By Matt Popchock
It’s been a busy week for the fully-recuperated “Mr. High School Sports,” and it’s going to be an even busier weekend throughout the WPIAL and City League, so let’s get right into it, starting, as always, with our “UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Game of the Week” on 93-7 The Fan:
GAME OF THE WEEK:
CHARTIERS VALLEY COLTS (3-0, 4-1) AT THOMAS JEFFERSON JAGUARS (3-0, 3-2)
(CLASS AAA, BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE)
THOMAS JEFFERSON STADIUM, THOMAS JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL
Pre-game coverage with MSA Sports’ Don Rebel begins at 6:00 on 93.7 The Fan; kickoff at 7:30 with Matt Vandriak on play-by-play, Bob Orkwis on color commentary
This is the first time in a while that TJ’s supremacy in the conference might actually be threatened. The Jaguars haven’t lost a Big Eight Conference game since 2005, when the Big Eight was the Big Seven and West Mifflin beat them in the regular season finale, but the Colts have played some inspired football, and unlike years past, Chartiers Valley quarterback Wayne Capers will play at full health. He’s thrown for six TD’s, connecting on 52% of his passes for 566 yards, and accumulated over 900 total yards of offense. Furthermore, the Jaguars have been playing more underclassmen on defense than usual, though with Quad-A Woodland Hills and Baldwin having been on their schedule, at least they’re a battle-tested bunch. Still, they’ve played hard, and have allowed a conference-low 14.6 points per game. TJ needs to contain Capers with its big linemen and athletic defensive ends, and out-tough the Colts with its own ground attack, led by Ryan Ruffing, who averages nearly ten yards per carry, and leads the Jaguars with 569 yards on the ground and a team-best seven touchdowns.
Check out our live in-game blog from Thomas Jefferson High School Friday night!
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
McKeesport (2-0, 4-1) at Penn-Trafford (3-0, 5-0) (7:30) – The Warriors can really put themselves on the inside track to their first conference crown since 2001 in the ROOT Sports “McDonald’s High School Football” Game of the Week, seen at 7:30 (replay at 11:00 P.M. Friday), if they can tame the new-look Tigers. Don’t look now, but a McKeesport quarterback actually tops the charts in Class AAAA, as Ed Stockett has thrown for 1,055 yards and 11 TD’s against just three interceptions, while completing 59% of his attempts. Penn-Trafford defended the pass pretty well against Gateway, and if that’s the case again, McKeesport needs to put the ball in the hands of Donte Patterson, who has run for 624 yards, averaging well over ten per carry, and scored seven TD’s. The focal point of the Tigers’ defense will be Penn-Trafford tailback Manny Simpson, the second-leading rusher in the WPIAL with 926 yards and ten TD’s, averaging almost nine yards per rush. If he’s on his game, the visitors will have their hands full all night.
(PROGRAMMING NOTE: In case you hadn’t heard, ROOT Sports announced its Week 7 telecast will be a Quad-A non-conference matchup between Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Gateway. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30.)
GREAT SOUTHERN CONFERENCE:
Mount Lebanon (1-0, 3-2) at Baldwin (0-1, 3-2) (7:30) – This is a true battle of braun in Quad-A, as two of the premier tailbacks in their classification square off, and for the Highlanders, it’s also a battle to stay within themselves and overcome last week’s crushing mercy-rule defeat at the hands of Upper St. Clair at Panther Stadium. Luke Hagy has torched opposing defense for 888 rushing yards on the year and 13 TD’s to lead the Blue Devils, and with him averaging over seven per carry, he’s rapidly approaching the 4,000-career-yard plateau. Brown, who was held in check for most of that Week 5 contest, will try to build upon his 6.5-per-carry average, and he enters Week 6 with 732 yards and seven TD’s. Lebo’s Pat Goff throws sparingly, and Baldwin hasn’t been airing it out much with its multiple-set, multiple-quarterback offense, though if one team can throw just enough to open up breathing room for the run, it could have an advantage.
GREATER ALLEGHENY CONFERENCE:
Knoch (2-0, 5-0) at Indiana (3-0, 5-0) (7:30) – This one will almost feel like you’re watching Wimbledon, because you’ll be turning your head side to side every second of the way to follow the action. Both teams are stacked offensively, which should make Friday night’s battle for first place perhaps the most entertaining game played within the GAC since Mars beat the Knights for last year’s crown on a Saturday afternoon in Week 9. Little Indians quarterback Logan Weaver is nearing 1,000 all-purpose yards, and he’s already got 624 in the air to complement his 13 TD passes. His counterpart, Ky Kenyon, has scored 12 total TD’s and can also sling the rock while mixing in big plays on his feet, but the true test for Indiana may be whether it can find an answer for Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin, who has racked up 561 rushing yards and ten touchdowns on the season.
