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Pitt-Va. Tech shaping up to be a big game

Written by Jenn Menendez on .

Next week's Thursday night showdown against Virginia Tech is shaping up to be a very big game for the Panthers.

The Hokies (5-2, 3-1 ACC) took control of the ACC Coastal Division with their 37-16 win over Miami on Thursday night. QB Jerod Evans passed for 259 yards, Travon McMillian rushed for 131 but the most eye-catching number to stand out? The defense recorded a season-high eight sacks despite missing a pair of defensive lineman.

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster had a few early thoughts on facing Pittsburgh:

"I appreciate what our kids are all about and how we fought after a disappointing loss and how we came back and prepared and where our intensity and our focus was in practice, and our intentions in a must-win situation. I’m just really, really pleased with the effort. Now we’ll enjoy this for a moment and get ready to go up to Pittsburgh. They’ve had an extra week to prepare and it’s going to be a big time football game up there. They're fast and physical and we need to turn around and play another great football game against an outstanding football team." 

The Hokies two injured defensive linemen were Ken Ekanem and Nigel Williams. Yet the defense held Miami to 42 rushing yards. 

Pitt, which does not play this week, has had all week to prepare for the Hokies, and a short week next week to continue to do so. 

The two teams play at 7 p.m. at Heinz Field, and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

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Friday Night Countdown: Predictions, playoff appearance list

Written by Mike White on .

Only two weekends left in the WPIAL regular season. The Game of the Week tonight is West Allegheny at Woodland Hills. I will be there, so check @mwhiteburgh on Twitter for updates. Follow @kbarnes_pghsprt for updates from Gateway-McKeesport, and @dkarpen for Aliquippa-Central Valley.

Playoff appearances

The Aliquippa-Central Valley game tonight is big. Could Aliquippa miss the playoffs? If the Quips lose this one, they might not make the postseason. Aliquippa has made the playoffs 39 times, the most in WPIAL history.

Ever wonder what teams have been in the playoffs the most? Or what teams have made the fewest postseason appearances? You're in the right place. Here we go:

MOST WPIAL PLAYOFF APPEARANCES

(Through 2015)

Aliquippa 39

Jeannette 38

Mt. Lebanon 35

Penn Hills 34

Upper St. Clair 34

Clairton 32

Monessen 31

North Hills 31

Washington 31

North Allegheny 29

FEWEST WPIAL PLAYOFF APPEARANCES

(Through 2015)

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 0 (started football in only 2010)

Armstrong 1 (school opened in only 2015)

Summit Academy 1

Southmoreland 1

Deer Lakes 2

West Greene 2

Altoona 3 (school played for many years in District 6)

South Allegheny 4

Mohawk 4

Quaker Valley 5

Central Valley 6 (school opened in only 2010)

Mapletown 6

Leechburg 6

Freedom 6

Predictions

Got to the bakery early today and got a hot dozen predictions to go. Was 10-2 last week to make season record 68-28 (.706 pct.)

WEST ALLEGHENY OVER WOODLAND HILLS - You wonder a little about the Wolverines after struggling to beat Moon last week. Can Woodland Hills crack the West Allegheny defense enough to win? I say no. West Allegheny has allowed only one touchdown in the past five games. 

McKEESPORT OVER GATEWAY - Both teams were torched earlier this season by Zane Dudek. Since  then, both teams have been playing well. Linebacker play and run support from Gateway defense will be key.

ALIQUIPPA OVER CENTRAL VALLEY - Central Valley got the three "toughies" at home this year - Beaver, Beaver Falls and now Aliquippa. The games against Beaver and Beaver Falls were close. This one will be, too.

OTHER TOP GAMES - Mt. Lebanon over Penn Hills; Penn-Trafford over Kiski Area; North Hills over Franklin Regional; Belle Vernon over West Mifflin; New Castle over Ringgold; Blackhawk over Montour; Apollo-Ridge over Valley; South Park over Elizabeth Forward; Keystone Oaks over Freeport. 

