Monday, October 31, 2011

WPIAL Class AA playoffs preview

Top seeds: 1. Aliquippa (9-0), 2. Jeannette (9-0), 3. Seton-La Salle (9-0), 4. Freeport (7-2)
Defending champion: South Fayette
Best first-round game: South Fayette at Beaver Falls
Sleeper: Washington
Players to watch: Shai McKenzie (Wash High) pictured, Jaylin Kelly (Wash High), Zach Challingsworth (South Fayette), Kevin Hart (Seton-La Salle), Scott Orndoff (Seton-La Salle), Mikal Hall (Aliquippa), Dontez Williams (Steel Valley), Trey Hall (Aliquippa), Demetrious Cox (Jeannette), Jordan McCrae (Greensburg C.C.)
Noteworthy: South Fayette topped 50 points in the WPIAL semifinals last year against Beaver Falls. The Lions offense isn't as potent this year but the talented Challingsworth is a challenge for any defense.
Washington deserved better than the No. 8 seed. Anyone who feels otherwise, feel free to explain. That said, the road to a WPIAL Class AA championship always runs through Aliquippa. If the Prexies beat Mt. Pleasant in the first round, it sets up a matchup with the Quips.
One thing is certain, Wash High, which should be bolstered by the return of Kelly this week, won't be intimidated.
Two years ago, Aliquippa - as the No. 8 seed - knocked off top-seeded South Fayette in an epic quarterfinal.
Quotable: "It doesn't matter who we play or where we're seeded," Prexies lineman Jalen Morris said. "We just need to worry about ourselves."
Championship: Seton-La Salle over Greensburg Central Catholic

WPIAL Class AAA playoffs preview

Top seeds: 1. Central Valley (9-0), 2. Franklin Regional (9-0), 3. Knoch (9-0), 4. West Mifflin (8-1)
Defending champion: Central Valley
Best first-round game: No. 10 Hopewell at No. 7 Indiana
Sleeper: Hopewell (or anyone else from the Parkway Conference)
Players to watch: Rushel Shell (Hopewell), Robert Foster (Central Valley), Quad Law (Ringgold) pictured, Mike Beveridge (Ringgold), Jake Witucki (Highlands), Dylan Buechel (Montour), Julian Durden (Montour), Josh Falatovich (Greensburg-Salem), Dane Brown (Franklin Regional)
Noteworthy: Injuries have bugged Ringgold during the latter stages of the regular season. The most notable right leg injury suffered by Law a couple weeks ago. Law aggravated the injury against Franklin Regional but returned for the finale against Uniontown.
Ringgold head coach Matt Humbert declared Law, Dom Affinito and Demetrius Louis "good-to-go" for the Ram's first-round game against Highlands.
The Rams are also healthier along the offensive line, where Jacob Foglia is taking snaps at first-team center.
Quotable: "It's tough when you move a player the caliber of Mike Beveridge and what he does at tackle to center, where he's not familiar," Humbert said. "We want him at tackle because he's that dominant."
Championship: Central Valley over Franklin Regional

WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs preview

Top seeds: 1. North Allegheny (9-0), 2. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (9-0), 3. Upper St. Clair (8-1), 4. Penn-Trafford (9-0)
Defending champion: North Allegheny
Best first-round game: No. 10 Woodland Hills at No. 7 Mt. Lebanon
Sleeper: Gateway
Players to watch: Luke Hagy (Mt. Lebanon), Arthur Goldberg (Mt. Lebanon), Andrew Erenberg (Peters Township) pictured, Manny Simpson (Penn-Trafford), Damian Jones-Moore (Pittsburgh C.C.), Anthony Nixon (Pittsburgh C.C.), Perry Hills (Pittsburgh C.C.), Greg Garmon (Erie McDowell), Shakim Alonzo (Woodland Hills), Ian Park (Upper St. Clair), Jack Schwaba (Upper St. Clair), Dakota Conwell (Upper St. Clair)
Noteworthy: Erenberg, who has committed to Division I-AA Fordham, is Peters Township's all-time lead in rushing yards, scoring and touchdowns. His 14 touchdowns are a single-season school record, and he needs about 80 yards to set the single-season rushing record. Erenberg spent his freshman season at Pittsburgh Central Catholic – Peters Township's opponent in the first round. The game will be played at Fox Chapel.
Quotable: "If it's a big play call and we have a third-and-two, I'm pretty sure (Erenberg) is getting the football," Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini said. "And I'm pretty sure he'll get the first down."
Championship: Upper St. Clair over North Allegheny

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 9-0, def. Fox Chapel 49-7
2. North Allegheny 9-0, def. North Hills 17-0
3. Upper St. Clair 8-1, def. Mt. Lebanon 42-6
4. Penn-Trafford 9-0, def. Norwin 35-0
5. Gateway 7-2, def. McKeesport 38-0

Class AA
1. Central Valley 9-0, def. Ambridge 48-7
2. Franklin Regional 9-0, def. Greensburg-Saiem 53-14
3. Knoch 9-0, def. Mars 28-3
4. Montour 7-2, def. Moon 48-6
5. West Mifflin 8-1, def. Thomas Jefferson 27-14

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 9-0, def. East Allegheny 44-0
2. Seton-La Salle 9-0, def. Keystone Oaks 49-14
3. Jeannette 9-0, def. Greensburg C.C. 13-10
4. Greensburg C.C. 8-1, lost to Jeannette 13-10
5. Washington 7-2, def. Burgettstown 36-0

Class A
1. Clairton 9-0, def. Serra Catholic 48-0
2. Sto-Rox 9-0, def. Cornell 29-0
3. Bishop Canevin 9-0, def. North Catholic 19-0
4. Rochester 8-1, def. S.S. Beaver 35-0
5. Avonworth 8-1, def. Northgate 28-20

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Predicting WPIAL playoff seeds

Is Pittsburgh Central Catholic the top team in Class AAAA? Probably.

Does that mean the WPIAL will seed PCC ahead of defending state champion North Allegheny, which happens to be 9-0? The guess here is no.

What conferences are weak? In Class A, Beth-Center is better than the seventh-best team but winning the Tri-County South means little to the committee, which will look instead at the Bulldogs' one-point overtime home loss to Avonworth. In Class AA, the Allegheny Conference doesn't look strong and the MAC is down outside Aliquippa, but that doesn't guarantee a trending team like Washington gets seeded ahead of Freeport or even Beaver Falls.

Class AAAA
1. North Allegheny, 2. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 3. Upper St. Clair, 4. Penn-Trafford, 5. Gateway, 6. Erie McDowell, 7. Mt. Lebanon, 8. Penn Hills, 9. Seneca Valley, 10. McKeesport, 11. Woodland Hills, 12. Shaler, 13. Bethel Park, 14. Fox Chapel, 15. Peters Township, 16. Connellsville.

Class AAA
1. Central Valley, 2. Franklin Regional, 3. Knoch, 4. Montour, 5. West Mifflin, 6. Thomas Jefferson, 7. Indiana, 8. Ringgold, 9. Hopewell, 10. Greensburg-Salem, 11. West Allegheny, 12. Highlands, 13. Mars, 14. Chartiers Valley, 15. Belle Vernon, 16. Laurel Highlands.

