By Matt Popchock


There is no rest whatsoever for the wicked, as “Mr. High School Sports” is back on the road for what promises to be one of the best prep football events in Pennsylvania all season! We are live at Gateway High School’s Antimarino Stadium, getting set to watch the Gators kick off their 2011 campaign against PIAA Class AAA runner-up Bishop McDevitt. We’ll be sticking around for the featured game of the doubleheader, as Pittsburgh Central Catholic, one of last year’s WPIAL Class AAAA Semifinalists, takes on Archbishop Wood, MaxPreps’ preseason No. 1 in the state. As you might guess, “Mr. High School Sports” will have updates all day long…

One important note: the first game of the day will be the Central-Wood contest. Yeah, we had it the other way around in our preview, but they switched to accommodate the national telecast on ESPN2. Profuse apologies for that party foul on my part.

It’s Week 1 for bloggers too, you know.

Anyway, among the Division I prospects we’ll be tracking today are Bishop McDevitt tight end/defensive end Noah Spence, hailed as the top recruit in Pennsylvania by He was the state leader in sacks in 2010, and is getting offers from Pitt, Penn State, WVU, and multiple schools from the ACC and SEC.

We’ll also be watching Archbishop Wood tailback and Rutgers recruit Desmon Peoples. He won Philadelphia Catholic League MVP honors in 2010, running for over 1,000 yards and 25 TD’s. His counterpart, Central tailback Damion Jones-Moore, ran for over 1,500 yards last year and has received several D-1 offers, as has QB Perry Hills, who chose Maryland this summer.

In the second game, quarterback Tom Woodson makes his 2011 debut for Gateway. He was one of the top passers in Quad-A last season, and he is getting looks from several Big Ten schools, including Penn State. Spence made life miserable for him in a 23-0 shutout of Gateway last fall.

2:10 – The “other” Peoples, senior tailback Brandon Peoples, knifes 29 yards up the middle for the game’s first touchdown. Having said that, Desmon was the real star of the drive; 33 yards on his first three carries of the day, showing excellent cut-back ability. Extra point by Nick Visco is good…7-0 Wood, 7:59 left, 1st quarter.

2:20 – Archbishop Wood flexing its muscles up front against Jones-Moore, who has zero net yards on three carries. Back-to-back three-and-outs for Central…still 7-0 Wood, 6:00 left, 1st quarter.

2:23 – A steady rain is now dampening the artificial surface at Antimarino Stadium. I just hope we don’t get what the poor folks in South Bend got yesterday.

2:26 – Central is on the board! Perry Hills hits Brandon Farrell up the near sideline for 42 yards, then Jones-Moore cuts up the middle and turns on the afterburner for a 51-yard TD run. Extra point is blocked, so Wood clings to a 7-6 edge with 3:19 left, 1st quarter.

2:34 – Archbishop Wood threatening again. They haven’t attempted a single pass yet, and they’re making Central’s defense, which is one of the best in the WPIAL, look downright silly. Even fullback Andrew Guckin is racking up yardage: 30 on two carries.

2:36 – Joe Monaghan does complete a 6-yard pass, as if on cue, to tight end and Florida recruit Colin Thompson on the last play of the 1st quarter. 7-6 Wood in the lead, deep inside the red zone…

2:40 – Senior linebacker Arnel Farmer, almost untouched, sacks Monaghan. Visco hooks a 35-yard field goal attempt inside the left upright, 50 seconds into the period. 10-6, Wood extends the lead, but good job by Central’s defense to regroup between quarters and minimize the damage.

Desmon and Brandon Peoples have combined for 59 yards, one TD. Remember, Jones-Moore has almost that much on one carry.

2:44 – Touchdown Central Catholic! Jones-Moore sweeps around the right side and goes untouched, 70 yards, up the sideline for his second score. Mitchell Maczura’s extra point works this time, and it’s 13-10 Central, 10:45 left, 2nd quarter.

Once again, Jones-Moore’s speed is very attractive, if you’re a college coach. He’s gotten an offer from Pitt and a couple other schools. 130 yards thus far.

2:50 – Desmon Peoples is stopped for no gain. The offensive line showed up for work on that last (brief) drive by PCC, and now the D-line is starting to be more assertive.

