Monday, October 13, 2014


For those of you who have this link bookmarked on your computer, I'll be moving all future posts to the Observer-Reporter's website.

There are no paywall limitations for the blog section, so don't worry about being able to access. The system simply looks better and there is some customization I'll be working on in the near future to make the Varsity Letters blog even better.

You can find the link here ---   . You'll have to copy and paste the URL into your browser then bookmark away. For some reason, it's not letting me create a simple link for you guys to follow.

You will find all future posts, including my latest one on Wash High's win over New Brighton Friday night.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading since I revived the blog last December. Feel free to shoot me an email at with any questions, concerns or suggestions.

Stay Classy,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quick Hits: Peters Township in a must-win situation

The Southeastern Conference has become everything we expected. The top three teams are set – Woodland Hills, Penn Hills and Mt. Lebanon. The fifth spot is wide open. Well, sort of.

Peters Township (1-4, 2-4) is in contention after a victory over Canon-McMillan, but so are two other teams. Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park are in position to grab the four and fifth spots unless the unexpected happens.

That would include USC losing to Canon-McMillan and Peters Township upsetting Bethel Park in Week 8. We can’t even have that discussion unless the Indians defeat Baldwin this week.

Peters Township and the Highlanders face off Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Baldwin was the talk of the WPIAL throughout the preseason with 6-8 lineman Sterling Jenkins, a Penn State recruit. The buzz has not translated on the field.

Baldwin is averaging just 16 points per game and its defense is allowing over 37. That does not translate to wins. Peters Township is a different story. This team has a lot of talent, but much of it is young. Quarterback Cory Owen gives the Indians a chance to win every game and there is some great leadership on both sides of the ball.

We can't forget about the wild card spot in either. There is a somewhat complicated system to determine the fifth spot in Class AAA and Quad-A. Here it is:

To determine the wild-card teams, the following system is used:
All potential qualifiers and tiebreakers will be based on the results of the following games:

  •        Northern Eight Conference –7 Conference games + 1 game vs. Southeastern Conference
  •         Southeastern Conference – 7 Conference games + 1 game vs. Northern Eight Conference
  •         Foothills Conference – 8 section games

1.       Overall record of the 8 games defined above.
a.       If three teams are tied, head-to-head competition is applied, but only in the remote possibility that a team from the Northern Eight Conference played and defeated the teams in the Southeastern Conference and 3 that they are tied with for either third or sixth place.
b.   If there is a tie, you go with the Gardner Point System for the games above.
c. If that doesn't work, go with the WPIAL point differential system, which is a maximum of 10 for a win and 10 for a loss. (If you beat a team 14-8, you get eight points. If you lose 14-7, you lose 7)
d. If you still have a tie, you do it the old fashion way - flip a coin.

Peters Township can't think about the Wild Card. No team should consider it. That formula is too diverse to map that out. All teams can do is keep on winning.

It's going to be exciting to see how Peters Township responds on Friday. Their playoff hopes can last one more week if chips fall the right way.

South Fayette at Sto-Rox

The Vikings are the one of the saddest story in the WPIAL this season. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but the mishap that placed the program in Class AA has been crippling.

The team is low on numbers and experience. The great senior class that led Sto-Rox to Heinz Field is gone and so is its head coach. That has not stopped the Vikings from starting some friendly trash talk with South Fayette at the beginning of the season.

We’ll get to see if they back it up Friday night.  Joe Rossi and company are well-aware that 
Seton-LaSalle and Quaker Valley are left on the schedule. Those are far from lay-up games, so don’t expect SF to overlook Sto-Rox.

Another blow out and an appearance by the Lions’ junior varsity squad is very likely.

Waynesburg at Southmoreland

Can the Raiders continue this year’s feel good story in Class AA? The short answer is yes. Waynesburg must defeat the Scotties Friday to secure a playoff spot and I see that happening.

