Wednesday, October 31, 2012

UPDATED: All sites changed, one special return

UPDATED: Wednesday, 3 p.m.

First, all four football teams with grass fields have moved to turf. Here's a list of the changes:

***No. 5 Monessen/No. 12 Apollo-Ridge will now be played at Charleroi
***No. 4 Jefferson-Morgan/No. 13 Neshannock has been shifted to Waynesburg High School
***No. 7 Beth-Center/No. 10 Union will be at California High School
***No. 3 Wash High/No. 14 Shady Side Academy will be at W&J's Cameron Stadium

Secondly, I've been waiting a couple weeks now to write something about Trinity RB Patrick Frey, who has quietly had one heck of a season. (Quietly, I guess, because we've been lucky enough to have 1,000-yard running backs this season named McKenzie, Minjock, Mundell, Duchi and Conti. But quiet ain't exactly Frey's running style, I know that.)

If we handed out a Comeback Player of the Year award, I'm pretty sure Frey would get it after suffering what I was told -- wasn't on the beat yet, but I was told numerous times about the gruesomeness of this injury -- was a pretty nasty leg injury.

Broken tibia. Broken fibula. A metal rod that was inserted in Frey's leg.

Nevertheless, Frey has returned to power the Trinity running game. Frey has 155 carries for 901 yards and 10 touchdowns this season for the Hillers, who were seeded No. 12 and will travel to Montour in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs on Friday night.

He has also run for more than 100 yards five times and averages 5.8 yards per carry.

"He's our go-to guy," said Trinity coach Ryan Coyle.

And the leg?

"It never bothers me now," Frey said after Trinity's 31-30 victory at Ringgold in double-overtime this past Saturday.

Frey carried a season-high 29 times -- I had 31, but I always defer to team stats -- against the Rams for 149 yards and a touchdown, including a key 6-yard run in overtime that set up QB Don McWreath's 1-yard touchdown run.

"It’s tough with Pat because he’s a two-way starter, like a lot of our guys are," Coyle said. "We’ve tried to get them in the mentality and physical condition to be able to go both ways. We tried to use Pat smartly on defense, so we could keep him fresh for offense.

"They took away some of our passing game with Corey [Hunsberger], which we’ve been successful with. So we had to go to running the football and spread it around to keep them honest. [Frey] came up big for us."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Clarifying the Class A bracket

Well, not really. Probably just adding to the confusion.

In Class A, Jefferson-Morgan was seeded No. 4. Or was it No. 13? It's been tough to get a straight answer.

The Rockets are in the "spot" where a No. 4 seed would be, except that it's three spots ahead of Beth-Center, which beat Jefferson-Morgan by 31 points this season and won the Tri-County South title. J-M is also playing a team -- Neshannock -- which finished tied for first in the Big Seven Conference.

I called the WPIAL office a few minutes ago for clarification and learned ... nothing.

"You figure it out," executive director Tim O'Malley told me. "We only create the matchups. The seeding is for you guys [the media and probably everyone else] to figure out."

OK, so what if I figured out that Clairton and North Allegheny were No. 13 seeds? Think anyone would look at me like I'm crazy?

It seems the seeding means something when it's the No. 1 overall teams, but then mutates a bit deeper in the bracket; clearly we can't be sticking to "seeding" and putting Jefferson-Morgan ahead of the Tri-County South champion. Right? Anyone?

I think the answer here is this: The ultimate goal is to create matchups and the most desirable path to Heinz Field for the more successful teams during the regular season ... and I think that's what O'Malley was getting at.

Even though by adhering to the "seeding" that we all worry about, Beth-Center has a more desirable first-round matchup (Union, fourth in the Big Seven) than Jefferson-Morgan, even though the number next to J-M on a lot of people's brackets might be prettier.

But here's the confusion: Let's say both Jefferson-Morgan and Beth-Center win ... Beth-Center could face No. 2 Sto-Rox in the quarterfinals -- assuming no upsets here -- and Jefferson-Morgan would get No. 5 Monessen? Who's path is easier now?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Inside the playoff brackets

Made it home safe and sound from the pairings meeting. Even got sent home from the office because I've been fighting a really nasty cold the past couple of days.

But before I take my nightly dose of NyQuil -- I swear, for those of you who don't like my reasoning, that I haven't yet -- here's a breakdown of why (I think) our area teams were seeded where they are and what each of them are looking at moving forward:

Class AAAA
No. 15 Peters Township at No. 2 Gateway
At first blush, I thought this seed was a little low for PT. But I might see what the football committee was thinking. First off, I can't make a case for Peters Township being higher than No. 12 Butler or No. 13 Hempfield, as Hempfield beat two playoff teams (McKeesport, Kiski Area), and Butler beat Hempfield. Peters, by comparison, didn't beat a playoff team, though it did play in a much tougher conference. Kiski Area was seeded 14 and beat teams that were a combined 8-24 ... Peters 5-26. Kiski also beat one playoff team (Altoona) to Peters' none. 

Class AAA
No. 13 Ringgold at No. 4 West Allegheny
Ringgold was a No. 5 seed in a three-conference bracket, which automatically puts them in the 13-15 range. Given the Rams lost four of five down the stretch and only beat one playoff team (Belle Vernon, seeded 16th), this is probably accurate. That being said, much of Ringgold's woes came during the middle of the season when it lost its starting running back (Demetrius Louis) either entirely or for large chunks of games. The Rams were also breaking in a new starting QB in Nico Law. I think they could be a tough out, but they couldn't be above Trinity because of head-to-head, and I don't think either should be ahead of No. 11 Hopewell, the No. 4 seed out of a much tougher conference (Parkway).

No. 12 Trinity at No. 5 Montour
See above. I wouldn't rank Ringgold or Trinity above Hopewell, but I don't understand putting Trinity three spots below Elizabeth Forward ... when the Hillers beat the Warriors in Week 1. Consider, Trinity and EF beat the same playoff teams: Belle Vernon and Ringgold. Perhaps my only way of explaining the WPIAL's thinking is Trinity lost to Knoch, the No. 10 seed, by 33, and EF played Thomas Jefferson, the No. 1 seed, to within two points. But again, I'm a big believer in head-to-head matchups.

Class AA
No. 15 Freedom at No. 2 South Fayette
Talked with South Fayette coach Joe Rossi, and he expected this. Talked with Wash High coach Mike Bosnic, and he expected this. There was little suspense with where South Fayette and Wash High would fall -- below Aliquippa, above everyone else, the only classification with more than one undefeated team.

No. 14 Shady Side Academy at No. 3 Wash High
See above. And I will say this: 1) Wash High doesn't have an easy road, with a possible Shady Side Academy-Seton-La Salle-South Fayette path to Heinz, but 2) The possible Class AA semifinal against South Fayette would be one of the best games of the year. 

