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Predictions: A dozen to go ...... Live blog starts tonight

Written by Mike White on .

Varsity Blog programming note: High school football kicks off tonight and the live blog is back. Tonight, I will be at the P-G Game of the Week, North Allegheny at Seneca Valley. Follow the big game on the live blog, but also get scores from around the WPIAL and City League by looking to the right of the blog or following @PGVarsityXtra live score updates on Twitter.

Please send score updates from any games to @PGVarsityXtra on Twitter and use #wpial. And hey, there has to be some student sections ready to go for this first night. Student sections, send me photos @mwhiteburgh and they just might make the Varsity Blog.

Follow the Post-Gazette's @CraigMeyerPG, who will be at the Upper St. Clair-Penn Hills game, and @BREAL412, who will be at Ringgold-Thomas Jefferson.

And don't forget, we will have a complete wrapup of all WPIAL and City League games in tomorrow's Post-Gazette. We will have something on every game.

But for now, may we present a weekly feature. I stopped at Schorr's in West View, one of the best bakeries anywhere, and put in the order for pick-up every Friday. It's time for 

A dozen predictions to go

Here are picks for 12 games around the WPIAL and City League:

WPIAL CLASS AAAA

North Allegheny at Seneca Valley - Something tells me that even though it has only a few returning starters, North Allegheny is still going to be tough to handle. I think the Tigers will still be fairly tough on defense. The biggest question mark in this game is how good is Seneca Valley's defense? Winner: Seneca Valley.

Upper St. Clair at Penn Hills - USC will be good the second half of the season. But for now, ol' Jimbo Render might not be too happy. Winner: Penn Hills.

WPIAL CLASS AAA

Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson - Will all those homemade street signs for TJ football again be on Old Clairton Rd. leading up to Thomas Jefferson? I love those. As for the game, I know Ringgold has a number of starters back from a pretty good team last year. And I know Nico Law is one dang good dual-threat QB. But I also know never to go against TJ at home. Winner: Thomas Jefferson.


Also, Franklin Regional over Knoch, although Knoch could be sleeper team in Class AAA this year. .... And Central Valley over Montour.

WPIAL CLASS AA

Burrell at Valley - The Muzzster is back coaching. Muzzy Colosimo is Valley's new coach. Remember all those good teams he had at Greensburg Central Catholic? This Valley team isn't as good as those, but good enough to win this rivalry game. Winner: Valley.

Also, McGuffey over Mount Pleasant (I may be all wet about McGuffey against an always-good MP team. But just a feeling). ... New Brighton over Laurel.

WPIAL CLASS A

Avonworth at Chartiers-Houston - I still say Avonworth will challenge for a conference title, despite the loss of several key players. By the way, did Avonworth coach Duke Johncour go to Duke? Maybe they'll someday name the field at Avonworth Coach J Turf. Oh, never mind. Winner: Avonworth.

Monessen at Greensburg Central Catholic - One of many good games in the Eastern Conference this year. Winner: Greensburg C.C.


Also, Rochester over Union and Frazier over Avella.

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WPIAL on display at Heinz Field ...... Two Brumbaughs will start ..... More state rankings

Written by Mike White on .

Starting tomorrow night, WPIAL football will be showcased at Heinz Field.

Before Thursday night's preseason game at Heinz, Steelers officials will unveil a new "WPIAL Champions" exhibit inside the stadium on the west concourse.

What will the exhibit look like? Well, we're not quite sure. 

"We haven't seen it yet," WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said with a laugh. "It will be some kind of wall mural that will somehow highlight our football champions. They reached out to us this summer to try and reach out to our schools to send back some art work of their helmets. I think a vast majority of our teams sent back. Other than that, I don't know what exactly it will be.

"The relationship we have with the Steelers, Heinz Field and the Rooney family is special. Every kid that put on a uniform this Aug. 11, I think their goal was to get to Heinz Field for the championships. So this is a nice thing."

