By Matt Popchock
Who’s number one? It’s an age-old question, and it’s a question that will be answered very soon, as regional and state high school football playoffs heat up here and everywhere else. A couple teams in Pennsylvania and other states who have been wearing the targets on their backs since the beginning of the season have survived to this point, but a couple others haven’t been so lucky. And all the while, records everywhere continue to fall like the temperature and wind chill.
Last week was a big one in New England, not just for the Patriots, and speaking of which…we’ve found a possible NFL prospect in a somewhat unlikely place. One of the top teams in the Midwest has been stunned in the state playoffs, and in case you’re wondering what’s been going on in the other PIAA playoffs, Mr. High School Sports has a comprehensive update. With some help from his friends at MaxPreps.com, here are the latest high school football headlines from all over the greatest (sports) country in the world:
Get used to the name Alex Kuresa, because it’s one you’ll be hearing on Saturdays, and possibly on Sundays if history is any guide. Kuresa, a BYU recruit who is the son and younger brother of two former NFL players, racked up 444 yards in the air last week on 34-of-54 passing, along with four touchdowns, en route to a 42-35 semifinal victory for Mountain Crest (Hyrum, Utah) over Bountiful (Bountiful, Utah) in the Class 4A state playoffs…and all three of those stats are Utah semifinal records. Overall he now has an incredible nine Utah high school records on his resume, as he also holds career marks in touchdowns, TD passes, passing yards, total yards, passing attempts, and completions. This season Kuresa has 3,690 passing yards and 36 touchdowns, and guess what? He can run too. He’s scored 19 times on the ground as well, averaging almost four yards a carry.
HYRUM, UT -
Remember when I talked about that discrepancy between the human and computer polls over whether Ohio powerhouse Colerain (Cincinnati, Ohio) was number one in the country? Perhaps we owe Colerain’s rival, St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio), a debt of gratitude for settling that debate last Saturday afternoon at the old alma mater. The Bombers went into the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium and upset Colerain, ranked No. 13 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (human poll), by a narrow 24-23 margin in an Ohio Division I playoff game. Colerain stormed out in front and took a 10-0 lead into halftime, but St. X rallied for 24 unanswered points in the second half. Conor Hundley (pictured left), who ran for a 15-yard TD, was one of three different players to find the end zone for St. X, which has now won five of its last seven against Colerain.
CINCINNATI, OH -
PEABODY, MA – As Don and Mike discussed earlier this year on The Post-Gazette High School Football Show, changing to a spread offense and throwing more is not always a recipe for success, and Bishop Fenwick (Peabody, Massachusetts) senior wide receiver Ryan Lipka found himself in a real catch-22 last Friday. Lipka caught six passes in last week’s game to give him 105 receptions on the season, making him the first player in state history to catch 100 passes in one year, according to the Boston Globe. Unfortunately, Lipka and his team, which had gone to a spread at the beginning of the season, found themselves on the wrong end of a 36-0 score at the hands of St. Mary’s (Lynn, Massachusetts). Still, though, that’s a pretty impressive mark. To put it in perspective, the most receptions in the WPIAL prior to the Quarterfinals was 54 by Matt Shull of Laurel Highlands–a non-playoff team.
LOWELL, MA – Elsewhere in that same state, Andover (Andover, Massachusetts) prevailed over Lowell (Lowell, Massachusetts) in a game played by true Massachusetts Minute Men…217-Minute Men, that is. It was tied at 28 at the end of regulation before Andover finally won, 88-82, in the eighth overtime. It is the longest game in the recorded history of Massachusetts high school football (three hours, 37 minutes), and it marks the fourth time in American history a high school football game went eight overtimes. As I mentioned in a previous post, Jacksonville and Nacogdoches, two Texas schools, recently set the national record with a 12-OT contest, while only two games in U.S. history have gone nine overtimes. One participant of note in this one was Andover receiver/defensive lineman and Boston College recruit Brian Miller, who left early with a knee injury.
*There have been a couple significant upsets here in western PA since the postseason began, but there was an enormous one last Friday in the greater Philadelphia area. No. 16 seed West Chester Henderson used a late 45-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dion Shaw to upend top-seeded Ridley 14-13 in the First Round of the District 1 Class AAAA Playoffs. Ridley was the top-ranked Quad-A team in the state, so who’s the new No. 1? Well, in case you missed Mike White’s note in the Post-Gazette, that honor now belongs to the defending PIAA Class AAAA champion LaSalle Explorers of the Philadelphia Catholic League (Pittsburgh Central Catholic is now No. 2).
*Austin Miele of Mars, as you may recall, broke the WPIAL Playoff record with 448 rushing yards on 29 carries in the First Round of the District 7 playoffs. Last Friday an eastern PA tailback, Rashaad Williams of Central Bucks West, put up eerily similar numbers in a 42-28 win for his tenth-seeded Bucks at No. 7 seed Coatesville in further District 1 Quad-A action. Williams carried the mail 28 times for 447 yards, though he did have two more TD’s (five) than did Miele. However, the district and state single-game records remain intact. The Philadelphia-area record is 453 rushing yards by Reed Marko of Germantown Academy in 2007, and the PIAA record was set five years ago by Stephen Blose of Harborcreek, an Erie-area school in District 10, at 488 yards.
*Class AA Brookville had to tough out a 14-7 win over Moniteau in the District 9 Semifinals last Saturday night at Memorial Stadium at Clarion University. Running back Ryan Kerr paced Brookville with 197 of those yards on 34 carries and broke a scoreless tie in the final minute of the first quarter, then untied the game again in the third quarter with a 27-yard jaunt. At that point the Brookville defense took over, ultimately holding Moniteau to just one first down in the second half. Brookville will meet unbeaten Brockway, coming off a bye week, back at Clarion Friday evening in the District 9 Class AA Championship. Brockway averages 50 points per game and is led by senior quarterback Derek Buganza, the PIAA’s all-time leading passer with 8,952 yards. Brockway is going for its first title since ’03, while Brookville is going for its first since ’06.
*There’s another Central Catholic team called the Vikings that rules its own domain and has a player that seems to be able to do just about anything. Allentown Central Catholic is the number one Class AAA team in the state according to the Post-Gazette, and these Vikings rolled to a 55-20 victory over Blue Eagle in the District 11 Class AAA Semifinals. Quarterback Brendan Nosovitch completed seven of 13 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns, but that’s not how he did his greatest damage. Nosovitch scrambled for 236 yards and four rush TD’s, scoring his last three on runs of 75, 71, and 96 yards, and putting him among the top ten PIAA rushers last week. On Friday Allentown C.C. hosts Southern Lehigh for the District 11 Class AAA title.
(Special thanks to the Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pennsylvania Football News, among others, for their contributions to this post.)
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!