list with 24, followed by Miami (22) and Los Angeles (20).

AP Pennsylvania Football Rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Monday, September 20, 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. (P-PIAA champion.)

Team Rec Pvs
1. Ridley (1) 3-0 1
2. La Salle College HS (P) (12) 2-1 2
3. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 3-0 4
4. North Allegheny (7) 3-0 5
5. Cumberland Valley (3) 2-1 3
6. Easton (11) 3-0 6
7. North Penn (1) 2-1 7
8. Downingtown East (1) 2-1 8
9. Neshaminy (1) 3-0 9
10. Wilson (3) 3-0 10
Teams to watch
Central Bucks West (1) 3-0, Central Dauphin (3) 3-0, McDowell (10) 3-0, Mount Lebanon (7) 3-0, North Hills (7) 3-0, Roman Catholic (12) 3-0, Woodland Hills (7) 1-2.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Allentown C.C. (11) 3-0 1
2. Thomas Jefferson (7) 2-1 2
3. Bishop McDevitt (3) 2-1 4
4. Archbishop Wood (12) 3-0 3
5. Montour (7) 3-0 8
6. West Allegheny (7) 3-0 6
7. Manheim Central (3) 2-1 7
8. Abington Heights (2) 3-0 9
9. Cardinal OHara (12) 3-0 NR
10. Pottsgrove (1) 2-1 5
Teams to watch
Cathedral Prep (10) 2-1, Clearfield (9) 3-0, Dallas (2) 3-0, Interboro (1) 2-1, Lampeter-Strasburg (3) 3-0, Monsignor Bonner (12) 2-1, North Pocono (2) 2-1.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Lancaster Catholic (P) (3) 3-0 1
2. Greensburg C.C. (7) 3-0 2
3. Aliquippa (7) 3-0 3
4. North Schuylkill (11) 3-0 4
5. South Fayette (7) 3-0 5
6. West Catholic (12) 1-2 6
7. Forest Hills (6) 3-0 7
8. Tyrone (6) 3-0 8
9. Keystone Oaks (7) 3-0 9
10. Northern Lehigh (11) 3-0 10
Teams to watch
Beaver Falls (7) 2-1, Danville (4) 3-0, General McLane (10), 2-1, Lewisburg (4) 3-0, Loyalsock Twp. (4) 2-1, Seton-LaSalle (7) 3-0, Wilmington (10) 3-0.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 3-0 1
2. Rochester (7) 3-0 3
3. Southern Columbia (4) 3-0 4
4. Mercyhurst Prep (10) 3-0 5
5. Farrell (10) 3-0 6
6. Riverside (2) 3-0 10
7. Dunmore (2) 1-2 2
8. Bellwood-Antis (6) 2-1 8
9. Sharpsville (10) 3-0 9
10. Steelton-Highspire (3) 2-1 7
Teams to watch
Avonworth (7) 2-1, Beth-Center (7) 3-0, Bishop Canevin (7) 3-0, Line Mountain (4) 2-1, North Catholic (7) 2-1, Schuylkill Haven (11) 3-0, Springdale (7) 2-1, Sto-Rox (7) 3-0.

Games of the week, Week 4

Joe Montana Stadium takes center stage in Week 4.

Greensburg-Salem (1-0, 3-0) at Ringgold (1-0, 3-0)
These two undefeated teams from the Keystone Conference aren't offensively challenged. The season-low point total for the Golden Lions and the Rams is 35. Greensburg-Salem, playing its first road game, racks up its points with a diversified offense, one that can change philosophies depending on the defense. Ringgold gets its points behind one the the WPIAL's top rushing offenses.

Monessen (3-0, 3-0) at California (2-0, 2-1)
The Greyhounds won their first two games in blowout fashion over Geibel and Mapletown. The reigning Tri-County South Conference champs came away from Carmichaels with a 10-7 last week on a last-minute field goal. Brett Crenshaw and Trae Cook are a fine 1-2 punch out of the backfield. California also owns a hard-fought win over Carmichaels but the Trojans struggled last week out of conference at Riverview. Maybe the Saturday kickoff at noon threw California off its game.

Team forfeits at halftime

Interesting happenings near Seattle.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Week 4 picks

These fearless prognostications were in trouble after two weeks, when a scant 7-5 record forced an ultimatum - start picking winners or else. Last week, a strong response was issued with a solid 5-1 week. Talk about clutch.

My overall record stands at 12-6, a .667 win percentage.

Considerable room for improvement remains.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic (3-0) at Woodland Hills (1-2)
After a respectable showing against national power Manatee (Fla.), Woodland Hills was shutout by North Hills. As expected, the Wolverines notched their first win last week against Plum. Pittsburgh Central Catholic has been far more impressive, with only Bethel Park playing the Vikings within three touchdowns. This prognosticator loves teams on a roll. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 24-10.

Greensburg-Salem (3-0) at Ringgold (3-0)
Joe Montana Stadium should be buzzing for this key Keystone Conference game. The winner puts itself in great position. The loser should still be among the conference's top four teams. Greensburg-Salem has often been overlooked because of its conference affiliation. Ringgold has added life to the oft-maligned conference. The Rams want a track meet and it's tough to pick against speed. Ringgold, 35-27.

North Allegheny (3-0) at Erie McDowell (3-0)
It's still difficult imagining Erie McDowell as a WPIAL member but its offense is good enough for any district in Pennsylvania. One bugaboo is a defense that yielded 36 points to Baldwin. Imagining North Allegheny giving up 36 points to any team is near impossible. The Tigers have allowed just seven so far. North Allegheny, 28-14.

Trinity (2-1) at Central Valley (2-1)
The Hillers' defense took a few punches in a loss at Belle Vernon. Trinity's offense needs to start throwing a few, particularly in the passing game. Central Valley crushed a strong New Castle team last week and plays this non-conference game at home. After two tough Big Eight games against Chartiers Valley and BVA, Trinity might need to rest players with bumps and bruises for the important games. Central Valley, 26-10.

Washington (1-2) at South Fayette (3-0)
The Prexies are experiencing significant growing pains as the underclassmen have yet to adjust to full-time life at the varsity level. There's nothing like a rivalry to bring out the best and there's not much love lost between the Prexies and Lions from their intense basketball rivalry. Washington plays better in this one but the Prexies aren't ready to match South Fayette's talent and experience. South Fayette, 35-21.

Monessen (3-0) at California (2-1)
There was a time when this "rivalry" was as one-sided as Penn State' non-conference football schedule. California has leveled the playing field to a degree in recent years but the Greyhounds don't lose games in the Tri-County South very often. Neither team played its best last week, but Monessen found a way to win at Carmichaels, while California lost at Riverview. Monessen, 34-17.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Week in Review, Week 3

Team of the Week - South Fayette
Several quality candidates were considered this week but no one, with all due respect to Ringgold, posted as quality a road win as South Fayette - the No. 3 Class AA team in the Observer-Reporter rankings.
The Lions won their seventh consecutive road game behind their balanced offense, highly successful fourth-down conversions and an opportunistic defense that helped South Fayette overcome several mistakes.
Tanner Courtad returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. The defense made Steel Valley's Delrece Williams, the WPIAL's second leading rusher through two weeks, work for his 122 yards. Williams had 29 carries.
Quarterback Christian Brumbaugh threw for three touchdowns, including two on fourth-down passes.

Runner-up - Ringgold

Starting 11
Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette
Jeff Davis, South Fayette
Mykel Dorsey, Chartiers-Houston
Andrew Erenberg, Peters Township
Derrick Fiore, Ringgold
Damond Goggins, Ringgold
Gary Kiefer, Fort Cherry
Quad Law, Ringgold
Danial Lis, Chartiers-Houston
Alec Schram, Canon-McMillan
Jake Sofran, Beth-Center
First sub
Tanner Courtad, South Fayette

Game of the Week - Ringgold 36, Hollidaysburg 21
Ringgold's run as one of the WPIAL's top rushing offenses continued in a tough test of character, and one seriously long bus ride, to Hollidaysburg, which, like Ringgold, entered the Keystone Conference contest with a 2-0 record.

The Rams (1-0, 3-0) trailed early but, behind a trio of 100-yard rushers, rallied and ended this one in a runaway.

