Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Week 5 wrap

So this much we know after Week 5:

*South Fayette could be the best team in Class AA. To make such short work of Seton-La Salle, a team many had pegged as at least a WPIAL semifinalist -- still could be, of course -- says a lot. Plus, how do you cover South Fayette's receivers? SLS didn't figure it out.

*Wash High turned a major corner Friday. Beat the teams you should beat, like the Prexies did en route to an 8-3 season last year, great. Builds morale. Fun to watch. All that stuff. But they're now solidly in the conversation with Aliquippa, South Fayette, Seton-La Salle, all the Class AA's best.

*Monessen isn't done yet. The O-R sports staff laughed at me when I picked them to beat Bishop Canevin, but this team is too good to have a poor performance followed by another poor performance. Now the Greyhounds have the inside track on the No. 2 slot in the Black Hills.

*We also watched two teams get their first win of the season: Canon-Mac and Bentworth. Canon-Mac hadn't won for 20 games, and Bentworth won for the first time in five, though the Bearcats' lone victory last season came in Week 9. Always happy to see a goose egg erased.

Here's what else you should remember about Week 5:

Game balls, 10 of 'em (little different this week):

QB Chavas Rawlins, Monessen -- Monessen needed to bounce back from an ugly loss to Clairton, and Rawlins made that happen, completing 9 of 20 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns during a 28-21 upset of Bishop Canevin.
WR Clintell Gillespie, Monessen -- Caught two of those touchdown passes -- part of an eight-catch, 171-yard day -- and also ran 11 yards for the winning score in the fourth quarter.
QB Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette -- Playing his older brother, Luke, lil' bro' completed 21 of 34 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns during a 51-12 win over Seton-La Salle.
WR Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette -- Pitt recruit caught nine of those passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Part of a South Fayette receiving corps that had three players eclipse 100 yards.
RB Josh Mundell, Carmichaels -- I said I thought Mundell would have a big game, and he made me look like I know what I'm doing: 10 carries, 142 yards and four TDs during a 36-8 win over Mapletown. Much appreciated, Josh.
RB Ben Carlisle, Bentworth -- Scored five touchdowns three different ways -- rushing, receiving and a blocked punt recovery -- during the Bearcats' 57-28 win over Vincentian. Had an area-best 263 yards on the ground.
DB Daron Whitaker, Washington -- Blocked the punt that Shai McKenzie returned that delivered one of the more improbable victories in Wash High history: 18-15, over visiting Jeannette.
WR/DB Corey Hunsberger, Trinity -- Kid's as versatile as they come. During Trinity's 50-14 win over Laurel Highlands, Hunsberger caught a touchdown, ran for another and returned an interception for a third score.
RB Jules Gdovic, Canon-McMillan -- Caught a touchdown pass and also threw one, as Canon-Mac snapped a 20-game losing streak with a 16-13 victory over Plum.
Avella OL  -- Allowed the Eagles back to pile up 338 rushing yards during a 59-6 win over Geibel on Saturday. Those fellas, left to right: LT Joey Yates, LG Jerad Saffell, C Derek Allen, RG Shawn Carl, RT Andrew Haskakis/Kaleb Ware.

Team of the week: South Fayette
Coach Joe Rossi talked after South Fayette's 51-12 thrashing of Seton-La Salle about how his team was grateful to be in the position that it was in. Not sure the Rebels were all that grateful to be in the way Friday night. SF led, 21-0, before the game was four minutes old, and South Fayette displayed an aerial attack that few teams around here will be able to hand. A strong, mobile and accurate quarterback, two solid backs and four receivers who don't seem to drop anything and are always open. Yikes. Good luck opposing teams. A statement of dominance if ever there were one.

Runner-Up: Monessen
This one is on Chavas Rawlins. And I mean that in a good way, too. I walked the Monessen sideline for the second half of the Clairton loss and saw Rawlins [not pleased]. Can't blame him. A tough loss, for sure. But what a response. Nearly 200 yards through the air, three touchdowns and a key road win that I don't think a lot of people thought Monessen could pull off. As a result, Monessen now has some nice momentum at the season's midpoint.

Game of the week: Jeannette at Wash High
A blocked punt that provides the winning score with less than 30 seconds left generally gives your game a leg up in this category. I'm glad I got to see South Fayette and how explosive the Lions can be, but I'm also kind of kicking myself for not going to this one. Oh well. Live and learn. Something tells me I'll have a few more chances with Wash High this season. My question about this game, though, was this: Less than 30 seconds left, fourth down, had a 6-yard punt already, at midfield ... what would you do? Jeannette chose punt. I think I would do the same, though I'm not in love with that decision. Tough decision either way.

Hot and cold (three of each):
Trinity -- 3-1 in the conference with games the next two weeks against 1-4 teams? Should be some fun practices for first-year head coach Ryan Coyle.
South Fayette -- Can someone besides Aliquippa beat South Fayette? Me thinks not. Dominant every week ... 252-24 score differential, with half of those coming Friday.
Avella -- As I tweeted earlier, The New York Times is working on a follow-up to the 2008 story about the once-downtrodden program. Good things happen when you're 5-0.

Peters Township - After Friday's 29-6 loss to Bethel Park -- a game that meant a lot when it comes to the No. 4 spot in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, the Indians have now lost two of their past three.
Chartiers-Houston -- Another close loss sends the Bucs to 1-4, this one an overtime loss to Brentwood for a second straight year.
Fort Cherry -- 65-0 to Clairton made three straight Ls, the last two by a combined 100-7. Oh, and Canevin this week. Trouble in Ranger Land.

Quote of the week: "We've had a couple of miracles here, but nothing this dramatic in such a big game. We got lucky at the end," Wash High coach Mike Bosnic.

Weird stat of the week: Trinity WR/RB/KR/PR/DB/P Corey Hunsberger has scored seven touchdowns this season ... five different ways. Two interception returns for a touchdown; two receiving scores; one kick return; one fumble recovery; and one rushing touchdown. He also punts, averaging 33.4 yards per kick.

Looking ahead: Sort of a letdown after this week. Peters Township, Ringgold, Wash High, South Fayette and Monessen all have games that, at least on paper, should not be close. Beth-Center should finally be challenged, as it travels to Jefferson-Morgan, a 20-13 winner over Frazier. After scoring 60-plus two straight weeks and getting a forfeit win in Week 2, Beth-Center has the Tri-County South's top teams the next three weeks: at J-M, vs. Frazier, vs. Avella.

Trinity welcomes Belle Vernon in a game that many thought would decide the No. 4 spot in the Big Nine. Now it appears Trinity (3-1 in conference), Elizabeth Forward (3-2) and Ringgold (3-2) will slug it out for two of the final three spots, with Trinity and Ringgold meeting in Week 9.