Class AA
1. Aliquippa, 2. Seton-La Salle, 3. Jeannette, 4. Greensburg C.C., 5. Freeport, 6. Washington, 7. Beaver Falls, 8. Shady Side Academy, 9. Beaver, 10. South Fayette, 11. Mt. Pleasant, 12. Ellwood City, 13. Ford City, 14. Burrell, 15. East Allegheny, 16. Steel Valley.

Class A
1. Clairton, 2. Sto-Rox, 3. Bishop Canevin, 4. Rochester, 5. Avonworth, 6. Brentwood, 7. Beth-Center, 8. Monessen, 9. Springdale, 10. Fort Cherry, 11. Western Beaver, 12. California, 13. Chartiers-Houston, 14. Cornell, 15. Northgate, 16. Frazier.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 9 thoughts

Fort Cherry football coach Tim Garry got the idea from an administrator in the Canon-McMillan School District, where Garry teaches. The administrator coached high school football in Virginia.

While there, the high school ran a version of the single-wing offense. Fort Cherry debuted it with great success Friday night during a 37-13 win at Chartiers-Houston that was more impressive than the final scored indicates.

The Rangers call the package "The Spinner" and it entails quarterback Tanner Garry in his usual shotgun formation with a sidecar. Against the Bucs, the Rangers put a series of possible runners just behind the right side of the offensive line in a wishbone-esque formation.

The possibilities were many. Garry can run, or direct snaps can go to Kolton Kobrys or Corey Garry. End-around to Ryan Babirad are another possibility.

"I watched it on film and thought we could put in some plays," Tim Garry said.

Fort Cherry originally planned to showcase the offense a week earlier.

"We actually threw it together for Clairton but we didn't have a good enough handle on it and we fell behind so we decided not to use it," Tanner Garry said.

The package certainly gives Fort Cherry's upcoming opponent in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs something to think about. So does the play of Tanner Garry.

Garry always turns in strong performances against Chartiers-Houston, but Friday night may have been his finest 48 minutes. In conditions far from ideal, Garry completed 13 of 17 passes for 172 yards and he rushed for 137 yards and three scores. He also topped 4,000 passing yards for his career.

"He's had bigger numbers but, considering the level of competition, I'd say this was his best game," Tim Garry said.

* The record-setting career of Peters Township tailback Andrew Erenberg will end at some point during the Class AAAA playoffs.

Erenberg rushed for 174 yards and four touchdowns as the Indians secured a postseason berth with a win against Canon-McMillan. It gives him 1,301 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the season.

Teams know what's coming against PT, yet Erenberg produces.

C-M head coach Tim Sohyda said it well in Saturday's edition of the Observer-Reporter, "What more could you want? You know he's getting it, but you still have to stop it. He always falls forward, he doesn't put it on the ground. He's a great running back. He's a solid, in-your-face player. He's hard to stop."

* Ringgold's defense must be feeling better after it put up a zero against Uniontown. The Rams also must feel good about the return of Quad Law.

* Anyone else expecting a Ringgold-Hopewell game in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs?

* If freshman Brett Brumbaugh's 13-for-14 passing performance for 228 yards and two scores against Quaker Valley is any indication, South Fayette is set at quarterback the next three years.

* Trinity had its string of six consecutive playoff appearances snapped.

* Anyone else amazed at the lack of quality kicking this year? It could prove costly in the postseason for some, and it contributed to at least one team missing the postseason.

* Washington has its best team since 2001. Whether it translates to postseason success or not will unfold this week.

I, for one, am not sold on the overall strength of Class AA. Except for Aliquippa, the MAC appears down. So does the Interstate Conference after the top two teams and the Allegheny Conference as a whole.

If the Prexies continue to get play up front like they did today against Burgettstown, they can win a couple games.

* With the regular season complete, here's a short list of players worthy of consideration for O-R Player of the Year: Law (Ringgold), Erenberg (Peters Township), Garry (Fort Cherry), Sal Faieta (Beth-Center), Shai McKenzie and Eric Ellis (Washington).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twitter Thursday

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski got in a little hot water the past week when he was photographed with an adult film "actress", who posted the photo on Twitter. The lady wore Gronkowski's jersey, and the former Woodland Hills product wasn't wearing a shirt.

Didn't seem like a big deal to me, but Gronkowski had to apologize to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Wonder what Robert Kraft would think if he read some tweets from local high school students?

You can follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak ... now, on to a few notables from the past week.

Chavas Rawlins, Monessen multi-sport athlete
Oct. 27
"#IowaState will be attending Fridays game"

Eric Ellis, Washington football
Oct. 26
"@MikeBeveridge44 according to the observer me n you are the best defensive players around. Keep it up bro."

Tom Nettles, Peters Township golf/PIAA runner-up
Oct. 25
"well that was a hell of a battle.. finished 2nd by one stroke"

Mike Yancich, Penn State linebacker/Trinity grad
Oct. 22
"7-1 uh huh... #weare #pennstatefootball"

Tweet of the Week
Oct. 21
"Both Jefferson-Morgan & Waynesburg have been eliminated as Greene County has been shutout of the playoffs for the first time since 1995."

Quick hits

Injuries continue to plague Ringgold football but the Rams did get some good news heading into Friday night's game against Uniontown.

Senior quarterback Quad Law practiced Wednesday and plans to play. Law, who played just one brief series last week at Franklin Regional, hinted to me via Twitter that he might play. When asked, he said, "yes sir! I practiced today an I felt great!"

Offensive lineman/defensive end Mike Beveridge also returned to practice. Beveridge is Ringgold's best defensive player.

How much Ringgold's injured players actually play will be determined but the game does hold some meaning as a loss could drop Ringgold to third place in the Keystone Conference and put them on the road for the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

* Last year, Brett Brumbaugh was a ball boy for South Fayette's football team. Friday night, the freshman will start in place of injured John Lerda according to Mike White of the Post-Gazette.

WPIAL record-holder Christian Brumbaugh is a redshirt freshman at William & Mary. Luke Brumbaugh is a junior and a starting quarterback at undefeated Seton-La Salle.

* Initially, the change made by the PIAA to two 20-minute overtime periods in soccer seemed like a good idea.

The Peters Township boys team won Monday's first round match during the first overtime. The Peters Township girls overtime needed a shootout to edge Moon in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

PT senior Madison Creehan, who moved from goalie to striker and had a key assist in addition to the game-winning penalty kick in the shootout, said the Indians could play another 40 minutes if needed. To me, they looked absolutely exhausted. So did Moon.

Indians coach Pat Vereb wondered after the match is 40 minutes of overtime is a good idea. After watching it transpire, I say it's not good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Oct. 25, 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.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nettles second, Damich fourth at PIAA golf championships

Football dominated the discussion during the fall and beyond but a number of local student-athletes thrive in other sports.

Golf being one of those sports.

The Washington-Greene region crowded the medals stand Tuesday at the PIAA Individual Golf Championships, a two-day event held at Heritage Hills in York.

Tom Nettles, a junior from Peters Township, tied for second with a five-over par, two-round score of 147. That was just one stroke behind West Allegheny's Garrett Browning (146). Browning and Nettles, who won the PIAA West Region title, were first and second following the first day of competition.

Bentworth senior Garrett Damich put together a strong second day and placed fourth, with a seven-over 149. Damich was the WPIAL Division II runner-up.

Canon-McMillan's Ben DuCarme (157) tied for 19th, while Peters Township's Trent McPherson (158) tied for 25th.