Ringgold, which plays Greensburg-Salem in a key game this week, rushed for 463 yards. Quarterback Quad Law went for 168 with two touchdowns on 16 carries. Damond Goggins had 162 yards on only 15 carries. Derrick Fiore, one of the district's leading rushers, finished with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

Weird, wild stuff - Beth-Center leads the WPIAL with 163 points scored, seven more than Clairton (156). The Bulldogs have played one team (Frazier) with a winning record but hit a tough four-game stretch starting this week. Beth-Center plays (in succession) Carmichaels, California, Monessen and Avonworth. The latter two games on the road. ... Winless Charleroi played Greensburg Central Catholic without Quentin Briggs, Klye Shannon and Cory Altemara. As rough as the start of the season's been for the Cougars, Briggs and Altemara may return this week against East Allegheny. ... Rochester has not allowed a point. ... Clairton, Chartiers-Houston and Brentwood are all undefeated. No other team from the Black Hills Conference has a winning record and four - Avella, Bentworth, Carlynton and Serra Catholic - are winless.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
Team Record Last week
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 3-0 Beat Kiski Area, 48-14
2. Mt. Lebanon 3-0 Beat Penn Hills, 28-6
3. North Allegheny 3-0 Beat Upper St. Clair, 27-0
4. North Hills 3-0 Beat Pine-Richland, 21-14
5. Erie McDowell 3-0 Beat Seneca Valley, 48-14

Dropped out: Upper St. Clair

Class AAA
Team Record Last week
1. West Allegheny 3-0 Beat Blackhawk, 14-0
2. Montour 3-0 Beat Ambridge, 55-13
3. Thomas Jefferson 2-1 Beat McGuffey, 49-3
4. Greensburg-Salem 3-0 Beat Uniontown, 35-20
5. Ringgold 3-0 Beat Hollidaysburg, 36-21

Dropped out: New Castle

Class AA
Team Record Last week
1. Greensburg C.C. 3-0 Beat Charleroi, 49-10
2. Aliquippa 3-0 Beat Riverside, 34-6
3. South Fayette 3-0 Beat Steel Valley, 31-21
4. Keystone Oaks 3-0 Beat Quaker Valley, 48-13
5. Beaver 3-0 Beat New Brighton, 35-3

Dropped out: none

Class A
Team Record Last week
1. Clairton 3-0 Beat Carlynton, 60-6
2. Rochester 3-0 Beat Union, 42-0
3. Beth-Center 3-0 Beat Mapletown, 5-6
4. Sto-Rox 3-0 Beat Neshannock, 14-0
5. Bishop Canevin 3-0 Beat Northgate, 42-0

Dropped out: none

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Boys in girls sports

The Post-Gazette's Mike White has an interesting piece on boys playing girls sports. It centers on the Greensburg Central Catholic girls field hockey team, which features five boys.

Boys playing girls sports is nothing new. The Washington girls volleyball team has a boys player and there have been the occasional occurrence in other sports. I can also think of a couple boys playing girls tennis over the years.

In most cases, I never felt the boy gave the girls team an added advantage. In the PG story, it's clear the GCC field hockey team has one.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Player collapses during game, dies

Sad news from Texas.

Friday night thoughts, 3rd edition

Coming to you live from the sunny shores of Swan Beach, N.C. ...

I'm thinking Ringgold picked a good year to start 3-0. A real good year.


I'm not positive there s a truly dominant team in WPIAL Class AAA. Hopewell is 1-2 with Rushel Shell. West Allegheny doesn't have Mike Caputo. There's no Wayne Capers at Charters Valley.

It might be a good year to make a playoff run.

And that's literally what Ringgold did all over Hollidaysburg - run. The Rams picked up 463 rushing yards with 5-foot-6 quarterback Quad Law, looking every but as dynamic as Donte Valentino did at California.

Montour, Thomas Jefferson and West Allegheny are at the head of the Class AAA pack. Maybe Ringgold finds a way to join them.

The Varsity Letters will say this, a win over Greensburg-Salem Friday night makes a Keystone Conference title possible.

* All indications point toward a special season for Beth-Center. They were there before the season and through the first three weeks, all blowout wins. That feeling doesn't change for the favorites in the Tri-County South Conference despite some bad news Friday night against Mapletown.

Senior Jeff Tarley, tied for the WPIAL lead in scoring after two games, suffered a knee injury on a special teams play early in the game. He did not return.

Tarley, a WPIAL Class AA heavyweight wrestling champion and one best of a running back, gave Beth-Center that something extra it didn't have last year on offense. Tarley did not play his junior year.

* South Fayette passed another tough test with a 31-21 victory at Steel Valley. The Lions play Wash High this week and Burgettstown the following. Keystone Oaks lurks in Week 6. The winner of that will win the Century Conference.

* The won-loss record of Chartiers-Houston's opponents isn't exactly extraordinary (Union, Shenango and Serra are a combined 2-6) but that shouldn't be the focus of the Bucs 3-0 start.

Mykel Dorsey has emerged as a playmaker as a runner and returner. Danial Lis is evolving into a dual-threat quarterback that the C-H offense needs from the position. More importantly, the Bucs are young. They might not be ready for Clairton but the playoffs appear a certainty.

Head coach Terry Fetsko told me earlier in the week that C-H has two goals: 1. Host a playoff game, and 2. Win a playoff game. It's been a while for both.

* Not sure why the Peters Township defense couldn't get off the field in a season-opening loss to Penn-Trafford. That hasn't been the case in easy wins the past two weeks.

* My new top four in the Black Hills Conference goes Clairton, Chartiers-Houston, Brentwood and Fort Cherry.

* When's the last time a team that runs a spread offense like Ringgold attempt two passes in a game?

Friday, September 17, 2010

FYI, this weekend

Keep the comments coming. Friday night thoughts and your comments will be posted a little later than usual this weekend as I'm on the road. I will get to them as soon as possible.

Games of the Week, Week 3

Tonight's schedule features some nice matchups, including the top WPIAL Class AA game involving South Fayette and two of the better ones in Class AAA with Trinity and Ringgold.

South Fayette (2-0) at Steel Valley (2-0)
The Ironmen are off to a fast start, albeit wins over Albert Gallatin and West Shamokin don't offer a true barometer of Steel Valley's talent. Steel Valley gets to play three of its first four games in the Century Conference at home and a win against the team pegged as favorites should set them up for a run at hosting a playoff game. Delrece Williams ranks second in the WPIAL with 455 rushing yards and he'll be the primary concern for South Fayette's offense.

Not surprisingly, Lions quarterback Christian Brumbaugh is off to a strong start for the Observer-Reporter's No. 3 Class AA team. He's already passed for 419 yards and five scores, with Josh Patterson and Tyler Challingsworth as the top targets. On the road in conference play, however, means South Fayette will need a strong effort from running back Jeff Davis and the offensive line.

Trinity (1-0, 2-0) at Belle Vernon (1-0, 1-1)
Trinity credits its best start since 2005 to team unity, special teams and tough defense. The Hillers rallied behind head coach Ed Dalton, the subject of well-documented offseason drama. Senior Kyle McWreath, arguably the area's top player through two games, told me last week, Trinity is focused on giving its head coach a great going-away gift. McWreath is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry from his fullback position and has been dominant defensively.

Belle Vernon has also been dominant defensively as the Leopards play without top offensive talent Matt Green, a Division I prospect and former PIAA long jump champion. BV has allowed just 14 points on a pair of touchdowns by Hopewell's Rushel Shell in the season opener. Last year, Belle Vernon - coached by former Washington & Jefferson standout Aaron Krepps - nearly derailed Trinity's playoff chances with a 21-6 win at Hiller Stadium.

Ringgold (2-0) at Hollidaysburg (2-0)
As I'm writing this (11:26 a.m.), Ringgold is two hours away from boarding the bus and heading to Hollidaysburg, a WPIAL newcomer located a few miles suth of Altoona. Both teams have looked strong through two games and feature high-powered offenses.

Ringgold looks to run out of its shotgun spread system and is doing a great job behind Derrick Fiore (322 yards on 27 carries) and quarterback Quad Law, who rushed for 100-plus yards with a pair of scores against Hampton. Complementary playmakers and a defense that helped the Rams overcome five fumbles and more than 100 yards in penalties last week have contributed heavily and made Ringgold an intriguing team as the Keystone Conference schedule begins.

Hollidaysburg is more of a passing team and quarterback Chad Barton has demonstrated big-play ability. His 20 completions have gone for 445 yards with five touchdowns. T.J. Keefer leads the WPIAL with 14 receptions and 321 receiving yards. He's averaging 22.9 yards per catch.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Legends of the Fall, Chapter 6

Scan the early eras of Pittsburgh Steelers football and one name which regularly pops up is Valerio "Val" Jansante.

A graduate of Bentleyville High School, Jansante was a multi-sport standout. As a senior, Jansante won the Mid-Mon Valley Award, given to that talent-rich area's top high school athlete.

Jansante caught the attention of Duquesne University, then a national power in college football and he was part of the Dukes' undefeated 1941 team. In 1946, after a stint in the Navy during World War II, Jansante joined the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted him in the 10th round of the 1944 draft, and instantly became a two-way starter.

Before Hines Ward, Jansante was the only Steelers player to lead the team in receptions for five consecutive years, which he did from 1946-50. In 1947, he set Steelers records with 35 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns and led the team to their first playoff appearance. He bacame the first Steelers player to have 10 catches in a game. He was a dominant defensive end and led the NFL with 8.5 quarterback sacks in 1950, before sacks became an official stat.

