By Matt Popchock
Last week Mr. High School Sports had a lot of fun looking back at the best performances, team and individual, from the opening round of the 2010 WPIAL Football Playoffs. As he reflects upon round two, he wonders, why screw up a good thing? The Quarterfinals were a night to remember for many in District 7, especially if you were one of the higher-seeded teams, and I’ve got plenty of props to give out. So without further ado, here are my “Quick Outs” for Week 11:
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Springdale. To advance to the WPIAL Semifinals they had to get by a Monessen team that seemed very much its equal in terms of team defense and offensive balance, but the Dynamos’ defense flexed its own muscles, and on offense they did a phenomenal job not just running the ball but spreading it around.
THE BEST PLAYER: Bill Arch. Going back to that Springdale-Monessen game, he finished with 146 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and kept the Greyhounds’ offense off the field. He might be the most underrated player remaining in the Class A bracket.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: For all the talent the Greyhounds possessed, it was hard to imagine the Dynamos winning in such one-sided fashion, even though Tri-County South Conference teams have struggled beyond round one for the past 15 years. I thought Monessen might be able to win this game in much the same blue-collar fashion Springdale did.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Clairton faces the Dynamos in the semifinals, and guess which team was the last to beat the Bears in the WPIAL Playoffs? Yep, you guessed it. It’ll be interesting to see how many more big plays Clairton makes against a defense that’s a little bit closer to their skill level than quarterfinal opponent Bishop Canevin’s.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Ford City. It is uncommon for the Sabers to give up 21 points to any opponent, but they still made plenty of big plays on defense, and used their typically opportunistic offense to prevail over Seton-LaSalle, a team with a quick-strike offense that looked poised to give Ford City fits.
THE BEST PLAYER: Christian Brumbaugh. Granted, he and the Lions haven’t yet faced a team that, realistically, can play with them, but it still doesn’t delete his extraordinary accomplishments. With a District 7 best 328 yards he climbed the WPIAL career passing ladder and continues to take over every game he plays.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: We knew the Quips were good, but considering the good fortune Aliquippa needed to clinch a win in the regular season confrontation, we thought they would have a lot more trouble with Beaver. The way Aliquippa adjusted in the space of four weeks shows what smart athletes they have and what a great coach Mike Zmijanac is.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: This approaching Friday South Fayette takes on Beaver Falls needing just one win for a possible shot at revenge over Aliquippa on the ultimate stage, but the Tigers can run with Trey Hall (pictured above), they force turnovers, and they’re playing beyond preseason expectations.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Mars. It’s one thing to dethrone a defending champion, but to keep such a difficult offense out of your own end zone, even minus Mike Caputo, is to play in a whole other Planet, pun intended.
THE BEST PLAYER: Rushel Shell. We’re all well aware of his local and national reputation, but when you run for 235 yards and score three touchdowns against such a cohesive defense as Thomas Jefferson’s, you should keep the game ball and put in on your mantle, even though his season ended at the hand of the Jaguars.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: Only a field goal for the Indians against the Planets? Didn’t see that one coming, considering how West A had put up points against much tougher competition than what Mars faced in the Greater Allegheny Conference, but tip your caps in unison to Scott Heinauer and his coaching staff.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Montour is the top seed and has passed every difficult test it has faced this season with flying colors, and now the Spartans face Mars in the semis. The Spartans better be ready, because if the last couple weeks are any guide, Austin Miele and his mates sure will be.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM: Woodland Hills. Elimination seemed inevitable in the final minute, but Pat Menifee shook off nightmarish numbers and made one clutch play after another to help the Wolverines snatch victory from the jaws of defeat…and from the grasp of Paul Lang, who was this close to sacking him on the two-point play that forced overtime.
THE BEST PLAYER: Lafayette Pitts. The Pitt recruit proved he didn’t mind being the focal point of Woody High’s offense, nor Mount Lebanon’s defense, as the hard-working tailback carried his team and carried the ball for 170 yards on 33 attempts and three TD’s, including the game-winner in a contest for the ages.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE: It’s a down year for Gateway, but with Tom Woodson moving the ball well against a very good Central Catholic defense and Perry Hills hurt, you’d think that would spell trouble for the No. 1 seeded Vikings. But Terry Totten’s defense showed the “other” Terry, Terry Smith, a thing or two, continuing their recent dominance of the Gators by never giving up the big play.
THE THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Actually, both games this week should be equally exciting, and for multiple reasons. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Central and NA were playing for the championship, and I finally get to see how well North Hills fares against a healthy Woodland Hills team.
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. Due to Pitt’s noon kickoff against South Florida, be sure to catch us at a special time of 7:00-9:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!