This week we had Canon-Mac and Bentworth earn First Wins. Same could happen for Charleroi when the Cougars travel to Waynesburg (1-4). 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ready for Week 5?

Finally, it's here, hands down the best week of the regular season. As dull as some of these other weeks have been, this one should be spectacular.

I know I will be at Baldwin for South Fayette-Seton-La Salle, which figures to be a battle of two similarly dominant teams. I asked South Fayette coach Joe Rossi Wednesday night whether there was anything to Week 5 being such an eventful week, likening it to Game 5 of a seven-game series in professional sports -- what many often call the heartbreaker of a series.

Rossi, as you might expect, wasn't having much of it. Tunnel vision, all the way. But he did acknowledge that South Fayette, Seton-La Salle, Washington and Jeannette are all at least WPIAL Class AA quarterfinalists, maybe more depending on whether or not one of them can knock off Aliquippa.

"I think it’s the way it shakes out," Rossi said of the glut of good games. "We played Seton at the end of the year last year. Had some 8-0 vs. 8-0 battles with them in 2009 and 2010.

"Either way, win or lose, these two teams are going to go deep into the playoffs. Same with Washington and Jeannette. All four teams, win or lose, are still going to be quarterfinals-slash-semifinal-candidates. All four of these teams are going to find themselves in that position."

Five to watch:

QB Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette -- The sophomore signal caller is playing his brother, Luke, who's a senior quarterback for fellow Class AA heavyweight Seton-La Salle. The Lions lost to the Rebels twice last season, including in the Class AA quarterfinals when Brett Brumbaugh threw the interceptions.

RB Demetrius Louis, Ringgold -- Washington RB Shai McKenzie gets a lot of attention and for good reason. But don't sleep on Louis, the area's other standout back. He's matched up against the WPIAL leader in rushing this week in West Mifflin's Jim Wheeler (882 yards, 10 TD). Expect Louis to hold his own.

RB Josh Mundell, Carmichaels -- The Mikes have gotten the tough part of their Tri-County South schedule out of the way with Jefferson-Morgan, Frazier and Beth-Center; only Avella in Week 7 remains. He should have a chance to pick up a bunch of yards against Mapletown.

QB Chavas Rawlins, Monessen -- Think the WVU recruit wants a bounce-back game? Rawlins completed just 3 of 12 passes for 61 yards and ran 10 times for seven yards and a touchdown during a 52-loss to Clairton last Thursday. Uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter most of this week, my guess is Rawlins is plotting his revenge against Bishop Canevin.

LB Garret Vulcano, Chartiers-Houston -- The Bucs host Brentwood this week, and that means devising a plan to stop RB Justin Vickless, who has a WPIAL-leading 109 carries for 658 yards and eight touchdowns. Vulcano, meanwhile, averages 16 tackles per game and had an interception during last week's loss to Imani Christian.

Game to watch (other than the GOTW): Jeannette at Wash High, Friday, 7 p.m.
We didn't really have a GOTW given how insanely good this week's schedule of games is, which is the focus of my story in Friday's Observer-Reporter. This will basically crown the Class AA Interstate Conference champion. Two 4-0 teams, two teams that love to run the ball. Funny how last year Wash High surprised everyone by winning eight games, but now the Prexies are expected to contend with the Jayhawks. I know I personally think that they can.

Team with the most to gain: Trinity (at Laurel Highlands, Friday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Hillers could quietly move to 3-1 in the Class AAA Big Nine Conference, with the fourth playoff spot very much in reach. Figure TJ, West Mifflin and Ringgold will be there at the end. Trinity can better its chances of getting that final slot by taking care of business against winless Laurel Highlands.

Team with the most to lose: Chartiers-Houston (vs. Brentwood, Friday, 7:30 p.m.)
The Bucs have played all the good teams close -- a two-point game against Clairton, Bishop Canevin six, Imani Christian two. But they're still three losses. At this point, Chartiers-Houston needs more than moral victories. It will be extremely tough to make the playoffs at 5-4, which is what C-H would have to have happen if its loses this week AND finishes with wins against Carlynton, at California, at Monessen and home against Fort Cherry to close the season.

Sleeper pick of the weekend: Monessen (at Bishop Canevin, Friday, 7:30 p.m.)
I took the Greyhounds to play Clairton close ... and maybe win. I was wrong, of course, on both counts. But I like Monessen to respond against Bishop Canevin. As I wrote above with QB Chavas Rawlins, I think the thought of redemption isn't unique to Rawlins; an upset here could really jumble the Class A Black Hills Conference.

Weekly leaders ... finally

Tomorrow will mark the first week of the season for the weekly leaders, so make sure to look in the first column of C2 in Friday's Observer-Reporter.

Here is what you'll see ...

Rushing Leaders
1. Shai McKenzie, Washington  49-760-13
2. Demetrius Louis, Ringgold  44-699-9
3. Dustin Conti, Jefferson-Morgan  53-594-6
4. Koltan Kobrys, Fort Cherry  82-587-3
5. Mike Minjock, Peters Township  66-531-11
6. James Duschi, McGuffey  74-484-3
7. Josh Mundell, Carmichaels  58-485-5
8. Nick Kusich, Avella  56-383-5
9. Troy Haines, Mapletown  47-345-3
10. Patrick Frey, Trinity     74-357-5

Passing Leaders
1. Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette  42-66-854-14
2. Kalib Susko, Chartiers-Houston  26-51-445-3
3. Chavas Rawlins, Monessen  19-52-431-4
4. Santino Paris, Avella  17-42-401-5
5. Gino Faieta, Beth-Center  25-39-394-4
6. Matt Heslin, Fort Cherry  30-50-391-7
7. Tyler Bowman, Jefferson-Morgan  9-20-380-5
8. Kevin Ridgley, Mapletown  24-45-366-5
9. Brennan Matthews, Charleroi  24-42-352-3
10. Nico Law, Ringgold  13-29-242-2

Receiving Leaders
1. Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette  16-440-6
2. Zach Thompson, Avella  11-335-5
3. Anthony Gilpin, Beth-Center  10-242-4
4. Nic Santoyo, Jefferson-Morgan     6-239-3
5. Jordan Griffin, Mapletown  14-219-2
6. Eric Johnson, Charleroi  8-176-1
7. Conner Beck, South Fayette  11-150-2
8. Justin Watson, South Fayette  8-145-3
9. Miles Williamson, Char-Houston  8-133-1
10. Garret Vulcano, Char-Houston  8-131-1

