Notes, quotes and anecdotes from yesterday's news conference about the Rally at the Wolvarena, a four-game event at Woodland Hills' Wolvarena stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4. In games that day, Steubenville (Ohio) plays McKeesport at 11 a.m. Akron Buchtel (Ohio) plays Central Catholic at 2 p.m. Cocoa (Fla.) meets Thomas Jefferson at 5. Manatee (Fla.) plays Woodland Hills at 8 p.m.
The event is run by Ken Halloy and Halloy Boy Sports Marketing in Columbus, Ohio. Coaches from all eight teams attended a news conference Wednesday at Edgewood Country Club.
What about the 'bone?
There is one question everyone keeps asking new McKeesport coach Jim Ward: What will happen with the flexbone offense?
McKeesport had tremendous success with the flexbone (triple option) under former coach George Smith. But Smith resigned after last season and Ward is the new coach. Ward was most recently Yough's coach, but also was a head coach at South Allegheny and an assistant coach at places such as Jeannette and Clairton.
The flexbone will pretty much be a thing of the past at McKeesport, although I'm hearing former McKeesport offensive coordinator Jamie Eckels will probably run the flexbone as Serra's new coach.
"I've always run the option everywhere I've been, so we'll continue to do it to some degree," Ward said. "It's kind of second nature to these [McKeesport] kids. How much we'll do it will probably depend on how the season plays out and our personnel. We'll use a lot of two back pro set, and we'll get into some spread stuff. But we'll be able to run the option out of everything we do."
Three players are vying for the quarterback position - senior Eric Perdue, junior Bryant Harper and sophomore Ed Stockett.
Serious about Texas Tech
Ward said heavily-recruited McKeesport defensive end Branden Jackson is serious about attending Texas Tech. I can't ever remember Texas Tech recruiting players from the WPIAL, but Tech also is recruiting Clairton defensive end Desimon Green, although I think Green will end up at Pitt. Ward said there is a decent chance Jackson will choose Texas Tech.
"He's going to visit there," Ward said. "When this all started he said, 'Coach, get me to some schools far from home. I want to get away.' I knew Texas Tech was recruiting Desimon, so I called them and they started recruiting Branden."
Cocoa on the road
The Rally at the Wolvarena is one of three events Cocoa will play in to start the season. Cocoa will play in the Florida vs. USA Challenge at Daytona Municipal Stadium against Olive Branch (Miss.) Aug. 27. Cocoa will then come to Pittsburgh the second week before heading to Texas the third week to play national power Abilene, Texas.
Cocoa features Chevelle Buie, a Rutgers recruit who is ranked the No. 6 all-purpose back in the country by Rivals.com.
"He's only about 5-9, 165, but he's fast and a slashing type back who also has great hands," said Cocoa coach John Wilkinson. "He's real durable for his size, too."
Cocoa has won two Florida state championships in a row (Class 3A in 2008 and 2A last year) and 24 games in a row.
"Each state thinks it plays the best football," Wilkinson said. "We think it. Texas thinks it. Ohio thinks it. Pennsylvania thinks it. We're just glad to be a part of this."
About Manatee and its coach
Manatee might have the biggest reputation nationally of all eight teams. Manatee is ranked in the top 25 in some preseason national polls. The team features running back Mike Blakely, rated a four-star running back by Rivals.com. He has scholarship offers from schools all across the country, but coach Joe Kinnan said Blakely most likely will choose between Florida and Auburn.
"Auburn is talking to him about all the things they can do with him in the 'Wildcat,'" Kinnan said. "You should see the kid throw the ball. He'll be our backup quarterback."
Manatee has a new quarterback this year, and ...
"He's Cord Sandberg. He's only a sophomore, but he's about 6-2 1/2 with blazing speed," Kinnan said. "I've had some college coaches tell me they think he'll be the best sophomore quarterback in the country this year."
Kinnan is a legendary coach in Florida. He is one of only 12 coaches named to Florida's all-century team in 2007. Kinnan was acutally born in Pittsburgh, but his family moved away when he was 2.
"My mother is from the University of Pittsburgh class of 1932," Kinnan said.
Kinnan's overall record is 240-67. He retired after the 2001 season, but came back in 2005.
"I retired in 2001 because I had cancer," Kinnan said. "Four years later, they talked me into coming back. It's been a great experience. I've got a lot of kids and I've coached their Dads. When I start coaching their grandkids, it's time to get out."
Manatee always produces Division I college players, and four Manatee grads have won Super Bowls. Seven have won college national championships.
Kinnan has four state titles and last year knocked off St. Thomas Aquinas in the semifinals before losing in the championship game.
Manatee on TV
None of the Rally at the Wolvarena games will be televised. But Manatee's game against Tampa Plant (Fla.) will be televised live by ESPN Aug. 27.
Florida teams have spring football and get this: They finish spring drills with a game. Not an intrasquad game. A game against another school. Manatee played Palm Bay Bayside, Fla.
About Steubenville and Buchtel
Steubenville has lost only one regular-season games in the past seven seasons. Steubenville beat Woodland Hills, 13-0, in last year's Rally in the Valley in Wheeling. That event was also run by Halloy.
Steubenville is coached by legendary Rena Saccoccia, who has a 116-15 record in the past 10 seasons alone.
Buchtel is coached by Ricky Powers, a former Buchtel running back who also played at Michigan. This is Powers' third season and he is trying to rebuild a program that hit rough times. He won only two games in his first season, but won the Akron city championship a year ago.
Halloy said a few words about each coach before introducing them. He said of Central Catholic coach Terry Totten: "Maybe his greatest victory was this summer when he got married."
When Totten took the microphone, he chuckled and said, "Well, I'm 0-2 in marriages so far, so hopefully I can win this one."
Steubenville's Saccoccia said, "We're looking forward to coming up here and fighting the traffic [of the Parkway]. Coach Novak will hopefully have a police escort for all the teams when we come play."
If you've ever been to a game at the Wolvarena, you know parking can be a nightmare. But Novak, Woodland Hills' coach and athletic director, said steps are being taken to alleviate the problem for the event. There is more parking in general now at the Wolvarena. Also, a shuttle will run every 15-20 minutes from Woodland Hills High School in Churchill to the stadium in Turtle Creek. Another shuttle will run from a local Wal-Mart.
Tickets to the event are $18 and will be available at participating schools Aug. 20.