Friday, August 29, 2014

Week One Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Different players, same system for Mount Pleasant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week One filled with big matc ups in WPIAL football

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

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

Nothing is guaranteed except a fresh start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Comcast announces HS Game of the Week schedule

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

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

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

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

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

Xfinity High School Sports Game of the Week Schedule 2014

August 29 – Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson

September 5 – Gateway at West Mifflin

September 12 – Beaver at Beaver Falls

September 19 – Seton-LaSalle at Steel Valley

September 26 – Kiski at Plum

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

October 17 – Peters Township at Bethel Park

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

November 7 – WPIAL Quarterfinals

November 14 – WPIAL Semifinals.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thoughts on South Fayette/Canon-McMillan scrimmage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wash High's West breaks hand in scrimmage

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Prexies flex muscles in 2014 debut

The word out of Wash High is the Prexies looked dominant against Uniontown last Saturday in the team’s first preseason scrimmage.

The offense looked unstoppable with large gains coming every play. I can’t say that I’m surprised. With a two-pronged attack in the backfield featuring senior Malik Wells and junior Jordan West, a team like Uniontown does not stand a chance.

The one thing the Prexies will need to do is pass the ball with consistency. Being a one-dimensional team can win a conference, but a WPIAL title in Class AA will require a passing attack that can keep defenses 

Wash High has the potential with several speedy receivers who can turn a five-yard catch into a 20-yard gain. I did hear that the defense seemed out of synch in its first scrimmage, but that’s normal. Assignments will be fine-tuned in the Prexies’ second scrimmage Friday night against Albert Gallatin.

The one advantage this team has is its offensive line, which is extremely deep. Mount Pleasant also excelled in its first action at game speed, but the road to the Interstate Conference title runs through Washington.
  •      The announcement of Quaker Valley senior quarterback Dane Jackson suffering an injury that will force him to miss at least the first three weeks of the season is good news for South Fayette. QV was a potential contender before the injury, but the Quakers face Keystone Oaks, South Park and South Allegheny in that span. I see them starting 0-2, which an insurmountable deficit with the Lions returning a ton of talent.
  •       Charleroi could be a sleeper in the Interstate Conference. New head coach Donnie Militzer has installed a spread offense that has a perfect technician in senior Matt Carr, who led the Cougars to victories at two passing camps this summer. Keep an eye out for junior tight end John Arnold, who stands at 6-9 and weighs 255 pounds. If he can be taught the finer points of the position, Arnold could be a nightmare in the red zone for opposing defenses.
  •        Beth-Center opens with Mapletown next Friday, which could be the Bulldogs’ best test of the season. The Maples have their best team in years that for a Class A program, is deep on the line and has proven players back. I still pick Beth-Center to win the Tri-County South with ease.
  •       Monessen and Charleroi scrimmage Friday night, which is one of the WPIAL’s oldest matchups. Can we please have this as a regular season game? As is the case with other teams in week two scrimmages, both will be playing plenty of freshman, which kills the buzz of the matchup. It should still make for a great atmosphere.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trinity searching for answers as season draws close

There are plenty of question marks surrounding Trinity’s roster. Head coach Ryan Coyle is extremely pleased with the play of senior tackle Aaron Britton and junior center Toby Cullings, but the rest of the offensive line has room for improvement.

In the Big Nine conference where defenses are blitz-happy, the Hillers won’t have much room for error. Having one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the WPIAL will help their cause.

Senior Forrest Cullings (6-3, 200) received rave reviews from several coaches I’ve spoken to who saw Cullings perform at 7-on-7 camps this summer. Cullings is mobile and has an incredible command of Trinity’s offense. His athleticism alone will keep Trinity in games.

The receivers are solid with seniors Nick Moretti and Zach Cain. While they don’t possess the speed of Ringgold’s receivers, they are possession guys who will help Trinity move the chains.

Running back should be one of the team’s strengths with Sam Trapuzzano and Robert West receiving the bulk of the carries. Trapuzzano is one of the WPIAL’s best kickers and is the Hillers’ verbal leader on defense, but he can also help an offense that struggled with consistency in 2013.

Like the offense, Trinity’s defense has its strength in the secondary, but there are spots to fill at linebacker and linemen need to step up to compliment Britton and Toby Cullings.

It’s going to be an uphill battle for the Hillers. They open with Belle Vernon at home, which will be greatly improved and returns a bulk of its roster. Trinity should defeat Laurel Highlands in week two and the rest is a toss-up.

If they can find some quality pass rushers and the line fills out to Coyle’s liking, Trinity could make a push in the Big Nine conference. There are parts of the team that will flash brilliance and others that will be frustrating to watch.

