Setting the record straight on Rowan ..... Showtime and football notes

Written by Mike White on .

Some items that fell off my laptop.

Before we get to some football notes, let's address one basketball item. Can we set the record straight on some facts about Maverick Rowan? It seems there is plenty of wrong information circulating about Rowan.

Rowan is a Pitt recruit who played his first two seasons at Lincoln Park in Beaver County but last week decided he will transfer to Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rowan accepted a scholarship to Pitt last summer before his sophomore year.

Maverick RowanHere are some facts about Rowan (pictured):

AGE - Rowan is 18. No, he is NOT 19. His birthday is early July and he will turn 19 next summer.

ELIGIBILITY - Rowan would have been eligible to play the next two years at Lincoln Park. Under PIAA rules, a student-athlete is ineligible only if they reach the age of 19 before July 1 of their senior years. Rowan would turn 19 a few days after July 1 of next year.

EIGHTH GRADE AGAIN - Yes, Rowan repeated eighth grade, but that would not have affected his eligibility in this state. Under PIAA and WPIAL rules, a student can repeat eighth grade and still have four years eligibility on the high school level, but those repeating eighth grade can NOT participate in school sports during that year.

PLAYING UP TO NINTH GRADE - An eighth-grade student can play "up" on a ninth-grade school team and it does not count as one of four varsity years. The clock starts when a student reaches ninth grade. There are athletes everywhere around the WPIAL who are in eighth grade and play on a ninth-grade team, but that does not count as a year of varsity. 

However, 8th graders in Pennsylvania are not permitted to play on JV and varsity teams. They can play on ninth-grade teams, though. And if a school chooses, an eighth-grader can play on a ninth-grade team, and then play again on the ninth-grade team the following year when he is in ninth grade.

ABOUT MONTVERDE - Yes, Rowan was considering attending Monteverde Academy in Florida, but Montverde has a high school and a prep school team. Rowan would've played on the high school team. And the coach of the high school team is Kevin Boyle, who had tremendous teams at St. Patrick in Elizabeth, N.J., before going to Montverde. The coach of Montverde's prep school team is Dante Calabria, a former Blackhawk High star. Calabria is in his first season at Montverde.

Alright, onto some football ...

The return of ...

We're back.

Yes, it's the return of the wildly popular Varisty Xtra's "This Week In High School Sports." Colleague Terry Shields and yours truly blither about some high school topics and pick the top games every week. The show will run weekly through basketball.

Here is the first of the year:

Game of the week

The Post-Gazette game of the week for the first night of high school football is North Allegheny at Seneca Valley Friday. It's a big Northern Eight Conference game right off the bat.

And does anyone in the WPIAL have a tougher schedule than North Allegheny the first few weeks? After Seneca Valley comes a home game against Pine-Richland. Then North Allegheny plays at Central Catholic, and meets Upper St. Clair the following week in a non-conference home game.

WPIAL flavor at Pitt

Looking at Pitt's depth chart today ... wow is there a strong WPIAL flavor on this team. There are 10 starters from the WPIAL and one from the City League.

The City League starter is Manesseh Garner of Brashear. The 10 from the WPIAL are Tyler Boyd (Clairton), Adam Bisnowaty (Fox Chapel), J.P. Holtz (Shaler), Jaymar Parrish (Gateway), Khaynin Mosley-Smith (Woodland Hills), Todd Thomas (Beaver Falls), Lafayette Pitts (Woodland Hills), Reggie Mitchell (Shady Side Academy), Terrish Webb (Clairton) and James Conner (McDowell). McDowell wasn't in the WPIAL for Conner's senior season, but McDowell played in the WPIAL in Conner's other years.

Facing a WPIAL QB

While Pitt has a number of starters from the WPIAL, the Panthers will open the season against a quarterback from the WPIAL.

Trent Hurley a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic, will be Delaware's quarterback against Pitt in the season opener Saturday at Heinz. Hurley is the first three-year stater at QB since MattTrent Hurley Nagy from 1998-2000. Hurley has played at Heinz Field once before. It was in 2009 when he was the quarterback of a Greensburg Central team that defeated Aliquippa, 33-7, in the WPIAL Class AA title game.

