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New Castle suspends six more of its own players ....... This Week High School Sports show

Written by Mike White on .

Seven New Castle High School players and coach Joe Cowart were already suspended from this Friday's game against Ambridge.

But New Castle administrators have added six more players and one assistant coach to the suspended list.

All of the suspensions are the result of a fight on the field before last Friday's game between Central Valley and host New Castle. The fight started when Central Valley came on the field shortly before the game and players were on the New Castle logo at midfield. Some New Castle's players quickly rushed onto the field and a fight started.

Game officials decided to eject Cowart and seven New Castle players, including five starters, from the game. Under PIAA and WPIAL rules, a coach or player ejected also is ineligible for the next game. 

But New Castle officials reviewed tape of the incident Monday and handed down one-game suspensions of six more players and an assistant coach. The WPIAL also has decided to have a hearing Monday with coaches and administrators from both schools. The WPIAL could accept the penalties handed down by New Castle, or the league could add a few more. 

"When you have the aid and benefit of videotape .... it's the eye in the sky. It's right there," said John Sarandrea, superintendent of the New Castle Area School District. "You can't deny it and you have to take ownership of it. It's important to self report.

"We're willing to take responsibility for the poor decisions by our coaches and players."

“It pains me to do all of this, but we have to do what’s right for an educational institution. It’s very, very important to send the right message to young people and our student athletes. That’s paramount. Our other goal would be to put things in place to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Game officials did not eject any Central Valley players or coaches. Central Valley officials, after reviewing film, decided to suspend one player for this week's game.

"The district suspended one student-athlete for his actions after the altercation already began," said Nick Perry, superintendent of the Central Valley School District. "But we want reiterate that any statements or reports that our players came up and were jumping up and down on the logo are unjust."

Perry said a game official directed Central Valley's team to go to the center of the field because the New Castle band was still on the field and the official wanted Central Valley to stay away from the band.

"It was not a display of poor sportsmanship because we would never condone that," said Pettery. "Our team went to the center of the field as directed by the game official."

The New Castle game against Ambridge Friday is an important one in New Castle's hopes of making the WPIAL playoffs. New Castle is 2-3 in the Parkway Conference and tied for fifth place. The top five teams are guaranteed of a playoff spot. Ambridge is one game behind.

This Week In High School Sports

Predictions on top games, opinions on six classes in football and much more in This Week In High School Sports Show, with yours truly and Terry Shields.


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WPIAL to have hearing with New Castle-Central Valley ..... West A. - Woody High on TV

Written by Mike White on .

Items that fell from my laptop

The WPIAL board of directors has to step in and investigate another fight between football teams.

The WPIAL has decided to have a hearing Monday with representatives from New Castle and Central Valley after their teams were involved in a fight before their game this past Friday.

On Monday, WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley reviewed reports and video from the incident and decided to bring both coaches and school officials in for a hearing in front of the WPIAL board of directors. Game officials will also attend.

Before the contest, game officials ejected seven New Castle players and also New Castle head coach Joe Cowart. Under PIAA rules, an ejected player or coach is ineligible for the next game. So, those players, including five starters, can not play this week against Ambridge, and Cowart can not coach.

The fight started at midfield shortly before the game when some Central Valley players were jumping up and down on the New Castle logo. Some New Castle players then rushed the field. Game officials did not eject any Central Valley players.

Only a week ago, the WPIAL ordered the suspension of a few Wilkinsburg and Monessen players who were involved in a fight during their game, which was stopped in the third quarter. The New Castle-Central Valley game is different, though. The fight occurred before the game and game officials took action. In the Monessen-Wilkinsburg game, game officials did not eject anyone and agreed to stop the game in the third quarter.

Root to televise battle of No. 1s

The big game this Friday is a non-conference game - between two No. 1s. And you can watch it  on television.

Woodland Hills, the Post-Gazette's No. 1 WPIAL Class AAAA team, plays host to West Allegheny, the No. 1 team in Class AAA. Root Sports television will air the game live.

Root started televising games live last Friday. The station is going with a "flex schedule," meaning it will pick the best game on a weekly basis.

Shenango going for title

The Shenango Wildcats are undefeated after six games. A few people have asked the last time Shenango was undefeated. Answer: Twelve years ago. In 2003, Shenango finished 9-0 in the regular season and won the Class AA Tri-County North Conference title for the second year in a row.


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Week 6 rewind: New Castle has to deal with ejections ...... new WPIAL, state ratings

Written by Mike White on .

Notes, anecdotes and thoughts after Week 6 of the high school football season. New WPIAL and state rankings are at the end.

The pregame was costly to New Castle Friday night.

Before the Central Valley at New Castle game two days ago, there was an altercation on the field between the two teams and it certainly took some wind out of the Red Hurricanes. Or at least it took the head coach and seven players off the Hurricanes.

