Although it’s a tad sobering to think the high school football regular season is halfway over, it’s just as exciting that the playoffs are approaching, and last weekend we started getting a stronger indiciation of which 64 teams will be putting in appearances at the November dance. There may not have been many marquee games in Week 5, but Mr. High School Sports believes the most exciting things often happen when and where least expected, which was the case in all four classifications.
A pair of shutouts loom large for two of the top squads in Double-A, while an upset-minded Quad-A team saw its goose egg get cracked in what was probably the most uncanny finish of the season. The standings grow tighter in Triple-A, as does the proverbial noose around the neck of some playoff hopefuls there, and a couple of Single-A teams grabbed my attention by putting up big numbers. Here’s a closer look back at Week 5 of the 2010 WPIAL/City League football season:
Beth-Center 46, California 32 – Maybe it’s time for opponents to adjust their offensive plans, because it’s becoming abundantly clear the Bulldogs (5-0, 5-0), who remained alone atop the Tri-County South Conference by outlasting the Trojans (2-2, 2-3), boast some of the most talented defensive backs in Class A. Quarterback Sal Faieta, who returned one of Beth-Center’s five INT’s for a touchdown, also threw for 149 yards, adding two offensive TD’s and a two-point conversion on 6-of-10 passing, and tailback Deshan Brown made three of those picks while also running for a touchdown and a two-pointer.
Cornell 56, South Side Beaver 0 – The teasing is pretty much over, and the notion that the still-perfect Raiders (3-0, 5-0) are one of the most rapidly improved teams in the WPIAL is no joke judging by this rout of the Rams (0-3, 0-5) in Big 7 Conference play. Running backs Mark Whitling and Derrick Jackson each contributed two short-range touchdowns on the ground, and the underrated Cornell defense limited South Side to 36 net yards on offense to give the Raiders a season-opening five-game winning streak, their first since 1998.
Brentwood 28, Fort Cherry 21 (OT) – In a pivotal battle to keep pace with defending champ Clairton in the Black Hills Conference, Brentwood’s dangerous offense came to life in regulation and in a brief overtime session to keep the Rangers (2-1, 2-3) at bay. Quarterback Cory Bauer connected on 12 of 21 passes for 133 yards and accounted for all four of the Spartans’ (3-0, 5-0) touchdowns, including a 10-yard toss on the first play of the extra frame, and although his counterpart, Tanner Garry, threw for a Class A-best 209 yards and a TD in a 13-of-23 effort, he was also picked off twice, including a “walk-off” interception on his first play of overtime.
Springdale 35, Bishop Canevin 0 – The Dynamos (4-1, 4-1) served notice they deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as the other Single-A front-runners by coasting to a surprisingly easy Eastern Conference victory over the Cruasders (3-1, 4-1) in Week 5. Leading the charge for Springdale was tailback Joe Killian, who racked up 144 of the team’s 306 rushing yards on just 13 carries and scored on runs of 23 and 57 yards, while fellow running back Bill Arch chipped in 75 yards on 15 touches and triggered the running clock with his fourth-quarter touchdown.
Greensburg C.C. 7, Mount Pleasant 0 – This year’s installment of this Interstate Conference rivalry looked like the polar opposite of last year’s; nevertheless, the Centurions (5-0, 5-0) did what champions do by gutting out a big win over the visiting Vikings (3-1, 3-2), on a rough night against the defending section champs. First-year starting QB Bobbie Noble only managed 93 passing yards, but that included the game’s only touchdown with under three-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, and the Greensburg C.C. defense continued to turn heads by shutting out its fourth opponent of 2010 and holding Bryce Ansell to 38 rushing yards.
Ford City 20, Freeport 0 – There was another highly visible shutout in Class AA posted by one fine football team over another in Week 5, and this one puts the Sabers (3-0, 5-0), who continue to handle their business in Allegheny Conference play, in complete control of their own destiny. Tailback Devin Wilyard led Ford City with 58 rushing yards and broke open the game in the second quarter by hauling in a 62-yard TD pass, the team’s only completion all night, and the Ford City defense only gave up 113 rushing yards to the Yellowjackets (2-1, 3-2), holding its opponent without a touchdown for the third time in five games.
Seton-LaSalle 20, Steel Valley 13 – This collision of playoff-bound Century Conference teams lived up to expectations of excitement, as the Rebels (3-0, 5-0) kept up with South Fayette and pulled off a comeback on the strength of a balanced offensive attack. Quarterback David O’Brien completed 12 of 20 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown and ran for the game-tying score in the third quarter, allowing for LaSalle to pull ahead of the Ironmen (1-2, 3-2) when running back Kevin Hart, who muddled for just 21 yards, got the ones that counted most on a two-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Laurel 22, Freedom 19 – Down but not out are the Spartans (1-3, 2-3), who sorely needed a Midwestern Conference victory to keep their postseason hopes alive and escaped with one at home against the Bulldogs (0-5, 0-5). Tailback Dylan Jones totaled 225 yards on 29 carries to top the Class AA rushing list for Week 5 and scored three touchdowns, including a 29-yarder with a subsequent two-point run to put Laurel ahead for good in the fourth quarter, while Freedom’s Derek Lehocky was a bright spot in defeat, scoring from 56 yards out for the second of his two rushing touchdowns to give his team a halftime lead.