On the girls side, Waynesburg senior Emily Rohanna got to the medals stand as she tied for 9th place with a 22-over 166. Erica Herr of Council Rock North distanced the field with a six-over 150.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 8 thoughts from a Monday afternoon quarterback

The eighth week of the high school football season was not a kind one.

Several teams had an opportunity to solidify playoff standing or a conference championship. Ringgold, Waynesburg, South Fayette and Burgettstown struggled with those situations.

The results from Friday indicate that the second round of the WPIAL playoffs won't feature many local teams.

Beth-Center looks like the team most likely to advance. The Bulldogs should be seeded No. 6 in the Class A bracket, barring any last week upsets of teams ranked higher. A winnable home game puts B-C on turf in the quarterfinals, where its talent is better suited to play.

Washington struggled mightily but edged South Allegheny, 14-12. The win clinched a home playoff game for the Prexies, their first since 2001. Washington could be seeded anywhere from 5-7 in the Class AA playoffs and are always a tough team to play at Wash High Stadium. If the Prexies avoid a Beaver County team in the first round, thier chances of advancing are right there with Beth-Center's.

Ringgold hurt its stock with a 38-0 loss at Franklin Regional. The Rams went from a possible top four seed to most likely a No. 8 as long as undefeated FR beats a tough Greensburg-Salem team which is not a given. If Ringgold gets the No. 8 seed, the Rams will likely draw the third-place team from the Parkway Conference. Playing West Allegheny or Blackhawk is one tough draw.

The winner of Friday night's Fort Cherry at Chartiers-Houston game puts itself in a better position to advance than the loser, which finishes fourth and probably plays at a conference champion in the first round.

Given the lack of quality teams in Class AA, South Fayette could advance, but the Lions have struggled offensively against quality teams. Still, a first-round game against a team from the Greater Allegheny Conference is winnable.

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 8-0, def. Altoona 62-7
2. North Allegheny 8-0, def. Shaler 34-17
3. Upper St. Clair 7-1, def. Bethel Park 55-0
4. Penn-Trafford 8-0, def. Indiana 38-28
5. Gateway 6-2, def. Connellsville 40-0

Class AAA
1. Central Valley 8-0, def. Blackhawk 35-14
2. Franklin Regional 8-0, def. Ringgold 38-0
3. Knoch 8-0, def. Highlands 24-6
4. Thomas Jefferson 6-2, def. Belle Vernon 40-7
5. Montour 6-2, def. West Allegheny 35-17

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 8-0, def. Mohawk 42-0
2. Seton-La Salle, def. South Fayette 33-10
3. Jeannette 8-0, def. Brownsville 35-13
4. Greensburg C.C. 8-0, def. East Allegheny 21-6
5. Washington 6-2, def. South Allegheny 14-12

Class A
1. Clairton 8-0, def. Fort Cherry 35-6
2. Sto-Rox 8-0, def. Shenango 38-12
3. Bishop Canevin 8-0, def. Riverview 54-8
4. Rochester 7-1, def. Neshannock 38-7
5. Avonworth 7-1, def. OLSH 35-10

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak ... An analysis of Week 8 coming later today.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday notebook

I'll be at tonight's Ringgold at Franklin Regional game. For updates, follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak, and feel free to send updates of your game to me as well.

The WPIAL spotlight will shine - of all places - on the Keystone Conference tonight when one-loss Ringgold plays at unbeaten Franklin Regional.

"This is the first time we've gotten this much publicity going into a game since I've been here fore sure," Ringgold coach Matt Humbert said. "It's a good thing for the conference. Everybody always wants to knock our conference, and sometimes they're justified."

Those knocks are because of the conference's dismal postseason record, but Ringgold and Franklin Regional are both intriguing Class AAA contenders.

Should Ringgold win, the Rams all but lock up the conference title with a win against Greensburg-Salem already in the books. Ringgold won the Keystone last year, part of the team's first undefeated, untied season.

The Rams got good news today when they learned quarterback Quad Law is cleared to play, and not doubt the playmaker will prove vital to their chances.

But Ringgold will be counting on several others players, particularly on defense against a Franklin Regional team that has yet to be tested.

"I kind of disagree with people who say they haven't played anybody," Humbert said. "They beat two Quad-A teams and I don't care who they are, that's not easy to do by the margins Franklin Regional did it."

Key to that defense is senior defensive end Michael Beveridge.

"When we pinpoint people we need to have a big game, he's one of those guys," Humbert said. "He needs to be extremely disciplines to do what we need him to do, and we're confident he'll be exactly that."

Beveridge, a member of the Observer-Reporter Elite 11 as a junior, has a knack of playing his best in big games. Earlier this year at Greensburg-Salem, Beveridge had four tackles behind the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter. He also forced a fumble and recovered another.

* Fort Cherry quarterback Tanner Garry ranks second in the WPIAL in passing yards and first in touchdown passes.

Waynesburg's Nick Zupper ranks third in the WPIAL in rushing yards.

Ringgold's Quad Law leads the WPIAL in yards per carry.

Fort Cherry's Ryan Babirad and South Fayette's Zach Challingsworth rank high in receiving yards.

Beth-Center has intercepted 19 passes, and quarterback Sal Faieta has accounted for 25 touchdowns.

* Six area golfers - Tom Nettles and Trent McPherson of Peters Township, Canon-McMillan's Ben DuCarme, South Fayette's Evan Lestini, Bentworth's Garrett Damich and Waynesburg's Emily Rohanna - qualified for the PIAA West Region semifinals, which were held Tuesday at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville.

All six golfers advanced to the PIAA Championships, a two-day event which tees off Monday at Heritage Hills in York. That's hardly a surprise, but considering how the top of the leaderboard was crowded with the local competitors, it's safe to say the Washington-Greene region is a high school golfing haven.

Nettles enters the state championship as the PIAA West Region champ after he birdied three of the final four holes to finish with an even-par 72. Nettles, a junior attracting serious Division I interest, became the first golfer from Peters Township to win the West Region.

McPherson, DuCarme and Lestini all tied for fourth, while Damich tied for 11th.

Rohanna finished tied for third on the girls side.

What is about the area that produces so many top-notch individuals and golf teams?

* Washington junior Jaylin Kelly will not play tonight against South Allegheny. Kelly injured an ankle during last Saturday's win over Quaker Valley.

Kelly starts at linebacker and running back for the Prexies.

* Waynesburg hasn't been in many postseason discussions since the playing days of Lee Fritz and Lanfer Simpson, but the Raiders play a key game tonight at Mt. Pleasant.

If the Raiders beat the Vikings, they position themselves for their first postseason berth since 2003.

* I'd imagine Beth-Center senior linebacker Jake Sofran would rather the Bulldogs be undefeated at this point, but he's still notched a a couple impressive milestones the past two weeks.

Sofran, who is receiving interest from a number of Division I-AA and II schools, set B-C's career tackles mark during the Bulldogs' 46-0 win over Monessen two weeks ago. Last week in a one-point overtime loss to Avonworth, Sofran set a single-game record with 20 tackles.

A four-year starter, Sofran has 400-plus tackles in his career.

Ringgold's Law cleared to play

Ringgold quarterback Quad Law, one of the WPIAL's leading rushers, will play tonight for the Rams at Franklin Regional.

Law recently posted, "Jus got cleared by the doctor!! #LetsGetit" on Twitter account.

Law suffered an injury to his right leg during the first quarter of last week's game against Derry Area. He did not practice during the week but ran sprints at full-speed Thursday and did some backpedaling. Law said Thursday night the leg was still sore but not bad enough not to play is he was cleared by the doctors.