Class A
No. 4 Neshannock at No. 13 Jefferson-Morgan
Gotta love the Tri-County South, right? The only place where a second-place team can host a playoff game ... as a No. 13 seed. A case could be made for the Rockets to jump Apollo-Ridge or Bishop Canevin, but I'm guessing the WPIAL was more impressed with A-R's win over No. 14 seed Avonworth, which has wins over Northgate and Springdale. And Bishop Canevin plays in the Black Hills Conference, which has been called the SEC of the WPIAL. (Although it should be noted that if Imani Christian was eligible for the playoffs, it would have come down to a tiebreaker/Gardner Points between Imani, Canevin and Brentwood for the final spot.)

No. 10 Union at No. 7 Beth-Center
This is a draw that, despite the seed, Beth-Center has to be pretty happy about. Yes, Union played Neshannock to within eight last week, but Union also didn't beat a single playoff team. I'm sure there are plenty of we-won-our-conference-but-we're-only-a-seven-seed complaints for the Bulldogs, but take the numbers away and it's a pretty good draw. I could actually see slotting Union at 13 and bumping J-M, A-R and Canevin down one ... though I'm guessing that won't happen.

No. 12 Apollo-Ridge at No. 5 Monessen
I wasn't as surprised with where Monessen ended up as I was with where North Catholic did. The Trojans won their conference -- a conference that, if you read above, got some decent respect -- but they're the No. 6 seed. Not sure the Greyhounds could make a case to move up, considering Neshannock beat No. 2 seed Sto-Rox and No. 6 North Catholic and lost to No. 3 Rochester by a touchdown. I also don't think there would have been any complaints if Monessen was sixth -- and thus on the other side of the bracket as Clairton.

No. 15 Carmichaels at No. 2 Sto-Rox
Mikes coach John Menhart told me he was hoping Carmichaels would get Monessen, but I'm not sure I ever see the No. 3 seed out of the Tri-County South getting a No. 11/12 seed or Monessen, which lost to Clairton by 45, rising to a No. 2 seed. Either way, it would have made for an interesting game. The good news for Carmichaels is that if the Mikes can somehow pull out an upset, a familiar opponent in Beth-Center could be next, and the bottom half of the bracket features a team (Rochester) that Carmichaels probably matches up well against. I will say this in favor of Carmichaels: They were right there with J-M in Week 1, but committed five turnovers and fell 1-yard short of the end zone on a Josh Mundell run as time expired. So they could very well have been in the 13 range ... and closer to Monessen.

WPIAL Playoff Pairings

All games Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Class AAAA
(16) Altoona at (1) North Allegheny
(9) Bethel Park at (8) McKeesport
(13) Hempfield at (4) Seneca Valley
Butler (12) at (5) Mt. Lebanon
(15) Peters Township at (2) Gateway
(10) North Hills at (7) Woodland Hills
(14) Kiski Area at (3) Upper St. Clair
(11) Central Catholic at (6) Penn-Trafford

Class AAA
(16) Hollidaysburg at (1) Thomas Jefferson
(9) Elizabeth Forward at (8) Franklin Regional
(13) Ringgold at (4) West Allegheny
(12) Trinity at (5) Montour
(15) Blackhawk at (2) Mars
(10) Knoch at (7) West Mifflin
(14) Belle Vernon at (3) Central Valley
(11) Hopewell at (6) Hampton

Class AA
(16) Steel Valley at (1) Aliquippa
(9) Mt. Pleasant at (8) Burrell
(13) South Allegheny at (4) Jeannette
(12) Valley at (5) Beaver
(15) Freedom at (2) South Fayette
(10) Beaver Falls at (7) Freeport
(14) Shady Side Academy at (3) Washington
(11) Greensburg Central Catholic at (6) Seton-La Salle

Class A
(16) Frazier at (1) Clairton
(9) Brentwood at (8) Springdale
(13) Neshannock at (4) Jefferson-Morgan
(12) Apollo-Ridge at (5) Monessen
(15) Carmichaels at (2) Sto-Rox
(10) Union at (7) Beth-Center
(14) Avonworth at (3) Rochester
(11) Bishop Canevin at (6) North Catholic

The Week 9 wrap

So this much we know after Week 9:

***We can crown three conference champions: Washington in the Class AA Interstate Conference; South Fayette in the Class AA Century Conference; and Beth-Center in the Class A Tri-County South Conference.

***Of the 21 schools in our coverage area, nine teams made the playoffs: Peters Township, Ringgold, Trinity, Washington, South Fayette, Beth-Center, Jefferson-Morgan, Carmichaels and Monessen. Of that group, four -- Beth-Center, Washington, South Fayette and Monessen -- finished in the top eight and will host first-round games.

***Wash High's Shai McKenzie finished the regular season with 127 carries for 1,902 yards and 30 touchdowns ... top passer was South Fayette's Brett Brumbaugh, who was 119-175-2,138-32TD-3INT ... WR was Brumbaugh's teammate, Zach Challingsworth, who had 46-952-13TD.

***Pairings meeting is tonight. I will have plenty more from there as far as seedings, matchups, reactions, etc., but first let's take a look back at Week 9:

Game balls, 10 of 'em:

RB Shai McKenzie, Wash High -- Broke the single-season rushing record at Wash High and became the WPIAL rushing champion with 11 carries for 323 yards and six touchdowns during a 69-6 win over Waynesburg.

RB Patrick Frey, Trinity -- Had 31 carries for 153 yards and a TD during the Hillers' 31-30 win in double-overtime Saturday at Ringgold. It was the heaviest load Frey has shouldered this season since suffering a nasty leg injury last year, and he responded in a big way.

DE Jimmy Saieva, Chartiers-Houston -- Recorded four sacks, recovered two fumbles and also forced one, as Chartiers-Houston closed its season with a dominant, 42-0 win over Fort Cherry, the first for the Bucs over the Rangers since 2006.

QB Cory Owen, Peters Township -- Completed eight of 13 passes for 127 yards and TD. Also ran seven times for 72 yards and three scores during the Indians' 35-0 win at Canon-McMillan on Friday.

QB Santino Paris, Avella -- Completed 10 of 22 passes for 135 yards and three touchdowns during the Eagles' 34-19 win over Bentworth. Though it did not make the playoffs, Avella (6-3) wrapped up its best season since 1994.

QB/DB Chavas Rawlins, Monessen -- Completed 3 of 4 passes for 92 yards, eclipsing 1,000 passing yards for the season; he now has 1,085. Also scored on a 51-yard run, a 74-yard punt return and a 34-yard interception return during a 52-10 win over Carlynton.

QB Nico Law, Ringgold -- Though he was hurt late, he accounted for 166 yards of offense while throwing and running for separate scores. Gave Trinity fits running out of Ringgold's shotgun package, too.

FB Brent Blacharczyk, McGuffey -- Ran for 140 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to help the Highlanders come back from a 14-point halftime deficit. McGuffey will play a 10th week game against Laurel Highlands, but not a bad way for a senior to close his final regular season.

