Friday, September 30, 2011

Games of the Week

Beth-Center at California
When California is solid, which certainly appears to be the case, this is a heated rivalry. These schools have a history of disliking one another, but, on the football field, things have been decidedly Beth-Center since the Bulldogs move to the Tri-County South. Beth-Center has quietly gone about its business, rolling up three consecutive blowout wins. California is battle-tested, with tough games already played against Riverview and Monessen.

Washington at Keystone Oaks
Washington, behind a dominating performance from the offensive and defensive lines, firmly placed itself in the WPIAL Class AA playoff picture with last week's win over South Fayette. Things rarely get easier in the Century Conference and, tonight, the Prexies travel to Dormont Stadium to face Keystone Oaks, which has a 2-0 conference record. The Golden Eagles are always solid, but getting a read on them this year has been difficult. They lost to Ambridge and beat Quaker Valley by seven.

Brentwood at Fort Cherry
The Spartans edged the Rangers last year in a game that Fort Cherry held the statistical advantage, particularly in average yards per rush. Brentwood is 4-0 and yet to be tested. Could that record be deceiving? The combined record of the teams Brentwood has faced is 0-16. Repeat, 0-16. This game is critical for Fort Cherry, which plays Serra Catholic and Bentworth the next two weeks. A win here and the Rangers could take a 6-1 record into a Week 8 game against Clairton.

Monessen at North Catholic
The Greyhounds faced some adversity last week against California. One, Monessen allowed its first points of the season. Two, the Greyhounds trailed by 13 points before rallying to win. Undefeated and the fourth-ranked Class A team by the Observer-Reporter, Monessen can use to win at always tough North Catholic to bolster its portfolio come playoff time. It would also be a nice win for the Tri-County South Conference.

I'll be providing occasional updates from tonight's Brentwood at Fort Cherry game, live from Jim Garry Stadium. Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Didn't get as many opportunities to check tweets this week from the OBX, but here's a few I enjoyed.
Don't forget, follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak.
Chris Dugan, O-R sports editor
Sept. 23
"Wash High's biggest need: bulbs for the scoreboard. #HSFB"
Maceo Saunders, Trinity cross country/basketball
Sept. 26
"When ppl try to bring me down it never works cause I'm impeccable"
Pat Zedreck, Clarion U basketball, reigning O-R Player of the Year
"sunday should be renamed steelerday"
Vincent Magnone, Wash High football
Sept. 29
"S/O to all you #beautiful ladies that follow me :)"

State football rankings

From the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.

CLASS AAAA -- Record -- Previous rank
1. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) -- 4-0 -- 1
2. North Allegheny* (7) -- 4-0 -- 2
3. LaSalle College HS (12) -- 3-1 -- 3
4. Upper St. Clair (7) -- 3-1 -- 4
5. North Penn (1) -- 2-2 -- 6
6. Council Rock South (1) -- 4-0 -- 7
7. Cumberland Valley (3) -- 4-0 -- 10
8. Woodland Hills (7) -- 3-1 -- 8
9. Coatesville (1) -- 4-0 -- NR
10. Whitehall (11) -- 4-0 -- NR

Teams to watch: Abington (1) 4-0, Downingtown East (1) 3-1, Father Judge (12) 3-1, Gateway (7) 3-1, McDowell (10) 3-1, Nazareth (11) 4-0, Neshaminy (1) 3-1, Penn-Trafford (7) 4-0, Wyoming Valley West (2) 4-0.

CLASS AAA -- Record -- Previous rank
1. Archbishop Wood (12) -- 3-1 -- 1
2. Central Valley (7) -- 4-0 -- 2
3. Hopewell (7) -- 4-0 -- 4
4. Grove City (10) -- 4-0 -- 3
5. Montour (7) -- 3-1 -- 5
6. Bishop McDevitt (3) -- 2-2 -- 6
7. Cathedral Prep (10) -- 3-1 -- 10
8. Valley View (2) -- 4-0 -- 7
9. Susquehanna Twp. (3) -- 3-1 -- 9
10. West Allegheny (7) -- 2-2 -- NR

Teams to watch: Allentown C.C.* (11) 2-2, Cardinal O’Hara (12) 2-2, Clearfield (9) 4-0, Franklin Regional (7) 4-0, Greater Johnstown (6) 4-0, Knoch (7) 4-0, Thomas Jefferson (7) 2-2.

CLASS AA -- Record -- Previous rank
1. Aliquippa (7) -- 4-0 -- 1
2. Lancaster Catholic (3) -- 4-0 -- 2
3. West Catholic* (12) -- 1-3 -- 3
4. North Schuylkill (11) -- 4-0 -- 4
5. Seton-La Salle (7) -- 4-0 -- 5
6. Mount Carmel (4) -- 4-0 -- 6
7. Trinity (3) -- 3-1 -- 7
8. Lewisburg (4) -- 3-1 -- 8
9. Greensburg C.C. (7) -- 4-0 -- 9
10. Beaver Falls (7) -- 3-1 -- 10

Teams to watch: Beaver Area (7) 4-0, Bloomsburg (4) 3-0, Hickory (10) 4-0, Jeannette (7) 4-0, Northern Lehigh (11) 4-0, Pen Argyl (11) 4-0, Pine Grove (11) 4-0, Wilmington (10) 4-0.

