Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top five moments of 2011


1. Matt Venanzi's last-second goal
A Neil Harrison throw-in with 10 seconds remaining bounced in front of the Pittsburgh central Catholic goal. Somehow, the ball squirted to All-State midfielder and Pitt recruit Matt Venanzi.
One touch later, upstart Peters Township tied top-seed PCC, 1-1, with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
Following the goal, Venanzi raced toward the corner flag, looked into the sky as he raised his arms to hip level and was mobbed by teammates.
Peters Township went on to win the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals in a shootout. Naturally, Venanzi scored in that as well. Peters Township, which lost its final three games of the regular season, reached the WPIAL championship game once again with the win and qualified for the state tournament.
"We weren't as good as last year, but we still had some good players," Venanzi said. "We had a lot of new players but the team knew we could be good. I think it was people outside the program who didn't expect us to get this far."

2. Veronica Latsko fights off Pennridge
While the moment can't top Venanzi's for sheer drama, Peters Township sophomore Veronica Latsko scored a goal in the 2011 PIAA Class AAA championship match that illustrates why she's considered one of the top players around.
A pair of Pennridge defenders tugged and pulled at Latsko for nearly 25 yards and just as the All-State striker looked ready to hit the turf at Hersheypark Stadium, she managed to put a shot early in the first half on net for the game's lone goal.
Peters Township won its second consecutive PIAA Class AAA championship with a 1-0 victory.
"I don't know how she stayed on her feet for that long," Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said. "It was an amazing effort."

3. Briggs has grand time for C-H softball
Chartiers-Houston took a 20-0 record and a 24-game win streak into the WPIAL Class A championship game against section rival Fort Cherry, the bracket's 15th seed.
An ideas that the Rangers would pull off an upset and beat the 2010 state champs were quickly quelled in the second inning when sophomore rightfielder Kayla Briggs smacked a Nicolette McHugh pitch toward centerfield and over the wall at California University's Lilly Field.
"I didn't really think it was gone. I was just trying to get one run in," Briggs said.
Briggs finished the championship game with five RBI, or just another average day for a two-time All-State selection who batted over .600 during her sophomore season.


4. Monessen extracts revenge
Rarely do teams admit a victory is sweeter because of the opponent. That wasn't the case for the Monessen boys basketball team following the 2011 WPIAL Class AA title game.
The balanced Greyhounds beat top-seed Greensburg Central Catholic with surprising ease, burying three-pointers, playing air-tight defense and even throwing down an alley-oop.
"I would say it is. They get sweeter the older you get," Moneseen coach Joe Salvino said. "But that's a school that's allowed to get anybody. And here we are at Monessen, a small Class A school playing up and winning a championship. I'm proud of these kids."
Beating the Centurions was particularly pleasing that year given the strange circumstances involving the transfers of Terrence and Josh Stepoli. The brothers started at Monessen, went to GCC separately, went back to Monessen and, well, you get the idea.
And during Monessen's postseason run, which ended in the state semifinals with a loss to GCC, the legendary Salvino picked up his 500th career victory.


5. Peters Township's lumber company
On one magical night during the WPIAL Class AAAA baseball playoffs, Peters Township put together what might be the best hitting performance the district postseason has seen.
During a 17-1 win over Latrobe, Peters Township's bash brothers bashed a grand slam, home runs, triples and doubles.
By the time the game ended because of the 15-run mercy rule, Peters Township – led by Justin Bianco, Brady Sheetz, Austin Hancock and Andrew Erenberg – smacked 10 extra base hits. None were cheap.
"We have a lot of guys that can hit the ball. We go up there looking to do our job," said rightfielder Justin Bianco.
The hitting performance continually drew "oohs" and "aahs" from spectators and even prompted a couple college coaches in attendance to say they've never witnessed a better hitting performance.
No doubt the playoff-issued baseballs were glad to see the Indians leave Washington & Jefferson's baseball field that night.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Indoor football game to benefit Dryer family

The Pittsburgh Sabres, a founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Indoor Football League and a recent addition to the Gridiron Developmental Football League, offers an outlet for those seeking to play competitive football and an opportunity to be noticed by franchises such as the Pittsburgh Power.

One of the Sabres' co-owners and team captain is Adam Henderson, a Trinity High School graduate who played a key role in organizing the Hillers roster for the highly successful Trinity-Washington Alumni Football USA game which took place last July.

Henderson's team recently played a game to benefit Lower Burrell police officer Derek Kotecki, an 18-year veteran of the Lower Burrell police force who was shot and killed Oct. 12 trying to arrest a fugitive.

"We had just got done playing that game when I woke up Monday (Dec. 19) and heard about the gutless tragedy Sunday night," Henderson said.

East Washington police officer John Dryer, also a veterinarian, was fatally shot during a traffic stop along Interstate 70.

Henderson, who shares ownership of the Sabres with Josh Myers, immediately began putting together a second memorial game.

"The idea hit me right away," Henderson said. "We received a lot of positive feedback. We created an invitation on Facebook and invited about 4,100 people."

The Pittsburgh Sabres will play defending WPIFL champion AK Valley Hurricanes tonight at Southpointe Fieldhouse, which is located just off Interstate 79. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. Admission is $5 and all proceeds benefit Dryer's family. Memorial T-shirts can also be purchased at the game.

At least three members of the Pittsburgh Steelers - Pro Bowl receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Keenan Lewis and special teams ace Arnez Battle - are scheduled to appear. Henderson is hoping a few more Steelers show up since Dryer's son, Benjamin, is a die-hard Steelers fan.

Benjamin Dryer will join Henderson on the field for the coin toss and serve as an honorary captain. Members of the Sabres will sign a game ball for Dryer, who has autism, and Henderson plans on having the Steelers in attendance sign a game ball for officer's son as well.

"I saw Ben at the funeral and, of course, he's crying. When I talked to him, I let him know some Steelers were coming to the game," Henderson said. "His face lit up and he started talking about the Steelers."

For more information, visit the WPIFL website or the Pittsburgh Sabres page.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Penn State lands first recruit since Sandusky scandal

From ESPN. com …

Click here.

List of reportable offenses under Act 24

All current employees of a public or private schools, intermediate unit or area vocation-technical school in Pennsylvania were required to complete an arrest/conviction report and certification form under Act 24 of 2011. The deadline to submit the form was Dec. 27.

The list of reportable offenses
1. An offense under one or more of the following provision of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes:
  • relating to criminal homicide
  • relating to aggravated assault
  • relating to stalking
  • relating to kidnapping
  • relating to unlawful restraint
  • relating to luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure
  • relating to rape
  • relating to statutory sexual assault
  • relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • relating to sexual assault
  • relating to institutional sexual assault
  • relating to aggravated indecent assault
  • relating to indecent assault
  • relating to indecent exposure
  • relating to sexual intercourse with animal
  • relating to incest
  • relating to concealing death of child
  • relating to endangering welfare of children
  • relating to dealing in infant children
  • relating to prostitution and related offenses
  • relating to obscene and other sexual materials and performances
  • relating to corruption of minors
  • relating to sexual abuse of children
  • relating to unlawful contact with minor
  • relating to solicitation of minors to traffic drugs
  • relating to sexual exploitation of children
2. An offense designated as a felony under the act of April 14, 1972 known as "The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act."

3. An offense similar in nature to those crimes listed in clauses (1) and (2) under the laws or former laws of:

  • the United States; or
  • one of its territories or possessions; or
  • another state; or
  • the District of Columbia; or
  • the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; or
  • a foreign nation; or
  • under a former law of this Commonwealth.

Twitter Thursday

Things are taking a one-week deviation from the norm for Twitter Thursday. One tweet was so bad, so off in a misguided attempt to be humorous, it will be crowned "Worst Tweet of the Week", which will replace the "Tweet of the Week" for this week.

You can follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak.

On to the tweets …

Joe Hough, Avella boys basketball coach
@avellaeagle
Dec. 24
"Merry Christmas from avella boys basketball team!"

Bill Beckner, Valley New Dispatch sports writer
@jdbbeck
Dec. 25
"Barkley looks great. Like he lost half a Shaq. #celticschat"

Hiller Hooligans, Trinity student section
@HillerHooligans
Dec. 28
"Just a friendly reminder instead of yelling while the other team is shooting free throws tonight we tell them to Eat my boogers"

Gannon Walls-Mitchell, Bentworth basketball
@GWaLLS15
Dec. 29
"Wish I was home to watch @stephenasmith and @RealSkipBayless on first take more often"

Xavier Severns, Trinity football
@Xavier724
Dec. 29
"Just got my mom's name tattooed on my chest, not done with it gonna add on to it :)"

Worst Tweet of the Week
Joe Tuscano, O-R assistant sports editor and wrestling beat writer
@JosephGTuscano (a recommended follow if you enjoy watching Good Morning America, his main subject material on social media)
Dec.  27
"If #dantetaylor and #khembirch are McDonald's All-Americans, I want to see Arby's team."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spridik no longer Bentworth volleyball coach


Greg Spridik is the most successful high school girls volleyball coach in Washington County history.

Besides producing a string of victories and All-State players, Spridik is the only coach from the area to take his team to the PIAA playoffs on multiple occasions.

Success wasn't enough for Spridik to return to the Bearcats in 2012.

He was fired last Friday during a meeting with administrations. It was an action that members of the Bentworth School District Board of Education did not know.

The reason? According to Spridik, he was told he was in violation of Act 24 of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Spridik was arrested in a foreign country 31 years ago. Until Act 24 was established, he previously passed all clearances needed to coach high school athletics and officiate PIAA basketball games.

Spridik believes the real reason behind his removal stems from his public displeasure over a motion at Bentworth to remove middle school athletics.

It's one interesting story, and one that will likely take a few turns before reaching a conclusion.

