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Steel Valley's Murray already over 2,000 ..... Don't forget the PAT

Written by Mike White on .

Notes, anecdotes and thoughts after the third week of the high school football season.

At this pace, Steel Valley's DeWayne Murray will one day end up as one of the leading rushers in WPIAL history.

Murray is only a sophomore, but he surpassed 2,000 career yards rushing in a victory against Sto-Rox Friday. A 5-foot-10, 180-pound halfback, Murray has 2,091 yards on 175 carries in only 12 games.

It's hard to predict where Murray will end up on the WPIAL all-time list. Many factors are involved. But barring injury, you would think he might end up high on the list. He is averaging 161 yards a game so far. If Steel Valley would never make the playoffs in Murray's career, and Murray would continue at that average, he would still end up with close to 6,000 yards in his career.

Hopewell's Rushel Shell and Fort Cherry's Mike Vernillo are the only two WPIAL running backs to have more than 7,000 career rushing yards.

Murray has rushed for 503 yards on 36 attempts this season after running for 1,488 on 139 carries last season. His career yards-per-carry average opens some eyes. It's 11.9.

Forgetting the PAT

I don't know if the officials are to blame, or Apollo-Ridge's coaches who might have been caught up in the euphoria of Friday's 44-41 overtime victory against Kittanning. But whoever, there should have been an extra-point attempt by Apollo-Ridge after its winning touchdown.

Kittanning scored first in overtime to go ahead, 41-38. Apollo-Ridge then scored a touchdown to get the win, but didn't try a conversion. That was a mistake. Why? Because it might matter in WPIAL tiebreaker points down the road. Sure, chances are remote that one point might matter, but you never know. The tiebreaker points are sometimes used to break ties for playoff spots. Tiebreaker points are based on point differential - up to 10 for a win.

If you don't believe Apollo-Ridge should have tried an extra point, consider it was the same scenario a week earlier in the Pine-Richland vs. North Allegheny game. North Allegheny got a field goal first in overtime. Pine-Richland then got a touchdown to win and the Pine-Richland team rushed the field in jubilation. But officials cleared the field, and Pine-Richland kicked an extra point for a 28-24 win.

Oh, deer

Great picture from pregame warmups Friday at Tuscaloosa Academy in Alabama. A deer ended up on the field and Tuscaloosa Academy posted a photo on its Twitter account @taknightsfan. Wonder who Tuscaloosa was playing? Deer Lakes? (Sorry, I couldn't resist).

The Ruane effect

Wanna know who has been one of the best coaches in the WPIAL the past few years? Besides Palko, Rossi, Novak, Totten and those guys? John Ruane of Penn-Trafford.

Quietly, Ruane has done a masterful job of building a program at Penn-Trafford. His team is 3-0 and has to be considered one of the best in Class AAAA of the WPIAL. Ruane is in his fifth year and since 2011, he is 28-8.

Seeing Penn-Trafford beat McKeesport, 28-0, on Saturday, you couldn't help but be impressed by Ruane's team. His team is disciplined, plays tough and the Warriors have good offensive schemes.

John RuaneAlso, some of Penn-Trafford's best players are juniors, so this isn't a flash-in-the-pan program.

Ruane (pictured) used to be an assistant at Gateway and teaches there. His name has come up when the Gateway job has opened the past few years. But Ruane likes where he is. Good for Penn-Trafford. Besides, with what has gone on at Gateway the past few years in terms of controversies and coaches leaving, who could blame Ruane for not wanting to go there. He's got things going right at Penn-Trafford.

Tipton Mr. Everything

If you wanted to pick a WPIAL player of the year based on three weeks, you could certainly make a case for Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton.

Pitt fans have to love the potential Tipton is flashing this season (he already has committed to Pitt). Tipton was recruited as a receiver but he is seeing plenty of time at quarterback this season. He rushed for 304 yards against Kittanning Friday. He also completed 4 of 12 passes for 83 yards.