They are too strong up front and Hunter Cenname is too deadly of a weapon for Southmoreland to stop. The Scotties had high expectations entering the season, but they have struggled heavily since almost losing to Charleroi in Week 1.

I have yet to receive an update on John Glen Davis’ status for this week, but even without him, I like Waynesburg to win and make the playoffs. The Raiders are too good of a team to miss the playoffs again.

Chartiers-Houston at Brentwood

While people will be keeping their eyes peeled for how Avonworth handles North Catholic, the Bucs have a shot to make the postseason in the Black Hills Conference. C-H has won games with a great defensive effort and by playing great on special teams.

If the Bucs could find more consistency on offense, they’d be a force to reckon with. Beating Brentwood would secure a playoff spot, which would definitely make Terry Fetsko happy. I’m sure he doesn’t want his playoff hopes resting on the Week 9 game against Fort Cherry for the second straight year.

Avella at Beth-Center

The Bulldogs are on a roll. The Eagles just had a dominating victory over Wilkinsburg. Yes, B-C has Anthony Welsh, but it won’t have two of its starting linemen. The replacements played well against Frazier, but I’m curious how they respond against an Avella team that is hungry for another playoff appearance.

The Eagles are going to be able to run the football and will need to be multidimensional with Santino Paris at quarterback. This is a perfect opportunity for Avella. Let’s see how they respond. Stopping Beth-Center's rushing attack will be the answer to knocking them off. Can anyone do that? I'm not so sure.

I've seen B-C play twice this season and in both games, I did not see Welsh get tackled by one player. It took multiple defenders to take him down. He's simply stronger than everyone else on the field.

Truly a candidate for Player of the Year and reminds me of Fort Cherry grad Koltan Kobrys.

New Brighton at Wash High

Yes, it’s a non-conference game. Yes, Aliquippa defeated New Brighton by 41 points, but the Lions 
(5-1, 5-1) are averaging more than 39 points per game and are loaded with talent.

Running back Scott Florence has rushed for 768 yards on 88 attempts for 16 touchdowns. Like Wash High, New Brighton’s team identity is size and strength. The Lions want to be known as a true 
contender in AA, while Wash High wants to run the table.

This is the non-conference game of the week and a great preview for the WPIAL playoffs. Let’s see how Wash High stacks up.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Close win over BV could be costly for Ringgold

Who expected Ringgold to struggle so badly against Belle Vernon? I know I didn’t, but it does make sense.

The Leopards are stronger up front than people think and the return of Matt Humbert did create a lot of pressure for the Rams. A blowout victory would have them ranked among the top four teams in Class AAA, but a win is a win.

We are getting to that point in the season where the scores of games begin to matter more with the Gardner Points system. A four-point victory over Belle Vernon makes Ringgold’s Week 8 game with Elizabeth Forward very important.

The Rams cannot afford to lose. Class AAA is strong so costing yourself a possible home playoff game could hurt badly. You will also draw a tougher opponent, which is never easy after a grueling regular season schedule.

Maybe a close loss was good for the Rams. It shows them that there are areas of their game to clean up and I don’t expect Nico Law to struggle like that again this season. It’s not the norm. With him and junior running back Chacar Berry, Ringgold’s offense is still one of the most deadly in AAA.

Locking up a home playoff game is the next step.

Beth Center
The Bulldogs needed the win over Frazier. Badly. The scrutiny surrounding the Tri-County South is growing louder by the week so B-C needs to put the committee in a position where they have no choice but to give the Bulldogs a favorable road in Class A.

There is a big difference between facing Avonworth in the second round and running into the Clairton buzz saw. This week is going to be a major test for Beth-Center. Avella is getting better and B-C will be missing two starting linemen who were ejected against the Commodores.

If the Bulldogs can escape that game with a victory, look for them to run the table and set themselves up nicely for the postseason.

The Hillers pulled off a big win against Uniontown, which has given good teams close games. Trinity is not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention quite yet. It must defeat West Mifflin and Ringgold in weeks 8 and 9.

