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December 10, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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Gateway football to move to Class AAA


Gateway football won’t ask to remain in Class AAAA.

Today was the decision deadline for PIAA teams that wanted to “play up” in classification for the new two-year cycle. Gateway, a current Quad-A program whose enrollment has fallen, will accept next season’s move to Class AAA football, said athletic director Randy Rovesti.

“It really wasn’t much of an issue,” he said. “I think some of the kids would have preferred staying Quad, but we looked at the (enrollment) numbers. There’s nothing that indicates we’ll be a Quad-A school in the future.”

Gateway reached the WPIAL championship game four times in the past decade. The Gators were 8-3 this season and lost to eventual champion Central Catholic, 27-21, in the quarterfinals.

A comprehensive list of enrollments and classifications for all sports teams was scheduled for release this week by the PIAA.

— Chris Harlan


December 8, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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Central Catholic’s semifinal win was ‘special’


Central Catholic’s semifinal win was special in more ways than one.

Led by punt returner Johnny Petrishen, a strong special-teams effort was instrumental in Saturday’s 45-0 victory over Lower Dauphin in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs. A 68-yard touchdown by Petrishen stood out, but Central had solid field position all afternoon thanks to its punt-return and punt-rush. 

After forcing five first-half punts, Central Catholic started drives at Lower Dauphin’s 47-, 21-, 18- and 26-yard lines and another at Central’s 40-yard line. Four of the five short-field situations led to touchdowns.

They weren’t all set up by long returns; a second-quarter scenario saw Lower Dauphin punter Adam Domovitch fumble away the ball while hurrying to beat an oncoming rush. 

But Petrishen, a 6-foot-2 junior defensive back, returned three punts for 138 combined yards. His touchdown came with 5:36 in the third quarter when he followed his blockers along the right sideline.

“Coach (Ron) Fuchs, our special teams coach, designs it up,” Petrishen said. “We just have a wall (of blockers) and sometimes I don’t even have to make a move to make someone miss. I just run right up the sideline. That makes my job easy and makes me look good at the same time.”

Petrishen also returned a first-quarter punt 54 yards to the 21-yard line. But he likely covered the most turf minutes later on a daring 16-yarder that reversed direction twice. Despite sprinting side to side, he eventually reached Lower Dauphin’s 18-yard line.     

“It seemed like I was running forever,” Petrishen said with a laugh, “and my legs about died on me. I got heck when I got over to the sideline. Some people said I was doing a little bit too much out there. But it was a lot of fun.”

Senior kicker Mitchell MacZura added to a strong special-teams day by making a 28-yard field goal and six extra points. MacZura was more active than Lower Dauphin’s Joe Julius, one of the state’s best kickers. Julius booted the opening kickoff through the end zone for a touchback, but that was his only action.  


Central Catholic (15-0) will face Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep (12-2), the District 12 champion, at 6 p.m. Saturday, in the Class AAAA state final at Hersheypark Stadium.

In Class AAA, District 12’s Archbishop Wood (12-2) plays District 3’s Bishop McDevitt (14-1) at 7 p.m., Friday. In Class AA, South Fayette (15-0) plays District 12′s Imhotep Charter (14-1) at noon, Saturday. In Class A, North Catholic (15-0) plays District 2’s Old Forge (14-1) at 1 p.m. Friday.

– Chris Harlan


December 6, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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PIAA postpones semifinal football games


Four PIAA semifinal football games scheduled for Friday have been postponed until Saturday afternoon because of the impending inclement weather forecast.
Locally, that means Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic will now play Clarion at noon at DuBois Area High School.
The other Class A game featuring Old Forge and Steelton-Highspire will now be played Saturday at 4 p.m. at Harmon Geist Stadium
in Hazelton.
In Class AAA, Archbishop Wood and Berwick will meet at 5 p.m. at Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown.
Bishop McDevitt will square off with Erie Cathedral Prep at 5 p.m. at DuBois.
All tickets are $8 at the gate.
South Fayette’s 1 p.m. Class AA game against Hickory at Slippery Rock University was unchanged. Same for Central Catholic’s 1 p.m. Quad-A tilt with Lower Dauphin at Altoona High School.
—Jason Mackey


December 5, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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Midland Leopards returning to the court … sort of


The storied Midland Leopards will return to the basketball court, at least for one day.

Lincoln Park’s boys basketball team will wear 1960s-era replica Midland uniforms when facing Steelton-Highspire in the C.J. Betters Holiday Classic on Dec. 27, said athletic director and assistant coach Mike Bariski. The contest will rematch the 1965 state championship game won by Midland, 90-61. The tournament game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at the Community College of Beaver County.

“We are going to be the Midland-Lincoln Park Leopards,” Bariski said. “We copied the old warmups and jerseys. Obviously they’re going to be bigger, but they’re exact replicas.”

The 1965 Midland team starred the late Norm Van Lier and Simmie Hill, who died in July. Van Lier died in 2009. Surviving members of that 28-0 team, considered one of the best high school teams ever, will be invited back to be honored, Bariski said.

Midland, which closed its high school in 1987, also celebrated state titles in 1971, ’73, ’74 and ’76. Lincoln Park, a performing arts charter school, was built where Midland’s high school once stood.

–Chris Harlan


December 5, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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Hoops rankings galore


High school basketball season gets under way Friday night in Western Pennsylvania, and Thursday marks our final edition of previews for the eight WPIAL classifications in boys and girls hoops. Friday’s papers will have a look at the Pittsburgh City League and District 6 Heritage Conference.

Here’s a look at the rankings for each class, as well as the state rankings for boys basketball.

