Some notes and thoughts from first round of WPIAL playoffs Friday night.
Mars' Austine Miele set a WPIAL playoff record for rushing Friday night and came within 7 yards of the all-time WPIAL record.
Miele rushed for 448 yards in Mars' 52-20 victory against Hollidaysburg in a Class AAA first-round game. It is the most rushing yards ever in a WPIAL playoff game and is second-best in WPIAL history in any game.
The record is 455 yards by Connellsville's Marcus Furman in 2000.
Miele becomes only the ninth runner in WPIAL history to rush for 400 yards in a game - and the second from Mars. Brad Mueller had 403 in 2002. Guess Scott Heinauer's winged-T offense has wings to fly sometimes for running backs.
I talked to Miele and Mars coach Scott Heinauer briefly tonight on the phone. Heinauer said no one knew what the WPIAL record was, or maybe the team would've let Miele go for it. Miele heard he only needed 7 yards to tie the record, but didn't seem bothered by it.
We wanted to have Miele on the Post-Gazette High School show tomorrow morning on The Fan, and also Hopewell running back Rushel Shell. But both are taking the SAT.
*** Some might consider Bethel Park's 24-21 victory over McKeesport a pretty big upset. I don't. Bethel Park's Jeff Metheny is one of the best coaches around. I think people wondered all year how good McKeesport was. What does this loss say?
*** Many were talking about McDowell making some noise in the playoffs. But the Trojans were handled by Gateway, 37-21. Gateway coach Terry Smith has never lost a first-round playoff game. He's 9-0.
*** A little surprised Montour defeated West Mifflin by only 21-13.
*** Going by the seeds, the biggest upset of the night was Keystone Oaks beating Greensburg Central Catholic, 20-16. But should we really be all that surprised? GCC struggled to win a few other games in the final half of the season. Heck, the Centurions only defeated Mohawk, 21-14.
Looking back at the start of the season, I think myself and all the pundits overrated Greensburg Central this season. I still go back to the team not having a running back and quarterback as good as last season.
*** I thought the Keystone Conference was supposed to be a lot better this year? Well, the Keystone went 0-4 in the first round again.
OK, so the conference was indeed better this year with the addition of Franklin Regional, Hollidaysburg and Ringgold. But 0-4 again? Hollidaysburg lost to Mars, 52-20. Greensburg Salem lost to Knoch, 21-14. Franklin Regional lost to Hopewell, 24-14. Ringgold lost to Central Valley, 21-13.
Ninth time in 10 years the Keystone went 0-4.
*** Now the Eastern Conference in Class A flexed its muscles. Eastern went 4-0 as North Catholic beat Sto-Rox, 10-8; Bishop Canevin beat Fort Cherry, 24-16; Avonworth beat Brentwood, 28-21. Springdale beat Western Beaver, 35-14.
*** OK, so I look like an idiot for picking Char-Houston to upset Monessen. Char-Houston lost, 33-0.
*** Jack McCurry vs. Jim Render in the quarterfinals. That will be the coaching matchup when North Hills meets Upper St. Clair next week. Too bad those two coaches couldn't just go one-on-one in a cage match.
McCurry used to joke that he and Render got along so well because no other coaches liked either of them. When they threw a surprise dinner party for McCurry a few years ago after he retired as North Hills principal, the only opposing coach who spoke at the affair was Render.
*** Whadaya think of Hopewell and Thomas Jefferson in AAA quarterfinals? Who do you like?
*** MSA Sports buddy Don Rebel remarked a few weeks ago that he thought the Interstate Conference was weak this year. He was right. All four teams lost - Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, East Allegheny and Mount Pleasant.
More thoughts and notes later tonight.
FINAL SCORE: HOPEWELL 24, FRANKLIN REGIONAL 14
Rushel Shell finished with 135 yards on 33 attempts.
Sounds like a great one in Class AA. Beaver Falls gets INT return for TD and goes ahead of Steel Valley, 19-18, with four minutes left
9:42 p.m. - This one just about over. Rushel Shell scores on 3-yard run with 1:41 left and Hopewell leads Franklin Regional, 24-14.
North Hills leads Penn-Trafford, 21-3, late in the game
9;36 p.m. - Franklin Regional fumbles ball away at its own 24.
Brentwood leads Avonworth, 21-20... West Allegheny leads West Mifflin, 35-7.
We have a report that Austin Miele already has over 300 yards rushing for Mars in the third quarter
9:31 p.m. - Franklin Reginal ball at own 21 with four minutes left in the game.
