By Matt Popchock
For a majority of the 126 football teams in the WPIAL, Week 3 is a pivotal one, because it’s when the games really start to count. In the meantime, population decline and realignment have left Class AAAA with 27 teams, the fewest of the four classifications; as a result, most of the teams there have one more tune-up before entering the gauntlet of conference play.
That’s what brings Mr. High School Sports to Mount Lebanon Stadium, where the Blue Devils (1-1) of the Great Southern Conference are getting set to play host to the Penn Hills Indians (0-2) of the Big East Conference–not to be confused with…um…the Big East Conference.
Both enter this contest with wounds to lick. Mount Lebanon is coming off a 34-17 non-conference loss to visiting Penn-Trafford, while Penn Hills lost a well-played game to neighborhood rival Gateway, 19-13.
One programming note: Lanny Frattare, normally heard at this time on our UPMC Game of the Week broadcast on 93.7 The Fan, is a healthy scratch due to a family commitment. Filling in for him on the radio side tonight is 93.7 update anchor and friend Justin McKim.
Damn, those are some big broadcasting shoes to fill…Lanny Frattare…but knowing Justin, he’s up to the challenge!
Anyway, because this is a non-conference game, we’ll be focusing on a couple individuals tonight: Penn Hills receiver and Pitt recruit Corey Jones, and Lebo tailback/defensive back and 2010-11 Post-Gazette Male Athlete of the Year Luke Hagy, who is also drawing attention from Todd Graham (and a host of Ivy League schools).
If Hagy goes Ivy, he could play basketball–another sport at which he has excelled–on top of football. He enters Week 3 the No. 3 rusher in the WPIAL and tops in Quad-A with 396 yards and six TD’s.
Mr. High School Sports will be bringing you live updates throughout the night from Mount Lebanon Stadium, which, once upon a time, featured the first-ever artificial turf in WPIAL football history.
7:33 – First update of the night: Central Valley leads New Castle 14-0 in the 2nd quarter. That game started at 6:30 due to ROOT Sports coverage and subsequent Pirates coverage at 10:00. West Mifflin up 7-0 early on South Park.
7:35 – Penn Hills looked disorganized on its first drive, a 3-and-out. Last year the Indians had 17 penalties for 170 yards against Lebo, and they started tonight with a delay of game.
I’m told by the Penn Hills statistician a couple of their players missed the bus…literally. Wouldn’t want to be in their cleats; when I was a student-athlete, that was grounds for dismissal, period.
7:37 – A 51-yard catch-and-run TD by Hagy is wiped out by a holding call. Still, an impressive effort; Hagy was all alone in the middle of the field, yet he was untouched. Lebo catches a break with a personal foul facemask–and a much more manageable 3rd down, which Hagy converts on a 15-yard run off right tackle.
7:43 – Timeout Lebo, on offense for the first time tonight, they now have two left. 7:23 left, 1st quarter, scoreless. Great blocking on this drive, as usual, by Wisconsin recruit Arthur Goldberg.
7:46 – Another timeout for Lebo on 4th and short, same drive, ball at the Penn Hills 13 yard line. A few scores from around the WPIAL:
North Hills leads Pine-Richland 7-0 (13-play opening drive by Indians)
Norwin 7 Baldwin 0 1st — 1st points of season for Knights
Plum 6 Woodland Hills 0 1st — early eyebrow-raiser…
GCC 21 Charleroi 7 1st
7:49 – Turnover on downs as Treyvon Hester sacks Pat Goff on 4th and 8 after a false start penalty by Taylor Dean. Hester has received offers from Kansas, Kent State, UMass, and Toledo.
By the way, Hagy had 6 runs on that drive for 35 yards.
7:53 – More updates:
Chartiers-Houston 7 Serra 0 1st
South Fayette 7 Steel Valley 0 1st
7:54 – We get our first glimpse of Corey Jones, and it’s a good one…he takes off right up the middle on a fake punt for 26 yards and a first down just inside Lebo territory. Next play a 9-yard gain by Jones.
5 penalties now for 45 yards committed by Penn Hills…
7:58 – Nice job of improvisation by QB Chaz Whittaker, who threw against the grain on the far sideline and found Jaquan Williams for 20 yards and a 1st down.
8:00 – End of the 1st quarter with Penn Hills driving and the game scoreless at Mount Lebanon Stadium.