Brandon Peoples, by the way, has made a verbal commitment to Temple.

Meanwhile, Central Catholic safety/receiver Anthony Nixon has provided blanket coverage of Wood’s receivers. He’s joining Perry Hills at Maryland next fall.

2:53 – Second sack of the game by Arnel Farmer, who came up Monaghan’s weak side like a bat out of you-know-where. Eight-yard loss.

2:57 – Luigi Lista-Brinza carries for 8 yards on his first run of the day, then gets absolutely hammered by linebacker Mike Kosich. Lista-Brinza could be “the next one”; he looked very good in emergency duty as a freshman when Jones-Moore suffered a mid-season groin injury in 2010.

3:00 – 6:13 left, 2nd quarter, Wood has it on its own 20. Central still in front 13-10. PCC has definitely ramped up its intensity, but Wood is doing a good job matching it.

3:06 – Central’s defense stiffens again after an impressive and much more balanced drive by Archbishop Wood; Visco misses a 37-yard FG wide left. Central ball, own 20, still up 13-10, 1:30 left in half.

3:10 – Decision time for PCC on 4th down and long inside Wood territory with 30 seconds till halftime. Highlight of the drive has been Jones-Moore’s 29-yard gain on a draw handoff in which he looked dead to rites. Again, explosive speed.

Meanwhile, transfer DB Nate Smith, who is getting looks from Michigan State and South Carolina, among others, is doing a good job canceling out Nixon, as the rain intensifies…

3:13 – Hills is dragged down from behind on a 4th-down keeper, and Wood takes a knee to end the first half. Central Catholic leads the battle of the Vikings, 13-10, at soggy Antimarino Stadium. More to come…

3:37 – Second half about to kick off, with Wood receiving and attacking right to left on your computer screen or smartphone. Lots of people seeking shelter under the enclosure by the concession stands during halftime.

60 rush yards in the first half for Desmon Peoples. 79 all-purpose yards for Brandon Peoples. Jones-Moore had over 150.

3:48 – Wood unable to move after picking up one first down, Jones-Moore shows sensational balance to pick up 4 yards, shortly before Nixon makes a terrific one-handed grab for 5 near midfield. Central’s athletes really strutting their stuff.

3:53 – Jones-Moore has the defensive coaches for Archbishop Wood audibly frustrated up here in the press box. Meanwhile, Perry Hills has thrown a couple deep balls, but Wood’s corners have been up for the challenge.

3:56 – Hills, undaunted, picks up a 4th and 1 with a keeper around left end. Central doing a good job controlling the tempo of this 3rd quarter, which has under 4:00 left, same score.

Moments later, Colin Thompson wraps up Jones-Moore in a bear hug. Nice play.

3:58 – Touchdown Central! Their patience pays off, as Hills finds Nixon on a quick out, and Nixon sheds a would-be tackle in the blink of an eye, and takes off to his right for a 28-yd score. Extra point by Maczura is good. 20-10 Central Catholic, 2:41 left, 3rd quarter.

Nixon had 56 all-purpose yards on that possession.

4:04 – Desmon Peoples picks up 7 and a 1st down…and gets his bell rung by Nixon.

4:06 – End of the 3rd quarter: Central Catholic 20, Archbishop Wood 10. The kid they call “Smash” in the greater Philadelphia area, Brandon Peoples, smashed his way for 19 yards down to about the 30 of Central Catholic before time expired.

We’ve got “football weather”…in other words, pouring rain…as we begin the final stanza.

4:11 – Not over yet! Brandon Peoples goes through tacklers like…well, water…right up the middle for a 20-yard TD run. Visco’s kick to follow is good. Wood cuts the deficit to 20-17 with still 10:55 left in the 4th.

48 yards by Brandon on that drive; the other 17 by Desmon.

A friendly reminder: Archbishop Wood is playing up. Just saying.

4:15 – Junior linebacker Nick Arcidiacono lights up Hills on a QB keeper to force a punt. Wood takes over at its own 41 after a punt, 8:31 left. Boy, is the Four-Letter Network getting its money’s worth today…

4:18 – The war of attrition continues, as Archbishop Wood goes three-and-out. Great pursuit by Central’s front seven. The local Vikings get the ball back on their own 25 after a rugby-style punt (never understood why teams do that, when it seems so easy to shank it or have it blocked).