And how about the one-two punch of Tipton and Duane Brown? Is there anything like it in the WPIAL? Brown also plays quarterback. Against Kittanning, he rushed for 193 yards on 22 carries and completed 1 of 4 passes for 22 yards.

Now get this: Brown and Tipton accounted for 602 yards rushing and passing.

Who is No. 5 in Class AAAA?

 It seems pretty easy to rank the top four teams in Class AAAA. Central Catholic, Woodland Hills, Pine-Richland and Penn-Trafford, in no particular order, seem to have established themselves as the top four teams. But who is No. 5?

Maybe Mt. Lebanon, a 3-0 team that has turned themselves around a sub-par 2013 season? But the Blue Devils really haven't played anyone yet.

Maybe North Hills, another 3-0 team that hasn't faced a formidable team yet, although one of the wins was a 17-14 victory against a much-improved Plum team (Coach Matt Morgan is doing some good things in his second season at Plum). I get the feeling North Hills is better than average, but it's still hard to tell. We will know more after the next two games against Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland. Like Ruane, second-year North Hills coach Pat Carey seems to be quietly doing an excellent job after taking over for Jack McCurry. In fact, Ruane compared his program and type of players to those of North Hills. Good comparison.

Or should the No. 5 team be Penn Hills, a 2-1 team that lost to a very good Central Valley team Friday?

Or should we not forget about North Allegheny (1-2 with losses to Central Catholic and Pine-Richland)?

Or should we take a serious look at Norwin (3-0)? It's nice what the Knights have done, but I seriously doubt whether they are a top five team. At least not yet.

The Post-Gazette rankings come out tomorrow. 

Check this out

Clairton beat Greensburg Central Catholic, 74-0, and the Bears' scoring average DROPPED to 77.3 points.

Highlights

Check out some Post-Gazette highlights from some top games this past Friday, with comments from coaches and players.

Penn Hills at Central Valley

North Allegheny vs. Central Catholic

Neshannock at Riverside

 

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Live Friday blog - Central Valley beats Penn Hills

Written by Mike White on .

Live blog from Friday's Penn Hills at Central Valley game. For score updates, look to the right-hand column for @PGVarsityXtra tweets. If you have a score, tweet it with #WPIAL or send to @PGVarsityXtra.

FINAL: CENTRAL VALLEY 35, PENN HILLS 14

Jordan Whitehead rushes 13 times for 161 yards and Chris Callaghan completes 11 of 21 for 155 yards.

9:31 Four minutes left and Central Valley still leads, 35-14.

Impressive win by Beaver over Beaver Falls, 35-0

CENTRAL VALLEY 35, PENN HILLS 14

9:24 Still 35-14 with six minutes left.

Shoutout to CMU SID Mark Fisher for stats. Also doing stat work for Root Sports.

9:06 Chris Callaghan has done a very nice job taking over at QB for injured John George. Couple big passes on this drive. Preston Johnsonn caps it with a 5-yard run and Central Valley has taken 35-14 lead late in the third.

9:01 Penn Hills drive stopped. Central Valley takes over at 33.

8:56 Penn Hills now moving. At midfield.

8:52 Central Valley drives to 9 on first drive of second half, but Preston Johnson fumbles and Penn Hills recovers.

8:46 Second half under way.

8:32 Have to give shoutout to gang on Mastrangelo Hill overlooking field here. Couldn't make it up but looks like great time up there. Small fire now going. Mastrangelo Hill one of the things that makes high school football in Western Pa.

Clairton leading 54-0 over Greensburg C.C. Will Clairton get at least to 70 again?

Ringgold beating Knoch, 7-0, in interesting non-conference game.

South Fayette another romp. 40-13 at the half over South Park.

Franklin Regional beating Mars 14-8 at half. Big Greater Alleg. Conf. game.

Avonworth rolling over Brentwood, 28-7, in big Class A game.