"Only" 2 Brumbaughs will start

It had the makings of a three-day Brumbaugh QB extravaganza. But it turns out, only two of the Brumbaugh brothers will start for their teams this weekend.

It begins Thursday night when Luke Brumbaugh gets his first start as Robert Morris University's QB when the Colonials play host to Eastern Kentucky. (photo is of the brothers earlier this summer at South Fayette).

On Friday night, Brett Brumbaugh will start for South Fayette High School when the Lions play host to East Allegheny. Brett needs a little more than 1,100 yards to become the WPIAL's all-time leading passer.

There was a chance for the Brumbaugh triple crown Saturday. Christian Brumbaugh, the oldest of the brothers, was battling for the starting job for William & Mary. But when W & M plays at Virginia Tech Saturday, Steve Cluely will start at QB for W & M. He won the No. 1 job in preseason practices. There is still a chance Christian Brumbaugh, a redshirt junior, will play.

No matter what, the Brumbaugh parents intend to attend all three games.

More state rankings

The Post-Gazette released its state rankings last Friday. The Pennlive.com rankings are now out for Class AAAA, AAA, AA and A and Erie Epler has some info on the top teams in each class.

The four No. 1 teams in the P-G and Pennlive rankings are all the same - Clairton, South Fayette, Archbishop Wood and St. Joseph's Prep.

This and that

***** Lauren Waller is one of the best female golfers in the state. But she is back to beating the boys.

Waller is a senior at Canon-McMillan High School. But because Canon-McMillan doesn't have a girls team, she plays on the Big Macs' boys team. She sometimes finishes first in team matches and she is doing well again this year. Two weeks ago at the Tri County Athletic Lauren WallerDirectors Association Championships, she tied for fourth against the boys with a 76 at Village Green Country Club. 

During boys matches, Waller tees off at 85 percent of the boys distance.

Waller will go back to playing against the girls when the WPIAL girls individual championships come around. She is the defending WPIAL AAA champion.

By the way, Waller will play Division I college golf. She has made a verbal commitment to the Penn State women's team.

***** Looking at some preview information for the Perry football team in the City League, Rich "Moses" Giles could be one of the Commodores' running backs. Giles is a junior who is in his third school in three years. He attended North Hills as a freshman, Avonworth last year and now Perry.

***** Comcast cable television will once again show its "Xfinity Game of the Week" this season. One contest will be aired the day after the game and will be available "On Demand." Go to the "Get Local" and "Sports" folders. Chris Shovlin will handle the play by play and Ellis Cannon the color commentary.

Here is the game schedule for this year:

 August 29 – Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson

September 5 – Gateway at West Mifflin

September 12 – Beaver at Beaver Falls

September 19 – Seton-LaSalle at Steel Valley

September 26 – Kiski Area at Plum

October 3 – Franklin Regional at Hampton

October 10 – Penn Trafford at Shaler

October 17 – Peters Township at Bethel Park

October 24 – North Hills at North Allegheny

October 31 – First Round WPIAL Playoffs

November 7 – WPIAL Quarterfinals

November 14 – WPIAL Semifinals

 

 

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Setting the record straight on Rowan ..... Showtime and football notes

Written by Mike White on .

Some items that fell off my laptop.

Before we get to some football notes, let's address one basketball item. Can we set the record straight on some facts about Maverick Rowan? It seems there is plenty of wrong information circulating about Rowan.

Rowan is a Pitt recruit who played his first two seasons at Lincoln Park in Beaver County but last week decided he will transfer to Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rowan accepted a scholarship to Pitt last summer before his sophomore year.

Maverick RowanHere are some facts about Rowan (pictured):

AGE - Rowan is 18. No, he is NOT 19. His birthday is early July and he will turn 19 next summer.

ELIGIBILITY - Rowan would have been eligible to play the next two years at Lincoln Park. Under PIAA rules, a student-athlete is ineligible only if they reach the age of 19 before July 1 of their senior years. Rowan would turn 19 a few days after July 1 of next year.