The Hillers struggled on defense in their first scrimmage against Moon. That has to change if they want to rebound from a 1-8 season.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week two scrimmage schedule for local teams

Week one of football scrimmages is in the books and coaches have finally gotten to see their teams against live competition. With the season just 12 days away, there is much to be decided for the bulk of local teams.

Here is a schedule of week two scrimmages set for Friday night, except for California:

Peters Township at Thomas Jefferson, 6 p.m.

South Fayette at Canon-McMillan, 6 p.m.

Albert Gallatin at Wash High, 6 p.m.

South Park at Ringgold, 6 p.m.

Trinity at Steel Valley, 6 p.m.

McGuffey at Uniontown, 6 p.m.

Burgettstown at Carlynton, 6 p.m.

Jefferson-Morgan at Southmoreland, 6:30 p.m.\

Beth-Center at Brownsville, 7 p.m.

Charleroi at Monessen, 7 p.m.

Carmichaels at Waynesburg, 7 p.m.

Wilkinsburg at Fort Cherry, 6 p.m.

Brentwood at Bentworth, 7 p.m.

Chartiers-Houston at West Greene, 7 p.m.

Vincentian at Mapletown, 7 p.m.

California at Northgate, Saturday at 10 a.m.

Serra Catholic at Avella, 6 p.m.

Ringgold looking to compete for Big Nine title

Chacar Berry
For the better part of a decade, Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin have dominated the Big Nine conference, formerly known as the Big Eight.

The two schools have developed top level talent at a tremendous clip and have left conference rivals searching for answers.

Ringgold head coach Nick Milchovich may have the recipe to upset the order of things.

The Rams return Nico Law at quarterback, who recently picked up his for scholarship offer from Ohio 
University. Law became the WPIAL’s latest 1,000-1,000 quarterback in 2013 and threw for 14 touchdowns.

He will thrive in Milchovich’s and will get the chance to flash his pocket presence and understanding of the passing game.

Junior running back Chacar Berry rushed for almost 600 yards last year and scored 15 touchdowns. One player to look out for is freshman Brenden Small, who some are calling the best incoming freshman back in decades.

After Milchovich was named head coach, he watched film on the Rams’ 2013 season and was impressed by the play of wide receivers Alan Pritchett and Dayshore Majors. With the two lost to graduation, the coaching staff was concerned about depth at the position.

Those concerns have turned into excitement after the emergence of seniors Brandon Thomas, Jake Gerard and Luke Baldesberger in summer camp.

The offensive line is what will make this offense deadly. Senior left tackle Anthony Martin is back from injury. The two guards will be junior Daylen Penn and sophomore Gage Ivory, while senior Eric Higgs will start at center and senior Bobby Duda gets the nod at right tackle.

The group averages almost 300 pounds, which will compete with any line in the conference. With a defense led by junior linebacker Connor Gary and senior defensive end Aaron Szakal, Ringgold is loaded on both sides of the ball.

The Rams will be tested quickly as they open the season at Thomas Jefferson. A win over TJ on opening night will say a lot about Ringgold’s prospects. It’s unfortunate that the two teams play so early in the season.

My prediction: Ringgold finishes in second place behind TJ and will win a playoff game. Out of the 21 local teams, I believe the Rams will be the biggest surprise and will compete for a WPIAL Class AAA title.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Montecalvo retiring as C-M athletic director

Guy Montecalvo
For the second time in four years, Guy Montecalvo has retired.

The 30-year coaching veteran who led Wash High to a state title in 2001 and two WPIAL titles is retiring as athletic director at Canon-McMillan. He stepped down as head football coach in 2010 after leading the Big Macs to four playoff appearances in seven seasons.

At Wash High, his teams reached the WPIAL playoffs in 21 of 30 seasons, he won Washington-Greene County Coach of the Year 11 times, led the girls track team to a state title in 1996 and won two WPIAL boys track titles in three years.

The second all-time winningest coach in Washington County history, Montecalvo will walk away from high school athletics. You can find the whole story on the Observer-Reporter’s website here.