Almost at half and Central Catholic and North Allegheny tied, 7-7

HALFTIME: CENTRAL VALLEY 28, PENN HILLS 14

STATS: Penn Hills Te'Shan Campbell 57 yards on 13 attempts. QB Billy Kisner 51 yards on 16 carries. Kisner only 1 pass attempt and completed it for 32 yards.

Jordan Whitehead has been ultra-impressive for CV. Rushed for 127 yards on six carries and caught 3 passes for 39 yards.

Central Valley QB John George exited game early with what looked like left ankle injury. Chris Callaghan came on and has done well. 8 of 15 for 99 yards.

Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead got penalized for being too good of an athlete. Seriously. Caught a pass. Was running upfield. Penn Hills player lowered himself to tackle him. Whitehead literally hurdled over his head. Flag. Can't do that in high school.

Stats to come

8:11 Penn Hills has some good players. But as an athlete, Jordan Whitehead is just on a level by himself here.

By the way, John George is done at QB for Central Valley.

8:09 Kisner and Campbell trouble with exchange on handoff. Penn Hills stopped on fourth down at 8.

8:07 Penn Hills driving again. Third and four at CV 8 with 2:01 left in half. Timeout.

Little bit of a surprise? North Allegheny 7, Central Catholic 0.

7:58 Penn Hills holds. Now on a drive. This game might end up in the 40s.

Clairton rolling again. 30-0 over Greensburg C.C. Maybe Bears should jump North Catholic to No. 1. But hard to drop defending champs when they haven't lost.

CENTRAL VALLEY 28, PENN HILLS 14

After long kickoff return, Te'Shan Campbell scores on 1-yard TD run. Cuts Central Valley lead to 28-14.

7:34 First quarter over. Central Valley leads, 21-7.

CENTRAL VALLEY 21, PENN HILLS 7

After kickoff, Billy Kisner fumbles exchange with RB, Central Valley's Rocco Martini recovers. Five plays later Jordan Whitehead scores again this time on 22 yards. PAT good 21-7.

Yeah, I'd say this Whitehead pretty good. LOL. Central Valley QB John George has not returned. But backup QB Chris Callaghan looks like he has good arm.

CENTRAL VALLEY 14, PENN HILLS 7

After Penn Hills turned it over, Joey Shively caught 24-yard TD pass from Chris Callaghan (backup QB) on 4th down. 

7:30 Hush goes Central Valley crowd. QB John George down. Limps off field. Can't put any pressure on left leg.

Pitt recruit Tre Tipton runs 67 yards on A-Ridge first play for TD.

CENTRAL VALLEY 7, PENN HILLS 7

Jordan Whitehead introduced himself to Penn Hills on Central Valley's first play. 76 yards later, he was in the end zone. TD run. Brendan Jugan, a freshman, PAT.

Whitehead just ran past everyone. Even a safety who had an angle, he blew past him.

PENN HILLS 7, CENTRAL VALLEY 0

Penn Hills goes 65 yards in 13 plays for TD. Capped off by Te'Shan Campbell 4-yard run. 5:25 left in first quarter. All 13 plays were runs. Penn Hills offensive line pretty impressive.

7:16 Penn Hills has an offensive lineman 6-3, 340. Thomas Mitchell.

7:02 Penn Hills not having much trouble running the ball. Two first downs. Now at CV 40.

7:00 Game time. Penn Hills receives.

PREGAME

It's only a non-conference game, but still one of the best this Friday. Central Valley is Class AAA and Penn Hills AAAA.

One to watch: Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead. One of the WPIAL's best, Whitehead will announce his college choice Oct. 3. Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, WVU are his favorites.

Jordan rules - Below, Jordan Whitehead warms up. Personally, love the Carolina blue unis.

Jordan Whitehead

 

Shirts, pleaseYou don't see this too often. A team warms up before the game in T-shirts. But that's Penn Hills. The shirts have "No Excuses - Just Execution" written on the front.

