Mike White | 1:42 a.m. Sat., Aug. 30
Notes and anecdotes after the first night of the high school football season.
* Gateway was impressive in its 45-17 victory against Penn Hills Friday. But what makes Gateway’s offensive performance a little more impressive is the Gators played without one of their top offensive linemen.
Colin Rodkey, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior and Indiana University recruit, has not practiced this season because of problems with his left shoulder. Rodkey had surgery on the shoulder in the spring and it is not completely healed.
“He’s a big loss,” said Gateway coach Terry Smith. “We don’t know when he’s coming back, either. Doctors are saying maybe midseason, but it will take a few weeks to get him ready when he does come back.”
* I knew Gateway receiver-defensive back Corey Brown was good, but he’s better than I thought. He breaks on the ball well at defensive back, and his long body makes him tough to cover as a receiver. He made an excellent catch against Penn Hills for a touchdown. An Ohio State recruit, Brown is full of potential.
* New Penn Hills coach Ron Graham wasn’t in a talkative mood after his first game. He declined to comment to reporters.
Meanwhile, it couldn’t have been a better start for former Penn Hills coach Neil Gordon, who is now at Shaler. The Titans’ Dan McGinley returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
* Penn Hills’ school board ousted Gordon as coach, so what do you think Gordon enjoyed more? Shaler’s win or Penn Hills’ loss?
I heard a few people at the Penn Hills-Gateway game say Gordon wouldn’t have lost so badly to Gateway. Well, consider this: Gateway beat Penn Hills, 45-7, last year.
* Former Gateway star Cam Saddler attended the Gateway-Penn Hills game, climbing into the press box on crutches. Saddler had surgery Monday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, suffered in a practice at Pitt, where Saddler is a freshman.
“I was pretty depressed this week, but I’m starting to feel better,” Saddler said. “Coming out here helps.”
Shayne Hale, another former Gateway star who is a freshman at Pitt, also attended the Penn Hills-Gateway game. Hale very likely will redshirt at Pitt.
* Jeff McAnallen took over as Butler’s coach last year while former Butler coach Garry Cathell took over at Elizabeth Forward. Neither coach won a game last year, but both got their first victories Friday. Butler defeated New Castle, 28-21, while Elizabeth Forward beat Yough, 35-14.
* Here’s another knock against the much-maligned Keystone Conference. Mount Pleasant won the Keystone the past two seasons before dropping “down” to Class AA this season. The Vikings were shut out by Class AA McGuffey, 28-0. The Keystone has gone 0-4 in the WPIAL playoffs seven years in a row.
* Most impressive performance of the first night might go to Highlands quarterback Jeff Sinclair, who threw for 154 yards and rushed for 106 in a 24-16 victory against Fox Chapel.
* Early pick for WPIAL game of the week next Friday: Montour at Highlands.
* I don’t ever remember WPIAL teams playing Labor Day, but two will be playing interesting games in the Friends of Coal Classic Monday in Wheeling, W.Va.
Central Catholic plays Lakeland, Fla., at noon. Lakeland is a perennial power in Florida and has won two “mythical” national championships in USA Today.
* Jeannette has now won 24 games in a row against WPIAL teams.