CLASS A -- Record -- Previous rank
1. Clairton* (7) -- 4-0 -- 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) -- 4-0 -- 2
3. Sto-Rox (7) -- 4-0 -- 5
4. Dunmore (2) -- 4-0 -- 4
5. Rochester (7) -- 3-1 -- 3
6. Pius X (11) -- 4-0 -- 6
7. Bishop McCort (6) -- 4-0 -- 7
8. Mercyhurst Prep (10) -- 4-0 -- 8
9. Line Mountain (4) -- 3-1 -- 9
10. Lackawanna Trail (2) -- 4-0 -- NR

Teams to watch: Bishop Canevin (7) 4-0, Juniata Valley (6) 4-0, Mahanoy Area (11) 3-1, Monessen (7) 4-0, North Star (5) 4-0, Riverside (2) 2-2, Sharpsville (10) 3-0, Springdale (7) 3-1.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fear the beard, Fort Cherry style

Thanks to one unruly beard that made Deadheads across the nation jealous, Steelers defensive lineman Brett Keisel certainly saw his profile raise as Pittsburgh played its way to the Super Bowl last year.

Fort Cherry senior Corey Garry, one of the area's more entertaining personalities on Twitter, is adopting the bearded lifestyle this season.

And the running back/middle linebacker is developing a fan following.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 4 thoughts

The wait is finally over.

Washington notched a signature win.

It came Friday night at Wash High Stadium as the Prexies rushed for 258 yards during a 33-14 win over south Fayette that was nothing short of impressive.

Earlier in the week, South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said that no team in the Century Conference – not even high-powered Seton-La Salle – boasted a backfield with the talent of Washington's. And South Fayette sure saw a lot of Jaylin Kelly, Shai McKenzie and Joe Phillips.

Kelly rushed for 103 yards; McKenzie scored three touchdowns; and, Phillips help wear down the defense. Washington was far from one-dimensional as Josh Wise threw a pair of touchdowns, one to talented receiver Ethan Gordon, who sometimes gets lost in the Prexies' run-oriented attack.

Maybe the most impressive fact of the win – the Prexies trailed 7-0. Granted, that's not a significant deficit, but they've clearly played their best playing with a lead in the past.

I'm calling it Washington's best win since the 14th-seeded Prexies shutout Aliquippa, 7-0, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs in 2005. That win, coincidentally, remains the High's only postseason win since winning the PIAA Class AA championship in 2001.

* Ringgold senior Mike Beveridge is an absolute menace as a defensive end, and his disrupting presence plays a significant factor in the Rams' fun-to-watch 42-41 win at Greensburg-Salem.

Beveridge might be this area's most disruptive defensive lineman since some fella named Dan Mozes helped Washington win that state title.

* If I'm a local Division II football coach, I'm recruiting Ringgold's Quad Law. Like right now.

* Former Fort Cherry standout Mike Vernillo held the WPIAL career rushing record for 12 years before Hopewell's Rushel Shell broke it Friday night.

Shell, who regularly faces some of the toughest teams around, has an opportunity to put the record where it may not be touched for decades.

* Mapletown snapped a 15-game win streak with a 22-12 win over West Greene. It's always a little easier coming to practice after a win, and it's a nice reward for all the players who have hung around throughout the streak.

* I always thought the one thing that hurt Beth-Center during the postseason was the lack of a playmaker with the speed to hang with players on elite teams. Say 'Hello' to Cody Durant.

Durant is averaging around 15 yards per carry ans scored four times against Carmichaels.

Durant and the Bulldogs face a tough test this week against neighboring rival California. The Trojans' held a double-digit lead at Monessen, but lost 20-13.

* I'm guessing that Tanner Garry's 99-yard touchdown pass to Koltan Kobrys is not only a school record, but a WPIAL and PIAA record as well. Heck, add the National Federation of High Schools to that list as well.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 4-0, def. Woodland Hills 31-13
2. North Allegheny 4-0, def. Erie McDowell 49-14
3. Upper St. Clair 3-1, def. West Allegheny 41-27
4. Penn-Trafford 4-0, def. Gateway 16-14
5. Woodland Hills 3-1, lost to PCC 31-13

Class AAA
1. Hopewell 4-0, def. Mt. Lebanon 27-20
2. Central Valley 4-0, def. Trinity 49-12
3. Franklin Regional 4-0, def. Hollidaysburg 28-9
4. Montour 3-1, def. Canon-McMillan 52-19
5. West Mifflin 4-0, def. Peters Township 43-10

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 4-0, def. Freedom 59-14
2. Seton-La Salle, def. Quaker Valley 35-0
3. Jeannette 4-0, def. Southmoreland 51-6
4. Greensburg C.C. 4-0, def. Yough 49-0
5. Beaver 4-0, def. Ellwood City 24-7

Class A
1. Clairton 4-0, def. Chartiers-Houston 36-0
2. Sto-Rox 4-0, def. Rochester 48-27
3. Bishop Canevin 4-0, def. Frazier 48-6
4. Monessen 4-0, def. California 20-13
5. Rochester 3-1, lost to Sto-Rox 48-27

Friday, September 23, 2011

Quick hits

Tonight could be the best night of the regular season.

Ringgold at Greensburg-Salem
South Fayette atWashington
California atMonessen
Clairton at Chartiers-Houston
Central Valley atTrinity
Burgettstown atSteel Valley

All six games I find intriguing for different reasons.

Can Ringgold win a big road game and put Demetrius Louis in the same type of playmaking positions they found for him last week? Louis is a dynamic talent.

South Fayette took Steel Valley's best shot last Friday and survived. Will they absorb Washington's best punches this week? The key to this game could be the first quarter. Wash High plays better from the front.

California is getting it done with ball control and defense. Monessen has not allowed a point. Which defense stands tallest and leads its team to a key Tri-County South win?