I remember the last game Hurley played in high school. It was in a snowstorm in Hershey in 2009 when Greensburg C.C. lost to Lancaster Catholic, 21-14, in the PIAA Class AA title game. (Check picture of Hurley diving in the snow).

Hurley started his career at Bowling Green, but transferred after two years. He threw for more than 2,000 yards last season.

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Alabama coach Nick Saban: 'I've always been a Mountaineer fan'

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

Alabama coach Nick Saban is, at his roots, a tried and true West Virginian. Saban, the son of working-class parents from nearby Monongah, W.Va., shared a few memories Monday of his childhood as a diehard Mountaineer fan.

Saban's Crimson Tide will face West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Saturday in Atlanta. He played college ball at Kent State and spent the 1978-79 seasons as assistant coach at West Virginia.

"Oh yeah," he said Monday, "[West Virginia] was the biggest thing going when I was a kid. Going to Mountaineer Field to watch West Virginia play was the highlight of my year. I still have great memories of home, I have great memories of the people and relationships I have at home, and I've always been a Mountaineer fan.

"I remember as a kid, sitting in old Mountaineer field house. I used to sit in the upper deck with my feet hanging over, looking between the rails watching Jerry West play. I was probably only 7, 8, 9 years old. I remember listening to my little brown transistor radio when [Cal's] Darrall Imhoff hit a jump shot to end a game in 1960, I think it was, to win 71-70 in the national championship game. [It was 1959.] You don't forget stuff like that.

"But now I'm Alabama's coach now, so I'm an Alabama fan. We don't really have to be concerned with any of that. We have to do what's best for our team and the relationships we have here. But we also respect their traditions and the relationships we've developed though the years in West Virginia."

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Chryst talks freshman playing time, Delaware prep

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt coach Paul Chryst held his first in-season press conference this afternoon over at the Panthers' South Side facility, and here are a couple of the highlights.

- Before anyone even asked any questions, Chryst dove right into talking about which freshmen he expects to play this year. Specifically, he named cornerback Avonte Maddox, safety Pat Amara, linebacker Quintin Wirginis, running back Chris James and defensive end Rori Blair. Each guy's situation is a little bit different. Maddox has probably been the most impressive of any freshman in fall training camp, and plays at a position where Pitt is a little thin. Amara hasn't been quite as good as Maddox, but the Panthers are desperately thin at safety, which will force him into action. Wirginis emerged in the middle of training camp to earn a spot on the two-deep. James is one of the most highly-rated guys in this class, and provides the Panthers with a home run threat out of the backfield. Blair arrived early last winter to get a head start and also plays at a thin position.
All of these guys will have different roles at their various positions, but all will also likely contribute on special teams from the get-go. Chryst said a few weeks back that his general philosophy when it comes to freshmen is that, if it's obvious they have to play right away (and with these five, it apparently is), their offensive or defensive role can be defined as the season goes along, but you generally want to find them a spot on special teams right away. That way, they'll get accustomed to game speed and what it feels like to be out there, so that when they need to play on offense or defense, the moment isn't too big for them.

- Beyond those five guys, Chryst listed four more who could see action, but could also be destined for a redshirt. Those players are running back Qadree Ollison, offensive lineman Alex Bookser, wide receiver Adonis Jennings and quarterback Adam Bertke. Again, the situations each of these guys need to see the field is a little different (most involve injuries). Ollison played very well in camp, but Pitt just has too many running backs on the roster now (not a bad problem to have). If Conner or Bennett gets hurt (especially early in the year), that could open the door for Ollison to see the field. Offensive line coach Jim Hueber would definitely like to redshirt Bookser, but it sounds like he'll at least be on the travel roster for road games and whatnot so he's ready to go in an emergency. Chryst said today that Bertke, too, would only play in an injury situation. I imagine it would require a severe injury to Voytik, too, because any minor injury would probably just lead to putting Trey Anderson in for a couple of series.
And that leads us to Jennings. He was a four-star recruit, but was held off the field for a good portion of training camp with a nagging groin injury. Jennings certainly has the talent to make an impact, but the lack of practice time during training camp hurt him here. If he can get up to speed within the first couple of weeks, he could still get on the field, but if we get to game four or five without seeing him, I would think he's probably heading for a redshirt. Pitt does have depth at receiver, so it makes more sense to play a guy like Zach Challingsworth or Jester Weah rather than burn Jennings' redshirt for half a season.
"Adonis, when he goes, I've liked a lot of what he's done," Chryst said. "I know [receivers coach] Greg [Lewis] has. It's just a matter of making sure he truly understands all that he's got to do."