Ford City 7 Deer Lakes 0 – Ian Boylestein 4 yd TD run
Char-Houston 14 Serra 0 – Mykel Dorsey 16 yd TD run
NA & USC scoreless late 1st
Jeannette 7 Waynesburg 0 – 1st
West Mifflin 14 South Park 0 – 2nd
8:03 – A sack by Max Goldberg and a nice job of coverage in the back corner of the end zone by Tyler Roth, and we have another turnover on downs at the Lebo 22. Still no score, early 2nd.
Jones with 42 all-purpose yards on that drive.
8:06 – USC driving on NA in 2nd quarter. West Mifflin up 21-0 over South Park. Highlands leads Indiana 6-0 after 1st.
And get this…Central Valley is crushing New Castle–41-12–at halftime.
8:09 – More updates:
Woody High leads Plum 21-6 at half…Penn Trafford up on Hempfield 21-7 end of 1st.
8:14 – More updates:
GCC 42 Charleroi 7
2 yd TD run by Dakota Conwell…7-0 USC early 2nd
14-7 North Hills leads Pine-Richland…both scores by Mike Seiber
8:15 – Luke Hagy has helped march Lebo deep into Penn Hills territory, but now the Blue Devils are starting to rack up the penalties, particularly the pre-snap variety. It’s getting a bit sloppy out there.
(And just as I said that, Pat Goff nearly tripped and fell on 3rd down…)
8:18 – 1st down Lebo…Goff finds Hagy for 21 on 4th and super-long, and I can’t fathom how a defense with D-1 talent leaves that player that wide-open.
Touchdown Blue Devils! Hagy up the middle for a 4-yard score, his 7th TD of the year. Dimitri Orfanopoulos (say that three times fast) converts the P.A.T. 7-0 Lebo, 3:06 left, 2nd quarter.
SIXTEEN plays on that drive, which featured nice blocking–and running–by fullback Jack Faett. 51 all-purpose yards by Hagy.
8:24 – Penn Hills goes 3-and-out with 2:00 left, but if I take anything from that drive, it’s that Jones and QB Whittaker really are solid athletes. Whittaker, who took over the starting job when Darius Holloway got hurt in a scrimmage versus McKeesport, is fleet-footed and makes guys miss. And Jones blasted a 60-yard punt, on the move, with no return.
8:27 – Lebo kills the clock, and the Blue Devils lead Penn Hills 7-0 at halftime.
1ST HALF STATS (unofficial):
Hagy: 16 rush, 77 yds, TD; 1 catch for 20 yards
Jones: 41 all-purpose yds
Whittaker: sacked twice; 5 rush, 18 yds; 2-for-4, 25 yds
Goff: sacked twice; 4-for-6, 42 yds
8:43 – Mr. High School Sports has updates galore:
RUSHEL SHELL, UNOFFICIALLY, HAS 132 YDS AFTER 1ST HALF…HOPEWELL 28, MOON 7. (Shell has more career yds vs. Moon than any other team)
Norwin 7 Baldwin 7 half
Pine Richland 17 North Hills 14 half
Gateway 20 Latrobe 0 half
Jeannette 7 Waynesburg 0 (2nd)
Canevin 35 Northgate 0 (late 2nd)
Trinity 20 Belle Vernon 20 half
Highlands 9 Indiana 0 half
USC 7 NA 0 2nd
Shaler 14 Bethel Park 3 half
Char-Houston 28 Serra 0 half
West A 7 Blackhawk 0 (3rd)
Clairton 29 Carlynton 0
The Quad-A non-conference games are both as tight as I figured they would be. Didn’t think North Hills would have any trouble with P-R despite their roster turnover. Two great games in AAA between Highlands and Indiana (Golden Rams defense showing me something) and Belle Vernon and Trinity (you can sense Trinity’s desperation at home). Latrobe and Northgate, a couple of unconventional 2-0 teams, seem to be getting put in their collective place by two very reputable opponents. Meanwhile, I want to see what Shell does in the second half. He could set the stage for a very interesting Week 4 contest against the same Mount Lebanon team I’m watching tonight.
Speaking of which, to me the star of this game is Mount Lebanon’s defense. It’s doing a solid job containing Corey Jones. For Penn Hills, to “limit” Luke Hagy to 77 yards and one TD on the ground is commendable, but Hagy has still impressed me with his dogged effort. In the second half the Indians really need to clean up the self-inflicted mistakes. The best thing they have going for them is that Whittaker has made some key plays to keep the Blue Devils honest.