Like most opponents who play Clairton, Chartiers-Houston will try to shorten the game and limit the Bears' touches. How competitive the Bucs are could be an indicator or what type team they'll be come playoff time.

Central Valley is one of the top teams in Class AAA. It will be interesting to see how Trinity bounces back from a tough home loss in a game that has no impact on their postseason chances.

Word from Burgettstown is that Steel Valley canceled this weekend's JV game. Hmmmmmmm ... are forces aligning in the Blue Devils' favor?

* A key matchup in the California-Monessen game will be Trojans linebacker Brenden Wright against Greyhounds multi-purpose quarterback Chavas Rawlins. So far, they've been two of the better players in ClassA.

* Washington senior Joe Phillips recently added an offer from Division I-AA Youngstown State. According to Prexies coach Mike Bosnic, Ohio University is extremely interested. Bowling Green already offered Phillips.

* I will send updates via Twitter from tonight's Ringgold at Greensburg-Salem game. Follow me @TheMikeKovak.

* We'll also be twittering from South Fayette-Washington, California-Monessen and Clairton atChartiers-Houston.

* Please follow @sportsOR, @kipapens (this guy literally has nothing else to do but Twitter), @buccos12 and @CDuganOR.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Follow me on Twitter @TheMike Kovak. If you're a local athlete or coach and actually tweet, I'll follow back. Still wondering when a football player will tweet during halftime.

On to this week's tweets.

Ed Dalton, Trinity football coach
Sept. 16
"If u hate losing u have a chance to get better, we hate losing we will get better, write that down"

John Laschinsky, Trinity football/frequent tweeter
Sept. 21
"@Taylored_JET30 you're Mt. Miyagi and Im the karate kid. We grind hard together #swagthroughtheroof"

Quad Law, Ringgold football /track
Sept. 21
"Can't stop thinkin about dis Friday! #ProvinAPoint"

Josh Wise, Wash High football/basketball/track
Sept. 19
"when adversity hits you have to hit harder! #warrior"

Brandon McGavitt, Trinity football
Sept. 22
"Life style switchin"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Players suspended from Hickory-Sharon brawl

SHARON, Pa. (AP) — Members of two Pennsylvania high school football teams have been suspended after a brawl prompted officials to end their game early.
Officials at Sharon and Hickory high schools say additional penalties are also planned for more than a dozen players involved in the rumble during the fourth quarter of Friday’s game at Sharon.
Video of the fight that ended the 43-7 Hickory win was posted online and drew thousands of views.
Hermitage Superintendent Daniel Bell says one Hickory player was thrown off the team and seven others suspended for Friday’s game. Sharon Superintendent John Sarandrea says his suspended players will also receive in-school suspensions.
No one was seriously hurt in the brawl.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has scheduled an Oct. 5 meeting at which the schools could face penalties.

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Sept. 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.

1. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 3-0 1
2. North Allegheny (P) (7) 3-0 2
3. LaSalle College HS (12) 2-1 4
4. Upper St. Clair (7) 2-1 3
5. Neshaminy (1) 3-0 7
6. North Penn (1) 1-2 5
7. Council Rock South (1) 3-0 6
8. Woodland Hills (7) 3-0 8
9. Downingtown East (1) 3-0 9
10. Cumberland Valley (3) 3-0 10
Teams to watch
Bethlehem Liberty (11) 2-1, Coatesville (1) 3-0, Father Judge (12) 2-1, Gateway (7) 3-0, McDowell (10) 3-0, Nazareth (11) 3-0, Whitehall (11) 3-0, Wyoming Valley West (2) 2-1.

1. Archbishop Wood (12) 2-1 1
2. Central Valley (7) 3-0 2
3. Grove City (10) 3-0 4
4. Hopewell (7) 3-0 5
5. Montour (7) 2-1 6
6. Bishop McDevitt (3) 1-2 3
7. Valley View (2) 3-0 7
8. Thomas Jefferson (7) 2-1 8
9. Susquehanna Twp. (3) 3-0 9
10. Cathedral Prep (10) 2-1 10
Teams to watch
Abington Heights (2) 2-1, Allentown C.C. (P) (11) 1-2, Cardinal O’Hara (12) 2-1, Clearfield (9) 3-0, Franklin Regional (7) 3-0, Greater Johnstown (6) 3-0, West Allegheny (7) 2-1.

1. Aliquippa (7) 3-0 1
2. Lancaster Catholic (3) 3-0 3
3. West Catholic (P) (12) 0-3 2
4. North Schuylkill (11) 3-0 4
5. Seton-LaSalle (7) 3-0 5
6. Mount Carmel (4) 3-0 6
7. Trinity (3) 2-1 7
8. Lewisburg (4) 2-1 8
9. Greensburg C.C. (7) 3-0 9
10. Beaver Falls (7) 2-1 10
Teams to watch
Beaver Area (7) 3-0, Bloomsburg (4) 2-0, Hickory (10) 3-0, Jeannette (7) 3-0, Northern Lehigh (11) 3-0, Pen Argyl (11) 3-0, South Fayette (7) 2-1, Wilmington (10) 3-0.

