Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday night thoughts, opening round edition

Observations from the first Friday night of the postseason hours before emerging myself in "Super Soccer Saturday" at Elizabeth Forward High School.

Keystone Oaks' 20-16 victory over Greensburg Central Catholic did more than provide the rare No. 15 over No. 2 victory in the WPIAL playoffs - a feat Trinity accomplished against Penn Hills in 2005.

The Golden Eagles' impressive road win blew that side of the bracket wide open for South Fayette, a team predicted to win the WPIAL Class AA title on this site.

Granted, Greensburg Central Catholic wasn't playing up to the seeding it received the final month of the season but some of those Centurions were around last year when they won the WPIAL title as the 11th seed and advanced to the PIAA championship game.

Now, it sure looks like one of the great eras in South Fayette sports has a chance to add the area's most prestigious trophy to its ever-growing trophy case.

The Lions' 35-0 victory over Ellwood City is a testament to a defense playing without Nolan Spicer, perhaps the Lions' top two-way player. Spicer suffered a knee injury against Seton-La Salle but Erie Meyers, Nick Faraci and Tanner Courtad led a strong effort against an Ellwood City team that deserved better than a No. 14 seed.

Meyers and Faraci can be menacing defensive players at times and South Fayette will need continued play on that side of the football to achieve its goals. That said, with Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette both losing, South Fayette and Beaver Falls could be headed for a semifinal matchup.

* I've seen Monessen twice this season and the Greyhounds defense has been absolutely dominant in both victories. Against Beth-Center and Chartiers-Houston, two strong rushing offense, Monessen allowed a combined two first downs rushing.

That's one rushing first-down for Beth-Center and one rushing first-down for Chartiers-Houston.

Monessen will need a similar performance against crafty Springdale, which has knocked the Greyhounds out of the playoffs four times since 2003.

* About a month ago, a topic of discussion dealt with the Tri-County South and Black Hills conferences. Specifically, we discussed which conference was stronger this year, top-to-bottom.

I went with the TCS and Friday's results backed that up.

Monessen and Beth-Center convincingly advanced to the quarterfinals. Carmichaels lost to Clairton, 42-0, one of the better results posted against the Bears this year. Of course, I have no idea as I type this when the Bears called off the dogs.

Only Clairton advanced from the Black Hills. Fort Cherry, Chartiers-Houston and Brentwood lost its first-round games.

* Good to see Ed Woods back at Beth-Center. The Bulldogs have won first-round games the past two years. South Fayette and Beth-Center are the only area teams who can claim that.

* Shifting Ringgold and Franklin Regional to the Keystone Conference was a move the WPIAL hoped would strengthen the league. To some extent it did, but the Keystone went 0-4 Friday night.

Before the fingers get pointed at certain facets of Ringgold's team, let's start by saying the Rams' 9-1 season was an excellent one despite the first-round exit.

The Rams ignited an often-dormant fan base with their exciting play and there's certainly reasons to be optimistic for the future. Given some of the talent returning at the skill positions - players like Quad Law and Demetrius Louis - Ringgold will be expected to return to the postseason in 2011.

Here's one opinion as to why Central Valley advanced: Besides playing in a strong conference (Parkway), Central Valley is comprised of two school districts (Center and Monaca) with players who have been in the postseason and advanced several times. Those players know how to win close games and win on the road.

It's Ringgold's first time at the dance when something was expected of the team. Sometimes, it takes getting a foot in the door before kicking it down.

* If the season ended today, Ringgold's Matt Humbert gets my vote for Coach of the Year.

* According to the bracket, Ringgold was the No. 3 seed in Class AAA and Central Valley the 14th. No way was CV a 14th seed.

Maybe, when the WPIAL drew up the bracket, they put Ringgold in the No. 3 spot due to the 9-0 record but I'm wondering if the committee thought of the Rams as more of a No. 5 or No. 6 seed and Central Valley a No. 12 or No. 11.

While the pairings say one thing, it's not always a true seeding.

* Has Ed Dalton coached his final game at Trinity? The guess here is yes.

While I will never question Dalton's commitment to the Trinity players, a coach who has produced as many college players and drawn as much press (positive and negative) as Dalton has at Trinity would be an attractive candidate for other positions.


prexie said...

i think these playoff games showed how strong the century conference was in AA. even steele valley, who lost, outgained beaver falls and should have won with a little better luck.i think wash high could have played better against these teams this year with better schemes on offense. next year look for wash high to do well. and dont count out seton lasalle they are the best coached team besides aliquippa.

Anonymous said...

Look, it comes down to this. Ringgold is a great team in a weak conference. They have a tremendous amount of talent but that can only take you so far. Inexperience of both players and coach proved to be the downfall of their history book season. This year they far exceeded everyone's expectations, so fans should be happy. Honestly though, did you really think they could do what they have done all season in the playoffs? Against "Real" teams? Street talent works... on the street. Not on the meaningful, playoff gridiron can you depend on big, broken plays. You have to be discipline, you have to play smart and that is something the Rams lacked this year and it is essential for success. We shall see what happens in the next few years with the Blue and Gold but fans should be happy about this year. You all know, in your heart, the better team prevailed last night. Rightfully so..

Joey Niklas said...