Xtra, Xtra Read All About It

Check out these stories from today's Varsity Xtra section:

Why Not Zane? Zane Dudek has a lot going for him - except major-college scholarships. This story looks at why this record-breaking running back isn't being more heavily recruited. (P-G photo above by Pete Diana).

The kid making the tackle above is Devin Danielson, a Thomas Jefferson junior and looking like the next star defensive lineman from the WPIAL.

And Brian Batko takes a look at Blackhawk's turnaround season as coach Joe Lamenza went winless a year ago. Now the Cougars are on the verge of making the WPIAL playoffs.

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Injuries sideline top players

Written by Mike White on .

It was not a good night for some top players in the area Friday as some injuries took out some notable players.

***First, West Mifflin's Howard Reid (pictured) is done for the year. He sustained a fractured right fibula and tibia in a game against Ringgold. His right leg is in a cast up to his thigh. A shame, especially after the kid battled back from getting shot in the foot a year ago.

***Pine-Richland's Grant Carrigan is out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain. Carrigan, a Pitt tight end recruit, was hurt against Shaler and watched much of the game on crutches on the sideline, with his right foot in a boot.

*** Mapletown's Dylan Rush sustained a sprained ankle in practice last week. He tried to play Friday against Fort Cherry, but but carried only three times before packing it in for the night. He might not play this week.

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Friday Night Rewind: Dudek doesn't have scoring record - yet

Written by Mike White on .

A look back at the eighth Friday night of the high school football season.

There were reports Friday night that Zane Dudek broke the WPIAL regular-season scoring record Friday night. Sorry, not true.

But Dudek should get it next week.

Now, let's try to explain. No publication kept statistical leaders for the entire WPIAL until the Post-Gazette started in 1979, under the direction of "The Hector" - Steve Hecht. I know because I used to help compile them for the P-G.

So, I have reported a few times that the most points in the regular season since 1979 is 204. But remember, that was only since 1979. Could there be anyone out there who scored more than 204 points before 1979? Well, with the way offenses are now compared to years ago, it would seem unlikely. But still possible.

It turns out two players did have more than 204 regular-season points - many, many, many years ago.

With the help of a reader, Bill Esposito, and through some extensive research, I was able to find out that in 1948, Blairsville running back Anthony "Pud" Constantino set a WPIAL scoring record with 218 points. He had 34 touchdowns and 14 extra points. Blairsville did not make the playoffs that year. Blairsville is not in the WPIAL these days, but was back then. In fact, when Constantino was a sophomore in 1947, Blairsville won a WPIAL title with a victory against Shaler.

Anyway, Constantino broke the previous WPIAL record of 211 points, set in 1945 by Francis Smutney of Mars.

So, the WPIAL regular-season scoring record appears to be 218 points. And Dudek has tied it. He is sitting at 218 right now, with 36 touchdowns and one two-point conversion. So he should break 218 next Friday. 

Dudek also needs only 311 yards to reach the WPIAL single-season record for rushing yards. And that includes playoffs. But with games left against Connellsville and Kiski Area, Dudek might smash that record by the end of the regular season.

Injuries to top players

We'll have more updates later this weekend, but injuries have hit some top WPIAL players.

** West Mifflin's Howie Reid, the WPIAL's 11th-leading rusher entering Friday, left the Titans' game against Ringgold with an injury.

** Mapletown's Dylan Rush, the WPIAL's second-leading rusher, carried only three times against Fort Cherry because of a sprained ankle sustained in practice last week.

** Pine-Richland's Grant Carrigan, a Pitt tight end recruit, left Friday's game with a right leg injury and watched the rest of the contest on crutches on the sideline with his leg in a protective boot.

