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What's in a name? ..... Presenting the 2016 WPIAL conference names

Written by Mike White on .

WPIAL football will look a lot different this year with six classifications. Since 1980, there had been only four classes. 

With the new classifications comes some new conferences and new conference names. We're here to educate you on the new names. Actually, some are old.

First, let it be known that the WPIAL does NOT name football conferences. The league simply calls them Section 1, 2, 3 on its schedules. The schools and the coaches are the ones who name the conferences - with a little help from the media. Conference names in WPIAL football go way back. I've always liked some of the conference names, but miss some of them. The six classes have taken away some classes. No more Foothills Conference. I wish the Black Hills Conference was still here.

Lastly, isn't it strange how football is the only sport in the WPIAL that names its conferences (sections)? All the other sports simply go with section numbers.

Oh well, the conference names in football this year are a product of some coaches or athletic directors - or both - getting together to come up with names. Some are just names used before. We in the media helped whenever asked. Do some of the new conference names lack imagination and creativity? You judge. Here are the conferences with the teams involved.

CLASS 6A

Northern Seven Conference - Butler, Central Catholic, North Allegheny, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shaler.

Southeastern - Altoona, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, Norwin, Peters Township

CLASS 5A

Allegheny Nine - Baldwin, Chartiers Valley, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Moon, North Hills, Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny, Woodland Hills. 

Big East - Armstrong, Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Kiski Area, Latrobe, McKeesport, Penn-Trafford, Plum.

CLASS 4A

Northwest Nine - Ambridge, Blackhawk, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, Mars, Montour, New Castle, South Fayette.

Big Nine - Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Greensburg Salem, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, Uniontown, West Mifflin.

CLASS 3A

Beaver Valley - Aliquippa, Beaver, Beaver Falls, Central Valley, Ellwood City, Hopewell, Quaker Valley.

Allegheny - Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Keystone Oaks, Seton-LaSalle, Shady Side Academy, Valley.

Interstate - Derry, Elizabeth Forward, McGuffey, Mount Pleasant, Southmoreland, South Park, Waynesburg, Yough.

CLASS 2A

Three Rivers - Avonworth, Brentwood, Carlynton, East Allegheny, Serra, South Allegheny, Steel Valley, Vincentian

Midwestern - Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Freedom, Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside, South Side Beaver

Century - Bentworth, Beth-Center, Brownsville, Burgettstown, Charleroi, Chartiers-Houston, Frazier, Washington

CLASS 1A

Eastern - Bishop Canevin, Clairton, Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani Christian, Jeannette, Leechburg, Riverview, Springdale

Tri-County South - Avella, California, Carmichaels, Fort Cherry, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown, Monessen, West Greene

Big Seven - Cornell, Northgate, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Rochester, Shenango, Sto-Rox, Summit Academy, Union, Western Beaver

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Pitt football camp report: Aug. 16

Written by Jenn Menendez on .

Pitt football finished up practice No. 10 of fall camp this morning, and will follow with No. 11 later tonight. Some news and notes:

**The big news out of today was the unveiling of the team’s throwback alternate uniforms – a kind of tribute to the glory days of the 1970s and 80s. The players clearly love them, and sounds like they could be a fixture after they debut on Oct. 8.

Coach Pat Narduzzi said he will let his leadership group make that decision on a week by week basis.

**Narduzzi said there have been no major injuries at camp so far.

**Narduzzi spoke at length about the depth of the offensive line. He wasn’t ready to name any frontrunners for specific positions, but it sounded quite clear he expects to be able to rotate eight different players through the five starting positions in any given game. If that kind of depth does play out, it could mean the difference in games decided by late, fourth quarter plays.

**At cornerback, Narduzzi seemed impressed with freshman Dane Jackson. He said Jackson has “really come on strong the last four, five days” and seems to be gunning for playing time ahead of Phillipie Motley.

Opening statement coach Pat Narduzzi

“We got a double in yesterday. They were off the field like 9 o’clock last night. Woke our guys up early this morning. We had two really good practices yesterday. They came out, got after it pretty good. Looking forward to seeing what we’ve got today. It’s camp, you know? There’s no easy days. But a lot of focus. We won’t do anything live today even though we’re in full pads. But it’ll be heavy, heavy thud.”

Q: You had a couple of guys that we saw come off on the cart yesterday (Monday). Any injury updates?

“No. We don’t really give injury updates really, but we’re healthy.”

Q: On whether the team went lighter in the evening on Monday?