- One of the big topics of discussion was the amount that James Conner will play on defense this year. Chryst said he didn't have a set number of snaps in mind, but will rotate him in as the situation warrants. Chryst was asked if Pitt's apparent plethora of running backs made it possible for Conner to move to defense more than originally planned, and he was measured in his response.
Basically, Pitt has a lot of what I would call "theoretical depth" at running back, in that there are guys there who could be good, but haven't necessarily proven it. If guys like James and Rachid Ibrahim show they can produce, then maybe that gives Conner a little more leeway to play on defense, but that's to be determined.
"It's quite possible, but I think that would be something as the season evolved," Chryst said. "Tight now, all of his work and all of our thoughts are with him primarily playing offense and then getting some work on defense."

- Redshirt sophomore Reggie Mitchell is one of Pitt's starting cornerbacks, but that's not the only position he'll play this year. Mitchell bounced around from safety to nickelback to cornerback this preseason, before finally settling at corner when Trenton Coles decided to transfer. Chryst said that, while Mitchell is primarily a corner, he'll shift into nickel when an extra defensive back comes on (likely Maddox) and could even play safety in a pinch.
"He's a defensive back that can play both," Chryst said. "I think depending on what's going on his focus right now is at corner and the nickel spot, but if something were to happen if we need him he could jump back at safety."

- There were a lot of questions today about what happened the last time Pitt opener against an FCS opponent, a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State two years ago. Chryst downplayed the importance of that game, in particular, but it could serve as a wake-up call for some of the older players who were in that game.
"We're not referencing two years ago this week, but I think you reference all the time the approach you have to have," Chryst said.

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New PAC involved in state Senate contest


Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, the state senate's newest member -- and an outspoken one at that -- has formed a new PAC and is already weighing in on a race in the western corner of the state.
Mr. Wagner's Reform PA PAC has sent mailers in support of Camera Bartolotta , a Republican challenger seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Tim Solobay ,...

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Vacation post - 08-25-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-Happy 45th birthday to former Penguins forward Jamie Leach (right). A third-round pick in 1987, Leach, the son of former Flyers star Reggie Leach, spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1989-90, Leach appeared in 10 games and recorded three assists. In 1990-91, Leach played in seven games,  netted two goals and earned a Stanley Cup ring despite not appearing in a playoff game. Leach would reach career-highs in games (38) and points (nine) and had his named carved into the Stanley Cup for the team's second consecutive championships. After five games and no points in 1992-93, Leach was claimed off waivers by the Hartford Whalers early in the season. In 60 games with the Penguins, Leach recorded 14 points.

-Happy 53rd birthday to former Penguins forward Dave Tippett. A free agent signing in the 1992 offseason, Tippett spent one season with the Penguins. In 1992-93, Tippett appeared in 74 games and recorded 25 points. He appeared in all 12 of the team's postseason games and contributed five points. In the 1993 offseason, he joined the rival Flyers as a free agent. He is currently the head coach of the Coyotes.

-Happy 31st birthday to former Penguins forward Connor James. A free agent signing in the 2006 offseason, James spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. In 2007-08, James, who had a bad habit of pretty much getting smashed by opposing defenders (below), appeared in 13 games and netted one goal. James was limited to one game and no point in 2008-09. In the 2009 offseason, he joined Augsburg of Germany's DEL. In 14 games with the Penguins, he scored one goal. James is currently a member of the Nürnberg Ice Tigers in Germany.

(Photo: Penguins Hockey Cards)

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