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High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – Where Have You Gone, Mike Caputo?

By Matt Popchock
Mike Caputo

Former West Allegheny running back and current Wisconsin defensive back Mike Caputo will be featured on ROOT Sports’ “Sunday Night Classics” this weekend. (Photo Credits: 247Sports, Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Former Perry athlete Mallory Claybourne, recently offered by Pitt, has confirmed he will play for the new Renaissance Christian Academy program for his senior season.

This dispels rampant speculation of a transfer to Sto-Rox by Claybourne, once an All-City League honoree at defensive back. We also have some clarity about the immediate future of the program itself.

Despite the lack of official information that still exists, Renaissance Christian Academy’s new team–which, in case you missed it, will be run by ex-Imani Christian coach Harvey Smith and ex-GCC coach Muzzy Colosimo–will play a non-WPIAL schedule in 2013, much like East Hills neighbor Imani did in 2011.

Along with the rest of their future WPIAL brethren, they will open the regular season the weekend of Fri., Aug. 30-Sat., Aug. 31 at home against the Cleveland Knights, though where “home” is for RCA has yet to be formally announced. They’re slated to open with three straight home contests.

Speaking of that other school right down the road, Jason Bell, who coached now-defunct Schenley to the 2009 City League crown, will be the man leading Imani in WPIAL Class A play this season. Prior to taking over Schenley, Bell served as its defensive coordinator for four seasons.

The Black Hills Conference could be a tad more open this year, considering the roster turnover at Clairton, Monessen, and Bishop Canevin. Having said that, Imani has been on postseason probation since being found guilty of multiple PIAA bylaw violations in 2011, much of last year’s talented offense has graduated, and in his last public interview, Bell only anticipated twenty-some players coming to camp. So staying competitive coming off a respectable third-place finish won’t be easy.

OTHER NEWS AND VIEWS:

–On Sunday at 8:00 ROOT Sports, as part of its “Sunday Night Classics” program, will re-air the 2009 WPIAL Class AAA Football Final, in which West Allegheny, behind a terrific performance from tailback Mike Caputo, out-gunned Parkway Conference rival Hopewell and offset a record-setting night by Rushel Shell.

I remember that game for several reasons. It was my first trip to Heinz Field doing this blog. It was part of an ongoing reign of dominance by the Parkway Conference, which, for seven straight years, has sent at least one team to the Class AAA championship game. It was to be a coming-out party for Shell; he ran for an unprecedented 272 yards, scoring four times, and talk of him being a potential savior for Pitt was starting to become deadly serious.

But–spoiler alert–the West Allegheny defense, featuring Caputo at safety, made stops when it mattered. Caputo, meanwhile, ran for a nonetheless admirable 178 yards and four first-half TD’s on 25 attempts, and the Indians hung on for their first WPIAL title since 2001.

Okay, so what happened after that?

It came as a professional disappointment to me that Shell didn’t get at least one more shot at a title. Eschewing politics, he was one of my favorite players to watch on any stage, big or small, and, whenever we would talk to him about his eventual demolition of the WPIAL and PIAA career rushing marks, we could tell he was nonplussed by it. Yes, of course he cared, but we knew just by the tone of his voice he was driven strictly by the prospect of making up for that missed opportunity his sophomore year.

Another professional disappointment of mine was the Shell-Caputo rematch–or, if you wish to be cute, “three-match”–that never was. It even became the front-page story of the Post-Gazette’s 2010 high school football preview edition, penned by the brilliant Mike White. But Caputo dislocated his left ankle in West Allegheny’s non-conference opener at South Park, which put the kibosh on that, to say nothing of the rest of Caputo’s senior season.

Today, all eyes are on Shell, who vacillates between Ohio State (thought to be high on his list before the Tressel scandal), Kentucky, and West Virginia, and he is prepared to visit the Mountaineers a week from next Monday, says he on Twitter. But what ever became of Caputo?

His rehab went extremely well, though never quite to the point where he could return for West A, and, as planned, he took a full ride to play defensive back at Wisconsin. Playing on defense and special teams, Caputo (6’1″, 198 lbs.) debuted for the Badgers as a redshirt freshman last September, seeing action in all 14 games, including the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl, and finishing with ten tackles, including eight solo.

Wisconsin’s secondary was hit hard by graduation, so there is a sporting chance Caputo, who made his first-ever start at strong safety Oct. 6, 2012 against Illinois, could get more playing time on defense this fall.

–There isn’t much talk of dynasties in professional sports anymore, but in covering interscholastic sports, we talk about them a great deal. In fact, the Preps Blog recently revealed its list of the ten greatest WPIAL football dynasties of the past decade.

Naturally, Clairton (2008-present), which has won a state record 63 games in a row entering 2013, tops their list. Last month, our friends at MaxPreps came out with a similar list, but they approached theirs a little bit more scientifically.

Taking into account wins, state titles, and their own formula for strength of schedule, MaxPreps revealed its 15 greatest dynasties of the entire PIAA in the past decade, and Pittsburgh Central Catholic was No. 1. The Vikings won WPIAL and PIAA gold in 2004 and ’07.

Six WPIAL schools in all made the MaxPreps dynasty list, including four others in the top ten…but the “Bout Dat” Bears are not among them.

Winning has nothing to do with it. Even before their reign began, the Bears were one of the most consistent teams in Class A, and they upset Rochester for the WPIAL championship in 2006. But strewn throughout their winning streak are mercy-rule victories in conference play, and the rest of the Black Hills has generally not fared well in the playoffs in recent years. That’s what holds them back in MaxPreps’ case.

In the meantime, the outlook for Central Catholic to continue its success is good. Florida State commit and Semper Fidelis All-American QB J.J. Consentino should thrive in Terry Totten’s offense after throwing for 552 yards and three TD’s as a junior and settling down after a transfer from Kiski Area. Luigi Lista-Brinza, a 900-yard rusher as a junior, should solidify that group.

Plus, top Northern Eight finishers North Allegheny and Seneca Valley each have lost about 30 seniors, including the bulk of their respective offenses.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)