Firday Night Countdown: Week 7 predictions .... Team forfeits after deaths of 2 students

Written by Mike White on .

Tonight's game of the week will be Belle Vernon at Thomas Jefferson. I will be there and follow @mwhiteburgh for updates. Brian Batko will be at Steel Valley-East Allegheny, so follow @BrianBatko for updates. Follow @PGVarsityXtra for updates of all games. If you have a score, update or photo, send it to @PGVarsityXtra and use #wpial.

Before we get to the predictions for some big WPIAL-City League games, a quick little note about a school showing that a big football game really isn't all that big when a school is dealing with the deaths of two students.

Undefeated Ligonier Valley (7-0) was supposed to play Blairsville (6-1) tonight in a game that would decide the Heritage Conference title. But Blairsville has forfeited the game as the school tries to deal with the recent deaths of two students. The two students committed suicide.

Blairsville officials decided to forfeit the game.

Dozen predictions to go

Just took a fresh dozen predictions out of the bakery box. Last week was not good - only 7-5. Dropped season record to 58-26.

THOMAS JEFFERSON OVER BELLE VERNON - Both teams are undefeated and no team has scored more than 15 points on Belle Vernon. But Belle Vernon hasn't faced anyone like Thomas Jefferson. The Jaguars have destroyed everyone, outscoring opponents by an average of 54-6. Matt Humbert deserves a shoutout for what he has done as Belle Vernon's coach, after doing an excellent job at Ringgold. Humbert guided the Leopards to a win at Thomas Jefferson last year. That won't happen two years in a row.

STEEL VALLEY OVER EAST ALLEGHENY - This is one of East Allegheny's best seasons in a while, but I really wonder if anyone can stay close to Steel Valley in the regular season? Playing at home should help East Allegheny, but you have to wonder what East Allegheny's defense will do. It gave up 42 points to Jeannette and 50 to Neshannock.

CENTRAL VALLEY OVER BEAVER FALLS - It seems many people have forgotten about Beaver Falls since the Tigers were crushed in the season opener by Aliquippa. But this team is still very good and certainly capable of beating 3A No. 1-ranked Central Valley. The return of Malik Shepherd certainly helps. I picked Central Valley on "This Week In High School Sports." I'm not feeling great about the pick, but I'll stick with it. Did you know? Central Valley plays Beaver, Aliquippa and Beaver Falls all at home? 

OTHER TOP GAMES - Keystone Oaks over Apollo-Ridge; Armstrong over Penn-Trafford; Washington over Chartiers-Houston; North Allegheny over Seneca Valley; Westinghouse over Allderdice; McKeesport over Upper St. Clair; Bishop Canevin over Springdale; Highlands over Blackhawk; Fort Cherry over Mapletown. 

This Week In High School Sports

Wanna hear some more insight on the top games and the wildly popular "Just Askin" segment? Check out yours truly and Brian Batko on "This Week In High School Sports."

Xta, Xtra read all about it

Lamont Wade (pictured above with Aliquippa's Kwantel Raines after last week's game) talks about possibly seeing some time on offense in college, and talks a little about recruiting in

" target="_blank"> this week's Xtra Points column. Also read about how teams are forfeiting to a team in the state of Washington.


Brian Batko profiles a player who is "Rushing" for bunches and bunches of yards. It's Mapletown's Dylan Rush (above).

It's very rare when an individual is the head coach of two teams in two different seasons. But at Freedom High School, Colin Williams is coaching two - in one season. And this profile tells how Williams  is guiding the Freedom Bulldogs to big things. 


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

North Allegheny tops in state for producing college athletes for fall sports

Written by Mike White on .

North Allegheny High School is producing more athletes playing fall sports on the college level than any other high school in the state.

Says who? Well, teamed up with Lateral Sports and the HS Athlete College Guide and recently released an interesting study on what high schools in the country have produced the most athletes currently playing football, men's and women's soccer and women's volleyball. All athletes on rosters at the NCAA (Division I, II and III) and NAIA levels were counted.

The study showed that North Allegheny has 64 former athletes playing the four sports on the college levels. That's impressive. You can't say exactly where North Allegheny would fall on the national level, because the study shows only the top athlete producer for each state. But North Allegheny would seemingly be fairly high.

There are 11 others states where the No. 1 school is above North Allegheny.

FLORIDA - St. Thomas Aquinas - 104 athletes

NEW YORK - St. Anthony's - 101

TEXAS - Allen - 94

HAWAII - Kamehameha - 86

ILLINOIS - Plainfield - 86

CALIFORNIA - Mater Dei - 99

INDIANA - Carmel - 80

OHIO - Mason - 75

MARYLAND - DeMatha - 74

GEORGIA - Brookwood - 67

NEW JERSEY - Don Bosco Prep - 65

PENNSYLVANIA - North Allegheny - 64

What also came out of the study is that Central Catholic of Pittsburgh has produced more players on college teams this season than any other high school in the state. The number of players was not available.

Also, among Pennsylvania high schools, Cumberland Valley has produced the most non-football athletes on the college level. Currently, there are 48 Cumberland Valley grads playing college sports other than football.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Friday night rewind: Wade's play makes ESPN .... game highlights and thoughts

Written by Mike White on .