Jansante, who was traded to Green Bay six games into the 1951 season, was even a first-team All-Pro one season and a second-teamer in another. He caught 14 touchdowns from 1946-51. In 2007, Jansante was one of six receivers on the ballot for the Steelers' 75th anniversary team.

He went on to coach football at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Mon Valley Catholic and Bentworth. He also coached baseball, boys basketball and girls basketball and is in numerous halls of fame.

The Jansante coaching legacy remains a part of Bentworth, where Dion Jansante has served as the Bearcats' baseball coach for more than 20 years.
Jansante died Oct. 1, 2008 at the age of 88. True to his roots, he died in Bentleyville.

APB, Where are they now?

With 61 rushing yards, Hopewell junior Rushel Shell will move past Mapletown's Derek Bochna into 12th place on the WPIAL all-time rushing list. Bochna, the head coach at McGuffey, was a two-sport standout (football, baseball) at Penn State 4,793 yards before he started as a freshman with the Nittany Lions in 1990.

Shell, who has rushed for 4,732 yards already is on pace to eclipse the all-time WPIAL mark of 7,646 set by Fort Cherry's Mike Vernillo.

Along the way, Shell should pass several local greats, including the subject of this week's All Points Bulletin.

Keith Miller was one of several talented players at Beth-Center High School during a great run of success that started in the 1970s and lasted into the 1990s. The Bulldogs experienced a down period before current head coach Ed Woods established the team as one of the most consistent in Class A. This year's Beth-Center team is 2-0 and ranked No. 3 in Class A by the Observer-Reporter.

When Miller played at Beth-Center, the Bulldogs were contenders in Class AA and engaged in some memorable contests against Wash High. One of the great backs in Washington County history, Miller rushed for 5,121 yards in his scholastic career.

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Week 3 picks

A 4-2 record raised my record above .500 (7-5) for the season but the improvement wasn't enough to please New Jersey judge Damian Murray, who demanded that a certain WPIAL football prognosticator appear in his court.

Murray recently called Snooki of "Jersey Shore" a "Lindsay Lohan wannabe" and he's been known to be tough on prognosticators.

After a thorough examination of my shoddy 7-5 record, Murray declared to the court that I'm about as qualified to make picks as The Situation, another "Jersey Shore" cast member.

Murray's proclamation proved to be harsh criticism, but it's provided a renewed focus for Week 3.

Trinity (1-0, 2-0) at Belle Vernon (1-0, 1-1) – Both teams look like contenders in the Big Eight Conference and both are getting it done defensively. Trinity held Chartiers Valley to six points and just two first downs after halftime last week. Belle Vernon has allowed 14 points through two games. Picks remembers Trinity's basketball team squeaking out a win at Belle Vernon last year in a defensive-minded game and thinks the same will happen again. Trinity, 13-7.

Ringgold (2-0) at Hollidaysburg (2-0)Ringgold is rushing for 300-plus yards per game with Derrick Fiore and Quad Law leading the way. WPIAL newcomer Hollidaysburg is fresh off a 37-0 win against Valley and chances are the Tigers faithful will be amped for their Keystone Conference debut. Something also tells me a long bus ride won't slow Ringgold's playmakers once they hit the field. Ringgold 35-21.

West Allegheny (2-0) at Blackhawk (2-0) – West Allegheny slipped past Central Valley in its first full game sans Wisconsin recruit Mike Caputo but it wasn't easy. Blackhawk tends to make things difficult too, but … West Allegheny, 27-24.

South Fayette (2-0) at Steel Valley (2-0) – South Fayette opens play in the Century Conference with what should be a tough test in a tough place to win. Steel Valley's run game has rolled though two opponents but it's tough to match the Lions' balanced offense and the play of quarterback Christian Brumbaugh. South Fayette, 28-26.

North Allegheny (2-0) at Upper St. Clair (2-0) – With Gateway and Woodland Hills winless, North Allegheny has ascended toward the top of the Class AAAA pecking order. So has Upper St. Clair. North Allegheny, 27-10.

Gateway (0-2) at Latrobe (2-0) – Show of hands, who had Gateway at 0-2 and Latrobe at 2-0 going into this non-conference game? Doesn't look like many. The Gators have played a challenging schedule and it's just tough imaging them at 0-3. Gateway, 17-13.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Frisco's state rankings

Could Trinity crack Rod Frisco's Class AAA honorable mention with a win at Belle Vernon Friday? Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Rankings
Week 3
Class AAAA
Rank School (District) Record Prev. Result
1. Ridley (1) 2-0 1 W, Lower Merion, 33-0
2. Cumberland Valley (3) 2-0 2 W, Central York, 30-0
3. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 2-0 3 W, Bethel Park, 24-3
4. Easton (11) 2-0 6 W, Nazareth, 35-20
5. La Salle College (12) 1-1 4 L, Bergen (NJ) Catholic, 22-1
6. North Allegheny (7) 2-0 NR W, Butler, 48-0
7. North Penn (1) 1-1 7 W, Lansdale Catholic, 42-0
8. Downingtown East (1) 1-1 9 W, Norristown, 49-10
9. Erie McDowell (10) 2-0 NR W, Baldwin 44-35
10. Wilson (3) 2-0 10 W, Manheim Central, 25-22
Honorable mention
Bethel Park 1-1, Cedar Cliff 2-0, Central Dauphin 2-0, Council Rock South 2-0, Garnet Valley 2-0, George Washington 1-1, Liberty 2-0, McKeesport 1-1, Neshanminy 2-0, North Hills 2-0, Roman Catholic 2-0, St. Joseph's Prep 1-1, Whitehall 2-0, Woodland Hills 0-2

Class AAA
Rank School (District) Record Prev. Result
1. Allentown C.C. (11) 2-0 2 W, Freedom, 42-7
2. Archbishop Wood (12) 2-0 3 W, Chestnut Hill Academy, 42-13
3. Abington Heights (2) 2-0 4 W, Wyoming Valley West, 38-13
4. Bishop McDevitt (3) 1-1 1 L, Central Dauphin 17-7
5. Montour (7) 2-0 5 W, Hopewell, 36-29
6. Pottsgrove (1) 2-0 6 W, Pope John Paul II, 57-6
7. West Allegheny (7) 2-0 7 W, Central Valley, 30-27
8. North Pocono (2) 2-0 NR W, Berwick, 21-20
9. Manheim Central (3) 1-1 8 L, Wilson, 25-22
10. Cardinal O'Hara (12) 2-0 NR W, Dobbins-Randolpha Vo-Tech, 35-0
Honorable mention
Bishop Shanahan 2-0, Cathedral Prep 2-0, Clearfield 2-0, Greencastle Antrim 2-0, Hopewell 1-1, Interboro 2-0, Lampeter-Strasburg 2-0, Monsignor Bonner 1-1, New Castle 2-0, Oil City 2-0, Susquehanna Township 2-0, Thomas Jefferson 1-1, Wilson Area 1-1

Class AA
Rank School (District) Record Prev. Result
1. Lancaster Catholic (3) 2-0 1 W, Lnaidsville Hempfield, 35-0
2. Greensburg C.C. (7) 2-0 2 W, Southmoreland, 41-0
3. West Catholic (12) 1-1 3 W, Monsignor Bonner, 27-6
4. Aliquippa (7) 2-0 4 W, Beaver Falls, 27-14
5. North Schuylkill (11) 2-0 5 W, Minersville, 41-0
6. South Fayette (7) 2-0 6 W, Summit Academy, 50-22
7. Forest Hills (6) 2-0 7 W, Richland, 49-6
8. Northern Lehigh (11) 2-0 9 W, Wilson Area, 52-36
9. Keystone Oaks (7) 2-0 10 W, Burrell, 55-14
10. Tyrone (6) 2-0 8 W, Lewistown, 21-14
Honorable mention
Beaver 2-0, Beaver Falls 2-1, Bloomsburg 2-0, Brockway 2-0, Danville 2-0, Delone Catholic 2-0, General McLane 2-0, Hickory 2-0, Huntingdon 2-0, Lewisburg 2-0, Littlestown 2-0, Loyalsock Township 2-0, Shamokin 2-0, Wilmington 2-0

Class A
Rank School (District) Record Prev. Result
1. Clairton (7) 2-0 1 W, Western Beaver, 55-6
2. Dumore (2) 1-1 2 W, E.L. Meyers, 28-6
3. Rochester (7) 2-0 3 W, Fort Cherry 46-0
4. Southern Columbia (4) 2-0 4 W, Montoursville, 42-6
5. Steelton-Highspire (3) 2-0 5 W, Middletown, 28-7
6. Sharpsville (10) 2-0 7 W, Seneca, 41-0
7. Taylor Riverside (2) 2-0 8 W, Holy Cross, 43-6
8. Mercyhurst Prep (10) 2-0 9 W, Iroquois, 47-0
9. Farrell (10) 2-0 10 W, Kennedy Cathoplic, 68-0
10. Schulykill Haven (11) 2-0 NR W, Marian Catholic, 25-8
Honorable mention
Bellwood-Antis 1-1, Coudersport 2-0, Line Mountain 1-1, Marian Catholic 1-1, North Catholic 1-1, North Star 1-1, Northwest Area 2-0, Penns Manor 2-0, Sto-Rox 2-0

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week in Review, second week

Team of the Week – Washington
Sure, teams like Trinity, California and Jefferson-Morgan registered more impressive wins than Washington's 41-25 non-conference win against far-from-juggernaut Apollo-Ridge. The Hillers, Trojans and Rockets all entered last weekend with 1-0 records and Washington had suffered a resounding defeat to Clairton.

