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Friday night rewind: 'The House surprises, plus video highlights

Written by Mike White on .

Looking back at the first Friday night of the high school football season ...

This might be the earliest start to WPIAL football - ever? Games always started the Friday before Labor Day. But Aug. 26 might be the earliest start ever. And what starts with games in temperatures close to 90 degrees ends in freezing temperatures close to Christmas.

The 'House opener

Did someone flip that 'House?

The biggest eye opener Friday night, I say, is Westinghouse's 41-14 victory against Greensburg Central Catholic. So maybe this isn't one of Greensburg Central's strongest teams. But that's still a good program. And Westinghouse has been bad for a while in the City League. Westinghouse has won two or less games eight times in the past 12 years. Westinghouse had won only 25 percent of its games since 2000.

But maybe things will be different this year. Wilkinsburg High School closed and its students now attend Westinghouse. But it's not like Westinghouse has a bunch of players from Wilkinsburg. A few weeks ago, Westinghouse coach Monte Robinson said his team only had a handful of players from Wilkinsburg. (Robinson is pictured in preseason workouts).

Maybe Westinghouse is just a lot better this season. Westinghouse doesn't play again until Sept. 9 against Perry. The City League doesn't seem to be overly strong this year. Can Westinghouse be a player?

Zane's back

Zane Dudek was the WPIAL's leading rusher last season and was up to his old tricks again Friday when he rushed for 278 yards against Karns City. It was the most yards on the first night of the season.

Game vs. scrimmage

This is the first year where teams could elect to skip a second scrimmage and play a game instead. About half the teams in the WPIAL elected to play a non-conference game instead of playing that second scrimmage. I attended the Central Valley-South Fayette game. It was ragged at times, which was to be expected for a first game, especially without a second scrimmage. A number of players were also cramping, which was to be expected on a warm night in August.

Talking with some other reporters and getting other reports, it seems other games lacked crispness. No surprise there. So is this "Week 0" game a good idea? Hey, why not? If teams want to play a game, so be it. You know the players like it. Plus, it was getting to the point where a number of teams were treating the second scrimmage like NFL teams treat some preseason games. In other words, they were going light and holding some players out of the scrimmage.

One thing, though. Maybe we shouldn't put too much stock in the scores of these "Week 0" games.

Highlights

Story on South Fayette defeating Central Valley in the Post-Gazette game of the week. And check out highlights below with comments from the game:

 

Brian Batko covered Woodland Hills' victory against Gateway. Below are highlights with comments from Woodland Hills coach George Novak about his young team's first game.
 
 
 

 

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Friday Night Countdown: Predictions, where to go, other notes

Written by Mike White on .

High school football around Pennsylvania kicks off tonight. Not all teams are playing. In the WPIAL, there is about half of a normal schedule. All teams begin play next week. This is the first installment of "Friday Night Prelude," a weekly Varsity Blog entry with notes, predictions and other items:

Remember, for updates on scores of all WPIAL games, follow @PGVarsityXtra on Twitter. Post scores and photos with #wpial

Check This Out

When Charleroi plays at Monessen tonight, it will be the renewal of a rivalry that goes back to 1905. The two teams haven't played since 2007 and this game marks the 100th meeting between the Cougars and Greyhounds. These two were able to play because of a new rule in the PIAA that lets teams decide to play a game instead of a second scrimmage. Charleroi and Monessen decided to play each other. Starting next week, the WPIAL schedules games for all teams.

When the Charleroi-Monessen rivalry stopped after the 2007 game, they had met more times than any two schools in the WPIAL. Since then, Beaver and New Brighton have moved into the No. 1 spot for most meetings. Those two have played 102 times since 1903, but their series will be stopped this year because they are no longer in the same conference under the new six-classification system. Beaver is Class 3A and New Brighton 2A.

Third on the WPIAL list of most meetings is Beaver Falls and New Brighton. They have played 96 times since 1904. Although the two don't play in the same conference any more, Beaver Falls and New Brighton are scheduled for a non-conference matchup later this season.

Where to go

Looking for a game to see, try these ...

Central Valley at South Fayette, tonight - Post-Gazette Game of the Week. Interesting showdown between two teams that have never met.

Woodland Hills at Gateway, tonight - The Don Holl era begins at Gateway. Did you know Woody High does not have one starter back on offense and only two on defense?