“You can ask the kids if it was light or not. We went indoors. I think it was like 150 degrees in there yesterday, or last night. But we got good work done. We didn’t go live but we had some good thud periods, some good focus periods.”

Q: On whether or not John Guy has put himself in position to earn a starting job on the offensive line.

“John’s just a steady Eddie guy. He’s just tough. He’s physical and he just goes about his business in a professional way. That’s what you really like about John. He doesn’t say boo out there. He just gets the job done. He’s doing a good job competing for that right guard position.”

Q: Is he leading at that right guard position? Um, I don’t know if he’s leading at this point, we’re still kind of juggling them around in there. There’s a lot of competition going on the offensive line. The great thing is, I think on game day you’re going to see we can play up to eight guys, which will be good. You’re keeping a guy fresh and in the fourth quarter maybe you don’t have an exhausted guy, maybe we can make a bigger play. Pop a big run because there’s a fresher guy in there , because we can play more guys at this position.

Q: Is Alex Officer his main competition?

“I think there’s all kinds of competition. I think it depends on how you throw ‘em out there. I mean, there’s only five starting positions and I think we’ve got eight guys. There’s a lot of guys fighting to be a starter out there.”

Q: Seen (Alex) Bookser a lot at center, is he also playing guard?

“Bookser is taking some snaps at guard. Officer is taking guard and center. Jaryd Jones-Smith is taking reps at both tackles. We’ll continue to work those guys around. The more positions they know, the more valuable they become.”

Q: Has Bookser matured over the last year?

“He’s really matured a lot. You see as coaches, you see daily stuff. For example, like even in the spring game. He misses a block and (Rasheed??) gets hit in the backfield three yards deep. He kind of was, I don’t want to say laughing in the huddle. I haven’t seen any of that this year. It’s more serious. I think he understands how important it is. But even just from the spring game I’ve already noticed he’s matured a lot.”

Q: Is he a more natural fit at center or guard?

“It’s hard to say. He does a good job at both.”

Q: His snaps improved?

“I think so. There’s ups and downs. Overall I think they’ve improved. They haven’t floated back there like they did in the spring. They’ll continue to get better.”

Q: On competition for the cornerback job, opposite Avonte Maddox:

“Opposite Avonte, Ryan Lewis right now, he had a nice day again yesterday. He’s made some strides. You start to look at him and say we can rely on him. Phillipie Motley and Dane Jackson are in a heat right now. I’m not sure Dane Jackson isn’t ahead of him. Dane Jackson has really come on strong the last four, five days. Phillipie is still there, Malik (Henderson) maybe had an average day yesterday, so he’s battling. They’re all battling out there.

Q: On whether any freshmen are battling

“Damar (Hamlin) and Henry Miller still going strong. Mentally maybe a step behind.”

Q: On how the team reacted to the throwback uniforms.

“They exploded a little bit. They were fired up. Showed them the little video. We’ll let you know later today. Let you see it.”

Q: Is this a onetime thing or an option going forward?

“I think it’s going to be something that seniors, our eagles will kind of decide what do we want to do. If they like the look? I’m open to anything. I just want to coach football.”

Q: On his overall assessment of where the team is at in Week 2 of camp.

“I feel good with where we are, going into No. 10 today. I think we’ve had a good camp so far. We’ve got to continue to stay healthy and take care of our bodies. Right now we’re ahead of where we were a year ago.”

Q: No major injuries?

“No major injuries, no. We’re good.”

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Opioids

Written by Rob Rogers on .

The opioid epidemic in this country can be traced back to several causes, one being the overprescription of painkillers by doctors and clinics. We need to rethink how we address pain. 

20160816 Opioids

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"Goin' Up Camp" to Aliquippa and Beaver Falls ...... they meet early this year

Written by Mike White on .

"Goin' Up Camp." This is Varsity Blog's road show series that gives notes, quotes, anecdotes and thoughts from district preseason football camps.

Aliquippa and Beaver Falls is a football rivalry that gets plenty of attention around Western Pennsylvania. Although is it a rivalry if the series has been mostly one-sided over the past decade or so (Aliquippa has dominated)? Well, that's another matter to debate.

The Aliquippa-Beaver Falls game has been the final game the past two seasons. Other years, it has been in the mid to late season. But this year, you won't have to wait long for the Quips and Tigers.

Aliquippa and Beaver Falls will play Sept. 2. It is the first game of the season for Beaver Falls, and the second game for Aliquippa. The Quips open Aug. 27 in a very interesting game at New Castle.