Coach Joe Cowart and seven players were ejected. Five starters were among the seven. New Castle had to be considered an underdog for the game anyway, but New Castle lost 35-0.

Losing Friday was one thing. Now this Friday is another thing. New Castle is fighting for a WPIAL playoff berth and, per PIAA rules, Cowart and the seven players will not be able to play in Friday's game against Ambridge. Under the rules, a player or coach who is ejected is ineligible for the next game.

Injury stuff

Standout Woodland Hills running back Miles Sanders sat out the second consecutive game Friday with a heel injury. Miles SandersI'm hearing Sanders (Penn State recruit) should be OK for this Friday's showdown against West Allegheny. But the game brings about an interesting question. If you are Woodland Hills coach George Novak, do you play Sanders (pictured) against West Allegheny?

True, it's a game that will create tons of interest. West Allegheny is No. 1 in Class AAA and Woodland Hills No. 1 in AAAA. But it's still a non-conference game, and in the larger scheme of things, the contest doesn't mean much, if anything.

So, if you are Novak, do you play Sanders? After all, Woodland Hills has a showdown the following week with Mt. Lebanon that will decide the Southeastern Conference title.

Incidentally, speaking of Woodland Hills' running game, Jo-El Shaw has made a verbal commitment to Western Michigan. That means Woody High has an all Division I backfield - when Sanders plays, of course.

**** Ya think Duane Brown makes a difference with Apollo-Ridge? Brown (pictured) played the firstDuane Brown two games for Apollo-Ridge, rushed for 313 yards and the Vikings scored 65 points. They were 1-1 in those games. But Brown did not play the next three games because of a concussion and Apollo-Ridge went 1-2, with only 26 points scored.

Brown returned to the Vikings Friday night, ran for 239 yards on 20 carries and Apollo-Ridge defeated Shady Side Academy, 31-13.

The rise of Frazier

Frazier is 6-0 for the first time since 1983 when the Commodores were undefeated until losing to Western Beaver in the WPIAL Class A championship. One of the standouts on that Frazier team was none other Joe Lafkothan Joe Lafko, now the successful boys basketball coach at Hampton. Lafko (pictured during his days at Frazier) had that incredible career as a defensive back, intercepting 37 passes, which is still a state record.

Oh yeah. Lafko was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame this summer.

Random thoughts and notes

**** OK, time for personal ramble. Two out of the past three weeks I've had to cover games at places where they must think we reporters are owls (Seton-LaSalle and Belle Vernon). They won't turn the lights on in the press box. Great. Real fun to cover a game in a dark press box. They say it creates too much glare on the press box windows. 

**** I'm wondering what has happened to the Jackson twins at Allderdice. Haven't heard much from them this season.

**** A basketball note: Will the WPIAL have a player in the NBA this season? Chartiers Valley grad T.J. McConnell is in the 76ers camp and hit the winning shot Saturday night in a preseason game. He has showed promise at times, but will he make it? Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a short story on his blog on McConnell (pictured, courtesy of the Inquirer) and Sixers coach Brett Brown had some good things to say about McConnell and said he is in a "fistfight" to make the team.

**** Kelsey Tischler is in her first season as Bethel Park's kicker and she now has three field goals, while Apollo-Ridge's Megan Bonelli has two field goals.

**** Due to the Tri-County South's miserable performance in the playoffs the past few years, the top teams in the conference don't get much respect. And rightfully so. But you have to notice what Frazier is doing. If the Commodores finish the regular season undefeated, I say they might get a No. 5 seed. They have only allowed one touchdown. Yes, it's in the Tri-County South, but still maybe worthy of a No. 5 seed.

**** Is it just me, or is it hard to believe that only three weeks are left in the regular season?

**** I've read stories in the Post-Gazette and Beaver County Times the past few days about Aliquippa boys basketball coach Nick Lackovich (pictured to the right) being investigated for possibly being involved with dog fighting. He has NOT been charged. But Lackovich has been suspended without pay from his job as a probation officer. Will anything happen to him right now as coach at Aliquippa? 

Lackovich was the Post-Gazetter coach of the year last season.

WPIAL, state ratings

Here are the latest Post-Gazette WPIAL and state ratings. One of the surprise games this weekend was Bishop Canevin beating Avonworth Saturday night. A big surprise in the East was Bishop McDevitt losing to Susquehanna Township, 35-26. McDevitt was ranked No. 3 in the state in Class AAA.