Pine-Richland at St. Edward (Ohio), tomorrow - Turn in ESPN tomorrow at noon and you can catch this one live. 

Central Catholic vs. St. Johns (D.C.), tomorrow at North Allegheny - Noon kickoff in the Western Pennsylvania Football Classic at NA. Division I players galore on the field in this one.

Aliquippa at New Castle, tomorrow - One that drips with tradition. They haven't met since 1989 when Frank Marocco (pictured) and Lindy Lauro were the coaches. This game is the second of a doubleheader at New Castle's Taggart Stadium. Neshannock plays Farrell in the first game at 5 p.m. Nice event.

A dozen predictions

I just stopped at Schorr's bakery this morning. Besides getting the best doughnuts around, I picked up a dozen predictions. It will be a weekly fall tradition.

South Fayette over Central Valley - There won't be repeated undefeated regular seasons now that South Fayette is playing 4A, but there will be continued success for Joe Rossi's program. Central Valley is inexperienced, but Mark Lyons has a "program" rolling. There are always players at Central Valley. It's just that South Fayette has a little more experience back - and that counts.

This is the first Friday night road trip for me. I'm taking suggestions for quick bite to eat near South Fayette? Is "Bottle Shop" too far away to make sense?

Woodland Hills over Gateway - I know Woodland Hills has only two starters back. And this could be one of those George Novak teams that starts slow and improves greatly as the season goes on. But can we please remember, there are ALWAYS, ALWAYS good players at Woodland Hills.

North Allegheny over Olentangy (Ohio) - NA better be careful. Any team that can put an Ohio State recruit at QB can be dangerous. Brendon White is a Buckeye recruit at DB, but is playing QB this year.

Pine-Richland over St. Edward - It's road trip to Cleveland for the White mobile tomorrow morning. I don't feel strongly about this pick. St. Edward is the two-time defending state champ in the largest division in Ohio. I make the pick, based on St. Edward having only a couple starters returning. But I am having second thoughts. Pine-Richland QB Phil Jurkovec (pictured) will have to be the difference.

Aliquippa over New Castle - There is a huge part of me that believes New Castle will win. But it's six years in a row without a regular-season loss for Aliquippa. Until that defeat happens, how do you go against Quip?

Central Catholic over St. John's - St. John's is really good. So is Central Catholic. I'm thinking Central Catholic might win it with line play.

You can read more about the Central Catholic and Pine-Richland opponents in today's P-G. I find it remarkable in this day and age of fewer kids playing that St. Edward has 144 players, according to the coach.

The rest of the dozen - Mars over Hampton; Monessen over Charleroi; Connellsville over Uniontown; Peters Township over Chartiers Valley; Hempfield over Greensburg Salem; Penn-Trafford over Norwin.

For your interest

If you want more predictions on every game in the WPIAL and City League, he's baaaaack. The Fumbler had his first predictions column in today's Post-Gazette. As you know, I can't reveal The Fumbler's identity. You'd have to kill me. But it's NOT ME!!!!!

My notes column touches on a variety of subjects, including the Aliquippa-New Castle game, and how if anything nasty goes down ever, I'd want one certain Central Catholic lineman (pictured) next to me.

Check out Brian Batko's piece on Cornell football starting back up.

Joe Bendel's piece on life on Mars 

 

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Legendary coaches recall most memorable games

Written by Mike White on .

This was coaching royalty, breaking bread together on a warm July afternoon. It was an informal lunch get together at Grand View Golf Course, put on by Bill Priatko, a Steeler from long ago, former high school athletic director and friend to everyone in the WPIAL.

In coaching circles, this was indeed elite company. There were nine legends on hand, past and present. Between them, there were 47 Football coaches 2016WPIAL championships and 2,044 victories. Current coaches in attendance were Jim Render of Upper St. Clair, George Novak of Woodland Hills, Mike Zmijanac of Aliquippa and Bob Palko of West Allegheny. Former coaches were Pete Antimarino (Pitcairn and Gateway), Pat Tarquinio (Beaver and Ellwood City), Tom Nola (Clairton, Gateway and Serra), Chuck Klausing (Pitcairn and Braddock) and Joe Mucci (Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette).

