The history of WPIAL football is rich with talent that was properly cultivated and flourished at the collegiate and professional levels. Unfortunately, like everywhere else on the national gridiron, it is equally rich with talent that was undisciplined, and therefore, wasted.
Let’s hope what happened in Week 4 is a sign that Central Valley senior athlete Robert Foster will be the subject of happier stories to come.
He is one of the top Division I prospects in the state, and the No. 15 prospect in the country according to MaxPreps. He’ll be playing for either Ohio State, Pitt, or Alabama, reportedly, next fall, but he didn’t get to strut his stuff until the second quarter Friday. Head coach Mark Lyons benched him briefly for a disciplinary problem that took place in practice last week.
With the Warriors (3-1, 3-1) down 14-7, Foster (6’2″, 185 lbs.) helped springboard his team to a 42-14 win over Class AAA Parkway Conference rival Blackhawk (1-3, 1-3) at Northwestern Stadium, and he said after the game he felt like a better player and a better person.
“The most important thing I take from this game is being responsible,” Foster told us afterward. “I sat out because I made a dumb mistake at practice. What I’ve learned is to do what I’ve got to do in practice, stay focused, and work hard.”
A wise man once told me there’s no such thing as a “stupid” mistake if, at the end of the day, that mistake makes you smarter. It’s refreshing to see Foster, seemingly, has walked away from this a smarter young man. Many other young men with just as much to lose have not.
In the meantime, Foster was fun to watch opposite Blackhawk junior quarterback Chandler Kincade, a possible collegiate teammate. Kincade verbally committed to Pitt last season, and reaffirmed that commitment over the summer.
He accounted for over 100 of Nate Climo’s passing yards, and, with seven TD’s, shares the team scoring lead with Jordan Whitehead entering the midpoint of the regular season (hard to believe we’re saying that already).
Kincade could stand to improve his accuracy, though, on this night, the speed and skill of Central Valley’s defensive backs were a factor. Generally speaking, he reminded me of Big Ben with his relative size and ability to improvise effective plays and withstand pressure. At 6’5″ and 222 pounds, he’ll graduate in two years already having an ideal physique for a major college quarterback.
He enters Week 5 among the WPIAL top ten in yardage, along with six TD passes. As Whitehead said, that Thursday night loss seems to have flipped a switch for Central Valley, so Friday might simply have been a case of Kincade and the Cougars standing on the track when the train was coming through.
My top game of Week 4 was the Saturday night special at Gypsy Glen Stadium, in which Beaver (3-0, 4-0) upended Beaver Falls (3-1, 3-1) on homecoming night to keep pace with defending WPIAL champion Aliquippa in the Midwestern Conference.
Before gold medals are given out at Heinz Field, another prize may be awarded to one of those aforementioned Beaver County teams: the Times Traveling Trophy. It’s given out every year to the top-scoring Beaver County player in the district.
With his four touchdowns in Saturday’s 34-28 thriller, senior tailback Darian “Bubba” Bradley, who punctuated his evening with a game-winning 26-yard scamper with 1:26 remaining in regulation, unofficially leads the entire WPIAL with 14 total touchdowns. Bradley’s combination of agility and power is impressive, as was the way the Bobcats held their own against one of the toughest groups of linemen in Class AA.
If there were ever a game, at any point this season, that lived up to every iota of its hype, it was this one. The Aliquippa game has been a bugaboo for the Bobcats, and the 2012 Quips haven’t even been scored against yet, but this year, if Beaver brings that same effort, the Week 9 contest might prove just as exciting.
Last season Penn-Trafford (3-0, 3-1) really leaned on the leadership of its seniors, especially running back Manny Williams. With his Warriors trying to find their way in a crowded Foothills Conference, head coach John Ruane might have found a secret weapon in quarterback Dorian Stevens.
Stevens ran for two touchdowns, including a 51-yard jaunt, and threw for another in a 28-14 Week 4 win over McKeesport (1-2, 1-3), as heard on brother station NewsRadio 1020 KDKA. Through four games he has over 600 all-purpose yards, three TD passes, and three scoring runs. If Penn-Trafford figures out how to throw more consistently, it’s still going to be a tough team to beat despite all the talent it lost.
Penn-Trafford’s final regular season opponent, Hempfield, might be one of the most improved teams in the WPIAL under new head coach Rich Bowen, but how about the job Ryan Cecchini is doing at Avella? The Eagles are 4-0 across the board and 3-0 in conference play, their best start in recent memory.
Not long ago, that program was not above pulling cheerleaders and band members just to avoid forfeiting games. This year, they still have less than 30 kids, but they’re poised to challenge for a playoff spot in the Class A Tri-County South Conference. Moving there in biennial realignment, and playing, quite frankly, a lighter schedule has probably made a difference as well.
Sophomore quarterback Santino Paris has been an impact player, throwing for over 400 yards and five touchdowns.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)