South Fayette Defense -- Lions beat South Allegheny, 42-0. South Allegheny was 7-1. South Fayette recorded its sixth shutout of the season and fourth straight. Gladiators had just 72 yards of offense and four first downs early in the fourth quarter.

QB Dante Sicchitano, Bentworth -- Threw for 117 yards and a touchdown while running for a second score during a 34-19 loss to Avella. Another senior who ends his last regular season with a solid performance.

Team of the week: Trinity
When Trinity turned it over on downs on its first three drives Saturday, I thought that was enough of an omen; there was no way Trinity could win this game. But despite trailing by two touchdowns at halftime, the Hillers scored 17 consecutive points to take a three-point lead at 8:17 of the fourth quarter, later hanging on in 2OT for the win. What'd this win do? Probably moved Trinity from seed Nos. 14-16 to Nos. 9-11.

Runner-Up: South Fayette

Beating a 7-1 team shouldn't be so easy, should it? Well, regardless, the Lions made it look that way. QB Brett Brumbaugh had a 15-18-180-2TD day ... WR Zach Challingsworth was 6-83-2TD ... RB Grant Fetchet had 118-TD ... defense posted its fourth straight shutout. South Fayette has outscored opponents 456-24 this season, and its closest game was a 51-12 pasting of Seton-La Salle in Week 5.

Game of the week: Trinity 31, Ringgold 30 (2OT)
I asked Trinity coach Ryan Coyle whether he's gone gray yet -- jokingly since he's only 26. His answer? "I think I’ve aged a lot in the past few years. Getting into [coaching] this early has probably cut my career way down." In about a 30-minute span Saturday, we saw a field goal with less than a minute left to tie it; a turnover; a missed field goal to force double-overtime; a near fumble by Patrick Frey, only to have him pick it up for a 6-yard gain; a touchdown; a Statue of Liberty play on fourth-and-goal for Ringgold; and a stuff on a two-point conversion.

Hot and cold (three of each): Gonna hold off on this. Seems to me the hot teams would be the ones who made the playoffs, the cold ones the ones that didn't.

Quote of the week: “It’s an honor. We have had some great backs come through here and to even be mentioned with them is an honor. When I started the season, I didn’t have my eye on breaking any records. I just wanted to keep getting better and help us win games," Wash High RB Shai McKenzie on setting the program's single-season rushing record.

Weird stat of the week: Washington County teams improved by 11 wins over last year's regular season. Need proof? Check this out, courtesy of McGuffey coach Ed Dalton.

Looking ahead: In case you missed it, here's a link to my column in Sunday's Observer-Reporter, which includes my predictions for tonight's pairings meeting. 

Soccer semis moved

The WPIAL has moved Tuesday's soccer matches to Wednesday, same times, same places. Here's a look at who we have playing:

Class AA Boys
No. 9 South Fayette (14-4-1) vs. No. 4 Quaker Valley (16-3-1), 8 p.m., at Hopewell

Class AAA Boys
No. 1 Peters Township (14-1-2) vs. No. 13 Canon-McMillan (16-4), 8 p.m., at Baldwin

Class AAA Girls
No. 1 Peters Township (18-1) vs. No. 5 Gateway (16-3-1), 6 p.m., at Baldwin

As of now the football pairings meeting is still on for tonight at the Green Tree DoubleTree, and I really wouldn't expect that to change. No changes on volleyball, either.

The field hockey final has been moved from Tuesday to Wednesday, though we don't have any local teams in that one.

Volleyball-wise, here's what we have left:

Class A Quarterfinals
No. 9 Chartiers-Houston (13-2) vs. No. 1 Greensburg CC (13-0), Tuesday, 6 p.m., at Baldwin

Class AA Quarterfinals
No. 11 South Fayette (10-1) vs. No. 3 Mars (12-1), Tuesday, 6 p.m., at North Hills

Class AAA Quarterfinals
No. 7 Peters Township (12-1) vs. No. 2 North Allegheny (11-2), Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., at Chartiers Valley

Saturday, October 27, 2012

PT wins state tennis title

Here's a tennis story I just filed for tomorrow's paper. Good news for our local teams in Hershey:

Despite suffering its first doubles loss all season, the Peters Township girls tennis team rallied to win the PIAA Class AAA team tournament for a second consecutive year and for the fourth time since 2006 yesterday at Hershey Racquet Club, defeating Conestoga and Unionville in the semifinals and finals to close the season at 22-1.

"There were plenty of tense moments, but the girls handled the pressure really well," said head coach Brandt Bowman.

Sara Komer and Chloe Grzyb posted wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles against Conestoga, but Vida Komer and Jen Holcombe suffered a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Lauren Ge and Kaylee Yan at No. 1 doubles.

Morgan Parisi and Megan Hixon won at No. 2 doubles, though, allowing Abby Cummings' match with Lipika Gadila to be stopped in the second set.

Conestoga was the fourth-place team from District 1.

Against Unionville, which was the third-place team from District 1, Cummings earned a 7-5, 6-2 win over Allie Lane, and both doubles teams won. Komer and Holbombe swept Julie Oeste and Elise Eginton 6-4, 6-2, while Parisi and Hixon earned their second win of the day.

The display of depth was something that has carried Peters Township all season, one that helped the Indians win a second consecutive WPIAL Class AAA team title.

“If you can somehow make it to the finals of WPIALs, you know you're going to do well at states,” Bowman said. “I think any time you're deep like we are, you always have a shot. I know we can win at all five spots. That makes things a lot easier.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trinity at Ringgold postponed

Just got a call from Ringgold coach Matt Humbert, and tonight's football game between the Rams and visiting Trinity has been pushed to Saturday at noon because of a water main break.

The Rams were originally supposed to host Trinity in a game that the Hillers (4-3, 4-4) needed to win to avoid the wild card spot in Class AAA and assure themselves of the No. 3 seed in the Big Nine Conference.

Ringgold be fourth with a win, fifth with a loss.

UPDATED 3:50 p.m.: There's a water line at Ringgold that runs below the field and runs from the street, up to the school, past the stadium. There's no water at the stadium, Humbert said.

Today was an in-service day, so there were no kids at the school.

Tomorrow's game is scheduled for noon, but there's a possibility that could be pushed back until 2 p.m. due to a variety of factors.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week 9 plan/stats

Here are this week's statistical leaders, as well as our coverage plan for tomorrow night.