Read more about it in Thursday's Observer-Reporter.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 4-0
2. Oakland Catholic 6-0
3. Mt. Lebanon 4-1
4. Pine-Richland 4-2
5. North Allegheny 5-2

Class AAA
1. Hopewell 6-0
2. Blackhawk 6-0
3. South Park 4-1
4. Elizabeth Forward 7-0
5. Chartiers Valley 3-1

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 5-0
2. Greensburg Central Catholic 5-0
3. Avonworth 5-1
4. Ford City 6-0
5. Bishop Canevin 3-2

Class A
1. North Catholic 4-2
2. Fort Cherry 6-0
3. Vincentian Academy 6-0
4. Riverview 5-1
5. Monessen 5-2

Observer-Reporter WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Chartiers Valley 8-0
2. North Allegheny 5-1
3. Shaler 5-1
4. Bethel Park 6-0
5. Upper St. Clair 6-1

Class AAA
1. New Castle 6-0
2. Montour 1-0
3. Keystone Oaks 5-0
4. Greensburg-Salem 4-2
5. Hampton 5-2

Class AA
1. Monessen 6-0
2. Sto-Rox 5-0
3. Beaver Falls 5-1
4. Jeannette 5-0
5. Shenango 6-1

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 5-1
2. North Catholic 4-0
3. Clairton 0-0
4. Cornell 5-1
5. OLSH 7-0

Friday, December 23, 2011

Twitter Holiday Weekend

No worries, tweeps. These tweets aren't from various locals wishing everyone a Happy Holiday or from people trying to put the Paul Chryst (new Pitt football coach) in Christmas.

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak.

Chad Voytik, highly regarded Pitt quarterback recruit from Tennessee
@Voytik_8
Dec. 22
"So excited about the hire. Should be getting a call from him soon. This process has been such a blessing and lesson for me. #Godisgood"

Josh Koscheck, Waynesburg High grad and UFC fighter
@JoshKoscheck
Dec. 16
"I may never be the best!!! But I will die trying!!!!!! #nevergivingup bc hard work...pays oooooOFF!!!! #posi Enjoy ya weekend!"

Nico Law, Ringgold football
@FrEaKO_4
Dec. 21
"My bro made all state got big shoes to fill but i can do it #4 leggoo!!! #proudofhim !!"

Matt Venanzi, Peters Township soccer
@Matt34Venanzi
Dec. 22
"Congratulations to @andrew_erenberg on being all state! Finally getting the recognition he deserves! @TheMikeKovak #Fordham #bound"

Souf Oaklin fo' Life, comedic look at life in South Oakland
@Souf_Oaklin
Dec. 19
"Report: Sally Wiggin sabotages generator, makes quick break for wine country before kickoff. #Steelers #MNF"

Seth Petras, Canon-McMillan basketball
@SethPetras
Dec. 22
"Socks: Check, Pants: Check, Shoes: Check, Bulletproof Vest: Check"

Tweet of the Week
Fake Todd Graham
@TugMyRope
Dec. 22
"A fortune teller just told Penni that in two years I will be sneaking out of Phoenix to take my dream job at Ringgold High School."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wisconsin commit Orndoff plays wating game


Scott Orndoff came away so impressed with the University of Wisconsin after attending a football camp in Madison, Wisc. that when Badgers head coach Bret Bielema offered a scholarship, Orndoff committed almost immediately.

Right now, Orndoff – a Waynesburg resident and a junior at Seton-La Salle High School – is digesting the news that Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is the new football coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

It was a move aided, in part, by Langeloth native and Burgettstown High School graduate Barry Alvarez, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and Wisconsin's athletic director.

"From what I can tell, no one at Wisconsin has any problems with Pitt," Orndoff said Thursday evening, minutes after finding out he was selected to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AA All-State football team. "It's a big win for Pitt."

Orndoff had minimal contact with Chryst during his recruiting process, but the 6-5 tight end recruit maintains weekly contact with Joe Rudolph, the Badgers' tight end coach/recruiting coordinator.

According to Orndoff, Rudolph planned on calling him Thursday night. Rudolph was born in Charleroi and played high school football at Belle Vernon.

Various reports say Rudolph and Bob Bostad – Wisconsin's run-game coordinator and offensive line coach – could make the move to Pitt with Chryst, who will remain with the Badgers through their Rose Bowl appearance against Oregon. Other reports indicate Rudolph could succeed Chryst as offensive coordinator.

Rudolph's landing spot will play a significant role in whether remains with Wisconsin.

"There will be a lot going into that if Coach Rudolph leaves," Orndoff said. "Even before all this happened, I kept my options open. If he would leave, I'll take another trip up there and take time to think about my decision."

Challingsworth, Ellis make PIAA Class AA All-State team

Also on this list is Waynesburg resident Scott Orndoff, a Wisconsin recruit who plays at Seton-La Salle.

The 2011 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State football team. With players’ school, height, weight and class.
CLASS AA
QUARTERBACK
Steve Franco, Tyrone, 6-3, 190, Sr.
Blake Rankin, Bloomsburg, 6-4, 195, Sr.
RUNNING BACK
Roman Clay, Lancaster Catholic, 5-11, 205, Jr.
DeShawn Coleman, Hickory, 6-1, 175, Jr.
Dylan Evans, Pen Argyl, 6-3, 190, Sr.
David Williams, West Philadelphia Catholic, 6-1, 188, Jr.
WIDE RECEIVER
Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette, 6-2, 170, Jr.
Shakur Nesmith, Imhotep Charter,  6-4, 185, Sr.
Nick Patton, Tyrone, 6-2, 150, Sr.
TIGHT END
Scott Orndorff, Seton-La Salle, 6-5, 240, Sr.
LINEMEN
J.J. Beggan, Seton-La Salle, 6-4, 280, Sr.
Matt Bell, Hickory, 6-3, 280, Sr.
Adam DePietro, Lancaster Catholic,  6-6, 300, Sr.
Jonathan Green, North Schuylkill, 6-3, 295, Sr.
Christian Skrepenak, GAR Memorial, 6-9, 350, Jr.
Michael Mooney,  Malvern Prep, 6-5, 260, Sr.
SPECIALIST
Kyle Armagost, Moniteau, 6-1, 195, Sr.
Darrell Crawford,  GAR Memorial, 5-9, 165, Sr.
KICKER
No selection.
DEFENSE
LINEMEN
Eric Ellis, Washington, 6-1, 225, Sr.
Eric Joraskie, Mount Carmel, 6-4, 265, Jr.
Shakir Soto, GAR Memorial, 6-3, 230, Jr.
Malcolm White, Wyomissing, 6-0, 265, Sr.
Connor Maloney,  Malvern Prep, 6-4, 270, Sr.
LINEBACKER
Alex Anzalone, Wyomissing, 6-3, 205, Jr.
Mack Behe, Penn Cambria, 6-2, 175, Jr.
Tristin Freeman, West Philadelphia Catholic, 6-0, 215, Sr.
Cody Shustack, Mount Carmel, 5-10, 200, Sr.
Brandon Smith, Lewisburg, 6-1, 200, Jr.
DEFENSIVE BACK
Demetrious Cox, Jeannette, 6-1, 190, Sr.
Alex Filarsky, Lakeland, 6-1, 170, Sr.
Reggie Mitchell, Shady Side Academy,  5-9, 155, Sr.
Shailek Powell, GAR Memorial, 6-0, 180, Sr.
SPECIALIST
Zack Ripic, Towanda, 5-11, 185, Sr.
Charles Sweigert,  Lancaster Catholic,  6-0, 185, Sr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Steve Franco, Tyrone
COACH OF THE YEAR
John Franco, Tyrone

Peters Township's Erenberg makes Class AAAA All-State team

The 2011 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State football team. With players’ school, height, weight and class.
CLASS AAAA
QUARTERBACK
Daniel Harding, Nazareth, 6-4, 205, Sr.
Mack Leftwich, North Allegheny, 5-11, 190, Jr.
RUNNING BACK
Dan Brown, Central Bucks South, 5-10, 180, Sr.
Jack Haffner, State College, 5-10, 205, Sr.
Luke Hagy, Mount Lebanon, 6-1, 198, Sr.
Damion Jones-Moore, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 5-7, 180, Sr.
WIDE RECEIVER
Adam Bridgeforth, Nazareth, 6-0, 180, Sr.
Diante Cherry, J.P. McCaskey, 5-9, 175, Jr.
Anthony Nixon, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 6-2, 205, Sr.
TIGHT END
Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff, 6-5, 230, Jr.
LINEMEN
Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny, 6-4, 270, Jr.
Chris Muller, Boyertown, 6-6, 300, Sr.
Ian Park, Upper St. Clair, 6-4, 290, Sr.
Zach Wilk, Central Dauphin, 6-5, 275, Sr.
SPECIALIST
Dakota Conwell, Upper St. Clair, 6-1, 210, Sr.
Eugene Lewis, Wyoming Valley West, 6-3, 200, Sr.
KICKER
Matt Loughnane, Penn-Trafford, 5-10, 150, Jr.
DEFENSE
LINEMEN
Cody Conway, Gateway, 6-4, 210, Sr.
Kyle Friend, Cumberland Valley, 6-1, 280, Sr.
Arthur Goldberg, Mount Lebanon, 6-4, 280, Sr.
Evan Schwan, Central Dauphin, 6-6, 225, Sr.
LINEBACKER
Rob Dvoracek, Parkland, 6-2, 220, Sr.
Tyrone “T.J.” Neal, McKeesport, 6-1, 225, Sr.
Hakeem Oliver, Gateway, 5-10, 200, Sr.
Sean Burke, La Salle College HS, 5-10, 185, Jr.
Ralph Reeves, Lansdale North Penn, 6-0, 230, Sr.
DEFENSIVE BACK
Brendan Coniker, North Allegheny, 6-1, 170, Jr.
Andrew Erenberg, Peters Twp., 5-10, 200, Sr.
Anthony Orlando, Liberty, 5-10, 170, Sr.
Will Parks, Germantown, 6-1, 175, Sr.
SPECIALIST
Jaylen Coleman, University Prep, 6-0, 230, Sr.
Greg Garmon, McDowell, 6-2, 200, Sr.
Zayd Issah, Central Dauphin, 6-4, 210, Jr.
CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Zayd Issah, Central Dauphin
Daniel Harding, Nazareth
COACH OF THE YEAR
Glen McNamee, Central Dauphin

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ringgold's Law among several top college recruits on Class AAA all-state team