Whittaker, we should point out, has been offered by Pitt and WVU, and is receiving interest from the Big East, ACC, and Big Ten (OSU, Cincy, PSU, Terps, Michigan).
8:54 – Luke Hagy picks up where he left off with a 40-yard kickoff return…followed by the 7th Lebo penalty, a false start. Seven for 53 yards, that is.
8:58 – Corey Jones made a 12-yard punt return–on a nice punt–look like a thing of beauty. Very quick, very elusive.
9:00 – SAFETY by DL Max Goldberg, as Whittaker was in the grasp and is called for intentional grounding in his end zone. 9-0 Lebo, 9:52 left, 3rd quarter. 2nd sack of the night for the younger Goldberg, who has looked like as much a D-1 prospect as his older brother.
9:06 – Treyvon Hester picks up his second sack of the night, as well, near midfield.
9:07 – Updates:
McKeesport 28 Connellsville 14 … a year ago, this game would have been over already…
Woody High 42 Plum 6 (so much for that)
W. Miff. 28 S. Park 0 (3rd)
GCC 54 Charleroi 21 (3rd)
9:10 – 1st turnover of the game…Matt McGraw recovers a fumble inside the Penn Hills 40, as Jones was absolutely rocked just as he hauled in a potential 3rd down-converting pass (Whittaker took a big hit too). Hagy with a subsequent 10-yard run up the middle, nearly busting loose.
96 rush yards, unofficially, for Hagy…
9:13 – Uh-oh…Hagy on the ground, in some pain, rolling around after an apparent right leg injury. Stretching it out.
Hagy now up limping, favoring his right leg. Trying to walk it off. Getting stretched out on Lebo’s sideline.
9:17 – Doran Graham in for Hagy, who has his helmet off, and is still getting worked on by trainers. Timeout Lebo, two left. 2:15 left, 3rd quarter.
Hagy jogging alone on the sideline. By the way, he had 104 yards, unofficially, before the injury.
9:19 – Lebo turns the ball over on downs at the Penn Hills 30, though, more than anything, Hagy’s absence seemed to kill that drive. Could that be a break for the Indians?
9:21 – End of 3rd quarter–Mount Lebanon 9, Penn Hills 0.
Updates from elsewhere:
Shaler 21 Bethel Park 10 (late 3rd)
Central Valley whips New Castle, 48-25
W. Mifflin 34 S. Park 0
Jeannette 14 Waynesburg 7
Steel Valley 13 S. Fayette 9
Highlands 12 Indiana 7 after 3rd
Alex DiCiantis gets NA on the board; they trail USC 14-7 early 3rd
Hope “Seibel, Starkey & Miller” producer Kraig Riley is having fun; he’s working the chains at his alma mater in the Gateway-Latrobe game.
GCC beats Charleroi 54-21
NH leads Pine-Richland 21-17
Ford City leads DL 14-7
9:26 – Bad snap on a punt, and Jones decides to keep it, again. But he’s stopped short despite an illegal block.
9:27 – Best run of the game…Tim Briercheck just kept spinning off tackles for a 28-yard run to the Penn Hills 20. Great determination, and he jumped up immediately, flexing his muscles.
Update: Char-Houston leads Serra, 28-7
Update on Hagy: helmet off, stretching self out on sideline, and jogging alone
9:32 – Touchdown Lebo! Another nice run by Briercheck, who bounced off a tackler and went in easily from 10 yards out. Orfanopoulos converts…16-0 Mount Lebanon over Penn Hills, 7:53 left, 3rd.
That’s Briercheck’s 1st TD of the year, if my info is correct. With Lebo’s defense out-toughing Penn Hills’ speedy offense, that may be the death blow…
9:37 – Update, as Corey Jones gets up okay after being shaken up (lots of cramping up right now)…
USC and NA now tied 14-14 late 3rd
McKeesport 28 Connellsville 21…very interesting
OL Dom Pizzuto limping off now for Penn Hills…
9:39 – Update: Shaler leads Bethel 21-13, 5:00 left in regulation.
9:42 – Final: Chartiers Valley 43 Elizabeth Forward 0.
9:43 – Cue the wrestling music, ’cause the Goldbergs have taken over…another sack by Max Goldberg, with Arthur Goldberg in on the play…then a big sack on 4th and long by Arthur Goldberg. That could be your ballgame, kids.
