Monday, September 1, 2014

What did we learn from Week One?

DeQuay Isbell
Week One's slate of games is in the books and we finally have a clearer picture of what teams have and what question marks still remain.

I went out on a limb last week and picked Ringgold to end Thomas Jefferson's 51-game home winning streak. My thought process was the Rams had everything on both sides of the ball, while the Jaguars had a major question at quarterback and unproven talent on defense.

The game started with a poor kick return by Brandon Thomas where he did not take the ball up the field and gave the Rams poor field position. Ringgold went three-and-out and a bad punt gave TJ the ball in Rams territory.

It did not take long for Austin Kemp and the Jaguars to use a power running game for an early 7-0 lead. The way the Rams responded was perfect. Nico Law made a tremendous throw to Mayson Atkinson for a long touchdown.

That throw should show Ohio University and James Madison, Law's two scholarship offers, that the kid can play quarterback. He stood in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike.

Thomas Jefferson won this game by controlling the line of scrimmage and exploited Ringgold's run defense. Rams head coach Nick Milchovich was curious how his defense would respond against a rushing attack like TJ's. While Ringgold has speed, could they dig deep when teams ran right at them?

They failed the first test, but the season is far from over. Mistakes will be corrected and now the question is how will Ringgold respond? They face an improve Uniontown team this week at home.

South Fayette: I didn't have many concerns about the Lions and they did nothing in Week One to raise questions.

Roman Denson showed how deadly he is going to be in all three phases, Brett Brumbaugh was extremely efficient and the defense was stout. Facing Keystone Oaks this week will be a better challenge, but I don't see South Fayette having much of a challenge with them. Watch out for South Park in Week Three, but the Lions have the makings to repeat as WPIAL champs.

Wash High: Head coach Mike Bosnic limited Jordan West's touches because the junior is still getting accustomed to the large cast he is wearing from breaking a bone in his left hand.

It did not matter.

Malik Wells was tremendous, Jonathan Spina's experience is showing and DeQuay Isbell's big play ability was on display as the Prexies rolled to a Week One win. Yes, Derry was a bad team last season, but Tim Sweeney has improved the Trojans.

Wash High did not have much tape of Derry and the Trojans had so much to analyze, but talent won this game. Bosnic wants to see the Prexies clean up some mental mistakes. Burgettstown won't pose much of a threat this week, but Waynesburg will be a nice test in Week Three.

Beth-Center: I kept hearing about how improved Mapletown is from a year ago, but the Bulldogs showed they are the class of the Tri-County South.

Anthony Welsh and Nico Brown had big games and Beth-Center's defense put the Maples away. This was probably the Bulldogs' biggest test until they face Frazier in Week Six. Beth-Center will likely go undefeated in conference play, but facing Greensburg Central Catholic this week is a nice measuring stick.

McGuffey: This is the game I covered and I thought the Highlanders were done at halftime. They could not stop Mt. Pleasant's Trevor Salopek, had trouble running the football in the first half and they looked slow on defense.

McGuffey's second-half performance came up short, but James Duchi and Nathan Whipkey played great. Whipkey is a much better passer than I anticipated, which bodes well for the Highlanders' hopes of making the playoffs.

The defense has to improve though. The Vikings ran the jet sweep over and over again. When McGuffey finally adjusted, MP would run a counter for a substantial gain. It will be interesting to see how the Highlanders look against an improved Charleroi team this week.

Fort Cherry: A lot can be said about a late comeback against a heavily favored opponent on the road. I've heard conflicting reports on how this game actually ended, but the Rangers picked up a huge Week One victory over OLSH.

Nick Cook seems to be Koltan Kobrys' replacement in the backfield and Alex Babirad showed why he is one of the best receivers in the Black Hills Conference.

