By Matt Popchock
10:45 AM – Forget Black Friday…this is where Christmas officially begins for us.
“Mr. High School Sports” is live at Heinz Field all day and night to bring you updates from the 2011 WPIAL Football Championships!
A note to our readers: for legal reasons, we are not allowed to bring you play-by-play action like we normally would, but rest assured, whenever there is a score or any other play of cosmic significance that takes place in today’s games, we will keep you posted. We also hope to have post-game reaction from all four of Saturday’s winners.
For the first time in the quarter-century these games have been collectively played on the North Shore, they will be played out of order, Nevertheless, we will begin in Class A, as the two-time PIAA champion and three-time WPIAL champion Clairton Bears (12-0), the top seed in this year’s playoffs, take on the No. 2 seed Sto-Rox Vikings (12-0).
10:50 AM – Fast facts: this was Clairton’s 11th perfect regular season, the third-most in WPIAL history. It was Sto-Rox’s first perfect regular season in program history.
10:51 AM – As always, there’s a lot of Division I talent on both sides of the ball for the Bears, but the same can be said for the Vikings. Clairton is averaging 46.2 points per game and has posted eight shutouts. Sto-Rox is scoring 42.6 per game and has recorded five shutouts.
10:54 AM – Clairton is going for its ninth WPIAL title all-time. This is the school’s 17th appearance in the WPIAL championships. Sto-Rox is going for its third title since the Stowe-McKees Rocks merger. It won gold in 1966, the year the merger took place, and again in 1987.
10:55 AM – National Anthem is in the books. Almost time for the coin toss.
10:57 AM – Clairton running back Tyler Boyd is the WPIAL’s leading scorer with 36 TD’s and 240 total points. Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams, expected to play despite a leg injury, leads Class A with 2,051 passing yards and 30 scores.
11:00 AM – The Bears, in their home orange uniforms, take the field to our right. A moment later, the Vikings, in their traveling whites, take the field to our left. Both schools seem fairly well represented for this time of day. The WPIAL wanted to shuffle the games to give different schools more exposure, but it didn’t want to push the Class A game back too early. Looks like a good decision from an attendance standpoint.
11:03 – Sto-Rox will take the ball and attack from right to left on your computer screen or mobile device to begin the first of today’s four championship games.
Clairton is going for its 44th win in a row. That would put them three shy of beating Braddock’s WPIAL record, set back in the mid-1950s. Braddock was also the only other WPIAL team to win four straight championships.
11:06 – The 2011 WPIAL Football Championships are underway!
11:18 – 5:25 left in the 1st quarter, Clairton and Sto-Rox still scoreless, as the Vikings force a turnover on downs at their own 10. Terrish Webb hauled in a 3rd and 10 pass in the left flat and got taken down just shy of the end zone, then Sto-Rox’s defense dug in and pushed Clairton backwards on three straight plays. Both defenses, for that matter, doing a good job getting heat on the quarterback…
11:28 AM – End of the 1st quarter, Clairton and Sto-Rox still scoreless. Both defenses have been their usual dominant selves. Still, Williams started to heat up on Sto-Rox’s latest drive, which will end in a punt from inside its own 30, so Clairton needs to tighten up its secondary. An offensive holding call and a sack by Ramondo Williams stifled the Vikings.
Pitt recruit Marzett Geter has one catch for nine yards. Clairton lineman Carvan Thompson, who has started every varsity game since freshman year–a WPIAL record–has a half sack.
11:34 AM – TOUCHDOWN CLAIRTON! Boyd, another D-1 prospect, takes the wildcat snap and takes off to his left, following his blockers, and shedding a tackle in Sto-Rox territory before taking it 55 yards to the house. District-leading 33rd TD of the year for Boyd. Clairton head coach Tom Nola calls timeout.
11:36 AM – After some deliberation, Boyd finishes what he started with a two-point conversion on a somewhat similar-looking play (the Bears have no natural placekicker, so they normally go for two after touchdowns).
11:41 left, 2nd quarter, Clairton 8 Sto-Rox 0.
11:41 AM – The one chink in Clairton’s armor is its lack of self-discipline. 5 penalties for 45 yards already.