Update: Indiana takes late 13-12 lead over Highlands, 2:00 left in 4th, after Tyrayl Veney catches 37-yd TD from Logan Weaver.
9:46 – Timeout Lebo, one left. 4:32 left in the game. Meanwhile, Woodland Hills whips Plum, 45-6 (final).
9:49 – We have a City League final: Brashear holds off Allderdice, 13-10.
9:50 – Illegal procedure on Penn Hills wipes out a potential 1st down run by Jones…a recurring theme.
9:51 – Arthur Goldberg with seven total tackles tonight, including that sack, and including a serious whacking he just put on Whittaker.
Meanwhile, not good news for Corey Jones…he’s walking off, in apparent pain because of his right wrist.
The other star we were watching, Luke Hagy, is still in good spirits after that apparent right quad (?) injury, though he hasn’t come back into the game. Head coach Chris Haering certainly doing the right thing there.
9:55 – Updates: NA leads USC 21-14 late on a 5 yd TD by Vinnie Congedo…
Baldwin 35 Norwin 7 (final)
Burrell 38 W. Shamokin 6 (final) … Wolves approaching longest losing streak in WPIAL football history…
Indiana 13 Highlands 12 (final)
Chartiers-Houston 35 Serra 7
9:58 – FINAL SCORE: MOUNT LEBANON 16, PENN HILLS 0. BLUE DEVILS IMPROVE TO 2-1 OVERALL, INDIANS FALL TO 0-3 OVERALL.
The Blue Devils visit Rushel Shell and Hopewell next week, while Penn Hills returns home to take on Plum in its Class AAAA Big East Conference opener.
More to come…
11:30 – Final numbers…
Hagy: 23 rush, 104 yards, TD…I talked to him briefly afterward, and he seems to be doing fine; says he took a helmet to the leg in question. Wanted to go back in, but held out as a precautionary measure.
Hagy is scheduled to appear Saturday morning on “The UPMC High School Football Show,” hosted by John Phillips, 7:00-9:00 A.M. on 93.7 The Fan.
Goff: 6-of-9, 54 yds, sacked twice
Whittaker: 10 rush, 32 yds; 4-of-12, 31 yds, sacked four times
Jones: 42 total off. yds
Check out the KDKA site for all of tonight’s scores, but a couple notes before I hit the sack…
Rushel Shell: 366 yds, 6 TD’s. I realize Moon isn’t the toughest opponent, but that still merits a “holy crap.” He needs 135 against visiting Mount Lebanon next week to break Mike Vernillo’s WPIAL career rushing record. Friday marks his second-best single-game effort in a Hopewell uniform. 32 straight 100-yard games, third-longest streak in American history (national high school record is Billy Sims with 38).
I don’t think last year was a fluke for Central Valley. I really didn’t think it was anyway, but it bears repeating after what the Warriors did to New Castle.
Fox Chapel beats Altoona, and for that I congratulate my man Josh Miller from “Seibel, Starkey & Miller,” who is an assistant (special teams) coach there this year. As Josh would say, “right on.”
Ray Reitz has done good things at Latrobe, but if tonight is any indication, there is still a sizable gap between Gateway and the rest of the Foothills Conference, unless McKeesport proves otherwise in Week 9.
Normally I wouldn’t congratulate a team after a 58-21 loss, but I can’t help but feel one is in order for Connellsville. That’s a once-proud program that has been in shambles, but tonight the Falcons gave the Tigers some fits; the game was 28-21 McKeesport at one point. Like I said earlier, a year ago at this time, that game would have been way worse for Connellsville.
I think North Allegheny erased a lot of doubts Friday. Upper St. Clair is one of the Quad-A teams I had going to Heinz Field, but N.A. has shown how deep it still is with a significant win over a significant challenger. It’s the kind of game that makes me think the Tigers still have what it takes to repeat after all.
The South Fayette-Steel Valley game, which is a huge win for Joe Rossi’s new-look Lions (more from Rossi on “The UPMC High School Football Show” Saturday morning), and the Belle Vernon-Trinity game, which came down to a missed field goal by the Hillers, are what makes Friday nights in the fall so much fun in these parts.
Once again, be sure to check out “The UPMC High School Football Show,” brought to you by ROOT Sports and hosted by John Phillips, Saturday at 7:00, and be sure to check back with this blog later this weekend for more on our UPMC Game of the Week!
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)