Notes, anecdotes and thoughts from the seventh Friday of the high school football season:

Lamont Wade made ESPN Friday night.

Wade was super in Clairton's 52-16 victory against Aliquippa. But one play gained national acclaim.

Wade had a 73-yard touchdown run in which he hurdled over a would-be tackler, landed on his feet and took off down the sideline for a score. It ended up on ESPN Sportscenter's top 10 plays of the night.

Ya know, in high school there is a rule that runners are not permitted to jump over a defender. But there is some gray area with the rule, about whether a defender already is on the ground. I've seen it called sometimes, and not called other times.

Whether it should've been a penalty or not, the bottom line is the play was terrific. If you want to see it, check out the highlights of the game below from the Post-Gazette web site. The highlights include comments from the coaches and Wade.

Wade, by the way, now is over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, and get this: He is averaging 16.1 yards a carry.

Most on Aliquippa

The 52 points scored by Clairton were the fifth-most ever scored against Aliquippa since the school became known as Aliquippa in 1930. First, there was Woodlawn High School, which started football in 1910. That became Harding High School in 1925, and Harding became Aliquippa in 1930.

Since 1930, the only teams to score more than 50 points on Aliquippa are:

1931 - Washington 54, Aliquippa 6

1970 - New Castle 53, Aliquippa 0

1970 - East Liverpool 56, Aliquippa 24

2007 - Jeannette 70, Aliquippa 49

Derry still perfect

OK, Derry is for real. I'll say it after Derry roughed up Mount Pleasant, 34-14. Derry is 7-0 for the first time since 1983. That year, Derry started 7-0, but lost to Greensburg Central Catholic, 20-6, in Week 8.

With games left against Ellwood City, Waynesburg and McGuffey, Derry has an excellent chance at finishing the regular season undefeated. That has never happened in the history of Derry Area.

Derry Township High School merged with Derry Borough at some point many, many years ago. The only other undefeated regular season in the district came in 1930. But that was by Derry Township.

Some thoughts

**** Yes, Pine-Richland misses QB Phil Jurkovec, who is done for the season with a thumb injury. But did you see that backup Max Devinney led all WPIAL passers last night 294 yards, completing 19 of 41? The percentage wasn't high, but Devinney obviously has talent. And coach Eric Kasperowicz's offense is a great system for a QB. 

But Pine-Richland's worry isn't at QB. It should be defense. The Rams lost to Peters Township, 32-27. Pine-Richland is allowing 29 points a game.

And by the way, should they just engrave Central Catholic's name on the WPIAL championship trophy now?

**** North Allegheny quarterback Ethan Maenza is unheralded, but I'll say one of the best playmakers around.

**** Monessen is 1-6? Wow. When has it ever been this bad for the Greyhounds?

**** I'm not saying it's QB Cam Tarrant's fault, but boy has that passing game at Penn Hills slowed down lately.

In the first four games, Tarrant threw for 1,441 yards.  In the past three, he has thrown for 449. But Penn Hills isn't throwing as much. Why? Not sure. But in the first four games, Tarrant averaged 33 attempts a game. In the past three, he has averaged 18 attempts.

**** Everyone always knew this, but this season just reaffirms it: Coach Bob Palko and his staff are extraordinary. West Allegheny wasn't all that impressive in Class 5A early in the season. But the Indians again are strong and were awfully impressive with what they did to Upper St. Clair.

**** Upper St. Clair was ranked No. 1 in Class 5A. But standout RB-DB Thomas Vissman didn't play against West A. He has been out with a foot injury. He might not have made up a 26-point difference, but he helps a great deal. USC doesn't have a chance at a WPIAL title without Vissman. The Panthers need him back.

Lastly, check out highlights below of West Allegheny's defeat of Upper St. Clair, with comments:


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Friday Night Countdown: Week 6 predictions, Quips-Clairton tickets, Cummings to BG

Written by Mike White on .

Below is a look at Week 6 of the high school football season. Tonight's Post-Gazette game of the week is Aliquippa at Clairton. I'll be there and you can follow @mwhiteburgh on Twitter for updates. Follow @BrianBatko for updates from West Allegheny-Upper St. Clair. For all games in the WPIAL, follow @PGVarsityXtra. If you have a score, picture or update, tweet with #wpial and send to @PGVarsityXtra


Cummings to Bowling Green

Before we get to some football stuff, some news on the basketball recruiting front. Lincoln Park senior guard Nelly Cummings, one of the top players in the WPIAL, announced on Twitter that he had made a verbal commitment to Bowling Green of the Mid-American Conference.

Cummings chose Bowling Green over Brown, Dartmouth, High Point, Temple and Bucknell.

Cummings (pictured), who stands 5 feet 11, was a member of the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 a year ago after averaging 23.3 points a game. He has 1,521 career points.


No tickets?

If you don't have a ticket to tonight's Aliquippa-Clairton game, don't go to the game expecting to buy one at the gate. It will most likely be a sellout.