11:44 AM – The Bears take their second timeout after Williams is stopped on 3rd and short. 4th and 1 coming up for Sto-Rox just beyond midfield, 8:25 left, 2nd quarter. 8-0 Clairton.
Moments later, Williams takes on the entire Clairton line, and wins the battle. Vikings keep the drive alive…
11:47 AM – Boyd redeems himself for an earlier unsportsmanlike conduct foul on the drive by picking off Williams over the middle at the Clairton 40. Moments later, Boyd’s deep halfback option pass is broken up nicely by Kevin Hooper.
11:50 AM – 5:55 left, 2nd quarter, Clairton still leads Sto-Rox 8-0.
11:51 AM – Williams, who had done such a good job protecting the ball all year, is picked off for a second time, as Terrish Webb scoops up a deflected pass at the Clairton 48.
Timeout Clairton. None left. 5:48 left, same score.
11:57 AM – TOUCHDOWN CLAIRTON! Boyd’s second TD of the game and 34th of the year is a 6-yard run over left tackle. Key play on the drive was a 32-yard burst up the middle by fullback Reuben Kelly on 3rd down; caught Sto-Rox’s D-line totally off guard.
Moments later, Boyd catches the Vikings napping and scores an easy two-point run to the far side of the end zone.
3:21 left in the half, Clairton 16 Sto-Rox 0.
12:00 PM – Head coach Ron Butschle, here in the second year of his second tour of duty with Sto-Rox, calls the team’s first timeout with 2:21 left. Same score.
Butschle, by the way, led Sto-Rox to the 2003 Class A title game, where Sto-Rox bowed to Springdale. The Dynamos were coached by Chuck Wagner, who retired after nearly half a century of being a head coach earlier this week…
12:05 PM – TOUCHDOWN CLAIRTON! Webb makes another shoestring catch, this time for a 10-yard score, his 5th TD of the season. 12th TD pass of the season for Capri Thompson. Play set up by a Sto-Rox fake punt; Lenny Williams, trapped in the end zone, threw what was deemed an incompletion at the feet of Kevin Hooper. Looked like a good non-grounding call to me, though at this point, I’m sure Butschle would prefer the safety.
Moments later, Thompson hits Webb again on the near side for two points, as Webb beats Hooper in man coverage.
0:50 left, 1st half. Clairton 24 Sto-Rox 0.
12:10 PM – TOUCHDOWN STO-ROX! Great concentration by Geter, who hauls in a pass along the far sideline from Williams and catches the DB over-pursuing for an easy 54-yard score. Huge play there to give the Vikings life heading into the locker room. The caveat is, Geter gets called for excessive celebration on his way in.
31st TD pass of the year for Williams, and 11 of them have now gone to Geter.
12:14 PM – What followed was one of those “only in Class A” plays…because of the taunting foul, and a subsequent offensive holding penalty that wiped out a successful two-point try, Sto-Rox had to attempt the P.A.T. from the Clairton 35. And almost got it.
But Kevin Hooper’s reception on the near side was ruled out of bounds.
0:31 left in the half. Clairton 24 Sto-Rox 6.
12:18 PM – Halftime at Heinz Field. Clairton leads Sto-Rox 24-6 in the Class A Final, and the Bears will get the ball to begin the 3rd.
12:30 PM – First half numbers on the way, as the Clairton marching band leaves the field…
12:34 PM – Sto-Rox actually had an edge in first downs (7 to 4) and time of possession (15:40 to 8:20), but the big stat is Clairton out-gaining the Vikings on the ground 102 net yards to zero. In addition, Sto-Rox has surpassed Clairton in the penalty department with 7 fouls totaling 132 yards, and the Bears have scored 16 points off turnovers, counting the TD that followed the botched fake punt.
12:36 PM – Lenny Williams is 7 of 12 for 87 yards, one TD, and two picks; he’s been sacked twice. Tyler Boyd has 6 carries for 71 yards and two scores, along with two 2-point conversions, and a defensive INT. Capri Thompson has been sacked once and is 3 of 6 for 42 yards and one TD, along with a 2-point pass.
Once again, that was a good job by Sto-Rox’s offense before the end of the half to take advantage of overzealous play by Clairton, but except for that mistake, Clairton’s defense has really settled into a groove. The Vikings’ defense needs to make a statement of its own to begin the half in order to keep this game from slipping away.