1. Clairton (P) (7) 3-0 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) 3-0 2
3. Rochester (7) 3-0 3
4. Dunmore (2) 3-0 4
5. Sto-Rox (7) 3-0 5
6. Pius X (11) 3-0 6
7. Bishop McCort (6) 3-0 7
8. Mercyhurst Prep (10) 3-0 8
9. Line Mountain (4) 2-1 NR
10. Riverside (2) 2-1 NR
Teams to watch
Bishop Canevin (7) 3-0, Juniata Valley (6) 3-0, Lackawanna Trail (2) 3-0, Mahanoy Area (11) 3-0, Marian Catholic (11) 2-1, Monessen (7) 3-0, North Star (5) 3-0, Sharpsville (10) 2-0.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

With last week's result

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 3-0, def. Kiski Area 42-7
2. North Allegheny 3-0, def. Upper St. Clair 28-21
3. Woodland Hills 3-0, def. Plum 45-6
4. McKeesport 3-0, def. Connellsville 58-21
5. Upper St. Clair 2-1, lost to North Allegheny 28-21

Class AAA
1. Hopewell 3-0, def. Moon 56-28
2. Central Valley 3-0, def. New Castle 48-25
3. Franklin Regional 3-0, def. Albert Gallatin 70-6
4. Montour 2-1, def. Ambridge 42-0
5. Thomas Jefferson 2-1, def. McGuffey 48-14

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 3-0, def. Riverside 46-28
2. Seton-La Salle 3-0, def. Washington 34-14
3. Jeannette 3-0, def. Waynesburg 36-7
4. Greensburg C.C. 3-0, def. Charleroi 54-21
5. Beaver 3-0, def. New Brighton 21-0

Class A
1. Clairton 3-0, def. Carlynton 44-0
2. Rochester 3-0, def. Union 46-7
3. Sto-Rox 3-0, def. Neshannock 43-11
4. Bishop Canevin 3-0, def. Northgate 42-0
5. Monessen 3-0, def. Carmichaels 21-0

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Week 3 thoughts

The WPIAL schedule makers sure weren't kind to Washington. The Prexies opened the season with Clairton (a game the schools scheduled) and they played Seton-La Salle Friday night. Things won't be easy this week either as Wash High hosts South Fayette.

At least Washington had the opportunity to schedule its game against Clairton. Waynesburg was not afforded the same opportunity, but the Raiders have been forced to navigate an equally brutal opening month.

Waynesburg started its season against Greensburg Central Catholic. The Raiders played Jeannette Friday night. This week, they're awarded with a crossover game against Beaver Falls.

* Credit Burgettstown with manhandling its first three opponents and continuing its surprising start to the 2011 season with another easy win - this time over South Allegheny to open play in the Century Conference.

It marks the first time since 2000 that the Blue Devils are 3-0. That team, which competed in Class A, failed to make the playoffs.

Burgettstown's schedule gets extremely difficult in the coming weeks. The Blue Devils are at Steel Valley and at South Fayette. After a home game against Quaker Valley, they are at Seton-La Salle and Keystone Oaks.

If Burgettstown can find a way to win two of those games, the season finale against Washington could be a scenario where the winner gets into the playoffs and the loser goes home. Stress the "could be" in that sentence.

* There are several outstanding football players locally in this year's senior class, but I entered the season thinking the top two talents were Ringgold's Demetrius Louis and South Fayette's Zach Challingsworth.

Both are juniors, and their performances Friday night did nothing but reaffirm my belief.

Louis missed the Rams' Week 2 loss at Hampton. He returned against Hollidaysburg and rushed for 253 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries. No player in the coverage area possesses Louis' combination of size, speed and strength. As one person put it Friday night, "He's the most talented guy I've seen in a while."

Challingsworth caught seven passes for 101 yards, rushed eight times, intercepted two passes, punted and even threw a 28-yard touchdown pass as the Lions' eeked out an important win over Steel Valley. Considering his work ethic, Challingsworth's chances of landing at a Division I school are considerable.

* Yes, Penn-Trafford blew out Peters Township in Week 1, but is anyone else starting to think it wasn't such a terrible loss considering how well Penn-Trafford has played this season?

Andrew Erenberg is on a short list of the area's top players.

* Huge games coming up for Ringgold, Chartiers-Houston, Washington and South Fayette, and California and Monessen. Huge.

* The list of local unbeatens is rapidly shrinking. Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, Beth-Center, Monessen and California are the only teams on that list.

C-H hosts Clairton this week. California, which picked up a nice non-conference win over Riverview in double overtime, plays at Monessen, which has yet to allow a point.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Trinity's Frey injured

Sophomore running back/defensive back Patrick Frey was injured during the second half of Trinity's tough 27-26 home loss to Belle Vernon in the Big Eight Conference.

Frey, who had 59 yards rushing when injured, was on crutches after the game and his left foot was wrapped.

I overheard either a trainer or someone on the medical staff tell Trinity coach Ed Dalton that it looked like a break and Frey would most likely miss four weeks. School rules prohibit Dalton from discussing specifics, so he was not able to comment on his status following the game.

It's a big blow for the Hillers, who dropped to 0-2 in conference play following the injury. Frey's injury also gives Eric Richards more opportunities to carry the football. Richards spent his freshman and parts of his sophomore season at Trinity before transferring to Avella. He returned to Trinity recently, and has played against Chartiers Valley and Belle Vernon.

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick hits

The football team at Chartiers-Houston can improve to 3-0 with a win at winless Serra Catholic. It would mark the second consecutive season the Bucs started a season with three consecutive wins.

The matchup points to a win for Chartiers-Houston, coming off a 20-6 Saturday night win at Shenango, but the Bucs are taking steps to avoid mental letdowns that can accompany such occasions.

This week, and every other week, the team watches a video featuring Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. In the video, Lewis talks about the importance of handling every game as if it is a playoff game. For Lewis, that meant handling matchups against the Browns and Bengals the same way he prepares for playing the Steelers.