4:25 – Central punting again with under 4 minutes left in regulation. Both teams playing grass-roots football in this foul weather, but neither able to affect the score or really take control of the game. Meanwhile, nice punt and equally nice coverage by Central, pinning Wood back at own 27.

4:30 – Wood in business after a play-fake and 58-yard bomb down the left sideline to Benji Abercrombie, who came up limping after getting downed at the Central 12 yard line.

Abercrombie appeared to be okay after clutching at his right leg–perhaps just a cramp–and walked off slowly. Unfortunately, both teams, as a group, have also walked off the field slowly; the refs have stopped the game, enacting a weather delay. Per PIAA rules the delay is a minimum 30 minutes.

Shades of South Bend…but you know what the mystery is? I didn’t see lightning anywhere at all, unless there’s something in the area they know about that we don’t. Oh well, at least this delay makes a little more sense than the nonsensical one I encountered during the baseball playoffs…

When the game resumes, it’ll be first down Archbishop Wood, trailing Central Catholic 20-17 with 2:58 left in regulation.

As long as I’m killing time, some first-half stats I haven’t had a chance to catch up on:

(These are all unofficial, by the way:)

Jones-Moore: 8 rush, 166 yds, 2 TD

Desmon Peoples: 11 rush, 66 yds

Brandon Peoples: 1 rec., 28 yds; 5 rush, 51 yds, TD

So far Anthony Nixon has 3 catches for 44 yards and a TD, plus a 12-yard run; he’s done all his damage in the 2nd half.

Jones-Moore has 191 yards unofficially on 16 carries to go with his two scores. He’s been probably the best player on either side to this point.

Remember, he was not the most heavily-recruited player on either team coming into this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see his number of D-1 offers go up after today. According to our own Chris Peak, the editor of, and Panther Lair contributor Josh Sickles, Jones-Moore thinks he’s a good fit for Todd Graham’s system, and would like to see a serious offer from Pitt. Penn State, WVU, and Cincinnati are also reportedly interested.

5:00 – Archbishop Wood has re-taken the field, followed by Central Catholic moments later. Game expected to resume in just a few minutes.

5:05 – Wow! Senior LB Gavin Sandidge, untouched, nails Monaghan for a weak-side sack! Huge play by an unheralded player, forcing a 10-yard loss, and forcing Visco, in theory, to attempt a very tough kick…40 yards, slight right to left.

5:06 – No good! Visco’s kick looked good from our angle–the Archbishop Wood coaches sure think so, as they go ballistic up in the press box–but on the TV angle, it tailed off at the last moment, despite having plenty of distance. Central ball, just over a minute left, own 20.

5:09 – A 69-yard keeper around the left side by Hills, who almost took it all the way! What a turn of events…as Hills then takes a knee.

Central Catholic 20, Archbishop Wood 17–final.

Awfully fitting that Central begins 2011 by winning at Gateway; the Vikings ended the Gators’ 2010 season in the WPIAL Class AAAA Quarterfinals at Plum.

Here’s what the victors had to say:

Damion Jones-Moore: First game is always the hardest one, in his mind, and the fact that this win came against a great team sets the tone for the rest of their season. Glad to contribute first TD run, because it definitely picked up the rest of the sideline. Offense did a great job all day; on that first TD run, all he had to worry about was beating one guy. Not nervous during final FG attempt by Visco, “knew we would stick it out.” What does this team need to get better at, per head coach Terry Totten’s post-game address: “Everything. You can improve on everything every day. We’re going back to the drawing board, and starting this thing all over again.” In football you have to have a short memory, and team will simply focus on next week.

Head Coach Terry Totten: Agreed that Jones-Moore’s first TD run was an important juncture in the game, because until that point, Archbishop Wood was overpowering them up front. Gave a lot of credit to (out-of-town) Vikings for their effort. During weather delay, coaching staff suggested changing stunts, which helped Central’s defense hold down the fort at the end; caught them in the “trap” play, which they hadn’t done all day. Can this team play with any in the state? “I’ll throw that back to you,” he said, laughing. “In my opinion, yes.” Told the kids he likes the way they handled adversity. Need to be a more physical team moving forward; defensively, they need to do a better job with recognition. Remaining opponents won’t care about today, have to be ready for Bethel Park.