Ringgold, which hasn't lost a game in Keystone Conference play since joining last year, is 5-0 in the conference and 6-1 overall. Franklin Regional is unbeaten at 7-0 and features running back Dane Brown, who leads the WPIAL in scoring.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Ringgold's Alfon Cook has my favorite Twitter handle @cooksisland3, a nice play on Revis Island for the Rams cornerback.

Here are a few follows I recommend: @jlwise_whs11 (Wash High's Josh Wise), @coreygarry (Fort Cherry's Corey Garry) and @SoftKretzel (opinionated C-M and Virginia Tech grad Brian Kretz).

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Pat Vereb, head coach of Peters Township girls soccer, the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs
Oct. 14
"@TheMikeKovak Blackjack Mulligan had a better arm than Barry Bonds."

John Laschinsky, Trinity football
Oct. 20
"Watching @That_Dude_68 snag some canon mac girls numbers #swag"

Ben DuCarme, Canon-McMillan golf
Oct. 18
"Moving on to state finals... #awwyeah"

Joanie Paskert, Washington volleyball
Oct. 19
"I'm gonna miss playing volleyball with you guys but we still have #playoffs!! @ameliaclaire08 @tiffmarie2012 and of course nicholas."

Trenton Bosworth, Waynesburg football
Oct. 17
"@JDubbz28 no smileying, no sleeping, no girlfriend, playoff mood"

Quad Law, Ringgold football
Oct. 17
"I lead the WPIAL in yards per carry #CuzImNiceLikeDat"

Tweet of the Week
David Kuhn, Peters Township boys golf coach
Oct. 18
"I thought I was at the state tournament until... "Yes, I'm playing a Top-Flite" & "I raked the trap before I played, is that a penalty?" Wow

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Oct. 18, 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.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 7-0 1
2. North Allegheny (P) (7) 7-0 2
3. LaSalle College HS (12) 6-1 3
4. Upper St. Clair (7) 6-1 4
5. North Penn (1) 5-2 5
6. Woodland Hills (7) 6-1 6
7. Nazareth (11) 7-0 7
8. Abington (1) 7-0 8
9. Whitehall (11) 6-1 9
10. Penn-Trafford (7) 7-0 10
Teams to watch
Bethlehem Freedom (11) 6-1, Central Dauphin (3) 6-1, Coatesville (1) 6-1, Council Rock South (1) 6-1, Cumberland Valley (3) 6-1, Downingtown East (1) 6-1, Gateway (7) 5-2, Roman Catholic (12) 5-2.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Archbishop Wood (12) 6-1 1
2. Central Valley (7) 7-0 2
3. Grove City (10) 7-0 3
4. Bishop McDevitt (3) 5-2 4
5. Montour (7) 5-2 5
6. Cathedral Prep (10) 5-2 6
7. Valley View (2) 7-0 7
8. West Allegheny (7) 5-2 9
9. Franklin Regional (7) 7-0 NR
10. Hopewell (7) 4-3 8
Teams to watch
Greater Johnstown (6) 7-0, Greensburg Salem (7) 6-1, Knoch (7) 7-0, Marple-Newtown (1) 6-1, Ringgold (7) 6-1, Thomas Jefferson (7) 5-2.

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

Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 7-0 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) 7-0 2
3. Sto-Rox (7) 7-0 3
4. Dunmore (2) 7-0 4
5. Rochester (7) 6-1 5
6. Bishop Canevin (7) 7-0 6
7. Pius X (11) 6-1 7
8. Line Mountain (4) 6-1 8
9. Sharpsville (10) 6-0 10
10. Bishop McCort (6) 5-2 9
Teams to watch
Avonworth (7) 6-1, Bethlehem-Center (7) 6-1, Juniata Valley (6) 6-1, Mercer (10) 5-2, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 6-1, North Star (5) 7-0, Youngsville (10) 7-0.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 7-0, def. Gateway 13-7
2. North Allegheny 7-0, def. Pine-Richland 35-7
3. Upper St. Clair 6-1, def. Canon-McMillan 55-0
4. Penn-Trafford 7-0, def. Latrobe 38-0
5. Woodland Hills 6-1, def. Kiski Area 35-6

Class AAA
1. Central Valley 7-0, def. Hopewell 34-23
2. Franklin Regional 7-0, def. Laurel Highlands 63-0
3. Knoch 7-0, def. Kittanning 70-14
4. Thomas Jefferson 5-2, def. Trinity 28-7
5. Ringgold 6-1, def. Derry Area 44-7

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 7-0, def. Beaver 21-12
2. Seton-La Salle 7-0, def. Burgettstown 40-0
3. Jeannette 7-0, def. Mt. Pleasant 35-14
4. Greensburg C.C. 7-0, def. Mohawk 43-6
5. Beaver Falls 6-1, def. New Brighton 35-14

Class A
1. Clairton 7-0, def. Brentwood 32-0
2. Sto-Rox 7-0, def. Western Beaver 43-0
3. Bishop Canevin 7-0, def. Leechburg 44-6
4. Rochester 6-1, def. Cornell 19-0
5. Avonworth 6-1, def. Beth-Center 20-19

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week 7 thoughts

Maybe the most impressive aspect of Washington's 42-7 dismantling of Quaker Valley Saturday night at Chuck Knox Stadium (how many readers remember that guy?) is that the offense did not attempt a pass until the final play of the second quarter.

And, of course, with the way the Prexies have played the past month, Josh Wise hit Mijerean Witcher for a 30-yard touchdown on the play.

Washington makes no secrets about its game plan. The Prexies want to run the football behind a continually improving offensive line and with one of the deepest stable of backs in the WPIAL. Jaylin Kelly, who was injured Saturday, can gain the tough yards or hit the long play. Shai McKenzie is a threat to score on every carry, as is Daron Whitaker. Joe Phillips runs north-south and is tough to bring down.

Defenses don't know who will get the football, and it helps that every skill player on offense can score on any play. How about the 33-yard reverse to Matt Brower on a third-and-16?

The Prexies, like most teams, do have a weakness or two, but this team is going to be one difficult out in the postseason.

* Speaking of impressive, Prexies senior Eric Ellis continues to make big plays along the defensive line.

Against the Quakers, Ellis forced a safety and recovered a fumble on the Prexies' first defensive series. Washington finished with six sacks and allowed 70 yards.

The quest for the top defensive player in the area this season starts, and most likely stops with Ellis and Ringgold's Michael Beveridge.

* Waynesburg senior Nick Zupper had one of the great single-game performances in Greene County history Friday night against Yough.

Zupper rushed for 383 yards (yes, 383) and scored four touchdowns. We're checking into whether that total is a Greene County record or not. There's a chance that Derek Bochna (Mapletown) or Rodney Wilson (West Greene) rushed for more yards in a game.

Former career WPIAL rushing leader Mike Vernillo (Fort Cherry) rushed for 424 yards and four touchdowns against Avonworth during the 1997 season. At the time, it was the best single-game total in the WPIAL since 1970.

Zupper has 1,277 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He leads all local runners in both categories. Ringgold's Quad Law (1,133 yards, 12 TD) is second, while Peters Township's Andrew Erenberg (974, 12) is third.

* Great news for Ringgold that Law believes he'll be able to play Friday night at Franklin Regional. For more on Law,

* The playoff chances for Erenberg and Peters Township took a significant upswing with Friday's 21-6 win over Baldwin.