FC will face Brentwood this week, which will be one of the better games in Week Two.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week One Results

Beth-Center 7 14 13 0 34
Mapletown 0 6 0 0 6
BC-Anthony Welsh 16-yard run (John Berdar kick) 4:45 1st
M-Dylan Rush 10-yard pass from Ben Boone (kick failed) 11:52 2nd
BC-Nico Brown 2-yard run (Berdar kick) 6:37 2nd
BC-Welsh 73-yard run (Berdar kick) 3:42 2nd
BC-Welsh 10-yard run (kick failed) 6:47 3rd
BC-Brown 33-yard run (Berdar kick) 3:23 3rd

Jeff-Morgan 0 7 7 0 14
West Greene 0 0 0 0 0
JM-Trevor Kniha 53-yard run (Bo Ricci kick) 3:17 2nd
JM-Aaron Weaver 84-yard run (Ricci kick) 3:05 3rd

Avella 0 0 0 0 0
Frazier 14 14 6 9 43
F-Hunter Patterson 5-yard run (Cox kick) 6:14 1st
F-Patterson 15-run (Cox kick) 4:16 1st
F-Alvin Ross 51-yard run (Cox kick) 6:18 2nd
F-Nate Zurcich 49-yard pass from Patterson (Cox kick) 2:345 2nd
F-Patterson 11-yard run (pass failed) 8:55 8:55 3rd
F-Caleb Cox 1-yard run (Cox kick) 5:42 4th
F-Safety, punt blocked :47 4th

Charleroi           0 14 10 0 24
Southmoreland 6 6 6 7 25
S-Jake Pisula 7-yard run (kick failed)
C-Rashaad Hairston 20-yard pass from Matt Carr (Sean Cole kick)
C-Brock Shannon 6-yard run (Cole kick)
S-Mateo Garner 4-yard run (run failed)
C-Shannon 83-yard kick return (Cole kick)
S-Brennan Brunner 3-yard run (kick failed)
C-Cole 32-yard field goal
S-Tommy Pisula (Kyle Rhodes kick)

Fort Cherry 7 7 6 7 27
OLSH 7 6 7 6 26
OLSH-Billy DePaul 30-yard pass from Joey Sabbs (John Truskowski kick) 6:13 1st
FC-Alex Babirad 14-yard pass from Anthony Panizza (Anthony Campion kick) 2:55 1st
FC-Nick Cook 14-yard run (Campion kick) 10:35 2nd
OLSH-Truskowski 8-yard run (kick failed) 9:19 2nd
FC-Cook 70-yard run (kick failed) 11:37 3rd
OLSH-Ryan Babot 26-yard pass from DePaul (Truskowski kick) 6:17 3rd
OLSH-DePaul 59-yard pass from Sabbs (kick failed) 3:18 4th
FC-Brian Carnegie recovered fumble in end zone (Campion kick) :17 4th

Monessen       0 6 0 6 12
Greesburg CC 6 6 0 3 15
GCC-Brian Pervanik 4-yard run (pass failed)
M-Demond Jordan 2-yard run (kick failed)
GCC-Pervanik 10-yard run (run failed)
M-Lavelle Rush 17-yard pass from Noah Rullo (pass failed)
GCC-Pervanik 26-yard FG

McGuffey    6 7 6 20 39
Mt. Pleasant 14 17 7 7 -– 40
McG: Nathan Whipkey, 5-yard run (Teague Nicolella kick no good) 3:30 1st
MP: Trevor Salopek, 12-yard run (Zach Bednar kick) 5:17 1st
MP: Salopek, 72-yard run (Bednar kick) 11:22 1st
MP: Salopek, 3-yard run (Bednar kick) 7:15 2nd
MP: Bednar 25-yard field goal 10:49 2nd
MP: Salopek, 52-yard interception return (Bednar kick) 11:37 2nd
McG: Steven Clemens, 90-yard kick-off return (Nicolella kick) 11:53 2nd
McG: Clemens, 5-yard run (Run failed) 5:01 3rd
MP: Chris Wagner, 13-yard run (Bednar kick) 9:57 3rd
McG: Whipkey, 9-yard run (Pass fail) 0:50 4th
MP: Brian Prinkey, 88-yard kick-off return (Bednar kick) 1:05 4th
McG: Shaun Sanders, 43-yard pass from Whipkey (Bednar) 3:34 4th
McG: James Duchi, 14-yard run (Nicolella kick) 8:53 4th

