Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A look back at the football season

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

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

None advanced past the second round.

All face differing landscapes for 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Reason for optimisism also abounds at South Fayette.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


mike_kovak said...

My apologies on a previous typo. ... Or, you are welcome for a decent laugh.

Anonymous said...

Law WILL start next year if Ringgold wants to compete. He can make the throws, and is already taller than his brother. Ringgold loses a lot, but the cupboard isn't bare. They will compete next year for sure.

Tom Kelly said...

Mike I agree with your assessment at Wash High. Those players (Jaylin,Shai,Josh, Rikwon and Daron)you mentioned will have a big impact. Here is the sleeper-Chase Caldwell will be a big time player here soon. Remember you heard it here. Big hitter,strongest arm, good hands with deceptive speed and a good punter. I am looking forward to seeing him evolve bc he kind of gets lost in the shuffle.

Anonymous said...

I know everyone cant be invited to the show but I wouldnt mind being one of these kids: Zac Challingsworth, Jaylin Kelly, shai McKenzie, Quad Law, D. Louise Mike Beveridge and the other Beth Center kid. I believe they are goin to play some big time football somewhere according to the word on the street.

Proud Prexie said...

As a wash high grad I have watched many games and am very excited about the next couple seasons. Wash High could end up producing some big recruits over the next few years.

Jaylin Kelly has a good shot. In my opinion, he can play LB at a big D1 school. Kelly could have rushed for over 1,000 if he wasnt slowed down by his injury the last 4 games.

Rikwon Moore and Josh Wise have a chance but they must continue to improve.

I've heard that some schools are already looking to offer Shai McKenzie as a LB. He needs to keep his head on straight and work harder if he wants to play at a Michigan/OSU type school.

I like Chase Caldwell. He may also have a shot if he works hard. Daron Whitaker may surprise all of us. He can really play but I think he hurts himself sometimes.

prexie said...

wash high is losing a alot of talent this year. everyone talks about the qb and running backs and the d line. the biggest concern will be the offensive line. i agree chase caldwell needs used more on offense he will probably have to wait till he is a senior to start at qb unfortunatly.

Sarcastic Sword said...

Ringgold will be ok if they stay in the Keystone Conference...If they get moved to the Big 7, all bets are off...more graduation losses to OL and DL plus 2 LB's at least ensure an inexperienced bunch among the "big uglies" upfront. But their skill players certainly can be difference makers. If Law is healthy after knee injury, they could be a much better throwing team than recent seasons. He throws an accurate ball but can still wing it deep too. A diff QB should result in some modifications to their offense to play to the strengths of whomever replaces Quad Law - which are big shoes to fill.

R. Keith Taylor said...

Well, Nico is up to the challenge, I promise that. He is not the type of player his brother is, but his throwing ability has to be respected, because he can sling it. I watched him make throws that really impressed me. He really has a canon for an arm.

R. Keith Taylor said...

This is not the place, but congratulations to Ringgold graduate Ricky Douglas for setting St. Vincent's single season receiving and yards record. He caught 49 passes for 689 yards.

Just Sayin' said...

It great to see a Washington county boy doing well at the college level, but "All-Time" is a big way to state that for a program that is only 5 years old.

R. Keith Taylor said...

I'm just throwing a brother a bone. Don't player hate. Just sayin...

Just sayin back said...

St. Vincent used to have a program way back when, then brought it back so technically it's not just 5 years of records he broke.