Will that happen? Probably not, but at least the Hillers did not go down without a fight. After last season’s result, Trinity needed somewhat of a bounce back year and it has definitely been an improvement.

South Fayette
Steel Valley played South Fayette tough in the opening minutes of Friday’s game, but the Lions pulled away. It’s going to be too difficult for most teams to keep up with SF.

I haven’t gotten to see Seton-LaSalle play yet this season, but I anticipate the two teams’ Week 8 match up being closer than expected. With a top seed in the Class AA playoffs likely, the Lions could use a real test. It is looking like a South Fayette/Aliquippa rematch at Heinz Field is bound to happen.

Wash High may have something to say about that. The Prexies have a big test this week in a non-conference game against New Brighton. We'll find out where they stand.

After facing North Catholic and Avonworth to start the season, the Bucs have been on a roll. C-H’s win over OLSH makes this week’s game against Brentwood a playoff game.

If the Bucs win, they’ll be in the playoffs. The Week 9 game against Fort Cherry could be important, but only if C-H loses at Brentwood.

The Maples all-but-clinched the third playoff spot in the conference with a victory over Jefferson-Morgan Friday. That leaves four other teams vying for the final spot, which should be labeled, “The Clairton Bowl.” Whichever team takes the fourth and final seed will likely draw the Bears on Halloween Night.

Carmichaels is ahead of the pack with Bentworth, Jefferson-Morgan and Avella still alive.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 6 Summaries

Beth-Center 7 6 0 16 - 29
Frazier 14 6 0 0 - 20
F: Ethan Weiser, 33-yard pass from Hunter Patterson (Josh Cox kick) 7:00 1st
BC: Nico Brown, 4-yard run (John Berdar kick) 9:15 1st
F: Patterson, 5-yad run (Cox kick) 11:37 1st
BC: Johnny Sofran, 32-yard run (Kick blocked) 8:38 2nd
F: Patterson, 2-yard run (Pass failed) 2:44 3rd
BC: Anthony Welsh, 1-yard run (Welsh run) 6:06 4th
BC: Brown, 90-yard run (Jason Stay pass from Trent Cunko) 10:45 4th

Bentworth 0 7 0 6 13
California 0 6 0 0 6
B-Ethan Tush 1-yard run (Levi Jordan kick) 9:09 2nd
C-K.C. Zajicek 30-yard pass from Tyler Troutman (kick failed) 7:23 2nd
B-Matt McMillan 1-yard run (kick failed) 1:28 4th

Washington 14 22 8 14 58
Charleroi  0 7 0 14 21
W-Jordan West 8-yard run (kick fail)
W-Jonathan Spina 40-yard run (Dequay Isbell pass from Spina)
W-Kurt Adkins 20-yard run (kick fail)
W-Isbell 52-yard pass from Spina (Malik Wells run)
W-Nathan Swart 40-yard pass from Spina (Wells run)
C-Matt Carr 5-yard run (Sean Cole kick)
W-Wells 46-yard run (Jordan West run)
W-Connor Bedillion 5-yard run (run fail)
C-Brock Shannon 2-yard run (Cole Kick)
W-Lyle Webb 36-yard run (Zyan Wallace run)
C-Blake Carmello 13-yard pass from Carr (Cole kick)

Burgettstown         0 0 7 7 14
Southmoreland 7 14 7 12 40
S-Justin Livengood 16-yard run (Kyle Rhodes kick) 2:42 1st
S-Tommy Pisula 20-yard run (Rhodes kick) 6:13 2nd
S-Jake Pisula 57-yard run (Rhodes kick) :20 2nd
S-Joe Estey recovered blocked punt in end zone (Rhodes kick) 5:03 3rd
B-Cole LaRocka 28-yard run (Dylan Dhans kick) :12 3rd
S-J. Pisula 59-yard run (kick failed) 11:09 4th
S-Mateo Gardner 40-yard run (kick failed) 4:38 4th
B-LaRocka 20-yard pass from Brad McLaughlin (Dhans kick) 1:37 4th