Penn Hills warmup

 

Up the poles - Always like to drive up to Central Valley High School on Baker Rd. Extension. Nice touch. All along the road, the telephone poles have signs for all seniors who play fall sports - and also for all seniors in the band. I imagine kids look forward to one day having their name on a pole. Seriously.

Central Valley pole

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A dozen predictions to go for Week 3

Written by Mike White on .

Program note: Tonight's Live Blog will come from Penn Hills at Central Valley. Look to the right of this blog for score updates from other games. Follow @PGVarsityXtra on Twitter for score updates. You can tweet scores or photos to @PGVarsityXtra.

For now, it's time for "a dozen predictions to go:"

(Last week: 8-4. Season: 16-8, .750 pct.)

CLASS AAAA

Penn-Trafford at McKeesport - The winner establishes itself as the team to beat in the Foothills Conference. Key to the game is Penn-Trafford's defense and how it handles McKeesport running back Khaleke Hudson. Winner: Penn-Trafford.

North Allegheny vs. Central Catholic at Highmark Stadium - After seeing North Allegheny twice, the Tigers are good. But not great. They certainly don't appear to be in Central Catholic's class. Will Central give up a score? Winner: Central Catholic.

CLASS AAA

Penn Hills at Central Valley - This is a non-conference game that we will classify as AAA because Central Valley is the home team and in Class AAA. Will this be a high-scoring affair? Penn Hills' rushing attack is impressive, and Central Valley scored 67 points last week. Winner: Penn Hills.

Hampton at Gateway - Could Gateway go 0-3 for the first time since 2001? The Gators lack of experienced players has been evident in the first two games while Hampton has easily won its first two games. Gateway's offensive battery needs charged. Winner: Hampton.

Franklin Regional at Mars - Before the season, these were thought to be the two best teams in the Greater Allegheny Conference, but things changed after losses in Week 1. Is Hampton now the team to beat? The winner of this game can still have conference championship on their mind. Mars rebounded nicely last week from the season-ending injury to Josh Schultheis, and the Planets should take one more step forward. Winner: Mars.

Knoch at Ringgold - This is an interesting non-conference game. Throw out Ringgold's season-opening loss to Thomas Jefferson because it looks like no one will touch TJ in the Big Nine Conference until the regular-season finale against West Mifflin. Knoch started the season with two impressive wins. Winner: Ringgold.

WPIAL CLASS AA

Beaver at Beaver Falls - The winner establishes itself as the top challenger to Aliquippa in the Midwestern Conference. Winner: Beaver Falls.

Kittanning at Apollo-Ridge - The storyline in this contest is two Pitt recruits going against each other - Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton and Kittanning's Nick Bowers. But Kittanning QB Braydon Toy likely could be the difference. Winner: Kittanning.

WPIAL CLASS A

Neshannock at Riverside - After moving down from Class AA, Riverside could make waves in the Big Seven with a victory against Neshannock. A Riverside win shouldn't be considered an upset, but ... Winner: Neshannock.

Brentwood at Avonworth - This game was originally scheduled for Brentwood, but was moved because of construction at Brentwood's stadium. The change of site changes the favorite in this game. Winner: Avonworth.

Clairton at Greensburg Central Catholic - Don't look for Clairton to reach its average of 79 points a game. But look for Clairton to roll again. Winner: Clairton.

CITY LEAGUE

University Prep vs. Brashear - University Prep squeaked by Westinghouse in the City League opener last week. This one might be close also. Winner: University Prep.

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Gateway faces 0-3 start ..... Dukes after Texas standout

Written by Mike White on .

The Gateway football team is staring an 0-3 start in the face. It has been a while since the Gators were in such rough waters.

Gateway is 0-2 and plays host to Hampton Friday. Hampton is 2-0. A Gateway loss means the Gators will be 0-3 for the first time since 2001. That year, Gateway started 0-5 and finished the season 2-8.

Hampton is 2-0 and has been led by quarterback Nick Grabowski. Gateway's defense has been OK. The Gators have allowed 31 points so far. But the offense has struggled. The Gators have one offensive touchdown in two games.