The 2011 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State football team, with players’ school, height, weight and class.
CLASS AAA
OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Dillon Buechel, Montour, 6-4, 175, Sr.
Brendan Nosovitch, Allentown Central Catholic, 6-3, 205, Sr.
Alec Werner, Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, 6-0, 195, Jr.
RUNNING BACK
Preston Bare, Palmyra, 6-0, 200, Sr.
Julian Durden, Montour, 5-9, 175, Sr.
Brandon Peoples, Archbishop Wood, 5-10, 180, Sr.
Rushel Shell, Hopewell, 5-11, 215, Sr.
WIDE RECEIVER
Kevin Gulyas, Allentown Central Catholic, 6-1, 185, Sr.
Brian Lemelle, Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, 5-11, 175, Jr.
Devin Wilson, Montour, 6-4, 175, Jr.
TIGHT END
Colin Thompson, Archbishop Wood, 6-6, 255, Sr.
LINEMEN
Brandon Arcidiacono, Archbishop Wood, 6-6, 255, Sr.
Jason Emerich, Blue Mountain, 6-4, 275, Sr.
Tad McNeely, Allentown Central Catholic, 6-4, 275, Sr.
Madison O’Connor, Pottsgrove, 6-6, 330, Sr.
Frank Taylor, Archbishop Wood, 6-4, 295, Sr.
SPECIALISTS
Robert Foster, Central Valley, 6-2, 185, Jr.
Wesley Phipps, Grove City, 5-9, 180, Sr.
KICKER
Jon Chereson, Cathedral Prep, 5-10, 153, Jr.
DEFENSE
LINEMEN
D.J. Fink, Central Valley, 6-0, 220, Sr.
Mike Galatini, Valley View, 6-3, 255, Sr.
Averee Robinson, Susquehanna Twp., 6-1, 275, Sr.
Noah Spence, Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, 6-4, 245, Sr.
LINEBACKERS
Bryton Barr, Mechanicsburg, 6-0, 225, Sr.
Brock Dean, Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, 6-1, 220, Sr.
Jon Hicks, Palmyra, 6-3, 235, Sr.
Nyeem Wartman, Valley View, 6-3, 230, Sr.
Alkwan Williams, Greater Johnstown, 6-1, 218, Sr.
DEFENSIVE BACKS
Levonte Ford, Erie East, 6-1, 245, Sr.
Corey Lauer, Franklin Regional, 5-11, 160, Sr.
Desmon Peoples, Archbishop Wood, 5-8, 170, Sr.
Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep, 6-2, 190, Jr.
SPECIALIST
Percy Law, Ringgold, 5-8, 160, Sr.
Nate Smith, Archbishop Wood, 6-1, 190, Sr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Rushel Shell, Hopewell
COACH OF THE YEAR
Lou Cerro, Montour

PIAA Class A All-State football team

The 2011 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State football team. With players’ school, height, weight and class.

CLASS A
OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Matt Bodamer, Port Allegany, 6-1, 175, Jr.
Mike Gaval, Mahanoy Area, 6-0, 165, Sr.
A.J. Long, Pius X, 6-0, 18, Sr.
RUNNING BACK
Tyler Boyd, Clairton, 6-1, 170, Jr.
Colin Bryan, Windber, 6-0, 188, Sr.
Alex Holland, Curwensville, 6-0, 180, Sr.
De’Andre Moon, Rochester, 6-0, 215, Sr.
WIDE RECEIVER
Mike Burke, Columbia, 6-2, 200, Sr.
Tyce Miller, Port Allegany, 5-10, 160, Jr.
Boise Ross, Pius X, 6-0, 175, Jr.
TIGHT END
Ian O’Shea, Bellwood-Antis, 6-0, 180, Jr.
LINEMEN
Alex Karlovich, Line Mountain, 6-1, 300, Sr.
Todd Munchak, Curwensville,, 5-11, 295, Sr.
Zach Rugg, Bishop McCort, 6-5, 269, Sr.
Carvan Thompson, Clairton, 5-10, 215, Sr.
Michael Weber, Mercyhurst Prep, , 6-3, 310, Sr.
SPECIALISTS
Danny Ferens, Penns Manor, 6-0, 190, Jr.
David Argust, Old Forge, 6-0, 178, Sr.
KICKER
Philip Esposito, Brockway, 6-0, 175, Jr.
DEFENSE
LINEMEN
Jacob Craig, Berlin-Brothers Valley, 6-2, 220, Sr.
Eric Hirschfield, , Bishop Canevin, 6-0, 182, Sr.
Quinton Hixson, Northern Bedford, 6-3, 295, Sr.
Tom Schetroma, Southern Columbia, 6-0, 260, Sr.
Eric Walker, Clairton, 6-3, 245, Sr.
LINEBACKER
T.J. Armstrong, Clarion, 6-2, 215, Jr.
Mike Dunn, Bishop Canevin, 6-1, 225, Jr.
Bryan Flory, Columbia, 5-10, 175, Jr.
Luke Patten, West Middlesex, 5-10, 180, Jr.
Deaysean Rippy, Sto-Rox, 6-2, 205, Sr.
DEFENSIVE BACK
Marzett Geter, Sto-Rox, 5-9, 180, Sr.
Brody Pollock, Union (Rimersburg), 5-11, 180, Sr.
Trenton Coles, Clairton, 6-3, 180, Sr.
SPECIALIST
Cole Weachock, Minersville, 5-10, 170, Sr.
Matt Moore, Southern Columbia, 6-2, 200, Sr.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tyler Boyd, Clairton
COACH OF THE YEAR
Bill Packer, Penns Manor

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Final state football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Dec. 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)-2010 PIAA champion.

CLASS AAAA
1. Central Dauphin (3) 15-1 2
2. North Allegheny (P) (7) 14-1 3
3. North Penn (1) 13-3 1
4. LaSalle College HS (12) 12-2 4
5. Upper St. Clair (7) 11-2 5
6. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 11-1 6
7. Gateway (7) 9-3 7
8. Nazareth (11) 12-2 8
9. Wilson (3) 12-2 9
10. Council Rock South (1) 12-2 10
Honorable mention
Central York (3) 10-3, Cumberland Valley (3) 11-2, Easton (11) 11-2, Garnet Valley (1) 11-2, Penn-Trafford (7) 10-1, State College (6) 8-5.

CLASS AAA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Archbishop Wood (12) 14-1 1
2. Bishop McDevitt (3) 13-3 2
3. Montour (7) 12-3 3
4. Grove City (10) 11-1 4
5. Central Valley (7) 11-1 5
6. Knoch (7) 12-1 6
7. Cathedral Prep (10) 9-3 7
8. Franklin Regional (7) 11-1 8
9. Allentown C.C. (P) (11) 9-6 9
10. Lampeter-Strasburg (3) 12-2 10
Honorable mention
Dallas (2) 10-2, Hopewell (7) 7-4, Pottsgrove (1) 11-3, Valley View (2) 11-2, West Mifflin (7) 9-2, West York (3) 10-3.

CLASS AA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Lancaster Catholic (3) 16-0 1
2. Tyrone (6) 14-2 2
3. Aliquippa (7) 14-1 3
4. West Catholic (P) (12) 10-4 4
5. Jeannette (7) 12-1 5
6. Mount Carmel (4) 12-2 6
7. Pen Argyl (11) 13-1 7
8. Seton-LaSalle (7) 11-1 8
9. Hickory (10) 11-2 9
10. Lewisburg (4) 9-3 10
Honorable mention
Greensburg C.C. (7) 10-2, Moniteau (9) 12-1, Northern Lehigh (11) 10-2, North Schuylkill (11) 10-1, Wilkes-Barre GAR (2) 11-2, Wyomissing (3) 11-1.

CLASS A
Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 16-0 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) 14-2 2
3. Sto-Rox (7) 12-1 3
4. Rochester (7) 10-2 4
5. Sharpsville (10) 13-1 5
6. Pius X (11) 12-2 6
7. Penns Manor (6) 12-2 7
8. Bishop Canevin (7) 11-1 8
9. Port Allegany (9) 11-2 9
10. Line Mountain (4) 10-2 10
Honorable mention
Avonworth (7) 9-2, Bellwood-Antis (6) 10-2, Dunmore (2) 10-1, North Star (5) 10-2, Old Forge (2) 10-3, West Middlesex (10) 7-5.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Girls basketball, week in review

Team of the Week
Bentworth
Undefeated Bentworth asserted itself as the prohibitive favorite in Section 4-AA with a win against Washington last week. The Bearcats went 2-0 and are 5-0 overall, but it was a 60-37 win at Wash High Gym – the WPIAL's most historic gymnasium – which should provide confidence.
It signified Bentworth's first win over Washington in section play ... ever. The Prexies have won 13 of the past 14 section titles. Only Beth-Center (in 2009-2010) kept it from being 14 straight.
Bentworth is receiving contributions from several players, but its a pair of All-State volleyballers – Jessica Dorazio and Darcy Bostich – leading the offense.

Runner-up
Peters Township
First-year head coach Chris Lebakken has the Indians off to a solid start. Peters Township takes a 4-1 record into Thursday's non-conference game against North Allegheny with the lone loss to a good Central Valley team.
The Indians are playing well on the interior with Bri Deer and Sarah Grippi. They helped PT beat Beaver and Baldwin, both on the road, last week.

Starting five
Bri Deer, Peters Township
Jessica Dorazio, Bentworth
Carolena Gasbarro, Fort Cherry
Chelsea Szakal, Monessen
Sammie Weiss, McGuffey
First reserve
Anna Cree, Carmichaels


Game of the Week
Monessen 80, Imani Christian 3
Far from competitive, this opening-round game of Monessen's Tipoff Tournament was interesting for one reason – had Imani Christian not make a half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter, Monessen's defense would have registered a shutout.
Can only imagine what it's like witnessing a game similar to this.
(Blogger's note: A running joke - and not a really funny one - in the office has me predicting scores of 98-3 in many sports when a blowout is expected. To date, this game has come the closest to 98-3 locally.)

Boys basketball, week in review

Team of the Week
Monessen
Ranked No. 1 in Class AA by the Observer-Reporter, Monessen went 4-0 last week with wins over two Class AAAA programs and a pair of private schools.
The Greyhounds continue to get balanced scoring from the like of Jaisen Irwin, Jalen Madison, Chavas Rawlins and company while Alonzo Payne and Earl Pinkney do a lot of good work on the glass.
Could be a good one Jan. 3 when Monessen hosts Wilkinsburg.

Runner-up
Bentworth
The Bearcats posted three wins last week and, at 4-0, are one of five Class A teams without a loss. Bentworth has won three games against Class AA competition.