OLSH                 0 0 0 7 7
Char-Houston 0 3 9 3 15
Complete box score not provided

West Greene 6 7 0 6 19
Carmichaels 6 0 8 8 22
C-Shawn Dulaney 4-yard run (kick failed) 3:03 1st
WG-Owen Main 1-yard run (pass failed) :49.8 1st
WG-Main 5-yard run (kick good) 7:13 2nd
C-Cody Brown 9-yard run (Dulaney run) 8:09 3rd
C-Dulaney 74-yard interception return (Mike Blasinsky pass from Coty Allen) 7:05 4th
WG-Tyler Baker 9-yard pass from Main (pass failed) 3:09 4th

N. Catholic 7 21 7 7 42
Fort Cherry 0 0 0 6 6
NC-Jerome Turner 58-yard run (Michael Parsovich kick)
NC-Turner 1-yard run (Parsovich kick)
NC-Turner 6-yard run (Parsovich kick)
NC-Turner 35-yard run (Parsovich kick)
NC-Marion Latronica 2-yard run (Parsovich kikc)
NC-Latronica 22-yard run (Parsovich kick)
FC-Dan Barley 47-yard run (run failed)

Monessen 0 0 6 6 12
Springdale 7 7 0 0 14
S-Eric Lovic 11-yard pass from Daniel Franskousky (Michael Banachoski kick)
S-Franskousky 1-yard run (Banachoski kick)
M-Lavelle Rush 23-yard pass from Noah Rullo (kick failed)
M-Rush 3-yard pass from Rullo (pass failed)

Canon-Mac 0 0 0 8 8
Wood. Hills 0 26 14 0 40
WH-Myles Sanders 60-yard run (Jonathan Leon kick)
WH-Jamon Dunn 41-yard pass from Jeremiah Jones (kick failed)
WH-Isaiah Brooks 56-yard pass from Jones (Leon kick)
WH-Stephon Hawthorne 22-yard pass from Jones (Leon kick)
WH-Dunn 64-yard pass from Jones (Leon kick)
WH-Deshawn Ghanem 2-yard run (Leon kick)
CM-Alonzo Loomis 60-yard pass from Jordan Castelli (George Carson pass from Castelli)

Trinity         3 6 14 7 30
Uniontown 8 7 0 8 23
THS–Sam Trapuzzano, 25-yard field goal 6:23 1st
U–Christian Forsythe, 92-yard kickoff return (Austin Wivel, run) 6:07 1st
THS–Robert West, 2-yard run (pass failed) 10:34 2nd
U–Lyric Ellis, 66-yard run (Wivel kick) 9:36 2nd
THS–Garrett Briant, 10-yard fumble return (Trapuzzano kick) 11:37 3rd
THS–Colton Jordan, 29-yard run (Trapuzzano kick) 3rd
THS–Nick Moretti, 40-yard interception return (Trapuzzano kick) 4th
U–Nate Guerriere, 6-yard pass from Ellis (Washington run) 4:40 4th

Steel Valley 7 0 0 7 14
South Fayette 7 21 14 0 42
SF – Roman Denson, 5-yard pass from Brett Brumbaugh (Dan Trimbur kick) 7:29 1st
SV–Alex Mylsted, 3-yard fumble return (Brandon Donovan kick) 3:47 1st
SF–Nick Ponikvar, 68-yard pass from Brumbaugh (Trimbur kick) 9:28 2nd
SF–Hunter Hayes, 10-yard run (Trimbur kick) 8:06 2nd
SF–Denson, 51-yard pass from Brumbaugh (Trimbur kick) 4:49 2nd
SF–Hayes, 1-yard run (Trimbur kick) 8:10 3rd
SF–Hayes, 16-yard run (Trimbur kick) 4:46 3rd
SV–Trey Earl Edwards, 68-yard pass from Tyrone Freeman (Donovan kick) 2:56 4th