EIGHTH GRADE AGAIN - Yes, Rowan repeated eighth grade, but that would not have affected his eligibility in this state. Under PIAA and WPIAL rules, a student can repeat eighth grade and still have four years eligibility on the high school level, but those repeating eighth grade can NOT participate in school sports during that year.

PLAYING UP TO NINTH GRADE - An eighth-grade student can play "up" on a ninth-grade school team and it does not count as one of four varsity years. The clock starts when a student reaches ninth grade. There are athletes everywhere around the WPIAL who are in eighth grade and play on a ninth-grade team, but that does not count as a year of varsity. 

However, 8th graders in Pennsylvania are not permitted to play on JV and varsity teams. They can play on ninth-grade teams, though. And if a school chooses, an eighth-grader can play on a ninth-grade team, and then play again on the ninth-grade team the following year when he is in ninth grade.

ABOUT MONTVERDE - Yes, Rowan was considering attending Monteverde Academy in Florida, but Montverde has a high school and a prep school team. Rowan would've played on the high school team. And the coach of the high school team is Kevin Boyle, who had tremendous teams at St. Patrick in Elizabeth, N.J., before going to Montverde. The coach of Montverde's prep school team is Dante Calabria, a former Blackhawk High star. Calabria is in his first season at Montverde.

Alright, onto some football ...

The return of ...

We're back.

Yes, it's the return of the wildly popular Varisty Xtra's "This Week In High School Sports." Colleague Terry Shields and yours truly blither about some high school topics and pick the top games every week. The show will run weekly through basketball.

Here is the first of the year:

Game of the week

The Post-Gazette game of the week for the first night of high school football is North Allegheny at Seneca Valley Friday. It's a big Northern Eight Conference game right off the bat.

And does anyone in the WPIAL have a tougher schedule than North Allegheny the first few weeks? After Seneca Valley comes a home game against Pine-Richland. Then North Allegheny plays at Central Catholic, and meets Upper St. Clair the following week in a non-conference home game.

WPIAL flavor at Pitt

Looking at Pitt's depth chart today ... wow is there a strong WPIAL flavor on this team. There are 10 starters from the WPIAL and one from the City League.

The City League starter is Manesseh Garner of Brashear. The 10 from the WPIAL are Tyler Boyd (Clairton), Adam Bisnowaty (Fox Chapel), J.P. Holtz (Shaler), Jaymar Parrish (Gateway), Khaynin Mosley-Smith (Woodland Hills), Todd Thomas (Beaver Falls), Lafayette Pitts (Woodland Hills), Reggie Mitchell (Shady Side Academy), Terrish Webb (Clairton) and James Conner (McDowell). McDowell wasn't in the WPIAL for Conner's senior season, but McDowell played in the WPIAL in Conner's other years.

Facing a WPIAL QB

While Pitt has a number of starters from the WPIAL, the Panthers will open the season against a quarterback from the WPIAL.

Trent Hurley a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic, will be Delaware's quarterback against Pitt in the season opener Saturday at Heinz. Hurley is the first three-year stater at QB since MattTrent Hurley Nagy from 1998-2000. Hurley has played at Heinz Field once before. It was in 2009 when he was the quarterback of a Greensburg Central team that defeated Aliquippa, 33-7, in the WPIAL Class AA title game.

I remember the last game Hurley played in high school. It was in a snowstorm in Hershey in 2009 when Greensburg C.C. lost to Lancaster Catholic, 21-14, in the PIAA Class AA title game. (Check picture of Hurley diving in the snow).

Hurley started his career at Bowling Green, but transferred after two years. He threw for more than 2,000 yards last season.

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WPIAL AAAA playoff predictions ..... First state rankings released

Written by Mike White on .

The first state football rankings have been released and two WPIAL teams hold No. 1 spots.

The Pennsylvania Football News, which has a new web site this year, published its state rankings today. South Fayette is No. 1 in Class AA and Clairton No. 1 in Class A.

The first Post-Gazette state rankings will be released Friday along with WPIAL and City League rankings. Our Varsity Xtra preview of the season will come out Friday. Check out our suburban editions Thursday for previews of many WPIAL and City League teams.