Burgettstown 0 0 0 6 –  6
Waynesburg 0 14 12 7 – 33
W—John-Glen Davis 9-yard run (Davis kick) 6:37 2nd
W—Dom Sarra, 40-yard pass from Davis (Davis kick) 1:49 2nd
W—Hunter Cenname, five-yard run (kick failed) 7:26 3rd
W—Cenname, 12-yard run (kick failed) 2:15 3rd
W—Cenname, seven-yard run (Davis kick) 7:50
B—Robert Dupain, 35-yard run (run failed) 1:18 4th

Clairton 32 16 14 8 – 70
California 0 0 0 0 –  0
Cl—Lamont Wade, 70-yard run (Aaron matthews run) 11:48 1st
Cl—Matthews, 29-yard run (Harrison Dreher run) 7:46 2nd
Cl—Dreher, 13-yard run (Wade run) 1:31 1st
Cl—Matthews, 61-yard pass from Ryan Williams (James Hines pass from Williams) :10 1st
Cl—Matthews, 72-yard punt return (Hines pass from Williams) 10:06 2nd
Cl—Dreher, 18-yard run (Dreher run) 6:30 2nd
Cl—Wade, 69-yard punt return (run failed) 7:57 3rd
Cl—Hines, 53-yard pass from Williams (Matthews pass from Williams) 3:21 3rd
Cl—Dreher, 70-yard run (Matthews pass from Williams) 7:11 4th

Woodland Hills       7 20 0 0 – 27
Peters Township       0 0 0 0 –  0
WH—Miles Sanders, 20-yard run (Darren Cooper kick) :51 1st
WH—Arthur Tompkins 80-yard interception return (Cooper kick) 9:21 2nd
WH—Sanders, 30-yard run (kick failed) 7:30 2nd
WH—Arthur Tomkins, 47-yard run (Cooper kick) 1:03 2nd

Canon-McMillan 0 0 0 0 –  0
Mt. Lebanon       21 19 0 0 – 40
ML–Eddie Jenkins, 19-yard run (Robbie Constantino kick)
ML–Alex Englert, 4-yard pass from Jenkins (Constantino kick)
ML–Shanbe Lefebvre, 18-yard pass from Jenkins (Constantino kick)
ML–Englert, 45-yard pass from Jenkins (kick failed)
ML–Lefebvre, fumble return for touchdown (kick failed)
ML–Joye Stabile, 95-yard run (Constantino kick)

Belle Vernon 19 6 20 0 – 45
Trinity 0 7 0 7 – 14
BV–Marcel McKaskill 96-yard kick return (Derek Verkleeren kick) 11:46 1st
BV–Anthony Levis three-yard run (kick missed) 7:50 1st
BV–Zac Spate 10-yard run (run failed) 0:00 1st
BV–Verkleeren 16-yard pass from Travis Snyder (run failed) 4:24 2nd
T–Sam Trapuzzano 13-yard pass from Forest Cullings (Trapuzzano kick) 0:45 2nd
BV–Luke Durigon 10-yard run (run failed) 7:06 3rd
BV–Levis 11-yard run (Verkleeren kick) 5:12 3rd
BV–Timmy Labuda 12-yard pass from Snyder (Verkleeren kick) 1:04 3rd
T–Robert West two-yard run (Trapuzzano kick) 9:05 4th

E. Allegheny   6 0 0 0 –  6
South Fayette 28 7 14 0 – 49
SF – Roman Denson, 57-yard pass from Brett Brumbaugh (Dan Trimbur kick) 9:52 1st
SF – Ryan Schmider, 23-yard interception return (Trimbur kick) 9:36 1st
SF – J.J. Walker, 5-yard run (Trimbur kick) 7:02 1st
SF – Hunter Hayes, 1-yard run (Trimbur kick) 5:34 1st
EA – Taizjon Brown, 1-yard run (pass failed) :53 1st
SF – Hayes, 5-yard run (Trimbur kick) 5:02 2nd
SF – Logan Sharp, 2-yard pass from Brumbaugh (Trimbur kick) 10:29 3rd
SF – Hayes, 14-yard run (Trimbur kick) 3:05 3rd