Erenberg scored three first-half touchdowns for the up-and-down Indians.

Like Washington, Peters Township doesn't play many guessing games on offense. Erenberg is getting the football and it's up to the defense to stop him.

* I had no trouble with Beth-Center going for two points in overtime to try and beat Avonworth in a non-conference loss that will hurt the Bulldogs' postseason seeding.

Avonworth pretty much controlled the game starting in the second quarter. Considering that, a two-point try was B-C's best chance of getting a win.

Both teams left plenty of plays on the field - the lack of a pass rush and field conditions hurt B-C.

The field at Beth-Center was muddy mess. In the past, that type of conditions who have been to B-C's benefit. Not with this team.

As long as the Bulldogs get past the first round, they'll be a tough team to play on an artificial surface.

* This might be my favorite stat of the year - the Monessen at West Greene game lasted one hour, 48 minutes. I haven't covered a game this year that was under two-and-a-half hours.

* The WPIAL Class A playoffs will be without a regular this year as Carmichaels dropped to 1-5 in the Tri-County South with a loss to Frazier. The Mikes last missed the playoffs in 1997, and the last time they had a losing record came in 1995 when they were 3-7.

* South Fayette had two 100-yard rushers against South Allegheny. Wondering when the last time that happened there.

* Fort Cherry's Tanner Garry has 21 touchdown passes. That's an average of three per game.

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday notebook

I'll be tweeting live from tonight's non-conference game between Avonworth and Beth-Center. You can follow me @TheMikeKovak for occasional updates.

Readers, feel free to send me score updates from your games, and I'll do my best to send them to followers.

Also, please follow @SportsOR, where the O-R sports staff provides score updates throughout the night. Joe Tuscano (@JosephGTuscano) will tweet from tonight's California at Jefferson-Morgan game.

The Avonworth at beth-Center game isn't typical for a late-season non-conference contest. The game will have a significant impact on the seedings for the Class A playoffs. A win for Beth-Center should wrap up a top-five seed as long as the Bulldogs win out. A win for Avonworth could make the Antelopes a top-five or six seed, and would hurt the seedings of other playoff qualifiers from the Tri-County South Conference.

* Trinity will use more two-back sets with the season-ending knee injury to Ty Yocca, but Dalton is pleased with the play of Kyle Dugan.

"Kyle's a different type of runner than Ty, but he's done a good job when we've but him in there," Dalton said. "We'll continue to use him."

* Former Mapletown High School and California University standout Kevin Pincavitch, who advanced as high as Class AA in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, was recently hired as the Waynesburg High School baseball coach.

Pincavitch, a former assistant with the Washington Wild Things, replaces Steve Coss, who had three successful seasons with the Raiders before he resigned in August. Waynesburg reached the WPIAL Class AA championship game this season, and qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Stephen McCaw was the Raiders' starting catcher and the WPIAL Class AA Player of the Year, as selected by the baseball coaches. I recently spoke with McCaw for an upcoming story and talked to him about the hiring.

"He seems like a really good guy and he knows a lot about baseball," said McCaw, a senior. "We're all excited to get the season started."

* Hopewell's Rushel Shell committed to Pitt Friday morning. For the Panthers, it's a big moment as Shell is the first top-rated WPIAL prospect to commit to Pitt in some time.

That said, it hardly means Pitt is set for the next three to four years. I've spoken with a couple old friends from Beaver County who believed it was in Shell's best interest to get away from Western Pennsylvania.

Will he be the next Tony Dorsett? Or the next Brian Davis? Pitt should be happy with something in between.

* Ringgold freshman Kirsten McMichael might already be the best girls cross country runner in Washington and Greene counties.

* Peters Township finished third at the WPIAL Division I boys golf team championship Thursday at Cedarbrook.

The Indians won the title in 2010 and were favored to do so again, but lost to section rival Upper St. Clair. For Peters Township, the fact that not winning a WPIAL title is news, shows how strong the program has become under head coach David Kuhn.

"When I first got here, we were in a terrible section and couldn't finish any higher than third in it," Kuhn said. "We've made it to the finals eight times over the past nine years. We've come a long way."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Follow me on Twitter @TheMike Kovak ... Now, on to the tweets.

Stephen McCaw, Waynesburg baseball
@StephenMcCaw 17
Oct. 12
"'Confidence is contagious, so is the lack of it' -Vince Lombardi"

Ryan Dupain, Burgettstown football
Oct. 12
"@TannerGarry3 Having a great year so far. Great player, greay guy."

Dustin Fuller, Washington soccer/track/football
Oct. 9
"I'm the reason they say hard work pays off #trackseason2012"

Joey Niklas, Author of football fan
Oct. 8
"If Monessen slips to #3 do they get the normal TCS treatment and get the #15 and have to travel to Sto Rox... hmmm"

Josh Wise, Washington football/basketball/track
Oct. 7
"Steel valley is no joke they go hard I respect that team and now they respect us!"

Zach Barnhart, Trinity football
Oct. 12
"my 500th tweet goes out to #mymommy for making dinner"

Doug Wilson, Canon-McMillan basketball
Oct. 13
"I've only overdoesed on one thing and that's #confidence"

Tweet of the Week
Marques Parks, former South Fayette and Bowling Green football standout
Oct. 6
"Lol a few ppl coming @ me 4 the shows I watch, saying Im not a man & should be watching Pens game. 2 that I say I'm black & have tattoos."

Shell to Pitt?

Mike White of the Post-Gazette reports that Hopewell running back Rushel Shell, one of the nation's top senior prospects, will announce his plans to play for the University of Pittsburgh Friday.

To read more, click

Shell, the WPIAL's career rushing leader and arguably the top running back prospect to come out of the Western Pennsylvania since Brian Davis played at Wash High, is expected to announce the decision during a news conference at 8 a.m. Alabama is his other finalist.

If true, Shell's committment is a huge get for Pitt. In recent years, the Panthers lost out on many of the WPIAL's top prospects.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Calling all Hillers

Riding a modest two-win streak and with its playoff hopes revitalized, Trinity hosts powerhouse Thomas Jefferson Friday night in a Big Eight Conference game.

Since joining Class AAA in 2006, Trinity is 0-5 versus Thomas Jefferson. Then again, so are most teams as TJ owns a whopping 35-game conference win streak following last week's 37-22 win over Chartiers Valley.

Knowing that Trinity is an active group in social media, I'd really like to hear from players this week about their thoughts on the game, but I'm trying something a little different.

A lot of Hillers are on Twitter and Facebook, so I want to know what players think about their chances, how much respect they have for TJ, what it's like to play against the Jaguars, etc. Let me know on Twitter, where you can contact me @TheMikeKovak or visit the Observer-Reporter Sports page on facebook, where a post has been created.

John Laschinsky (@John12Las) and Brandon Robertson (@BeeStinqer32) already offered assessments of why the team is ready. Jason VanKirk (@VanKirk13) talked about what makes TJ a great program. Check our their responses on Twitter.

I'm not asking for trash talk (though I'll read those too). Be thoughtful, be careful, be funny, be insightful.