Now, for the predictions on what teams will make the WPIAL playoffs.

Today: Class AAAA

Five teams from each of the three conferences will make the playoffs, plus one wild-card team. Here are the top five picks of each conference:

Northern Eight Conference

1. Central Catholic - In terms of talent, the defending WPIAL champion Vikings lost a lot, but still have a lot. John Petrishen is one of the WPIAL's best defensive backs, Eric McAllister one of the best offensive lineman and defensive coordinator Dave Fleming said this might be the best defensive line he has ever coached. But Central Catholic will most likely start an inexperienced Gunnar Frerotte at quarterback and there is now a big question mark at tailback. 

Riley Redman, a 1,000-yard rusher, is a senior, but is too old to play. PIAA rules state a student-athlete can't play sports as a senior if the athlete turns 19 before July 1. Redman turned 19 in late June. Without Redman, the Vikings would look to Grant Foster and Ron George. But Foster is still recovering from knee surgery and George was hurt in the Vikings' preseason scrimmage and is likely to miss much of the season. So now what?

2. Seneca Valley - The Raiders weren't supposed to be all that good last year because of an inexperienced team, but went 9-2. A number of starters return, including lineman Tyler Hudanick (Division I college offers) and QB-LB T.J. Holl (pictured), who made the Fabulous 22 last year as a junior. Holl had more than 2,500 yards offense in 11 games last season.

3. North Allegheny - Many starters graduate, but this is still NA. Look for the Tigers to be a challenger for the conference title. QB Jeff Clemens and LB Layne Skundrich return. The best game on the first night of the season could be North Allegheny at Seneca Valley.

4. Pine-Richland - The Rams return almost all of their starting lineup from a year ago, including QB Ben DiNucci, RB Connor Slomka and receiver D'Ondre Gaston. The Rams are talking big, but they must prove it. They haven't done much since moving up to Class AAAA.

5. North Hills - Don't be surprised if this team makes some noise. QB Jake Bruder returns from an ankle injury and there is some talent at other positions.

Southeastern Conference

1. Woodland Hills - The Wolverines and Central Catholic met in the WPIAL title game last year and are undoubtedly the top two teams in Class AAAA heading into the season. The question many seem to be asking is who should beMiles Sanders No. 1? Woodland Hills returns a slew of starters and their backfield has two future Division I college players. Miles Sanders (pictured) is only a junior, but already has committed to Penn State. Art Thompkins is headed to Toledo.

2. Upper St. Clair - I know, USC has only one returning starter. But you're crazy if you put the Panthers below second or third in this conference - just based on tradition.

3. Penn Hills - Coach John Peterman definitely has his best team in three years as coach. Billy Kisner is a top-notch running QB. The first night of the season brings Upper St. Clair and Penn Hills together. That game might tell us a lot about both teams and could end up deciding second place in the conference.

4. Bethel Park - Player numbers might be low at the school (45 out for the team), but you can bet coach Jeff Metheny still has high expectations. His son, Levi, is back for his third year at QB.

5. Mt. Lebanon - Things should be much better for the Blue Devils after a down season.

Foothills Conference

1. Penn-Trafford - QB Brett Laftoon, running back Devin Austin and receiver Tim Vecchio lead a large cast of returning starters.

2. McKeesport - Khaleke Hudson could have a breakout year at running back.

3. Hempfield - The Spartans have inexperienced skill-position players, but they feature 6-7, 300-pound tackle Tony Pilato, a Pitt recruit.

4. Kiski Area - QB Chad Kuhn threw for 1,007 yards last season.

5. Altoona - The Lions have Pitt recruit Kevin Givens at linebacker.

 

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Render rates nationally ..... Predictions: WPIAL Class AAA

Written by Mike White on .

Before we get to the Class AAA playoff predictions, this piece of information comes from Jim Stout of MaxPreps.com: Two of the top 20 winningest active coaches in the country are from Pennsylvania, including one from the WPIAL.

