Probably the one thing that jumps off the page at me about Week 5 of the 2010 WPIAL football season is that…well, there isn’t a whole lot that jumps off the page. We haven’t yet reached some of the epic matchups we’ve been waiting for, although we’ve still got some important ones here. In some ways, this week’s high school slate can be just as critical as the last one before the postseason. Some of the teams I’ll be talking about need to start winning or keep winning this week if they want to make it there, and Mr. High School Sports would like to point out that several teams have a chance to separate themselves this week and really zero in on conference titles.
The playoff picture in Quad-A stands to be shaken in many directions Friday night, while the playoff picture in the toughest conference in Class AAA might finally get one iota of clarity. Great defenses and great offenses square off with one another in Double-A, while in Class A, one of the newcomers will have to show mettle just as another did in Week 4. Here’s what to look for in Week 5, starting with a special report on Mr. High School Sports’ Game of the Week:
GAME OF THE WEEK:
BETHEL PARK BLACK HAWKS (0-0, 2-2)
@ PETERS TOWNSHIP INDIANS (0-0, 3-1)
(CLASS AAAA, GREAT SOUTHERN CONFERENCE)
Kickoff @ 7:30; Matt Vandriak with play-by-play, Greg Kuntz with color commentary on msasports.net
SCOUTING THE BLACK HAWKS:
Here’s what one anonymous coach had to say about Bethel Park:
“They have two really solid players in Bre’ Ford and Nick Kwiatkowski, who is a good runner and receiver. So I would expect Bethel Park to go after Peters Township in one-on-one coverage, which can be a weakness for them.”
SCOUTING THE INDIANS:
Here’s what one anonymous coach had to say about Peters Township:
“[Quarterback Austin Hancock] runs like a bull and has a strong arm. The line has four seniors and is the heart of the team…which makes you wonder why the defense, which plays with a lot of the same players, has had consistency issues.”
BETHEL PARK’S KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Watch the middle. If this team’s defensive backs are as good as we think they are, Austin Hancock will try to tap dance around them by shortening his aerial attack and throwing to the middle of the field. It’s a big help to Bethel if they can take away the pass and make the Indians’ offense one-dimensional.
2. Establish the run. As previously mentioned, defensive line play can be a bit of a crapshoot for Peters. Bre’ Ford needs to find some holes and get that offense rolling early.
3. Go to Nick real quick. The passing game hasn’t been the same since Dave Bliss graduated, but Anthony Cinello seems to be a worthy successor. Cinello needs to get the ball to Kwiatkowski as much as possible to spread the defense and make room for the running game.
PETERS TOWNSHIP’S KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Channel the emotion. This is one of the biggest games the Indians have played in some time, and the vibe I get is that they’re playing the “no respect” card. Between two evenly matched teams, the one that can stay disciplined and stay hungry is the one that usually wins.
2. A fine line. The offensive line needs to continue its strong play and keep Austin Hancock comfortable in the pocket. If the Hawks’ loss to Shaler is any indication, it is very possible to throw on this team effectively.
3. Take away the run. Peters has been burned at times by its own subpar play on defense and some big nights from opposing running backs, so those kids need perhaps their best effort of the season against Bre’ Ford and the Hawks. The sooner Ford tops 100 yards–if, in fact, he does–the longer a night it may be for the home team.
OTHER CLASS AAAA GAMES TO WATCH:
Upper St. Clair @ Baldwin – Although not originally slated as such, this is the 93.7 The Fan Game of the Week, and Paul Paterra and Dan Zangrilli will have the call for you at 7:30 as the visiting Panthers (0-0, 3-1) look to avoid a letdown after a win over West Allegheny in Week 4 that boosted their credibility. USC quarterback Dakota Conwell scored four times last Friday, racking up 295 all-purpose yards, and is averaging over six yards a carry, while the Highlanders (0-0, 1-3) will try to ram Dorian Brown, who has run for 364 yards and nine TD’s, down their throats and made a good first impression in the Greater Southern Conference opener for both schools.
Altoona @ Woodland Hills – USA Today reports the six Woody High alumni in the NFL are more than any high school in America has produced, and the Wolverines (1-1, 1-3) probably wish they turn back time and get a couple of those kids in the wake of their rocky start, but I have a feeling things start turning around for the WPIAL champs here. The Mountain Lions (0-2, 0-4) will have their hands full with now-healthy tailback Lafayette Pitts, who rumbled for 104 yards and his team’s only touchdown in their loss to Central, and quarterback Tyler Palfey, who was held to 86 yards, one TD, and two picks against Kiski, will have to protect the ball better against these linebackers.