It was the type of loss that could dismantle a team's season, particularly a team with Washington's youth.

Saturday's win serves as an encouraging sign for the Prexies.

Zach Barnes, shackled against Clairton, rushed for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns while sophomore quarterback Josh Wise threw for three touchdowns on only six completions.

Runner-up – Jefferson-Morgan

Starting 11
Zach Barnes, Washington
Tyler Challingsworth, South Fayette
T.D. Conway, California
Trae Cook, Monessen
Mykel Dorsey, Chartiers-Houston
Demetri Edwards, Charleroi
Andrew Erenberg, Peters Township
Chris Faddis, Jefferson-Morgan
Quad Law, Ringgold
Kyle McWreath, Trinity
Jeff Tarley, Beth-Center
First sub
Austin Hancock, Peters Township

Game of the Week – Chartiers-Houston 21, Shenango 20
Count Chartiers-Houston among the surprising teams with a solid chance at starting 3-0 – the Bucs play Serra Catholic this week – and the reason why is a last-second home win over Shenango.

Special teams, which played a key role in J-M's win at Northgate, provided a pair of key plays for the Bucs. Conner Craig returned a kickoff for a 66-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Zach Hamilton clinched the win with a 29-yard field goals with two seconds remaining.

In between, C-H showcased a balanced offense. Mykel Dorsey put together a second consecutive strong showing with 93 rushing yards and a two touchdowns. Danial Lis completed 8 of 12 passes for 119 yards, with five passes for 98 yards going to D.J. Denny.

Weird, wild stuff – Monessen has already scored three defensive touchdowns. … Fort Cherry, a team I pegged for second place in the Black Hills Conference, has been outscored 67-7. … In a 46-13 loss to Union, Avella quarterback Cameron Geresti passed for 216 yards and running back Coltan Kobrys had 150 rushing and 55 receiving according to the Eagles stat girl.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
Team Record Last week
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 2-0 Beat Bethel Park, 24-3
2. Mt. Lebanon 2-0 Beat Penn-Trafford, 43-18
3. North Allegheny 2-0 Beat Butler, 48-0
4. North Hills 2-0 Beat Woodland Hills, 7-0
5. Upper St. Clair 2-0 Beat Norwin, 31-0

Dropped out: Woodland Hills, Bethel Park

Class AAA
Team Record Last week
1. West Allegheny 2-0 Beat Central Valley, 30-27
2. Montour 2-0 Beat Hopewell, 36-29
3. Thomas Jefferson 1-1 Beat South Park, 38-0
4. New Castle 2-0 Beat Ambridge, 45-7
5. Greensburg-Salem 2-0 Beat Connellsville, 40-7

Dropped out: Hopewell

Class AA
Team Record Last week
1. Greensburg C.C. 2-0 Beat Southmoreland, 41-0
2. Aliquippa 2-0 Beat Beaver Falls, 27-14
3. South Fayette 2-0 Beat Summit Academy, 50-22
4. Keystone Oaks 2-0 Beat Burrell, 55-14
5. Beaver 2-0 Beat Freedom, 48-12

Dropped out: Beaver Falls

Class A
Team Record Last week
1. Clairton 2-0 Beat Western Beaver, 55-6
2. Rochester 2-0 Beat Fort Cherry, 47-0
3. Beth-Center 2-0 Beat Geibel, 55-13
4. Sto-Rox 2-0 Beat Carlynton, 22-0
5. Bishop Canevin 2-0 Beat OLSH, 54-0

Dropped out: Springdale

A picture is worth ...

Space limitations at the Observer-Reporter prohibit good photos from getting into Saturday's pages. On occasion, we'll run them at The Varsity Letters.

In this photo take by Scott McCurdy, California High School's Dakota Conway catches a 21-yard touchdown pass from younger brother T.D. Conway just before halftime in Friday's Class A Tr-County South game between the Trojans and Carmichaels. The Trojans scored the game's final two touchdowns, including this score, for a 26-21 victory. Carmichaels' Seth Krall defends on the play.

In this photo taken by Jim McNutt, Trinity's Kyle McWreath blocks a field-goal attempt by Chartirs Valley's Tom Kovach in the second quarter of Friday's Class AAA Big Eight Conference game. McWreath rushed for 100-plus yard, scored a touchdown and was a menace on defense as Trinity won, 9-6.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday night thoughts, 2nd edition

Kyle McWreath doesn't have any scholarship offers and, according to the senior from Trinity High School, he hasn't been in contact with too many schools at this point.

It's time.

McWreath has played maniacal defense through the Hillers' first two games, wins over Canon-McMillan and Trinity.

"I don't think we've ever had a guy go as hard as he does on every play," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said.

McWreath definitely went hard against Chartiers Valley and helped Trinity secure a key 9-6 victory. Besides rushing for 119 yards and a 32-yard touchdown, he was easily the game's best defensive player.

"We knew he was gassed when he asked to come out for a couple plays on defense," Dalton said. "In three years, I don'[t think he ever asked to come out on defense before."

Defense will be McWreath's future at the collegiate level and he looks like a natural at middle linebacker.

"I definitely want to play college football but no one is really looking at me right now. I don't have any offers or anything like that," McWreath said. "I think about it sometimes but it's not where I'm focused. We're a tight team and we're playing together."

* This is either a sign of how far high school football has evolved or a sign of the apocalypse. Class A California went 21 consecutive plays with calling a run. The passing game worked as the Trojans picked up a key win over Carmichaels in the Tri-County South.

Quarterback T.D. Conway, one of the area's better baseball players, went 20 of 36 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

* With its shutout of McGuffey, Belle Vernon – Trinity's next opponent – has allowed 14 points through two games. Considering the Leopards played Hopewell and its sensational junior running back Rushel Shell in Week 1, it's an impressive number.

* Beth-Center's Jeff Tarley has eight touchdowns through two games. Eight.

* Here's a statistical oddity – Burgettstown has scored all 20 of its points this season in the final 2:14 of the games. The Blue Devils scored on the final play of a 10-6 loss at Deer Lakes.

* Several top players were out this week. Chartiers Valley played without Wayne Capers (and lost). West Allegheny is without Mike Caputo (and won). Woodland Hills is without Lafayette Pitts (and dropped to 0-2).

Another significant injury is at Charleroi. The Cougars, with barely over 30 players were minus tailback Quentin Briggs during Friday's loss at Brownsville, which dropped the Cougars to a disappointing 0-2 in the Interstate Conference.

Briggs, one of the tougher runners I've seen in recent years, isn't as well known as the previously mentioned players but, judging from results, it can be debated that he's as valuable to his team.

* Ringgold registered one of its better wins recently with a 37-9 smackdown of Hampton. Quad Law, mentioned on this blog as this year's breakout player, ran for two touchdowns and Demetrius Louis, who Ringgold followers said to look for, also had a touchdown run.

The Rams are 2-0 entering Keystone Conference play and will face one of the longest road trips imaginable for a regular season football game when it plays at WPIAL newcomer Hollidaysburg.

And head coach Matt Humbert has yet to lose in four games as coach. The Rams have scored 30-plus points in each game.

* It might be time to bolster expectations for Trinity, Chartiers-Houston, Ringgold, California and Jefferson-Morgan.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Golden Bear's grandson suspended for 2 games

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The grandson of Jack Nicklaus — one of the nation’s top football recruits — was suspended for two games by Florida officials for making an obscene gesture toward the stands after a game in Ohio.
Nick O’Leary, a tight end for Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer in Florida, could have faced as much as a six-week suspension for an “unsportsmanlike act,” the Florida High School Athletic Association said Thursday.
O’Leary was disciplined after Dwyer played Cleveland Glenville High on Monday, a game Glenville won 26-22. Television replays showed Dwyer, the reigning Florida Class 4A champions, twice scored what should have been a go-ahead touchdown in the final moments. Replays of a third possible touchdown on a quarterback sneak were inconclusive.
The suspension was first reported by the Palm Beach Post.
The newspaper said Dwyer coach Jack Daniels planned to have his team forfeit the two games instead of playing without O’Leary. However, that would make Dwyer ineligible for state tournament play if it qualified, the FHSAA said Thursday. The FHSAA declined further comment because Dwyer has not canceled either of its next two games.
Late in Monday’s game, officials ruled a Dwyer receiver was out of bounds and not in the end zone on the first debated play, despite replays showing otherwise. The other two plays were runs near the goal line, including one on the final play of the game.
O’Leary gestured as his team was leaving the field. Television cameras captured the act and have replayed it.
O’Leary had nine catches for 152 yards in the game with a touchdown. He’s considering Miami, Florida State and Alabama, among other schools.