Playoff streaks

Thomas Jefferson has clinched a playoff spot for the 22nd season in a row, the longest streak in the WPIAL. Aliquippa has made it 21 consecutive years, but did you know there is a chance the Quips might not make it this year? There is a four-way tie for first in the Beaver Valley Conference between Beaver Falls, Central Valley, Aliquippa and Beaver. One of those four will not make the playoffs.

The Beaver Valley will sort itself out the next two weeks. Aliquippa plays Central Valley Friday. Beaver Falls plays Hopewell Friday and Beaver the following week.

And DYK? Woodland Hills has qualified for the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season.

Other thoughts

*** Thomas Jefferson Devin Danielson is one of the best defensive linemen in the WPIAL I've seen the past few years. 

*** What has happened to Monessen? The Greyhounds didn't make the playoffs the past two seasons. It was a long time since that happened. Now the Greyhounds are 1-7, will not make the playoffs again, and they lost to West Greene Friday? Wow. West Greene hasn't made the playoffs since 1993.

*** As a reporter, you are never supposed to root for a team. But it was nice to see Plum get a win after a rough season. Besides a load of injuries, Plum had to deal with the sudden death last week of popular assistant coach Lorenzo Freeman.

*** Is Thomas Jefferson that good or the rest of its opponents that bad? Probably a little of both, although I still think Belle Vernon is pretty good. I think everyone is pointing to a TJ-South Fayette WPIAL final, aren't they?

*** It's about time for a shoutout to Blackhawk coach Joe Lamenza. It was tough enough taking over for a legend, Joe Hamilton. But then the Cougars went 1-8 last year. Now Blackhawk is 5-2 and fighting for a playoff spot. This week's game against Montour will likely decide it.

Highlights

Check out highlights from the Game of the Week - Belle Vernon at Thomas Jefferson. It includes comments from coaches and a few notes about other games around the WPIAL.

 

 

And if you want to see just how good this Steel Valley team is? Check out highlights of the Ironmen's 66-0 victory against East Allegheny

 

 

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Pitt-Virginia: Three things to watch

Written by Jenn Menendez on .

Pitt (4-2, 1-1 ACC) takes on Virginia (2-3, 1-0 ACC) Saturday at 12:30 p.m., needing a win to keep pace in the already jumbled Coastal Division. The Panthers haven’t won a game in Charlottesville since 1953.

Game time: 12:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: WTAE-TV Channel 4, ACC Network, Pitt IMG Radio Network (93.7 FM)

 

Here are three things to watch:

1. Virginia nose tackle Donte Watkins is the key body to keep an eye on in the Cavaliers 3-4 defense. Several Pitt offensive players insisted it won’t be a big difference to face a base 3-4. Simply put Watkins is having a strong year, and will be a big test for Pitt’s vaunted offensive line.

2. Pitt’s offense has turned a corner in the last two games, finding a way to score those big, fourth-quarter points when needed. Against Marshall it was the touchdown pass from QB Nate Peterman to Jester Weah. Against Gerogia Tech it was the touchdown pass to Scott Orndoff and field goal from Chris Blewitt as time expired. Peterman threw for just shy of 200 yards against Georgia Tech, completing 14-of-20 passes. The passing game is opening up, and with Pitt’s run game as strong as it has been, the Panthers offense is simply becoming more difficult to defend.  

3. Keep an eye on the Pitt secondary for a few reasons. Most importantly, it’s whether they can be effective against another talented quarterback, limit the big plays and cut down on the overall yardage given up. But also…does coach Pat Narduzzi finally burn a redshirt or two and throw freshmen defensive backs Damar Hamlin or Therran Coleman onto the field? CB Avonte Maddox is not expected to play because of an arm injury sustained last week against Gerogia Tech. Dane Jackson played well in his place in the second half, but the Yellow Jackets weren’t exactly slinging the ball around. It will be interesting to see what happens. 

11:15 a.m. UPDATE: Both Hamlin and Coleman are on the travel roster for the first time this season. LB Mike Caprara (questionable) is also on the travel roster, and in Virginia. 

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