By Mike White | Thursday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m.
Notes, quotes and anecdotes from around WPIAL training camps.
Avella’s lack of players got so bad last season that a girl joined the squad late in the season to help the Eagles. This year?
"No girls," said Avella coach Frank Gray. "That was just last year."
At one point last season, Avella had only 13 players on the team and had trouble fielding 11 after a few injuries in one game. Things are actually worse this season as only 18 are out for the team. That is one less than the start of last season. Avella was 0-9 last year.
But Gray says this year is different because "the kids we had last year weren’t as tough."
Some players quit the team last year, but Gray doesn’t see that happening again. He is encouraged by this team and believes the Eagles will be improved. He’s now calling the team the "Fightin’ Eagles."
"With some injuries that will probably occur, we’ll be down into the middle teens again, but these kids have a great attitude," Gray said. "We’re hoping our numbers get better, but our school enrollment just isn’t there."
Avella is the third-smallest school in the WPIAL. According to the most recent WPIAL enrollment figures (two years ago), Avella had fewer than 100 boys in grades 10-12. Only Geibel and Mapletown are smaller schools.
Stopped at North Allegheny yesterday and while there spoke with lineman Tom Ricketts, who will be featured in our "Blue Chip Chat" series within the next few days. Ricketts is a Penn State recruit and he had some interesting things to say how he was treated after he committed to Penn State in June.
Many had Ricketts pegged for Pitt. His father, Tom, was a standout offensive lineman at Pitt in the 1980s, his mother was a swimmer there and his great grandfather was an All-American there. Ricketts read some internet message boards where he was criticized for not picking Pitt, but that wasn’t all.
"I had something like nine people threatening me on Facebook, sending me messages," Ricketts said. "I’m a 17-year-old high school kid and one guy sent me a huge novel titled ‘Loyalty.’ He just went off on how my family all went to Pitt and how I am the worst thing that has ever happened. All I did was decide where I’m going to college. What’s different from me and any other kid?
"It bothered me some, but I guess it fuels me more than anything. I like proving people wrong. It’s motivation."
NA GETS PIECE OF THE ROCK
Kevin Rock is coaching high school football again.
Rock was the offensive coordinator at Pine-Richland during Kevin McCabe’s time at quarterback. Rock then moved on to be an assistant coach at St. Francis (Pa.), but is back at North Allegheny as an assistant coach.
Rock is a North Allegheny graduate and is taking classes to get his teaching degree. It’s a nice addition to North Allegheny’s staff as Rock was highly-respected during his days at Pine-Richland