For the Bucs, that means taking care of business in their Black Hills Conference opener before facing the difficult task that is Clairton.

* Sicking with Chartiers-Houston, I asked head coach Terry Fetsko if the Bucs take umbrage with attention received by conference rivals, particularly Fort Cherry.

Fetsko said, "Honestly, I don't think it's something the players look at. If they have, I know it's something we haven't talked about. We're focused on putting ourselves in a position at the end of the season where we can achieve our goals."

Among those goals are to top last year's win total of seven games and to host a first-round playoff game.

* Teams from the Tri-County South struggled in non-conference games last year, which naturally had a deserved negative effect on playoff seeding for qualifiers. California has a chance to chalk up a nice win for the conference when it hosts Riverview tonight.

* Washington junior running back/linebacker Jaylin Kelly was a guest of West Virginia's football team during last week's home game against Norfolk State. Kelly is receiving interest from multiple Division I programs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mr. Everything

Washington High School senior Dustin Fuller instantly became a favorite interview subject when he said during last spring's Washington-Greene County Coaches Track meet that he calls himself "Mr. Everything."

It's a fitting nickname.

Fuller plays soccer, kicks for the football team, runs indoor track and is a WPIAL track champion in the 300 hurdles and 1,600 relay.

Fuller even finds time to play in the band. We have proof from last Friday's game against Apollo-Ridge.

Twitter Thursday

I'd like to thank everyone who follows me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak. You can also follow the sports department @sportsOR.

It was a fun week.

David Kuhn, Peters Township boys golf coach
Sept. 9
"@TheMikeKovak word just came in to the Summit Diner, Somerset 28 Central Cambria 14 #hambarbecue&sweetpotatofries"

Jaylin Kelly, Washington football/basketball, Division I football prospect
Sept. 10
"Leavin WVU felt like a boss at the game"
Sept. 14
"Everyday I go so hard and work my (butt) off"

Quad Law, Ringgold football
Sept. 9
"yu #play how yu #practice...#nuffsaid"

Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry football
Sept. 10
"@TheMikeKovak I hope we play Rochester again. Wont be the same game. Babs didn't play, Whalen didnt, brown played the first half. #playoffs"

Josh Patterson, former three-sport standout at South Fayette/freshman football player at Grove City College
Sept. 12
"I dedicate my love and passion of football now to the best coach I've ever got to play for and for my idol growing up @marques_j_parks #BOC"

Kevin Jacobsen, oft-disgruntled O-R sports stringer/caption expert
Sept. 15
"Got to love getting an email reply from an athletic director that says simply "ok""

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Player profile, Zach Challingsworth

Name: Zach Challingsworth
School: South Fayette
Class: Junior
Sport: Football
Measurables: Challingsworth is listed at 6-2, 170, and he's playing multiple positions on offense in addition to defensive back.
As a sophomore, Challingsworth was one a favorite target of quarterback Christian Brumbaugh.
"Zach's so talented. We just couldn't get him five, six touches a game," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. "We need to get him at least 10-15 touches."
This year: Challingsworth enters the Lions' key home game Friday night against unbeaten Steel Valley as the team's leading rusher and receiver.
He's had only nine carries, but posted 100 yards. Challingsworth also has five catches for 135 yards and one touchdown. The majority of his rushed come out of the wildcat formation, which South Fayette installed during the offseason.
"I can play quarterback and just be an athlete instead of running routes the entire game. I can go out there be a competitor and give it my all," Challingsworth said. "It’s tough. Coming out to practice, you have to be ready to learn every day. I’m learning the quarterback position. It’s tough every day but it’s getting better."
Rave reviews: Opposing coaches, even ones in different classifications, praised Challingsworth play during summer 7-on-7 camps. He also earned high marks for his play in summer basketball leagues.
Challingsworth isn't afraid to do the little things, like offer advice to underclassmen during football practice or rough it up inside during basketball season.
He's also an explosive athlete, as his two touchdown receptions against West Philadelphia Catholic in last year's PIAA Class AA title game or a come-from-behind block of a 6-6 Division I recruit in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals against Eastern York suggest.
"It was a good summer coming back from losing 19 seniors but things are coming together well," Challingsworth said. "We still have targets on our backs and if my name is going around then I individually have a target on my back. We’re all in this together."
College material: Toledo has expressed major interest in Challingsworth and is expected to offer soon. Pitt, West Virginia, Duquesne and Villanova are also among Challingsworth's early suitors.
"He just works hard," Rossi said. "When you have a kid with talent that comes ready to work every day, it just adds to the total package. The other kids knew right away that watching how Zach works would be a positive for them."

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 2 thoughts

After tracking several non-conference games, it's apparent that a few teams that looked like contenders going into the 2011 must make improvements in order to live up to expectations.

Ringgold's 21-14 loss at Hampton might be the most surprising result of the young season.

Hampton was shut out by a good Blackhawk team in its season opener, but the Talbots held Ringgold's high-scoring offense to two touchdowns, both coming on runs from quarterback Quad Law.

The Rams open conference play this week against Joe Montana Stadium against Hollidaysburg, and follow with a road game at Greensburg-Salem. Winning both game will be imperative to the Rams' chances of hanging with Franklin Regional in the Keystone Conference. FR is the Observer-Reporter's No. 3 team in Class AAA.

The injury bug took a bite into Fort Cherry during its 34-12 home loss to Rochester as the Rangers' top three receivers were all affected in some fashion. Still, Rochester served notice to anyone who believed the Rams weren't worthy of being a top-five team in Class A.