The best responses will make Friday's edition of the Observer-Reporter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Oct. 11, 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.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 6-0 1
2. North Allegheny (P) (7) 6-0 2
3. La Salle College HS (12) 5-1 3
4. Upper St. Clair (7) 5-1 4
5. North Penn (1) 4-2 5
6. Woodland Hills (7) 5-1 8
7. Nazareth (11) 6-0 9
8. Abington (1) 6-0 10
9. Whitehall (11) 5-1 NR
10. Penn-Trafford (7) 6-0 NR
Teams to watch
Bethlehem Freedom (11) 6-0, Central Dauphin (3) 5-1, Coatesville (1) 5-1, Council Rock South (1) 5-1, Cumberland Valley (3) 5-1, Downingtown East (1) 5-1, Father Judge (12) 4-2, Gateway (7) 5-1, Roman Catholic (12) 4-2.

Team Rec Pvs
1. Archbishop Wood (12) 5-1 1
2. Central Valley (7) 6-0 2
3. Grove City (10) 6-0 3
4. Bishop McDevitt (3) 4-2 5
5. Montour (7) 4-2 4
6. Cathedral Prep (10) 4-2 6
7. Valley View (2) 6-0 8
8. Hopewell (7) 4-2 7
9. West Allegheny (7) 4-2 9
10. Cardinal O’Hara (12) 4-2 10
Teams to watch
Blackhawk (7) 5-1, Dallas (2) 6-0, Franklin Regional (7) 6-0, Greater Johnstown (6) 6-0, Knoch (7) 6-0, Susquehanna Twp. (3) 4-2, Thomas Jefferson (7) 4-2.

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

Team Rec Pvs
1. Clairton (P) (7) 6-0 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) 6-0 2
3. Sto-Rox (7) 6-0 3
4. Dunmore (2) 6-0 4
5. Rochester (7) 5-1 5
6. Bishop Canevin (7) 6-0 10
7. Pius X (11) 5-1 6
8. Line Mountain (4) 5-1 7
9. Bishop McCort (6) 5-1 9
10. Sharpsville (10) 5-0 NR
Teams to watch
Avonworth (7) 5-1, Juniata Valley (6) 5-1, Lackawanna Trail (2) 5-1, Mercer (10) 5-1, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 5-1, North Star (5) 6-0, Youngsville (10) 6-0.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 6-0, def. Plum 60-6
2. North Allegheny 6-0, def. Kiski Area 63-17
3. Upper St. Clair 5-1, def. Peters Township 42-14
4. Penn-Trafford 6-0, def. McKeesport 17-13
5. Woodland Hills 5-1, def. Fox Chapel 38-0

Class AAA
1. Central Valley 6-0, def. Montour 27-16
2. Franklin Regional 6-0, def. Uniontown 56-7
3. Blackhawk 5-1, def. Ambridge 35-3
4. Knoch 6-0, def. Indiana 56-31
5. Thomas Jefferson 4-2, def. Chartiers Valley 37-22

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 6-0, def. Ellwood City 35-9
2. Seton-La Salle 6-0, def. South Allegheny 38-14
3. Jeannette 6-0, def. Yough 49-13
4. Greensburg C.C. 6-0, def. Brownsville 25-0
5. Beaver 6-0, def. Mohawk 43-0

Class A
1. Clairton 6-0, def. Bentworth 54-0
2. Sto-Rox 6-0, def. S.S. Beaver 62-14
3. Bishop Canevin 6-0, def. Wilkinsburg 41-6
4. Rochester 5-1, def. Western Beaver 41-6
5. Beth-Center 6-0, def. Monessen 46-0

Don't forget, follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 6 thoughts

Beth-Center reached the WPIAL Class A semifinals in 2006 behind a staunch defense, and hard-as-nails approach to offense.

That team earned hard-fought victories over a Donte Valentino-led California, a Jordan Clemons-led Fort Cherry and a Serra Catholic team one year from reaching the state championship game.

Beth-Center finished 11-1 for one of the best seasons in team history. That fine season ended with a 31-6 loss to Clairton.

In the years since, Beth-Center has been a consistent program. The Bulldogs are always a threat to win a conference title, and rarely lose in the first round of the playoffs.

After watching Beth-Center dismantle Monessen, 46-0 Friday night in a performance where the Bulldogs dominated all three phases of the game, the Bulldogs have their most dangerous team since 2006.

Scratch that. This is the most dangerous Bulldogs team during the coaching tenure of Ed Woods.

In quarterback Sal Faieta, Beth-Center boasts a heady playmaker capable of breaking a big run, or checking out of a play and hitting a big pass. Faieta turned in a sensational performance against Monessen as he accounted for four touchdowns and more than 300 yards of offense.

Cody Durant, DeShan Brown and C.J. Novak can stretch the field, while Jake Sofran and Matt Riggle wear down defenses in the second half with tough running.

Beth-Center hasn't been this deep or as fast at the skill positions in years, and that's what makes them a threat.

Can the Bulldogs equal of better their run in 2006?

That depends. Beth-Center can get a good jump on that by beating Avonworth Friday night. That non-conference game is vital to the Bulldogs' postseason seeding. If they win out, they'll probably be seeded anywhere from three to five, more likely four of five. That would put them on the same side of the Class A bracket as Clairton, assuming the Bears win out.

* As long as Washington holds serve the rest of the way, the Prexies will host their first postseason game since 2001.

* With games remaining against Keystone Oaks and Washington, Burgettstown controls its own postseason chances. The Blue Devils moved to 4-2 overall, and 2-2 in the Century Conference with a 14-7 win Saturday over Quaker Valley.

* Monessen junior quarterback Chavas Rawlins has the best arm I've seen for a high school player since Cody Endres played at Trinity.

* Gotta admit: I believed Fort Cherry would beat Brentwood two weeks ago, and I thought Chartiers-Houston would beat Brentwood Friday night. Instead, the Spartans beat both teams in overtime and put themselves in prime position to finish the regular season with an 8-1 record, barring some sort of crazy win over Clairton.

Which, of course, would come in overtime.

* I'd love to hear from some Bucs fans. I was told C-H had 11 penalties to two for Brentwood.

* Jefferson-Morgan/Carmichaels isn't just the oldest and most-played rivalry in Greene County history, it's one of the oldest in the WPIAL.

There haven't been many outings better than the Rockets' 42-41 win in overtime that was decided on Tom Seddon's extra point.

Jefferson-Morgan took a major step in solidifying its postseason chances, while the loss really hurt Carmichaels chances. I believe Bill Clinton was president the last time Carmichaels missed the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

* Last year, only a small handful of runners rushed for 1,000 yards.

Ringgold's Quad Law eclipsed the milestone already. Waynesburg's Nick Zupper is rapidly approaching the mark.

* Elizabeth Forward only has one win, but for a Trinity team playing without three starters, including leading rusher Tyler Yocca, the Hillers did a nice job in a trap game.

Follow me on Twitter @TheMikeKovak

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday notebook

Monessen showed plenty of toughness last year when several Greyhounds moved from skill positions to the offensive line during a key win over Beth-Center.

Fullback Jalen Madison and tailback Brett Crenshaw (graduated) made the moves to help an offensive front decimated by injury. The Greyhounds looked fine as they rolled to a 20-6 win that locked up the Tri-County South Conference and may not have been as close as the final score indicated.

That Greyhounds toughness will be on display again tonight as Monessen travels to Beth-Center. Both teams are unbeaten in the Tri-County South and the winner basically locks up the conference championship.

Monessen junior quarterback Chavas Rawlins, one of the top athletes in Class A, suffered an injury to his throwing hand during last week's shutout loss at North Catholic. Rawlins told me he will play at Beth-Center despite a chipped and dislocated knuckle bone.