By the way, to our midday host, Vinnie Richichi: if you’re reading this, you’ve got a fan in Terry Totten, who, with a smile on his face, said he idolizes you.

Moving on…

5:45 – Impressively enough, Gateway and Bishop McDevitt are well into their warmups, if not done entirely, and despite the weather delay earlier, this game may still get in as scheduled.

Can’t speak to the people in the stands, but certainly a huge crowd in the press box to see the Gators, and to see the Crusaders, led by blue-chipper Noah Spence.

By the way, Central Catholic (1-0), as previously mentioned, takes on Bethel Park next Friday in a non-conference “home” game at The Wolvarena. As for Steve Devlin’s visiting Vikings (0-1), the road gets no less bumpy. They will take on Philadelphia West Catholic in a neutral site game at William Tennent High School next week. West Catholic hammered South Fayette for the PIAA Class AA title last year, and enters as MaxPreps’ No. 2 team in Pennsylvania.

Final (unofficial) numbers from game one on the way…

6:02 – Special ceremony at midfield in memory of teammate Darrell Turner, who was a victim of homicide while on a road trip in the Carolinas this summer, including a moment of silence. All Gateway helmets will bear a #25 sticker, all players have been issued #25 t-shirts, and his jersey will accompany the team on the sidelines during every game.

6:08 – Gateway wins the toss and takes the ball, moving left to right on your computer screen or smartphone. They’re moving things along, so stay tuned for those final numbers from the first game in a little bit…

By the way, some 2010 numbers for Noah Spence:

101 tackles, 22 sacks, 34 tackles for loss, 9 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries. 1st Team All-State honors.

Now do you know why he’s being watched?

Once again, he’s got offers from Notre Dame, USC, Pitt, PSU, WVU, the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten.

6:10 – Darrin Franklin, the Gators’ leading rusher from last season, takes the kickoff deftly out to the Gateway 41.

6:12 – Graham Davis gets first play from scrimmage, and sure enough, Spence already has one tackle.

6:13 – Touchdown Gateway! A 1-yard jolt, right up the gut, by Franklin, right after Tom Woodson’s QB keeper on 3rd and short, in which Woodson outran McDevitt’s linebackers 51 yards, just missing the left pylon. Cody Conway’s extra point is good, 7-0 Gators, just like that. 10:22 left, 1st quarter.

6:17 – Gateway comes out flying on defense, as Shawn Seif gets nailed by Devantae Butler. Moments later, Conway nails QB Alec Werner just before he overthrows his receiver.

6:22 – The way Gateway is flying to the ball, even in kick coverage, is impressive. That is one fired-up football team.

6:24 – Conway and Anthony Collins sandwich Werner for the first sack of the game. Conway has been a beast in this quarter, as he deflects a Werner pass moments later.

4:13 left, 1st quarter, still 7-0 Gators.

6:28 – Terry Smith loves to recruit basketball players to help the receiving corps, and Tyler Scott, who won WPIAL gold with Gateway’s hoops team back in March, was just overthrown. Keep an eye on gentle giant Barnett Harris (a nearly seven-foot giant, to be exact), for that matter…

6:32 – Nice deflection by Gateway DB Anthony Davis, who seemed to have been beaten deep by Brian Lamelle.

6:34 – Unbelievable improvisation by Werner to get rid of the ball at the last second, and a great job by Nate Showalter to shed multiple tacklers and pick up the first down! Great way to end the first quarter…7-0 Gateway.

I talked to Terry Smith the other day, and he thinks the play of his linemen are a major key to the Gators’ success this season. So far they’ve held their own, though McDevitt’s offense seems to have found its legs.

Three tackles, unofficially, for Noah Spence in the first frame.

Getting awfully dark in here, as ominous clouds continue to cover the area…

6:40 – Did “Touchdown Jesus” send some of that crap in the midwest our way? Ugh…just as I said that, another lightning delay.

Gateway 7, McDevitt 0 — 10:53 left, 2nd quarter. Back in 30.