"Goin' Up Camp" rolled into Aliquippa and Beaver Falls practices recently:

ALIQUIPPA

When it Raines

An Aliquippa player to watch this season is certainly Kwantel Raines. He is looking like the next big-time recruit at Aliquippa. He is a 6-foot-4, 185-pound junior defensive back and already has scholarship offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and a number of other Division I colleges.

Obviously, Raines must be good to get those offers. But the thing is, he hasn't played all that much. Last year as a sophomore, he was not a regular starter.

Kwantel RainesThe scholarship offers are examples again of how recruiting is based on size and potential. Raines (pictured) also will be Aliquippa's starting quarterback this year. But his future is definitely on defense.

"He didn't start a lot last year, but we went to the state championship, so we had some players in front of him," said Zmijanac. "As a quarterback, he's raw. How good is he overall? I don't know. But he's 6-4, 185 pounds, he has good grades and he's not a bad kid. 

"People say, 'Look, we're going to offer you now.' But come February 2018, maybe they say, 'We don't want you.' We'll see. I just know all that stuff on the internet, Facebook, Twitter? That doesn't mean anything."

The numbers and other stuff

**** Aliquippa has only 28 boys in its senior class. But 12 are on the football team.

**** The Quips have some returning starters on the line and other positions, but will have to develop a running game with Kaezon Pugh gone. 

Kiyon Fooks could be in the backfield. He rushed for more than 300 yards last year, so look for "Cheese Fry" to play a bigger role possibly this year.

Yes, "Cheese Fry." That's his nickname. Only in Aliquippa.

**** Zmijanac, the silver-haired fox, and other coaches in the conference are not real happy with what the WPIAL did with the playoff format in Class 3A. Aliquippa's enrollment numbers would place the Quips in Class A. But they have elected to play "up" in Class 3A. They are in the Beaver Valley Conference with Beaver Falls, Central Valley and Beaver, among others. It's sort of a super conference. You could make the point of those being the top four teams in 3A entering the season. But under the WPIAL's new playoff format, only two teams from this conference will qualify for the playoffs, and possibly a third-place "wild card" team.

The other two conferences in Class 3A are much, much weaker. Now do you understand why the coaches in the Beaver Valley Conference are unhappy about the playoff format?

**** Zmijanac said five players have transferred to other schools. The reason? "They couldn't take the competition we have on our team," said Zmijanac.

BEAVER FALLS

The French connection

Beaver Falls used two quarterbacks last season - Adam Brady and Malik Shepherd. Both return but the Tigers will likely start a new quarterback. He is of French descent.

Austin French transferred from Ambridge. He was one of a handful of Ambridge players who transferred to different schools. Davion Jones and Tariq Jones went to Aliquippa. Tariq Jones was an all-conference linebacker at Ambridge as a sophomore. French went to Beaver Falls. 

French is 6-4, 205 pounds and looks like a nice dropback passer. He is running first-team ahead of Brady. It looks like Brady will be moved to another position. Coaches and players have high praise for French in the early going.

Ailing Shepherd

Shepherd is an excellent athlete and has some Division I offers as an athlete. His future is at possibly receiver or defensive back. He will also play some quarterback for Beaver Falls, but he won't play anywhere for the first few Malik Shepherdgames. Shepherd (pictured) is still recovering from surgery to his left foot this summer. Shepherd sustained the injury in a summer basketball game.

Shepherd has to watch practices from the sideline. He is supposed to get the boot cast off soon and he said doctors are telling him he might be back playing in one of the first few games of the season.

Jeter talk

Beaver Falls features star senior DE Donovan Jeter. He's a confident, determined youngster who isn't afraid to express his opinions and goals, evidenced by some of his comments in the P-G's Blue Chip Chat yesterday. Jeter actually talked about making the Hall of Fame. Crazy? Well, hey it's what he believes right now.

Donovan Jeter 2016Jeter (pictured) looks great, dropping almost 50 pounds from his last year. While he talked about future goals beyond high school, he has this to say about what he wants to do this season:

"I want to be defensive player of the year. I'm talking maybe 90 tackles, 20 sacks. It's gotta be done. I don't get to come out here any more after this year. It's not my junior year or sophomore year. It's my senior year. This is it. If I don't do what I gotta do, there won't be any championship."

Dwight Collins the coach

If you were a Pitt fan in the 1980s, you surely remember Dwight Collins, a standout receiver for the Panthers who played a little in the NFL. Collins (pictured in his Pitt days) is one of the all-time great athletes from Beaver Falls (football and basketball star). He's in his second year as an assistant coach with Beaver Falls.