Blackhawk 31, Hopewell 14 – All the evidence suggests that Hopewell running back Rushel Shell (pictured left) needs help, but the Vikings (0-3, 1-4) seem to have lost a little too much talent and maybe one too many games for their own good after bowing to the under-the-radar Cougars (2-1, 4-1) in this Parkway Conference contest. Shell moved from 9th into 7th place on the WPIAL’s career list after amassing 132 yards and one TD on 24 tries, but the rising star that is freshman quarterback Chandler Kincade shined brighter for the visitors, as he ended with 159 yards and one score in an 8-of-15 outing.
Montour 24, New Castle 6 – There can’t be much doubt about which team is (still) number one in Class AAA, since the Spartans (3-0, 5-0) continue to boast one of the most potent offenses in the district and effectively dismantled one of the others last Friday. Montour running back Julian Durden climbed the WPIAL leaderboard by outracing New Castle’s defense 29 times for 245 yards, which led all local rushers in Week 5, and touchdowns of 57 and 46 yards to offset a valiant performance by John Matarazzo, who completed 19 of 41 passes for 224 yards and the Red Hurricane’s (1-2, 3-2) only touchdown.
Central Valley 29, Moon 20 – Two teams currently caught in the middle of the Parkway Conference standings staged one of the more enjoyable contests of the night, as the visiting Warriors (2-1, 4-1) scored 22 straight points to move into the fourth and final playoff spot in said conference. Tailback Chad Bertrand, subbing for an injured Mark Piccolo, rumbled 14 times for 108 yards and two TD’s (1 rush, 1 rec.) to give the Tigers (1-2, 3-2) a comfortable lead at the half, but, not to be outdone, Central Valley QB Curtis Lewis scrambled 24 times for 186 yards and three 2nd-half touchdown runs to spark his team’s rally.
Knoch 17, Hampton 14 – In games between two closely-matched schools, special teams play becomes that much more important, as was the case when the Knights (2-0, 5-0) nipped the Talbots (1-2, 1-4) to remain in a virtual tie with Greater Allegheny Conference leader Mars. Knoch quarterback Kyler Kenyon effectively counter-punched Hampton’s offense by contributing 233 all-purpose yards and throwing for two touchdowns on 8-of-16 passing, and kicker Cory Wood, who had already drilled home two extra points, provided a game-winning 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Pgh. Central Catholic 35, Penn Hills 20 – Pittsburgh Central Catholic is the number one team in Quad-A for a reason; the Vikings (3-0, 5-0) not only have elite talent, but they also have elite mettle, every ounce of which it showed in erasing a 20-0 3rd-quarter deficit to stun the host Indians (1-1, 2-3). Central’s offense (seen here converting a first down on a fake punt) sputtered until quarterback Perry Hills turned it on like a faucet, throwing for 102 yards and running for three short TD’s, including the game-tying score in the 4th, while tailback Damion Jones-Moore, who had a quiet night by his own standards, still chipped in 90 rush yards and a late two-yard scoring run.
Peters Township 21, Bethel Park 14 – Though he will be seeking a greater one in Week 6, Nick Milchovich may have finally gotten the signature win he needed in Week 5 when his growing Indians (1-0, 4-1) squad pulled away from the Black Hawks (0-1, 2-3) late in their Great Southern Conference opener. Quarterback Austin Hancock threw for 116 yards in a 9-of-11 effort before delivering the go-ahead score on a 22-yard touchdown run with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and props to BP running back Bre’ Ford as well, who continued his fine season with 118 yards and one TD on 18 carries in the loss. Click here to relive any or all of the action from Mr. High School Sports’ Game of the Week.
Upper St. Clair 38, Baldwin 22 – Although there was no quit in the Highlanders (0-1, 1-4), they certainly learned the hard way that when Jim Render sings the praises of an individual, he’s usually right on the money, as versatile quarterback Dakota Conwell underscored his coach’s words. Conwell (pictured left), who went 5-of-9 for 95 yards passing, threw for one touchdown, ran for another, and paced the Panthers’ (1-0, 4-1) defense with 12 tackles, while Baldwin’s Dorian Brown led all tailbacks with 119 yards on 21 tries, including a 57-yard score in the Great Southern lid-lifter for both teams. Click here to relive any or all of the action from 93.7 The Fan’s Game of the Week.
Erie McDowell 29, Pine-Richland 25 – The Rams (1-2, 1-4) can’t seem to come up on the happy side of these heartbreakers; they lost another tight game, this time in the closing seconds against the resurgent Trojans (2-1, 4-1), in a televised Northern Seven meeting last Thursday night. P-R quarterback Andy Borgen racked up 237 yards and a late go-ahead score while completing 21 of 31 passes, but it wasn’t enough, as McDowell tailback Greg Garmon, who rushed for 180 yards and two TD’s on 20 attempts, got the team in position for Jeremy Baronner’s game-winning one-yard run in the final minute.
Allderdice 26, Westinghouse 6 – The ‘Dice rolled to an easy win over the Bulldogs (0-3, 1-4) and remained in a first-place tie with Perry on the strength of Mike Pfleger’s arm. He threw three touchdown passes for the Dragons (4-0, 4-1) and ran for the team’s fourth TD, ending the day with 187 yards on 8-of-17 passing, while the Allderdice defense generated four turnovers.
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 Bank 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!