* That said, Chartiers-Houston put together the weekend's most impressive victory.

The Bucs scored 20 points on only 14 offensive plays during the first half in winning at Shenango, 20-6, Saturday night. In the second half, C-H dug in on defense and held off a Shenango run game that produced some first downs, ate up clock bu couldn't find the end zone.

Coaches dread Saturday games, particularly night ones following a long road trip.

* We'll find out a lot about Washington the next two weeks. First, the Prexies get Seton-La Salle Friday night at Chartiers Valley and will be decided underdogs. Then, it's home to play rival South Fayette.

* Don't look now but Burgettstown is the area's second-highest scoring team behind Beth-Center. The Blue Devils are getting significant contributions from quarterback Ryan Dupain, running back Mike LaRocka and multi-purpose player John Dugas.

A win at home against South Allegheny would make Burgettstown 3-0 before the schedule gets much more difficult.

* Uh, Monessen has yet to surrender a point.

* Trinity's home game against Belle Vernon Friday night could be the Hillers' most important of the year.

Assuming Thomas Jefferson is the class of the Big Eight Conference, Trinity must find a way to beat Belle Vernon or West Mifflin, and take care of business against the other teams to solidify a playoff standing.

Considering Belle Vernon nearly won at Hopewell the week before the Vikings knocked off Montour, the Leopards must be better than people thought heading into the season.

* Funny how an identity can change from one year to the next.

In 2010, California threw the football, then threw it some more. This year, the Trojans are doing it with defense and the run game. It produced a solid 15-6 win at Carmichaels to move to 2-0 in a game that should go a long way in determining the Trojans' standing in the Tri-County South Conference.

* Canon-McMillan is 0-2, yet has been outscored by just three points and allowed only 28.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 2-0 def. Bethel Park, 30-7
2. North Allegheny, 2-0 def. Butler, 49-7
3. Upper St. Clair, 2-0 def. Norwin, 42-0
4. McKeesport, 2-0 def. Altoona, 47-7
5. Woodland Hills, 2-0 def. North Hills, 31-17

Class AAA
1. Hopewell, 2-0 def. Montour, 22-19
2. Central Valley, 2-0 def. West Allegheny, 13-9
3. Franklin Regional, 2-0 def. Kiski Area, 35-7
4. Montour, 1-1 lost to Hopewell, 22-19
5. Thomas Jefferson, 1-1 def. South Park, 48-7

Class AA
1. Aliquippa, 2-0 def. Beaver Falls, 27-0
2. Seton-La Salle, 2-0 def. Shady Side Academy, 30-0
3. Jeannette, 2-0 def. Laurel, 38-12
4. Greensburg C.C., 2-0 def. Southmoreland, 48-21
5. Beaver, 2-0 def. Freedom, 47-0

Class A
1. Clairton, 2-0 def. Western Beaver, 48-0
2. Rochester, 2-0 def. Fort Cherry, 34-12
3. Sto-Rox, 2-0 def. Carlynton, 40-6
4. Bishop Canevin, 2-0 def. OLSH, 40-0
5. Monessen, 2-0 def. Mapletown, 34-0

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering the 2001 Wash High Prexies

Hard to believe it's been almost 10 full years since Washington defeated Pen Argyl for the 2001 PIAA Class AA championship. The Prexies went 15-0 that season and were loaded with talent across the board.

That team was honored Friday night before Wash High's home game against Apollo-Ridge. The Prexies routed the Vikings, much like the 2001 team rolled through the majority of its opponents.

Got a lot of great stuff before and after the game, just couldn't use it all in my story, which you can read by clicking here. So, the following a some extra quotes.

Guy Montecalvo on linebacker Tommy Sypula, "Tommy Sypula breaks his ankle at Quaker Valley and makes it back for the state championship game. That's quite an accomplishment. I can still see him stomping that foot. It's tough you know, because he's no longer with us."

Justin Gregula on leadership, "We had so many leaders. They were everywhere on you looked. Guys like Tommy Sypula, he was the unquestioned leader of our defense. That stuff is really important. You have to have great leaders. The quarterback tends to get a lot of attention and a lot of it is undeserved."

J.R. Ward on Dan Mozes, "I always looked for the big guy when I was running the football. When he was at West Virginia, I made sure I told everyone, 'Yeah, I played behind that guy.'"

Mike Bosnic on Wash High's sense of community, "It's a unique situation. I've never seen anything like it. Our team takes a lot of pride in the tradition here. Coach Chet (Henderson) was a big part of that tradition, and the kids are well aware of it."

Gregula on the team's accomplishments, "We played some good team, great players. As a 17-year-old kid, which I was at the time, it's amazing to experience those kind of highs with an entire community. Some of us went on to play big-time sports in college, for me, it was baseball, but what happened here was special."

Montecalvo on shutting down a Bruce Gradkowski-led Seton-La Salle, twice: "With him at quarterback they scored six points on us in two years. We were proud of that at the time because he was an extremely accomplished high school quarterback and it's only become greater because of what he's become, first at Toledo and then in the NFL."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday night tidbits

Charleroi senior Quentin Briggs is out with a separated shoulder. Briggs was injured during the Cougars' season opening loss to Mt. Pleasant.

He missed several weeks during his junior season as well.

* I'll be heading to Wash High Stadium early tonight to hob-knob with the 2001 PIAA Class AA championship team. Pictures will be posted, probably Saturday.

Also, I'll be tweeting from the game. For updates, follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak. Also, follow the new Observer-Reporter Sports Twitter feed @sportsOR.