While we’re waiting (and watching the rain fall)…here are some unofficial final numbers from the stars of the Central Catholic-Archbishop Wood game:

Damion Jones-Moore: 17 rush, 201 yds, 2 TD

Desmon Peoples: 22 rush, 100 yds

Brandon Peoples: 10 rush, 94 yds, 2 TD; 2 rec., 33 yds

Perry Hills: 7-of-13, 115 yds, TD; 5 rush, 69 net yds

Some recruiting tidbits germane to our second game, as western PA continues taking it on the chin from Mother Nature…

(We are just told this game will resume approximately 7:30 ET)

*Tom Woodson is drawing interest from Penn State.

*Franklin is getting D-1 looks, and Conway will likely play at that level as a weak-side defensive end, or, even more likely, at outside linebacker.

*Spence is considered the No. 4 overall prospect nationally, and the top defensive end in the country, according to CBS Sports recruiting expert Tom Lemming.

*One unrelated note from Tony Greco of Panther Digest: in case you didn’t hear last night, Penn Hills wide-out Corey Jones committed to Pitt shortly after its win over Buffalo. Jones had over 2,000 all-purpose yards for the Indians in 2010.

7:30 – True to their word, the Gators have just re-taken the field.

7:32 – The Crusaders have re-taken the field.

7:38 – The game resumes with Lamelle hauling in a pass from Werner at the 1 yard line. Timeout Gateway, after Lamelle was stopped just shy of the end zone in the right flat.

7:40 – Touchdown Crusaders! Predictably, McDevitt goes for it on 4th and goal, and Brock Dean, the up-man, barrels in over left guard. Extra point by Connor Maloney is good, and we’re tied 7-7 with 10 minutes left in the half.

7:45 – Spence records the solo sack, as Woodson fumbles and recovers his own snap 9 yards back. Guess that was just a matter of time. On the plus side for the Gators, their special teams continues to be sharp as a tack.

7:50 – Sack by Anthony Rollins for a minus-10. Give him 1.5 on the night. Gateway’s defense looks to have good speed on the outside.

7:52 – Gateway’s offense seems to have hit a wall after that first scoring drive. McDevitt averaged 14.0 points allowed per game in 2010. Gateway averaged 24.4 points per game last year.

7:57 – McDevitt, back on offense, takes timeout just shy of midfield. Looked like typical Week 1 communication issues. 1:57 left, 2nd quarter, still tied.

7:58 – Crusaders tailback Rashad Lawson is eating up a bunch of yardage. He and Lamelle are both having a solid, efficient first half.

8:02 – After an offensive holding call that prevented a probable sack, and a no-gain by Andre Robinson, McDevitt calls timeout. 2nd and long from Gateway 38, 40 seconds left.

8:04 – A facemask wipes out a dual sack by Collins and Avery Anderson, a 272-lb. two-way lineman, so the Crusaders catch a bit of a break as they call their last timeout with 26.5 seconds left in the half, still 2nd and long.

Anderson is getting looks as a defensive tackle from Pitt, Penn State, WVU, and Maryland. No offers yet.

8:10 – That holding penalty proved to be a killer. Gateway kills the clock, and at halftime–an abbreviated halftime, due to the weather delay–Gateway and Bishop McDevitt are tied, 7-7.

I counted three solo tackles and one sack for Noah Spence in the first half. But all you really need to know is that Gateway hasn’t been able to do a damn thing since Franklin scored, especially in the run department. Since then, the Gators’ longest play from scrimmage was a 39-yard sweep by Graham Davis on the penultimate play of the half. So clearly, he is a presence in this game. Momentum is on McDevitt’s side, though neither team has really been able to budge. Gateway is tackling well, and its linebackers are getting great pressure to Werner, despite some decent first half numbers from him.

Werner: 9-of-16 unofficially, for 63 yards before 2.0 sacks…45 of those yards belong to Lamelle

More stats later…like I said, abbreviated halftime, sorry…

8:25 – McDevitt starts the second half on its 20, attacking right to left on your computer screen or smartphone. Lawson continues to give that defensive front of Gateway fits, as he cuts up the middle for first-down yardage on the first play from scrimmage.