Here are a few quotes from Montecalvo that did not get into the story. Also, don’t count out seeing Montecalvo return to the sidelines sometime soon. He has not ruled out coaching again.
  •          On leaving his post: “That’s what I’m going to miss because I have become deeply entrenched in all of our sports here. It’s jubilation when we are successful and it’s disappointment and depression whenever we aren’t. I tried to become invested in all of our programming and that’s what made it so enjoyable. Once I got out of coaching four years ago, I was able to become even more involved with our other sports. It’s not like I’m just leaving one sport, I’m leaving a lot of coaches and kids behind. You think that you’d like to stay one more year because these guys are going to be seniors, but that happens every year. “
  •           On what influenced his career: “As far as what molded me, it started with my parents. I was blessed to have a tremendous mom and dad who were so strong with their values and the things they taught my sister and I. They were really humanistic parents and that probably started it. Having the opportunity to have the experience of playing and coaching for Coach Paterno  had a great impact on my philosophy and methodology with how I did things.”
  •       The decision: “Leaving track coaching when I became an athletic director was very difficult. I love track & field as much as I love football. Leaving that was tough and leaving football was even tougher. I’m not looking at this as a sense of finality in the athletic domain and it’s something I’ve wrestled with for over a year. I feel like maybe an opportunity to do something in some other way may come along some time down the road, but that remains to be seen.”
  •      Coaching again: “I would leave the door open to something like that. I actually had a couple job opportunities in the spring with football that I had to turn down because of my obligations, but it would have to be the right situation and it would have to be close enough. “

·         Another great story involves a Wash High athletics banquet a few weeks ago. Montecalvo brought Canon-McMillan assistant principal Heath Bailey, who played basketball at Robert Morris and coached at Wilkinsburg. He wanted to show Bailey what the Washington community is all about….” I've been telling him how the Washington community is just a little different than most communities with the demographic makeup that they have. He came to that banquet and I know he was awestruck by the genuine love and support that the community members - whether they be someone in a job where they make a lot of money or someone who lives in relative poverty - how they become one over athletics. I told (Bailey) how unique it was and after he experienced that, he marveled at the uniqueness of the community and their support of their teams and their love one another.”

What others are saying:
“We always had a great working relationaship. He really would set us up for basketball season because you could always count on him getting the kinds in shape and in a winning tradition mode. When they came in to basketball the work on that end was easy.”
-Ron Faust, Wash High boys basketball coach

“He’s definitely through in everything he does. One of the things people don’t know about Mr. Montecalvo is he wasn’t a specialized athlete. He wasn an athlete who excelled in several different sports and his passion for different sports carried over to his job.”
-Frank Zebrasky, C-M baseball and girls basketball coach

“Canon-McMillan was very fortunate to have an athletic director like Guy Montecalvo. He will be truly missed. He had every coach’s bak and he had the best interest of all the sports and all the kids. The kids love him, my staff respected him and he was always visible.”
-Chris Mary, former C-M wrestling coach

“He’s a mentor to me through and through. He’s behind all of the programs and treats them equally. He’s taught me a lot of lessons. I never wanted to let him down. That’s the type of leder he is. He was always there for me, even through the bad times.”
-Michele Moeller, C-M softball coach

“Obviously his accolades and successes speak for themselves. It’s always nice as a head coach to have an athletic director that has head coaching experience. He was always understanding. I don’t think there’s any question that he will be missed.”
-Rick Bell, C-M boys basketball coach

“He is a very disciplined person and is a man of many words. Guy believes that you should be a man of your word and a man of character. If you coached with him, you understand that he expects the unexpected and always planned for it. There are few like him.”

-George Robinson, Montecalvo's assistant coach for 30 years

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Local football teams start scrimmaging Saturday

As WPIAL football teams wrap up the first week of camp, scrimmages will be taking place across the state on Saturday. Schools across all classifications get their first crack at live game action as they prepare for the season to begin Aug. 29.

Here's a schedule of Saturday scrimmages for the 21 local teams:

Baldwin at Ringgold, 10 a.m.

Montour at Peters Township, 10 a.m.

Seton-LaSalle at Canon-McMillan, 10 a.m.

Waynesburg at Albert Gallatin, 10 a.m.

Washington at Uniontown, 10 a.m.

South Fayette at Chartiers Valley, 10 a.m.

Moon at Trinity, 10 a.m.

Kittaning at Burgettstown, 10 a.m.

Carmichaels at Brownsville, 10 a.m.

Beth-Center at Charleroi, 10 a.m.

Tri-Scrimmage: Bentworth, Westinghouse at Wilkinsburg, 10 a.m.

Tri-Scrimmage: Springdale, California at Chartiers-Houston, 10 a.m.

Mapletown at Clay-Battelle (W.Va.), 10 a.m.

Monessen at Frazier, 10 a.m.

Fort Cherry at Jefferson-Morgan, 10 a.m.

West Greene at Cameron (W.Va.), 10 a.m.