Starting five
Tony Bristol, Charleroi
Christian Koroly, Trinity
Gabe Pritz, Peters Township
Eric Schoedel, Bentworth
Joe Yamber, Avella
First reserve
Jaisen Irwin, Monessen

Game of the week
Trinity 63, Ringgold 62
Chartiers-Houston came close to beating Washington for possibly the first time Saturday evening before the Prexies won in overtime, but the double-overtime Section 5-AAA opener between Trinity and Ringgold trumps that.
Senior Nick Greaves dominated the first half as Ringgold controlled play. The Rams dominance continued into the third quarter as freshman John Maldonado asserted himself.
Things change in the fourth as Trinity, not far removed from an overtime game at Canon-McMillan, went on a 13-2 run to force overtime.
Well-played game from a loaded section.

Bits and pieces
* South Fayette can make a major move in Class AAA this week with a pair of key games. The Lions host Trinity Tuesday and top-ranked New Castle Friday.
* West Greene snapped a 32-game losing streak with a win over Hundred, W.Va. last week. The Pioneers haven't beaten a WPIAL opponent since 2008.
* It hasn't been pretty for Wash High, which needed a jump shot from Deven Sulitz to force overtime at Chartiers-Houston, but the Prexies are 4-2 overall and 1-0 in section play.

WPIAL girls basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Gateway 1-0
2. Oakland Catholic 3-0
3. North Allegheny 4-1
4. Mt. Lebanon 3-1
5. Butler 3-1

Class AAA
1. Hopewell 4-0
2. Blackhawk 4-0
3. Central Valley 3-0
4. South Fayette 4-0
5. New Castle 3-1

Class AA
1. Seton-La Salle 3-0
2. Greensburg C.C. 4-0
3. Avonworth 3-1
4. Ford City 4-0
5. Bishop Canevin 1-2

Class A
1. North Catholic 3-1
2. Fort Cherry 4-0
3. Vincentian Academy 3-0
4. Monessen 4-0
5. Quigley Catholic 2-1

WPIAL boys basketball rankings

Class AAAA
1. Chartiers Valley 6-0
2. Gateway 2-1
3. Upper St. Clair 5-0
4. North Allegheny 4-1
5. Shaler 3-1

Class AAA
1. New Castle 4-0
2. Montour 0-0
3. Keystone Oaks 4-0
4. Greensburg-Salem 3-2
5. South Fayette 3-1

Class AA
1. Monessen 5-0
2. Sto-Rox 5-0
3. Beaver Falls 4-1
4. Jeannette 4-0
5. Greensburg C.C. 2-2

Class A
1. Lincoln Park 3-1
2. North Catholic 3-0
3. Clairton 0-0
4. Cornell 4-1
5. Serra Catholic 3-1

Friday, December 16, 2011

PIAA to keep 16-week football season

In a decision that can be described as head-scratching, the PIAA Board of Control did not approve a vote to shorten the football season from 16 weeks to 15 at today's meeting, held before the start of the state football championship game.

There was considerable momentum toward returning to a 15-week season considering Pennsylvania is one of the few state which play high school football this late into the school year. The others are in warmer climates.

The motion needed 21 "yes" votes to pass. It was turned down - 16 yes, 10 no, 1 abstention.

According to Rod Frisco of RodFrisco.com, several districts balked when it learned it would lose PIAA qualifiers.

Ridiculous.

A 16-week season is far too long at the high school level, not to mention that the season ends one weekend before Christmas is also laughable. With increased attention to concussions and other injuries, this vote shows that several members are more concerned with sending a quantity of qualifiers to the state playoffs than the safety of players.

High school students suspended for Tebowing

Thanks to the won-loss record of Tim Tebow as a starting quarterback with the Denver Broncos, Tebowing - a tribute to the former Heisman Trophy winner - is currently a popular form of expression.

Before Tebow, Tebowing was usually referred to as kneeling and praying.

At a high school in New York, a group of students were recently suspended for Tebowing.

For video and a story, click here.

Not sure what to make of it. A suspension seems harsh, yet the student interviewed by ESPN who claims the students who Tebowed did so because of the quarterback's role-model qualities comes across as a little disingenuous.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Been so busy reading tweets from Pitt football players like Brandon Lindsey, Devin Street and Cam Saddler plus national journalists like Sports by Brooks and Pat Forde since Todd Graham bolted Pitt for the "greener pastures" of Arizona State, that I nearly forgot it was ...


Twitter Thursday

You can follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak. ... Also want to give a quick plug to the twitter feed of the Peters Township student section @PTHS_RowdyRed. Think it's a great idea and if any other schools have similar feeds follow me and I'll follow back.

Troy Elich
Burgettstown personality,Blue Devils scorekeeper extraordinaire, member of The Vogues, shameless self-promoter
@Troy3775
Dec. 10
"I'm on tv again tonight. Pbs at 3 am."

Corey Hunsberger
Trinity basketball
@Coreyhuns
Dec. 11
"@esonger5 thanks for the awesome fan section every game. Pretty sure I heard you especially every time down the court."

Luke Brumbaugh
Seton-La Salle quarterback
@L_Brum7
Dec. 14
"The one day I have to take the bus my whole life and I miss it #great"

Dakota Norton
Peters Township basketball
@kooooooooaaaaa
Dec. 13
"3-0 baby! Big win!"

Josh Wise
Washington basketball
@jlwise_whs11
Dec. 13
"Fell apart today HOPEFULLY we can comeback if not in a hole lot of #trouble smh I don't even know what to say..."

David Kuhn
Peters Township boys golf coach, avid supporter of Pitt athletics
@CoachKuhnGolf
Dec. 14
"Brandon Lindsey said it best, "Coach Graham said he read the Bible everyday, I guess he skipped the page that said Thou shall not lie" #H2P"

Ed Dalton
Trinity football coach
@edalton2
Dec. 14
"Look for Rushel Shell to be a Buckeye"

Joe Graziani
Canon-McMillan football, member of Canon Crazies
@JoeGrizz52
Dec. 12
"@TheMikeKovak you have officially made @DwiLLzZ11 aka David Miller famous. #in5wetrust #millerhighlife"

Tweet of the Week
Jaylin Kelly
Washington basketball
@j_kelly21
Dec. 13
"Done letting my team down starting thursday i'm going too hard"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Graham leaves Pitt for Arizona State

In case you haven't heard, Todd Graham has left the University of Pittsburgh football team for Arizona State following one season with the Panthers. Graham did not driectly tell players of his resignation, and they've taken to Twitter to voice displeasure.

Pitt is 6-6 and waiting to play SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl, held in Bimingham, Ala. Jan. 7.

Granted, this subject matter doesn't mesh with the theme of The Varsity Letters but a copy of Graham's resignation text message has been obtained. It was sent to Blair Philbrick, Assistant Athletic Director, Football Operations.

"Please text this to players please:
I have resigned my position at Pitt in the best interest of my family to pursue the head coaching position at Arizona State. Coaching there has always been a dream of ours & we have family there. The timing of the circumstances have prohibited me from telling you this directly. I am now on my way to Tempe to continue those discussions. God Bless Coach Graham"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Girls basketball weekend in review

Team of the Week
South Fayette
Like the boys basketball team, South Fayette moved up to Class AAA last season after a couple strong seasons in Class AA. The Lions' season ended in the WPIAL playoffs with a loss to West Mifflin.
South Fayette won the Moon Tournament last year, knocking off a strong Bishop Canevin team in the finals. The Lions returned to Moon once again and beat a pair of Class AAAA teams - Moon and Hempfield to repeat.

Runner-up
Trinity
The Hillers struggled through the 2010-11 season and the offseason had some drama when a few parents criticized coach Jackie Kotchman during a school board meeting. Kotchman stayed, and Trinity enjoyed some success in its opening weekend by winning its tipoff tournament.
Balanced scoring led to a win over Wash High, then Morgan Kurtz nearly outscored Latrobe by herself in the championship.

Starting five
Ashley Balzer, Chartiers-Houston
Beka Bellhy, Fort Cherry
Jessica Dorazio, Bentworth
Erika Ford, South Fayette
Morgan Kurtz, Trinity
First reserve
Chianti Sivek, Ringgold

Game of the week
Waynesburg 33, California 31
Waynesburg's program has struggled for years, but a pair of last-second finishes at the Jefferson-Morgan Tournament likely provided some optimism.
A night after losing to J-M on a layup by Ashley Faddis with six seconds remaining, the Raiders scored a last-second win over California. Hannah Gibbons made a three-pointer with two seconds left to give Waynesburg the win.
Gibbons also blocked six shots.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Boys basketball weekend in review

Team of the Week
Peters Township
Very difficult not taking Monessen here since the Greyhounds routed Class AAA power Blackhawk (more on that in a few), but Peters Township played more than one game and the Indians, who missed the postseason last year, got a pair of wins over quality opponents.
PT opened its season with wins over West Mifflin and Allderdice to win the Peters Township Tipoff Tournament.
Last year, the Indians shot a lot of three-pointers - a whole lot. PT got things done defensively in its first two games, as teams averaged 46 points against them.

Runner-up
Monessen
The Greyhounds opened defense of their WPIAL Class AA championship impressively with a 68-50 win Saturday over Blackhawk.
There's plenty to like about Monessen, which plays up in classification. The Greyhounds are deep. Their eighth man would start for most teams. They also take on, and usually beat, all comers. Said it here before and I'll say it again ... the teams that regularly play difficult non-section schedules are the ones making deep playoff runs. Few face tougher schedules than Monessen.

Starting five
Brett Haney, Canon-McMillan
Corey Hunsberger, Trinity
Jalen Madison, Monessen
Dakota Norton, Peters Township
Kyle Rose, McGuffey
First reserve
Eric Ellis, Washington

Game of the Week
Canon-McMillan 53, Trinity 52 (OT)
Sunday's championship game of the EQT Energy Classic had a playoff feel. Part of it had to do with two rivals playing for a trophy, but a lot of it had to do with the competitive basketball staged.
Canon-McMillan, behind a barrage of three-pointers in the second quarter, cruised to a 13-point lead and put the rowdy Canon Crazies in a tizzy during the process. Trinity, a team that gave indication it will be a factor in the Section 5-AAA postseason picture, battled back and tied the game with 33 seconds left.
The Big Macs defense made two big stands - one at the end of regulation and the second at the end of overtime when David Williams, nicknamed Miller for reasons he does not know, stole the basketball and subsequently made the game-winning free throw.
Those Canon Crazies nearly cost their Big Macs a technical at the end when they stormed the court with 1.7 seconds remaining and came in contact (hugging) players.