Mapletown         0 7 14 0 21
Jefferson-Morgan 0 0 7 0 7
M–Dylon Rush 52-yard pass from Ben Boone (Matt Rush kick) 9:01 2nd
M–D. Rush one-yard run (kick missed) 8:24 3rd
M–D. Rush seven-yard run (M. Rush pass from Boone) 2:45 3rd
JM–Jakob Bissett 22-yard pass from Austin Clark (Bo Ricci) 0:35 3rd

Summit Academy 0 6 6 8 20
Waynesburg        26 14 7 0 47
Wbg–Hunter Cenname, 15-yard run (run failed) 10:33 1st
Wbg–Austin Herrod, 7-yard run (Herrod kick) 6:24 1st
Wbg–Dom Sarra, 34-yard pass from Colby Collins (kick failed) 3:55 1st
Wbg–Cenname, 6-yard run (Herrod kick) :45 1st
Wbg–Cenname, 62-yard run (Herrod kick) 6:24 2nd
SA–Dante Echridge, 3-yard run (run failed) 4:28 2nd
Wbg–Cenname, 85-yard run (Herrod kick) 4:09 2nd
Wbg–Sarra, 63-yard pass from Collins (Herrod kick) 6:03 3rd
SA–Markell Culber, 10-yard run (run failed) 1:29 3rd
Wbg–Austin Showalter, 68-yard run (Joseph Garth run) 3:50 4th

Penn Hills 21 21 14 0 56
Peters Twp 7 6 0 8 21
PH–Isaiah Jones, 45-yard run (kick failed) 1st
PT–Clayton Yeates, 10-yard run (John Gaudy kick) 1st
PH–DeShan Campbell, 1-yard run (Campbell run) 1st
PH–Henton Matthis, 76-yard run (Nate Farraco kick) 1st
PH–Bill Kisner, 5-yard run (Farraco kick) 2nd
PT–Connor Feely, 17-yard pass from Cory Owen (kick failed) 2nd
PH–Mathis, 75-yard run (Farraco kick) 2nd
PH–Kisner, 49-yard run (Farraco kick) 2nd
PH–Campbell, 68-yard run (Faracco kick) 3rd
PH–Tim Smith, 74-yard run (Faracco kick) 3rd
PT–Yeates, 4-yard pass (Yeates, pass from Owen) 4th

Derry          0 14 0 0 14
McGuffey 17 0 0 26 43
McG–James Duchi, 40-yard pass from Nathan Whipkey (Teague Nicolella kick) 6:40 1st
McG–Whipkey, 1-yard run (Nicolella kick) 3:35 1st
McG–Nicolella, 34-yard field goal :20 1st
D–Josh Flack, 16-yard run (Noah Wiencek kick) 9:46 2nd
D–Jaymie Howe, 15-yard pass from Trey Friedline 5:46 2nd
McG–James Duchi, 2-yard run (kick fialed) 10:36 4th
McG–Duchi, 17-yard run (Nicolella kick) 8:46 4th
McG–Ryan Steinstraw, 39-yard fumble return (Nicolella kick) 7:14 4th
McG–Steven Clemens, 48-yard pass from Whipkey (kick failed) 4:08 4th

Belle Vernon 0 17 0 7 24
Ringgold         6 6 8 8 28
R–Chacar Berry, 3-yard run (pass failed) 5:37 1st
BV–Cameron Quinto, 43-yard pass from Phil Taylor (Derek Verkleeren kick) 11:26 2nd
BV–Anthony Levis, 4-yard run (Verkleeren kick) 7:02 2nd
R–Berry, 25-yard run (run failed) 2:02 2nd
BV–Verkleeren, 47-yard field goal 2:02 2nd
R–Berry, 1-yard run (Nico Law run) 1:41 3rd
BV–Levis, 10-yard run (Verkleeren kick) 11:55 4th
R–Skyler Scholl, 39-yard pass from Law (Josh Briscoe run) 2:02 4th

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Humbert's return highlights Week 6

Week 6 features several games that hold playoff implications, but the most intriguing will be in WPIAL Class AAA’s Big Nine Conference. Belle Vernon head coach Matt Humbert returns to Ringgold to face his former team and its new head, Nick Milchovich.