Legends of the Fall, Chapter 5

Charleroi High School is one of three area schools with a football team that has won 500-plus games. (Monessen and Washington are members of the 600-win club.) The Cougars are 522-389-60 since starting football in 1905. The list of legends to have played at Charleroi Stadium, which is supposed to be in its last year, is extraordinary.

One of those players is Carl Aschman, a Charleroi graduate who was a tough-as-nails center. Aschman landed at Washington & Jefferson College, where he earned All-East honors and played in the 1929 East-West Shrine Game.

That same year, Aschman was hired as the football coach at California High School and it was in the coaching profession where Aschman truly made his mark. He coached California from 1929-33 before coaching at Brownsville from 1934-40. In 1940, Brownsville won the WPIAL Class AAA title. From there, Aschman moved to Aliquippa where his name remains part of the Quips mighty mystique.

From 1941 to 1964, Aschman coached Aliquippa to a 189-88-10 record with WPIAL titles in 1952, 1956 and 1964.

A month after Aschman's death in 1971, Aliquippa named its stadium after the coach. To this day, "The Pit" still bears Aschman's name.

Week 2 picks

In this same space one week ago, this fearless prognosticator of WPIAL football received some serious ribbing for selecting Washington over Clairton. That pick didn't turn out so well and gave this column a dubious debut.

Seeking help, I consulted a myriad of self-help gurus. Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Oprah all laughed at the request.

The search continued.

Talked to Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt who said," Always take the conservative approach playing on the road."

Talked to West Virginia coach Bill Stewart near midnight early in the week and he offered, "Geez whiz, you asking me to even think about high school football when we're playing the best Marshall team we've ever faced? Can't help you anyway, it's time for another practice."

Finally, after much reflection, there's only one way to help and that's improve on last week's pathetic 3-3 record.

And, don't worry Bears fans, this prognosticator won't pick against your squad again. We're only looking for competitive games here.

Beaver Falls (1-0, 1-0) at Aliquippa (1-0, 1-0)
As this former reporter from the Beaver County Times can attest, any time these two traditional powerhouses clash, it is newsworthy. This game will be televised live tonight by FSN.

There won't be a game played in Class AA this season with more talent on the field but picking against the Quips at The Pit (one of the WPIAL's great venues) is not wise. Aliquippa, 27-22.

Chartiers Valley (0-0, 0-1) at Trinity (0-0, 1-0)
The Colts gave up 35 points to Montour in the first half last week before a stirring comeback fell short. Chartiers Vallley's offense has given the Hillers fits in recent years, winning three straight in the series. Trinity, with Brad Martin, Pat Frey and Mike Cleveland, already looks better on offense than it did last year but it might not be enough to keep up with the Colts. Chartiers Valley, 35-31.

Central Valley (0-0, 1-0) at West Allegheny (0-0, 1-0)
Did anyone think the merger of Center and Monaca would fail to field a competitive football team? Central Valley looked the part in Week 1. This week, it gets the defending WPIAL Class AAA champs minus Wisconsin recruit Mike Caputo, who suffered a severe ankle injury last week. That makes this one a lot closer, but ... West Allegheny, 17-10.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic (0-0, 1-0) at Bethel Park (0-0, 1-0)
Hmmm, another Taglianetti blocking punts for PCC? Imagine if those brothers all played at South Fayette. The Vikings notched a high-profile win against Akron Buchtel last week. Bethel Park, meanwhile, continues to plug along, winning games at an alarming rate and doing so without much fanfare. The potential for an upset is there. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 24-21.

Hopewell (0-0, 1-0) at Montour (0-0, 1-0)
Rushel Shell led the Vikings to a tough victory at Belle Vernon, a team that should be a factor in the Big Eight Conference. Can the junior do it again this week? Montour looked outstanding during the first half against Chartiers Valley then produced three first downs after halftime. Two teams coming off confidence-building victories. Montour, 27-14.

Carmichaels (0-0, 1-0) at California (1-0, 1-0)
This prognosticator doesn't see how any Class A team in the WPIAL has a nice home facility than California. And the Trojans looked nice in dispatching Mapletown last week. The T.D. Conway to Dakota Conway connection could be the most potent in the Tri-County South Conference. Carmichaels, on the other hand, likes to run the football and Zach Mundell rushed for three scores last week. Carmichaels, 26-20.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Associated Press state rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from the Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Friday, December 11, 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. Ridley (1) 1-0 2
2. La Salle College HS (P) (12) 1-0 9
3. Woodland Hills (7) 0-1 3
4. Cumberland Valley (3) 1-0 4
5. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 1-0 5
6. North Allegheny (7) 1-0 7
7. Easton (11) 1-0 8
8. North Penn (1) 0-1 1
9. Downingtown East (1) 0-1 6
10. Neshaminy (1) 1-0 10
Teams to watch: Bethel Park (7) 1-0, Gateway (7) 0-1, Harrisburg (3) 1-0, McDowell (10) 1-0, Mount Lebanon (7) 1-0, Roman Catholic (12) 1-0, Wilson (3) 1-0.

1. Allentown C.C. (11) 1-0 1
2. Bishop McDevitt (3) 1-0 4
3. Thomas Jefferson (7) 0-1 3
4. West Allegheny (7) 1-0 2
5. Archbishop Wood (12) 1-0 5
6. Pottsgrove (1) 1-0 6
7. Manheim Central (3) 1-0 7
8. Montour (7) 1-0 8
9. Susquehanna Twp. (3) 1-0 10
10. Abington Heights (2) 1-0 NR
Teams to watch: Berwick (2) 1-0, Cardinal OHara (12) 1-0, Cathedral Prep (10) 0-1, Chartiers Valley (7) 0-1, Clearfield (9) 1-0, Hopewell (7) 1-0, Interboro (1) 1-0, North Pocono (2) 1-0.

1. Lancaster Catholic (P) (3) 1-0 1
2. Greensburg C.C. (7) 1-0 2
3. Aliquippa (7) 1-0 4
4. North Schuylkill (11) 1-0 5
5. South Fayette (7) 1-0 6
6. West Catholic (12) 0-1 3
7. Forest Hills (6) 1-0 7
8. Tyrone (6) 1-0 8
9. Keystone Oaks (7) 1-0 9
10. Northern Lehigh (11) 1-0 10
Teams to watch: Beaver Falls (7) 1-0, Central Martinsburg (6) 0-1, General McLane (10), 0-1, Lewisburg (4) 1-0, Loyalsock Twp. (4) 1-0, Mt. Carmel (4) 1-0, Wilmington (10) 1-0.

1. Clairton (P) (7) 1-0 2
2. Dunmore (2) 0-1 1
3. Rochester (7) 1-0 3
4. Southern Columbia (4) 1-0 4
5. Springdale (7) 1-0 6
6. Mercyhurst Prep (10) 1-0 9
7. Steelton-Highspire (3) 1-0 7
8. Bellwood-Antis (6) 0-1 5
9. Farrell (10) 1-0 NR
10. Sharpsville (10) 1-0 NR
Teams to watch: Beth-Center (7) 1-0, Bishop McCort (6) 0-1, Line Mountain (4) 0-1, Marian Catholic (11) 1-0, North Catholic (7) 0-1, Riverside (2) 1-0, Schuylkill Haven (11) 1-0.

(P)-PIAA champion. Number in parentheses is PIAA district. Produced by Mike Bullock, Eric Epler and Andy Shay.

Frisco's state rankings

Bethel Park was a big mover in Class AAAA, while Clairton moved into the top spot in Class A. For some reason, the version of Blogger this site is on won't permit a file download so here's the copy and paste version of Rod Frisco's state rankings.

