“Mr. High School Sports” – Week 3 WPIAL Football Preview
Seneca Valley (2-0, 2-0) at North Allegheny (1-0, 2-0) – Northern Eight Conference
(Coverage begins at 7:00 P.M., with kickoff at 7:30, on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA; Lanny Frattare and Bob Orkwis have the call.)
Normally not much is expected of the Raiders when they visit Newman Stadium, but coming off a successful 2011 season, their offense has burst right back onto the scene, and Seneca Valley has a chance to do some serious message-sending against the two-time WPIAL champs. Head coach Don Holl agrees there’s a much different buzz surrounding the program these days:
As Holl said, senior Jordan Brown is key in this battle of elite Quad-A quarterbacks. He ranks fifth in the classification with 355 passing yards, having thrown five TD’s against just one pick, and completed 54% of his attempts.
N.A. must turn up the heat on Brown by taking away running back Forrest Barnes. With one of the toughest groups of linemen in the state, it’s more than a realistic goal.
One of those linemen, Michigan recruit Pat Kugler, was chosen as an Under Armour All-American this week, one of four WPIAL seniors to receive the honor. Head coach Art Walker has been impressed with how the front of his offense has protected dual-threat quarterback Mack Leftwich:
Leftwich, also a senior, leads Quad-A with 602 yards passing and six TD’s through his first two outings, and his running ability contributes to an already loaded backfield. The Tigers can move the ball almost at will, so the Raiders must play smart positional defense and eliminate the big play in order to have a shot.
Gateway (2-0, 2-0) at Kiski Area (2-0, 2-0) – 7:30 – Foothills Conference
These reunited conference rivals have fought their way to an early standings lead, though the Cavaliers have reached the top under more trying circumstances. The Gators have whipped Latrobe and Connellsville, while Kiski also owns a close win over Connellsville, and gutted out last week’s game against Altoona. Kiski has adjusted to life without J.J. Consentino, as new senior quarterback Ricardo Carter has completed 19 of 26 passes for 242 yards and two scores. The Cavaliers will get their first major test defensively against a brutally balanced attack led by Arizona recruit Tom Woodson, who ranks third in Quad-A with 412 yards and four TD’s on 15-of-19 passing.
Chartiers Valley (1-1, 1-1) at Central Valley (1-1, 1-1) – 7:00 – Parkway Conference
They ended Week 2 at polar opposite ends of the emotional spectrum; the Colts squeaked out a one-point win against Hopewell, but the Warriors, after an unsuccessful two-point run by senior athlete Robert Foster, bowed to Montour by one point on ROOT Sports, also in overtime. Central Valley, arguably the most agile team in the conference, poses a very difficult challenge to Char’ Valley, with Foster, recently named an Under Armour All-American, gaining 184 offensive yards and scoring three times last week. The Colts need to rely on their own versatility, particularly dual-threat QB/DB Michael Boulous, a senior with three TD’s who has been a factor on both sides of the football.
West Allegheny (2-0, 2-0) at Moon (1-1, 1-1) – 7:30 – Parkway Conference
For the first time in a while under Mark Washington, the Tigers are really starting to show some heart, so despite the fact he’s facing Bob Palko, one of the more well-prepared coaches in the WPIAL, don’t be surprised if Moon keeps pace with West Allegheny’s wildcat offense. Junior tailback Tony Colaianni almost single-handedly carried his team to victory over Blackhawk in Week 2 with 178 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Expect a more diverse ground attack from West A, which counters with juniors Chayse Dillon and quarterback Tory Delmonico (349 combined yards, five total rushing touchdowns in two games).
Steel Valley (2-0, 2-0) at South Fayette (2-0, 2-0) – 7:00 – Century Conference
After being on the right side of a couple of laughers, the Ironmen will have to prove how solid their footing is atop the conference. Steel Valley sprung to a good start on the strength of dependable quarterback play, which is what they’ll need to keep up with the Lions. Senior Patrick O’Malley ranks third in the classification with 336 yards in the air and three touchdowns on 21-of-35 passing. Sophomore Brett Brumbaugh continues to play beyond his years for South Fayette, leading Class AA with 495 yards and eight touchdowns in the air, while completing 59% of his attempts. These teams have outscored their opponents by a combined 171-13 margin.
Ellwood City (0-2, 0-2) at Beaver Falls (2-0, 2-0) – 7:30 – Midwestern Conference
Last year’s meeting produced one of the more noteworthy upsets in Class AA, and it catapulted the Wolverines to one of their best seasons in recent history. It’s time for them to rediscover themselves against the Tigers, who have appeared undaunted through two mercy-rule victories. Beaver Falls prefers balance, as junor Damian Rawl and senior Rob Bell have combined for 365 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, but junior Dan Stratton have made a smooth transition to the QB spot with 322 yards and four TD’s of his own. Ellwood City needs to challenge BF up front, and use senior running back Beau Ewing, who was registered 231 yards and three TD’s on 30 carries, to control the ball.
Northgate (2-0, 2-0) at North Catholic (2-0, 2-0) – 7:30 – Eastern Conference
We haven’t found the Flames in first place in some time, but after knocking on the door of the postseason in 2011, they have a golden opportunity to prove they belong there in Week 3. The key to their early success has been multi-faceted senior quarterback Cody Walter, who leads Class A with seven total touchdowns in his first two games, and has registered 337 offensive yards, 233 of which have come on the ground. Meanwhile, the bottom line offensively for the Trojans is, they have to get their own young sensation going, while slowing down Northgate’s ground attack. Sophomore P.J. Fulmore ranks second in Single-A with 418 yards, averaging nearly eight per carry, and sits right behind Walter on the scoring chart with six TD’s.
California (0-2, 0-2) at Clairton (2-0, 2-0) – 7:30 – Black Hills Conference
So far a Week 1 scare at Chartiers-Houston looks like an aberration, as the Bears returned to their normal, dominant ways in Week 2 against host Carlynton for their nation-best 49th consecutive win, leaving the three-time PIAA champs 11 victories from a new state record. The Trojans, a new conference rival, were hit hard by graduation, and they’ll be hit harder by a Clairton defense that is playing with a purpose again. California junior Corey Adams has rushed for two touchdowns to lead the team, but it must do much more to establish that running game. Meanwhile, the Bears might have discovered a new weapon in senior quarterback Armani Ford, who threw for over 230 yards and two scores on 10-of-16 passing at Honus Wagner Stadium.
“Mr. High School Sports” picks: Clairton, North Catholic, South Fayette, Beaver Falls, Central Valley, Moon, Gateway, North Allegheny.
For more WPIAL football content, check out the “Mr. High School Sports” blog, and visit brother website KDKA.com after tonight’s games to see how your team fared.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)