Facts and figures
* Fort Cherry boys basketball coach D.J. Gambridge had to achieve some sort of milestone this weekend at the FC Tipoff Tournament. His first game as a head coach came against California's Phil Pergola, who won the 1995 PIAA Class AAAA championship with Ringgold. His second game was against South Fayette's Rich Bonnaure, coach of the 2010 Class AA state champs.
* Washington coach Mark Gaither was so displeased with his team during Sunday's third-place game against Waynesburg at the EQT Classic that he called a timeout to chew out his players. Gaither wasn't done when the timeout expired, so he called another.
* While McGuffey got off to a solid start by winning its tipoff tournament, it's possible no area team garnered more respect this weekend than Waynesburg.
The Raiders opened play in the EQT Classic by beating West Greene (no surprise), then followed with a decent showing against Canon-McMillan and then taking Wash High to the final seconds. Waynesburg had a chance to beat the Prexies in the closing seconds.
The Raiders drew considerable applause from the crowd at Canon-McMillan High School when its all-tournament players Ty Negley and Hogan Barnhart were presented trophies and when head coach Dave Sarra accepted an award for competitive spirit. Following the championship game, CM coach Rick Bell said part of  his pregame talk focused on Waynesburg's effort against Washington.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Garry likes Bowling Green, Challingsworth hearing from BCS programs

Tanner Garry's quest to play Division I college football may become reality.

Garry, who put together a record-setting senior season and a varsity career as a Rangers quarterback, heard from a variety of colleges, from Division I to II, and as recently as a couple weeks ago thought he'd get an invitation to walk on at Pitt.

The Panthers struggles at the quarterback position are well-documented.

"I was hearing from Pitt every week for a while," Garry said, "but they haven't talked to me in a couple weeks so, I guess I'm somewhat on the outs with them."

Garry spoke with Bowling Green offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero Thursday night via telephone and believes his chances of joining the Falcons for the 2012-13 school year are much improved.

"Right now, I'd say it's about 90 percent. I had my first real conversation with (Ruggiero) and I came away feeling pretty good," Garry said.

Garry will visit Bowling Green Jan. 20 and, if things go well, he plans on walking on the football team.

Originally, Garry hoped to land a late scholarship offer from Bowling Green after one recently opened up, but Ruggiero told Garry the Falcons planned on giving that scholarship to their punter.

"What they're telling me is if I go there next year and prove I'm a capable player that they'll give me a scholarship for my sophomore year," Garry said.

Garry passed for 2,171 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games for Fort Cherry. He also rushed for 702 with 12 touchdowns.

* If recent activity is any indication, South Fayette junior Zach Challingsworth will be one of the more sought-after football players in the WPIAL next year.

Challingsworth has no official offers but is hearing from several Division I programs, and Division I-AA Villanova.

Maryland coach Greg Gattuso – a former Pitt assistant – recently visited South Fayette to talk to Lions head coach Joe Rossi about Challingsworth, a talented 6-2 receiver. Toledo and Villanova are close to offering.

Challingsworth has also heard from Pitt and Ohio State recently, and he's intrigued at the possibility of being recruited by new Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer.

"It is exciting to know they're interested, and it would be pretty neat playing for a coach like that and seeing what he did at Florida," Challingsworth said. "There's a lot of schools interested. We'll see what happens. Things won't really pick up until March."

Challingsworth, a starter on the basketball team, had more than 700 yards receiving on 48 catches, 250 yards rushing and scored 10 touchdowns. He also intercepted five passes for South Fayette.

Garry and Challingsworth were both selected to the Observer-Reporter Elite 11.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Twitter Thursday

We're back at it ... bringing the best Twitter has to offer. We'll skip all the funny Girls Gone Wild tweets from those of us (including myself @TheMikeKovak) that saw the tour bus parked on Main Street in Washington last Saturday night.

Marques Parks, former South Fayette football standout
@marques_j_parks, Nov, 29
"I will never forget the day @TheMikeKovak called me to tell I was the O-R Defensive Player of The Year! 8 years ago...WOW!"

Pat Zedreck, Clarion U point guard/former South Fayette standout
@PZedreck, Dec. 6
"@TheMikeKovak @C_Brums14 is scared of small bugs, has bad ankles and loves LMFAO's 'Party Rock Anthe' #brumbaughfacts"

Veronica Latsko, Peters Township soccer/member of national player pool for her age group
@V_Latsko12, Dec. 6
"Going to russia!! #soexcited"

Jacob Pato, Trinity football
@jayypay21, Dec. 7
"I kinda wanna sing "my band" by d12 for the talent show this year. I need 3 others rappers to be in it"

Casey Guernsey, Chartiers-Houston volleyball
@caseguerns, Dec. 7
"Sorry Anderson cooper, you do not compare to Brian Williams #silverfox #wannabe"

Graham Lescallette, Burgettstown football
@BigSauce_85, Dec. 8
"I just unfollowed 50 Cent, I hope I don't get shot. #Iprobablywill"

Zach Barnhart, Trinity football
@_ZachBarnhart, Dec. 6
"I want that corner from lsu to win the #heisman just because he is defense"

Ben DuCarme, Canon-McMillan golf
@benducarms, Dec. 4
"One of these days the bengals will stop coming to play at Heinz Field"

Mike Beveridge, Ringgold football/basketball
@MikeBeveridge44, Dec. 7
"S/o @TheRealQuad_Law @C3_OVO @That_Dude_68 elite 11"

Josh Wise, Washington football/basketball/track
@jlwise_whs11, Dec. 7
"Tip off tournament Friday got ball hard like I'm #harrisonbarnes #allday23"

Dustin Fuller, Washington soccer/track
@fullerd10, Dec. 7
"Floor seats for the Virginia tech game and Rhode Island #sick"

Tweet of the Week
Nick Riotto, Trinity baseball and a recent recipient of a recruiting letter from Missouri football. Riotto is committed to Penn State for baseball.
"The #JimmyV speech always is great no matter how many times you watch it"

EQT hype machine rolls into Canon-McMillan

Television commercials. Radio spots. Electronic billboards ... in Allegheny County.

It's all for a tournament starting Friday at Canon-McMillan High School. And get this ... it has nothing to do with wrestling.

Western Pennsylvania's wrestling hotbed is host to this year's EQT Energy Classic, a boys basketball tipoff tournament that pits a handful of area teams against a couple from Eastern Kentucky. The tournament, which runs from Friday through Sunday and features radio coverage of every game, has its own website. http://www.eqtenergyclassic.com/index.htm. You can even like it on facebook.

Billed as the "Backyard Bluegrass Battle", the EQT Classic brings defending champion Pikesville (Ky.) and Allen Central to Western Pennsylvania. Canon-Mac, Trinity, Wash High, Waynesburg, Burgettstown and West Greene will represent the Washington-Greene region.

(For the record, I'll predict a Canon-McMillan vs. Washington final Sunday at 6 p.m.)

That game could be preceded by an Elvis impersonator.

The sponsor has made a major investment in the tournament, which will return to Kentucky next year. It will be interesting to see how this area responds.

Boys basketball enrollment numbers

The next two-year cycle (2012-13, 2013-14) is approaching and Bob Gregg of WJPA radio had compiled enrollment numbers for boys basketball.

The following is a list of local teams. If you're wondering where your school falls and it's not on the list, just ask. (Bold indicates a move in classification.)

Class AAAA
Canon-McMillan 600
Peters Township 583
Trinity 448

Class AAA
Ringgold 417
South Fayette 294
McGuffey 288
Waynesburg 265

Class AA
Charleroi 216
Washington 212
Burgettstown 194
Bentworth 166
Beth-Center 164
Chartiers-Houston 162
Fort Cherry 155
West Greene 138
California 136
Jefferson-Morgan 134

Class A
Carmichaels 124
Monessen 99 (Monessen plays up in classification)
Avella 89
Mapletown 68

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Celebration costs team championship

Imagine, back in 2001, that Washington High School running back J.R. Ward raised his arm in triumph as he ran behind Dan Mozes to score what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in the PIAA Class AA championship game.

Not that Ward did, celebration displays were never a trademark of Prexies teams of that era.

But say Ward got flagged for the display and Pen Argyl won the state title.

Something like it happened recently in Massachusetts.

It's an interesting story.

http://espn.go.com/boston/story/_/id/7327275/celebration-penalty-td-costs-cathedral-high-school-team-title

Ringgold's Law Player of Year, Elite 11 and All-District Team

Ringgold senior Quad Law juked defenders on his way to being the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year. For more, click here.

Law is the first player from Ringgold to be POY, and it marks the third consecutive year a quarterback was honored. Former South Fayette quarterback Christian Brumbaugh, now at William & Mary College, was POY in 2009 and 2010.

The Elite 11 was also released. It wasn't easy finalizing the list. For the Elite 11 and the All-District Team, please visit the O-R website: http://observer-reporter.com/

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The All-Area starting lineup

Offense
QB – Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry
RB – Andrew Erenberg, Peters Township
Nick Zupper, Waynesburg
Shai McKenzie, Washington
WR – Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette
DeShan Brown, Beth-Center
Ryan Babirad, Fort Cherry
OL – Clayton Evans, Peters Township
Alex Paulina, Canon-McMillan
Trenton Bosworth, Waynesburg
Greg Kumer, Fort Cherry
Greg Lippert, Peters Township
Sean Lacinski, South Fayette
MP – Percy "Quad" Law, Ringgold

Defense
DL – Eric Ellis, Washington
Joe Phillips, Washington
Xavier Severns, Trinity
Mike Beveridge, Ringgold
LB – Corey Garry, Fort Cherry
Sal Faieta, Beth-Center
Jaylin Kelly, Washington
Garrett Vulcano, Chartiers-Houston

DB – Alfon Cook, Ringgold
Corey Hunsberger, Trinity
Danny Lis, Chartiers-Houston
Chavas Rawlins, Monessen

Special teams
K/P – Skyler Fransko, Ringgold
KR/PR – Demetrius Louis, Ringgold

Player of the Year worthy


Brief bios on players who were considered for the Observer-Reporter Football Player of the Year, which will be published Wednesday.

Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette
Challingsworth has received interest from West Virginia, Penn State, Toledo, Maryland, Pitt and Villanova. Maryland was the most recent to visit South Fayette and talk with Lions head coach Joe Rossi about the dynamic Challingsworth, a first-team Century Conference receiver and punter. Challingsworth caught 48 passes for 740 yards, rushed for 520, passed for 60 and scored nine touchdowns to go with five interceptions.

Eric Ellis, Washington
Ellis made the Century Conference second team as an offensive lineman, but it's on defense where the senior made his biggest impact. Among Ellis' 55 tackles were a single-season school record 18 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. Ellis forced turnovers - five fumbles, one interception - and recovered six fumbles. He even blocked two punts and two kicks.

Andrew Erenberg, Peters Township
One of the area's better baseball players, Erenberg enjoyed his best football season as a senior. Erenberg turned down a scholarship offer from Kent State (the first local running back since Wash High's Travis Thomas to be recruited by D1 schools at the position) to commit to Fordham. Erenberg, also a starting safety, rushed for 1,343 yards and scored 18 touchdowns and he rushed for 3,500 yards during his three years with the Indians.

Sal Faieta, Beth-Center
A four-year starter at linebacker, Faieta made significant strides as a quarterback during his senior season. Colleges like Youngstown State like Faieta at linebacker, and he finished with 85 tackles. His efficiency as a quarterback was noticeable. Faieta passed for 1,315 yards and averaged 16.6 yards per completion. He passed for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 10.

Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry
The Offensive MVP of the Black Hills Conference, Garry put together a record-setting season at Fort Cherry. He completed 110 passes for 2,171 yards and 23 touchdowns. As the season progressed, Garry became fort Cherry's top option in the run game and he gained 702 yards with 12 rushing touchdowns. Garry also started at linebacker and safety, and had a knack for making a big play in key games.

Percy "Quad" Law, Ringgold
Dynamic, shifty and fast, Law turned negative plays into highlight-reel material. As the quarterback in Ringgold's version of the spread offense, Law rushed for 1,341 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing parts of two games due to injury. Before his leg injury, Law was averaging nearly 15 yards per carry. He also passed for 637 yards and made key plays with his arm in both of Ringgold's biggest wins – at Greensburg-Salem and versus Highlands in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Football player of the year

What do UFC fighter Josh Koscheck, Chicago White Sox minor league first baseman Jim Gallagher and Penn State linebacker Mike Yancich have in common?

Before the trio went on to bigger and better things, all three were honored as Observer-Reporter Football Player of The Year.

Koscheck was the Offensive Player of the Year in 1996, his senior year at Waynesburg. More than one person I know involved in high school sports now or at some point say that Koscheck was the best hard-nosed running back they've seen from this area.

Gallagher, who fielded several Division I football offers, was the Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 as he guided Peters Township to a playoff win. Gallagher was also the area's top baseball player at the time, and he turned down football offers to play baseball at Duke. Eventually, he was a seventh-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox and plays for the Class AAA Durham Bulls. I still believe that Gallagher is the best athlete from Washington County that I've covered at the high school level.

Yancich played linebacker at Trinity as a sophomore and junior. He was there as a senior, too, but he finally got a chance to become the Hillers' tailback in 2007 and did not disappoint. That year, Yancich was the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year.

In Wednesday's edition, the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year will be recognized, as will the Elite 11 and All-District Team.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Turns out Merckle's not the first


With Division I track programs recruiting Fort Cherry senior Jessie Merckle, it led to a natural topic of coversation.
Had a school known for producing NFL coaches, 4,000-yard running backs and the Garry coaching family ever produced a Division I female athlete.
Following inner-office discussion, and a few conversations with people in the Fort Cherry community - the answer seemed to be "no."
So, when Merckle (shown in this photo with FC track coach Ben Maxin during a national competition) made a commitment to throw the javelin for Wake Forest University recently, I felt comfortable reporting that she was the first female from Fort Cherry to receive an athletic scholarship.
Not so fast.
In 1979, Janet Marquis played softball for Fort Cherry, where she pitched nine no-hitters, and accepted an athletic scholarship to pitch at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind. That's the same Indiana State that Larry Bird led to the NCAA men's basketball championship game.
Marquis pitched at Indiana State for four years before becoming a softball coach at Eastern Illinois University.
Indiana State produced a first for another local school and female athlete. Former Canon-McMillan softball standout Tiffany Wasniewski played four years with the Sycamores and was a team captain. She was the first female in Big Macs sports history to accept a Division I athletic scholarship.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Nov. 29, 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)-2010 PIAA champion.

CLASS AAAA
Team Rec Pvs
1. North Allegheny (P) (7) 13-0 1
2. LaSalle College HS (12) 11-1 3
3. North Penn (1) 11-2 4
4. Upper St. Clair (7) 11-2 2
5. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 11-1 5
6. Gateway (7) 9-3 6
7. Council Rock South (1) 12-1 7
8. Nazareth (11) 12-1 8
9. Central Dauphin (3) 12-1 9
10. Wilson (3) 12-1 NR
Honorable mention
Central York (3) 10-3, Cumberland Valley (3) 11-2, Easton (11) 11-2, Garnet Valley (1) 11-2, Penn-Trafford (7) 10-1, State College (6) 8-4.

CLASS AAA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Archbishop Wood (12) 11-1 1
2. Grove City (10) 11-0 2
3. Bishop McDevitt (3) 11-2 3
4. Montour (7) 11-2 4
5. Central Valley (7) 11-1 6
6. Knoch (7) 12-1 7
7. Cathedral Prep (10) 9-3 5
8. Franklin Regional (7) 11-1 8
9. Allentown C.C. (P) (11) 8-5 NR
10. Lampeter-Strasburg (3) 12-1 10
Honorable mention
Dallas (2) 10-2, Hopewell (7) 7-4, Pottsgrove (1) 11-2, Valley View (2) 11-2, West Mifflin (7) 9-2, West York (3) 10-3.

CLASS AA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Aliquippa (7) 13-0 1
2. Lancaster Catholic (3) 13-0 2
3. West Catholic (P) (12) 9-3 3
4. Jeannette (7) 12-1 4
5. Mount Carmel (4) 12-1 5
6. Pen Argyl (11) 13-0 7
7. Seton-LaSalle (7) 11-1 6
8. Hickory (10) 11-1 10
9. Tyrone (6) 12-1 NR
10. Lewisburg (4) 9-3 8
Honorable mention: Greensburg C.C. (7) 10-2, Moniteau (9) 12-0, Northern Lehigh (11) 10-2, North Schuylkill (11) 10-1, Wilkes-Barre GAR (2) 11-2, Wyomissing (3) 11-1.

CLASS A
Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 13-0 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) 12-1 2
3. Sto-Rox (7) 12-1 3
4. Rochester (7) 10-2 4
5. Pius X (11) 12-1 6
6. Bishop Canevin (7) 11-1 5
7. Sharpsville (10) 12-0 7
8. Penns Manor (6) 11-1 10
9. Line Mountain (4) 10-2 9
10. Port Allegany (9) 11-1 NR
Honorable mention: Avonworth (7) 9-2, Bellwood-Antis (6) 10-2, Dunmore (2) 10-1, North Star (5) 10-1, Old Forge (2) 10-3, West Middlesex (10) 7-5.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A look back at the football season

Four teams - Ringgold, Washington, South Fayette and Fort Cherry - advanced past the first round of the WPIAL football playoffs.

Considering the relative lack of postseason success - South Fayette's championship run last year withstanding - the past decade, four wins for local teams in the opening round is actually a respectable number.

None advanced past the second round.

All face differing landscapes for 2012.

Washington has the most reason to be excited for next year. If the Prexies remain in the Century Conference, they could be the preseason favorite with the returning talent.

Two of Washington's top players, Eric Ellis and Joe Phillips, will be playing college football next year, but a number of others return.

Shai McKenzie had a breakout sophomore season, and the tailback produced numbers reminiscent of Charleroi's Quentin Briggs second varsity season. If McKenzie remains healthy, he's on his way to an outstanding varsity career.

Expect Jaylin Kelly to put together a big-time senior season. Josh Wise returns at quarterback, and he made significant strides this year on the field and as a leader. Daron Whitaker, a nice change of pace back to offset the punishing styles of Kelly and McKenzie, normally gets a first down every time he carries the football.

The key for Washington will be finding replacements along the defensive line, where Ellis, Phillips were often dominant. Rikwon Moore returns, and his play could hold the key for Wash High's defense. Then again, a defensive backfield prone to allowing the occasional big play could be key.

Washington is young, but so is WPIAL champion Aliquippa. In the WPIAL quarterfinals, the Quips controlled play along the offensive and defensive lines in a dominating performance.

* Reason for optimisism also abounds at South Fayette.

The Lions proved they're more than a one-group program with a first-round win at Beaver Falls - with a freshman starting at quarterback - and a tough quarterfinal game against Seton-La Salle.

Zach Challingsworth is a talented two-way player. Brett Brumbaugh showed he had an accurate arm as the Lions went 2-1 with him as starting quarterback.

At some point, South Fayette will end up in Class AAA. Like Peters Township, it's a popular destination for relocating families.

* Not sure any team endured as many injuries along the offensive line as Ringgold. And considering that group primarily consisted of untested varsity players entering the season, the Rams' 8-3 record indicates strong performances by many.

It should be interesting to see what type of offense the Rams run in 2012.

The past two years, everything was geared toward the dynamic abilities of quarterback Quad Law. Could brother Nico Law take over and run a similar offense? Could talented Demetrius Louis move behind center in the shotgun formation and Ringgold run more of a wildcat-type offense? Could Chris Spahr run the offense and utilize some talented receivers, like Joey Wall?

No matter the offense, if Ringgold remains in the Keystone Conference, it should remain in playoff contention.

* Sticking with Class AAA for one second, it's my belief that Central Valley's Robert Foster is the top WPIAL prospect since Terrelle Pryor. I know, I know ... Rushel Shell is considered one of the top high school running backs to play in the WPIAL since Brian Davis.

But when I see Foster play, I see a player who could assimilate himself into a top-notch SEC program and contribute quickly.

* Of the four teams to win a playoff game, none will have a newer look than Fort Cherry.

Tanner Garry, Corey Garry and Ryan Babirad are seniors and accounted for a bulk of the offense and point production. Tanner Garry played so much quarterback the past few seasons, I'm not even sure who is primary backup was.