Scoring Leaders
1. Shai McKenzie, Washington  13-4-82
2. Mike Minjock, Peters Township  11-0-66
3. Demetrius Louis, Ringgold  10-4-64
4. Chavas Rawlins, Monessen  8-2-50
5. Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette  7-0-42
6. Josh Wise, Washington         5-10-40
7. Josh Mundell, Carmichaels    6-2-38
T-8. Zach Thompson, Avella    6-0-36
T-8. Jake Temple, Avella         6-0-36
T-8. Nic Santoyo, Jefferson-Morgan   6-0-36
T-8. Dustin Conti, Jefferson-Morgan   6-0-36
T-8. Matt Riggle, Beth-Center    6-0-36

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Dugie's Desk: Week 5

First off, a disclaimer: Season stats ... we need 'em by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday night to be included in Friday's paper. Please send them to

So here we are, the best week of the season by far. As you will read in Friday's Observer-Reporter, there are a ton of great games this weekend. We will be staffing four of them, and they are:

South Fayette vs. Seton-La Salle, at Baldwin, Friday, 7 p.m. -- Mackey
Only this week would The Brumbaugh Bowl (Brett versus older brother Luke) not be the biggest game in the WPIAL. It still could be, of course, as it pits two of the league's most dominant teams against each other. Combined PF-PA: 357-19. There's also that 21-13 loss for South Fayette in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals a season ago, a game where Brett Brumbaugh, making his third career start, threw four INTs.

Jeannette at Wash High, Friday, 7 -- Chris Dugan
I said something to Chris yesterday about how quick this one could be. Two running teams and -- perhaps more important -- two GOOD running teams should make for a fast game. And an entertaining one.  Isn't it strange how a year ago Washington surprised nearly everyone around the WPIAL by going 8-3 ... and  now the Prexies have one of the league's best backs in Shai McKenzie and are viewed as a legitimate challenger to Jeannette, which has gone 79-17 since 2004, with one WPIAL Class AA championship, a PIAA Class AA title (thanks Terrelle Pryor) and an appearance at Heinz Field last fall.

"I don’t think we’re shocking people like we did last year," Prexies coach Mike Bosnic told me this week. "I think everyone, from last year being 8-3, kind of expected us to have a pretty good season. I don’t think we’re sneaking up on anybody. I think we’re opening some eyes."

Bethel Park at Peters Township, Friday, 7:30 p.m. -- Kevin Jacobsen
Raise your hand if you expected Peters Township's football team to be 4-1 through five games. Soccer, field hockey or volleyball sure. But football? Peters lost this game, 21-7, last year. Bethel Park is coming off a 44-0 win over Canon-McMillan. The Black Hawks start a freshman at quarterback: Levi Metheny, who's dad, is Bethel Park's head coach. I'm guessing Peters might try to run Mike Minjock considering he has 66 carries for 531 yards and 11 touchdowns. Among area backs, only McGuffey's James Duschi (74 carries) and Fort Cherry's Koltan Kobrys (82) have gotten more work, and only Wash High's Shai McKenzie (13) has scored more touchdowns.

West Mifflin at Ringgold, Friday, 7:30 p.m. -- Matt Shetler
The first time Ringgold played someone expected to win the Class AAA Big Nine Conference things didn't go so well -- a 41-14 loss at Thomas Jefferson in Week 1. But that was TJ, and this is ... a team that hasn't played anybody. Yes, the Titans are 4-0. Got that. But those wins, as I wrote last night, have come against Laurel Highlands, Belle Vernon, Uniontown and Albert Gallatin, a combined 2-12. RB Jim Wheeler is one to watch for West Mifflin. He's near the top of the WPIAL rushing charts with 50 carries for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seven things I think

In honor of ... well ... nothing in particularly, really. Here are seven things that I think about Week 5.

1. Peters Township linebacker Matt Loether doesn't get enough credit. Kid has 41 tackles -- six for a loss -- to go with three sacks and two forced fumbles in four games, three of them wins. Running back Mike Minjock gets a lot of attention -- and rightfully so given his 66 carries for 531 yards and 11 total TDs. But Loether makes plays. Leader of the defense, too.

2. Avella's winning streak will continue this weekend, ironically as the Eagles (4-0) play a team that looks an awful lot like them circa 2008 in Geibel. Probably won't be close either. The Gators are struggling with numbers, and their coach quit. But give them a lot of credit for sticking it out.

3. At least two teams will have a good night on Friday: Canon-McMillan and Bentworth. Both are winless and have been outscored by a combined 313-61. But the Big Macs host winless Plum, and Bentworth welcomes 1-3 Vincentian, a first-year program whose only win came against Geibel. A Canon-McMillan win would snap a 20-game losing streak. Here's all in on both ...

4. Ringgold will upset West Mifflin. Yes, the Titans are undefeated, but look a bit closer and you'll see that their four wins have come against the bottom four teams in the Class AAA Big Nine Conference, who are a combined 2-12. Rams coach Matt Humbert will call me crazy for writing this but go with me here: Ringgold could also win out. They're at Albert Gallatin (0-4) and at Elizabeth Forward (2-2) before coming home to play Highlands (0-4) and Trinity (2-1). At minimum, that should be one heck of a Week 9 game.

5. I have a hunch that South Fayette may go to the ground during Friday night's game against Seton-La Salle. The Brumbaugh brothers, bonded by passing. Luke and Brett will square off in what everybody would expect to be a passing fest. So why not, if you're Lions coach Joe Rossi, throw a curveball. What the heck do I know, of course. But I wouldn't be shocked if Grant Fetchet (44-294-2) and Zach Walker (23-92-4) played larger roles.

6. Waynesburg could have an enjoyable two weeks -- and the Raiders should really take advantage. After games the next two weekends against Southmoreland (0-4) and Charleroi (0-4), Waynesburg closes at Yough, at home against Jeannette and at Wash High. Yikes.

7. Have a feeling Monessen will upset Bishop Canevin. Nothing against Canevin -- I know they returned a lot, Crusaders coach Bob Jacoby is one of the best, and they've been pegged as 1a to Clairton in the Class A Black Hills -- but I have a tough time seeing the Greyhounds (and specifically WVU recruit Chavas Rawlins) being bottled up two weeks in a row.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

O-R Rankings: Week 5

Greetings, folks. Here's the latest installment of our football rankings around the WPIAL, reflecting all Week 4 games.

Also, and I will keep repeating this throughout the week, we need stats. Please e-mail your season stats to if you haven't done so already.

If they're on MaxPreps or another web site, that's great. A simple e-mail directing me to their home would be most appreciated. Thanks so much.

