By Matt Popchock
One of western Pennsylvania’s most sacred institutions is back, and it’s time to get excited. But for a number of high schools across America, football season has already begun. Therefore, “Mr. High School Sports” is getting fired up for the start of the WPIAL schedule by looking at what’s happened elsewhere.
How has one of Todd Graham’s prized recruits been doing? Which epic winning streaks have come to an end? Who made a first impression that would make any varsity football player jealous?
With the help of our friends at MaxPreps.com, among others, we bring you this look at the most intriguing prep football headlines from all over this great nation of ours…
*Pitt fans have been clamoring for a better quarterback, or at least one who they think has a higher ceiling than the ones Dave Wannstedt brought to the program, and it looks live they’ve got one. Class of 2012 quarterback Chad Voytik of Cleveland High School (Cleveland, Tennessee), the No. 6 “combo” QB in the nation according to CBS Sports recruiting expert Tom Lemming, committed to the Panthers earlier this summer.
Unfortunately, his Blue Raiders are off to a rough start. They were blanked by Alcoa, MaxPreps’ No. 9 team in that state regardless of classification, 21-0 Aug. 19, then they dropped a 37-21 decision to Knoxville Catholic this past Friday. In Voytik’s defense, Alcoa, which sacked him three times, has won an amazing seven state titles in a row across two different classifications. Against Knoxville Catholic, Voytik threw his first TD pass of 2011, and also scrambled for 68 yards and a score on 16 carries. In those two tough non-district games, he went a combined 26-of-50 for 363 yards and was picked off four times.
By the way, Alcoa’s victory in the opener extended that team’s winning streak to 44 games.
*However, the Alcoa Tornadoes saw that remarkable win streak get blown away last Friday. Maryville High School (Maryville, Tennessee), the reigning Tennessee 6A state champions and currently MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in that state, beat them 26-19 with NFL legend Jerry Rice reportedly in attendance. Maryville’s only loss in 2010 came at the hands of Alcoa, and fittingly, that team was the last to beat Alcoa before Friday. Speaking of winning streaks, Maryville is on a state record winning streak that now stands at 74 games.
On a similar note, do you remember Cocoa? No, not the beverage (though that doesn’t sound like a bad idea right now). They’re the football powerhouse in Florida that humbled Thomas Jefferson in last year’s Rally At The Wolvarena. Anyway, Cocoa had a long winning streak of its own come to an end over the weekend–38 games, to be exact. Colerain, which is, once again, one of the top teams in the Cincinnati area and one of the best in Ohio (No. 7 overall according to MaxPreps), defeated the visitors 17-7 in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown.
We’re talking about winning streaks, so why not throw one more out there? Colerain has now won 60 home games in a row.
*NorthPointe Christian (Grand Rapids, Michigan) senior quarterback Eric Van Swol set a state record last Friday by throwing seven touchdown passes in the first half of a 61-13 victory over Bridgman. He went 19-of-21 for 348 yards and sat out the entire second half.
Only two high school players in recorded U.S. history, according to MaxPreps, have thrown eight in one half. Van Swol is the sixth in history to throw seven in one half.
You know what makes this even more amazing? According to Van Swol, he nearly quit football to concentrate on basketball because he was frustrated with a lack of playing time last year. His dad convinced him to stick it out.
I guess father does know best.
*Who’s the top high school football player in the country? Tom Lemming lists his top recruit in America as Class of 2012 receiver Dorial Green-Beckham from Hillcrest High School (Springfield, Missouri). He was named the MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year for 2009-10, and he’s being recruited all over, largely by the SEC and Big 12. Lemming has hailed him as the next Randy Moss, and Green-Beckham has already gotten his senior year off to a rousing start. He set a state record with 284 yards on 18 catches, scoring three TD’s in Hillcrest’s opener Saturday night.
*”Give me North Hills to cover, and I’ll take the over on Rochester/Sto-Rox…”
We talked about it briefly on WPIAL Championship Saturday last year, when we heard a rumor that there was a line on at least one of the games. But can you imagine actually hearing someone say that over the phone? Is gambling in the future of–gulp–high school football?
Sadly, according to a recent report on Rivals.com, it’s been around a while. As early as 2007 a website called 5dimes.com offered betting lines on certain high school games in other parts of the country. They were originally pulled due to public outrage, but flash forward to last weekend, when at least 15 games of national interest were opened for betting, says the article.
It’s a shame when you think about the negative role capitalism has played in college football recently. Sports as we know it has a massive stigma against gambling, yet it stands to reason sports benefit from it these days. If it trickles down to the high school level, does that make you upset? Would you ever bet on a high school football game? Do you know anyone who has?
I wonder who Mike Damone likes in Ridgemont/Lincoln this Friday?
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)