Upper St. Clair leads Penn Hills, 37-13
Delrece Williams 53-yard TD and Steel Valley goes ahead of Beaver Falls, 18-13, with 11 min. left.
9:28 p.m. - North Hills leads Penn-Trafford, 13-3
9:26 p.m. - Shell back in the game. FR roughing punter. First down Hopewell.
9:24 p.m. - Rushel Shell left the game limping. Don't know status. He's not punting, though, and he is team's punter.
Thomas Jefferson leads Highlands, 42-0
9:21 p.m. - FR having trouble on offense. Only two first downs this half. Hopewell ball with 8:42 left in the half.
Upper St. Clair has gone ahead of Penn Hills, 30-13.
9:16 p.m. - Beaver Falls and Steel Valley exchange TD passes. Beaver Falls leads Steel Valley, 13-12
9:15 p.m. - Hopewell goes ahead, 17-14. Nate Bowden kicks 24-yard field goal with 11:50 left in the game.
Montour leads West Mifflin by only 14-7 after third quarter.
North Allegheny big lead over Peters Township, 38-7
9:12 p.m. - HE'S DONE IT AGAIN. Rushel Shell has come alive on this drive, gaining most of his yards from the Wildcat. He now has 105 yards. 28th consecutive 100-yard game. Hopewell is at FR 7-yard line. End of third quarter.
9:06 p.m. - First time Rushel Shell runs out of wildcat formation. He gets direct snap and goes 24 yards. Now has 60 yards on the night. Franklin Regional done tremendous job on him. Still tied, 14-14, but Hopewell has ball near midfield.
9:02 p.m. - Dane Brown, Franklin Regional's 1,00-yard rusher, had 48 yards on 10 carries in first half.
9:00 p.m. - Neither team does much on first possession of second half. Shell carries twice for a total of 0 yards. Still at 36 yards.
From Ricci R. - West Allegheny leading Trinity, 21-0.
8:50 p.m. - Steel Valley's Delrece Williams, who beat out Shell for WPIAL rushing title, has 102 yards on 9 carries at the half vs. Beaver Falls. BF ahead, 7-6.
8:47 p.m. Second half getting ready to start. Will Rushel Shell's streak of 100-yard games end? He has 36 yards at the half (lost 35 yards on a bad punt snap). FRegional doing a pretty good on him. FR 3-man interior defensive line doing a very good job.
With 100 yards, Shell's streak of 100-yard games would go to 28, which would tie for third-best all-time nationally. Emmitt Smith also had 28 in a row.
This is the 28th game in a row he has scored a touchdown.
This from first half: Keystone Oaks leading Greensburg Central Catholic, 7-2
FROM STORMIN NORMAN Central Catholic and Pine-Richland were tied, 3-3, early on. But now it's 24-3 Central at the half.
SCORE UPDATES FROM PG CORRESPONDENTS AND BOYS AT MSA:
AAAA - Gateway leading McDowell, 21-7. Guess McDowell isn't all that good after all. U. St. Clair 17, Penn Hills 13 - Nine punts in this game already; North Hills 6, Penn-Trafford 0 at halftime; McKeesport 14, Bethel Park 7; North Allegheny 16, Peters Township 7.
AAA - Thomas Jefferson 35, Highlands 0; Mars 18, Hollidaysburg 8; Montour 7, West Mifflin 7; Greensburg Salem 7, Knoch 7
AA - South Fayette 7, Ellwood City 0; Freeport 17, Jeannette 7; Deer Lakes first playoff game not going good. Trail Beaver, 14-0.
A - Monessen 7, Chartiers-Houston 0; Clairton 14, Carmichaels 0; Monessen 7, Char-Houston 0.
Halftime, Central Valley leads Ringgold, 14-7
Woodland Hills leads, 31-0, at half over Norwin.
Corey Jones 71-yard TD run for Penn Hills. USC now leads, 17-13.
8:27 p.m. - Rushel Shell halftime stats: 36 yards on 16 carries. Unfortunately, he lost 35 yards on one play. He's the punter. But a bad punt snap went over his head. He gets the yardage lost because he picked up the ball and started to run. He lost 35 yards.
Thomas Jefferson leads Highlands, 14-0, first half.
From Dan the Man - North Hills scores on final play of first half, 1-yard run. No good on 2-point conversion and North Hills leads Penn-Trafford by only 6-0 at the half.
8:18 p.m. - Franklin Regional on drive again. 44 seconds left in the half. Franklin Regional at Hopewell 34.
