Covering high school football can provide the occasional adventure. Just two weeks ago at Brentwood, the game story for Fort Cherry at Brentwood - a game that went to overtime - was written from the driver's seat of my vehicle while the car ran, with the radio tuned to MSA's post game scoreboard show and McDonald's only a few minutes away. The fast food restaurant provided the much-appreciated free wireless Internet connection to send the story to the guys at the office.
Last week's Beth-Center at Monessen game provided a different experience. Given the number of media covering the key Tri-County South Conference game (four newspapers and MSA), Monessen athletic director John Sacco did an excellent job of not only fitting everyone into the press box at historic Memorial Stadium, the accommodations were also outstanding. I got the opportunity to sit inside the Monessen coach's box and beside Greyhounds OC Jamie Reader, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles not that long ago.
Now, I've heard many coaches spew anger during games but I've never previously sat in the box with them during an entire game. It provided an intriguing experience. High school football coaches live in a frantic, high-pressure, head-scratching, high-reward world. At one point, Reader looked at me and said, "Isn't this crazy?" It sure was but it also made me realize just how many little mistakes are made in a game, even one that produces a win.
With a minute or two remaining and Monessen's victory secure, I made the long trek from the press box to the playing field for postgame interviews. Monessen's players deservedly basked in the glow of a hard-fought victory, one that few sports writers (myself included) predicted for them.
Among the others who did not was Valley Independent sports editor Brian Herman. He covered the Ringgold blowout win but that didn't stop the Greyhounds from chanting "Brian Herman" at the press box after the game.
As I watched from 10 yards away, I thought to myself, "I'm glad these guys have no idea who I am."
The Beth-Center at Monessen game was the lone incorrect pick for Kovak's fearless prognostications. The 5-1 mark upped my overall record to 27-9, a .75o win percentage.
Gateway (4-2) at Pittsburgh Central Catholic (6-0)
The Foothills Conference schedule provided Gateway an opportunity to steady itself following an 0-2 start. Now, the perennial powerful Gators venture outside the conference comforts again to play a Pittsburgh Central Catholic team that could be the best in Pennsylvania. Gateway scored seven points in a loss to Penn Hills earlier this season. PCC put up 35 against the Indians in a resounding win. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 35-21.
Trinity (4-2) at Thomas Jefferson (5-1)
Readers of this blog continue to state that Thomas Jefferson isn't as strong as usual. On-the-field results indicate otherwise as the Jaguars have dominated WPIAL competition. When fielding a healthy lineup, Trinity has not only been competitive, the Hillers have won. Trinity is healthy this week. Is this the year Trinity finally takes Thomas Jefferson into the final minutes of a football games. Hmmmmm ... Thomas Jefferson, 35-13.
Aliquippa (6-0) at Beaver (6-0)
Gypsy Glen Stadium will be packed for this Beaver County showcase game with the winner getting the inside edge on a valuable Midwestern Conference championship. The Quips have been nothing short of dominating as only Beaver Falls reached double digits in points against them. The Beavers are equally tough on the defensive side as they've allowed just one touchdown the past month. Aliquippa, 12-7.
Beth-Center (5-1) at Avonworth (5-1)
This game lost a little luster with the Bulldogs' loss last week but it remains an important game for both teams in terms of seeding for the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Beth-Center needs to shake off last week's disappointing offensive performance and gain some first downs against the Antelopes. The presence of Jeff Tarley could help if he plays. Avonworth hasn't allowed a point the past four games, including impressive shutouts over Riverview and North Catholic the past two weeks. Avonworth is looking like a top four seed. Avonworth, 20-13.
Jeannette (5-1) at Mt. Pleasant (4-2)
Anyone else have questions about the strength of the Interstate Conference? I sure do. Jeannette's lone loss came at Laurel, where the Jayhawks allowed 38 points to a three-win Laurel. Mt. Pleasant was mercy ruled at home by Ellwood City but only lost to top-ranked Greensburg Central Cathlolic, 7-0. One of these teams will host a first-round playoff game. Better hope they don't draw a team from the MAC. Jeannette, 33-20.
Steel Valley (4-2) at Keystone Oaks (5-1)
The Golden Eagles were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and the state rankings with last week's loss at South Fayette. The loss proved costly as senior running back/linebacker Jordan Maddox suffered knee injury and will not play in this one. Steel Valley running back Delrece Williams scored six touchdowns against Washington last week. Even without Maddox, Keystone Oaks is more stout than the Prexies. Keystone Oaks 21-14.