Mike White | 1:20 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 15
Notes, thoughts and anecdotes after the WPIAL semifinals.
Thomas Jefferson's Brian Baldrige had an unforgettable performance in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals, running for 382 yards in a victory against New Castle. No one has statistical records for WPIAL playoff games, but Baldrige's yardage total was most likely a WPIAL postseason record.
Here's the logic: Only nine players in the history of the WPIAL have rushed for 400 yards in a game (the record is 455 by Connellsville's Marcus Furman in 2000). All nine performances came in regular-season games.
Baldrige was only 18 yards from 400. In 30 years of covering WPIAL football, I don't remember anyone rushing for 382 yards in a playoff game. And before then, individuals usually didn't post big statistical games. There wasn't as much offense as there is now in the WPIAL.
Considering all of the above, we'll call Baldrige's total is a record, unless we hear otherwise.
By the way, Thomas Jefferson's 47-20 victory against New Castle proved one thing. New Castle didn't have much of a defense. The Hurricanes gave up 49 points last week to Indiana.
* Speaking of records. Could Blackhawk coach Joe Hamilton be tied for one? Blackhawk defeated Highlands, so that means Blackhawk coach Joe Hamilton will be in the title game for the 10th time. That ties Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render, who also has 10 title-game appearances. Funny. Render is first and Hamilton second on the all-time WPIAL list for coaching wins.
* No matter what happens in the WPIAL championship games next week, here's my vote for Player of the Year: Gateway's Dorian Bell. I think he's a hands-down winner. He came into the season considered the No. 1 player in the WPIAL, mainly because of his play at linebacker. He's still talented at linebacker, but Bell also has rushed for more than 800 yards this season, including 121 on 13 carries against Penn Hills. What more can he do to show he's the No. 1 player?
While Bell is ranked among the top 10 linebackers in the country and is an Ohio State recruit, he might make for an excellent strong safety. He's 6 feet 1, 220 pounds and definitely fast enough to play the position. As a running back, he ran away from some Penn Hills defenders, who aren't exactly slow.
* Legendary Pete Antimarino, who coached Pitcairn and Gateway from 1954-89 , was on the sideline before the Penn Hills-Gateway game. Antimarino, who won 255 career games before retiring after the 1989 season, said he is "doing pretty good for an old man." He still attends Gateway games - and still makes his own homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs at home. Antimarino was a tremendous coach and also an engaging character. His son, Pete Jr., who played QB at Gateway in the early 1970s, was with his father at the Penn Hills game.
"My grandkids, all they want to do is eat my spaghetti sauce and meatballs," Antimarino said. "They tell him [Pete Jr.] 'You don't make it as good as grandpa does.'"
* Penn Hills linebacker Dan Mason isn't ranked as highly as Bell on recruiting sites. If Mason is behind Bell as a linebacker, he's not behind by much. The few times I've seen him over the past two years, he has been dominating. Pitt is on his final list of schools. The Panthers should feel fortunate if they land him.
*The Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 appears Thanksgiving day. We talk to high school coaches, college coaches and scouting services to help pick the team. As of right now, Gateway's Dorian Bell, Corey Brown and Brian Williams seem to be shoe-ins. We might have to take a serious look at defensive end B.J. Stevens, a Miami, Ohio, recruit who has an amazing statistic. Stevens has 21 sacks this season, including two against Penn Hills.
* Aliquippa will play in a WPIAL championship for the 19th time in school history. Wow.
* Avonworth had an unforgettable season, making it to the WPIAL semifinals before losing to Monaca. Don't you wonder if Avonworth is a one-hit wonder? This was the first semifnal game appearance.
* Hey, the official start of basketball practice is Monday.