“Mr. High School Sports” – More WPIAL Football Stars Honored by PIAA
By Matt Popchock
Tyrone quarterback and Akron recruit Steve Franco, the one who led the Golden Eagles to an upset of Aliquippa in the state semifinals, has been voted the PIAA Class AA Football Player of the Year by the Pennsylvania Sportswriters, and head coach John Franco has been named PIAA Class AA Coach of the Year.
The team that upset Quad-A state champ North Allegheny has also received some kudos. Central Dauphin running back Zayd Issah was chosen by the Pennsylvania Sportswriters as PIAA Class AAAA Co-Player of the Year, and his coach, Glen McNamee, won Coach of the Year honors. Under McNamee the Rams became the first District 3 squad to capture state gold in football since 1992.
But the WPIAL certainly wasn’t ignored when the Class AAAA and Class AA All-PIAA teams were announced. Tailbacks Damion Jones-Moore (Pittsburgh Central Catholic) and Luke Hagy (Mount Lebanon) were among 15 players from District 7 selected to the Quad-A roster.
Hagy, a Cornell recruit and three-sport star, racked up 1,907 yards to lead WPIAL Class AAAA, and registered 25 touchdowns while becoming the most prolific rusher in Mount Lebanon history. Jones-Moore, a Toledo recruit, amassed 1,673 rushing yards and led Quad-A with 32 total TD’s while becoming the second 4,000-yard rusher in Central Catholic history.
Among the other noteworthy All-PIAA honorees in Class AAAA were University Prep linebacker Jaylen Coleman, who made the team as a “specialist,” Erie McDowell running back Greg Garmon, and North Allegheny quarterback Mack Leftwich.
Coleman, a senior who has received serious attention from Cincinnati, Toledo, West Virginia, and Illinois, led the City League with 1,694 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, and earned the MVP award as University Prep won its first-ever City League championship.
Garmon made this year’s all-state team under the “specialist” label as well–and most appropriately, we might add, because “special” is a good way to describe him. He registered 16 total TD’s and over 1,000 yards rushing, and was largely responsible for making McDowell’s triple-option attack one of the most feared offenses in the WPIAL. He has narrowed his college choices down to Arkansas, Iowa, and Miami (FL).
The only down side is, we won’t get to see that triple-option in the postseason anymore; starting in 2012, the Trojans have agreed to stay in the WPIAL for regular-season football, but go back to participating in the District 10 playoffs instead. But we will see him in the first-ever Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix Tue., Jan. 3 at 6:00 P.M. on the CBS Sports Network.
However, there’s no guarantee we’ll see Leftwich again.
He moved to North Allegheny because his father, Spencer Leftwich, was picked to be one of Todd Graham’s assistants at Pitt, so needless to say, Graham’s surprise departure makes it quite possible that Mack will be playing for his fourth different school in as many years in 2012. According to the family, however, there is also a chance they might let Mack stay back with the Tigers for his senior season.
Nevertheless, he was a difference-maker in helping them remain the team to beat in Quad-A in 2011. Leftwich scored three times against Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL Class AAAA Final, including the game-winning touchdown run in overtime, to help the Tigers retain their crown. He finished third among district passers with 2,149 yards and 19 TD’s while completing 56% of his attempts.
Meanwhile, the Quips, interestingly enough, were left off the Class AA all-state team, but the team they beat at Heinz Field was not. Jeannette quarterback/safety Demetrius Cox was selected as a defensive back. As a dual-threat QB he gained almost 2,000 yards, including over 1,100 on the ground, for the Jayhawks.
Cox, an undecided senior who is being recruited coast to coast, is one of six WPIAL Class AA players to earn a spot on the All-PIAA team, which you can check out right here. Be sure to revisit the “Mr. High School Sports” blog for more on the WPIAL Football Coaches of the Year, as voted on by the local newspapers…
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)