12:43 PM – Earlier today I saw Sto-Rox get a penalty because Butschle was too far out of the coaches’ box, now I just saw a block in the back…on the kicking team. Definitely a new one on me…
12:45 PM – Sudden thought…how good are the 2011 Bears? They’ve already surpassed their scoring output in each of their last three WPIAL championship appearances…
12:47 PM – TOUCHDOWN CLAIRTON! Boyd gets the hat trick, if you will…35 TD’s on the year, three in this game. He runs up the middle, then cuts sharply to his right and outruns the secondary for a 47-yard score.
Thompson is sacked on the two-point conversion. 9:49 left, 3rd quarter, Clairton 30 Sto-Rox 6.
On the prior play an overthrow by Thompson was nearly picked by Dontez Ford, but Trenton Coles broke up the INT and saved the drive.
12:58 PM – The biggest bright spot of the game for Sto-Rox has been the moxy of Lenny Williams. Hanging in there and continuing to try and kick the offense in the butt despite what the scoreboard says.
1:00 PM – Looks like I spoke a hair too soon. Titus Howard recorded Clairton’s 3rd interception of the game and put the Bears on the plus side of the field. Less than 5 minutes left in the 3rd, same score.
1:03 PM – 3 minutes left, Clairton still ahead 30-6. Boyd committed offensive pass interference, and to add injury to insult, he was down on the sideline for a minute or two. At first he was holding his knee, but he now looks to be okay.
1:06 PM – Clairton’s defense continuing to tighten the vice as the 3rd quarter winds down. 4th turnover comes on a Dyran Davenport recovery of a Ford fumble.
1:46 PM – Congratulations to Tom Nola and the Clairton Bears on capturing their 4th straight WPIAL football crown! They’re the first team since Brookline to do so, and they did it with a 43-6 mercy-rule victory over the Sto-Rox Vikings.
The Bears earned the running clock with 4th quarter rushing touchdowns 28 seconds apart, aided by a fumbled kickoff, from Devante Gardlock and Bryon Clifford with under 5 minutes left in the game.
(Once again, we apologize for the delay in updates, so I’ll issue the friendly reminder one more time: for legal reasons, we are not allowed to give explicit play-by-play of this event–something we ourselves were reminded of recently.)
1:51 PM – I’m hearing through the grapevine Clairton will play North Star at Yough High School in its first PIAA playoff game next Friday at 7:00.
2:25 PM – Just got back from conference room. Post-game reaction from Clairton and Sto-Rox coming later on our website. Meanwhile, Montour (10-2) just kicked off to Knoch (12-0) to begin the WPIAL Class AAA Championship. Spartans going for first district title since 1964, making their third appearance at Heinz Field in last five years, while Knights are trying to end a 33-year title drought.
2:55 PM – End of the 1st quarter, Montour 7 Knoch 0. The Spartans fed off the momentum of their defense, which forced a turnover on downs inside its own 30, and mixed it up nicely on a drive that culminated in Dillon Buechel’s WPIAL-best 36th TD pass of the year to Devin Wilson with 2:17 left. It was Wilson’s 10th of the year. Knoch also caught a break right before the end of the period when Buechel saw a pass to Darren Massey deep on a play-action fake glance off his hands. Defensively Montour has done a good job shadowing Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin, who you know will continue playing with a heavy heart, and matching up with the Knights man for man.
3:32 PM – Halftime at Heinz Field, where Montour has jumped out to a surprisingly comfortable 28-0 lead over Knoch. Remember when I said earlier that Tyler Boyd had the football equivalent of a hat trick? Well, you might say Julian Durden had the football equivalent of a “natural hat trick” in the 2nd quarter. He gave Montour a 14-0 lead on a goal-line run, swept left for a 23-yard score to make it 21-0, and shortly before the end of the quarter, scored on a nice stutter-step move up the middle, relatively untouched, to provide the final first-half margin and give him 29 TD’s on the year. Meanwhile, Dillon Buechel continues to impress with his improv skills and his ability to find guys open against the grain, along with his ability to sustain drives.