8:28 – Devantae Butler jumps to get a piece of Werner’s pass, and shows great concentration as he picks it off and takes it to McDevitt’s 32. Could this be a game-changer?

8:30 – Woodson hits Franklin wide open with a lollipop over the middle before Franklin is creamed. False start penalty makes it 1st and goal at 13.

A couple plays later, Terry Smith is visibly upset as he calls timeout. 7:51 to go, 3rd quarter, 7-7.

8:33 – A near-interception in the end zone is nullified by defensive pass interference. Definitely some contact with Tyler Scott there.

8:35 – Touchdown Gators! Franklin kept the legs churning and forced his way in on the right side, getting a great push from his linemen. Conway barely gets the kick through, but it works, and Gateway is up 14-7, 7:23 left, 3rd quarter, after that 3-yard score. And the way this game is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if that play won it…

8:38 – First real breakdown of the night by Gateway’s special teams, as if on cue, as Shawn Seif takes the ensuing kick out past his own 40.

8:40 – Sack by Anthony Rollins…looks like a partial, so we’ll give him 2.0 for now.

8:43 – Gutsy call by Terry Smith, going for it on 4th and short, and it pays off, as Davis converts on the second effort. Can’t say I blame him; Gateway has a shot to take control of the game with this drive.

8:46 – Two of the biggest plays tonight have been keepers to the left by Woodson; this one goes for 22 yards, and the Gators are in business with just over a minute to go in the quarter.

8:48 – McDevitt catches a break before the end of the 3rd quarter, as Woodson fumbles a snap, then Gateway commits a false start. 2nd and goal from the 7 as the 4th quarter begins, Gateway still up 14-7.

8:51 – Another false start, this time by Ryan Hughes…who just got the business from Avery Anderson for making that mistake. Gateway uses its second timeout.

By the way, this contest is being televised too; local subscribers can watch it on Comcast. Bad job by me for forgetting.

8:54 – Touchdown Gators! Once again, Smith goes for the jugular on 4th and goal from the 1, after Woodson came up just short on a naked bootleg, and Franklin punches it in over left guard for his third TD of the night. Huge. Conway’s kick wors. 21-7 Gateway, 10:35 left in regulation.

By the way, I have six solo tackles, unofficially, for Spence. Conway’s kickoff goes for a touchback, as he continues

8:58 – A backbreaker…or so it appears…Lawson is stripped, and Brian Jones returns in up the near sideline, untouched, for a 22-yard defensive score just 11 seconds later. Didn’t see this game getting this far out of hand for either team, but, at any rate, Conway’s line-drive kick is through, and Gateway now leads 28-7. 10:24 left.

One thing I can’t help but notice is that, when on offense, Gateway has made a conscious effort to stay away from Spence’s side of the field. Take nothing away from the game that young man has had, but so far, it’s working.

We should also note, just to keep this game in context, that Bishop McDevitt, like Archbishop Wood, is playing up. In fact, McDevitt lost to Wood in last year’s PIAA Class AAA Final.

9:07 – Beautiful 39-yard catch by Lamelle in traffic up the left sideline! Two plays later, Werner is sacked for a fourth time, this time by Graham Davis.

9:10 – Bending, but not breaking, the Gateway defense forces a turnover on downs inside its own 10. 4:25 left, Gateway still up, 28-7.

9:12 – Woodson frustrated by another false start penalty. Remind me to ask Coach Smith about that…

9:13 – Good field position for McDevitt after the punt at Gateway’s 42, but the Crusaders need a lot of help in a little time, with 2:29 remaining.

9:17 – That should do it…Werner is stripped, and Anthony Parente recovers in McDevitt territory for Gateway.

Final score: Gateway 28, Bishop McDevitt 7. More to come…

Some final numbers:

Woodson: 2-for-5 24 yds; 13 rush, 104 yds

Spence: 9 tackles total, 1 sack

Franklin: 11 rush, 43 yds, 3 TD; 2 rec., 24 yds

Lawson: 13 rush, 71 yds

Post-game remarks from the victorious Gators coming in a little bit, as “Mr. High School Sports” gets ready to hit the road…

(UPDATED 09/05/11:)

The aftermath of this weekend’s festivities has left us with more rain…and more, and more, and more…