Class AAAA
1. North Allegheny (4-0)
2. Gateway (4-0)
3. Upper St. Clair (4-0)
4. Central Catholic (3-0)
5. Mt. Lebanon (3-1)
Just a bit outside: Penn-Trafford (3-1), Seneca Valley (3-1), Woodland Hills (3-1)

Class AAA
1. Montour (4-0)
2. Central Valley (3-1)
3. Thomas Jefferson (4-0)
4. Mars (4-0)
5. West Mifflin (4-0)
Just a bit outside: Knoch (4-0), Ringgold (3-1), West Allegheny (4-0)

Class AA
1. Aliquippa (4-0)
2. South Fayette (4-0)
3. Jeannette (4-0)
4. Seton-La Salle (4-0)
5. Washington (4-0)
Just a bit outside: Beaver (4-0), Burrell (4-0), Mt. Pleasant (4-0)

Class A
1. Clairton (4-0)
2. Rochester (4-0)
3. Bishop Canevin (4-0)
4. Northgate (4-0)
5. Beth-Center (4-0)
Just a bit outside: Imani Christian (3-1), Neshannock (4-0), Sto-Rox (3-1)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Week 4 wrap

So this much we know after Week 4:

*Avella isn't a fluke. Not like everybody thought -- at least not me -- that the Eagles lucked into their first three wins, but they beat a legitimate playoff team in Jefferson-Morgan. Some respect earned Friday night, I would think.

*The pecking order in the Black Hills is a little more pronounced: Clairton ... then ... OK, a little bigger gap ... Bishop Canevin, Monessen and Imani Christian/Brentwood. After that Fort Cherry and Chartiers-Houston.

*Peters Township isn't Upper St. Clair, but, with a 3-1 record, the Indians also are definitely not in the cellar. This team will make the playoffs.

And on we go with this week's recap post, style tweaked a little bit.

Starting 11 (six skill players, plus an offensive line):
RB Shai McKenzie, Washington -- Ran for 219 yards on 19 carries and scored the first three TDs of a 42-12 win at Yough. His season numbers: 49/770/13.
WR Zach Thompson, Avella -- Caught three passes for 109 yards and two scores during the Eagles' 26-21 win over J-M. Also intercepted the pass that clinched it.
RB Demetrius Louis, Ringgold -- Rushed for 261 yards and two TDs on 12 carries. Also caught a 50-yard TD pass during the Rams' 30-13 victory at Uniontown.
RB Josh Mundell, Carmichaels -- Did it all Friday during a 40-14 win over Vincentian: scoring two rushing touchdowns and picking off a pair of passes.
RB Mike Minjock, Peters Township -- After a slow week against Upper St. Clair, he got back at it during a 36-7 win at Shaler: 17 carries, 157 yards, four TDs.
WR Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette -- Pitt recruit caught four passes for 136 yards and a touchdown during Saturday's 56-6 win over Burgettstown. Also returned an interception 38 yards for a second score: Season: 16/444/6.
Wash High OL: Prexies totaled 350 yards of offense at Yough, 315 of them rushing. Besides McKenzie, Chivar Brown ran four times for 41 yards and a touchdown. Here are the guys to thank:

LT Pat Ellis, Jr., 6-2, 260
LG Elijah Jones, Sr., 6-0, 220
C Xavier Darden, Jr., 5-10, 192
RG Anthony Byrd, Jr., 6-0, 235
RT Rikwon Moore, Sr., 6-2, 280

Team of the week: Avella
Did you expect someone else? C'mon. As a sportswriter, I don't root for anything except quick games and to never, ever see overtime. But if you can't feel good for the football team at Avella -- winners of three games the past five years before this one, the focus of a 2008 New York Times story -- and its 4-0 record, there might be something wrong with you.

Not only that, Avella also fought back after allowing J-M to score on its first two offensive plays and survived a frantic fourth quarter that featured a touchdown to make it a one-score game, two fumbles and a game-clinching interception.

Runner-Up: McGuffey
Left for dead after losses to South Fayette and Seton-La Salle, look who's riding a two-game winning streak. I asked first-year head coach Ed Dalton what the biggest difference was between the first two weeks and the past two, with wins at Quaker Valley (29-20) and at home Friday against Freedom (39-13). "Well, for starters, we're not playing South Fayette and Seton-La Salle anymore." Very true, Ed, very true.

Game of the week: Avella 26, Jefferson-Morgan 21
I would love to know what the attendance was at Friday's game. Place was packed. And at Avella that means people encircling the field -- no fence, just rope, real up close and personal. At one point, I heard someone yell, "Hey, guy from the newspaper, get the [heck] out of the way." So I moved. But the fourth quarter alone here was worth the price of admission.


*J-M opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a touchdown capping a four-play, 80-yard drive; Avella moved 28 yards on five plays, but on No. 6 the Eagles fumbled; first and 10 Rockets at their own 48, a play later there's another fumble, recovered by Jerad Saffell from Avella, huge momentum swing; QB Santino Paris sacked on third down, forcing the Eagles to punt; after the touchback, J-M's Dustin Conti runs 6 then 7 yards, Jesse Jento zero yards, and Conti goes 6, 14, 5 and 2 yards; J-M QB Tyler Bowman is hit at the line of scrimmage, and a personal foul puts the ball at the Avella 25; next play, Zach Thompson picks off Bowman to end it. Whew.

Hot and cold (three of each):
Avella -- Four straight wins for a program that hasn't been to the playoffs since the golden era of the Grateful Dead (1976)? Yep, that'll do it.
McGuffey -- See above. And RB James Duschi has turned into a stud: 50 carries, 360 yards, 3 TDs the last two weeks.
Ringgold -- Blasted by TJ, 41-14, in the opener, Rams have won three straight, beating Laurel Highlands, Belle Vernon and Uniontown by an average of 23.7 ppg.

Fort Cherry -- That 2-0 start is a distant memory, buried underneath losses to Monessen and Brentwood. Oh, and did I mention the Rangers visit Clairton on Friday?
West Greene -- Pioneers were 1-0 and led Avella by two touchdowns at halftime of a Week 2 game, then ... loss, loss, loss ... average of 24 points per game.
Bentworth -- Outscored 51-155 through the first four weeks of the season, should get a nice pick-me-up with Vincentian this week.

Quote of the week: "That McKenzie kid is going to play on Sundays," Yough head coach Mark Crovak, talking about Shai McKenzie, who torched Yough for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.

Weird stat of the week: Only two games (out of 16) area games were decided by single digits: Jefferson-Morgan/Avella and Imani Christian. Figures the Bucs were involved: they've lost three games -- to Clairton, Bishop Canevin and Imani Christian -- by a total of 10 points.

Looking ahead: Week 5 = jackpot. South Fayette/Seton La-Salle at Baldwin; Jeannette at Wash High; Bethel Park at Peters Township for what will likely be the No. 4 spot in the Southeastern, maybe the No. 3 if the Indians can knock off Woodland Hills; West Mifflin at Ringgold, giving the Rams another shot at someone atop the Class AAA Big Nine; even McGuffey's game against South Park starts a stretch where three of the Highlanders' four opponents have winning records ... the lone exception being South Allegheny, which isn't exactly a powerhouse. Easily the juiciest week of the year.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

From Dugie's desk: Week 4

A little late with this post. Preoccupied today with writing the Week 4 preview you'll read tomorrow, centered around Jefferson-Morgan at Avella, a game few thought would mean as much as it does.