Rushing Leaders (Att-Yds-TD)

1. Shai McKenzie, Wash 116-1,578-24
2. James Duchi, McG 174-1,081-7
T-3. Mike Minjock, PT 153-1,017-14
T-3. Josh Mundell, Carm 97-1,017-15
4. Dustin Conti, J-M 99-945-12
5. Demetrius Louis, Ring 66-765-9
T-6. Patrick Frey, Trin 126-752-9
T-6. Koltan Kobrys, FC 114-752-3
7. Cody Durant, B-C 69-665-9
8. Grant Fetchet, SF 87-625-6
9. Nick Kusich, Avella 90-578-7
10. Deonte Kelly, C-M 119-512-3

Passing Leaders (Comp-Att-Yds-TD)
1. Brett Brumbaugh, SF 102-155-1,944-30
2. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 50-119-993-10
3. Kaleb Susko, C-H 59-113-894-7
4. Santino Paris, Avella 48-104-824-7
5. Gino Faieta, B-C 59-108-817-5
6. Kevin Ridgley, Map 45-87-666-8
7. Corey Owen, PT 27-52-549-1
8. Brennan Matthews, Char 42-79-501-5
9. Nico Law, Ring 34-71-493-3
10. Matt Heslin, FC 40-84-480-8

Receiving Leaders (Rec-Yds-TD)
1. Zach Challingsworth, SF 39-861-11
2. Zach Thompson, Avella 22-533-6
3. Clintell Gillespie, Mon 18-480-5
4. Jordan Griffin, Map 26-433-3
5. Justin Watson, SF 19-405-7
6. Nic Santoyo, J-M 13-372-5
7. Miles Williamson, C-H 21-357-4
8. Eric Johnson, Char 25-351-1
9. Anthony Gilpin, B-C 16-340-4
10. Conner Beck, SF 19-325-2

Scoring Leaders (TD-XP-FG-Pts)
1. Shai McKenzie, Wash 25-8-0-158
2. Josh Mundell, Carm 16-20-0-116
3. Mike Minjock, PT 16-0-0-96
4. Zach Challingsworth, SF 13-0-0-78
5. Matt Riggle, B-C 13-0-0-78
T-6. Dustin Conti, J-M 12-0-0-72
T-6. Nic Santoyo, J-M 12-0-0-72
7. Jake Temple, Avella 11-2-0-68
8. Cody Durant, B-C 11-0-0-66
9. Demetrius Louis, Ring 10-4-0-64
10. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 10-2-0-62

Trinity at Ringgold, 7:30 --  Mackey
The question: Can Trinity win to assure itself of a playoff spot?
Peters Township at Canon-Mac, 7:30 -- Dugan
The question: Can Peters Township, like Trinity, win to assure itself of a playoff spot?
Waynesburg at Wash High, 7 -- Shetler
The question: Will Shai McKenzie win the WPIAL rushing title?
South Allegheny at South Fayette, 7 -- Jacobsen
The question: Can another team in the Class AA Century Conference give the Lions a game?

My answers, for what they're worth: Yes, yes, yes and no.

Ready for Week 9?

Sorry for the brief intro here. Like the rest of this week, been running all over the place -- seemingly to McMurray a lot, not a trip to Chipotle in sight -- for non-high school football coverage. And more of the same tonight, as I'm covering Peters/Seneca Valley boys soccer.

I know this blog hasn't been bumping like it was the past few weeks, but there's been a lot of for-print coverage that has taken priority.

I trust, though, that you liked Bob Gregg's story today. I know I did. Gotta love people who are that into breaking down playoff scenarios. I am, but I think I like reading about them more than anything. Here's a link.

Before I run out the door, here's a look at Week 9 in the WPIAL. Will post the Week 9 statistical leaders and what we're covering tomorrow night when I get back.

Five to watch:

RB Shai McKenzie, Washington -- Can he win the WPIAL rushing title? With 116-1,578-24, he's currently 35 yards up on West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler, 43 on Burrell's Cole Bush. Should have plenty of room to run against Waynesburg (1-6, 1-7).

WR/RB/DB/KR Joey Wall, Ringgold -- When Ringgold was winning -- the Rams were 3-1 before losing three of four -- Wall was making plays. A lot of them. Two defensive scores against Laurel Highlands; three TDs against Albert Gallatin, all different ways. A similar performance would help against Trinity.

RB Demetrius Louis, Ringgold -- Has been hobbled with injuries since Week 5, but Ringgold coach Matt Humbert told me that he practiced all week and appears the healthiest he's been in weeks. If his groin/hamstring issues are behind him, look out.

QB Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette -- After a ho-hum week last week -- 10 of 22 for 142 and 2TD -- look for Brumbaugh to respond nicely against visiting South Allegheny. Back at home, on the turf, an outright conference title on the line ... lot to like there.

WR/RB/DB/P/KR Corey Hunsberger, Trinity -- Not the only jack of all trades on this list. (See Wall, Joey) But Trinity's playmaker has scored nine touchdowns five different ways. Ringgold will be keying on Trinity RB Patrick Frey (752 yards, 9 TDs), but if Hunsberger can make a few things happen ...

Game to watch (other than the GOTW): South Allegheny at South Fayette, Friday, 7
On paper, the Class AA Century Conference title is up for grabs between one team that's 7-0 (South Fayette), another that's 6-1 (South Allegheny). But think about this: South Allegheny lost to Seton-La Salle by 35; South Fayette beat the Rebels by 39. Seems a rather large difference there. Couple of milestone to watch, though. Lions WR Zach Challingsworth needs 139 yards for a 1,000-yard season, QB Brett Brumbaugh 56 for 2,000.

Team with the most to gain: Trinity
Easy one here. The Hillers can snag the No. 3 spot with a win over Ringgold ... but would likely miss the postseason with a loss. (Only way they can make it is if Albert Gallatin beats Belle Vernon, which isn't very likely.) Though much left scientific, Trinity has alternated win-loss-win-loss this season, and Friday, for what it's worth, extrapolates out to win.

Team with the most to lose: Peters Township
The obvious reference to Trinity making the playoffs noted, Peters Township is in a precarious spot, too. The easy way of doing things: win and get in. But if the Indians lose at Canon-Mac on Friday, they'll have to hope for the wild card spot in Class AAAA. And losing three straight and four of five doesn't exactly add a nice sparkle to that resume.

Sleeper pick of the weekend: Burgettstown
I don't know how much of a sleeper pick this is considering the Blue Devils host Keystone Oaks (1-7). But they're playing under the lights at B'town for the first time in two years thanks to a $61,000 fundraising effort to replace the light poles at Hill Memorial Stadium. And what better way for some of Burgettstown's seniors to end their careers with a win, under the lights, on Friday night? One of those seniors, WR Graham Lescallette, has 15 catches this season for 178 yards.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shai McKenzie recruiting update

I texted with Wash High football coach Mike Bosnic this morning, and he said that running back Shai McKenzie picked up an offer today from Connecticut.

That's in addition to scholarship offers the junior already holds from Pitt, Youngstown State, Toledo, Duke and Purdue.

Bosnic also said that a coach from Penn State had planned to attend the Prexies' game Friday against Waynesburg, but he had to push that to the playoffs due to a family emergency.

McKenzie leads the WPIAL with 116 carries for 1,578 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.