But anyway, “Mr. High School Sports” is now properly rested, and done celebrating the holiday–hope you enjoyed yours too, despite the weather–so, as previously promised, some thoughts from the Gateway sideline…and some final Week 1 thoughts from yours truly…

Darrin Franklin: On playing inspired football in memory of Darrell Turner–“We played 48 hard minutes, just like our coach tells us to do.” On putting the game away late–“We just imposed our will. We had confidence since the first quarter, because we had seen what we could do to them. We were hungry, and wanted to do it for D.T.” On beating a great team like McDevitt–“They’re state champions. They beat us last year. It gives us tremendous confidence going into Penn Hills.” Where the teams goes from here–“The biggest positive? It’s the first game of the season. We’re just going to keep building and building.”

Head Coach Terry Smith: Did it seem like your D-line stole the show from Noah Spence? — “They played well. They played 11 guys to the ball. We don’t really have a star on our team, and that’s one of the blessings we have…nobody cares who makes the tackle, you just have 11 guys flying, trying to get there.” His thoughts on Spence? — “He’s the fastest defensive lineman I’ve ever seen. He’s very explosive, and obviously he’s still got a way to go; he’s got to learn how to come off the ball…right now, he kind of stands up, and reads from [his position]. He’ll be incredible once he gets to that next level.” Did they try to stay away from him? — “We went at him. Our gameplan was to go at him, because he’s a reader. If you go away from him, he’ll get you. He’s fast. He can come at you from the back side…there was one play where it seemed like he came out of nowhere.” Impressed with the toughness of the team? — “Absolutely. We were physical, and that’s our number one goal. We were tenacious getting to the football in the second half…we established ourselves, and the line did what they had to do, and controlled the ball in the second half.” Did they run a lot by design? — “The foundation of our team is our line; we’ve got seven guys there who played in games last year. We’re going to rely on them, because that’s how you win in November.” On pre-snap penalties — “It’s week one. It’s a new system for us, we’re trying to get the kinks out. There was a little bit of miscommunication, but hopefully we can fix that in week two and get better.” Is this win a nice ego boost for the team? — “It’s great…they had nine starters back on a defense that shut us out [last year], so to get 28 points is an awesome accomplishment for us. We’re 1-0, just happy to get off on the right foot.” What needs to get better going into Penn Hills — “We’ve got to cut the little mistakes out, the penalties…we’ve got too many guys talking to their opponents. We’ve got to work on our pass game; we weren’t very efficient there. So there’s a ton to work on. Penn Hills is a rival, so forget their record, it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Offensive lineman Avery Anderson (who was assigned to Spence the majority of the night): On facing Spence–“He was very quick and agile, but he wasn’t very physical. He tried to get off the ball quick, and he tries to get around you. If you step outside, he’ll try to get inside. Once I got that down, it wasn’t that hard.” Did the linemen, as a group, play up to par tonight? — “I feel like we responded to the coaches’ call. Our coaches put in a lot of time to make sure we’re prepared for every team. Every time we needed to make a play, we made a play. We got it done tonight.”

Next up for Bishop McDevitt, by the way, is a Saturday morning home game against Central Dauphin, one of MaxPreps’ top 50 in PA…should be an interesting one to follow.

Meanwhile, that Gateway-Penn Hills Quad-A non-conference contest is schedule for a 7:30 kickoff at Andrew Yuhas Stadium Friday.

Final thoughts:

Last year was something of a down year for western PA football, and that was reflected in both recruiting and the Big 33 all-star game, which typically showcases the best of the best of the best. If Sunday’s action is any indication, the talent pool is “up” this year, and WPIAL Class AAAA should be fun to watch in the postseason. Central is as good as advertised, especially Jones-Moore, who was the best (offensive) player I saw all day, and Gateway definitely served notice that the Gators are back after something of an ordinary 2010 campaign. Having said that, Class AAA was very well represented by both the visitors, and the rest of the state, including District 7, has its work cut out trying to knock off the Vikings and Crusaders in December. I, along with the Four-Letter Network, even with the miserable weather, sure picked a good time to come to Monroeville to watch some football.

That’ll wrap it up…be sure to revisit the “Mr. High School Sports” blog at all week long for more Week 1 reaction, and ongoing of coverage of Week 2!

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