By Matt Popchock
The biggest headline of seventh weekend of the 2011 WPIAL football season is Rushel Shell’s decision to trade his Hopewell blue and gold for Pitt blue and gold upon graduation, which was announced Friday morning.
Oh, yeah, wait a minute…there’s a bunch of games too, isn’t there?
Here are some quick thoughts on five big contests from Week 7, starting as always with our “UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Game of the Week”:
GAME OF THE WEEK:
PITTSBURGH CENTRAL CATHOLIC VIKINGS (4-0, 6-0) AT GATEWAY GATORS (3-1, 5-1)
(CLASS AAAA, NON-CONFERENCE)
ANTIMARINO STADIUM, GATEWAY HIGH SCHOOL
Pre-game coverage with MSA Sports’ Don Rebel begins at 6:00 on 93.7 The Fan; kickoff at 7:30 with Lanny Frattare on play-by-play, Bob Orkwis on color commentary
This game may not mean anything in the Class AAAA standings, but if you’re as big a prep football enthusiast as “Mr. High School Sports,” it means a great deal in terms of the Division I talent that will be on display in Monroeville. Gateway quarterback Tom Woodson is getting a serious look from Penn State, and when he hasn’t made big plays with his feet, he’s made them in the air, throwing for 776 yards and nine TD’s, and completing 60% of his passes. But Central Catholic boasts Toledo recruit Damion Jones-Moore, who has rushed for 809 yards and scored 17 total TD’s, making him one of the top point-getters in the WPIAL and leading tailbacks in Quad-A, so the Gators need to try countering with a healthy Darrin Franklin, and they need Woodson to work more magic outside the pocket. A key will be whether those two can find running room against a stubborn defensive line featuring Logan Dietz, who has been courted by West Virginia, and by several MAC schools as well. The Vikings are MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in the PIAA, and they enter Friday at No. 23 in the website’s Xcellent 25 (human-generated) national poll. Gateway is ranked No. 15 in the state by MaxPreps.
This game can also be seen live on ROOT Sports Friday evening, with pre-game coverage beginning at 7:00.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
GREAT SOUTHERN CONFERENCE:
Mount Lebanon (2-0, 4-2) at Bethel Park (2-0, 3-3) (7:30) – The Hawks are a team that has changed identities, but in any event, hopefully for Jeff Metheny’s sake, they resemble a winning football team in Week 7, because the playoff race is tight, and the latest chapter of this South Hills rivalry will be a tough one in every sense of the word. Last year Bethel Park leaned on Bre’ Ford, but now Anthony Cinello has become the focal point of its offense, throwing for 872 yards and five TD’s on 58% passing. His top receiver, Evan Schweitzer, is averaging over 12 yards per catch. Conversely, not much has changed for the Blue Devils. They’re still a power-running team with Division I-caliber power up front in the form of Wisconsin recruit Arthur Goldberg. Luke Hagy is the No. 2 rusher in the WPIAL with 1,096 yards behind his blocking, and his 16 TD’s make him one of the district’s top scorers.
Hopewell (2-2, 4-2) at Central Valley (4-0, 6-0) (6:00) – The ESPN-U cameras will be present for Rushel Shell, the nationally-renown tailback who has become one of Pitt’s most highly-regarded recruits in years, but will that television crew leave buzzing about Robert Foster instead? Shell enters Week 7 with 12 TD’s and 1,059 yards, ranking third in the WPIAL, and the all-time district rushing champ, who has also cracked the PIAA career top five, is approaching 8,000 career yards. Foster, one of the Central Valley’s heroes at Heinz Field last November, is one of the top all-around junior athletes in Class AAA. Hopewell’s objective is to keep him and Justin Shaw, Central Valley’s leading scorer with eight touchdowns, away from the end zone. A win by the Warriors goes a long way toward locking up the Parkway title. A win by Hopewell is critical, as three teams enter Friday tied for fourth in the conference.
Beaver (5-0, 6-0) at Aliquippa (6-0, 6-0) (7:00) – “The Pit” has been as cruel to visiting teams as fate was to the Bobcats last season. Quarterback Christian Herstine was one costly slip away from a possible upset in the regular season meeting last fall, and the playoff rematch went much less smoothly, but Herstine hasn’t lost a step. He has emerged as a team leader both under center, and from his cornerback spot, aiding a Beaver defense that has allowed 13 points in six games. Aliquippa, whose offense averages over 40 points per game, will try to move the immovable object. Herstine and the secondary need to contain Mikal Hall, who ranks second among Class AA quarterbacks with 885 yards and 11 TD’s, completing 52% of his passes. Hall is not only a cerebral signal-caller, but an athletic one, and the balance he brings to this offense will be difficult for Beaver to handle.
BLACK HILLS CONFERENCE:
Brentwood (4-0, 6-0) at Clairton (4-0, 6-0) (7:30) - A thrilling overtime win over playoff-hungry Chartiers-Houston has galvanized the Spartans, who now get ready for the ultimate litmus test on the road against the reigning PIAA champs, a team victorious in 37 straight games and methodically approaching the 50-year-old WPIAL record for longest winning streak of all time. Clairton has scored over 300 points this season, which easily leads the conference, the classification, and the entire district, and the Bears, who boast the same stifling defense as yesteryear, have allowed 12 total points–none of them in conference play. With 18 TD’s and 128 total points, Tyler Boyd leads Clairton and the entire WPIAL in scoring, and he enters Friday’s game with an impressive 793 rushing yards, averaging an absolutely sick 16 yards per carry. Brentwood’s best hope? To catch the Bears napping, to get a little luck, and to get career performances from its offensive line and prolific tailback Justin Vickless, who leads the Spartans with ten total touchdowns on the year.
Once again, be sure to check out the “Mr. High School Sports” blog on 937thefan.com for more Week 7 coverage, and tune into “The UPMC Centers for Rehab Services High School Football Show,” brought to you by ROOT Sports and hosted by John Phillips, Saturday at 7:00 A.M. on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan for a complete recap of Friday’s action!
Plus, be sure to revisit 937thefan.com this weekend for continuing coverage of Rushel Shell’s verbal commitment to Pitt.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)