Montour’s defense is eating Knoch alive. There’s no other way to put it; the Knights really took a physical beating in that half. Rumberg-Goodlin was limited to 5 rushing yards to Durden’s 71 on 13 carries, and though Kenyon picked up the pace, finishing 6 of 10, he also threw a pick and was held to 28 net yards. Buechel is a nifty 9 of 15 for 176 yards and that opening score.
Same story as halftime of the Clairton/Sto-Rox’s game; Knoch needs its defense to step up and make a play, otherwise this game is over…if it isn’t already. If Montour simply executes and controls the ball like it did in the first half, we could see another running clock. Who knew?
3:57 PM – Second half is underway, with the Spartans enjoying a chance to add to their already impressive lead.
4:27 PM – Didn’t see this one coming either; Montour has mercy-ruled Knoch with a 42-7 cushion after three quarters. The Spartans shanked a punt early on that led to a Kenyon TD pass to Alex Strezenski, but just seconds later, Julian Durden busted loose up the middle and turned on the afterburner for a 73-yard scoring jaunt. Aaron Reed’s interception, which almost became a pick-six, set up a Reed one-yard plunge on the very next play. Looks like Lou Cerro and the Spartans, six years after he took over the program, are “Bound for Glory”–real glory–at long last!
4:47 PM – Congratulations to Lou Cerro and the Montour Spartans, who roll past the Knoch Knights, 42-14, for their first WPIAL football championship since 1964! Ky Kenyon scrambled for a last-second TD in garbage time, but the story of this game was Montour’s domination on both sides of the ball. My faith in this team was violently shaken earlier this season, but tonight the Spartans left no doubt who the deserving champion is in Class AAA. Can’t wait to talk to Julian Durden, who ended with 165 yards on 17 carries and four TD’s. (Kudos, by the way, to the Knoch fans for sticking around till the bitter end–most of them, anyway.) In fact, I’m going to do that right now…
By the way, Montour meets Grove City in the PIAA playoffs next weekend. Date, site, and time TBD.
5:28 PM – Just got back from talking to Cerro and his team, including Durden. Great post-game chatter from Mike King and his players as well, who were very classy in defeat, as was their community tonight.
Meanwhile, the WPIAL Class AA Championship between Aliquippa (12-0) and Jeannette (12-0) got underway a couple minutes ago. Jeannette’s perfect regular season was its 16th all-time, the most of any WPIAL program, while the Quips are second all-time on the heels of their 12th perfect regular season.
Jeannette is going for its first crown since Terrelle Pryor was a senior, while Aliquippa, making its fourth straight trip, is trying to avenge back-to-back losses at Heinz Field.
5:47 – End of the 1st quarter, Aliquippa 0 Jeannette 0. This one is going to have a decidedly different complexion than the first two. Neither defense is budging; only 51 net yards of offense in the quarter, 37 of which belonged to Jeannette.
6:22 – Halftime at Heinz Field…Aliquippa leads Jeannette 6-0 in the WPIAL Class AA Final. The Quips’ defense stiffened after being pushed inside its red zone, and after a hands-to-the-face penalty and a couple stops, Seth Miller misfired on a 39-yard field goal attempt. Mikal Hall passed the Quips down the field on the subsequent drive, which Hall capped with a last-ditch pass to Devon Walker that Walker turned into a 17-yard score, Hall’s 17th TD pass of the year. The P.A.T. was botched, but in a defensive struggle like this one, that opportunistic play alone might be enough to win…
6:30 PM – Aliquippa with an 8-5 edge in 1st downs…and a 117-97 lead in total offensive yardage. Jeannette has held the ball for nearly 14 minutes–three minutes more than the Quips–but Aliquippa’s offense has been more efficient, and its defense is getting off the field on third down. Hall is 6 of 8 for 63 yards and the game’s lone touchdown. Demetrious Cox is just 2 of 6 passing for 25 yards, but he has also run for 47 yards on 7 carries, and defensively, he has helped Jeannette limit Dravon Henry to just 18 yards.