For more Frisco, visit

Rank School (District) Record Ranking Last week's
result Next opponent
1. Ridley (1) 1-0 2 W,Coatesville, 27-20 Lower Merion (0-1), Friday, home
Comments: Definitely did not have that No. 1 sheen in a tight win
over Coatesville. But it might turn out that Coatesville is a pretty decent
team. Up to No. 1 . for now.
2. Cumberland Valley (3) 1-0 4 W,Red Lion, 45-6 Central York (0-1), Friday, away
Comments: Plays the part of state-ranked team quite well with more
than 400 yards of offense, outmuscling inferior foe.
3. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7) 1-0 5 W,Akron (O.) Buchtel, 35-6 AAAA No. 5 Bethel Park (1-0, Friday,
Comments: Two blocked punts by Louis Taglianetti leads to Central
Catholic scores and surprisingly easy win over Buchtel. Road trip to Bethel
a test.
4. La Salle College HS (12) 1-0 7 W, Lansdale North Penn, 27-14 Bergen (NJ) Catholic (0-0),
Saturday, away
Comments: Superb 2nd half effort by Explorers (outscored North Penn
21-0 for 27-14 win). Another big test upcoming against Bergen Catholic and
QBTrevor McEvoy.
5. Bethel Park (7) 1-0 8 W,Kiski Area, 48-20 AAAA No. 3 Pittsburgh Cent. Cath.
(1-0, Friday, home)
Comments: Three touchdown runs by star Bre' Ford gives Bethel Park a
good start and a jump to No. 5. Win sets up serious WPIAL second-week
6. Easton (11) 1-0 NR W,Pennsbury, 34-13 Nazareth (1-0), Friday, home
Comments: Easton QB Justin Pacchioli accounts for 290 yards and
rushedsfor three touchdowns . and he's going to college for baseball.
7. Lansdale North Penn (1) 0-1 1 L,La Salle College HS, 27-14 Lansdale Catholic (1-0), Friday,
Comments: Four turnovers and some really disturbing mental mistakes,
including some from the sideline for NP. But there's still plenty to like
about the Knights.
8. Woodland Hills (7) 0-1 3 L,Manatee (FL), 39-16 AAAA HM North Hills (1-0), Friday,
Comments: Can't beat up the Wolverines too much. Has
nationally-ranked team on ropes for a while, then loses top player Lafayette
9. Downingtown East (1) 0-1 6 L,Allentown Central Catholic, 30-21 Norristown (1-0), Friday, away
Comments: Downingtown East gins up a nice rally after falling behind
24-7, but ACC closes out Cougars. Still a 1-AAAA threat, IMHO.
10. Wilson (3) 1-0 9 W,
Governor Mifflin, 21-14 AAA No. 8 Manheim Central (1-0), Friday,
Comments: Oops. Bulldogs show some flaws, need a last-play
interception to secure win over scrappy Mifflin. Must play cleaner on

Honorable mention: Bayard Rustin (1) 1-0, Central Dauphin (3) 1-0, Freedom
(11) 1-0, Gateway (7) 0-1, George Washington (12) 0-1, Harrisburg (3) 1-0,
McDowell (7) 1-0, McKeesport (7) 0-1, Neshaminy (1) 1-0, North Allegheny
(7)1-0, North Hills (7) 1-0, Roman Catholic (12) 1-0, St. Joseph's Prep (12)

CLASS AAA Previous
Rank School (District) Record Ranking Last week's
result Next opponent
1. Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt (3) 1-0 1 W,Gateway, 23-0 AAAA HM Central Dauphin (1-0), Friday, away
Comments: The preseason focus was on McDevitt's Division I
backfield. We should have been focused on that defensive front 7. Gateway
net yardage: 94.
2. Allentown Central Catholic (11) 1-0 2 W,Downingtown East, 30-21 AAAA HM Freedom (1-0), Saturday, home
Comments: There's a reason ACC junior QB Brendan Nosovitch gets a
lot of notice: 362 yards of offense against a quality AAAA team in this
3. Archbishop Wood (12) 1-0 4 W,Quakertown, 38-23 Chestnut Hill Academy (0-0),
Saturday, away
Comments: How about Brandon Peoples rushing for more yards (130)
than the more famous Desmon Peoples (74 yards) in win over the Q?
4. Abington Heights (2) 1-0 6 W,Hazleton, 51-7 Wyoming Valley West (1-0), Saturday, home
Comments: Sweet Mother of Mary! Heights yields opening score after
fumbling opening kick , then mashes Hazleton like a tortilla. 522 yards for
5. Montour (7) 1-0 9 W,Chartiers Valley, 35-28 AAA HM Hopewell (1-0), Friday, home
Comments: Looks like that transfer of Julian Durden from North
Catholic is working out well: Four touchdowns and 174 yards. Montour led
35-7 before CV rally.
6. Pottsgrove (1) 1-0 8 W,Jules Mastbaum, 49-6 Pope John Paul II (0-1), Friday,
Comments: "Our tackling was terrible, our fundamentals were
terrible," said Pottsgrove HC Rick Pennypacker. That would make Mastbaum
7. West Allegheny (7) 1-0 3 W,South Park, 41-0 Central Valley (1-0), Friday, home
Comments: I swore I wouldn't say anything about WA's Mike Caputo
this week. Then he dislocates and fractures his left ankle 8 minutes into
the season. Sigh.
8. Manheim Central (3) 1-0 NR W,Lower Dauphin, 47-10 AAAA No. 10 Wilson (1-0), Friday,
Comments: Wasn't sure exactly where Barons stood. A 37-point win
over OK LD team helps. A win over Wilson would help even more.
9. Berwick (2) 1-0 NR W,Crestwood, 32-14 AAA HM North Pocono (1-0), Friday,
Comments: Berick trails Crestwood in the middle of the third
quarter, turns on jets after that. Needs a more consistent effort against
dangerous North Pocono.
10. Chartiers Valley (7) 0-1 7 L,Montour, 35-28 Washington Trinity (1-0), Friday, away
Comments: Slow start against Montour dooms Char Valley, but CV QB
Wayne Capers still chucks it for 339 yards. Colts remain dangerous.

Honorable mention: Cardinal O'Hara (12) 1-0, Berwick (2) 1-0, Cathedral Prep
(10) 0-1, Clearfield (9) 1-0, Hopewell (7) 1-0, Interboro (1) 1-0, Monsignor
Bonner (12) 1-0, New Castle (7) 1-0, Oil City (10) 1-0, Susquehanna Twp. (3)
1-0, Thomas Jefferson (7) 0-1, West York (3) 1-0, Wilson Area (11) 1-0.

CLASS AA Previous
Rank School (District) Record Ranking Last week's
result Next opponent
1. Lancaster Catholic (3) 1-0 1 W,Camp Hill Trinity, 35-7 Landisville Hempfield (0-1), Friday,home
Comments: Catholic QB John Roda, replacing the spectacular Kyle
Smith, complets his first 11 passes for 202 yards and 4 TDs. Then he misses
his last 11.
2. Greensburg Central Catholic (7) 1-0 3 W,Waynesburg Central, 48-0 Southmoreland (1-0), Saturday, home
Comments: GCC picks up where it left in WPIAL play, blasting
Waynesburg and getting 149 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Andy Biros.
3. West Catholic (12) 0-1 2 L,Roman Catholic, 23-14 AAA HM Monsignor Bonner (1-0),
Friday, neutral
Comments: A slow start (down 21-0) dooms the Burrs down in Wildwood.
Saw photos of the game on West's website. Looks like they played in
someone's back yard.
4. Aliquippa (7) 1-0 4 W,Laurel, 31-6 AA HM Beaver Falls (1-0), Friday,
Comments: Aliquippa veteran QB Mikal Hall goes 10-of-13, 3 TDs, 146
yards. Qup boss Mike Zmijanic sez: "If he's not good, I'm playing the wrong
guy." We love Smee.
5. North Schuylkill (11) 1-0 5 W,Shenandoah Valley, 43-0 Minersville (0-1), Friday, away
Comments: Spartans enact the mercy rule early third quarter, should
continue trend against outmanned Minersville on Friday.
6. South Fayette (7) 1-0 7 W,West Mifflin, 28-6 Summit Academy (1-0), Saturday, away
Comments: The steady hand of QB Christian Brumbaugh leads Lions
again: 17 of 28 for 240 yards and three of SF's four touchdowns..
7. Forest Hills (6) 1-0 8 W, Bedford, 41-6 Richland (0-1), Friday, away
Comments: Forest Hills QB Justin Gdula cranks out four touchdown
passes against the baffled Bisons.
8. Tyrone (6) 1-0 9 W, Tyrone, 36-13 Lewistown (0-1), Friday, home
Comments: The Backyard Brawl goes to the Golden Eagles, extending
its series lead over Bellwood-Antis to 50-26-1. If only BA can win its next
24 games vs. Tyrone.
9. Northern Lehigh (11) 1-0 NR W,Notre Dame, 42-0 AAA HM Wilson Area (1-0), Saturday,
Comments: The Bulldogs didn't expect to have problems with Notre
Dame and didn't. Now Wilson Area . that's a different story..
10. Keystone Oaks (7) 1-0 NR W,Ambridge 34-7 Burrell (1-0), Friday, home
Comments: Keystone Oaks leads by just a touchdown going into the
fourth quarter, then dumps 20 straight points on Ambridge. Voila! "Easy"

Honorable mention: Beaver Falls (7) 1-0, Bloomsburg (4) 1-0, Brockway (9)
1-0, Delone Catholic (3) 1-0, General McLane (10) 0-1, Hickory (10) 1-0,
Lewisburg (4) 1-0, Loyalsock Township (4) 1-0, Martinsburg Central (6) 0-1,
Mount Carmel (4) 1-0, Wilmington (10) 1-0.