* Don't expect much intrigue at tonight's Apollo-Ridge at Washington game, but looking forward to seeing the results of Rochester at Fort Cherry, Trinity at Chartiers Valley and California at Carmichaels.

Saturday's Chartiers-Houston at Shenango game looks good too.

* According to his twitter feed, Prexies junior quarterback Josh Wise will return for tonight's game. Wise was out with mono for the Prexies' season-opening loss at Clairton.

Wise (@jlwise11_allday) posted earlier Friday, "First game today lets get a scholarship! ALL DAY#11"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Things were a little preachy on Twitter this week, and The Varsity Letters doesn't do preachy. But there were a couple hidden gems out there.

@C3Rawlins, Chavas Rawlins
Monessen football/soccer/basketball/baseball
Sept. 8
"Soccer Game at 4:00 vs. Beth Center! Bouta set an example of what we do to all there sports programs!;-)"

@patvofpgh, Pat Vereb
Peters Township girls soccer coach
Sept. 5
"@Gottlieb Show maryland uniforms sponsored by new Pokemon movie.. Rise of the Hallucigenic Terrapin"

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Quick hits

Washington High School will honor its 2001 PIAA Class AA championship football team before Friday night's home opener against Apollo-Ridge.
Those Prexies remain the only team from the Observer-Reporter's coverage area to have won a state championship in football. They finished 15-0, and were loaded with talent and colorful characters.
Wash High athletic director Joe Nicolella said things will get underway at approximately 7:05 p.m. When I spoke with him Wednesday afternoon, he said about 15-20 former players were expected. Later in the night, I talked briefly with Guy Montecalvo - Canon-McMillan's athletic director and the man who coached Wash High to the title - and he believed around 25 were expected.
Montecalvo does plan to attend before heading back to Memorial Stadium for the Big Macs' home opener against Latrobe.
It will be interesting to see who comes back, and to get a chance to talk with the most accomplished football team from this area.

* Charleroi will play its first football game at its new on-campus stadium Friday night against Brownsville.
For more on the facility and the plans, click
The Cougars were hit hard by injuries in their opener at Mt. Pleasant. The same thing happened to the team a year ago.

* Several football teams failed to call in games last Friday night. The culprits were Ringgold, Charleroi, Carmichaels and Waynesburg.
Like every newspaper, it's impossible for the Observer-Reporter to staff every football game. That makes calling in results essential to provide readers with information on the game. The company even has a toll-free number set up for calls. It's 1-800-222-6397.

* You won't notice any statistical leaders in Friday's edition this week. The reason? Only Jefferson-Morgan, Avella, Mapletown, Carmichaels, Chartiers-Houston and Trinity reported their official Week 1 statistics to the O-R as of Thursday morning.
Stat guys and coaches, you can email stats to or let us know if you post them on a site like MaxPreps.

* Carmichaels football coach John Menhart became the Mikes' all-time wins leader last Friday. Menhart, one of the more colorful characters around, picked up his 91st win - a 25-0 victory at Leechburg. There aren't many people out there as loyal to a place as Menhart is to Carmichaels.
Refreshing to see.
For more on Menhart's milestone, click

* There's a trend developing for athletes at Monessen, and it's rather unique. A growing number of football players, guys like Chavas Rawlins, are also playing soccer.
Anyone else think it's a good thing to see?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

With last week's result.

Class AAAA

1. Pittsburgh Central Catholic 1-0 def. Archbishop Wood, 20-17
2. North Allegheny 1-0 def. State College, 53-21
3. Upper St. Clair 1-0 def. Shaler, 49-0
4. Mt. Lebanon 10-1 def. Pine-Richland, 34-7
5. McKeesport 8-2 def. St. Joan of Arc (Ontario), 54-9

Class AAA
1. Montour 1-0 def. Chartiers Valley, 49-14
2. Central Valley 1-0 def. Allderdice, 36-13
3. Franklin Regional 1-0 def. Plum, 55-0
4. Ringgold 1-0 def. Elizabeth Forward, 27-6
5. Thomas Jefferson 0-1 lost to Woodland Hills, 31-7

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 1-0 def. Laurel, 41-7
2. Beaver Falls 1-0 def. Mohawk, 57-7
3. Seton-La Salle 1-0 def. Carrick, 49-8
4. Jeannette 1-0 def. East Allegheny, 47-6
5. Greensburg C.C. 1-0 def. Waynesburg, 41-14

Class A

1. Clairton 1-0 def. Washington, 42-12
2. Rochester 1-0 def. Serra Catholic, 41-7
3. Springdale 1-0 def. North Catholic, 14-6
4. Sto-Rox 1-0 def. South Allegheny, 49-0
5. Fort Cherry 1-0 def. Western Beaver, 55-40

