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“Mr. High School Sports” – Former City League Athlete Draws Local Attention

By Matt Popchock
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Mallory Claybourne

Pitt is one possible destination for former Perry Traditional Academy DB Mallory Claybourne. (Photo Credit: 247Sports)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Have you heard about the wonderful things the University of Pittsburgh is doing to preserve endangered species?

Paul Chryst is trying very hard to save a dying breed: City League football greats.

Wide receiver Ed Tinker got some reps toward the end of Chryst’s first season as head coach at Pitt, and former Brashear teammate Manasseh Garner looked good at tight end during spring drills. After a year in prep school, Allderdice alumnus Tyrique Jarrett could bolster the Panthers’ offensive line in the foreseeable future. Now the team has offered former Perry athlete Mallory Claybourne.

247Sports reports Claybourne (5’10″, 178 lbs.) also picked up an offer from Toledo on the same day. Along with the Pitt and Toledo offers, he has been offered by a couple other MAC schools, a couple FCS schools, and Temple, now of the “new” American Athletic Conference, entering his senior season. The latter is certainly noteworthy, considering how Terry Smith has gone all “Supermarket Sweep” around here since being hired as the Owls’ receivers coach.

Anyway, I’ve always been of the opinion that the merger of City League football with the WPIAL should have happened sooner, as the League, for all its recent consolidation, still has players who probably deserve a bit more exposure, and Claybourne is one of them. He’s a capable receiver, as he demonstrates below, but he’s really excelled as a defensive back, earning second team All-League from The New Pittsburgh Courier as a sophomore for his defensive efforts.

There’s only one question: where’s he going to end up before he reaches college?

A reliable source says Claybourne was being recruited to play for Renaissance Christian Academy. It’s a new private endeavor in the East Hills, similar to Imani Christian, that will be run by former Imani coach Harvey Smith (Terry’s brother) and former Greensburg C.C. coach Muzzy Colosimo, a 2009 WPIAL champion who has worked with the Pittsburgh Passion since his dismissal.

But that same source, along with another, says, per Claybourne, that fell through, and he’ll end up at Sto-Rox. Furthermore, official WPIAL documents do not include RCA in their 2013 comprehensive schedule or conference alignment, so the immediate future of the program as a whole, not just the individual player, seems to be up in the air. Yet the school’s Facebook page, rudimentary though it still is, contains photos of what appear to be football boosters decorating helmets.

Strange indeed. Sto-Rox already has early team-to-beat buzz coming out of Class A and the Big 7 Conference, and getting Claybourne sure as heck couldn’t hurt. In any event, we’ll keep an eye on this.

OTHER NEWS AND VIEWS:

–Here’s some recruiting news of which we are certain: one out-of-state school has offered a Pitt target, and another has received a WPIAL commitment.

North Catholic senior outside linebacker Jarred Fragapane (6’4″, 230 lbs.) pledged allegiance to Lafayette of the Patriot League Monday. He racked up nearly 200 yards and six touchdowns as a fullback last season as the Trojans won the Eastern Conference and reached the WPIAL Semifinals, finishing 15th out of 37 Class A schools in total defense.

Aliquippa senior defensive tackle Jaleel Fields (6’1″, 280 lbs.) was offered by Purdue Monday. The Boilermakers are believed to be very high on his list, but in the meantime, the Panthers, along with a diverse smattering of FBS schools that includes Connecticut, Ohio, and West Virginia, have also extended offers.

It’s tough to quantify what Fields has done as an underclassman for the back-to-back WPIAL Class AA champs, but here’s all you need to know. In 2012 the Quips’ first-string defense wasn’t scored upon until a Week 7 contest at Ellwood City, it posted six shutouts–including two in the district playoffs–and it shut down Washington tailback Shai McKenzie, maybe the top Class of ’14 skill player in western PA, at Heinz Field with Fields on the field regularly.

–Funny I mentioned Ellwood City…remember when we talked about the Penn-Ohio Game last week? Beau Ewing, the focal point of that team’s offense as a senior in 2012, saw his football career take a turn for the better when he was unexpectedly invited to a run-on tryout with Penn State.

Ewing (6’0″, 215 lbs.), who represented Team Pennsylvania on both offense and defense, rumbled for 737 yards in his last year with the Wolverines, averaging almost seven per carry, and scored seven TD’s…while also excelling at linebacker.

Enough said, right?

–Interscholastic hockey continues to grow in western Pennsylvania. I often get asked, what the most practical way is to start a program at one’s school?

My “short” answer is, contact the office of Ed Sam, the commissioner of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League, at commissioner@pihlweb.com. He’s one of the most approachable high school sports officials you’ll ever meet. My “long” answer is, start a co-op program in the Open Class.

The Open Class, the league’s fourth classification, was created in 2004 simply so more kids would have a chance to play. It has its own eligibility rules and its own playoff tournaments, as the winners of the Chiefs and Nailers Cups meet in a one-game playoff to decide the Open Cup.

Beaver County is prime co-op territory these days. Quigley, the 2011-12 champion, has dressed players from half a dozen school districts; in fact, it changed its name to Ambridge last season, and will compete under the Our Lady Of The Sacred Heart moniker this season, led by veteran coach Jamie Dougherty.

Perhaps, one day, Hopewell will return to the PIHL. It even sent a player to the pros–defenseman Nate Guenin, who had a cup of coffee with the Pens, and is now part of the Colorado Avalanche organization–once upon a time.

Where else can the league grow? Believe it or not, I’m told roller hockey has really caught on in the Clairton area. But in these trying economic times, with so much of that school’s athletic resources already pooled into its nationally renown football program, it’s hard to envision them in a co-op scenario anytime soon. Besides, with All-Star forwards Zach Uhlyar and Tommy Kimmick leading a group of seasoned underclassmen, neighboring Thomas Jefferson should be a contender on its own steam in Class A come winter.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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