8:14 p.m. - Rushel Shell 74 yards on 13 carries so far for Hopewell. He'll go into second place all time tonight.
8:11 p.m. - Another big fourth-down pass play for Hopewell. Fourth-and-12, great screen pass call by Hopewell coach Dave Vestal. Adam Murray takes pass from Hamotto and goes 14 yards to the 1. Rushel Shell scores next play and we're tied, 14-14, 4:55 left in the half.
Central Valley goes ahead of Ringgold, 14-7, with 4:33 left in the half.
Lafayette Pitts 58-yard TD run and Woodland Hills crushing Norwin, 28-0.
Score correction: Upper St. Clair leads Penn Hills, 17-6, end of first quarter.
From Jeff Senchack: Brentwood and Avonworth tied, 7-7, after the first quarter.
North Allegheny goes on top of Peters Township, 10-7.
8:01 p.m. - Bad punt snap costs Hopewell 35 yards. Franklin Regional takes over at 19 and gets a 1-yard TD run by QB Chris Little. 14-7 Franklin Regional 9:03 left in the first half.
Central Valley and Ringgold tied, 7-7, after first.
Pine-Richland recovered onside kick against Central Catholic to start the game. Pine and Central are tied, 3-3
Penn Hills gets 80-yard TD reception and Penn Hills cuts Upper St. Clair lead to 14-7.
7:53 p.m. - End of first quarter. Hopewell and F. Regional tied, 7-7.
From Rob Rodgers, Surprise!!!! Peters Township leading North Allegheny, 7-3.
From Dukey, Upper St. Clair leads Penn Hills, 14-0. Dakota Conwell 37-yard TD run on QB keeper.
Woodland Hills leads Norwin, 14-0, with 4:12 left in opening quarter. Lafayette Pitts (Pitt recruit) both TDs.
7:46 p.m. - Franklin Regional answers Hopewell score. Mark Nicholas returns kickoff 67 yards and five plays later Dane Brown scores on 6-yard TD run. It's now tied, 7-7, with 2:43 left in first quarter.
Delrece Williams goes 59 yards for TD on first carry and Steel Valley cuts Beaver Falls lead to 7-6.
From Chris Adamski, Upper St. Clair gets 58 yard punt return for TD from Mitch Fawcett and Panthers lead Penn Hills, 7-0.
7:42 p.m. - On fourth and goal, Rushel Shell splits right and Nolan Harmotto hits him with a perfect pass and a TD. PAT good and it's 7-0 after 14-play, 72-yard drive.
7:37 p.m. - From Sarge Beaver Falls 7-0 on Trey Hall 3-yard TD run. Took advantage of Steel Valley fumble on punt.
7:34 p.m. - From Horse Mrazik Woodland Hills has jumped to early 7-0 lead against Norwin. This could be a blowout.
7:30 - Rushel Shell first carry - 12 yards. Not a good sign for Franklin Regional.
Not a bad crowd here, but certainly not a great one, either. One thing I've noticed over the years is that these first-round games don't draw all that well. A big regular-season game draws much more. Things start to pick up in the quarterfinals.
PREGAME HOPEWELL VS. FRANKLIN REGIONAL
Second-half blues: Something to watch tonight is how Hopewell does in the second half. The Vikings have been a first half team this season. They have scored 154 points in the first half, but only 76 in the second half. For example, last week against West Allegheny, the Vikings led, 28-7, at halftime. Hopewell didn't score again until overtime and won, 34-31.
Shell's shoulder: Rushel Shell, Hopewell's star running back, has had a few problems with a shoulder injury this season. He said it "popped out" in last week's game, but he put it back in place. He did not practice Monday but coaches said a short while ago he is fine for this game.
Shell, by the way, comes in with 6,358 yards on 735 carries for his career. He has 2,102 this season. Tonight, he faces the "Panthers." A Panther statue sits at the entrance of the stadium. Kind of looks a lot like Nittany Lion, doesn't it?
The weather: Probably the coldest Friday of the year, but at least no rain. I notice these things and weather on Friday nights has been superb this year, with the exception of maybe the first or second week when it rained a little. Middle of the year I remember a short shower. Other than that, terrific.
Franklin Regional goes through pregame warmups as night falls.
The rings must go: There's more to getting ready for a football game than putting ON your uniform or equipment. There is taking OFF the earrings. Hopewell's Rushel Shell, below, gets rid of his earrings before taking the field for warmups, with help from assistant coach Pat Tarquinio.