Connecticut has also expressed interest in fullback Jaylin Kelly, Bosnic said, though they haven't offered and would like him to make an official visit.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Volleyball brackets released

Volleyball brackets were released today. Here's what our local teams will be doing:

Class AAA
No. 7 Peters Township (11-1) vs. No. 10 Bethel Park (9-3), Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at Peters Township
No. 3 Fox Chapel (9-3) vs. No. 14 Canon-McMillan (8-4), Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., at Fox Chapel

Class AA
Waynesburg (6-4) vs. South Park (7-3), Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., at Chartiers Valley, for No. 13 seed
No. 6 Central Valley (9-1) vs. No. 11 South Fayette (9-1), Thursday, 6 p.m., at Hopewell

Class A
No. 8 Frazier (12-0) vs. No. 9 Chartiers-Houston (12-2), Wednesday, 6 p.m., at Peters Township
Bentworth (10-4) vs. Brentwood (9-3), Tuesday, 6 p.m., at Chartiers Valley, for No. 13 seed
No. 5 Shenango (12-0) vs. No. 12 California (9-3), Wednesday, 6 p.m., at Mt. Lebanon

*Section records in parenthesis

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Week 8 wrap

So this much we know after Week 8:

WJPA's finest, Bob Gregg, will have a guest column -- a tradition, I'm told -- this week breaking down playoff scenarios and whatnot, but the final week of the season will be extra important for three/four teams: Peters Township, South Fayette and Ringgold or South Fayette.

Peters Township (3-4, 4-4) needs a win at Canon-McMillan to secure a playoff spot in Class AAAA. The Indians, though, have dropped three of four after Friday's 38-15 loss to Woodland Hills.

South Fayette (7-0, 8-0) can claim the Class AA Century Conference title with a win over visiting South Allegheny (6-1, 7-1). For my money, I doubt this one will be close; the Lions proved with a 51-12 win over Seton-La Salle that they're head and shoulders above anybody else in Class AA, 'cept maybe for Wash High or Aliquippa.

In what will be the O-R's Game of the Week, Trinity travels to Ringgold for the final playoff spot in the Class AAA Big Nine Conference. Both are 4-3 in conference, 4-4 overall. Ringgold has clinched a playoff spot; Trinity needs a win to get in.

But before we move on to the final week of the regular season, let's take a closer look at Week 8:

Game balls, 10 of 'em:

RB Shai McKenzie, Wash High -- Another comical stat line: seven carries, 256 yards and four touchdowns during the Prexies' 60-6 win at Freeport. Oh, and he became the WPIAL's leading rusher.

WR/DB Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette -- Caught six for 93 and TD ... also returned an interception for a second score. If you haven't had a chance to see Challingsworth play, do it. It's worth the effort. Although with the way South Fayette has been playing, you'll probably have several chances in the postseason.

RB Jason Stay, Beth-Center -- Different game, different back who stars for B-C. Stay had 11 carries for 100 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Bulldogs clinch the conference title with a 54-6 win over Avella.

QB Chavas Rawlins, Monessen -- Accounted for 259 yards of offense (181 passing, 78 rushing) to help Monessen hold off Chartiers-Houston, 28-21, and lock up a home playoff game with the No. 2 seed in the Class A Black Hills.

DL Kayne Jackson, Monessen -- Had three of the Greyhounds' eight sacks, seven of them coming from defensive linemen. Monessen undoubtedly won this one up front.

QB Dalton Wildman, West Greene -- Ran three times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Also hit on two of his four passes for 49 yards and another score during the Pioneers' 70-14 win over Geibel.

RB Brennan McMinn, Carmichaels -- Spelling starter Josh Mundell, McMinn had a big night, carrying 11 times for 211 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Just for good measure, he added one on a punt return during the Mikes' 56-21 win over Bentworth. 

RB Grant Fetchett, South Fayette -- The Lions aren't generally thought of as a running team, but Fetchet has been consistently productive all season, including his 18-140-1TD night against South Park.

RB Darius Hays, Bentworth -- In a losing effort, yes, but Hays ran for 139 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries to lead Bentworth against Carmichaels.

WR Nic Santoyo, Jefferson-Morgan -- Scored three touchdowns three different ways: a rushing score, a long reception and on an interception return. That gives him six TDs in his past two games.

Team of the week: Jefferson-Morgan
The Rockets (5-2, 6-2) pretty much locked up the No. 2 seed in the Class A Tri-County South with Friday's 48-14 win at Mapletown. Figure, J-M, Carmichaels and Frazier all have two conference losses; J-M beat Carmichaels and Frazier. And all three play teams they at least should beat the final week of the season. WR Nic Santoyo has six TDs the past two weeks, and RB Dustin Conti will almost certainly eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this week against Geibel.

Runner-Up: Beth-Center
That Week 7 loss to Frazier surely wasn't much fun, but it didn't prove to be all that costly either as the Bulldogs secured the Tri-County South title, their second straight. They also did it by rushing for seven touchdowns: four by Stay; two by Matt Riggle and one from Cody Durant. Oh, and QB Gino Faieta completed 12 of 21 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, helping Beth-Center score 40 or more points for the fourth time this season.

Game of the week: Keystone Oaks 28, McGuffey 21
McGuffey fought back from a 14-0 deficit and later tied it at 21 on a 3-yard run from quarterback Nathan Whipkey with 1 minute, 3 seconds to play. Overtime up next, right? Wrong. KO drove 54 yards on five plays and scored with 11 seconds, ending McGuffey's hopes of a playoff berth.

(Quick story because I know this sucks for the players: My senior year of high school -- at Brentwood, in 2001 -- we upset Jeannette, a team that was ranked in the state and had plenty more than our measly 25 players in Class AA. We were atop the Century Conference, then we blew it against Southmoreland and had to beat North Catholic or have South Park lose -- I believe -- in Week 9 to get in. We lost to North Catholic and found out as we were walking back to locker room that South Park won a game it shouldn't have won. No more playoffs. Never even had a 10th game scheduled. Season over. Definitely strikes an emotional chord to see something like that vanish so quickly.)

Hot and cold (three of each):
South Fayette -- Brett Brumbaugh at least looked human Friday night, completing 10 of 22 passes for 141 yards, two touchdowns and -- gulp -- and interception during a 42-0 win over South Park. But the Lions (7-0, 8-0) sure don't look beatable. At least not easily anyway.
Monessen -- Ever since that 52-7 loss to Clairton, man, Monessen has been lights out. Crazy to think Clairton is 45 points better than a top 5 team in Class A.
Wash High -- Surprised the Prexies beat Freeport? Not at all. That they won, 60-6? Against a team that was 6-1? Very impressive stuff.

McGuffey -- The Highlanders could've made this coming Friday's game at Steel Valley a win-and-in. Instead, they lost to a winless Keystone Oaks team.
Ringgold -- Losing to undefeated West Mifflin was understandable. Maybe even Elizabeth Forward, which has undergone a serious resurgence. But Friday's 14-7 loss to Highlands had to hurt.
Peters Township -- Yes, I know the losses have been to Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon and Woodland Hills, but dropping three of four isn't exactly a good way to avoid this section.

