Will Southmoreland break long playoff drought? ....... Other notes

Written by Mike White on .

Things that fell off my laptop ...

Four years ago, Deer Lakes made the WPIAL football playoffs for the first time in the school's 35-year history.

Last year, West Shamokin and Summit Academy made the playoffs for the first time. Also in 2013, Avella broke the longest playoff drought in the WPIAL, making the postseason for the first time since 1976.

Is it Southmoreland's turn to break into the playoffs this year?

With Avella making the postseason last year, Southmoreland now has the WPIAL's longest playoff drought. It has been 35 years since the Scotties made it. Southmoreland is tied for third place in the Class AA Interstate Conference with a 2-1 record (2-2 overall). The top four teams make the playoffs.

Southmoreland has conference wins against Charleroi and Brownsville. The Scotties are tied with McGuffey, but McGuffey beat Southmoreland, 42-17.

It is very likely Southmoreland's playoff hopes will come down to a Week 7 game against Waynesburg, which is 2-2 in conference. It still will be tough for Southmoreland to beat Waynesburg and make it. Waynesburg's two losses tell you something. They were 28-20 to Washington and 28-27 to Mount Pleasant. Both Washington and Mount Pleasant are 4-0.

Incidentally, Southmoreland's 1979 playoff appearance was the only one in school history. Southmoreland lost in the first round to a strong Penn Hills team, 31-0. Penn Hills QB Tom Flynn (played DB at Pitt and in the NFL) ran and passed for more than 100 yards in the game. Penn Hills also had stud lineman Bill Fralic.

McGuffey makes noise

Will we see McGuffey in the playoffs for the first time since 2009? This looks like Ed Dalton's best team since he became coach. James Duchi has been a force for the Highlanders, rushing for 572 yards on 52 carries. McGuffey is 3-1 overall.

The 2008 and 2009 McGuffey teams are the only ones to make the WPIAL playoffs since the Highlanders won the WPIAL Class AAA title in 1994. It should be pointed out that McGuffey played in Class AAA most of those years, and is now in Class AA.

Jackson will play soon

Quaker Valley quarterback/defensive back Dane Jackson hasn't played in a game yet this season because of a knee Dane Jacksoninjury sustained in the preseason. But he said he expects to play soon. Jackson (pictured) started running last week and is cutting this week. Will he play Friday against Steel Valley? That's hard to say, but he could be back next week.

Think about it

Clairton is averaging a whopping 75 points in four games. Only two WPIAL boys basketball teams averaged more points last season - Vincentian and Lincoln Park.


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Coder resigns as Canon-McMillan football coach

Written by Mike White on .

The season still isn't half over and two WPIAL coaches have now walked away from their jobs.

Ron Coder resigned this morning as Canon-McMillan's coach, citing conflict among his coaching staff. He is the second WPIAL coach to quit in two weeks. Carlynton's Mauro Monz resigned last week.

Coder, a former NFL player, and Canon-McMillan athletic director Frank Vulcano met this morning and Coder then resigned. Vulcano has been on the job for only a week after a number of years as Chartiers Valley's AD.

"Really, basically it was an internal coaching situation," said Coder, not going into specifics.

Vulcano said, "There have been some internal things within the coaching staff and within the program that were issues. Between him and I, we felt it would be the best decision for him to resign from the program."

Canon-McMillan officials were to meet with the team's players this afternoon. Offensive coordinator Terry George will take over as interim coach.

Coder was hired as Canon-McMillan's coach only last season and won only one game in his tenure. He was 1-8 last year and 0-4 this season. This year's team had been outscored, 157-21, while the 2013 team was outscored, 360-65.

Canon-McMillan was 5-32 in the four years before Coder took over. 

Coder played at Penn State and was selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 1976 NFL draft. He never played for the Steelers. He was traded to Seattle and played three seasons there before playing a season with St. Louis.

Coder also coached the Pittsburgh Passion for a year and won the 2007 Independent Women's Football League championship.