Gateway @ Norwin – What will Norwin quarterback Tim Petro do for an encore…will the Knights (1-0, 2-2) benefit once again from an offensive rampage by their gunslinger, or will the “same old” Gators (2-0, 2-2) deliver one of their textbook routs in this suddenly important Foothills Conference game? After his Week 4 performance Petro is third in the district with 742 pass yards and seven touchdowns, but Norwin can’t overlook Gateway tailback Darrin Franklin, who is looking for a nice follow-up of his own after totaling a personal best 189 rush yards and three touchdowns in last week’s victory over Penn-Trafford.
CLASS AAA GAMES TO WATCH:
New Castle @ Montour – I wish I could have studied with this Montour football team in college after the way the Spartans (2-0, 4-0) passed two rigorous tests early on, and now the top team in Triple-A hosts the Red Hurricane (1-1, 3-1) in a Parkway Conference battle of which superb offense wants it more. Have fun watching the pigskin fly through the Robinson Township sky like crazy as Montour’s Dillon Buechel, the fourth-leading quarterback in Class AAA with 620 yards and ten TD’s, matches wits with New Castle’s Johnny Matarazzo, the No. 2 QB in the classification, who is no worse for the wear after throwing for 686 yards and completing 59% of his passes.
Central Valley @ Moon – For those who howled at the Moon–pun intended–before the start of the 2010 campaign, the joke seems to be on us as the Tigers (1-1, 3-1) have a shot to really improve their stead in the crowded Parkway Conference at home Friday night. Tailback Mark Piccolo’s 70 points (10 TD, 10 XP) make him the top scorer in Class AAA, and after his 189 rush yards and four total TD’s in Week 4, Moon will look to him to outclass the Warriors’ (1-1, 3-1) chief offensive threat, quarterback Curtis Lewis, who has produced 425 yards and four TD’s through the air.
Blackhawk @ Hopewell – The Vikings (0-2, 1-3) could really use a win in Parkway Conference play to keep their season from slipping away, and considering the inspired defensive football Joe Hamilton’s team has played, it won’t be easy. Rushel Shell now boasts 5,137 career rushing yards, including 881 this year, and will try to advance to ninth on the WPIAL’s all-time list, but last year the Cougars (1-1, 3-1) gave Shell and his mates a tough game, and Cole Chiappiella, who recovered two fumbles and ran for 51 yards in Week 4 versus South Park, is emerging as a leader of Blackhawk’s improved “D.”
Knoch @ Hampton – Maybe this will be a good barometer for the only unbeaten team in the Greater Allegheny Conference and maybe it won’t, but one way for the Knights (1-0, 4-0) to prove they’re no fluke is to take care of business in their own section against the Talbots (1-1, 1-3), who are licking their wounds from a tough start. Last week running back Matt Hyre scored twice, amassed 121 yards, and may provide a needed spark to Hampton’s offense, though the defense better contain Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin, who has “dangerous” written all over him; he’s averaging 18 yards a pop and already has ten touchdowns for Knoch.
CLASS AA GAMES TO WATCH:
Freeport @ Ford City – It is a distinct possibility that the championship of the Allegheny Conference basically might be decided here in Week 5, as two of the most stubborn defensive teams in Class AA wage war in Armstrong County. On the other side of the ball Darek Lehocky and Jake Campbell made things happen for the Yellowjackets (2-0, 3-1) by combining for 222 rush yards in a Week 4 triumph over Shady Side, while counterparts Devan Willyard and Mike Krochta have put together 13 touchdowns out of the Sabers’ (2-0, 4-0) backfield, including one each last week, entering a game where just one might be enough.
Seton-LaSalle @ Steel Valley – Star tailbacks on both sides will surely flex their muscles in what promises to be a high-scoring Century Conference matchup, and a significant one, for that matter, as the visiting Rebels (2-0, 4-0) try to push away the Ironmen (1-1, 3-1) and keep pace atop the conference. Seton-LaSalle’s Kevin Hart has 686 rushing yards in his back pocket, and although his 86 total points (14 TD, 2 XP) lead the WPIAL, isn’t it fitting that, in the former category, he trails only Steel Valley’s Delrece Williams in Double-A (884 total yds) after Williams’ 273-yard, four-touchdown outburst last Saturday?