Quote of the week: "I'm so frustrated. I wanted to have a chance (to make the playoffs) next week," McGuffey coach Ed Dalton, whose team's playoff hopes were dashed by Keystone Oaks.

Weird stat of the week: This appeared in my high school football notebook in today's paper, but Shai McKenzie's numbers this season are crazy: 16 of 24 scores covering 25 or more yards; his average rushing TD covering 36.2 yards; and 869 of his WPIAL-best 1,578 yards have come on touchdown runs.

Looking ahead: Will avoid this section in deference to Bob's column as mentioned above. Be sure to look for it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ready for Week 8?

Some areas have battles for conference titles. Ha. We have Wash High and South Fayette making beelines toward the conference hardware -- with Beth-Center having the upper-hand in the Tri-County South, too -- and a whole heap of teams competing for final playoff spots.

That's the focus of my story in Friday's Observer-Reporter, essentially how nerve-racking this time of year can be with all the combinations, permutations, calculations, prognostications, all that stuff.

I talked to Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini about this yesterday. And for those who've never spoken to Rich, you're missing out. He's easily one of the most engaging, thoughtful and articulate coaches we have in this area. I asked him about the pressure of competing for the conference's final playoff spot this time of year.

"We try to have the same attitude all year," Piccinini said. "Does it always happen? No. I’d say it does get more high-stakes when it gets this late in the season. We’ve talked about the playoffs in the summer, but now we’re talking about what we need to do."

And with that in mind, here's what you need to know about Week 8.

Five to watch:

RB James Duchi, McGuffey -- C'mon now. Y'all predicted James Duchi would have more yards than Ringgold's Demetrius Louis or Beth-Center's Cody Durant, right? Duchi has come out of nowhere to carry a pretty heavy load; McGuffey doesn't have a 100-yard receiver, and Duchi averages 21 carries a game, gaining 948 yards and scoring six TDs.

QB Corey Owen, Peters Township -- After completing 10 of 12 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown last week, Peters Township may suddenly have a viable passing game to go with RB Mike Minjock. Indians still rotate Owen with R.J. Pfeuffer, but as Piccinini told me, "Corey Owen is a big-play player ... when he gets the opportunity. His passing has come on the past couple of weeks."

QB Chavas Rawlins, Monessen -- His impressive season kind of snuck up on me. Check this out: The WVU recruit has thrown for 818 yards and nine touchdowns against only three INTs. Has run for a team-high 353 yards and seven touchdowns on 63 attempts, an average of 5.6 yards per carry -- pretty good for a quarterback. Kinda makes you ignore the 42 percent (39 of 93) completion percentage.

RB/LB Jake Temple, Avella -- Two weeks ago, Jefferson-Morgan used more of Jesse Jento than it did Dustin Conti against Beth-Center, leaning on a more physical runner against the Bulldogs. Wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles follow suit. Temple (55-470-8TD) is a bruiser, and he'll need to have a big game on offense and defense for Avella to upset B-C.

WR Miles Williamson, Chartiers-Houston -- Monessen has plenty of playmakers, and Chartiers-Houston will need to counter with a few of its own. Enter Williamson. He'll have to make a couple fantastic grabs to help QB Kaleb Susko (55-100-835-7TD) build and keep his confidence in what will be a not-so-friendly environment.

Game to watch (other than the GOTW): Umm ...
Well, we didn't have a GOTW this week. There are a couple decent ones, but Jeannette/Wash High they are not. Excluding the game I'll be going to -- Chartiers-Houston at Monessen -- I think the most exciting one will probably be Woodland Hills at Peters Township. Very interested to see how Minjock (126-884-13TD) does against the Wolverines.

Avella at Beth-Center has potential, but I haven't seen a team that can play with B-C. (Remember, I haven't seen Frazier, which upset the Bulldogs last week.)

Team with the most to gain: McGuffey
This is from my conversation with Ed Dalton yesterday. Says darn near everything: For us, I think it’s exciting. We’re going to try and prove to people that we can do what everybody said we couldn’t do, which is make the playoffs." Yep, at this point McGuffey is pretty much playing with the house's money. Win out, get in, great. If not, as Dalton pointed out to me, the Highlanders weren't picked to finish above eight in most publications -- though I'd like to point out that I at least had them sixth ... and winless KO third. Whoops.

Team with the most to lose: Avella/Chartiers-Houston
A loss would pretty much eliminate both of these teams from playoff contention. Chartiers-Houston needs a win and a Brentwood loss at home to Bishop Canevin. Avella a win and then ... well, most likely Gardner Points considering five teams could conceivably finish 6-2 in the Tri-County South, 7-2 overall.

Sleeper pick of the weekend: Not sure if I see one this week. I think Fort Cherry could pull an upset of Imani Christian with the emergence of Garrett Whalen (31-260) and Dan Barley (14-121-4) running the ball. Imani has also been turnover prone, with quarter Khari Hicks throwing eight INTs the past two weeks.

I do think Char-Houston has a chance at Monessen, but the Bucs will certainly have to play their best game of the year. When I saw Monessen earlier this year at Brentwood, Spartans RB Justin Vickless had success against the Greyhounds running straight ahead; will be interesting to see if Char-Houston tries the same thing with Jevone Hairston and David Kincaid.

Week 8 stats/plan

Will be following this post with my usual preview one, either later tonight or early tomorrow morning.

But here's the list of statistical leaders that will run in Friday's Observer-Reporter, as well as our coverage plan for Friday night:

Rushing Leaders
1. Shai McKenzie, Was 109-1,322-20
2. Josh Mundell, Carm 92-980-14
3. James Duchi, McG 148-948-6
4. Mike Minjock, PT 126-884-13
5. Dustin Conti, J-M 94-853-10
6. Demetrius Louis, Ring 56-734-9
7. Koltan Kobrys, FC 104-731-3
8. Cody Durant, B-C 69-665-9
9. Patrick Frey, Trinity 109-640-8
10. Nick Kusich, Avella 79-535-7

Passing Leaders
1. Brett Brumbaugh, SF 92-133-1,803-28
2. Kaleb Susko, C-H 55-100-835-7
3. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 39-93-818-9
4. Santino Paris, Avella 37-83-708-6
5. Gino Faieta, B-C 47-87-659-4
6. Kevin Ridgley, Map 35-67-540-6
7. Brennan Matthews, Char 42-78-501-5
8. Matt Heslin, FC 40-74-480-8
9. Don McWreath, Trin 21-61-455-4
10. Tyler Bowman, J-M 14-33-429-5

Receiving Leaders
1. Zach Challingsworth, SF 33-768-10
2. Zach Thompson, Avella 18-460-5
3. Clintell Gillespie, Mon 16-468-5
4. Justin Watson, SF 19-405-7
5. Jordan Griffin, Map 23-368-3
6. Eric Johnson, Char 22-322-1
7. Conner Beck, SF 18-319-2
8. Miles Williamson, C-H 19-306-4
9. Anthony Gilpin, B-C 14-305-4
10. Garrett Vulcano, C-H 16-287-3

Scoring Leaders
1. Shai McKenzie, Was 21-8-0-134
2. Josh Mundell, Carm 15-18-0-108
3. Mike Minjock, PT 15-0-0-90
T-4. Matt Riggle, B-C 11-0-0-66
T-4. Zach Challingsworth, SF 11-0-0-66
5. Demetrius Louis, Ring 10-4-0-64
T-6. Jake Temple, Avella 10-0-0-60
T-6. Dustin Conti, J-M 10-0-0-60
T-6. Cody Durant, B-C 10-0-0-60
7. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 9-2-0-56

Chartiers-Houston (3-4, 3-4) at Monessen (6-1, 6-1), 7 p.m. -- Mackey
The story: Chartiers-Houston has had its back against the wall for two weeks now, and the Bucs have won both games. Much, much tougher test this week. Count on some scoreboard watching: The Bucs need a win and a Brentwood loss, and the Spartans host Bishop Canevin on Friday.