Central Valley (3-0, 5-0) at Montour (2-1, 4-1) (7:10) – By virtue of being the only team with an unblemished record in perhaps the best conference in the WPIAL, the defending Class AAA champs can serve notice they are the Parkway’s clear-cut favorite, and the silver-medalist Spartans can serve notice that their Week 2 hiccup against Hopewell, coupled with last week’s scare against New Castle, were the wake-up calls they needed. The x-factor will be Julian Durden, who does a lot of damage with a little bit of carries; he has recently joined the 4,000-career-rushing-yard club, which is elite company in these parts. He’s got 836 yards on the year and ranks third in the WPIAL in total scoring with 16 TD’s. Still, if the Warriors contain him, it keeps the door open for QB Dillon Buechel, one of the best in the district, so Curtis Lewis, who has thrown for 425 yards and eight TD’s, while completing 65% of his passes, needs to counter-punch with big plays of his own, and set the table for Central Valley’s running game.
Steel Valley (1-2, 3-2) at Washington (2-1, 3-2) (7:30) – It’s time to take the Little Prexies seriously after two convincing wins over two solid programs within the conference, and if you’re going to this one, you’ll be treated to some old-school western Pennsylvania football, as two of the top running backs in Class AA go head-to-head. Dontez Williams, the younger brother of former Steel Valley great Delrece Williams, leads the Ironmen and ranks fourth in the WPIAL entering Friday with 904 yards on the ground, averaging over ten per tote, and 15 total touchdowns, making him also the fourth-leading overall scorer in the district. Shai MacKenzie leads the charge for Washington with 557 yards and nine total TD’s, averaging nearly seven yards per carry, and he’s coming off an impressive 100-yard, three-touchdown effort against Keystone Oaks.
Aliquippa (3-0, 5-0) at Ellwood City (3-1, 4-1) (7:30) – I don’t normally do this, but I must admit, my reasons for showcasing this game are largely based on personal amusement. Ellwood City receiver Devon Siegfried is the nephew of Pittsburgh Power head coach Chris Siegfried, and Coach promised us if Ellwood City wins, Power players Mike Washington and Josh Lay, both former stars at Aliquippa, have to wear Ellwood City gear to training camp. There’s just one small problem: the Wolverines have never beaten the MAC front-runners. Ellwood’s hopes rest on the shoulders of multi-faceted Kyle Crawford, one of the top rushers in Class AA with 777 yards, and one of the top scorers in the WPIAL with 15 TD’s. But the Quips allow just 11 points per game, and they have a double-barrelled attack led by Mikal Hall, the second-ranked QB in the classification, who has completed 60% of his passes for 775 yards and nine TD’s, and can spread the ball around.
Monessen (4-0, 4-1) at Beth-Center (5-0, 5-0) (7:30) – The message sent by the Bulldogs last week was heard loud and clear, so we’re fairly certain that if they can survive this Tri-County South test, probably their toughest of the season, the conference title is ultimately theirs. Sal Faieta, who has completed 56% of his attempts for 546 yards and 11 TD’s against just two interceptions, will try to bomb the Greyhounds’ defense early and often, and he’ll make his share of plays. Monessen’s objective is to keep him and Cody Durant, who has racked up 11 TD’s on the year, out of the end zone. The Hounds will try to do what California failed to in Week 5 and out-muscle Beth-Center with tailback Jalen Madison, who has rumbled for 546 yards and ten TD’s, averaging well over five yards a pop.
North Catholic (3-1, 4-1) at Avonworth (4-1, 4-1) (7:30) – In this conference, as the wise man once said, the race to the postseason in this conference is never truly over till it’s over, but whoever wins Friday will earn a leg up going into the home stretch. The ‘Lopes will try to overpower the Trojans with their running game, so they need Ricky Lawniczak, who has run for over 500 yards and scored seven TD’s, while averaging nearly nine yards per attempt, to control the tempo. Avonworth also needs to find ways to stop dual-threat quarterback Brandt Gribbin, who has amassed over 1,000 all-purpose yards, including 700 in the air, and 12 total TD’s. Conversely, if North Catholic can make Avonworth throw, that’s a lot of pressure on Brian Vales to be more consistent.
Perry (3-0, 3-2) at Allderdice (2-1, 2-3) (7:00) – The Dice rolled to an easy win last weekend to set themselves up for this important matchup at Cupples Stadium, which will go a long way toward deciding the playoff picture. Whichever team best protects the ball likely has the edge; Perry quarterback Darrell Carson leads the City League with 613 yards passing and seven TD’s, but has also thrown five picks. The Commodores need to focus on containing tailback Patrick Ferguson, the spark plug of the Dragons’ offense.
Once again, be sure to check out the “Mr. High School Sports” blog on 937thefan.com for more Week 6 coverage, and tune into “The UPMC Centers for Rehab Services High School Football Show,” brought to you by ROOT Sports and hosted by John Phillips, Saturday at 7:00 A.M. on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan for a complete recap of Friday’s action!
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)