The up-and-down Rangers were always tough to predict, but they clearly played better once the run became a more prevalent part of the offense.

With Zak Dysert, Tyreke Brown and Koltan Kobrys, the Rangers still have talented pass catchers.

* If the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year were handled like the Heisman Trophy, the five finalists invited to the award presentation would be Peters Township's Andrew Erenberg, Law, Ellis, Garry and Beth-Center's Sal Faieta.

* Here's guessing that Erenberg and Waynesburg's Nick Zupper enjoyed the first week or two of the offseason.

Those tailbacks carried the offensive workloads for their respective teams unlike any other players in the area. Erenberg and Zupper each started on defense.

* If I had a vote for the Tri-County Athletic Directors' Association Football Coach of the Year, which I do, there are several candidates to consider.

Right now, I'd say my first-place vote goes to Washington's Mike Bosnic.

* Thought a couple of the area's better coaching jobs were done by Trinity's Ed Dalton and Waynesburg's Joe Kuhns.

Trinity suffered injuries to its top two running backs, implemented a new offense, then scraped it and faced the difficult task of coaching a Class AAA roster with barely enough coaches for a roster the size of Avella's. The Hillers didn't make the playoffs, but that shouldn't be the barometer for an outstanding coaching job at the high school level.

Kuhns always seems to get the most of his talent. At Waynesburg, there hasn't been a lot of talent on the football field in recent years, but the Raiders contended for a playoff spot until a Week 8 loss to Mt. Pleasant.

* WPIAL realignment will happen soon, but I expect more changes on the coaching front than in new conferences for local teams.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Picking the winners, WPIAL finals

Football teaches valuable life lessons.

One, don't take four sacks during the final minutes of a game like Tino Sunseri did during the 104th Backyard Brawl.

Two, stick to your guns.

When the WPIAL playoff pairings were released, this fearless prognosticator picked a WPIAL Class AAAA championship game of Upper St. Clair and North Allegheny. At the time, of course, USC quarterback/linebacker/Pitt recruit Dakota Conwell was healthy.

With Conwell's injury going into the semifinals against Pittsburgh Central Catholic, the pick changed. PCC was the choice. USC won, 28-14.

Not making the same mistake.

Upper St. Clair wins, 27-21.

Last week, I went 5-3 to make my overall mark 47-9.

Class AAA
Montour over Knoch

Class AA
Aliquippa over Jeannette

Class A
Clairton over Sto-Rox

Friday, November 25, 2011

Twitter Thanksgiving break edition

Topics ranging from the Backyard Brawl to Peters Township girls soccer - the first WPIAL soccer team to win consecutive PIAA girls championships.

Luke Snatchko, DJ extraordinaire/Burgettstown sports guru
@RealLIQUIDLUKE
Nov. 25
"Has the Backyard Brawl ever meant less to you. Used to wait all year to beat those toothless hicks. Now, not so much."

Corey Garry, Fort Cherry wrestling
@coreygarry
Nov. 25
"9 AM wrestling practice. #ThingsIDontLike"

Ralph Cindrich, Avella proud sports agent
@RalphCindrich
Nov. 25
"Someone should tell Suh to retain Sandusky's attorney or...just close it. It's there for all to see. Good morning."

Aaron Thomspon, Waynesburg U student
@BamThompson
Nov. 23
"Some WVU fan just tried trash talking my mom but she turned it back on them. #love #tasteit #backyardbrawl"

Ed Dalton, Trinity football coach
@edalton2
Nov. 19
"Urban Meyer will do serious damage in the Big 10 with Braxton Miller write that down."
Followed one day later by ...
"Write this down Bob Stoops next Ohio State Coach"
Waiting for Dalton to tell followers to write down the return of Walt Harris as Ohio State's next football coach.

Tweets from Peters Township girls soccer
Megan Parker, PT goalie
@meganparker44
Nov. 19
"STATE CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #twoinarow #hellyeaaahhh"

Taylor Daerr, unable to play senior season because of concussion
@TaylorDaerr
"What up gold medal!"

Peters Township High School Soccer
@PTHSSoccer
Nov. 20
"Let's see, Lady Indians become 1st WPIAL girls team to win states back-2-back, Sid is coming back & it's Thanksgiving week. Life is good!"

Pat Vereb, head coach
@patvofpgh
Nov. 24
"Peters girls soccer kick better than Suh. What a fool."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jefferson-Morgan opens football coaching position

There have been a few consistents in WPIAL football the past two decades.

Aliquippa contends for the Class AA championship.

The Class AAAA team believed to have the most talent rarely wins the title.

Teams feel slighted after the playoffs pairings meeting.

Chuck Wagner coached at Springdale.

And, until Monday evening, Jan Haiden coached at Jefferson-Morgan High School.

In news less publicized than Wagner's retiring after 50 years of coaching football at Spirngdale, but a surprising move nonetheless, the Jefferson-Morgan School Board voted to open the varsity football coaching position during Monday's meeting. For the past 20 years, Haiden held that job. Haiden guided J-M to a 4-5 record in 2011, and a 4-4 mark in the Tri-County South Conference.
A Beth-Center graduate, Haiden's career record is 96-99-1.

Well-respected in the local coaching community, Haiden rarely had the most talent to work with in the Tri-County South, but his teams were always tough and competitive. In 2006, Jefferson-Morgan reached the WPIAL Class A semifinals, where it nearly upended Rochester. The Rockets beat Fort Cherry during that postseason run, and raised eyebrows when they defeated Duquesne in the quarterfinals. It was the final football game in Duquesne High School's history.

With the opening, Jefferson-Morgan is the second school in Greene County without a football coach. At Waynesburg, Joe Kuhns resigned last month.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Twitter Thursday on Friday afternoon

For Tyler Palko aficionados, Twitter provided some great #PalkoFacts the past week. Palko – the former West Allegheny and Pitt quarterback – will start for Kansas City this weekend against New England.

The following were a few of my favorite "Palko facts" on Twitter the past week.

"Kansas City had their hearts set on moving the #Pens there until they found out Tyler Palko was available."

"After Tyler Palko was born, he drove his mother home from the hospital."

"The Pirates announced a Tyler Palko bobblehead day."

"Joe Flacco didn't transfer to Delaware. That's where he landed when Tyler Palko threw him."

"Tyler Palko taught Attorney Edgar Snyder his pointing motion."

"Palko was playing for Long Beach State."

"BREAKING: Matt Cassell announces he intends to transfer."

"John Harbaugh once made Joe Flacco cry by threatening to sign Tyler Palko."

Now, on to some local tweets.

Andrew Erenberg, Peters Township football/Fordham recruit
@andrew_erenberg
Nov. 16
"Can rushel shell play basketball for Pitt too?"

Eric Ellis, Washington football
@That_Dude_68
Nov. 11
"Ready for dem quips #letsbang"

Justice Rawlins, Monessen football
@ThatKid_JRaww
Nov. 17
"Basketball season for most but baseball season for this kid, well I'm gunna try"
Note: Rawlins suffered a season-ending knee injury during football season.

Joe Graziani, Canon-McMillan football
@JoeGrizz52
Nov. 15
"Peyton Hillis and Clay Mathews are the biggest white men I have ever seen."

Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry football
@TannerGarry3
Nov. 13
"Next goal, Observer-Reporter player of the year. #ihope"

Trey Wingo, ESPN
@wingoz
Nov. 13
"Gene Steratore, just another hard working nose bleeding bicep building NFL referee"
Steratore is a Washington County resident

Tweet of the Week
Peters Township Soccer
@PTHSSoccer
Nov. 15
"Lady Indians must have a sweet tooth 'cause they're going back to Hershey! 1-0 PT! Terrific game, great win!"

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Picking the winner, WPIAL semifinals

After a strong first week, kept things rolling in the quarterfinals with a 14-2 record. That improves the overall mark to 42-6.

As Deuce Skurcenski, whom I spoke with on the phone this evening, would say, "Not too shabby."

Class AAAA
North Allegheny over Gateway
Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Upper St. Clair

Class AAA
Central Valley over Montour
Franklin Regional over Knoch

Class AA
Aliquippa over Greensburg Central Catholic
Seton-La Salle over Jeannette

Class A
Clairton over Rochester
Sto-Rox over Bishop Canevin


A few tweets have been compiled for Twitter Thursday, but scanning for a few more. Should be up tomorrow. My apologies.

Trinity tables motions

The Trinity Area School Board voted 5-4 to table motions to open head coaching positions for varsity football, softball and volleyball.

Ed Dalton is Trinity's football coach. Bill Loar is softball coach. Gretchen Mountain is volleyball coach.

All three coaches were told Tuesday by athletic director Bobby Jones that their positions would be opened during Thursday's school board meeting.

For more information, please read Friday's Observer-Reporter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trinity to open Dalton's position; Bentworth hires football coach


The Trinity Area School Board will open the head varsity football coaching position held by Ed Dalton.

Dalton, who has coached football at Trinity since 1999, was informed Tuesday by athletic director Bobby Jones of the action.

The Hillers went 5-4 this fall, and finished tied with Chartiers Valley and Belle Vernon for third place in the Big Eight Conference but missed the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs via head-to-head tiebreakers with both teams. It snapped a six-year playoff streak for Trinity.

For more information, please read Thursday's Observer-Reporter.

* Bentworth didn't wait long to fill its vacant football position.

Less than three weeks after Lou Rood resigned following three difficult seasons, the school district hired Bob Niziol as its varsity football coach. Niziol served as one of Rood's assistants and works in the school district.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday notebook

Blogger's note: Final thoughts on the local 2011 football season are being formulated and will appear soon.

Two of the area's premier high school baseball players - Nick Riotto and Stephen McCaw - recently made commitments to college programs.

Riotto, a junior from Trinity, will play at Penn State. McCaw, a senior from Waynesburg, will play for Mercyhurst.

Riotto burst onto the high school scene as a freshman with a .500-plus batting average and big-time numbers. The lefty landed a spot on the Observer-Reporter All-District team that year. His batting average dipped during his sophomore season as Trinity missed the playoffs, but Riotto continued to play well in fall and summer leagues.

McCaw was the leading hitter for a Waynesburg team that reached the WPIAL Class AA championship last season, and a standout defensive catcher. He earned WPIAL Class AA Player of the Year honors.