1. Woodland Hills 6-0
2. Penn-Trafford 6-0
3. Pine-Richland 6-0
4. North Allegheny 5-1
5. Central Catholic 5-1

1. West Allegheny 6-0
2. Belle Vernon 6-0
3. Central Valley 5-1
4. Franklin Regional 5-1
5. Ringgold 5-1

1. Aliquippa 6-0
2. South Fayette 6-0
3. Beaver Falls 6-0
4. Washington 6-0
5. Steel Valley 5-1

1. Clairton 6-0
2. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 6-0
3. Jeannette 5-1
4. Avonworth 5-1
5. Shenango 5-1

1. Allderdice 3-3
2. Brashear 5-1
3. University Prep 4-2

1. Woodland Hills 6-0
2. Central Dauphin 6-0
3. Downingtown East 6-0
4. Upper Dublin 6-0
5. Wilson 5-1

1. Imhotep Charter 6-0
2. Archbishop Wood 6-0
3. West Allegheny 6-0
4. Conneaut 6-0
5. Bethlehem Catholic 6-0

1. Aliquippa 6-0
2. South Fayette 6-0
3. Wyomissing 6-0
4. Berks Catholic 6-0
5. Southern Columbia 6-0

1. Clairton 6-0
2. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 6-0
3. Sharpsville 6-0
4. Camp Hill 6-0
5. Guilfoyle 6-0


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Live Friday blog -- Highlights and interviews from Belle Vernon victory against Ringgold

Written by Mike White on .

Live blog from tonight's Post-Gazette game of the week - Ringgold at Belle Vernon. Follow along and look to the right for updates, notes and photos from other games, courtesy of @PGVarsityXtra twitter account. If you have a score update or note, tweet with #WPIAL and tag @PGVarsityXtra


9:45 Ringgold goes three and out.


After blocked punt, on third down, QB Mike Fine finds end zone. Two point run no good.

9:38 big break for Belle Vernon. Derek Verkleeren blocks punt. Noah Bukowski recovers. BV at Ringgold 8.


And a turnover turns this game. Mike Fine's pass is intercepted by Ringgold's David Carpenter at his 45 and he returns it all the way to the Belle Vernon 5. George Martin scores TD on next play with a run. two point pass no good.

9:15 Ringgold goes three and out. Belle Vernon takes over at 41.

9:11 Ringgold actually has looked better in this game offensively. But Rams still trail. 7-6. They take over at own 31, late in the third.

9:04 Pass intercepted by Jake Powell. BV takes over at 7.

8:58 Second half underway. Belle Vernon goes three and out on first possession.


How about South Fayette? On way to 38th consecutive win, which would tie for third-longest in WPIAL history. Leading Steel Valley 21-0.

Clairton trailing Jeannette, 19-18.

Surprising a little. Allegheny Conference Freeport leads Highlands, 14-0. Highlands undefeated.

Bethel Park showing it is indeed good, leading Mt. Lebanon, 20-7.

Hampton undefeated, but players out with injuries and sickness, including leading rusher Matt Rech. Franklin Regional leads Hampton 14-0.

Seneca Valley showing something tonight. Hard to stop Pine-Richland offense, but Seneca Valley trails Pine-Richland, 28-21.

Mars leading Gateway, 28-7. Offensive problems continue for Gateway.


Halftime stats: Neither team overwhelming offensively. Belle Vernon only 88 yards offensively. Luke Durigon 9 yards rushing. Mike Fine 50 on 7 carries. Fine 2 of 7 for 29 yards.

Both teams have some speed on defense and fly to the ball well. Ringgold has 160 yards offense. 125 on the ground. Maybe Chacar Berry will get the ball a little more in the second half. Has 58 yards on nine carries.

Never mind offense. How about South Fayette defense. Outgained Steel Valley 214 to minus 3 so far. Wow. SF leads 14-0

8:36 BV takes over at own 28 with 3:01 left in half.

8:18 Place is packed tonight.

8:12 Belle Vernon got to the 21, but went backwards and punted.


Chacar Berry 1-yard TD run. Run for two points by Small is stopped.


Big run by George Martin set up Ringgold at BV 9. TD pass to Briscoe on next play. Called back because of holding penalty.

7:52 Ringgold has now completed 2 of 7 passes for ..... minus 12 yards.

7:50 Dalton Holt INT ends BV drive.

8:44 Chacar Berry is running pretty well for Ringgold, but Rams seem to want to establish the pass. But George Martin is now 1 of 6.


It took Belle Vernon three plays to go 11 yards. Luke Durigon scores on 1-yard run.

7:34 Second play. Short pass to Berry. Fumbles. Belle Vernon recovers at 11.

7:31 Game time. Ringoold receiver. 

7:17 Kickoff at 7:30. A few updates coming in. Jeanntte has taken 7-0 lead on Clairton. Doubt there will be mercy rule tonight in this one.

