With Week 6 in the books it’s time for the stretch run of the 2010 WPIAL football season, and as far as Mr. High School Sports is concerned, it’s never too early to start thinking about the playoffs. Case in point: five teams have already earned the right to play November football after their Friday night efforts with still a lot of time left in October. Most of the top teams in the area are still one win away from punching their postseason tickets, but a number of them took giant steps toward the top seeds.
Defense ruled the night in Single-A, where a couple of slight but significant upsets shook up the standings, and in Double-A last year’s Heinz Field combatants officially started their quest for a second straight appearance. History was made in more ways than one in Triple-A, but the most exciting finishes of the night were clearly one classification higher. Here’s the best of the week that was in high school football:
Monessen 20, Beth-Center 6 – After a lackluster first half Andy Pacak obviously pushed the right buttons, making such intriguing moves as moving two skill players to the offensive line, because the Greyhounds (5-0, 5-1) came alive in the second half for a huge win over the Bulldogs (5-1, 5-1) that puts them in the driver’s seat of the Tri-County South Conference. Brady Kunsa threw for two touchdowns and ran for another while turning in an 8-of-14 passing performance for 119 yards, and the Monessen defense held Beth-Center to 79 offensive yards.
Avonworth 7, North Catholic 0 – Suddenly Avonworth is making a push for number one “D” in the WPIAL, as the Antelopes (5-1, 5-1) posted their fourth consecutive shutout to distance themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference. With Mike Tomlin looking on, the Avonworth defense forced four turnovers, including two crucial interceptions of Martin Long, and Brian Vales struggled his way to 50 passing yards, but he also hurled an 18-yard touchdown pass to Michael Giampoles for the only score needed in a gritty win over the Trojans (3-2, 4-2).
Sto-Rox 36, South Side Beaver 0 – As I said Friday, the Sto-Rox School District’s controversial new academic policy did not handicap the Vikings (3-1, 5-1) in Week 6, which turned out to be discovery time for some of their unsung gridiron heroes. Tailback Marzett Geter coasted to 204 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries last Saturday, including a 78-yard jaunt to the end zone in the first quarter, and the Sto-Rox defense made it stand up by limiting the Rams (0-4, 0-6) to 105 yards on offense.
Chartiers-Houston 21, Brentwood 7 – Although this loss does not dash Brentwood’s playoff hopes, it certainly has to be a tough pill to swallow for a team seeking a high seed, as one-man band Daniel Lis helped the Buccaneers (3-1, 5-1) make a nice statement against the Spartans (3-1, 5-1) in Black Hills Conference play. The quarterback/defensive back scrambled 29 times for 180 yards, scored on a pair of goal-line plunges, and took an interception 35 yards for a TD, while his counterpart, Cory Bauer, was an impressive 12-of-17 for 129 yards and one rush TD in defeat.
South Fayette 28, Keystone Oaks 19 – It takes a supreme team effort to overcome a formidable foe like the Golden Eagles (3-1, 5-1), and that’s exactly what the host Lions (4-0, 6-0) delivered as they seized control of the Century Conference Friday night. Christian Brumbaugh was his usual dominant self, leading all District 7 QB’s with 276 yards on 13-of-24 passing and one TD to receiver Tyler Challingsworth, who accounted for 110 of those yards on five catches, while tailback Jeff Davis (pictured left) registered 229 total yards and an important 4th-quarter touchdown. Click here to relive any or all of the action from 93.7 The Fan’s Game of the Week.
Steel Valley 48, Washington 33 – With apologies to the good people of Munhall, Steel Valley tailback Delrece Williams was not our First Commonwealth Athlete of the Week (look for that later), but I still have to give him honorable mention for taking his game to another stratosphere and engineering a great comeback by the Ironmen (2-2, 3-3). Williams humbled the visiting Little Prexies (0-4, 1-5), who got an early TD run and TD pass from Josh Wise, with 267 rush yards (second-most in Class AA Friday) on 33 carries and a whopping five rushing touchdowns to go with one touchdown reception.
Aliquippa 29, Ellwood City 7 – The vastly improved Wolverines (3-2, 4-2) couldn’t keep up with the Quips (6-0, 6-0), who are not yet Midwestern Conference champions, but certainly played like it in Week 6. Aliquippa quarterback Mikal Hall kept Ellwood City at arm’s length by completing seven of his ten passes for 170 yards, including touchdown strikes of 54 and 60 yards to Haetaun Mathis, who accounted for 126 of Hall’s passing yards to help his team join another of last year’s finalists, Greensburg C.C., as the first to clinch playoff berths in Class AA.
Mount Pleasant 22, East Allegheny 20 – While GCC and Jeannette might be on a collison course for an Interstate Conference title showdown, interesting battles are shaping up for the other playoff spots in that section, including this one that featured impressive performances by both running backs. Carlos Sloan delivered 122 yards on 16 attempts and a pair of first-half touchdowns for the host Wildcats (4-2, 4-2), but it wasn’t quite enough, as Bryce Ansell’s 118 yards on 23 rushes set up a second-half comeback by the Vikings (4-1, 4-2).