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About USC's rough start ..... State rankings

Written by Mike White on .

Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render has never handled losing well. So don't look for him to be skipping around and whistling these days

It has been a while since Render's team has had such a rough start.

Upper St. Clair is 1-3. With a game looming Friday against 4-0 Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair is staring 1-4 in the face.

It has been 14 years since Upper St. Clair started 1-3. In 1998, the Panthers started 1-4. But maybe Upper St. Clair Jim Rendercan look to that '98 season for motivation. After the 1-4 start, Upper St. Clair won four in a row and made the WPIAL playoffs before losing in the first round to New Castle.

Render has more wins than any coach in WPIAL history. Sure, he has his detractors but is there anyone around the WPIAL who does it better? But no matter the coach or the school in the WPIAL, there are going to be these down years, every once in a while, right? And really should we be all that surprised by the 1-3 start? Upper St. Clair had one starter back from last season and the Panthers' schedule has been awfully tough. The losses have all been on the road to Penn Hills, Bethel Park and North Allegheny.

But after Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair's final four games are all winnable against Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Montour and Mt. Lebanon. I think they win at least three.

It will be interesting to see how much Upper St. Clair improves in the second half of the season.

Varsity Xtra video

Here is Varsity Xtra's version of This Week In High School Sports with yours truly and Terry Shields. We talk about some big games, including game of the week North Hills vs. Pine-Richland.

State rankings

The Pennsylvania Football News state rankings are out for this week.

Here are the Post-Gazette state rankings:


1. Central Catholic 4-0

2. Woodland Hills 4-0

3. St. Joseph's Prep 1-2

4. Pennsbury 4-0

5. Parkland 4-0


1. Archbishop Wood 4-0

2. Bishop McDevitt 4-0

3. West Allegheny 4-0

4. Erie Cathedral Prep 4-0

5. Thomas Jefferson 4-0


1. South Fayette 4-0

2. Aliquippa 4-0

3. Southern Columbia 4-0

4. Berks Catholic 4-0

5. Seton-LaSalle 4-0


1. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 4-0

2. Clairton 4-0

3. Wellsboro 4-0

4. Jeannette 4-0

5. Sharpsville 4-0 


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Rowan opens recruiting. ..... Harrell commits to IPFW

Written by Mike White on .

Some news on the WPIAL basketball recruiting front today. Well, sort of the WPIAL.

Maverick Rowan has backed out of his commitment to Pitt and opened up his recruiting. This news was confirmed by his father, Ron, tonight. Rowan used to be a WPIAL player. He played his freshman and sophomore years at Lincoln Park of the WPIAL and accepted a scholarship to Pitt last summer, before his sophomore year.

But Rowan transferred to Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last month. Rowan is a 6-foot-7 guard who is ranked among the top 50 juniors in the country and his decision to open his recruiting is no surprise. It has been expected for a while. Rowan's entire family is moving to Florida.

Other Division I colleges were showing interest in Rowan before he opened his recruiting and were in touch with either Maverick or his father.

This is what happens sometimes with early offers and when a kid commits before his sophomore year. How big of a loss is it? Sure, Pitt wanted Rowan, and it is a loss. He is a shooter with lots of potential and Pitt can always use shooters. But there is plenty of time to get another guard. Pitt must hope it hangs on to Mustapha Herron, another guard in the junior class. 

It just makes you wonder why Rowan committed so early in the first place? Where will he go now? It's anyone's guess. I know Ohio State and a number of others were interested.

Harrell to IPFW

Hempfield standout guard Kason Harrell has committed to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. It is a Division I school known otherwise as IPFW.

IPFW is the only school Harrell has visited. Harrell said it was the only Division I school that still had a scholarship on the table for him.

Harrell is a 6-2 shooting guard who was a member of the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 last year.

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Live Friday night blog - Brown scores seven TDs, Apollo-Ridge beats Shady Side, 46-20

Written by Mike White on .