It's also fairly interesting because it pits two very similar programs against one another -- as you'll find out if you buy a copy of Friday's Observer-Reporter.

But before we get to this week's marching orders, I wanted to write a little bit about Clairton senior Tyler Boyd's performance tonight at Monessen. In a word: wow. Boyd ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. He also completed two passes for 51 yards and caught two more for another 51 yards and a touchdown. He almost beat Monessen by himself.

Pitt coach Paul Chryst was there tonight, and I doubt it was because it didn't have anything better to do on a Thursday night. No doubt he was there -- hanging out quietly near the goal line on Clairton's side of the field -- to get an up-close look at Boyd, one of the WPIAL's top recruits and someone who's still on the market.

And can you blame Chryst for wanting to get a closer look? Watching Boyd run is incredible, enjoyable. The kid accelerates and kicks it into another gear when some runners are still trying to figure out where to go. Hands down one of the best players I've ever seen at this level ... and someone another writer before the game aptly compared to Terrelle Pryor.

OK, done with that. Onto what's shakin' for Friday:

Jefferson-Morgan at Avella, 7:30 p.m. -- Mackey
Washington at Yough, 7:30 p.m. -- New Castle native Joe Tuscano
Imani Christian at Chartiers-Houston, 7:30 p.m. -- Kevin Jacobsen
Thomas Jefferson at Trinity, 7:30 p.m. -- Matt Shetler

***Also, a reminder to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE send your team's stats my way (jmackey@observer-reporter) this weekend. Season stats through Week 4, please. We plan on running our first installment of the weekly leaders this week upcoming.

Ready for Week 4?

Greetings, folks, and happy Thursday to you. Should be a good one tonight ... heading out to Monessen to see the Greyhounds play Clairton, as the Bears look to extend their unbeaten streak to 51 games.

But before that, here's a little snapshot of Week 4. Also, should say that I talked to Mike Kovak for awhile this week. The Legend is doing well, says hi to all you folks. I picked Kovak's brain on a couple things, a lot on how to get some direction on this blog.

So, you might notice a few changes: more themed posts, with certain categories, etc. For example, the weekend preview will now include several components: Five to watch, Game to watch (other than the GOTW), Team with the most to gain, Team with the most to lose and Sleeper pick of the weekend (i.e. the team that will probably give me a loss in the weekly picks).

Before we get started, please let me know if you'd like to see something else here -- or things organized differently. But I thought we lacked some format, instead of my free write posts.

Five to watch:

RB Shai McKenzie, Washington -- McKenzie has dominated every week, including running for 213 yards and four touchdowns during last week's 64-14 home win over Charleroi. Total of 551 and 10. But I'm guessing Mike Bosnic would like to see McKenzie carry a heavier load this week at Yough, more than his typical average of 10 carries per game. 

RB Donnie White, West Greene -- West Greene hosts Frazier Friday night, and the Commodores gave up 17-107-1TD to Josh Mundell of Carmichaels in Week 2, 107 to Ben Carlisle of Bentworth last week. Good news for White, who has been over 100 yards each week with totals of 335 yards and four touchdowns.

RB James Duschi, McGuffey -- Duschi helped McGuffey end a 12-game losing streak with 228 yards and a TD during a 29-20 win at Quaker Valley in Week 3. The Highlanders have another winnable game this week at home against Freedom (1-2 Class AA Midwestern, 1-2).

QB Nico Law, Ringgold -- Quad Law's younger brother made his first career start last week during a 34-2 win at Belle Vernon. He completed 6 of 10 for 62 yards and ran 10 times for 83 yards and a score. The youngster should have some of those first-game jitters out of the way when Ringgold plays at Uniontown on Friday night.

RB Koltan Kobrys, Fort Cherry -- Kobrys has carried the ball 76 times for 568 yards and four touchdowns the first three weeks, more than all but two RBs in the WPIAL: P.J. Fulmore of North Catholic, 81; and Brentwood's Justin Vickless, with 89. Fort Cherry has a huge game this week at Brentwood (see below), who will no doubt be expecting -- and rightfully so -- Kobrys to run it a lot. But, if you're Fort Cherry, do you care? Can they stop him?

Game to watch (other than the GOTW): Imani Christian at Chartiers-Houston, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The Bucs have been tough to read thus far, with losses to Clairton and Bishop Canevin by two and six points. Imani surprised a lot of folks with a 25-14 win at Brentwood last Saturday. Where does Imani Christian fit into the Class A Black Hills, top or bottom? Your guess is as good as mine. Same goes for whether Chartiers-Houston belongs in the same class as Clairton, Monessen and Bishop Canevin. Someone -- Brentwood, Fort Cherry or Char-Houston -- will have to step up and take that No. 4 spot, and this week could go a long way toward determining who that will be. Bucs will need a big game from QB Kalib Susko (21 of 39, 344 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT).

Team with the most to gain: Peters Township (at Shaler, Friday, 7:30 p.m.)

Peters Township won its first two games against Baldwin and Penn Hills. Good wins, sure. But the Indians got clobbered by Upper St. Clair last week, 42-14. Then again, a lot of teams get clobbered by Upper St. Clair. Here's a winnable game against an 0-3 Shaler team that was blown out, 42-8, by North Hills last week. A win puts the Indians at 3-1 in in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference and 3-1 overall, with games the next two weeks against Bethel Park and Plum, teams that are a combined 1-5 so far. Expect RB Mike Minjock to run for more yards than the xx he did against the Panthers.

Team with the most to lose: Fort Cherry (at Brentwood, Friday, 7:30 p.m.)

Fort Cherry opened with wins over Carlynton and California, but as things move along it looks more and more like those are games a program like Fort Cherry should -- has to -- win. In Brentwood, the Rangers get a team that has lost two straight, to Monessen and Imani Christian. Brentwood, mind you, is a team many thought would be one of the top three teams in the Black Hills. Guessing the Spartans are none too happy about dropping two straight. And the kicker: Fort Cherry has to travel to Clairton next week. A loss here could possibly mean a three-game losing streak, destroying any momentum generated early on.

Sleeper pick of the weekend: Monessen (vs. Clairton, Thursday, 7 p.m.)

If Clairton is going to lose to anyone in the regular season, this appears to be the time. There aren't too many tougher places to play than Monessen, though it appears the Greyhounds weren't exactly running on all cylinders offensively last week despite putting up 49 points in a win over Fort Cherry. You also have to figure that few teams have the athletes and team speed to match up with Clairton; Monessen is one of those. If Chavas Rawlins can make some plays with his arm -- no one doubts his running ability -- I think Monessen has a chance. I nearly took Monessen in my weekly picks, but it's awfully tough to pick against a team that has won 50 straight games.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stats, stats, stats

Football coaches, stats guys, players, anyone associated with your school's football team ...