Woodland Hills (4-2, 5-2) at Peters Township (3-3, 4-3), 7:30 p.m. -- Matt Shetler
The story: As of now, the Indians are in with the No. 5 spot in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, but they also don't want to sacrifice seeding or squander that spot to Penn Hills, which is also 3-3 in the conference. Tough game against a traditional power in Class AAAA.

West Mifflin at Trinity, 7:30 p.m. -- Kevin Jacobsen
The story: Trinity can really make a mess of the Class AAA Big Nine Conference with a win here. It's also a possible trap game for the Titans, who play at Thomas Jefferson next week. Hillers can clinch the No. 3 seed with a win and a Ringgold loss; otherwise it comes down to the Week 9 meeting between those two teams.

Keystone Oaks at McGuffey, 7:30 p.m. -- Joe Tuscano
The story: McGuffey, which is 2-16 the past two years, has a legitimate shot at a playoff spot. The Highlanders (2-4, 3-4) need to beat winless KO and then win at Steel Valley (4-2, 4-3) next week. Oh, and South Park needs to lose to Seton-La Salle and South Fayette the last two weeks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soccer brackets released

The WPIAL soccer brackets were released today. Here's a list of where our teams will be playing in the first round.

Reminder to look for more in tomorrow's Observer-Reporter.

Class A Boys
Bethworth vs. Riverside, Monday Oct. 22, 6 p.m., at Ringgold
Beth-Center vs. Serra Catholic, Monday, Oct. 22, 6 p.m., at Peters Township
California vs. Sewickley Academy, Monday, Oct. 22 , 6 p.m., at Quaker Valley

Class AA Boys
South Fayette vs. McGuffey, Monday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., at McGuffey
Waynesburg vs. West Allegheny, Monday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., at West Allegheny

Class AAA Boys
Peters Township, bye, quarterfinals Thursday, Oct. 25 vs. Seneca Valley/Mt. Lebanon winner, at Peters Township
Canon-McMillan vs. Central Catholic, Monday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., at Peters Township
Ringgold vs. Franklin Regional, Monday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., at Ringgold

Class A Girls
Chartiers-Houston vs. Greensburg CC, Saturday, Oct. 20, 4 p.m., at Yough
Charleroi vs. Springdale, Saturday, Oct. 20, 4 p.m., at Gateway
Bentworth vs. Shady Side Academy, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2 p.m., at Penn-Trafford

Class AA Girls

Class AAA Girls
Peters Township, bye, quarterfinals Wednesday, Oct. 24 vs. Fox Chapel/Hampton winner, at Peters Township
Canon-McMillan vs. Penn-Trafford, Saturday, Oct. 20, 4 p.m., at Penn-Trafford

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

C-H's Susko emerges as top passer

I remember being at Chartiers-Houston this summer -- post Gyro Place lunch, of course -- and talking to head coach Terry Fetsko about his first-year quarterback, junior Kaleb Susko.

Susko was replacing Danny Lis, who did it all for the Bucs. (That's not me filling space: The kid had more than two times as many carries as anybody else.) But Fetsko had a very good feeling about Susko. Like any first-year quarterback, Fetsko knew he'd take his lumps. Eventually, though, a pretty darn good passer would emerge.

With a 1,000-yard season on the horizon, I'm willing to say that has happened.

Susko has completed 55 of 100 passes for 835 yards and seven touchdowns entering Friday's game at Monessen, which the Bucs (3-4 Class A Black Hills, 3-4 overall) need to win to keep hope alive for the playoffs.

"In some ways I think he's exceeded expectations. In other ways maybe not as much," Fetsko said. "Overall, he’s doing extremely well."

One ugly spot is Susko's nine interceptions, but remember that three of those came against Clairton, another three against Imani Christian. Nearly all of them have been because Susko forced a pass, not wanting to use his legs to make a play.

"He was trying to make something out of nothing, which a lot of quarterbacks like to do," Fetsko said. "Sometimes it worked for him, and other times it didn’t; he was forcing the ball into some places where he could have made a little better decision -- either throw it away or run."

Fetsko said they've been working with Susko the past few weeks on his decision-making, to essentially encourage him to run more and worry about having to throw the ball less.

"The last few games we’ve been trying to concentrate on what to do with the ball when the pocket breaks down or the route or pattern is not there or didn’t develop," Fetsko said. "He’s starting to pull the ball down, run a little bit and make something happen with his feet. Or even throwing the ball away when needed.

"That’s something he’s come a long way with the past two or three games."

Susko ranked second before last Friday's games in my Washington and Greene County top 10 leaders, second only to South Fayette's Brett Brumbaugh. Will be doing stats on Thursday, but I'm willing to bet his 6-10-123-2TD night during a 34-7 win at California will keep him in that spot.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Week 7 wrap

So this much we know after Week 7:

*Ringgold misses RB Demetrius Louis. The Rams were without Louis for last week's win over Albert Gallatin because of a groin injury, though others pitched in to beat a winless AG team. Against Elizabeth Forward this week, Louis left early, and Ringgold's running game suffered. With what's shaping up to be a pivotal home game in Week 9 against Trinity, the Rams most certainly will be hoping for a speedy recovery.

*McGuffey ain't out of it. The Highlanders -- who uploaded flash mob video to YouTube that's absolutely hilarious; look closely to see head coach Ed Dalton dancing -- face winless Keystone Oaks this week and Steel Valley next. If SV loses Friday to South Allegheny, who's 5-1, that will take care of one of the two teams in front, making that Week 9 game a must-win, control-your-own-destiny type of deal. The other in McGuffey's way is South Park (3-3 in the Class AA Century Conference), and the Eagles close with Seton-La Salle and South Fayette. No wonder they're dancing in the streets -- er, gym -- in Claysville.