Montour 12, Central Valley 7 – Once again, the No. 1 team in Class AAA had to show tremendous resolve against a tough opponent–and a Parkway Conference playoff hopeful at that–and the Spartans (4-0, 6-0) held on for a nail-biting win in Central Valley’s first-ever homecoming game. Aaron Law (pictured left) ran for 54 yards on nine carries and gave the Warriors (2-2, 4-2) a halftime lead with his touchdown, but Montour tailback Julian Durden, who had to fight for every yard, ended with 106 on 21 tries, including a 44-yard score and a two-yard TD with just over one minute left in the 4th.
Hopewell 28, New Castle 26 – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: is there anything Rushel Shell can’t do, like, for example, single-handedly save the Vikings’ (1-3, 2-4) season with one of the greatest individual performances in WPIAL history? Yes he can, and yes he did, on 32 carries, with a 392-yard, three-touchdown game that will be talked about for quite some time, as he became Beaver County’s all-time rushing leader with 5,659 yards, while QB John Matarazzo led the Red Hurricane (1-3, 3-3) with 236 yards and one touchdown on 16-of-33 passing.
Thomas Jefferson 42, Chartiers Valley 21 – This time the Colts (2-2, 2-4) at least got the goose egg off the board, but as has always been the case, they just didn’t have enough answers for TJ’s offense, which put the Jaguars (4-0, 5-1) on pace for an easy road win in Big Eight Conference action. Dom Presto connected on eight of his 15 passes for 132 yards and threw three touchdown passes, while running back Ryan Ruffing was one of multiple ball-carriers in black-and-gold who enjoyed a big night, rumbling for 130 yards on 15 tries, which included a 66-yard scoring run.
Mars 21, Highlands 0 – They may still have to share the Greater Allegheny Conference lead with surging Knoch, but the Planets (4-0, 5-1) do have the distinction of being the first Class AAA team in 2010 to clinch a playoff berth. Mars punched its ticket to the postseason behind another valiant effort from running back Austin Miele, who scored in the 2nd quarter and finished with 103 yards on 23 carries, while the Mars defense scored on a fumble recovery and held the Golden Rams (1-2, 3-3) to 46 passing yards.
Shaler 43, Erie McDowell 42 (2 OT) – What goes around often comes around in the course of a season, and after a thrilling last-second win in Week 5, perhaps the Trojans (2-2, 4-2) were due for an emotional letdown, albeit a controversial one, in Week 6. Colin Kimball gained 172 all-purpose yards and ran for four touchdowns for McDowell, but Shaler’s own QB, Ryan Mincher, threw for two scores in regulation and another in the second overtime, followed by a two-point pass to Joe Panza that was first ruled incomplete and then overturned to give the Titans (2-1, 4-2) the victory.
McKeesport 31, Penn-Trafford 28 (OT) – Although this wasn’t quite as wild as that Northern Seven contest up at Gus Anderson Field, the Tigers (3-0, 5-1) and their special teams certainly showed a flair for the dramatic in an exciting Foothills Conference win over the upstart Warriors (2-2, 3-3). Following a great effort by running back Sam Gooden (pictured left), who carried the mail 33 times for 165 yards and three TD’s, two of them on the ground, Zach DiBeradin calmly split the uprights on an 18-yard field goal in overtime that keeps victorious McKeesport on Gateway’s heels.
Pgh. Central Catholic 33, Plum 6 – It’s too early to pencil in the red-hot Vikings (4-0, 6-0) for a WPIAL title, given the stiff competition in Quad-A, but you can officially put them into the field of 64 following an impressive performance from one of their unheralded freshmen. With Damion Jones-Moore on the shelf, backup running back Luigi Lista-Brinza humbled the Mustangs (0-3, 3-3) with 170 yards rushing on 21 carries to go with three scoring runs, while John Murphy contributed nicely on special teams with three extra points and field goals of 29 and 32 yards.
Gateway 33, Hempfield 0 – The Gators (4-0, 4-2) put it in cruise control for their Foothills Conference triumph over the struggling Spartans (0-3, 0-6) and joined Central on the two-team list of Class AAAA schools to clinch a playoff spot Friday night. Quarterback Tom Woodson led the charge for Gateway by completing eight of 17 passes for 163 yards, including 13- and 53-yard scoring strikes to Armstead Williams, who led all Quad-A receivers in Week 6 with 115 yards on five receptions.
Perry 40, Allderdice 0 – For all the hype surrounding this first-place showdown at Cupples Stadium on the South Side last Friday, the Commodores (5-0, 5-1) made it look easy. Greg McGhee, whom head coach Bill Gallagher later called the best quarterback in the area, hurled two TD passes and totaled 198 yards in an 11-of-18 outing, and the Perry defense limited the Dragons (4-1, 4-2) to 32 yards the entire game.
(Before signing off, Mr. High School Sports would like to give his condolences to friends and family of Don Vandergrift, who passed away Monday. Don was best known for nearly half a century as the “Voice of the Tigers” through his play-by-play work for many of North Allegheny’s varsity teams on the North Allegheny Sports Network. He was a consummate professional, and a friend to all who met him, including me, and he will be sorely missed.)
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. Due to Pitt’s noon kickoff against Syracuse, catch us at a special time this week: Saturday morning 7:00-9:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!