Derry       0 6 0 0 – 6
Washington 7 20 21 0 – 48
WHS-Jonathan Spina, one-yard run (Spina kick) :05 1st
Derry-Jaymie Howe, 7-yard pass from Trey Friedline (kick failed) 8:03 2nd
WHS-Dequay Isbell, 72-yard kickoff return (Spina kick) 7:52 2nd
WHS-Malik Wells, four-yard run (Spina kick) 1:57 2nd
WHS-Kenya Davis, 30-yard pass from Spina (kick failed) 1:40 2nd
WHS-Kurt Adkins, 34-yard run (Adkins run) 9:47 3rd
WHS-Wells, 41-yard run (kick failed) 7:14 3rd
WHS-Wells, 36-yard run (Spina kick) 1:56 3rd

Bentworth    6 7 0 0 – 13
Carmichaels 0 12 6 12 –  30
Bent–Phillip Stahlman, 42-yard pass from Josh Hughes (kick failed) 10:00 1st
Car–Mike Blasinsky, 4-yard run (kick failed) 11:20 2nd
Car–Blasinsky, 1-yard run (run failed) 5:10 2nd
Bent–Stahlman, 13-yard pass from Hughes (Levi Jordan kick) :07
Car–Blasinky, 6-yard run (run failed) 1:17 3rd
Car–Brody Blaker, 61-yard pass from Coty Allen (run failed) 8:31 4th
Car–Allen, 13-yard run (run failed) 2:52 4th

Avonworth 7 7 13 10 – 37
Char-Houston 0 6 0 7 –  13
A–Kevin Simpson, 4-yard run (Cole Pappas kick) 1st
A–Paul Heflin, 27-yard interception return (Pappas kick) 2nd
CH–Spencer Terling, 6-yard run (kick failed) 2nd
A–Jamal Hughley, 52-yard run (Pappas kick) 3rd
A–Simpson, 3-yard run (kick failed) 3rd
A–Brandon Wasko, 7-yard run (Pappas kick) 4th
CH–Austiin Warchol, 22-yard pass from Alec Ferrari (Cushma kick) 4th
A–Pappas, 25-yard field goal

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Different players, same system for Mount Pleasant

James Duchi
Mt. Pleasant averaged almost 42 points per game in 2013, which included an Interstate Conference title and a WPIAL Class AA playoff victory.

The Vikings rolled to a perfect regular season record and defeated Wash High on the road. Mount Pleasant runs a spread offense with a wing-t philosophy that is very similar to Karns City's. They use several different running backs and are not afraid to let their quarterback run through the tackles.

Losing its two biggest pieces might change a few things. Running back Tyler Mellors, the school's all-time leading rusher, gained 1,738 yards and scored 29 touchdowns in 2013. The Vikings' quarterback, Ryan Gumbita, is also gone after throwing nine touchdowns and running for three more.

Head coach Bo Ruffner's system is run-first while using play-action to keep defenses off balance. Senior Nathan Pieszak takes over under center , while Ruffner will use a stable of running backs to help replace Mellors.

The Vikings are a program that never rebuilds, they reload. That is aided by a freshman program that runs the same offense as the varsity and even the youth coaches are teaching their players how to effectively run an option offense.

That familiarity makes the transition smooth after graduating players like Mellors and Gumbita. Mount Pleasant lost 18 other players to graduation, but have 18 returning seniors. The Vikings lost their top four rushers - Mellors, Ryan Ballew, Brett Fess and Gumbita.

The leading returner is junior Jake Adamrovich, who ran for 150 yards on 21 carries with four touchdowns. Trevor Salopek led the Vikings with 284 receiving yards, but will switch to running back to help with depth at the position.

This team still has speed and skill at the wide receiver positions with a small, but athletic offensive line. Their linemen will have trouble with McGuffey's which should use its strength to disrupt the option offense.