(Pictured are, bottom from from left, Klausing, Antimarino, Mucci, Tarquinio. Top row from left are Palko, Novak, Nola, Zmijanac and Render).

There were a variety of subjects discussed. With some prodding from Priatko, coaches were asked what were the most memorable games they ever coached. With high school football season set to kick off tomorrow night, we thought it was a good time to share what these coaches said as they traveled down memory lane.

JIM RENDER

In 1988, we were unscored upon in our last four games and won the WPIAL. We went into the 1989 season and were unscored upon in the first four games, going into our game at North Hills. The game was on national television (SportsChannel America). We were losing, 26-7, and came back to win, 27-26. My 10-year-old son came up to me an hugged me and I had tears in my eyes.

(NOTE: North Hills had the pass-catch combination of the Bender twins - Geoff and Jason. But Upper St. Clair had two exceptional running backs in Pete Habib and Doug Whaley (now the GM of the Buffalo Bills). Whaley finished with 167 yards rushing and Habib 109).

PETE ANTIMARINO

Probably my most satisfying game was beating North Hills in the WPIAL championship game [in 1986] because my son was on the bench with me.

(NOTE: The '86 title game was one of the most memorable in WPIAL history. North Hills came into the game ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. A crowd estimated at more than 20,000 jammed the lower levels at Three Rivers Stadium.

North Hills scored with 2 seconds left to slice the lead to 7-6 on a TD pass from Joe Smithco to Greg Morris. But Smithco's pass for the two-point conversion was intercepted by Todd Washington. Some most famous Post-Gazette pictures came out of that game with Antimarino on the sideline with his son, Pete Jr., praying together before the two-point conversion. And then celebration. See below. The coincidental thing was young Pete's wife brought Pete Sr. to this lunch.).

TOM NOLA

When I was at Clairton, our state championship game in 2010 against Riverside. We were losing, 24-0, in the first half and came back to win, 36-30.

(NOTE: Tyler Boyd was a sophomore on that team and caught two touchdown passes in the victory. Pictured is Boyd running for a touchdown in the game).


JOE MUCCI

After leaving Greensburg Central Catholic, I took over as head coach at Jeannette. In my first game, we beat Hempfield, 16-0. The town was so excited. They danced in the streets for weeks. The next game we beat Connellsville, 7-6. During that season, we were rated the No. 1 team in the state. My second most satisfying game was in 1972 against Monessen in a WPIAL playoff game [at Three Rivers Stadium]. The game ended in a tie. There was no overtime back then. The game was decided by total yards, and we won the game.

BOB PALKO

My most enjoyable game was winning our first WPIAL title in 1997 at Three Rivers Stadium against Brownsville. West Allegheny hadn't won anything up to that point, and seeing the excitement with the firetrucks, police cars and fans celebrating in the community was so gratifying and enjoyable.

(Pictured is West Allegheny celebrating at Three Rivers Stadium after beating Brownsville).

MIKE ZMIJANAC

When I was an assistant coach at Aliquippa under Don Yannessa, I was the defensive coordinator. We played New Castle at New Castle in 1979. We had not beaten them in years. We won, 35-8. The win made us feel like we could really have a winning program. It was so gratifying that I remember putting a cigar in my mouth.

CHUCK KLAUSING

My Braddock-North Braddock Scott game of 1959. We were undefeated and playing the last game of the year. If we win, we go on to play for our sixth consecutive WPIAL title. We were losing, 12-9, with a little over a minute to go and we were on our own 9-yard line. With 37 seconds to go, we scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass on a great catch. We went on to win the WPIAL again. 

(NOTE: Klausing had a program that was nationally recognized in the 1950s. They were featured in Sports Illustrated. Pictured is a photo from the 1957 season of Klausing with Braddock's two captains - Joe Reaves and John Mirenzi - during the no facemask days. Interestingly, Klausing suggested concussions in football might decrease these days if they went back to no facemasks. Then players wouldn't use their helmets and heads as much).

GEORGE NOVAK

There were probably three games that were my most enjoyable. In 1982 , beating Aliquippa for my first WPIAL championships when I was Steel Valley's coach. Then in 1987, it was the first year of Woodland Hills. We had 12,000 fans at the Wolvarena for a Saturday afternoon game against Gateway. We came from behind and won, 27-21, and Gateway came into that game with a 20-game winning streak. 