On to other notes ...

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel

Duquesne basketball coach Jim Ferry is not staying just in the eastern part of the country to recruit players. His recruiting tentacles now reach Texas.

The Lone Star State is where Emmanuel Nzekwesi plays. He is a 6-foot-7, 215-pound power forward at Byron Nelson High School. The school is located in what has to be one of the best names ever for an area. Byron Nelson is in Trophy Club, Texas.

Anyway, Duquesne, Weber State and Tulsa seem to be Nzekwesi's top choices. It would be a very nice get if the Dukes land Nzekwesi. He is rated among the top 25 players in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is a 3-star recruit on Rivals.com.

Nzekwesi would be another piece of the foundation Ferry is trying to build at Duquesne. The Dukes have a number of players back from last year's team. Stay tuned for Nzekwesi's decision in the future.

And while on the subject of Duquesne, how about Derrick Colter, the Duquesne guard? ESPN.com has a wonderful story today by Dana O'Neil on Colter's quiet battle with cancer.  Now that Colter's inspirationals story is out, you can bet he will be become a fan favorite in this city. How do you not root hard for this kid?

Brentwood-Avonworth switch

Brentwood was supposed to have its first home game this Friday against Avonworth, but the game has been switched to Avonworth because of construction at Brentwood's stadium.

The game is one of the biggest in Class A this weekend. Both teams are 2-0.

Irvin's son shines

Former NFL star receiver Michael Irvin is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His son is in the state record books of Texas.

Michael Irvin, a junior at Prestonwood Christian in Plano, Texas, tied a Texas record with 22 catches for 229 yards in his team's 69-36 loss to IMG Academy of Florida.

The younger Irvin is 6 feet 2, 200 pounds and guess who has offered him a scholarship? Miami, the same school where his father played.

Varsity Xtra video

Terry Shields and yours truly talk about the 86-0 Clairton-Wilkinsburg game and give our predictions on this week's top games on Varsity Xtra's "This Week In High School Sports.

State rankings

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

Here are the Post-Gazette state rankings:

CLASS AAAA

1. Central Catholic 2-0

2. Woodland Hills 2-0

3. St. Joseph's 1-1

4. Pennsbury 2-0

5. Parkland 2-0

CLASS AAA

1. Archbishop Wood 2-0

2. Bishop McDevitt 2-0

3. West Allegheny 2-0

4. Erie Cathedral Prep 2-0

5. Thomas Jefferson 2-0

CLASS AA

1. South Fayette 2-0

2. Aliquippa 2-0

3. Southern Columbia 2-0

4. West Catholic 1-1

5. Seton-LaSalle 2-0

CLASS A

1. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 2-0

2. Clairton 2-0

3. Wellsboro 2-0

4. Jeannette 2-0

5. Sharpsville 2-0

 

 

 

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Just sayin' about Jones to WVU, Norwin's start and a few other subjects

Written by Mike White on .

I'm just sayin'

**** In the days of seventh- and eighth-graders being offered athletic scholarships, nothing in college recruiting should come as a surprise any longer. That's why Jeremiah Jones' verbal commitment to West Virginia shouldn't be surprising.

Jones is a junior quarterback at Woodland Hills who visited West Virgina this weekend and was offered a scholarship. This isn't to say Jones doesn't have talent or potential. But the offer might have been a little surprising, considering he has started only a few games in his high school career. He started two games this season and a couple last year as the backup to Harry Randall. He was 14 of 20 for 250 yards last season.

But West Virginia apparently saw something it liked. Jones informed Woodland Hills coach George Novak of his decision just this afternoon. 

"He told me he was going down to West Virginia for a game," said Novak. "They offered him. Sunday I guess he talked to his parents, called West Virginia back and accepted."

Some stories about Jones have said he can be a defensive back. But he doesn't play defense for Woodland Hills.