D.C. looks good. After practice last week, he rode his bike home. 

 

 

 

Sizing up the Tigers

Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook will tell you this is one of the biggest teams he's had in a while. Besides Jeter, there is 6-3, 275-pound Raquan Crowder, and 6-5, 315-pound Matt Gandy.

Plus, Beaver Falls has back skill. Torian Leak was a first-team all-conference RB and Derrell Carter a first-team all-conference WR.

"I mean, we have just about everybody back," said Matsook. "There were only four seniors on the team last year. We hope the experience pays off. We hope being in battles carries on. But this conference is tough."

Can the Tigers beat Aliquippa, though? We'll find out early this year.

 

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A hello, and your Aug. 15 practice report

Written by Jenn Menendez on .

 

Good afternoon,

A warm hello from your new Pitt football writer at the PG. I returned to work today following a lengthy (and lovely) vacation spent with family.

Some of you may remember me from when I covered West Virginia football in 2011 and 2012. (Don’t hold it against me). I also spent many years covering University of Maine football before relocating to the Pittsburgh area in 2011. 

Without any further ado … your Pitt football practice report follows.

News from Monday, Aug. 15:

* Not much to be gleaned from our 30-minute window watching practice, other than it appeared to be the start of a long, hot, occasionally rainy day for Pitt.

* Coach Pat Narduzzi gave us a brief assessment of Saturday’s scrimmage (quote is below), which he said basically told him his team is slightly ahead of schedule from where he expected them to be a week into camp. 

* It doesn’t sound like there is much separation from the pack in any position yet, including the deep pool of running backs and some intriguing battles at linebacker. 

Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi

Opening statement:

Saturday we had a great scrimmage. We came out here and ran about 130 plays I believe total, with special teams included. We were really crisp and really healthy. There were a lot of good things. Obviously a lot of things we can correct; but after six or seven practices, I would say that we're probably ahead of schedule. I was very happy with the attitude and the intensity that our guys took. Yesterday we went out and had another good morning after a physical scrimmage the day before, and we got a lot accomplished. Now we're at two-a-days today, so this is when the grind starts. We had individual dinners last night by position coaches, so we freshened them up before we get after it here today.”

On who won the scrimmage:

“The offense did win the scrimmage. It came down to a two-minute situation with the ones and twos at the end. It was a tight ball game. The offense did win the scrimmage, that's why they're wearing the blue jerseys today. You can always tell by the jersey color.”

On if any adjustments were made to the depth chart:

“There were little adjustments. Nothing major, which I guess is a good thing. I'd say about three or four little changes that you probably won't be able to see out there, but nothing that would surprise you. Just little moves here and there that just might happen.”

On how exciting it is to see his former Pitt players perform well in the NFL:

“You know what, we do get excited. I get excited. Those are Pitt Panthers. Those are Pitt men. The next day we got both of those plays up on [Twitter]. I know all of those guys have a dream to play at that next level. I texted Lafayette [Pitts] saying, 'Hey, how many times have you pressed and done that? You should be good down there in Miami, pressing and doing what you're doing.' That's what he did every day here for a year. Just to see it transfer from that field to down in Miami in an NFL game is great. I'm proud of those guys.”

On how difficult two-a-days will be for the players, especially the freshmen:

“We've got a tough group out there. We've got 20 seniors. The freshmen are like little ducklings that have to follow their parents. Mommy and daddy are going to walk, and they're going to follow. I think they'll do a good job of following the lead.”

On how things at the linebacker position have been progressing:

“I think we've got good depth there. I think when you look at it overall, especially with the starting group of [Matt] Galambos and Mike Caprara. [Quinton] Wirginis is doing a great job. Saleem Brightwell just continues to make plays. He doesn't always get lined up the way we want him to, but he's a football player. Out there at the star position, Seun [Oluwaseun] Idowu does a nice job. Elijah Zeise had a nice scrimmage. Bam Bradley, who I haven't mentioned, he's kind of been floating around doing a little bit of both. He's much improved. We've got a lot of depth at that position.”

On the offense struggling in the red zone during the scrimmage:

“We'll get down in there. The field gets constricted a little bit. You kind of tighten it down. Guys are making plays. We had an illegal procedure down there, so that's part of it. That's an easy fix. A lot of easy, fixable things, but the defense is doing some good things down there as well. It's scoring defense and scoring offense. We'd like to score when we're down there. As a head coach you kind of feel good for the defense, but then you kind of go, 'Ugh, we've got to score points down there.' You're never happy as you sit in that office up there.”