I did pick McGuffey to win this game. James Duchi is in for a breakout season. If he was not stuck behind Patrick Frey for the past two years, Duchi's name would be well-known throughout the WPIAL. My concern with the Highlanders is depth on the offensive line. They can not afford an injury there or at linebacker.

The return of Nathan Whipkey at quarterback with Adam Narigon at wide receiver is a great combination for an offense that will pass more than people expect. On paper, the Highlanders have the advantage over Mount Pleasant, which could translate to McGuffey's first win in the Interstate Conference.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week One filled with big matc ups in WPIAL football

The wait is almost over. High school football season is upon us as games kick off Friday night at fields across the state.

There are questions surrounding every team in the WPIAL, including all four defending champions. 

Nothing is guaranteed except a fresh start.

My weekly picks are in Thursday’s paper so I won’t spoil those, but I’ll break down the match ups for all 21 local teams.

Woodland Hills at Peters Township, 7:30 p.m.
This one is very intriguing. The Indians don’t have to travel to play the Wolverines, which is one of the toughest venues in the WPIAL.

Senior quarterback Cory Owen will keep Woodland Hills’ defense guessing with a run-first offense, but he can also throw the football. Look for Peters Township to force the Wolverines to stack the box then let Owen get to work.

I’m not backing away from picking PT to make the playoffs, but the Indians are vastly inexperienced and Woodland Hills is not the team to face in the season opener.

Canon-McMillan at Mt. Lebanon, 7:30 p.m.
The last four years, Canon-McMillan has finished with a combined record of 3-34. I like the talent on this year’s Big Macs team. The offensive line will be strong and Ahmad Morris Walker is a big play waiting to happen, but this conference is not for the faint of heart.

C-M is struggling to grasp its new spread offense and its personnel doesn’t exactly fit what they are trying to do. Mt. Lebanon has a lot returning, including both quarterbacks and running back Brian Ward. The Big Macs are going to struggle in this one.

Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson, 7:30 p.m.
Thomas Jefferson lost seven first-team all-conference players from last year’s team, including Michigan recruit Chase Winovich. Austin Kemp returns at running back for the Jaguars, but there is uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position.

That’s the complete opposite for Ringgold, which returns Nico Law under center, Chacar Berry at running back, a very capable group of receivers and a massive offensive line. If this was a home game, I’d pick the Rams to win by two touchdowns.

That’s how highly I think of their roster. They have size, speed and something every WPIAL team needs: a 
smart, accurate quarterback. Ringgold wins this one, but it will be close.

Belle Vernon at Trinity, 7:30 p.m.
I have no idea what to expect from Trinity this season. When I spoke to head coach Ryan Coyle during camp, he was only pleased with two of the Hillers’ linemen and wanted to see more on both sides of the ball.

Forrest Cullings is going to be great. That much is a given, but the Hillers need speed and a lot of it. The Big Nine Conference isn’t a walk in the park. Hosting a Belle Vernon team that has new head coach Matt Humbert will be a good measuring stick.

Burgettstown at Waynesburg, 7 p.m.
Burgettstown has lost 21 straight games and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon. Waynesburg may have one of its best teams in almost a decade, but depth will be an issue. One injury can cripple the Raiders.

I’m looking forward to seeing Waynesburg compete with Wash High and McGuffey, but a game against Burgettstown isn’t a true test. The Blue Devils need to improve and fast.

Charleroi at Southmoreland, 7 p.m.
The Cougars are going to score a lot of points. The spread offense will be successful with Matt Carr under center, but how good is the defense?

This is a perfect opening game for new head coach Donnie Militzer and the Cougars. Southmoreland’s offense features one of the top running backs in Class AA in Jake Pisula, who rushed for 1,609 yards on 280 attempts last year.

If Charleroi is going to win, stopping Pisula is critical. A win here could say a lot about Militzer’s goal of the Cougars making the playoffs.