The Observer-Reporter is trying to collect football stats to run weekly leaders. If you haven't already, please send your cumulative stats to ASAP.

If you don't want to e-mail them, you can fax them to 724-225-2077. We're looking to print, at minimum, passing, rushing and receivers leaders.

Any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. 

California QB will play

California football coach Brady Barbero expects sophomore quarterback Malik Jackson, who injured his throwing shoulder during Friday's 54-6 loss at Clairton, to start Friday against Bishop Canevin.

I called Barbero today, and he said that it turned out to be only a bruise, that Jackson practiced yesterday and will practice again today.

Good thing, too, because California's numbers have been down a bit this season: The Trojans entered camp with 30 players, about 10 fewer than normal, the coach said. And because of injuries Friday night, that number has dipped into the low 20s.

Fortunately, though, Barbero does expect some quick recoveries and to have around 26 or 27 kids Friday night.

"It makes it tough," Barbero said. "But as long as I've been here, we've had years like this. You learn to deal with it. The good thing is that you can get the young kids more reps quickly. But it also sometimes hurts with the JV because you don't have enough kids there."

This, unfortunately, has been a theme around the WPIAL. Vincentian beat Geibel, 62-8, this past Saturday, and the teams combined for a whopping total of 29 players, according to the Uniontown Herald-Standard.

Quick sidenote: Pay attention to this. Geibel's coach already quit, and they had to forfeit the first two games of the season, handing wins to Frazier and Beth-Center.

The low enrollments for both of these programs is notable because they're on every team in the Tri-County South's schedule. And if one would fold, that could create an uneven (if you ask coaches, unwanted) schedule of bye weeks. Who's rested, who isn't, who had their momentum stopped, etc.

OK, back to the Trojans, who went 7-3 last year and reached the WPIAL Class A playoffs, but have struggled to an 0-3 start so far.

Gone are eight offensive starters, including four offensive lineman and quarterback T.D. Conway, who threw for 825 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jackson spent a lot of time learning from Conway, but the fact remains that he, like a lot of California's team, is very young and gaining experience.

"He's still making some rookie mistakes, but he's learning from them," Barbero said. "He's getting better every week. He got to be behind Conway and learned a lot as a freshman."

Monday, September 17, 2012

South Fayette getting defensive

Much has been made of the South Fayette offense, and for good reason.

Scoring 145 points in three games can tend to generate more than just passing interest.

But not to be overlooked in all of the scoring is the Lions' defense, which has yet to allow a point with its starters in the game.

On Friday, South Fayette held Steel Valley, which had scored 76 points in its previous two games, to zero points and less than 100 yards of total offense in a 50-0 win.

"I think that’s been the surprise so far this season," Lions coach Joe Rossi said. "The front eight have done a tremendous job. [Friday] night, I think in all the years I’ve been here, they swarmed to the ball better than they ever have."

Dylan Nock leads South Fayette with 20 tackles. Pete Cochran has 16, and Brad Haney, Mike Fetchet and Conner Beck each have 12.

The Lions have nine sacks in three games, three by Haney, two by Cochran, Aaron Gross abd Dylan Witt.

Hayden Orler has defended three passes and intercepted two.

"Our defense has been shutting other teams down," said quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, who I profiled for today's high school football notebook. "Have to give a lot of credit to them."

Oh, and those other offensive weapons who didn't get as much love as I might've liked in my for-print story, check this out:

Grant Fetchet: 36 carries, 244 rushing yards, TD
Jared Walker: two rushing TDs
Zach Walker: three rushing TDs
Zach Challingsworth: 12 catches, 304 yards, five TDs
Justin Watson: seven catches, 138 yards, two TDs
Conner Beck: 10 catches, 149 yards, two TD

"It’s hard to defend all those athletes," Rossi said. "Brett does a pretty good job of making sure they all get their touches."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Oregon RB goes nuts

The WPIAL has had Rushel Shell and Mike Vernillo, monster games galore.

We even had Washington's Shai McKenzie (213 yards, four touchdowns), Trinity's Patrick Frey (164-3), Avella's Nick Kusich (202-1), Ringgold's Demetrius Louis (162-2) and McGuffey's James Duschi (228-1) all have huge weekends.

But this? Geesh.

Thomas Tyner, an Oregon recruit who goes to Aloha High School, ran 38 times for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns during an 84-63 win over Lakeridge ... on his 18th birthday, no less.

State records, of course. Not nationally, though, as that's 754 by John Giannantonio of Netcong, N.J., set in 1950.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another interesting PT/USC link

Hopefully by now you've had a chance to read my preview of tonight's Upper St. Clair at Peters Township football game. If not, here's the link.

This Week 3 matchup pits two neighboring school districts, and rivals in most other sports, against one another. And this time Peters Township thinks it has a legitimate chance of winning the game -- for good reason, too, given the Indians' 2-0 start and program-building that has gone on under second-year coach Rich Piccinini.

While the top spot in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference will be at stake, this one intrigued me for another reason: Piccinini was an assistant at Upper St. Clair for two seasons prior to getting the Peters Township job. He knows Panthers coach Jim Render well and talks frequently not only with Render but with much of the Upper St. Clair coaching staff.

Not a bad program -- five WPIAL and two PIAA titles -- to model your own after, eh?

Another interesting link here is that Piccinini coached Upper St. Clair quarterback Pete Coughlin while the latter was a defensive back, before he came out of nowhere to fill in for an injured Dakota Conwell, lead the Panthers to an upset of nationally ranked Central Catholic in the WPIAL semifinals and a near-win in the championship game at Heinz Field.

Piccinini makes no bones about how impressed he is with Coughlin, who ran for three touchdowns in Week 1, then threw for three last week. Overall, he has completed 13 of 18 passes for 145 yards while adding 19 carries for 78 yards.

"I coached Pete as a defensive back, and I know what a super athlete he is," Piccinini said. "Pete makes their offense go. He has a great offensive line. He’s a very heady player. He’s a tough kid."

I talked to Peters Township linebacker Matt Loether earlier this week, and he echoed Piccinini's comments, that essentially this will come down to how much the Indians can keep Coughlin contained.

"The main thing is making sure we shut down the quarterback," Loether said. "Not give him any lanes or give up any long runs and keeping him guessing on what we’re doing on defense with our blitzes and everything."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Goalie scores a goal at Canon-Mac

We had a Ron Hextall-approved moment at Canon-McMillan tonight during the boys soccer team's 5-1 win over Ambridge.

The Big Macs (1-1, 3-1 Section 5-AAA) got goals from five different players, but one of them was goalkeeper James Hathaway, who scored on a direct kick from about 30 yards.