My last one would be in 1996, at Three Rivers Stadium, beating North Allegheny, 27-14, for our first championship at Woodland Hills. 

(NOTE: Novak has been the only coach in Woodland Hills history. Pictured is Novak during his first year at Woodland Hills in 1987. Love those coaching shorts. Remember them? And how about the bull horn?)

PAT TARQUINIO

When I was at Beaver, our WPIAL championship game in 1982 against an excellent Jeannette team. Our best player broke his arm on the opening kickoff. We somehow went on to win the game. We were basically a running team and we threw two TD passes to win a close game.

(NOTE: The player Tarquinio was talking about was star halfback Shiloh Icenhour. He actually sustained a broken arm on a kickoff in the SECOND quarter after Jeannette scored its first touchdown. Jeannette had a stud junior quarterback in Dante Wiley and a standout running back in Maurice Chamberlain. Beaver quarterback Jim Hummel threw two touchdown passes of 27 and 37 yards to John Lehman, and Doug Dragan scored the other on a 2-yard run). 

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About TV games, VX video and players to watch

Written by Mike White on .

Items that fell off my laptop

Pine-Richland opens the season Saturday live on ESPN against St. Edward (Ohio). But what about local TV games this season?

Root Sports has been doing games live - either Fridays or Thursdays - for a number of years. There is no official word yet from Root, but I'm hearing Root plans to do games live on Fridays again - but not until the end of the Pirates season. That might be just in time for that highly-anticipated Aliquippa-Clairton game Oct. 7. Stay tuned for official word.

Root still plans to do the four WPIAL championship games that will be played at Heinz Field Nov. 18. Because of the new six classifications, two title games will also be played at Robert Morris either Nov. 25 or 26. No word on whether Root will do those games.

Not all of the WPIAL finals Nov. 18 will be live once again because the Penguins play a 7 p.m. game that night. The order of the WPIAL games that day has yet to be determined.

In other big picture news, Comcast will once again do the Xfinity Game of the Week. Starting Sept. 3, the cable station will show a game "On Demand," starting the day after the Friday game. The games can be found on the "Get Local" and "Sports" folders on legacy "On Demand," or on "Xfinity Services" and "Get Local" menus on X1 platforms. Chris Shovlin and Ellis Cannon will once again be the announcers.

Here is the schedule of games (they will be available "On Demand" the following day):

Sept. 2 - Chartiers Valley at Hampton.

Sept. 9 - Indiana at Montour

Sept. 16 - Yough at Hopewell

Sept. 23 - Beaver at Keystone Oaks

Sept. 30 - Penn-Trafford at Gateway

Oct. 7 - West Allegheny at Upper St. Clair

Oct. 14 - Washington at Chartiers-Houston

Oct. 21 - Aliquippa at Central Valley

Oct. 28 - Thomas Jefferson at West Mifflin

Debut of "This Week In High School Sports"

It's back. The wildly popular "This Week In High School Sports Show" on the Post-Gazette's web site. You want predictions and inside info? You miss Just Askin? Well, we're back, but with a new face. This team has turned to a youth movement. Venerable Terry Shields took all of his bad humor and Notre Dame favoritism to his retirement home. Brian Batko, new writer at the P-G, steps into Terry's big shoes. Actually, Terry had very small feet so Brian steps into small shoes. Brian hails from Shaler and answers to the nickname of "Yuri."

Here is the first show, ripe with talk, predictions of Central Catholic and Pine-Richland big games, and even some talk of Michael Phelps in high school football. Huh? Just check it out.

Ones to watch?

**** There is a former Wilkinsburg player worth keeping an eye on, at least according to Charleroi coach Donnie Militzer. Dremar Everette is a 6-5, 255-pound senior who transferred from Wilkinsburg to Charleroi last year. He can play receiver, but projects as a DLineman. He certainly has nice size, and watching a few highlights of him, he certainly has that "P" word - potential.

**** There's a big one in the City League. Rahim Moore is a 6-4, 320-pound FRESHMAN!!!! at University Prep that coach Lou Berry says is worth tracking.

**** And Keep an eye on Ron Stevenson, a 6-5, 200-pound junior receiver at Montour. He already has a scholarship offer from Temple. Stevenson has good bloodlines. His father, Ron Sr., was a stud basketball player at Langley High School in the City League in the early 1980s. I remember he was extremely athletic. He jumped so well he kissed the sky. Signed with Duquesne U.