On what things he looks for as signs that the team is progressing during camp:

“The first thing is that there are not many guys in yellow jerseys. If you've got that, then you have a healthy, conditioned team. I think that Dave Andrews has done a great job through the offseason of preparing them, and I think that they're doing a great job of recovering after a practice. Today will be a big day. This week will be big. I told those guys yesterday that today is No. 8 and yesterday was seven. If you didn't count a spring game, that's halfway through spring ball really. So we got half of spring ball done in one week. That's a different deal. After this week we'll have 15 days done of spring ball and then we move on and get better. One of the things that we're looking for is consistency. Who are those guys that are consistently going to do it? Or are they like a yo-yo, up and down? The consistency part of it, the guys are engaged every day when they go out there and focused on the little things that they need to do to get better.”

On if he is beginning to see any separation at running back:

“There are so many good players back there right now that you're not seeing a whole lot. Right now, and again I'm not going to give you a depth chart, all of those guys are doing a great job. James [Conner] continues to impress in my opinion. I might even tweet out one of his runs. Just like the end of it, so you can't see the whole thing, but he continues to impress. Rachid [Ibrahim] had a great day the other day. Darrin Hall had a great day. [Chawntez] Moss continues to impress as well. Qadree [Ollison] has been really versatile in what he can do. I'm happy with the stable that we have back there.”

On how quarterback Ben DiNucci has progressed from where he was a year ago:

“He's certainly better. He's made some nice throws. His knowledge of the offense is a lot better. Right now I think Manny Stocker is ahead of him. It's probably one of those spots that we've seen a little bit of a change. As we move closer toSeptember 3rd, we've got to start to get that depth chart squeezed down and really get repetitions to the guys that need it. Right now I think Manny [Stocker] is separating himself a little bit at that spot. You're talking a fifth-year senior compared to a second-year redshirt freshman.”

On how the running backs' individual skill sets affect the role he sees for them:

“It is certainly a major factor. That's what we do as coaches. Whether it's the guys that can cover or the guys that can't cover, we're going to get involved in the run game. We'll put them in there when we know it's going to be a run. It's the same thing in that situation, but obviously as a tailback you better be versatile [enough] to do both. If you're just a runner and you can't pass protect or catch, defenses know that. We're certainly going to use the tools that they have.”

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada

On keeping the players on their toes:

“It's really been a good camp so far. Guys are playing well and working hard. I really like the way we are working. Our guys like football; I can't stress that enough. I appreciate the way our guys work.”

On the growth of quarterback Manny Stocker:

“He's getting better every day. He's taken a couple of big steps. We're throwing a lot at him, and he's taking it in stride. He's playing like a senior needs to play and I'm proud of him. He's probably more focused on the details. Manny worked hard [at NC State]. I would never question his work, but the details matter. So does appreciating pressure. Pressure is a privilege. Everybody doesn't have pressure. Sometimes we don't like it, but if you want to be the guy then there's going to be pressure there. I think he's learned to embrace that, understand it and work at that. I think he's attacking the details of the game and the details of his position.”

On how players will separate themselves at the running back position:

“Whoever is making the best plays and the best runs. We're fortunate to have as much talent as we do there. Sometimes you're in a tough position because you don't have anybody good enough to take the job and sometimes you have a whole bunch of guys who could be a No. 1; we fall in the latter right now. We have a very good stable of backs. Coach [Andre] Powell has done a tremendous job with them. They've done a tremendous job working. It is an extremely deep group. We'll see how it goes, but we feel really fortunate to have them all.”

On the plays from running backs that caught his eye during Saturday’s scrimmage:

“They all made some plays to be honest. They’ve all made plays through camp. It’s great to have James [Conner] back out here, and he’s certainly doing a great job. [Chawntez] Moss is a young guy who is doing tremendous. I think Qadree [Ollison] has really come back attacking and had a tremendous camp. So has Darrin Hall. All of those guys have done a great job. It's a really good group."

On the depth of the playbook:

“We don't have all of it in yet. We're adding to it every day and I appreciate how hard guys are working to learn it. We're slowly and methodically implementing it. The weapons we have and the guys who can make plays give us an opportunity to do different things. We're trying to be sound in what we are doing--simple is always better--so we're going to be sound in what we do and make sure we're always improving. We are fortunate to have multiple backs who can play, multiple tight ends who can play and multiple wideouts who can play.

On the role of the tight ends in the offense:

“I don't know. Saturday is different than Monday. Once we start playing on Saturdays we will see who comes in and makes plays. But they are going to have a role for sure.”

 

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