Clairton stopped selling tickets days ago. Aliquippa was going to sell a limited number of tickets today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Aliquippa does not expect to have any left to give back to Clairton.

Tonight's game will be televised live by WPNT Channel 22. It might be a madhouse, but should be a terrific atmosphere.

Stat leaders

Take a look at our football statistical web site for all teams in the WPIAL and City League. Find the leaders in various stat categories. Of course, provided teams supply their stats. Cooperation isn't great from some schools.

Dozen predictions to go

The nice lady at the bakery just pulled a fresh dozen predictions off the shelf for a to-go order. Last week was 9-3. Season record is now 51-21 (.718 pct.)

Here we go:

ALIQUIPPA OVER CLAIRTON - If you have a ticket, I'd suggest getting there early. Yes, it's only a non-conference game, but I don't remember a regular-season game getting this much buildup. One big key: Aliquippa better stop big plays by Clairton RB Lamont Wade and QB Noah Hamlin. Another big key: Can Clairton stop Aliquippa from controlling the game with its running. In the end, I like the Quips.

UPPER ST. CLAIR OVER WEST ALLEGHENY - These two used to play each other in a scrimmage. Now, they're in the same conference. What a coaching matchup, Jim Render vs. Bob Palko. I wonder a little about USC after it struggled to beat Chartiers Valley last week. Thomas Vissman didn't play, though, because of an injury. His health and productivity will be a key in this one.

MOUNT PLEASANT OVER DERRY - Derry is one of the feel-good stories this season, off to their best start since the 1980s. I remember covering a Derry at Mount Pleasant game in the early 1980s, when this game was always big. Now it's big again. It would not be a surprise if Derry won this game, but the Trojans still have to prove themselves.

OTHER TOP GAMES - Thomas Jefferson over Mars; Penn-Trafford over Franklin Regional; Apollo-Ridge over Freeport; Neshannock over Riverside; Bethel Park over Seneca Valley; Mt. Lebanon over Norwin; Woodland Hills over North Hills; South Fayette over New Castle; Rochester over OLSH.

Xtra, Xtra read all about it

*** Howie Reid was shot in the foot a few years ago in a drive-by shooting. Now he's racking up yardage for West Mifflin. Check out Brian Batko's profile piece of Reid in today's Varsity Xtra section.

*** There is a future Division I basketball player at , of all places, Southmoreland. Check out my notes column in today's Varsity Xtra.

*** D.J. Opsatnik keeps getting his kicks with West Allegheny - and lots of them. He has 27 field goals, eight away from the WPIAL record. Joe Bendel profiles "bigfoot." (Photo above was by P-G's Michael Henninger)


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Some "data way" items for Aliquippa-Clairton showdown

Written by Mike White on .

It's only a non-conference game that will have no bearing on playoff seedings. So, basically the Aliquippa-Clairton game Friday is meaningless. 


I don't ever remember a regular-season, non-conference game getting this much advance buildup. Heck, I don't ever remember any regular-season game - conference or non-conference - with this much buildup.

The game is expected to be a sellout. And Clairton even brought in some extra bleachers for the game. Why is this game so big? Well, for a number of reasons. But the No. 1 reason is tradition.

I applied the "Data Way" system to show why this is game is one-of-a-kind:

2: Regular-season losses between the two teams over the PAST SEVEN SEASONS!!!!!! Aliquippa has lost one regular-season game since 2010 and Clairton also one. 

28: WPIAL championships between the two teams. Aliquippa has 16, the most in WPIAL history. Clairton has 12.

84: Years since these two have played. Aliquippa beat Clairton, 7-0, in 1932. The only other time these two played was 1931 when Clairton won, 44-0.

4 & 7: Where Aliquippa and Clairton are on the all-time WPIAL list for wins. Aliquippa is fourth and Clairton seventh.

8: Players from the two schools who have rushed for 4,000 career yards. Aliquippa has five on the 4,000-yard list: Dravon Henry, Chico Williams, Kaezon Pugh, Pudgy Abercrombie and Terry Swanson. Clairton has three: Tyler Boyd, Lamont Wade and Zaire Washington.

.881: Winning percentage of the two coaches. Aliquippa's Mike Zmijanac is 220-32 and Clairton's Wayne Wade 33-2

66 & 62: Digits for record-breaking win streaks of both teams. Clairton won 66 games in a row overall from 2009-13. That is a WPIAL record. Aliquippa won 62 regular-season games in a row from 2009-16. That is a record.

22: Channel number of the TV station that will carry the game live. WPNT 22 The Point

As for the game itself, Aliquippa's Zmijanac is trying to get his players to keep it in perspective.

"I told our kids that my take is we're proud to play a storied Clairton program and we're looking forward to the competition," said Zmijanac. "But in the big scheme of things, it's not as important as you media types are making it out to be."

Barring a catastrophe, Clairton will finish first or second in its Class 1A conference. But Aliquippa is in the "super" Beaver Valley Conference in Class 3A. The Quips aren't even guaranteed of a playoff spot.

"The only problem with this game is that it comes when it does," said Zmijanac. "If this was the opening game of the season, I would be enthusiastic and looking forward to it."

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.