CLASS A Previous
Rank School (District) Record Ranking Last week's
result Next opponent
1. Clairton (7) 1-0 2 W,Washington, 41-0 Western Beaver (1-0), Friday, home
Comments: From the Pittsburgh Trib: "I just don't know who is going
to beat that team," Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. "Wow." Prexies has 0
first downs.
2. Dunmore (2) 0-1 1 L,North Pocono, 10-8 E.L. Meyers (1-0), Friday, away
Comments: Sure, Dunmore loses on a last-minute fied goal. But the
Bucks go toe-to-toe with a AAA stud, and in these rankings, that means
3. Rochester (7) 1-0 3 W,Serra Catholic, 35-0 Fort Cherry (0-1), Friday, home
Comments: Re Coach Bosnic's comments above: Well, on second thought,
maybe Rochester.
4. Southern Columbia (4) 1-0 4 W,Line Mountain, 49-20 Montoursville (1-0), Friday, away
Comments: A 20-0 first-quarter deficit means nothing to Southern
Columbia. The Tigers laugh at 20-0 deficits!
5. Steelton-Highspire (3) 1-0 5 W,Halifax, 33-22 Middletown (0-1), Friday, away
Comments: A win is a win, but Rollers acknowledge some concern after
Halifax, which has lost 16 of last 17, stays with Rollers. 255 rushing for
Clayton McNair, though.
6. Springdale (7) 1-0 6 W,Pittsburgh North Catholic, 20-6 Avonworth (0-1), Friday, away
Comments: 75-year-old Springdale HC Chuck Wagner just keeps on
coaching and keeps on winning.
7. Sharpsville (10) 1-0 7 W, Eisenhower, 60-0 Seneca (1-0), Friday, home
Comments: Sharpsville lives up to its name, racking up 527 yards
against a dead president. Wait, that's just juvenile and completely
8. Taylor Riverside (2) 1-0 8 W,West Scranton, 32-19 Holy Cross (0-1), Friday, home
Comments: Last week's game was never close - Riverside led 32-7 -
and we doubt that this week's game will be any different.
9. Mercyhurst Prep (10) 1-0 10 W,Mercer, 24-0 Iroquois (0-1), Saturday, home
Comments: Yeah, the Lakers weren't too happy about Mercer ending
their season last year early in playoffs. So only a shutout would do.
10. Farrell (10) 1-0 NR W,Sharon, 24-7 Kennedy Catholic (0-1), Friday, home
Comments: No first downs in the first half, yet a 12-0 lead. No
extra-point conversions. One pass completion. And Farrell swats archrival
Sharon by 17. Love this sport.

Honorable mention: Bellwood-Antis (6) 0-1, Coudersport (9) 1-0, Farrell (10)
1-0, Line Mountain (4) 0-1, Marian Catholic (11) 1-0, North Catholic (7)
0-1, North Star (5) 1-0, Schuylkill Haven (11) 1-0

Monday, September 6, 2010

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
Team Record
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 1-0, beat Akron (Ohio) Buchtel 35-6.
2. Woodland Hills 0-1, lost to Manatee (Fla.) 39-16.
3. Mt. Lebanon 1-0, beat Pine-Richland 34-22.
4. Bethel Park 1-0, beat Kiski Area 40-22.
5. North Allegheny 1-0, beat State College 42-7.

Class AAA
Team Record
1. West Allegheny 1-0, beat South Park 41-0.
2. Montour 1-0, beat Chartiers Valley 35-28.
3. Thomas Jefferson 0-1, lost to Cocoa (Fla.) 43-7.
4. Hopewell 1-0, beat Belle Vernon 14-7.
5. New Castle 1-0, beat Butler 25-0.

Class AA
Team Record
1. Greensburg C.C. 1-0, beat Waynesburg 48-0.
2. Aliquippa 1-0, beat Laurel 31-6.
3. South Fayette 1-0, beat West Mifflin 28-6.
4. Keystone Oaks 1-0, beat Ambirdge 34-7.
5. Beaver Falls 1-0, beat Mohawk 41-6.

Class A
Team Record
1. Clairton 1-0, beat Washington 41-0.
2. Rochester 1-0, beat Serra Catholic 35-0.
3. Beth-Center 1-0, beat Frazier 33-0.
4. Sto-Rox 1-0, beat South Allegheny 35-14.
5. Springdale 1-0, beat North Catholic 20-6.

Texas power scores 80

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The No. 1 high school football team in Texas scored 80 points at Cowboys Stadium — again.
Euless Trinity routed six-time Arkansas state champion Shiloh Christian 80-26 on Monday. Both schools are among the nation’s top high school teams. They played in the first of four Labor Day games at the NFL home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Last November at Cowboys Stadium, Trinity beat Flower Mound won 80-27 in a first-round playoff game and went on to capture its third state title in five years.
That was the most points by an 11-man team in the Texas prep playoffs since 1941. The record is 124 by Waco in a 1927 game.
Trinity had 708 total yards against Shiloh and scored on all but one possession. The Trojans had 10 rushing touchdowns, including two each by Terrence Tusan and Tevin Williams.
Tusan and Williams both ran for more than 100 yards even without carrying the ball after halftime, when Trinity led 53-20.

Week In Review, Opening Weekend

Team of the Week – Burgettstown
Coming off back-to-back 4-6 seasons the past two years in Class A, Burgettstown made the move up to Class AA this year with tempered expectations, a scant 28 players on its roster and only four seniors.

The Blue Devils opened their season Friday night at home against neighboring rival South Side Beaver, which always contends for a Class An playoff spot and a team that beat Burgettstown in the past two season openers.

The Rams took a 7-0 lead with eight seconds left in the third quarter on Luke Shaffer's six-yard run and that lead held up into the final three minutes of the game.

Many young teams with limited rosters might fold, Burgettstown rallied.

Mike LaRocka, a 6-1 junior running back and a first-year starter, got the Blue Devils with 7-6 after a 23-yard run with 2:14 left but the conversion failed.

With time running out, Burgettstown was at its own 15 and went 985 yards in only four plays, capped by LaRocka's 22-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Dupain with 14 seconds left.

Runner-up – Trinity

Starting 11
Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette
Mike Cleveland, Trinity
T.D. Conway, California
Mykel Dorsey, Chartiers-Houston
Sal Faieta, Beth-Center
Derrick Fiore, Ringgold
Mike LaRocka, Burgettstown
Kyle McWreath, Trinity
Zach Mundell, Carmichaels
Jeff Tarley, Beth-Center
Derrick Whipkey, McGuffey
First sub
Josh Patterson, South Fayette

Game of the Week – McGuffey 20, Laurel Highlands 16
Like Burgettstown, McGuffey faced a move up in classification this year after losing 18 seniors who contributed heavily to the Highlanders' second-place finish in the Interstate Conference a year ago.

One player McGuffey returned was quarterback Derrick Whipkey, and the shifty runner scored three touchdowns to give the Highlanders a road win against a Class AAA team. Whipkey's 42-yard run with 2:34 remaining put McGuffey ahead to stay. He rushed for 136 yards on 13 carries.

Weird, wild stuff – Anyone else think that the graduation of Thomas Hairston would mean the Chartiers-Houston pass rush would take a hit? The Bucs finished with five quarterbacks sacks in a win at Union. … Charleroi led Mt. Pleasant in a key early season game in the Interstate Conference before Quentin Briggs and Kyle Shannon were injured. The Vikings rallied to win, 20-13. … Clairton was not penalized for a personal foul in its win at Washington.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday night thoughts, first edition

Thoughts on the first Friday night of high school football as I wipe egg off my face ...

Clairton's 41-0 win at Wash High was the most physically dominating and brutal performance I've witnessed in any sport. I watched it and I'm still not sure it's sunk in that Wash High failed to get a first down or generate positive yards.

Wash High could literally do nothing. Every play was swarmed by Clairton's suffocating defense.

Amazing. And a first in my career.

* Desimon Green, Clairton's excellent quarterback/defensive end and a Pitt recruit, expressed his genuine surprise after the game at the tilted results but, as he put it, "We may only have 30 guys and they probably have 60, but, out on the field, it's our 11 against their 11."

Even a few Clairton people who spoke with my colleague Josh Yohe of the McKeesport Daily News were a bit stunned at the lopsided victory.

* If Clairton did this to Washington, what's that mean for the Black Hills Conference?

Prediction? Pain.

Before Clairton goes all Clubber Lang on the rest of its regular season schedule, it's time to consider something one anonymous poster typed this morning.

Someone suggested Clairton might not give up a point during the regular season. Unbeaten and unscored upon has only happened a handful of times in WPIAL history (if memory serves, I believe Wash High did so back in the 1920s or 1930s, historians help me out here).

There's no reason to think Clairton doesn't have a chance to accomplish this rare feat, no matter how difficult it will be.

I just don't see how any Class A team in the Western side of Pennsylvania has a chance against Clairton.