* The Peters Township girls soccer team is one win from reaching the PIAA Class AAA championship for the third time in four years.

That's extraordinary.

Peters Township plays Upper St. Clair in tonight's semifinals. The two split a pair of games, with PT winning during the regular season and USC winning in the WPIAL championship match.

There's no doubt that Peters Township is the WPIAL's premier athletic power in what can be labeled as "non-revenue" sports.

What's the Indians' best fall program?

Over time, it's been boys soccer. Lately, girls soccer, girls tennis and boys golf has joined the conversation.

* Avella's difficulties filling a football roster with able bodies is well-documented. That wasn't always the case at the tiny school in the Western foothills of Washington County.

Avella will host Burgettstown Sunday in an Alumni Football USA event. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. and, with the Steelers on a bye week, a crowd of at least 1,000 is expected.

Players from the 1980s, 90s and 2000s will suit up for the Eagles, who have a roster of 45 players. That's about three times larger than the numbers of players head coach Ryan Cecchini, who will start at linebacker, had for the Eagles' regular season finale at Bentworth.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 11-0
2. North Allegheny 11-0
3. Upper St. Clair 10-1
4. Gateway 9-2

Class AAA
1. Central Valley 11-0
2. Franklin Regional 11-0
3. Knoch 11-0
4. Montour 9-2

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 11-0
2. Seton-La Salle 11-0
3. Jeannette 11-0
4. Greensburg Central Catholic 10-1

Class A
1. Clairton 11-0
2. Sto-Rox 11-0
3. Bishop Canevin 11-0
4. Rochester 10-1

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Penn State football has dominated headlines. With all the local connections to the program, Twitter Thursday features tweets concerning the program.

Mike Yancich, Penn State linebacker/Trinity grad
@Ymike33
Nov. 8
"In spite of all the recent events, my heart still swells with #pennstatepride. #WeStillAre Penn State."
Nov. 9
"So proud to say that I played for the best/winningest coach in college football history... #WeAre"
Nov. 9
"Watching Joe announce his retirement was pretty emotional..It's tough to see him go out like this.. #WeWillAlwaysBe Penn State."

Nick Riotto, Trinity baseball who recently committed to Penn State baseball
@NRiotto
"#pennstate will be penn state in the end, one messed up guy cant ruin a place like #happyvalley"

Ryan Dupain, Burgettstown football
@RyanDupain
Nov. 8
"I can't find it in me to support Paterno. #IwishIcouldfindsomegoodinthis but there is none. It's absolutely ludicrous and disgusting."

Josh Wise, Washington football
@jlwise_whs11
Nov. 9
"Damn shame that penn state is losing the best thing to ever happen to the university! smh thank you joe pa for everything you've done!!!!"

Pat Zedreck, Clarion U basketball/South Fayette grad
@PZedreck
Nov. 10
"I dont agree with all the allegations but after 61 years, don't u think the guy has earned at least 1 last home game to say goodbye?"

Doug Wilson, Canon-McMillan basketball
@dougie_fresh055
Nov. 10
"Don't feel bad for Joe paterno he's had his life, feel bad for the victims because they may never have one"


Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak.

Picking the winners, WPIAL football quarterfinals

Put together a solid 28-4 record in the first round, including an 8-0 mark in Class AAA.

Class AAAA
North Allegheny over Seneca Valley
Gateway over Penn-Trafford
Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Mt. Lebanon
Upper St. Clair over Erie McDowell

Class AAA
Central Valley over Ringgold
Montour over West Mifflin
Franklin Regional over Hopewell
Knoch over Thomas Jefferson

Class AA
Washington over Aliquippa
Greensburg Central Catholic over Ellwood City
Jeannette over Shady Side Academy
Seton-La Salle over South Fayette

Class A
Clairton over Springdale
Rochester over Avonworth
Sto-Rox over Brentwood
Fort Cherry over Bishop Canevin


Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Nov. 8, 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)-2010 PIAA champion.

CLASS AAAA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 10-0 1
2. North Allegheny (P) (7) 10-0 2
3. LaSalle College HS (12) 9-1 3
4. Upper St. Clair (7) 9-1 4
5. North Penn (1) 8-2 5
6. Penn-Trafford (7) 10-0 6
7. Gateway (7) 8-2 7
8. Council Rock South (1) 9-1 9
9. Nazareth (11) 9-1 10
10. Central Dauphin (3) 9-1 NR
Teams to watch
Abington (1) 9-1, Bayard Rustin (1) 9-1, Cumberland Valley (3) 9-1, Downingtown East (1) 8-2, Parkland (11) 8-2, Plymouth-Whitemarsh (1) 8-1, West Chester Henderson (1) 8-2, Wilson (3) 9-1.

CLASS AAA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Archbishop Wood (12) 9-1 1
2. Central Valley (7) 10-0 2
3. Grove City (10) 9-0 3
4. Bishop McDevitt (3) 8-2 4
5. Montour (7) 8-2 5
6. Cathedral Prep (10) 8-2 6
7. Franklin Regional (7) 10-0 7
8. Hopewell (7) 7-3 8
9. Knoch (7) 10-0 9
10. Valley View (2) 9-1 10
Teams to watch
Clearfield (9) 9-1, Dallas (2) 9-1, Greater Johnstown (6) 9-1, Lampeter-Strasburg (3) 9-1, Thomas Jefferson (7) 7-3, West Mifflin (7) 9-1.

CLASS AA
Team Rec Pvs
1. Aliquippa (7) 10-0 1
2. Lancaster Catholic (3) 10-0 2
3. West Catholic (P) (12) 7-3 3
4. North Schuylkill (11) 10-0 4
5. Seton-La Salle (7) 10-0 5
6. Mount Carmel (4) 9-1 6
7. Lewisburg (4) 8-2 7
8. Trinity (3) 8-2 8
9. Jeannette (7) 10-0 9
10. Greensburg C.C. (7) 9-1 10
Teams to watch
Forest Hills (6) 8-2, Hickory (10) 8-1, Northern Lehigh (11) 9-1, Pen Argyl (11) 10-0, Pine Grove (11) 9-1, Wilkes-Barre GAR (2) 9-1, Wilmington (10) 9-1.

CLASS A
Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 10-0 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) 9-1 2
3. Sto-Rox (7) 10-0 3
4. Dunmore (2) 10-0 4
5. Rochester (7) 9-1 5
6. Bishop Canevin (7) 10-0 6
7. Pius X (11) 9-1 7
8. Line Mountain (4) 9-1 8
9. Sharpsville (10) 9-0 9
10. Avonworth (7) 9-1 10
Teams to watch
Bellwood-Antis (6) 8-1, Brentwood (7) 9-1, Fort Cherry (7) 7-3, Mercer (10) 7-2, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 9-1, Minersville (4) 9-1, Penns Manor (6) 8-1, Youngsville (10) 10-0.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sites set for WPIAL quarterfinals

A pair of teams from Washington County (Ringgold and Washington) face top seeds. Two schools with a McDonald mailing address (Fort Cherry and South Fayette) are No. 11 seeds that scored first-round victories.

All WPIAL quarterfinal games are Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Class AAA
No. 8 Ringgold (8-2) vs. No. 1 Central Valley (10-0) at West Allegheny

Class AA
No. 8 Washington (8-2) vs. No. 1 Aliquippa (10-0) at Chartiers Valley
No. 11 South Fayette (7-3) vs. No. 3 Seton-La Salle (10-0) at Peters Township

Class A
No. 11 Fort Cherry (7-3) vs. No. 3 Bishop Canevin (10-0) at Chartiers-Houston

For complete WPIAL football brackets, please click here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A few thoughts from the first round

The cliche has a few variations, but it goes a little something like this, "Big-time players make big plays in big games."

Over the last two weeks, no player from the Observer-Reporter coverage area has made more plays than Fort Cherry senior Tanner Garry.

And there's been plenty of competition.

Garry has been the best football player on the field in Fort Cherry victories at Chartiers-Houston and at Beth-Center. The latter made Fort Cherry the third-place team in the Black Hills Conference, which represented itself well in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs. The latter came in the first round.

Need big-time completions? Garry has thrown for 400 yards the past two games, and three touchdowns (all against Beth-Center).

Looking for a quarterback who can break the big run? Garry has rushed for more than 330 yards and five touchdowns against a pair of defenses that stuffed the run for most of the season.

He's even intercepted a couple passes.

Thanks, in part, to Garry's play, Fort Cherry (7-3) finds itself in the quarterfinals against Bishop Canevin (10-0), which rallied for a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Chartiers-Houston.

Fort Cherry suddenly looks like a team capable of making a postseason run. Garry is playing the best football of his career, the Rangers run defense is punishing, as is the offensive line. And Garry has catapulted himself into the Player of the Year picture.

* There's little doubt that Aliquippa deserves the No. 1 ranking in WPIAL Class AA and the top seed in the playoffs.

After Beaver and Beaver Falls made an early exit from the playoffs, anyone else wondering if the Quips didn't face much competition during the regular season?

* Zach Challingsworth may be one of the more under-appreciated players in Class AA.

The South Fayette junior caught a pair of touchdowns in the Lions' first-round win at Beaver Falls and helped a defensive effort that forced five turnovers, which helped the 11th seed advance.

He's a consistent presence, and has been since the beginning of his sophomore season.

* If you're South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi, what do you do if senior quarterback John Lerda is healthy enough to play against Seton-La Salle in the quarterfinals?

Lerda was a 1,000-yard passer before missing the last two games. His replacement, freshman Brett Brumbaugh, is 2-0. He's completed 27 of 36 passes in those games, though Beaver Falls did force him into four interceptions.

* Washington senior Eric Ellis is having the type of season that lands a player on the all-state team.

Ellis, a defensive end, has a single-season Prexies record 18 sacks . He had 3 1/2 against Mt. Pleasant. Ellis has also been in on a handful of turnovers, recovering fumbles throughout the season and even an interception against the Vikings.

* Unless you're Clairton or Aliquippa or Pittsburgh Central Catholic, winning in the postseason can be difficult.

It's particularly tough when you're a program without a postseason win since 1999.

But Ringgold broke a seven-game postseason skid with a 14-10 win against Highlands at Joe Montana Stadium. Highlands deserves credit for the defensive job it did against Ringgold's run game, but Quad Law made a couple big plays passing to help the Rams advance.

Learning how to win in the postseason is a big step.