Beaver Falls @ Riverside – Same story as above, different conference…we’ve got two gifted tailbacks about to butt heads in a Midwestern Conference showdown that looms especially large for the Panthers (2-2, 2-2), so the x-factor might be the efficiency of Beaver Falls QB Carlin Henderson, who looks good in his first year as a starter. Henderson’s accomplice, Trey Hall, has turned out to be every bit the playmaker as suspected, recording seven offensive TD’s for the Tigers (2-1, 3-1) and averaging 15 yards per touch as a receiver, and on the other side Jared Desensi (81 rush yds, TD in Week 4) will effort to make Riverside’s position a little less precarious.
Mount Pleasant @ Greensburg C.C. – Although the WPIAL champions lost a lot of talent, they still look like champs because they’ve been getting contributions from just about everyone, and now the top-ranked Centurions (4-0, 4-0) must exorcise mental demons against the same Mount Pleasant team that upset them in OT for last year’s Interstate Conference title. Receiver Justin Kempa, who averages 23 yards a catch and has nine TD’s on both sides of the ball, is one of the kids giving GCC a boost these days, while the Vikings (3-0, 3-1) still rely on tailback Bryce Ansell (353 yds, avg. 6.3/rush) to shoulder the load.
CLASS A GAMES TO WATCH:
Bishop Canevin @ Springdale – The Dynamos (3-1, 3-1) need a victory in this pivotal Eastern Conference contest in order to keep their conference title hopes alive, but does their defense have it in them to contain one of the most dynamic offensive duos in Class A? Leading the charge for the visiting Crusaders (3-0, 4-0) will be quarterback Matt Butter, a rising star who has tallied 502 passing yards and seven touchdowns, all of them to Bobby Gustine, so Springdale will need some magic from their own one-two punch of Bill Arch (129 rush yds, TD in Week 4) and fellow running back Chris Liberto (106 rush yds, 2 rush TD in Week 4).
North Catholic @ Monessen – This might be a playoff preview, but for now it’s just another non-conference game; nevertheless, we could learn a lot about both teams when they get together in the Mon Valley Friday evening. In an impressive win over California last week the Greyhounds’ (4-0, 4-0) defense scored a critical touchdown, took away the run, and forced three picks by T.D. Conway, and they’ll once again have their work cut out trying to handle Martin Long, whose 648 passing yards to go with five touchdowns have powered the Trojans (3-1, 3-1) and made him the No. 1 QB in Class A.
California @ Beth-Center – If the Trojans (2-1, 2-2) can not rebound from last week’s aforementioned loss to Monessen, they will suddenly have to fight with multiple teams for one of the last two playoff spots in the Tri-County South Conference, whereas the Bulldogs (4-0, 4-0) are simply trying to remain atop the mountain. We know what Cal quarterback T.D. Conway is capable of, as he takes 569 passing yards (3rd in Class A) and six scoring tosses to his brother Dakota into Week 5, but what you might not know is that Deshan Brown, who found the end zone three different ways last week, might have to pick up the slack again if leading scorer Jeff Tarley (8 total TD) can’t go.
South Side Beaver @ Cornell – How long can the Raiders (2-0, 4-0) keep their magical season going, and can the Rams (0-2, 0-4) finally find a way to break onto the left side of the ledger and keep their flickering postseason hopes from being snuffed out? Those are the questions surrounding Cornell, which is hoping for an even bigger night from quarterback Shawn Owens after he threw for 55 yards and scored both its TD’s last week, and South Side Beaver, who is hoping tailback Luke Shaffer can use his 416 yards and 6.5-per-carry average to spark an upset in a game that might be played heavily between the red zones.
CITY LEAGUE GAME TO WATCH:
Brashear @ Carrick – In order to avoid falling too far out of the championship picture the Bulls (2-1, 2-2), who are coming off a comfortable 41-6 romp over Westinghouse, will try to run with the Raiders (1-1, 1-3), who look to stay alive in League play and perish any memory of a rough 48-0 loss at the hands of Howland (OH) in Week 4.
For more of the latest news and views on and off the gridiron, be sure to check out The Post-Gazette High School Football Show Presented by First Commonwealth with the Post-Gazette’s Mike White and MSA’s Don Rebel, Saturday mornings 8:00-10:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!