Clairton called off the dogs at halftime. The score was 36-0 going into the break.

I'll say this Avonworth needed a 97 yard, with around a minute left, to win the game. Fort Cherry held their own against Canevin and could've won the game. They had a TD called back due to holding right before halftime which could've made the score 15 or 16-9 in FC's favor. It didn't happen and I'm not making any excuses.

I wouldn't be surprised if BC beats Rochy this week. If there is a conference to be disappointed in it's the Big 7. Sto Rox loses to N. Cathoiic and NC's QB didn't play for whatever reason. My Semi's picks

Clairton vs Monessen
Beth Center vs Avonworth

Anonymous said...

I agree Central Valley was the better team. Ringgold got screwed in the seedings. There is now way Central Valley was a 14th seed. The comittie wanted to make sure Ringgold got someone from the Parkway and thats what they did.

Either way it was a good run and Ringgold is still a top 5 team in AAA.

It would have been nice to see the Rams give the ball to Fiore 20 plus times and even Neil Rands. Central Valley gave the ball to their big kid 17 times in the 2nd half. Ringgold never made the adjustments to win.

Hats off to Rands and Fiore. It would be hard to find two kids who worked harder in the off season. I think they were the two most under rated players in the WPIAL this year by far. They got no respect all year.

Joey Niklas said...

For fans of the Blackhills Conference that want to either cheer on or root against Clairton. The Clairton-Bishop Canevin Game will be held at Elizabeth Forward HS.

R. Keith Taylor said...

Ringgold Realist: You we're right in some things, but I think Ringgold battled to keep the game as close as they did.

I must commend how proud I am of the Rams. I coached a lot of these boys in basketball when they were in middle school, and I knew they would make their mark somewhere. Ringgold still has a lot of talent retuning next season, so I dont think they were a one hit wonder. The defense will not be as tough, however. You simply can't replace a Neil Rands. He is built like a brick (expletive) house and was the strongest player on the field at all times. While the offense has the likes of Meech Louis, Alfon Cook, and Quad Law returning, it will be hard to replace a back like Fiore. He wasnt a skat back. He would run around, past, or over a defender. Another player who will be missed is lineman Nick DePalma. He was just an outstanding player.

I am very proud of the success of the Rams this season and am not the slightest disappointed they lost to Central Valley. If you were to ask me the day before Ringgold played EF if Ringgold was going to be 9-0, I would have said "probable, but unlikely. These boys proved one of their biggest supporters wrong.

Lastly, Congrats to the Donora Dragons. (One of Ringgold's three youth teams) The past season was the last for them before they merge to make a Ringgold youth team. They won the Mon Valley Midget Football Association Midget Champioship last night over Beth Center. Quad Law's brother, Nico, contributed to all 5 touchdowns at QB and picked off the final pass to win the game. I am not going to say he is going to be the next Bryan Thomas, but his name will certainly be one to be circulated in the near future.

PA Scout said...

As a scout and as someone who has watched hours upon countless hours of tape I would like to comment on something.

Since 2006 I have had the opportunity to watch and scout Clairton on numerous occasions. This team that they have right now is the fastest, biggest, MOST DISCIPLINED team that Clairton has ever had. You watch these guys on tape and you know they are big and you know they are fast...but then you see them in person on the field and it just blows you away how good this team is. In my opinion, this team, starter for starter, could compete with most any AAA team and roughly half of all AAAA teams...thats how good they are.

There is a major difference in this Clairton team as opposed to the Clairton Bears of 2006 and 2007. This Clairton team is just so disciplined...and I dont just mean penalty wise (because they are WAY down on personal fouls and unsportsmanlike calls). In 06 and 07 you could beat Clairton with screens and misdirections because they always over-pursued to the ball...its one of the main reasons Springdale beat them in 2007. You cant beat Clairton like that anymore. They stay in their lanes, they dont over-pursue, you cant beat them with screens...they are a complete football team right now. In my opinion, I dont see anyone beating the Clairton Bears this year.

If I did have to game plan against this Bears team though, I would probably throw the ball about 45-55 times because getting it done on the ground just isnt going to happen. It always cracks me up when these coaches watch tape of Clairton and then come out and say "we are going to run the ball because thats what we always do." My response to that is always the same. If you are going to run because thats what you always do then Clairton is going to do what they always do and thats win.

Good luck to the Bears the rest of the way.

Anonymous said...

In a completely unrelated but speaking of the MVMFL note: Who coaches the Rostraver tiny-mite team? To compete in a championship game 10 years in a row and win 8 of them is bewildering.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else think that the "PA Scout" comment was actually written by someone from Clairton trying to persuade potential playoff competitors to rethink how they will approach that game.

Joey Niklas said...

Anon 10:41

Its impossible to know for sure. In a way he does have a point that teams haven't had much success against the Bears running the ball but has had minimal success passing the ball. Avella came out passing the ball and had some minor success and finished with 5 or 6 first downs and 4 or 5 interceptions. But whether or not he's a closest Clairton fan remains to be seen esp in a forum such as this one where people can post anonymously. People can claim a school, such as FC for example, but really be from Avella, for example. I'm not calling anyone out. Just examples when people can post anonymously.

Clairton Alum said...

I dont know one way or another but regardless I think he has a point.