According to a piece on MaxPreps, Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render ranks 16th nationally in wins with a record of 375-119-7. George Curry of Berwick High School in eastern Pa. is fourth with a record of 437-96-5.

The winningest active coach is 88-year-old John McKissick of Summerville, S.C. He enters his 63rd season coaching and his record is 613-151-13. Wow. Sixty-three years is mind-boggling.

Jim RenderRender (pictured) is now 72 and entering his 46th year of coaching. He started at Carrolton, Ohio, and then went to Uniontown. He has been Upper St. Clair's coach since 1979. This will be an interesting season for the Panthers as they have only one starter returning. But you can bet Render will have USC near the top of the Southeastern Conference again. 

The Panthers also have an interesting opener at Penn Hills. This is supposed to be a much-improved Penn Hills team.

But back to the coaches. The coach with the longest tenure in the WPIAL is Blackhawk's Joe Hamilton, who begins his 49th season. He has coached Midland, New Brighton, Hempfield and Blackhawk.

Class AAA predictions

Here is the third in a series of predictions for who will make the playoffs from the WPIAL. Today: Class AAA.

Five teams from each Class AAA conference make the playoffs, plus one wild-card team. So we will give you the top five from each conference.

Class AA predictions and Class A from previous days.

BIG NINE CONFERENCE

1. Thomas Jefferson - What else is new? The Jaguars have won or tied for the conference title eight consecutive seasons. Austin Kemp was a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago and a few linemen return. Developing a QB will be vital, but doesn't coach Bill Cherpak always seem to do that?

2. Ringgold - How good are the Rams? Well, we should know opening night when they play Thomas Jefferson. Ringgold has a new coach in Nick Milchovich and the Rams feature one of the most exciting players in the WPIAL in Nico Law, who passed and ran for 1,000 yards during the 2013 regular season.

3. West Mifflin - The Titans lost speedy running back Jimmy Wheeler but colleague Terry Shields saw West Mifflin's first scrimmage and said coach Ray Braszo has a formidable team again. We'll trust the wily veteran Shields.

4. Belle Vernon - New coach Matt Humbert left behind a pretty good team at Ringgold, but the Leopards have potential with QB Travis Snyder (not the Buccos Travis Snyder) and RB Jimmy Levis, who are both returning from knee injuries.

5. Elizabeth Forward - But what will the Warriors be like without stud QB-DB JaQuan Davidson?

GREATER ALLEGHENYJosh Schultheis

1. Mars - Coach Scott Heinauer returns a number of players, including running back Josh Schultheis (pictured), who has more than 3,000 yards the past two seasons.

2. Gateway - One of the most intriguing teams in the WPIAL. How will the Gators do under new coach Tom Nola and after dropping down from Class AAAA? I've heard from a few people the Gators' scrimmage Saturday against Penn-Trafford was a little eventful. A fight????

3. Franklin Regional - It wouldn't totally surprise me if this team knocked off one of the top two teams. Brett Zanotto is a University of Maryland linebacker recruit.

4. Knoch - QB Daniel Farinelli and RB Cody Milsom give the Knights a nice one-two offensive punch.

5. Indiana - WR Riley Stapleton caught 50 passes a year ago.

PARKWAY CONFERENCE

1. West Allegheny - The Indians might get their third third title in a row and coach Bob Palko might get his eighth WPIAL title overall. A number of starters return. And after seeing the Indians practice and seeing some of the impressive non-seniors on this team, this program is like a machine now.

2. Central Valley - WR-RB-DB Jordan Whitehead is one of the WPIAL's best players, but the Warriors have more than him.

3. New Castle - Only three starters return on offense and three on defense, but the Red Hurricanes still have enough to make some noise.

4. Montour - The Spartans better be ready early. They open with Central Valley.

5. Moon - After making the playoffs last season, the Tigers are looking to move up a few more notches in the Parkway. Nick Yaramus is one of the best linemen in Class AAA.

 

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