Monday, August 11, 2014

South Fayette breaking in new receivers as camp progresses

The atmosphere at South Fayette Stadium is all business. The Lions lost seven starters on both sides of the ball after winning the state title, but do return a ton of talent.

Of course, Brett Brumbaugh is back. The WPIAL’s most accurate passer is ready to lead a team that lost Justin Watson and Conner Beck from last season. Those two were incredible down the stretch for the Lions and replacing that production won’t be easy.

Tight end Logan Sharp returns, which is huge for Brumbaugh and the offensive line, which lost three starters. Sharp caught 30 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. The top two receivers will likely be senior Roman Denson and senior Ryan Schmider.

Denson was expected to get more reps on offense last season, but lingering injuries prevented him from making an impact as a receiver. He is a prolific kick returner and is one of the top five defensive backs in the WPIAL. Denson is recovering from a serious ankle injury, but should be 100 percent by Aug. 29.

Meanwhile, Schmider caught 12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown last season. Preparing the two for the spotlight is one of Rossi’s main goals as camp progresses.

“Fortunately, we have the trigger man to get it done,” Rossi said. “You know the ball is going to be put in a place where it can be caught so it’s just a matter of teaching them how to run routes and we’ve seen some good things on film from the group so far. For our offense, those guys need to come on. Game experience will be key and we’ll go from there.”

Sharp will help ease a transition on the offensive line. Senior Anthony Davidson is the anchor with Zack Radinick and Jeremy Carter being the other helping to replace Zach Walker, Ben Berkovitz and Spencer Girman.

“We’ve got guys learning the system and the play calls,” Davidson said. “That’s where conditioning comes in. Even though we’re bigger, we have to get those guys in shape because we do no-huddle.”

The defense should be exceptional once again. J.J. Walker, the team’s leading tackler, returns at linebacker and Schmider will be on the outside. That leaves two spots open and the secondary is led by Denson and junior Hunter Hayes.

Denson missed the state title game with the ankle injury and Hayes stepped up in a big way. That bodes well as the team will have two solid corners to work with and a pass rush that will help create some turnovers.

“We aren’t the biggest kids, but we love to hit,” Walker said of the defense. “We’re physical. Everyone is in on the ball on every play. Everyone does their part. We play smart and everyone is always attacking to the ball. We fly to it.”

The Lions open the season Aug. 29 at home against East Allegheny. Can they avoid the hangover that looms over championship teams with a target on their back?

“Nothing is given, we have to earn everything,” Davidson said. “Every team is going to be coming for us and if we don’t go out there with the mentality to crush every team we face and not let anyone in the game, we can find ourselves struggling because there are some tough teams in our conference this year. We can’t have the state champ hangover.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Camp notes: Wash High

Junior tight end Nate Swart
Did any WPIAL football team endure more adversity in 2013 than Wash High?

Between its star running back suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week Three to the courtroom nonsense in the latter part of the season, the Prexies had every reason to buckle, but that doesn't happen at Wash High.

Malik Wells and Jordan West filled in admirably for Shai McKenzie, and the team finished second in the Interstate Conference behind Mt. Pleasant. The Prexies lost in the first round of the Class AA playoffs to Seton-La Salle, 35-27.

Much is different about the team in 2014 and conference realignment has changed the landscape of the Interstate with the additions of McGuffey and Burgettstown. Like every football program in the WPIAL, Wash High faces questions as it prepares to open the season Aug. 29 against Derry Area.

One thing that is not a question is the leadership on Wash High's team and a coaching staff that rivals any in Western Pennsylvania. This senior class may not feature a player of McKenzie's notoriety, but the group has experience and like Prexies teams of the past, possess tremendous size and speed.

I went to practice Wednesday afternoon for day one of heat acclimation and here are some observations:

Linemen: There aren't many lines in Class AA that have the brute strength and size of Wash High's. Finally, Zach Blystone is eligible to play in games and will be the leader of the group. Led by the Division I prospect, this line will intimidate some of its opponents when they step off the bus.

Look for Khalid Blount to open eyes this season and the best thing about this group is depth. They have numbers and all of the intangibles to pave the way for Wells, West and the Prexies' passing game.

Secondary: An early good luck to anyone who tries to rely on the pass when playing Wash High. Wells and West are shutdown corners, while DeQuay Isbell is seeing increased playing time at the position. Size, athleticism and experience across the board.

I'm harping on experience, but with roster turnover great at most schools, having players who received extended playing time is vastly underrated. The whole secondary returns besides Quorteze Levy.

Passing game: Wash High has built a reputation as a power running team that uses its strength to wear down defenses and control time of possession.