Live blog from tonight's Apollo-Ridge at Shady Side Academy game. For score updates, look to the right of this blog for @PGVarsityXtra's Twitter account. You can "tweet" score updates or photos to @PGVarsityXtra with #WPIAL.


Shady Side Academy gets 4-yard TD run from Hackaday.


Bright spot for Shady Side. Tyler Hackaday, a freshman, comes off bench and scores 2 yard TD. Has 38 yards on nine carries.


Have you heard this before? Duane Brown another TD. Seventh touchdown of the night. It's 46-7. Mercy rule.


And Brown scores his sixth TD. This one on defense. Picks up fumble and returns it 29 yards. Vincent Austin made the hit on QB forcing fumble.


Duane Brown scores his fifth TD. This one a 13-yard run on first drive of second half.

Photo courtesy of the fine Matt Freed of Post-Gazette. Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown falls into the end zone for a score.

Duane Brown A-Ridge

8:14 Barring total collapse, Apollo-Ridge will be in Class AA playoffs. Vikings moved up to Class AA this year. If A-Ridge was still in Class A, Vikings would definitely be challenger to make it to Heinz.

Now it's 54-6 Clairton in second quarter. Will Jeannette even challenge Clairton in the regular season? Maybe not.

8:08 Tre Tipton has been good, if not spectacular. Love his ability to cut. Athletically, he's on a different level than everyone else in this game, which should come as no surprise. Still averaging 8 yards a carry.

Will be very interesting to see what position he ends up at Pitt. Was recruited as a receiver. He does look like a playmaker.

Big Class AA game. Highlands leads Kittanning, 14-6, at half.

Is Clairton going to get 70 again? Really? Leading Springdale, 40-6, in second quarter.

Woodland Hills leads Baldwin, 7-0, after first.

Big Quad-A game, Penn Hills leads Mt. Lebanon, 10-0. Penn Hills bouncing back after loss to Central Valley. If Penn Hills doesn't put the ball on the ground, Indians are pretty decent.


Halftime stats: Duane Brown 165 yards on eight carries for A-R. Tre Tipton 63 yards on 8 carries. Tipton is 1 of 4 throwing and Brown 0 for 1. A-R has 271 yards rushing.

Jackson Fitzgerald workhorse for Shady Side. Carried 19 times for 48 yards.

7:49 Little better job defensively by Shady Side. Finally gets a stop. Forces A-R to punt. Less than two minutes left in half.


Shady Side gets on the board. 57-yard drive in nine plays. Jackson Fitzgerald caps with 4-yd TD run. 26-7

Here we go again. Clairton leading Springdale, 32-0.

Seton-LaSalle leading Steel Valley, 7-0, in second.


Fourth TD for Brown. This one for 31 yards.


Duane Brown 1-yard TD run.


Duane Brown scores 1-yard TD run after 54-yard game by him. And Apollo-Ridge recovers short kickoff.

7:12 Shady Side yet to get a first down after three possessions.


Duane Brown moves to running back and goes 64 yards for TD

7:04 Both teams go three and out.

7:02 And same official goes down when A-R has the ball. Tough night for him. A-R with ball on 35.

7:00 Shady Side Academy receive. Start at 36. And A-R Tre Tipton makes his first hit on second play. And it's on an official. Accidentally levels an official.


And now I can make a first-time statement in 30 plus years of covering WPIAL football. Here goes: "I am covering Apollo-Ridge."

Hey, the Vikings are 3-0 and Shady Side Academy is 3-0. But when talking about Apollo-Ridge, what is grabbing everyone's attention is senior Tre Tipton, a Pitt recruit and Mr. Everything for Apollo-Ridge. He had been a receiver but now is playing mostly at quarterback. He still sees time at receiver, though.

From what I hear Shady Side Academy is a little banged up with injuries.

And now, the serene Shady Side Academy campus

Shady Side setting

Pink-out night

It's "pink-out night" at Shady Side for breast cancer awareness. Love the sign.

Shady Side sign

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