That will likely limit Monessen's passing game, so expect the Greyhounds to run Madison behind a big offensive line.

* Beth-Center junior Cody Durant is turning into a big-play specialist.

Durant leads a balanced Beth-Center offense with 301 yards rushing and he has 125 yards receiving. Durant is averaging 10.7 yards per carry, 17.9 yards per catch, 35 yards per punt return, 31 yards per kickoff return and he returned an interception for an 89-yard touchdown.

Durant's 11 touchdowns is tied with Nick Zupper of Waynesburg for most in the area.

* Trinity senior Tyler Yocca posted on his Twitter feed Thursday that his knee injury is a "full torn acl in need of surgery."

Earlier in the week, Trinity head coach Ed Dalton said he believed Yocca would not play the remainder of the season. Yocca led the Hillers with 274 rushing yards and had several big plays through the first four games.

Trinity plays at Elizabeth Forward tonight.

PIAA takes step to shorten football season

The PIAA passed a second reading Thursday night to shorten the high school football season from 16 weeks to 15 weeks.

Under the current schedule, the PIAA football championships take place the week before Christmas. Most states end their football season earlier, and those that don't are in warm-weather climates.

Except for Pennsylvania.

Under the new rules, PIAA districts will have the option of dropping the second scrimmage or keeping two scrimmages. Most coaches I spoke with before the season were in favor of keeping two scrimmages.

The WPIAL champion will enter the PIAA playoffs in the semifinals. The current format has the champions entering the quarterfinals.

With the way things are structured, it appears the WPIAL will keep its four-week playoff schedule. Considering the football playoffs are the main money maker for the WPIAL, that is welcome news.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Twitter Thursday

Normally, I'm not a laugh-out-loud-when-by-myself kind of guy, but one tweet made me laugh to the point where it has earned distinction as "Tweet of the Week", which will be a new feature to Twitter Thursday.

Follow me @TheMikeKovak.

Chavas Rawlins, Monessen football
Sept. 30
"So I broke my hand in the first quarter, finished the game tho. Damn was that ruff"

Robert Heller, former Ringgold High and Waynesburg University running back
Oct. 1
"Is Allegheny College really playing on tv right now? I feel like I'm watchin monessen against bentworth"

Amelia Wolf, Washington volleyball/rifle/track
Oct. 1
"my dad came in my room and rubbed his beard on my hand and said "everyday I'm scruffling!" #yeahhh"

Jaylin Kelly, Washington football
Oct. 1
"Someone just told me we playin like the old wash high so i'm guessing thats a good thing"

Pat Vereb, Peters Township girls soccer coach
Oct. 3
"Maybe the irs can audit the scoreboard operators at those 85-0 games"

Gannon Walls-Mitchell, Bentworth soccer/basketball
Oct. 4
"Whatever happened to hailey and hillary duff ..... those was some bad women haha"

Tweet of the Week
Corey Garry, Fort Cherry football
@coreygarry (a very entertaining follow)
Oct. 5
"Love being too lazy to go downstairs to pee #itsbetterfromtwostories"

Quick hits

Trinity's Eric Richards has already had an interesting high school career. He played football at Trinity as a freshman and sophomore before he transferred to Avella.
During baseball season, Richards was the Eagles top player.
Avella was counting on Richards during football season as well, so much so that first-year head coach Ryan Cecchini made Richards the starting quarterback. He spent time there during training camp.
"Then I get a phone call two days before the start of the season, and it's from an administrator," Cecchini said. "They said Richards moved back to Trinity. We had a game in two days and our quarterback was gone. We had to scramble."
No doubt Richards could have greatly helped the Eagles. No doubt he is helping the Hillers.
Richards is seeing considerable time at linebacker and is getting an increased work load on offense. He played a vital role in Trinity's win over West Mifflin.
"Really, the only thing he doesn't have going for him is he's not 6-2," Dalton said. "He's every bit as physical as anyone we've had here."

* Bumped into Burgettstown athletic director Jon Vallina during Wednesday's WPIAL Division I Boys Individual Golf Championship & PIAA Qualifier, he said playing football games on Saturday afternoons this year has negatively affected attendance.

* Washington's Eric Ellis, a senior defensive end, has six sacks the past two games, including four at Keystone Oaks.
Ellis is also the starting right guard for an offensive line that is playing well.
"He's a tough kid, and one defense he's really giving people trouble," Prexies coach Mike Bosnic said.

* Count Chartiers-Houston coach Terry Fetsko among those surprised to see Fort Cherry lose to Brentwood in overtime.
"We didn't know how the game ended, but when we saw the final score, I'd say we were a little surprised," Fetsko said. "When I watched the game on tape, Brentwood is very disciplined and they execute well. They have a good system and they run it well."
The Bucs play at undefeated Brentwood Friday night. The winner has the inside track on finishing second in the Black Hills Conference.

* Waynesburg's Emily Rohanna won the WPIAL Division II Girls Golf Individual Championship Tuesday at Longue Vue Club in Verona. It was Rohanna's second consecutive title, and the fourth for the family.
Her older sister Rachel won two WPIAL titles (when there was one division) and two PIAA championships.
Rachel Rohanna golfs at Ohio State and spent the opening round at this year's U.S. Women's Open on the leaderboard. Emily Rohanna will golf at Youngstown State, where her father Tom played football.
There's a chance the siblings, who both played for the Waynesburg boys golf team, could compete against each other.
"I'm not sure if we do, but there might be one tournament where they might be there with us," Emily Rohanna said. "Hopefully it happens. It'll be different. She's still intimidating."

* Peters Township sophomore Veronica Latsko already has 30 goals this season. Latsko scored 26 as a freshman.

* Penn State linebacker Mike Hull carved out quite a legacy at Canon-McMillan. Hull was an Observer-Reporter Athlete of the Year, Football Player of the Year, two-time first team All-State selection (should have been three), WPIAL team wrestling and team track champion and a PIAA baseball champion.

Now, another Hull is playing football for the Big Macs.

Senior Ashley Hull, Mike's sister, is Canon-McMillan's kicker and she is the first female in Big Macs history to score points in a football game. Hull is also the starting goalie on the soccer team.

* Trinity got sophomore Pat Frey back from injury, and Frey certainly helped the Hillers beat West Mifflin. Did you know that Trinity is 6-0 versus West Mifflin since dropping to Class AAA?
It's not all good news for the Hillers this week.
Standount tailback Tyler Yocca, who has excelled in the Hillers' triple-option offense, suffered a knee injury.
"It's possible that we've lost him for the year," Dalton said. "It's a fast track at West Mifflin and not as giving as turf at most other place. (Yocca) was having such a good season."
The injury could force a switch in offensive philosophy.
"We might go out of our three-back role," Dalton said. "We could become more formation-oriented, more two-back formations."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Homecoming queen kicks game-winning field goal

PINCKNEY, Mich. (AP) — Shortly after being named homecoming queen, a Michigan girl gave her fellow high school students another big reason to cheer: Brianna Amat kicked the field goal that proved to be the difference as Pinckney Community High School beat Grand Blanc 9-7 on Friday.
The 31-yard field goal gave the Pirates a 9-0 lead in the third quarter.
Amat told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell ( that after the soccer season ended last school year she gave field goal kicking a try at the urging of the school’s coaches. She has been playing soccer since age 3 but hadn’t played football or paid much attention to that sport.
“In the beginning, I thought it was kind of a joke. I didn’t think they were actually going to let me do it,” Amat said.
Shortly before her crucial kick Friday, Amat rode in Pinckney’s homecoming parade while wearing her football uniform. On Saturday morning, Amat was inside the commons area of Pinckney high school, leading the effort to decorate the school in preparation for the school’s homecoming dance.
Pinckney football coach Dan Burkholder said he had asked Amat to try out after the school’s soccer coach told him about her.
“I was going to have her kick an extra point,” Burkholder recalled, “and I pulled out a tee and she said, ‘What’s that?’ “
Now that she’s doing it, Amat studies kickers.
“It’s just something I do, and I’m so glad I got a chance to do it,” she said. “It’s something I’m never going to be able to redo in my lifetime.”
Amat credits her teammates for helping her kick, especially the two players who snap and hold the ball for her.
“Everyone told me I could do it, take it easy,” Amat said, “...and them having that confidence in me gave me confidence in myself.”