*Avella needs a win this week. Bad. Two weeks ago, the Eagles were flying high: rocking a 5-0 start, getting some New York Times ink. But after losses to Frazier and Carmichaels, Avella's playoff hopes are on life-support. Check this out:

>>Four teams make it. Right now the standings are: Beth-Center 6-1; Frazier 5-2; Avella 4-2; Carmichaels 4-2; Jefferson-Morgan 4-2. If Avella loses, that drops them to 4-3. By assuming a win next week at Bentworth (1-5 in the TCS), Avella would finish 5-3.

>>Beth-Center closes with Avella and Vincentian; Frazier closes with Vincentian and Mapletown; Carmichaels closes with Bentworth and West Greene; Jefferson-Morgan closes with Mapletown and Geibel. Of those eight opponents, nobody besides Avella has more than two conference wins.

>>If things fall according to chalk, we're looking at:

Beth-Center 8-1 -- Assuming a win over Avella this week
Jefferson-Morgan 6-2 -- Beat Frazier/Carmichaels, losses to Avella/B-C
Carmichaels 6-2 -- Beat Frazier, lost to J-M
Frazier 6-2 --  Losses to Carmichaels and J-M, beat B-C
Avella 5-3 -- Losses to B-C, Frazier and Carmichaels, beat J-M

DISCLAIMER: This is all in theory ... which means that 14 things nobody expected will probably happen the next two weeks. That, to me, is what makes high school football so fun.

Game balls, 10 of 'em:

QB Corey Owen, Peters Township -- Ran for two touchdowns while also completing 10 of 12 passes for 244 yards and a 9-yard touchdown to Mike Erenberg during a 42-28 loss to Mt. Lebanon.

RB/WR/P/KR/PR/DB Corey Hunsberger, Trinity -- Do-it-all kid had eight touches for 130 rushing/receiving yards and a pair of scores during the Hillers' 26-13 win over Uniontown.

QB Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette -- I should probably just copy/paste this name every week. Went 9 of 10 for 221 yards and six TDs during the Lions' 68-0 pasting of Riverside. Maybe next week, for a challenge, he'll throw left-handed.

RB James Duchi, McGuffey -- Highlanders' workhorse had 29 carries for 165 yards and two TDs during a 31-12 win over Burgettstown, keeping the team's playoff hopes alive. Did not receive an evaluation of his flash mob performance.

RB Shai McKenzie, Washington -- See Brumbaugh, Brett. Think it's under "dominance." And this might have been McKenzie's best game yet: 28 for 295 and three during a 34-14 win at Mt. Pleasant that clinched the Class AA Interstate Conference title.

DB Irvin Green, Monessen -- Had two interceptions, including one at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter to propel the Greyhounds to a 17-12 win over Imani Christian. Overall, Monessen had four picks.

QB Dalton Wildman, West Greene -- Running mostly out of the Wildcat, had 21 carries for 221 yards and two TDs. Added 31 yards and another touchdown through the air during West Greene's 42-8 win over Mapletown.

RB Josh Mundell, Carmichaels -- Powered the Mikes to a 42-14 win at Avella by running 17 times for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Has shot up the rushing charts, too, with 92 carries for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns through seven weeks.

Wash High defense -- Three picks of Mt. Pleasant QB Ryan Gumbita, including two by Mijerean Witcher. Also sacked Gumbita three times, two by DaRon Whitaker. Limited Tyler Mellors to 66 yards on 12 carries. Huge statement by the undefeated Prexies.

Carmichaels OL -- Helped the Mikes run for 353 yards as a team during Friday's win over Avella. Also, as my boss, Chris Dugan wrote, this was a little different look this week, which the O-line handled splendidly. Much credit to TE Nick Matter, LT Michael Mitchell, LG Joel Peker, C Sam Penich, RG Luke Moskal, RT Ty Metcalf and TE Mike Blasinsky.

Team of the week: Wash High
Prexies (7-0, 7-0) clinched the Class AA Interstate Conference title with perhaps their best performance of the season during a 34-14 win at Mt. Pleasant. Shai McKenzie shouldered a heavy load, the defense harassed Vikings QB Ryan Gumbita into three sacks and three INTs, and Wash High held Mt. Pleasant RB Tyler Mellors to 96 yards below his season average. Also without a TD after Mellors had scored 16 in six games prior.

Runner-Up: Carmichaels

I know some expected Carmichaels to knock off Avella, but who thought the Mikes would pile up 353 rushing yards and score 32 points in the second quarter en route to a 42-14 win. Josh Mundell was huge, as you read above, and overall Carmichaels has won four straight since a 35-6 loss at Beth-Center in Week 3.

Game of the week: Tie
Why's there a tie? Well, there were only two games this week decided by single digits -- yes, seriously -- Monessen/Imani Christian and Beth-Center/Frazier. Why split hairs? Imani Christian was driving late, but Irvin Green thwarted the drive. QB Chavas Rawlins was also 9 of 19 for 165 yards and TD. In the other game, Charles Manack found Jamie Fell for their third scoring hookup of the day with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter to push the Commodores ahead. It snapped a 16-game winning streak for Beth-Center in the Tri-County South, one that stretched back to a 20-6 loss at Monessen on Oct. 8, 2010.

Hot and cold (three of each):
Monessen -- Greyhounds continue to bounce back from that Clairton loss. Defense has been impressive, too. Four picks this week. Four D/SPT scores last week.
Carmichaels -- Ssshhh. Don't say anything. Mikes have won four in a row and are peaking at the right time.
Wash High -- See above. Prexies are rolling. Plain and simple.

Avella -- Two losses in a row, a trip to Beth-Center Friday. Yikes.
Mapletown -- Maples were down to their third string QB during a lopsided loss to West Greene on Friday.
Beth-Center -- Not cold so much as frustrated. That 21-14 loss to Frazier hurt.

Quote of the week: Gonna go with something I didn't print from my game Friday. "I’m the happiest guy in town tonight, and my kids can feel good about this," Wash High coach Mike Bosnic on Friday night, a smile plastered on his face. 

Weird stat of the week: Jefferson-Morgan wide receiver Nic Santoyo had three carries during a 48-6 win over Vincentian, and those were probably all he needed ... as he scored on every one, three TDs totaling 50 yards.

Looking ahead: Not exactly an uncommon theme for Week 8, but there will be a whole bunch of teams trying to claw their way into the playoffs.

Chartiers-Houston, Avella, McGuffey, Trinity, Peters Township and Ringgold all have games that could drastically alter their playoff hopes ... or crush them entirely.

The Bucs are in the third week of their own playoff season; see above for information on Avella, which has to win at Beth-Center; ditto for McGuffey; Trinity welcomes West Mifflin with the chance at the No. 2 spot in the Class AAA Big Nine, as the Titans play at Thomas Jefferson next week; Ringgold, which clinched a spot on Friday despite losing at Elizabeth Forward, would like to hop over Trinity and into the No. 2 spot; and Peters Township is battling Woodland Hills for the No. 4 spot and trying to fend off Penn Hills (also 3-3) for the No. 5 slot in the Class AAAA Southeastern Conference.

While we're not exactly crowning conference champions here, it should be a fairly impactful week when talking about playoffs.