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 1 thoughts

When Fort Cherry received the No. 5 ranking in Class A from the Observer-Reporter, the Rangers' placement drew the ire of a few readers of The Varsity Letters.
When it comes to skill players, Fort Cherry's ranks right up there with the better groups in Class A, and that group put on a show Saturday afternoon during a 55-40 win at Western Beaver.
Ryan Babirad and Corey Garry tallied three touchdowns apiece, while Tanner Garry threw for three. It's a strong trio of players, and when added with running back Jeff Whalen and a offensive line that always has size, Fort Cherry looks like a team poised for a breakthrough in 2011.
But one anonymous poster guaranteed that Fort Cherry would not finish second in the Black Hills Conference this season. Clairton is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as conference champs, and, yes, the Rangers could finish below the top two.
Well, Chartiers-Houston is far from being a pushover. The guess here is the Bucs will at least approach last year's win total, and they finished 7-3.
In quarterback Daniel Lis, Mykel Dorsey, Garrett Vulcano and Jevone Hairston, C-H has four more-than-capable runners. Players like Nate Grandelis make the Bucs a strong team up front.
When Fort Cherry plays at Chartiers-Houston during the final week of the regular season, expect the winner to get a home playoff game.
* At least a few coaches in the Tri-County South Conference believe that Beth-Center senior Deshan Brown is one of the league's premier weapons, and if the Bulldogs' results during a season-opening win against Frazier are an indciation, Brown will play a big role.
He caught five passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns from Sal Faieta.
Brown also intercepted three passes. He ranked among WPIAL leaders in that category last season.
During the preseason, I asked Brown is he had a knack for making plays on defense and he said he did not. Basically, he credited his interceptions to his ability to read what the offense was doing on a particular play and putting himself in the right position.
* There's a lot of season remaining but it looks like Ringgold and a handful of the area's Class A teams have the best chances for long playoff runs. Fort Cherry, Chartiers-Houston, Monessen and Beth-Center are quality football teams.
Got a chance to briefly talk with Canon-McMillan offensive coordinator Russ Moore - one of the more colorful guys I've come across - Friday night and one of the first things the former head coach at Waynesburg and Ringgold told me was to watch out for the Rams.
* As long as Mike LaRocka remains healthy, there's no doubt Burgettstown will be much improved from last year.
Imagine if Burgettstown had a slightly smaller enrollment (talking just a couple boys) and competed in the Black Hills Conference this season. The Blue Devils would be a playoff team for sure. Heck, maybe they still will be in Class AA.
* Really liked what I saw out of Kenyadda Brown Friday night against Trinity. When Brown got the football, his eyes and body were directed toward the line of scrimmage, and he's got the speed to blow past defenders.
* Also liked what I witnessed from Trinity back Tyler Yocca.
Trinity's offense did next to nothing during the first quarter, and it took a crafty run from Yoccas to get things going. Yocca set up Trinity's first touchdown - a one-yard run from Patrick Frey - with a 66-yard scamper where he found a small running lane, exploded through it, then made a nifty cutback to get past a Big Macs defender.
The Hillers new offense appears to suit Yocca's talents well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tempers flare at Neil C. Brown Stadium

Washington competed better against Clairton this year but still lost, 42-12, as the Bears upped their win streak to an impressive 32 games.
Things got a little testy between the teams, and even some fans. Here's an excerpt from a story sent to the Observer-Reporter from our good friends at the Daily News in McKeesport.

"Most of the evening’s drama occurred before and after the contest. (Washington head coach Mike) Bosnic had words with Clairton fans about an hour before kickoff, and some bad blood spilled over following the game. Clairton and Washington players had to be separated after shaking hands.
Also, a group of Clairton fans was waiting for Bosnic by the Washington locker room.
“It’s not bad blood,” Bosnic said. “It’s just football.”
The Clairton coaching staff was upset that Washington left its varsity team in the game against the Bears JV unit in the fourth quarter.
“I’m just trying to make my team better,” Bosnic said. “I don’t really see what’s so bad about that. To do what they did after the game is unbelievable.”
Nola didn’t exactly see things that way.
“Their coach said that he wanted to keep his team from getting demoralized because of the score and that’s why he left his starters in,” (Clairton coach Tom) Nola said. “You shouldn’t have a first team in against a JV team.”"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Quick hits

I'll be tweeting updates from tonight's Canon-McMillan at Trinity game. Follow me @TheMikeKovak.

Also Rodney Taylor, a Ringgold follower and friend of The Varsity Letters, will be tweeting updates from Ringgold at Elizabeth Forward. Follow him @RodKTaylor.

Anyone other Tweeples out there wishing to send updates from games, feel free. Let us know your handle via The Varsity Letters or Twitter.

* Do readers enjoy reading live blogs from games? Used to do them but never seemed to get much response. If enough people want them, TVL will provide.

* Monessen sophomore Justice Rawlins did not have an MRI on his injured knee earlier this week due to swelling. The Greyhounds hope to know more about the situation soon.

* Former Monessen football and basketball player Josh Stepoli, who bounced between Monessen and Greensburg Central Catholic the past year, is reportedly attending North Mecklenburg High School in Raleigh, N.C.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Some of the top tweets from the week the went by quickly.

Brandon McGavitt, Trinity football
"You know your a bad mother when you drop your baby in the stands"
followed by ...
"@SamTrap23 during our practice some lady dropped a baby in the stands"

Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry football
"I'm just feelin like the throne is for the taking. #watchmetakeit"

Doug Wilson, Canon-McMillan basketball
"damn I look fresh in my senior pics #dougiefresh"

Lance Tritschler, Ringgold football
"@TheRealQuad_Law @TheMikeKovak I'm not settling for 5th in November... #hardworkpaysoff"

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

WPIAL baseball championships remain at Consol

Consol Energy Park - home of the Washington Wild Things (yep, they're still around) - will remain the host facility for the WPIAL baseball championships. The WPIAL and the Frontier League franchise renewed their relationship for the next three years.

Peters Township (Class AAAA), Waynesburg (Class AA) and Chartiers-Houston (Class A) played in championship games there in 2011.

The WPIAL did look into hosting the games at other facilities, but elected to remain at Consol.

"In addition to the first-class management team and the top notch facility, Consol Energy Park has guaranteed the ates for us," said Tim O'Malley, executive director of the WPIAL, in a released statement. "That was something that the other facilities were unable to do, and that's critical in our decision making process."