Day one of "Going Camping." This is Varsity Blog's two-week tour of high school football practices and camps in the WPIAL and City League. We'll have more updates throughout the day.
Hoopers playing football
Chartiers Valley coach Chris Saluga can't remember if he's ever had so many of Chartiers Valley's top basketball players on the football team. Four basketball starters are on the football team this season.
Wayne Capers and Christian Kuntz are two basketball starters who have always played football. Matt Noszka came out for the team last year and will start at receiver. Then this season, senior Steve Burda decided to come out for football. He hasn't played since eighth grade.
"It's good to get some of the good athletes," Saluga said.
Capers said, "I don't know what it is. Must be football fever."
Burda might be the biggest surprise. He could start at receiver.
"He's a lot better than we thought. We thought he might have stone hands," Capers said with a laugh.
Wonder how basketball coach Tim McConnell feels about this?
Colleges and Capers
Capers, a junior (pictured below) who plays quarterback for Chartiers Valley, already has scholarship offers from Pitt, Penn State and Maryland. But what is his best position for college?
"He personally sees himself as a receiver," Saluga said. "I don't think he realizes how good he can be at quarterback. He says he wants to play receiver, but I told him, 'At our level, who is going to throw you the ball? You might get the ball five times a game and then you have to block.' For us, he gets the ball every play at quarterback. Every high school coach in America would put him at quarterback.
"He was a little worried at first that schools might not recruit him if he played quarterback. But college coaches are looking for athletes and he's an athlete. I know he is going to be recruit as a quarterback by some schools. Some say they will take him as an athlete and see where they can fit him in."
Capers missed half of last season with a broken bone in his foot. He had surgery on it.
"He's good," Capers said. "Extended use of it seems to bother him a little bit. That's when he gets a little sore and stiff."
Noszka and basketball
Noszka has good size at 6 feet 3. He said he hopes to play basketball in college and Toledo and American University are two Division I schools showing some interest in him. No scholarship offers, though.
Tough start for Montour
How's this for the opening two weeks of the season? Montour plays Chartiers Valley the first week and Hopewell the second week. Chartiers Valley has Capers. Although Hopewell has only two returning starters, one of them is stud running back Rushel Shell.
"That's a killer start, no doubt about it," Cerro said. "We get one of the WPIAL's best players in back-to-back weeks."
Class AAA is strong
Look at the talent and experience of some teams and this could be one of the best years in Class AAA in a while. At least in terms of quality teams. The Parkway Conference alone is loaded. There is defending WPIAL champ with star player Mike Caputo. There is Montour, which could be very good. There is Hopewell. And there is New Castle, which had a number out talented sophomores playing last season.
Then there is Thomas Jefferson and Chartiers Valley. And then there is ...
"Every conference has good teams this year. I think Trinity is a wild card in their conference. West Mifflin has a new coach [Ray Braszo] and some players back. Franklin Regional is in the Keystone Conference now and we played them in the playoffs last year. Mars [in the Greater Allegheny] has a lot of kids back. I think Triple-A is going to be wide open with a lot of good teams."
Cerro on quarterback Dillon Buechel (pictured to the left), who had a big sophomore season: "He needs to put more weight on, but no doubt he has a Division I arm. He's very smart, too. He's a 4.0 student. He has a lot of good intangibles."
On sophomore receiver-defensive back Devin Wilson: "I think he's a great hooper [basketball], but I think he's a really good football player, too. It all depends on what he wants to do."
Check this out below: It is a sign in the Chartiers Valley locker room. It's a countdown to the season opener against Montour - with days, hours, minutes and seconds. Every week, the team changes the name of the opponent.
Banks out at Notre Dame
Talking to Montour coach Lou Cerro, he said E.J. Banks is not with the Notre Dame football team this season. Banks was a quarterback-defensive back at Montour only two years ago. Cerro said he's been told it's an off-the-field issue, but that Banks will still try to attend school at Notre Dame.
4:10 p.m. - More notes from Chartiers Valley later, but a couple things first. Look below. This certainly isn't your father's way of stretching before practice. But this is Chartiers Valley's team stretching for this afternoon's practice. They use stretch bands, then go back to the locker room, get into full pads and then practice. But stretches like these are common in football at many levels nowadays.
MSA's Elite Eleven
Here at the Post-Gazette, we pick a preseason Fabulous 22 (it's much more prestigious to make the postseason Fab 22). At MSA Sports, which covers everything high school in the WPIAL, they cut things in half. They pick and Elite 11.
Who do you think is on it? Check out MSA's Elite 11.
Also, longtime high school sports writer Rod Frisco of Harrisburg has some interesting thoughts on high school sports, now that he has a daughter playing high school sports. Remember, Rod's web site is www.rodfrisco.com.
1:40 p.m. - I'm at Chartiers Valley practice. Before practice, spoke with standout junior quarterback Wayne Capers. He'll be featured in our "Blue Chip Chat" in tomorrow's Post-Gazette. But here's a tidbit on Capers (pictured below). He already has scholarship offers from Pitt, Penn State and Maryland. That's no surprise. He's that good. Many more scholarship offers will probably be on the way in the future.
But check back this evening for more on Char Valley, Capers and whatever else we come across.
Early Afternoon Report: Filled up the Hyundai Santa Fe and headed out to the first stop on "Going Camping." As soon as you get out of the car at Montour High School, it hits you. The sights and sounds or another high school football season Coaches' whistles blow. You see cheerleaders practice in parking lots. You see football players crowd around the water during a break. Heck, at Montour you even see the soccer team eat lunch in the stands, watching the football team practice.
It's here. Today is the first day of official football practice around the state. After Montour, I'm headed to Chartiers Valley.
Young, but impressive
Montour has a young team with a number of junior starters and some sophomore talent. Only four seniors will start on both sides of the ball. But this team figures to be one of the best in Class AAA.
Quarterback Dillon Buechel had a big sophomore season and is now a junior. He's still pencil thin, but has put on 15 pounds since last season and is now 6-3, 170. He has a Division I college type arm.
Devin Wilson is one of the up-and-coming two sport standouts in the WPIAL. He's 6-3 and very good in basketball. Started as a freshman. Also started in football as a freshman. He's a receiver-defensive back with plenty of potential. He's the brother of Christian Wilson, who is now playing football at North Carolina.
"I love both sports. Whatever is in season," Wilson said.
He was Montour's top receiver last year and is pictured below.
Look for Wilson to have a big season. Buechel can throw and the addition of running back Julian Durden, a transfer from North Catholic, might open the passing game even more.
Heter has offers
Montour senior lineman Austin Heter, pictured to the left, has scholarship offers from Maryland, Bowling Green and Toledo. He said he likes Michigan State a lot, but the Spartans haven't offered.
"They want to see how I do. I have a few other schools like that," Heter said.
Check back later for some more notes about Montour, its tough early-season schedule, the depth of good teams in Class AAA and other info. Off to Chartiers Valley now.
Below, a site you only see at this time of year. Montour soccer players eat lunch in the football stadium, watching the football team practice from a distance.
Below, Montour players go through 7 on 7 drill at the end of morning practice.