Ron Sr. was a Post-Gazette Fab 5 pick in 1983. Averaged 17 and 7 as a senior for City League champion. Langley had some great teams under Pat Carmack in the early 1980s. They included a future NFL player in Bobby Howard. Langley doesn't even exist any more, but the memories do. Below is the Fab 5 team of 1983. Stevenson is pictured in the middle. The other four are Center's Marlon Ferguson, Shady Side Academy's Dean Kartsonas, McKeesport's Bill Leonard and Sto-Rox's Mark Beavers.

Ron Stevenson Fab 5

 

 

 

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Introducing the Post-Gazette preseason Fabulous 22

Written by Mike White on .

The Fabulous 22 that players desire to make comes out Thanksgiving Day. That's the "real" Fab 22, a tradition that 36 years ago. But here is a preseason version of the Fab 22. Four Central Catholic players are on the list.

David Adams Central Catholic TE-LB 6-2, 225 Sr. – Notre Dame recruit ranked among top 5 inside LBers in country.

Frank Antuono Neshannock QB-LB 6-2, 230 Sr. – Dual-threat QB who has committed to Robert Morris to play LB.

Duane Brown Apollo-Ridge RB-DB 5-11, 180 Sr. – Has had two big seasons, but status uncertain this year because of torn ACL.

Mason Cholewa Montour OT-DL 6-7, 270 Sr. – Central Florida recruit added 40 pounds since last season.

Zane Dudek Armstrong RB-DB 5-10, 190 Sr. – Rushed for over 2,000 yards last regular season and has more than 4,000 in career. (pictured)

Troy Fisher Central Catholic QB 6-5, 220 Jr. – Showed plenty of promise starting for state championship team as sophomore.

Paris Ford Steel Valley WR-DB 6-2, 190 Sr. – A Pitt recruit who is big-play threat. Transferred from Seton-LaSalle.

Noah Hamlin Clairton QB-WR-DB 5-11, 160 Sr. – Division I offers as a WR but will play a lot at QB for Bears this year.

Curtis Harper McKeesport OL-DL 6-2, 290 Sr. – Talented defensive lineman who has made commitment to Syracuse. (pictured)

Kurt Hinish Central Catholic OL-DL 6-2, 290 Sr. – Third year as defensive starter. Has already committed to Notre Dame.

Gabe Houy Upper St. Clair OT-DL 6-6, 270 Sr. – Made verbal commitment to Pitt recently. Recruited as OT.

Donovan Jeter Beaver Falls TE-DE 6-5, 250 Sr. – Highly-ranked DE has Pitt, PSU, Ohio State, Tenn., NDame, Alabama on final list.

Phil Jurkovec Pine-Richland QB 6-5, 200 Jr. – One of top JR. QBs in country. Close to 4,000 yds. offense last year. Committed to Notre Dame. (pictured)

Josh Lugg North Allegheny OT-DL 6-7, 280 Sr. – Committed to Notre Dame before junior season. Recruited for offense.

DeWayne Murray Steel Valley RB-DB 5-9, 175 Sr. – Has more than 4,000 career yards. Has Division I offers.

Kenny Robinson Imani Christian WR-DB 6-3, 200 Sr. – Transferred from University Prep last month. Division I offers.

Brayden Thimons Highlands QB-LB 6-3, 230 Sr. – A dual-threat QB who has committed to play LB at Robert Morris.

C.J. ThorpeC.J. Thorpe Central Catholic OT-DT 6-4, 310 Sr. – Big lineman who is a Penn State recruit. Recruited to play guard. (Pictured)

Thomas Vissman Upper St. Clair RB-DB 6-0, 210 Sr. – Rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. Has committed to Yale.Lamont Wade head shot 2016

Lamont Wade Clairton RB-DB 5-9, 190 Sr. – Dozens of D-1 scholarship offers as DB. Has more than 4,000 career yds. rushing. (pictured)

Darius Wise Beaver QB-DB 5-11, 175 Sr. – One of best athletes in WPIAL. Brigham Young and few others have offered.

Zane Zandier Thomas Jefferson WR-DB 6-3, 200 Sr. – First-team all-conference on offense and defense. Div. 1 offers to play defense.

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