Colleague Megan Ryan of P-G reporting Hampton without its standout running back "Wrecking Ball" Matt Rech

Here's something to raise your eyebrows: Post-Gazette boys basketball coach of the year Nick Lackovich of Aliquippa is being investigated for dog fighting. 

7:11 Never mind the gold turf and whether you like or dislike. I've always felt Belle Vernon's James Weir Stadium is one of the best places to watch a game. 

Everything seems golden. Ringgold - and the new gold turf at Belle Vernon. Check it out. Wild, isn't it? I kind of like it. It's like a layer of gold snow on the field.

Belle Vernon turf2


The first time these two teams played was 1969. They have not played every year since. Although they have played a number of times, there were a number of years when Ringgold was in Class AAAA and Belle Vernon in AAA. So, they didn't play.

But since that first meeting 46 years ago, they have never met in a game as big as this one during the season. Many years, they played in the season opener.

The closest was 1987 when Ringgold was 6-0-1 and Belle Vernon 5-2.

This is the only turf in the WPIAL that isn't green.

Belle Vernon turf



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A dozen predictions to go for the best Friday of the season

Written by Mike White on .

Tonight's live blog will come from the Post-Gazette Game of the Week - Ringgold at Belle Vernon. Follow along and look to the right for score updates, notes and photos from all games around the area, courtesy of @PGVarsityXtra on twitter. If you have a score, note or photo, tweet with #wpial and tag @PGVarsityXtra

Just got out of the bakery. Got some sticky buns and a box of a "dozen predictions to go" again. 

Last week, was 10-2, which made the season record 45-15 (.750 pct.). Here are this week's picks on what is easily the best Friday of the season so far, at least for big games. There are big games everywhere. Five of them match teams tied for first place and a handful of others matching first-place teams against a team only one game behind.


Bethel Park at Mt. Lebanon - Is this Mt. Lebanon's first real test of the season? Probably. Bethel Park has won three in a row since starting the season with losses to Central Catholic and Woodland Hills. Key to the game will be line play. Winner: Bethel Park.

Seneca Valley at Pine-Richland - Seneca Valley has only one conference loss while Pine-Richland is in first in the Northern Eight. Seneca Valley is definitely bound for the playoffs, but certainly not bound for a spot in first place in the Northern Eight. Will Phil Jurkovec be a 100/100 man again? Winner: Pine-Richland.


Ringgold at Belle Vernon - I'll be there tonight, wearing shades to protect my eyes from the new gold turf at Belle Vernon. Ringgold has some game breakers, like Chacar Berry. He's Berry, Berry good. But Belle Vernon has a "Fine" dual-threat QB in Mike Fine (tired of the puns yet?). Belle Vernon's defense might be the difference. Winner: Belle Vernon.

Hampton at Franklin Regional - Hampton is undefeated. But a little birdie told me they are banged up with injuries. Franklin Regional will be in a first place tie after tonight. Winner: Franklin Regional.

West Mifflin at Laurel Highlands - Two consecutive tough losses to Ringgold and Belle Vernon for West Mifflin. This is one of Laurel Highlands' best teams in a while, but LH isn't as good as Ringgold and Belle Vernon. Winner: West Mifflin.

Mars at Gateway - It seems like there are at least two interesting games in the Greater Allegheny Conference every week. This is one of them. Gateway's offense has struggled to score points. Winner: Mars.


South Fayette at Steel Valley - This game will be live on Root Sports TV. They certainly picked a good one. South Fayette has a 37-game winning streak, one away from tying for the third-longest in WPIAL history. The streak was featured in today's P-G high school notebook. South Fayette really hasn't played anyone yet. Steel Valley owns two good wins on the road at Seton-LaSalle and Freeport. Steel Valley has a standout running back in DeWayne Murray. But I like SV's QB Tre Earl Edwards. South Fayette must keep him from making big plays. It wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Steel Valley win. But ... Winner: South Fayette.

Freeport at Highlands - A tough game last week vs. Steel Valley. Now, Freeport has another tough opponent on the road. It will be the same result. Winner: Highlands.

Aliquippa at Beaver - Beaver's defense must come up with the performance of the decade for the Bobcats to have a shot. Winner: Aliquippa.


Clairton at Jeannette - Prediction No. 1: For the first time this season, Clairton won't win by mercy rule. Prediction No. 2: Winner: Clairton.

Frazier at Beth-Center - This is a mighty interesting game from the standpoint that Frazier has allowed only one touchdown all season, while Beth-Center's Anthony Welsh is the second-leading rusher in the WPIAL. Beth-Center has won the conference title four consecutive years and lost only one conference game in that time. Is it time for a change at the top? Winner: Frazier.

Shenango at South Side Beaver - Looking at the remainder of Shenango's schedule, a win would just about sew up the Big Seven Conference title. Well then, consider Shenango conference champs. Winner: Shenango. 


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