Nico Law has become the player Humber envisioned when the two started working together three years ago. Chacar Berry has developed into one of the best all-around tailbacks in Class AAA. The offensive and defensive lines are championship caliber.

What isn’t there to like about Ringgold? The loss to Thomas Jefferson? The Jaguars have done that to every team this season and that was Week 1. Every coach will tell you the biggest improvement a team makes is from the first week to the second week.

I covered Ringgold’s game two weeks ago against West Mifflin and I expected a tight game. The
Titans had a solid rushing attack with an effective quarterback and a solid defense. The Rams dominated them at the point of attack and West Mifflin was overmatched.

Expect the same thing Friday night. Humbert had Travis Snyder returning at quarterback, but the senior has thrown five interceptions. Turning the ball over is not an option against a team like Ringgold. The Rams will drain the clock and dominate time of possession against any team that is reckless with the football.

This is almost a must-win for the Leopards (2-2, 2-3). They lost two straight games to Holidaysburg and West Mifflin. Stretching that losing streak to three could be devastating for a young team like that. With Elizabeth Forward remaining on the schedule, Humbert has to be getting nervous. Belle Vernon has to win at least three out of its four final conference games.

This won’t be one of them. Law has played extremely well this season. He is playing like a Division I-caliber quarterback with leadership, effectiveness (zero interceptions) and versatility (14 total touchdowns). Berry is only a junior and paired with freshman Brandon Small, the Rams’ backfield is one of the best in the WPIAL.

Did I mention anything about the linemen? Biggest, most physically dominating group I’ve seen since Cleveland Glenville High School’s in 2007. With guys like Aaron Szakal, Gage Ivory and Bobby Duda; Ringgold wears teams down.

They’re fundamentally sound on defense and the small mistakes the team made against TJ have been cleaned up. Special teams has not been an issue, protecting Law has been seamless and they are multi-dimensional on offense.

Can you tell I’m very high on the Rams? I believe they have everything a program needs to take home the title at Heinz Field. Typing that is much easier than the grueling road to accomplish that monumental achievement.

Beth-Center at Frazier

Now that Clairton exposed Greensburg Central Catholic, this is arguably the Bulldogs’ first test of the season. Yes, the Centurions have a lot of talent, but this is a conference game on the road in Week 6 against a tough, hungry opponent.

The Commodores have seen Beth-Center dominate the Tri-County South for the last six years. Hunter Patterson brings another dimension to Frazier’s offense and they are strong up front. Beth-Center allowed GCC to stay in their Week 2 matchup by committing untimely penalties.

Head coach Ed Woods attributes that to the new way officials are calling games with an emphasis on head-to-head contact, but a penalty is a penalty. They hurt no matter how they are committed. Doing that against the Commodores will cost them this game, but the backfield led by Anthony Welsh gives B-C the edge.

Steel Valley at South Fayette

No, I don’t think the Lions are in danger of losing this game. I just think it’s worth mentioning that Brett Brumbaugh is likely to break two monumental records – WPIAL all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

I’m disappointed I won’t be covering this game because I’m anxious to get a look at South Fayette. The top-three teams in Class AA are SF, Aliquippa and Wash High. In what order though? It’s going to be exciting to see how that unfolds.

Mapletown at Jefferson-Morgan

The third and fourth playoff spots in the Tri-County South are wide open. This is a chance for one team to create some separation. I like the Maples in this game. Call it a hunch, but the Rockets won a thrilling game over Bentworth last week after a slow start. Mapletown’s running game won’t allow J-M to pull off another late comeback.