Derry at Washington, 7 p.m.
Derry was awful in Class AAA last season. The Trojans have not had a winning season in 14 years and they gave up 56.3 points per game in 2013. A new coach may change the course, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

Wash High has one of the strongest rushing attacks in the WPIAL with a defense that is going to surprise a lot of people. That’s a formula for a one-sided game.

McGuffey at Mt. Pleasant, 7 p.m.
This was one of the most difficult games to pick this week. McGuffey’s spread offense is going to run the ball effectively with James Duchi and Nathan Whipkey’s return at quarterback will stabilize the passing game.

They’ll need to mix in play action and capitalize on the Vikings’ mistakes as Mt. Pleasant returns just three starters on both sides of the ball. On the other hand, the Vikings are a very quick team that runs its offense with precision.

Like Ringgold’s matchup with TJ, this game will say a ton about how both teams stack up with their conference rivals this season.

East Allegheny at South Fayette, 7 p.m.
East Allegheny’s young offensive line against South Fayette’s disruptive defense is what will immediately stand out. Yes, Brett Brumbaugh and the offense will put on a clinic, but I want to see the Lions’ defense in action.

People do not realize how important Zach Walker, Spencer Girman and Ben Berkovitz were to the group in 2013. Those three were as disruptive of defensive linemen you will find in the WPIAL.

 Avonworth at Chartiers-Houston, 7 p.m.
The Buccaneers are going to be an interesting team to follow. Alec Ferrari is back at quarterback and is one of the better pure athletes in the area. Spencer Terling is only going to improve and Terry Fetsko’s teams are always competitive.

Not having Miles Williamson is the biggest loss for C-H, but AJ Meyers could be a big play threat for the Bucs this season.

Avonworth’s only two losses in 2013 came against North Catholic and will have a reliable quarterback. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve seen the Antelopes play, but the roster and experience tips the scale in their favor.

Fort Cherry at OLSH, 8 p.m.
One of the biggest mistakes during WPIAL realignment was putting Fort Cherry in the Black Hills. Travel is going to be incredibly tough and having to play a game at Robert Morris at 8 p.m. is the first example of that.

Alex Babirad is a threat to go the distance every time a pass is thrown his way, but can Anthony Panizza execute Jim Shiel’s offense with so many new pieces and inexperience? I do think the Rangers are going to run the ball effectively, but defense will be the key.
OLSH returns its quarterback and running back from a 5-5 season in the Big Seven Conference.

Monessen at Greensburg Central Catholic
Monessen has size and speed, but not much else. There is very little experience on this roster outside of Noah Rullo and Lavelle Rush. This will be a year of transition for the Greyhounds. They depended so much on Justice Rawlins, Clintell Gillaspie and Javon Brown in 2013 that a transition won’t be seamless.
Numbers are also an issue, which is strange for Monessen.

Avella at Frazier, 7 p.m.
I am not going to count the Eagles out of any game this season. Santino Paris is the most proven quarterback in the Tri-County South and if last season taught me anything, it’s never overlook Avella.

That being said, Frazier is a tough place to play and this game’s outcome will be dictated in the trenches. I know Avella was struggling to find big bodies to block for Paris and injuries depleted their roster to just 20 over the last few weeks.

Bentworth at Carmichaels, 7 p.m.
I almost didn’t include this game on the list because Ron Skiles refused to divulge any information about this year’s team. No one knows a thing about the Bearcats outside of Bentleyville.
The Mikes lose their best senior class in years, but there’s still talent at Carmichaels. This won’t be close.

Beth-Center at Mapletown, 7 p.m.
This is the game of the week in Class A. The Bulldogs are loaded on both sides of the ball. If they can find good play at quarterback, they’ll go undefeated in the regular season, but the Maples could catch them off guard in week one.

Jefferson-Morgan at West Greene, 7 p.m.
No one knows who is starting at quarterback for Jefferson-Morgan. It’s not Rece Henneman, which is going to make this a long season for the Rockets. West Greene is primed for a breakout year in the Tri-County South, which is depleted after most teams lost their best talent.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Comcast announces HS Game of the Week schedule

Comcast announced its popular Xfinity High School Sports Game of the Week schedule today, which will mark its 12th consecutive season with a 12-week WPIAL schedule that includes nine regular-season games and three playoff games.

