In Monday's edition of the Observer-Reporter, I'll offer my brackets for the upcoming WPIAL playoffs. For discussion purposes and for a small tease of the story, here's my Class A breakdown:
1 Clairton (9-0) vs. 16 Carmichaels (6-3);
2 Rochester (9-0) vs. 15 California (6-3);
3 Avonworth (8-1) vs. 14 Brentwood (7-2);
4 Springdale (8-1) vs. 13 Western Beaver (6-3);
5 Sto-Rox (7-2) vs. 12 North Catholic (6-3);
6 Monessen (8-1) vs. 11 Cornell (7-2);
7 Beth-Center (7-2) vs. 10 Chartiers-Houston (7-2);
8 Fort Cherry (5-4) vs. 9 Bishop Canevin (8-1).
* If the Bishop Canevin at Fort Cherry matchup happens (and I don't see any scenario where it doesn't), the Rangers need to find way to shore up the defensive backfield, even if it's a small tightening.
Bishop Canevin has a strong runner in Chris Walko but it's no secret that Fort Cherry is vulnerable to big pass plays. The last four times I've covered the Rangers the past two seasons, the opponent has attacked the secondary.
Chartiers-Houston did it early Friday night, but the Rangers had the talent to win in a shootout. It also helped that Tanner Garry picked off two passes and Tyreke Brown had another second-half interception.
Those interceptions can partly be attributed to Fort Cherry's decision to begin blitzing Bucs' quarterback Daniel Lis, who ran wild for most of three quarters.
* Speaking of Lis, the Bucs quarterback is an impressive football player and I thought he was the best player on the field at Jim Garry Stadium.
Just not by much.
Lis and Garry engaged in an exciting quarterback dual that resulted in a wild, up-and-down game where Fort Cherry rallied to score the final three touchdowns for a 48-40 victory.
The Rangers needed to win by five points to clinch second place.
Lis and Garry each rushed for 100-plus yards and passed for nearly 200. Lis tossed four touchdown passes - three to D.J. Denny - and Garry shrugged off a slow start passing for two key late touchdowns.
Garry's 56-yard touchdown pass to Nate Bellhy late in the third quarter put the Rangers ahead 41-40. For those who watched the play, about 15 other things could have happened before Garry spotted Bellhy uncovered 40 yards downfield.
Garry eluded the Bucs defense and scrambled toward the Rangers sideline before reversing directions and heading back toward the middle of the field. By that point, Bellhy was left uncovered and, somehow, Garry spotted him.
A fantastic play.
Until someone can actually hang with Clairton, the Bears are undoubtedly the favorite in the Black Hills Conference in 2011 but the play of Lis and Garry are encouraging signs for their respective teams.
* Chartiers-Houston finished the regular season 7-2 with two road losses and only four seniors.
* With four multi-year starters along the offensive line, Peters Township needed that unit to respond with a good game at Canon-McMillan.
They sure did.
Tackles Jon Allen and Nevin Hagman, guards Tyler Clark and Clayton Evans, center Boyd Jones and tight end Will McClure paved the way for Andrew Erenberg and Austin Hancock as the Indians rushed for 248 yards in a must-win over Canon-McMillan.
Erenberg rushed for 125 yards and scored four first-half touchdowns.
With the continued trend toward passing offenses at the high school level, it's good to see a team identify a strength, use the strength and keep the game-plan simple.
Sure, it's nice to have 1,000-yard passers to go with 1,000-yard rushers but there's still no easier way to beat a football team that to run the football effectively and repeatedly.
* Given the personnel, Avella believed its only chances for offensive success this season came throwing the football and quarterback Cameron Geresti along with freshman Kolton Kobrys quietly put together strong seasons.
Geresti passed for approximately 1,500 yards, which has to be a single-season school record, and Kobrys finished with 50-pus catches.
* Beth-Center is obviously a different football team when Jeff Tarley is healthy but the player that intrigues me is Deshan Brown.
Brown occasionally lines up in the backfield and sometime at receiver. When he touches the football, Brown often moves the first-down chains as his four catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns against Jefferson-Morgan indicates.
* Ringgold completed its undefeated regular season with a 40-7 win at Uniontown. Derrick Fiore topped 1,100 yards for the season and the Rams got their usual contributions from their large cast of characters.
Uniontown may not have a good record but this counts as an impressive win for the Rams.
Following last week's big win against Franklin Regional, Ringgold was primed for a letdown. The coaching staff ensured that wouldn't happen. In Matt Humbert's Gatorade-drenched postgame speech to his players, he congratulated them on the performance against Franklin Regional but his main message concerned Uniontown.
* The Varsity Letters would like to extend a sarcastic "Thank you" to the Charleroi football Team for not reporting any of its games to the Observer-Reporter this year. It continues to fathom me how teams (and Charleroi football isn't the only one) can't be bothered to spend five minutes calling in results from a game to earn a little extra recognition for their student-athletes.
Maybe I'll release a list of teams that never call in results someday. Then, readers may have an idea of why certain schools/teams rarely have Athletes of the Week, Players of the Week or feature stories done. Calling in results is essential to our coverage.
It's also tempting to relay a story of what recently happened to one of our stringers (a person hired by the paper to cover an event) at a local football game when he was confronted and accosted by a parent demanding coverage for his/her child in an inappropriate manner.
Note to parents, if you put reporters in a situation where we feel it is unsafe to cover a game at your place, we will be reluctant to come.