* After the opening week, time to temper expectations for three teams - Peters Township, Washington and Fort Cherry.

* I didn't cover Trinity as much last year as I have in previous seasons but I can't remember hearing Mike Cleveland's name until basketball season.

After Cleveland tore through Canon-McMillan with a brilliant offensive/defensive/special teams performance, anyone else wondering how this 6-6 senior wasn't a featured player before?

* Speaking of the Hillers, if this truly is Ed Dalton's last season as coach, something Dalton has said on the record because he believes he'll be fired, expect Trinity to have a blast.

Dalton has his share of detractors but the vast majority of his players, past and present, are fiercely loyal. When I interviewed Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat last week, he mentioned how he'll continue to show up for any Dalton rallies if needed and called the coach "a second father figure."

Following Trinity's win at Canon-Mac, the Hillers ran over and rang the bell at Memorial Stadium. Dalton, the rare head coach who has earned the label of "go-to guy" in the media, joined in on the jog to the bell.

* Go-to guys are the ones reporters always look to talk to after a game or for a story. Dalton follows in the tradition of people like former Steelers safety Lee Flowers. You just never know what's going to be said and chance are it's going to be honest and funny.

* Three of the area's top players - South Fayette's Christian Brumbaugh, Ringgold's Derrick Fiore and Beth-Center's Jeff Tarley - got off to fantastic starts.

* Nice last-minute wins for Burgettstown and McGuffey. Not sure how either team will fare moving up in classification this year but there's plenty of reason to celebrate in both communities this weekend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Games of the Week - Week 1

College football kicked off tonight (currently watching Andrew Sweat and Ohio State beat Marshall) and the WPIAL season starts Friday. For some, that means the start of the conference season. For others, it means a non-challenging non-conference game. For Wash High, it means Clairton.

Clairton at Washington, Wash High Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

The most typed-about game at The Varsity Letters this week is also the best the area has to offer to kick off the 2010 season.

There's going to be athletes everywhere. Clairton's Desimon Green, a Pitt recruit, plays quarterback and defensive end with some of the same results Terrelle Pryor enjoyed at Jeannette. Carvan Thompson, Brandon Small and Josh Page are just a small handful of talented players at Clairton. Washington counters with Zach Barnes, Julien Anderson, Austin Phillips and Joe Phillips among others.

And, by the way, Clairton is 30-2 the past two years and are defending Class A state champs.

Trinity at Canon-McMillan, Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

This annual clash usually generates more hype but the absence of Big Ten Conference recruits on the field won't take away from the way these rivals look at each other.

Canon-McMillan, with alumnus Tim Sohyda in his first year as head coach, has just eight returning lettermen. One of them is receiver Alec Schram, who torched the Hillers a year ago. No matter how many new faces the Big Macs have, they always seem to play their best against Trinity.

Hillers head coach Ed Dalton found himself in the headlines throughout the offseason, now Dalton, in his 12th year at Trinity, hopes his players make their own. Some of those players did at the end of 2009 when Trinity rebounded from a 1-5 start to win its final three and make the playoffs.

Mt. Pleasant at Charleroi
These two teams concluded the 2009 regular season against each other and start this year's Interstate Conference slate this year.

There might be more familiarity if Mt. Pleasant had more than one returning starter. The lack of experience doesn't mean the Vikings won't be competitive. Most believe Mt. Pleasant, with its wing-T offense, will make a return to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Charleroi just missed the postseason last year as it lost to Washington and Mt. Pleasant in consecutive weeks. Quarterback Tommy Thorpe, running backs Quentin Briggs and Cory Altemara along with the versatile Kyle Shannon give the Cougars are strong base to make its first playoff appearance since 2004.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 1 Picks

The Varsity Letters searched throughout the WPIAL – from the Alle-Kiski Valley to Western Beaver to West Greene to Laurel Highlands, – and beyond looking for someone willing to make fearless predictions on the top games throughout the district.

TVL couldn't find anyone with a catchy nickname like The Rumbler or The Wedgebuster or The Jolt.

Saturated Fats, the long-time, anonymous prognosticator for the Observer-Reporter, asked for too much money then wanted a lifetime membership to Cici's Pizza. Both requests were denied.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was approached but he wanted to delegate writing responsibilities to his assistant coaches while still getting the byline.

Finally, after weeks of searching, TVL found its man. Yours truly. Each week, we'll offer up a serving of Kovak's fearless prognostications.

Conference games
Mount Pleasant at Charleroi – The Vikings won the rugged Interstate Conference a year ago and took a 10-0 record into the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals before Keystone Oaks knocked them out. Mt. Pleasant returns one starter from that team. Charleroi returns Quentin Briggs, Kyle Shannon and Cory Altemara. Charleroi, 21-3.

North Catholic at Springdale – According to readers of this blog, I overrated North Catholic in my WPIAL Class A preseason rankings, while publishers of statewide rankings overrated Springdale. The Dynamos have the experience. Always take experience early in the season (except for a game yet to be mentioned). Springdale, 19-14.

Non-conference games
Chartiers Valley at Montour – Colts quarterback Wayne Capers is back and CV always plays well early in the season. Montour returns a ton of talent from a team that went 5-5. I'm going with Capers. Chartiers Valley, 28-20.

Clairton at Washington – Remember the adage "always take experience early in the season?" Well, Clairton returns a loaded team that won the PIAA Class A title last year. This year's Bears might be better. With only five seniors, Washington will rely on unproven underclassmen at several key positions. Something tells me that Washington won't be the least bit intimidated by Clairton and something tells me the Bears are in for an upset. Washington, 17-12.

State College at North Allegheny – State College reached the PIAA Class AAAA title game out of District 6 a year ago. The Little Lions always seem to find their way into the state tournament. NA has some injuries, but the Tigers are in the conversation for WPIAL championship contenders. North Allegheny, 28-10.

Manatee (Fla.) at Woodland Hills – Woody High should be the class of the WPIAL once again but did anybody see Manatee manhandle Plant on national television last weekend? I did. Manatee 35, Woodland Hills 7.

AP story on Mike Caputo

The Associated Press sports wire is overflowing with bios and short stories on various senior football players throughout the country. This is the first I came across about a WPIAL player.

ALLEGHENY (AP) — When Mike Caputo transferred to West Allegheny from a rival school before his junior year, he was joining a team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs the prior season.
The Indians promptly won a district Class AAA title and made a state semifinal appearance.
As much as Caputo’s 2,615 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns had to do with that, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said the 6-foot-1 1/2, 205-pound running back/linebacker’s intangibles were just as instrumental in the team’s turnaround.
“One of his best qualities is raising the level of play and raising expectations,” Palko said. “He’s gotten the kids to buy into things and believe in things they didn’t before.”
Caputo said he wants to try to get everyone to buy into becoming a team and working toward accomplishing the same goal.
Caputo, on The Associated Press East Region 25 list of top recruits, chose Wisconsin over Ohio State, Penn State and Pitt. He was recruited as an athlete and was told he will ultimately play at strong safety. Initially, Caputo’s skills lend themselves as an ideal special teams player.
The Badgers, No. 12 in the Top 25 preseason poll, are getting a back who has developed a reputation as a heady player with a toughness that allows him to play bigger than his size.
“I like competition; I like seeing how far I can go,” Caputo said. “If somebody’s doing something I think I can do myself, I want to go out and do that. I want to go see how fast I can do that, how high I can jump. I just like to compete.”
Palko gushed over the way Caputo conducts himself off the field, mentioning his work with the Special Olympics, for example. On the field, it’d be hard to top his junior season be it the district title or the run at 3,000 rushing yards.
“The neatest thing about him is it’s not about him; it’s just about West Allegheny,” Palko said. “He isn’t worried about the individual stuff he knows that will take care of itself. When you talk about a kid off the field, he’s very special. Now you’re talking about the total package. It’s kind of cool to be around.”

Legends of the Fall, Chapter 4

Born just before 1946 became 1947 and raised in Langeloth, Barry Alvarez was an outstanding football player at Burgettstown High School in the early 1960s under the direction of head coach Pat McGraw.

Enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame earlier this year and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, Alvarez is probably the only Burgettstown graduate with an ice cream flavor "Berry Alvarez" named after him.

Alvarez played for legendary Bob Daleny at Nebraska where he was a guard and linebacker from 1965-67, then worked as an assistant under Hayden Fry at Iowa and Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. Alvarez even coached high school football but made his biggest impact as head football coach at Wisconsin.

When he arrived in Madison in 1990, the Badgers hadn't been to a Rose Bowl since 1963 and the football program was losing money and games (36 over the previous four seasons) at an alarming rate.

In 1994, Alvarez snapped Wisconsin's long Rose Bowl drought and led the Badgers to a 21-16 victory against UCLA. He added two more Rose Bowl victories in 1999 and 2000 and took on the role of athletic director in 2004. After two years of handling both duties, Alvarez stepped down as coach with a record of 118-73-4.