All Xfinity TV subscribers with Digital Starter and above packages get free access to the Xfinty High School Sports Game of the Week through the “Get Local” and “Sports” folders on their On Demand menu beginning the day after the game is played.

The first broadcast will be Ringgold’s Big Nine Conference match up with Thomas Jefferson, which is one of the most intriguing games of Week One. 

Also on the schedule is Peters Township’s Week Eight game against Bethel Park.

“The 2014 programming schedule demonstrates Comcast's ongoing commitment to interscholastic athletics in Western Pennsylvania. The WPIAL is very proud to again have Comcast as a major corporate sponsor,” WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley said via press release

Xfinity High School Sports Game of the Week Schedule 2014

August 29 – Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson

September 5 – Gateway at West Mifflin

September 12 – Beaver at Beaver Falls

September 19 – Seton-LaSalle at Steel Valley

September 26 – Kiski at Plum

October 3 – Franklin Regional at Hampton
October 10 – Penn Trafford at Shaler

October 17 – Peters Township at Bethel Park

October 24 – North Hills at North Allegheny
October 31 – First Round WPIAL Playoffs

November 7 – WPIAL Quarterfinals

November 14 – WPIAL Semifinals.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thoughts on South Fayette/Canon-McMillan scrimmage

I got the chance to check out South Fayette facing Canon-McMillan in a scrimmage Friday night and the Lions' offense was impressive.

The biggest question surrounding the team was the unproven receivers working with Brett Brumbaugh. Well, they looked superb against the Big Macs.

Brumbaugh connected with junior Nick Ponikvar for a 64-yard pass and followed two plays later with a touchdown to sophomore Dan Trimbur. The pass blocking looked great as Brumbaugh had time in the pocket to stretch the field.

Brumbaugh and Ponikvar connected once again on a bubble screen that was executed to perfection. Senior Roman Denson laid a perfect block to spring Ponikvar for a 46-yard touchdown. Ponikvar looked quick and reminded me of Conner Beck, who was never afraid to catch the ball in traffic.

Another player to keep an eye on is senior running back Robert O'Kelly, who had a nice gain on a draw play through Canon-McMillan's large defensive line. He showed quickness and with junior Hunter Hayes, should be a nice compliment to South Fayette's passing game.

For the Big Macs, junior wide receiver Ahmad Morris Walker has big play ability. He qualified for the WPIAL Track & Field Championships in the 100- and 200-meter dash, and is still learning the nuances of route running. Junior quarterback Domenic Eannace, who is slated to back up Jordan Smith, hit Morris Walker on a slant and the speedy receiver finished the play by outrunning the corner for a 70-yard touchdown. Morris Walker ran a 4.39 40-yard dash this summer. Watch out.

Canon-McMillan definitely has some talented players, but they are experiencing growing pains after switching to a spread offense. The Big Macs don't seem comfortable yet and that will come with time. With an offensive line led by Pitt recruit Alex Paulina (6-4, 310), senior center George Carson (6-2, 270) and senior Jared Hladycz (6-2, 220); Canon-McMillan should have some flashes of success.

Hladycz looked impressive as a pass rushing outside linebacker on defense and sophomore defensive back Alonzo Lemus has a ton of upside. The team's future will be dictated by the offense's ability to grasp the new scheme. In the Southeastern Conference, there isn't much time for adjusting to that.

Wash High's West breaks hand in scrimmage

For the second straight year, a Wash High running back has suffered an early season injury.

Junior running back/defensive back Jordan West broke his hand last night in the Prexies' final preseason scrimmage against Albert Gallatin. The severity of the injury is not known, but he likely to miss the first four-to-six weeks of the season.

It's a tough blow for the Interstate Conference favorites who open the season Friday against Derry Area. Senior Malik Wells, who was set to split time with West in the backfield, will likely receive the bulk of carries and junior Kurt Adkins will also receive carries.

West, who is receiving Division I interest, rushed for 480 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.