State football rankings

Pennsylvania high school football rankings from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for the week of Tuesday, Oct. 4, 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) 5-0 1
2. North Allegheny (P) (7) 5-0 2
3. LaSalle College HS (12) 4-1 3
4. Upper St. Clair (7) 4-1 4
5. North Penn (1) 3-2 5
6. Cumberland Valley (3) 5-0 7
7. Father Judge (12) 4-1 NR
8. Woodland Hills (7) 4-1 8
9. Nazareth (11) 5-0 NR
10. Abington (1) 5-0 NR
Teams to watch:
Coatesville (1) 4-1, Council Rock South (1) 4-1, Downingtown East (1) 4-1, Gateway (7) 4-1, McDowell (10) 4-1, Neshaminy (1) 4-1, Penn-Trafford (7) 5-0, Whitehall (11) 4-1, Wyoming Valley West (2) 5-0.

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

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

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

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hawaii to ride some waves

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii will soon become the first state in the nation to call surfing an official high school sport.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state education officials said Monday that riding the waves will join the likes of football, basketball, volleyball and swimming as a state-sanctioned prep sport in public schools, starting as early as spring 2013.
“It’s quite clear, when you think of Hawaii, you think of surfing,” Abercrombie said with a scenic backdrop of sunbathers and surfers along Waikiki beach behind him. The news conference was held near the statue of island icon Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic gold medal swimmer known as the father of modern surfing.
“Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing. From Duke Kahanamoku to the thousands of residents and visitors who surf both recreationally and competitively, the sport is rooted in our culture and way of life,” the governor said.
The Aloha State is known for its world-class surf breaks and competitions. It is home to many pro surfers and has produced several world champions including Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, who this summer became the youngest world champion at 18.
“I think it’s awesome, and it will open doors for kids,” said Moore, who welcomed the announcement. She said the sport taught her many life lessons growing up, such as hard work, perseverance, and time management.
“Surfing and riding a wave is so much like life. You fall down over and over again, but you keep picking yourself back up until you ride one all the way to the beach,” Moore said. “I know that’s kind of cheesy, but I think surfing is definitely a really good outlet for a lot of teens and young kids. It’s a way to channel a lot of energy into something positive. It’s just really awesome.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Observer-Reporter WPIAL football rankings

Class AAAA
1. Pittsburgh C.C. 5-0, def. Penn Hills 36-6
2. North Allegheny 5-0, def. Seneca Valley 49-28
3. Upper St. Clair 4-1, def. Baldwin 42-0
4. Penn-Trafford 5-0, def. Connellsville 39-0
5. Woodland Hills 4-1, def. Altoona 28-7

Class AAA
1. Central Valley 5-0, def. Moon 51-20
2. Franklin Regional 5-0, def. Derry Area 49-3
3. Blackhawk 4-1, def. Hopewell 37-13
4. Montour 4-1, def. New Castle 35-25
5. Knoch 5-0, def. Hampton 42-6

Class AA
1. Aliquippa 5-0, def. New Brighton 41-6
2. Seton-La Salle 5-0, def. Steel Valley 28-0
3. Jeannette 5-0, def. Charleroi 46-20
4. Greensburg C.C. 5-0, def. Mt. Pleasant 21-14
5. Beaver 5-0, def. Brownsville 28-6

Class A
1. Clairton 5-0, def. Avella 84-0
2. Sto-Rox 5-0, def. Union 38-0
3. Bishop Canevin 5-0, def. Springdale 26-20
4. Rochester 4-1, def. Shenango 47-7
5. Beth-Center 5-0, def. California 39-2

Week 5 thoughts

Clairton 84, Avella 0.

Only to be outdone by Gateway 85, Norwin 0.

According to reports, Avella head coach Ryan Cecchini placed no blame on Clairton for the final score. Instead, Cecchini said a series of Avella mistakes, particularly on botched punts, continually gave the Bears prime field position.

The final score makes me think several things.

1. It's time for Clairton to move up to Class AA. Aliquippa does it. Jeannette does it. Monessen does it in basketball; and all are very successful. How much fun can it be knowing you will not face competition until the WPIAL championship game at the earliest?

2. Even before Cecchini disclosed some details of the game, I found it hard to place blame on Clairton. Seriously.

It's not Clairton's fault it is that much better.

Also, the Bears have been criticized for many things. They've taken knees after halftime (a move that still baffles me). They've acted unsportsmanlike after games, but if the starters were pulled and they weren't throwing the football, you can't put blame on them for the final score against Avella.

3. There needs to be mergers.

* Weather can be a great equalizer, and it certainly helped Brentwood during the Spartans' 20-19 overtime win at Fort Cherry. For the Rangers, it's a crippling loss with Clairton and Chartiers-Houston remaining on the schedule.

Brentwood did a better job at the line of scrimmage than Fort Cherry, and the Rangers hurt themselves with a myriad of mistakes - fumbled snaps, poor punts, missed extra points and missed assignments.

I covered the last two Fort Cherry-Brentwood games and thought both times the Rangers were the more talented team. Yet, the Spartans won both games. As stated many times on this blog, it takes a lot more than talent to win at the varsity level.

* Speaking of talent, Washington sure looks like its coming into its own.

The Prexies notched a second consecutive impressive victory, the latest a 41-16 romp at Keystone Oaks.

Shai McKenzie, a sophomore, is emerging as Washington's top runner and, with Jaylin Kelly, that's a dynamic one-two punch. Quarterback Josh Wise and receiver Ethan Gordon are bringing balance to an offense that is emerging as a big-play bunch.

A win against Steel Valley should lock up second place in the Century Conference for Washington. Considering the reaction following losses to Clairton and Seton-La Salle, not sure the Prexies faithful saw this coming.

* Beth-Center continues to get things done, and senior Sal Faieta is in the midst of his best season.

Faieta is a workout warrior, intelligent football player with a high motor, and he's a proven winner. Now, Faieta and Beth-Center face a difficult test in Monessen.

The Greyhounds aren't happy after being shutout at North Catholic, a game where quarterback Chavas Rawlins suffered a broken hand but continued to play. Monessen has also beat Beth-Center the past two seasons.

There isn't a bigger game in the area this Friday than Monessen at Beth-Center. The winner will win the Tri-County South Conference and should earn a top five seed in the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

* Waynesburg's Nick Zupper is in the midst of a monster season. He's already pushing 1,000 yards rushing.

* If the season ended today, Ringgold's Quad Law would be the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year.

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