"He has potential [as a quarterback]," said Novak.

Novak said West Virginia was the first to offer Jones, who is the brother of former Penn State and Robert Morris quarterback Paul Jones.

**** Before the season started, I was going to predict that after two weeks, Norwin would be 2-0 and would be one of only three teams in the entire WPIAL that have not given up a point. But I forgot.

Sure, Norwin hasn't played top teams (only Latrobe and Hempfield), but Norwin 2-0 without giving up a point? Who Norwinwould've "thunk" it. In recent seasons, this team was more likek Norloss. The Knights won four total games in the past three seasons.

Now, Norwin is in company with Central Catholic and Clairton. Those are the only three WPIAL teams that have not allowed a point in two games.

Meanwhile, Brownsville and Shaler are the only two teams that haven't scored a point.

**** After only two weeks, I get this feeling about Class AAAA: There is Central Catholic and Woodland Hills, and then everyone else. I think Central Catholic has proven itself to be the best team. You hate to go just by comparative scores, but this early in the season, why not? Central Catholic beat Bethel Park, 41-0, while Woodland Hills beat Bethel Park by 33-31.

By the way, Woodland Hills lost six fumbles to Bethel Park.

"I think that's a school record," said Novak.

**** Gateway is 0-2 under first-year coach Tom Nola. Gateway hasn't started the season with two losses to WPIAL teams since 2006 when the Gators lost to Central Catholic and McKeesport. In 2010, Gateway also lost its first two Brett Brumbaughgames, but one was to Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt.

**** Why do I get the feeling that South Fayette coach Joe Rossi isn't showing his hand in the first few weeks of the season? QB Brett Brumbaugh (pictured) has thrown for "only" 320 yards in two games and has attempted only 32 passes. He threw for a WPIAL record 3,895 yards last season in 16 games (243 yards a game).

South Fayette hasn't had much competition in the first two weeks. Will the Lions get a little bit of a taste this week from South Park?

**** While on the subject of quarterbacks, Pine-Richland's Ben DiNucci is very good. I saw him for the first time in a game against North Allegheny. He already has committed to Penn and I think DiNucci might be a steal for the Ivy League level.

He is a little on the thin side, but muscle and weight can come in college. And yes, he throws a decent amount of short passes that add to his yardage totals. But he also throws over the middle, intermediate passes and has a strong enough arm to sometimes air it out. If he is behind Brumbaugh, he is not behind by much.

**** It says here that the Parkway Conference of Class AAA isn't close to what it used to be in terms of top competition. The conference used to be tough from top to bottom. West Allegheny and Central Valley are certainly top teams and the best in the conference. But Montour isn't what it has been in recent years and a few other teams are down in terms of talent.

Speaking of down, what has happened to Blackhawk? The Cougars lost, 67-0, to Central Valley. I'd be shocked if that isn't the most points given up by Blackhawk in school history.

**** The best game of the week just might be Saturday when Penn-Trafford plays at McKeesport. I'm anxious to see this Khaleke Hudson, running back for McKeesport. He ran for 196 yards all of last season, but has 582 in two games. Get this: He is averaging 15.7 yards a carry and has nine touchdowns that have averaged 40.2 yards.

Hudson is a junior and Pitt and Penn State already have offered him scholarships as a defensive back. But if he keeps this up, colleges might consider him as a running back.

**** The best game Friday night might be a non-conference clash with Penn Hills at Central Valley. It will be Root Sports game of the week. The game will be shown after the Pirates game on Root Friday night.

**** Now that Thomas Jefferson thrashed its first two opponents, the Jaguars probably won't be tested again until the final game of the season against West Mifflin. It seems West Mifflin is about the only one who can challenge TJ in the Big Nine. In other words, the Big Nine is more like the Big One.

 **** Seneca Valley's offense certainly misses injuried quarterback T.J. Holl (knee). But what happened to Seneca Valley's defense? That 41-12 loss to Fox Chapel Friday is a head scratcher.

 

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