While Wells and West will get plenty of carries, look for the Prexies to pass more in 2014. With Nate Swart at tight end and a group of receivers that includes Isbell, Jarell Dates and Isaiah Perry, Spina will have the chance to stretch the defense.

Swart will create match up problems for opponents and Isbell's pure speed will be fun to watch. I'm curous to see how head coach Mike Bosnic utilizes his weapons on offense.

Running game: Wells and West rival any one-two punch in the WPIAL. Both are tremendous athletes and they have already demonstrated their ability to change games.

There aren't any questions about these two. Wells is receiving Division I interest and West, only a junior, will follow suit. The duo combined for 18 touchdowns in 2013 and without McKenzie, I expect that number to be higher this season.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Root Sports alters high school football broadcast schedule

High school football fans who enjoyed Root Sports' Thursday night doubleheaders are going to be awfully disappointed.

The network announced Tuesday that it will broadcast games Friday nights with games airing after Pirate games or on a delayed stream. A Week 2 match up between Pine-Richland and North Allegheny on Sept. 5 will be the first telecast.

Games will be picked one week ahead of time and the schedule will include seven regular-season broadcasts, as well as three playoff games and all four WPIAL championship games at Heinz Field on Nov. 21.

“Western Pennsylvania is home to the best High School Football programs in our country,” said Shawn McClintock, Senior Vice President & General Manager of ROOT SPORTS via a press release. “With such a large pool of talent and so many great match-ups to choose from every year, we’re looking forward to utilizing a flex schedule this season to enable us to bring more schools, more rivalries and more of that high school football experience and excitement to our viewers.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

Notes on Peters Township football as 2014 approaches

Marcus Ubinger
Peters Township has often been the victim of a tough regular season schedule. Playing in the toughest conference in Quad-A will have that effect, but the Indians are ready to embark on a potential landmark season in 2014.

Having one of the best quarterbacks in the state will aid that pursuit. Cory Owen has progressed significantly since his freshman season and has the intangibles to make those around him better. While a player like that is a significant piece for a team in the Southeastern Conference, many question marks surround Peters Township.

The team lost 22 starters and head coach Rich Piccinini is ready to put his new pieces to the test.

"That’s high school football," Piccinini said of the roster turnover. "That is a large number, especially when the majority are offensive linemen and at tight end, but you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt. We have some big, young kids. The only way to handle it is throw them in there and we watch them improve every week. There’s nothing more you can do beside putting them in, teaching them their assignments and watching them grow."

Wide receivers: Much can be made of the Indians losing Owen's top weapons from 2013, but two seniors are ready to take over as the top targets on offense.

Tim Swoope and Connor Freely will be the team's top wide outs. Both are tremendous athletes over multiple sports and possess the size to create match up problems for opposing defenses. The bigger question mark is at tight end where Max Augenstein was lost to graduation.

Owen believes his chemistry with the new starters is almost ready for opening night against Woodland Hills.

"Throughout plays and all of the 7-on-7’s over the summer, I think the patterns and all of that stuff will be ready by the season, if it isn’t right now," Owen said. "It’s there, but there are a couple things we need to glitch, the receivers need to glitch and I need to glitch. It’s all about improving."

Running back: Marcus Ubinger is gone and sophomore TJ Kpan steps in as the Indians' primary tailback. The offense is run-heavy and will rely on the young talent's ability to stretch the field. Kpan runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and benches over 300 pounds.

Kpan played sparingly as a freshman and is ready for taking the next step in Quad-A's most storied conference.

"I’m just here to play," Kpan said. "I’m  very excited and I feel like I’m very blessed to be given this opportunity. There aren’t many kids who get the opportunity as a freshman to come up and as a sophomore to be playing."

His combination of strength and quickness will be a perfect compliment to Owen, who will be asked to run the ball in spread situations. Kpan will also play defensive back and is primed for success on offense if the team's biggest wild card pans out.

Offensive line: Of the 22 starters the team lost from 2013, only Christian Phelps remains on the offensive and defensive lines. Peters Township will turn to underclassmen to block for its high-powered offense.

Camp does not start until next week so potential replacements are far from being sorted out, but Peters Township is confident in the group competing for spots on the offensive and defensive lines.

Piccinini is aware that an offense relying on the running game needs a steady offensive line to have success in Quad-A.

"We run the ball the majority of the game," Piccinini said. "It does set up our passing game. We run, run, run. If we are moving the ball, we'll run all game. I don't care how often we pass and most importantly, (Owen) doesn't care how often we pass. All that matters is winning games."