6:48 PM – Second half underway. Quips get the ball and come out pounding away with Henry…
7:11 PM – Jeannette takes a 7-6 lead over Aliquippa into the 4th quarter, with Seth Miller’s extra point looming large. A dumb roughing the kicker penalty gave the Jayhawks a new lease on life, and Demetrious Cox took advantage, strapping the team to his back and capping the drive with a one-yard score standing up, his 23rd total TD of the season. The Quips looked like they would answer, but, on their final drive of the period, Dravon Henry fumbled and Jordan Edmunds recovered. It’s exactly the kind of self-inflicted wound that did in the Quips in championship games past. Aliquippa needs to get its poise back and get the lead back before Jeannette gathers any more momentum than it already has…
7:52 PM – Congratulations to Mike Zmijanac and the Aliquippa Quips, who drive 96 yards in the final 3 minutes to beat the Jeannette Jayhawks 14-7! That drive, engineered by Mikal Hall, and ending with Hall’s second TD pass to Devon Walker with 29 seconds left in regulation, will be talked about for quite some time. Not only did Aliquippa atone for missed opportunities, but it also avoided the embarrassment of another eerily similar championship game setback. Dravon Henry picked off Cox with ten seconds left to give the Quips their unprecedented 14th WPIAL championship in program history.
Aliquippa will meet District 9 champ Moniteau in the PIAA playoffs next weekend, date, site, and time TBD.
8:34 PM – Enjoyed hearing Zmijanac hold court with the media–and with his players. Tough to hear Coach Hall and his players talk. None of them wanted to say anything. An emotional loss for the Jayhawks (we’ve all been there), and you certainly feel for them, but this is a game that will not soon be forgotten.
Meanwhile, the WPIAL Class AAAA Championship game is underway, and Upper St. Clair (11-1) recovered a fumble by defending PIAA champion North Allegheny (12-0) on the Tigers’ first series. The Panthers are going for their first WPIAL title since 2006, and Dakota Conwell is gutting it out.
8:55 PM – End of the 1st with USC and NA scoreless. The Panthers are driving behind the running of Coughlin and A.J. McGuire, but both teams had good field position throughout the period and couldn’t make anything of it. We haven’t seen Conwell back in the game, in any capacity, since USC’s first offensive series…
9:44 PM – USC and NA enter halftime tied 14-14 after a wild 2nd quarter. A.J. McGuire opened it with a 2-yard scoring run off right tackle, but North Allegheny answered less than a minute later, as Mack Leftwich did a Dakota Conwell impression, running up the middle and appearing dead as a doornail before exploding into the open pasture for a 66-yard touchdown. Both defenses settled down until 2:39 left in the half, when Pete Coughlin dinked and dunked NA’s secondary to death. He threw off his back foot to McGuire, who turned it into a 65-yard scoring sprint up the far sideline. But what followed was the weirdest play–and most egregious error–of the game. Leftwich, with 29 seconds left, hit Brandon Coniker in the end zone in front of side judge Eric Akins. Akins, after much hesitation, ruled touchdown, though the in-house replay on ROOT Sports clearly shows Coniker landing out of bounds. But the play stood, and here we stand. If the rumors I’m hearing are anything other than idle chit-chat, the WPIAL really wants to make use of video replay in future championships…
10:04 PM – 2nd half underway…Dakota Conwell back on the field for the USC offense…
10:27 PM – The Tigers are 12 minutes away from repeating as Quad-A champs; they lead USC 21-14. The only points of the period came after a bad Upper St. Clair punt, when James Kleinhampl’s catch-and-run set up a 1-yard run by Vinnie Congedo. 11th rush TD of the year for Congedo, who had his way for much of that 3rd quarter. NA is controlling the ball and the line of scrimmage, so USC’s defense needs to dig deep.
11:18 PM – Some technical difficulties, but anyway…
Congratulations to Art Walker and the North Allegheny Tigers on back-to-back WPIAL Class AAAA championships! NA survives a 28-21 OT thriller and beats USC by the same score as their Week 4 meeting. USC won the coin toss to begin overtime and chose defense, which proved to be their undoing. It took just three plays for Mack Leftwich to pound it in from two yards out, then, on 4th and long, Pete Coughlin was sacked to seal the deal.
Once again, North Allegheny will face State College in the opening round of the PIAA tournament next weekend. Date, site, and time TBD.
We’ll have more from all of today’s participants, including NA and USC, later on the website, so be sure to revisit the “Mr. High School Sports” blog later this weekend for more on the 2011 WPIAL Football Championships!
More to come soon…
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)