"We've been toying around with doing it," said Big Macs coach Larry Fingers. "He's pretty accurate."

And accurate Hathaway was, in the lower left-hand corner of the goal.

"You know sometimes in youth soccer you'll chip it in to get the goalkeeper in the air?" Fingers asked. "This was low, driven and placed."

Cory McCurdy, Nick Oberhaus, Josh Kruzcek and James Wilcox also scored for Canon-Mac, with McCurdy adding a pair of assists.

Ironically, Canon-McMillan lost to Upper St. Clair, 2-1, Tuesday night ... and missed on a penalty kick. That, of course, was one of the things that prompted Fingers to make this unorthodox move.

"Last year, coming into this season, we had some trouble scoring goals," Fingers said. "So this year, we have a very talented team, and we're trying to maximize our opportunities.

"We have three or four guys we have taking direct kicks, and James is one of those guys who has a strong leg and is very accurate."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Dugie's Desk: Week 3

Greeting folks. Hope everyone had a good Wednesday. Was off today and had lunch at Defelice's Deli in Cecil. Great local place if you haven't been.

I also talked to Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini and a few players about the Indians' game Friday night against visiting Upper St. Clair. Conference rival. Geographic rival. And for once, for the first time in a long time, it means something, as both teams enter 2-0 overall, 2-0 in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference.

Of course Peters Township also has an incredibly  tough test Friday night ... which Piccinini knows full well given that he was the defensive backs coach at USC for two years before becoming the head coach at Peters prior to the 2011 season.

Plenty of storylines in this one, and I hope to provide you with a look at several over the next few days.

Until then, here are our marching orders for Friday night.

I'm also going to attach the "Other Top Games" section for my Friday story that may/may not appear in the print edition, depending on space.

Upper St. Clair (2-0, 2-0) at Peters Township (2-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m. -- Yours truly
Charleroi (0-2, 0-2) at Washington (2-0, 2-0), 7 p.m. -- Chris Dugan, Greene County historian
Monessen (2-0, 2-0) at Fort Cherry (2-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m. --  Kevin Jacobsen, freelancer
Ringgold (1-1, 1-1) at Belle Vernon (1-1, 1-1), 7:30 p.m -- Matt Shetler, freelancer

Other Top Games:

Class AA Century Conference
Steel Valley (2-0, 2-0) at South Fayette (2-0, 2-0), 7 – Maybe someone will finally be challenged. These two have outscored their four opponents by a combined 171-13. No seriously. Look it up.

Class A Black Hills
Monessen (2-0, 2-0) at Fort Cherry (2-0, 2-0), 7:30 – The Rangers are off to a surprising, undefeated start. Monessen passed a tough test last week, beating Brentwood by a touchdown despite having minus-19 yards of total offense in the second half.

Class A Tri-County South
Carmichaels (1-1, 1-1) at Beth-Center (2-0, 2-0), 7:30 – The Mikes get a well-rested team for the second week in a row; both Beth-Center and last week’s opponent, Frazier, had scheduled games against Geibel, which forfeited the first two weeks of the season.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More on Avella's play from scratch

Nobody drew up anything in the dirt or on the underside of the football schoolyard-style, but when Avella football coach Ryan Cecchini noticed West Greene's secondary cheating up into the box, he thought he'd have an opportunity to complete a pass to wide receiver Zach Thompson deep and over the middle.

The halftime adjustment worked.

Big time.

The Eagles scored 27 unanswered points -- two on long touchdowns utilizing this crafted-at-halftime play -- and beat West Greene, 27-13, to move to 2-0.

This part of Joe Tuscano's story intrigued me Thursday morning: Avella trailing, 13-0, at halftime, Cecchini and Thompson coming up with this play. Me? I thought they drew up the play right there; you know, like you did playing pick-up football with your buddies.

Draw it on a chalkboard. In the dirt outside the locker room. Something. 

But when I called Cecchini, I learned this was simply an old play that they hadn't run in awhile, though one Cecchini figured would work -- the point of it to suck the safety up, then throw to Thompson over the top.

"We knew their safety was cheating up, so we decided we wanted to get Zach in the slot to attack the seam," Cecchini told me. "We have it in our playbook. We have the ability to call it at any time. We hadn’t worked on it that week, so we had to go over it at halftime. They seemed comfortable with it. We felt confident it would work."

Santino Paris, a first-year starter as a sophomore, threw those passes to Thompson -- 64 and 80 yards -- and finished 4 of 13 for a total of 181 yards.

Avella, which won back-to-back games for the first time since 2002 and sits one win away from matching its win total from the previous five years combined, also got a 67-yard interception return from Shawn Carl and a 4-yard run from Jake Temple.

Quite a ride for the Eagles, right?

Avella is attracting plenty of attention for its 2-0 start ... and for good reason. When I talked to Cecchini, I asked him what the biggest difference was now that he's coaching an undefeated team.

"There’s a lot more of you guys calling," Cecchini joked.

He went on from there to insist that not much has really changed -- or at least that's what he's saying. Same practice routine. Same schedule. Same everything.

"Practice is the same," Cecchini said. "We don’t vary from our routines. We do the same things Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We try to keep the kids focused on the next game. We can’t look off into the future."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nearly a history-making night for Greene County

Friday nights at the Observer-Reporter are something I hope I never experience. Me? I'd much rather be out at a game. But in here working the phones, laying out pages, proofing copy and all that fun stuff is usually Dale Lolley and Chris Dugan, two veterans around the area that you all probably know.

Apparently around 8:45 p.m. or so Friday night, Dale noticed that all five Greene County schools -- Mapletown, Carmichaels, Jefferson-Morgan, Waynesburg and West Greene -- were winning and asked Dugan, "When do you think the last time was that all five won on the same night or the same weekend?"

Dugan thought it would be an easy find.

Dugan was wrong.

It took, I'm told, two days to find the answer. But rest assured, the Professor got to the bottom of it. The answer, it turns out, is Sept. 8, 1961 ... almost 51 years to the day of Dale's question.

Here are the five wins, with a much needed slap on the behind to microfilm and Google News Archives:

Carmichaels 25, South Union 0: Jim Stewart scores on two 17-yard runs.

Mapletown 19, Fairchance-Georges 13: Don ‘Bubba” Lewis runs for two touchdowns and passes for another.

West Greene 7, East Washington 0: An East Washington turnover sets up Glenn Tedrow’s six-yard touchdown run with five minutes remaining.

Waynesburg 36, McGuffey 7: Jim Meighen and Bob Boyd each score 2 TDs for the Raiders.

Jefferson-Morgan 13, Mount Morris 0: Joe Burich (11 yards) and John Knapik (2 yards) score TDs for the Rockets.

