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High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – Quick Outs: Lessons Learned From Week 3

By Matt Popchock
Footballs

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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(mpopchock@kdka.com)

*I’m not one to flaunt my Catholic heritage. Instead I’ll tip my cap to karma.

On Friday I saw Beaver Falls advance to 3-0 with an easy 43-7 win over Ellwood City at Reeves Field. On Saturday I saw Pitt redshirt freshman Devin Cook, a multi-sport star from the BF Class of ’11, force a fumble from his defensive end spot deep in Virginia Tech territory, which beget a Ray Graham touchdown run that proved to be the winning score in a big upset.

But anyway, how ’bout those present-day Tigers? The names in the starting lineup may have changed, but the athleticism and the command of fundamentals has not. Perhaps Ryan Matsook is trying to emulate Paul Chryst with his three-man backfield of Rob Bell, Damian Rawl, and Marcus Cleckley, as they all contributed to a very balanced effort. The offensive and defensive lines, led by Nick Pettigrew and D-1 prospect Brock Boxen, dominated from start to finish.

“Those kids work. They’re my weight room guys, and they’ve worked, and worked, and worked to get where they are, and this is their time to keep this thing rolling,” Matsook said Friday. “Defensively…we wanted to challenge ourselves tonight.”

Next Saturday’s homecoming game at Gypsy Glen Stadium between Beaver Falls and Beaver ought to be a dandy. The Bobcats also boast an impressive power running attack, featuring Anthony Fidurski and Darian “Bubba” Bradley–who has ten touchdowns already. After erasing the memory of last year’s Ellwood City upset, and seeing Beaver struggle with Freedom before toughing out a win, the Tigers have to be smelling blood.

Whomever comes out of that game alive will be Aliquippa’s chief challenger for MAC supremacy.

*In addition to karma, I’m also a believe in one of Bill Cowher’s proverbs: “You’re never as good as you think you are in this business, but you’re also never as bad as people say you are.”

Two-time WPIAL Class AAAA champion North Allegheny, in Northern Eight Conference action, blasted Seneca Valley, 45-3. Understandably, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Raiders, who won a playoff game last year for the first time since 2003, entering this season. Considering the opportunity that lay before them, I expected way more from Seneca Valley.

Having said that, I don’t believe N.A., impressive though it was Friday, is that good, and I don’t suspect Seneca is that bad. N.A. will be tested at least once before it gets deep into the playoffs, and the Raiders, if they meet North Allegheny in the playoffs like they did last November, will give them a tougher game. That team has far more talent on offense than was evident Friday. To N.A.’s credit, it simply got out-toughed, and maybe, to a certain degree, got caught feeling sorry for themselves when the champs went up big early in the second half. Things tend to snowball when that happens.

Seneca Valley was the team with potential, the team with something to prove. But I’m also reminded of the words of Cowher’s friend, Jeff Fisher: “Potential is just another way of saying you haven’t done anything yet.”

By the way, after seeing what South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh can do as just a sophomore, Steel Valley can also attest to the sentiments of both coaches.

*ROOT Sports picked the right game to put on television last Thursday, as Penn Hills got back on track with a 10-8 win over Southeastern Conference rival Baldwin. Dorian Brown is the real deal, and there was solid coaching in that game by Jim Wehner that may be forgotten because of what the scoreboard said. But the Highlanders, in any event, are headed in the right direction. If not for awesome efforts by Aaron Bailey and his O-line, Baldwin would have stolen this game.

*One of my Facebook friends has a daughter in the Riverview School District, so I apologize to the good folks of Oakmont for twisting the knife…but let me give a hearty congratulations to Josh Gilliland and the West Shamokin Wolves, who defeated Riverview, 25-6, in Class A Eastern Conference play to snap a WPIAL-record 46-game losing streak.

As a journalist, you root for the story, as opposed to the team. I’ve been quietly rooting for the two biggest stories in Class A, which are Clairton’s WPIAL-record winning streak (yes, in case you missed it, the Bears did get another victory Friday to get closer to the state record), and this. I believe what Clairton is doing is good for the visibility of high school football around here, but I also believe to have any team endure a 46-game losing streak is equally damaging to that visibility. Without declaring a specific horse in this race, let me just say I hope this isn’t the last positive note I write about that program.

By the way, congratulations are also in order for Vincentian Academy, which beat Geibel to record, technically, its first win as a WPIAL football team; the Royals are playing a full slate of random non-conference opponents this year before becoming an “official” WPIAL football member.

*Besides the blowouts in evenly-matched games like N.A.-Seneca and South Fayette-Steel Valley, my biggest eyebrow-raiser (though, considering the conference affiliation, maybe nothing there should shock me) is Hopewell over Blackhawk. The Vikings, coming into this season, looked extremely light, but they showed me something in Week 3. Furthermore, the Cougars won’t have an easy time bouncing back, with Central Valley, Beaver (non-conference), and New Castle on the horizon.

I expected Blackhawk to be tough this year, and I hope I get a chance to see Chandler Kincade, one of the most capable quarterbacks in Triple-A, at some point. But it looks like their dwindling strength in numbers may be a bigger x-factor than I imagined…

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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