“Mr. High School Sports” – Quick Outs: First Round Edition
Looking back on how the field of 64 got cut in half, there were plenty of individual and team performances worthy of attention. The First Round of the 2010 WPIAL Football Playoffs was not entirely chalk, and Mr. High School Sports has his usual miscellaneous assortment of thoughts on the teams that prevailed and those who helped them do so. Therefore, to borrow the classic line from Monty Python, let’s do something completely different and shine our spotlight on the best of the best from last Friday in each classification. Without further ado, here are my “Quick Outs” for Week 10 of the high school football season:
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Avonworth. Despite not having Ricky Lawniczak in the lineup due to a season-ending collar bone injury, the ‘Lopes were able to run the ball effectively with backup Jake Szolis, all the while preventing one of the better quarterbacks in Single-A, Brentwood’s Cory Bauer, from ruining them.
THE BEST PLAYER: Szolis. He didn’t miss a beat for aforementioned Avonworth, running 28 times for 170 yards and all three of the team’s touchdowns prior to the game-winning punt return.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: Considering how much North Catholic depends on Martin Long, you’d figure that team was in a heap of trouble against Sto-Rox, but the scrappy Trojans upset the Vikings, one of the preseason darlings in Class A, without their star QB’s services.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Monessen vs. Springdale, a matchup of two teams that pride themselves on a diverse running attack and hard-hitting defense.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Keystone Oaks. Although KO is battle-tested and their First Round foe, Greensburg Central Catholic, had been banged up throughout the season and had the look of a team that peaked a little to early, beating the defending WPIAL champs on the road is never anything to sneeze at.
THE BEST PLAYER: Delrece Williams. The leading rusher in the WPIAL during the regular season did everything in his power to give Steel Valley a shot to pull off an upset, which did not come to fruition, by racking up 235 yards.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: I go back to that Steel Valley-Beaver Falls contest, for which I predicted a win by Steel Valley. The Tigers are a well-coached outfit and I’m not shocked they won, but I certainly didn’t think it would come down to Steel Valley beating themselves, as was the case on the winning (defensive) TD.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Aliquippa vs. Beaver. Last time they met, the Bobcats made the Quips work for their MAC title, and the latter needed an unforced stumble in OT by Christian Herstine to preserve that victory. Can Beaver hang with these guys…again?
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Hopewell. The resurgent Vikings had to visit a fast Franklin Regional team that had run the ball exceptionally well, and not only did Rushel Shell power his team to its fifth straight win, but he aided in an uncharacteristically strong performance by that defense.
THE BEST PLAYER: Austin Miele. Enough said, right?
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: Central Valley turned some heads in its first year of existence by playing some stingy defense and treading water in the best conference in the WPIAL, and the Warriors quieted a very athletic Ringgold team to help make the much-improved Keystone Conference 0-4 in First Round games.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Thomas Jefferson vs. Hopewell. This one will be on TV (more on that later), and something tells me this game, which almost became a reality at Heinz Field last year, will be worth my Nielsen point.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Upper St. Clair. The Panthers got revenge on Penn Hills for last year’s playoff defeat, and offensively played their best game of the season against a team never devoid of Division I talent on defense.
THE BEST PLAYER: Tom Woodson. His predecessor, Rob Kalkstein, was a more conventional passer, so perhaps it’s understandable that Erie McDowell didn’t have an answer for the Gateway quarterback when he started running like crazy and ended with 354 all-purpose yards and three TD’s.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: Tailback Bre’ Ford has been the focal point of Bethel Park’s offense all year, so to see the Hawks knock off McKeesport, a team known for its stellar defense, by throwing the ball probably opened some eyes and gave Art Walker something extra to think about this week.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: North Hills vs. Upper St. Clair. Not only two of the best coaches of my own generation, but two teams who have established themselves as legitimate dark horses.
For all 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 Saturday morning 8:00-10:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!