**I take no credit for this research. All Chris Dugan, who now requires a really nerdy nickname on this blog.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Some gems from Carmichaels coach John Menhart

If I want a burrito, I'm going to Chipotle. If I want a burger, I'm going to Five Guys. And if I want a quote, I'm calling Carmichaels football coach John Menhart. The man is full of 'em.

I called Menhart yesterday to chat about his team bouncing back from a Week 1 loss to rival Jefferson-Morgan and knocking off one of the expected playoff teams in the Class A Tri-County South, Frazier, 28-14.

"This was a real big week for us," Menhart said. "We have another test coming this week with Beth-Center, so it was almost like a must-win situation.

"Heck, every week is a must-win. What's the difference if you beat Monessen, then lose to whoever is last in conference? You're still 1-1. But this week was a big week."

You can't blame Menhart for feeling that way. And, as a reporter, you have to love his honesty.

Carmichaels does have it tough out of the gate, opening with Jefferson-Morgan, Frazier and Beth-Center, this past week and the next against 2011 playoff teams, opening against a team in Jefferson-Morgan that appears plenty capable of reaching the postseason this fall.

"If you look at the conference, our toughest three games are the first three," Menhart said. "That being said, we didn't want to come out of that 0-3. Now we're not going to."

Menhart went on to talk about the Forfeit Factor, how Frazier was off in Week 1 because Geibel didn't have enough players for the first two weeks of the season and couldn't play.

The same thing will happen this week when Carmichaels plays Beth-Center, which had an off week last week because it had Geibel on the schedule.

"We were better off coming off of a loss to Jefferson-Morgan than Frazier was coming off a forfeit win," Menhart said. "That hurt them Friday night, no doubt about it. Our kids didn't have to deal with that first-game fatigue."

You will read a little more about running back Josh Mundell in tomorrow's high school football notebook, but Mundell's complement, junior Brennan McMinn, has been pretty darn important, too. McMinn ran for 42 yards against Frazier, including a 25-yard touchdown that gave the Mikes a 20-0 edge at halftime.

"Brennan McMinn is just as capable [as Mundell]," Menhart said. "He spells him a lot. We tell the kids that there's only statistic that counts, and that's why we have a scoreboard."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Breaking down Monessen's breakdown

Mr. Niklas, you ask ... and you shall receive. Morning, all. If you haven't read Joey's comment, do so. Good stuff analyzing -- and caring -- about Monessen/Brentwood last night, which was one of the more entertaining football games I've seen in this business.

Odd, too.

In the first half, Monessen was rolling. Chavas Rawlins completed 5 of 9 passes for 194 yards, including a pair of long balls to Clintell Gillespie.

That mojo must have stayed in the locker room, however.

Factoring in penalties, Monessen had minus-19 yards of total offense in the second half, with consecutive false start infractions and an intentional grounding call.

Also zero first downs, a blocked punt -- the second of the game for the Greyhounds -- and Rawlins completed one of his 10 pass attempts for 11 yards.

He also threw an interception and ran four times for minus-3 yards, which includes a sack on second down of Monessen's second series of the third quarter.

Broken down, Rawlins' numbers look like this:

First half: 5-9, 194 yards, 2 TD ... 10 carries, 59 yards, TD
Second half: 1-10, 11 yards, 1 INT, four carries, -3 yards
Total: 6-19, 205 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 14 carries, 56 yards, TD

My apologies on the statistical differences between this and my game story in today's Observer-Reporter.

In the rush to make deadline -- I wrote the bulk of my story from atop a roof, kneeling on the ground as I hacked away on this thing -- I gave Rawlins an eight-yard completion when it was, in fact, an eight-yard mark-off for the intentional grounding penalty.

I love what Rawlins said after the game about his teammates picking him up:

"They’re giving me relief," Rawlins said. "I throw an interception, and they get it right back. I’m proud of my boys. I’m going to be sure to thank them."

As Mt. Niklas pointed out, Vickless is a heck of a player. Finished with 33 carries for 197 yards and two touchdowns -- one rushing, one receiving. No doubt this would be one awesome playoff game should the teams meet again.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

More on Monessen/Brentwood

You'll be able to read much more about the Week 2 game between Monessen and Brentwood in today's Observer-Reporter -- online at 4 a.m. -- but I thought I'd offer a few extras that did not make the print story.

(Focus of that, of course, is getting past the race-fueled episode in February at a boys basketball game between the two schools. Bet you've heard of it.)

I called Andy Pacak and Kevin Kissel about this, expecting both to be annoyed that they have to talk about this whole thing ... but neither were. Talk about two engaging, interesting conversations.

Here's Pacak on the positives he took out of Monessen's 41-13 win over California in Week 1.

"It's hard to get past that question when you have a Chavas," Pacak said, referencing his West Virginia bound quarterback, Chavas Rawlins. "But aside from that, I'm extremely pleased with our offensive line play. They're coming off the ball and doing a great job. Those guys in the trenches deserve some praise; no matter who you have, if no one's blocking, it doesn't work."

So, then, here's the Monessen offensive line that Pacak was raving about. Only Tarka is starting for the first time; the others are returning:

55 LT Justice Tartt 6-2, 215 Jr.
66 LG Jonathan Kravets 5-11, 245 Jr.
50 C Pete Tarka 5-11, 225 Sr.
63 RG Shyheim Windom 5-10, 240 Jr.
64 RT Ray Dickerson 6-2, 197 Sr.
*57 Raealo Davis 6-0, 185 Jr. rotates in, pretty much as if he's a starter

I also asked Pacak whether he was happy with the improvements that Rawlins -- who completed 9 of 16 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns -- has made throwing the ball. He wound up correcting me, saying that he wasn't the one looking for improvements.

"He was 9 of 16, and I think three of those incompletions were drops," Pacak said. "Remember, I'm perfectly happy with Chavas. Chavas was the one looking for more accuracy. He's a perfectionist, not me."

Pacak talked a lot about how kids today know each other better than they did when he was playing, without a doubt the product of Facebook or -- as Pacak called it -- "Tweeter." (Sorry Andy.)

Pacak said a big part of the healing process here was done through social media, with Rawlins and his younger brother, Justice, talking to a few of the team leaders from Brentwood.

Impressive stuff, for sure. Mature kids.

My story for Friday's paper talks a lot about how there's actually a football game to be played ... and a rather important one at that.

We know Clairton is the team to beat in the Class A Black Hills Conference, but beyond that there's a cluster of teams of vying to be next in line: Fort Cherry, Chartiers-Houston, Bishop Canevin, Monessen and Brentwood. A win here causes some separation.

I'll leave you with a quote from Kissel on this that I thought was pretty interesting.

"This is a giant game for us one way or another, none of that other stuff being taken into considerations," Kissel said. "If none of that other stuff would have ever happened, this is a giant game for us. Monessen is a really good team."