To check out previews for each classification, complete with players to watch and section breakdowns, visit


Class AAAA

1. Hampton (22-6)

2. New Castle (29-1)

3. Gateway (16-7)

4. Fox Chapel (17-7)

5. Hempfield (17-6)

6. Central Catholic (16-6)

7. Upper St. Clair (20-4)

8. North Allegheny (22-5)

9. Bethel Park (17-6)

10. Norwin (13-10)

Class AAA

1. Elizabeth Forward (12-11)

2. Chartiers Valley (24-5)

3. Indiana (17-7)

4. Central Valley (16-7)

5. Uniontown (17-4)

6. Thomas Jefferson (17-8)

7. Montour (25-5)

8. West Mifflin (16-6)

9. Mars (21-5)

10. Freeport (9-10)

Class AA

1. Beaver Falls (28-3)

2. Greensburg C.C. (23-3)

3. Seton-La Salle (21-3)

4. Jeannette (18-6)

5. Sto-Rox (14-9)

6. Quaker Valley (20-6)

7. Neshannock (17-6)

8. Serra (13-9)

9. Charleroi (14-7)

10. Washington (17-7)

Class A

1. Lincoln Park (22-7)

2. Vincentian (26-2)

3. OLSH (19-5)

4. North Catholic (16-7)

5. Monessen (10-14)

6. Clairton (17-8)

7. Carmichaels (17-5)

8. Sewickley Academy (8-13)

9. Wilkinsburg (13-10)

10. Imani Christian (11-7)


Class AAAA

1. North Allegheny (20-4)

2. Gateway (21-6)

3.  Fox Chapel (18-6)

4. Mt. Lebanon (24-4)

5. Plum (17-6)

6. Hempfield (19-4)

7. Shaler (11-12)

8. Chartiers Valley (22-8)

9. Baldwin (11-12)

10. Bethel Park (23-4)

Class AAA

1. Blackhawk (27-2)

2. South Park (28-2)

3. Elizabeth Forward (24-4)

4. Central Valley (18-6)

5. West Mifflin (10-13)

6. Hampton (18-7)

7. Mars (15-8)

8. Indiana (16-8)

9. Hopewell (22-5)

10. Greensburg Salem (16-7)

Class AA

1. Seton-La Salle (21-1)

2. Burrell (20-2)

3. McGuffey (19-2)

4. Beaver (16-4)

5. Greensburg C.C. (16-6)

6. OLSH (18-4)

7. Neshannock (11-11)

8. Bishop Canevin (18-4)

9. Carlynton (12-10)

10. Jeannette (15-6)

Class A

1. Vincentian (29-2)

2. Serra (24-4)

3. St. Joseph (11-13)

4. North Catholic (15-11)

5. Quigley (18-7)

6. Wichester Thurston (13-10)

7. Carmichaels (13-9)

8. Rochester (12-12)

9. Avella (13-9)

10. Cornell (12-11)




No.  School                                          Rec    Pvs

1.     Roman Catholic (12)                19-7    NR

2.     Chester (1)                                  28-4      2

3.     Lower Merion (1)                     30-3      1

4.     Hampton (7)                              22-6    NR

5.     New Castle (7)                           29-1      4

6.     Great Valley (1)                         28-4    NR

7.     Pennsbury (1)                            15-8   NR

8.     Harrisburg (3)                           28-3      3

9.     York (3)                                       27-4    10

10.  Fox Chapel (7)                            17-7   NR

Honorable mention: Coatesville (1) 24-8, Gateway (7) 16-7, Hempfield (7) 17-6, Martin Luther King (12) 24-5, McCaskey (3) 26-4, Parkland (11) 22-8, St. Joseph’s Prep (12) 24-6.



No.  School                                             Rec     Pvs

1.     Archbishop Carroll  (12)            23-7        4

2.     Neumann-Goretti (12)               23-6        3

3.     Imhotep Charter (12)                 28-5        1

4.     Allentown Central Cath (11)    24-4      10

5.     Berks Catholic (3)                        26-4        6

6.     Chartiers Valley (7)                     24-5        9

7.     Susquehanna Twp (3)                25-5      NR

8.     Bishop McDevitt (3)                    19-8      NR

9.     Abington Heights (2)                  27-3        8

10.   Elizabeth Forward (7)               12-11   NR

Honorable mention: Archbishop Wood (12) 14-10, Bethlehem Catholic (11) 13-12, Central Valley (7) 16-7, Girard (10) 21-6, Indiana (7) 17-7, Montour (7) 25-5, Uniontown (7) 17-4.



No.  School                                                 Rec    Pvs

1.     Constitution (12)                            18-10      9

2.     Beaver Falls (7)                                28-3        1

3.     Greensburg Central Cath (7)        23-3     10

4.     Trinity (3)                                           21-8       4

5.     Loyalsock (4)                                     26-4       5

6.     Seton-La Salle (7)                             21-3    NR

7.     Lewisburg (4)                                   23-5        8

8.     Jeannette (7)                                     18-6    NR

9.     West Middlesex (10)                       25-4       3

10.   Quaker Valley (7)                            20-6     NR

Honorable mention: Bishop McCort (6) 19-9, Fairview (10) 13-9, Holy Cross (2) 27-6, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 18-9, Neshannock (7) 17-6, Sto-Rox (7) 14-9, Wellsboro (4) 23-3.



No.  School                                                   Rec    Pvs

1.     Math, Civics & Sciences (12)           26-3       2

2.     Lincoln Park (7)                                  22-7       5

3.     Bishop Carroll (6)                               23-6       6

4.     Vincentian (7)                                      26-2       7

5.     Pius X (11)                                            21-4     NR

6.     Johnsonburg (9)                                  30-3       4

7.     St. John Neumann (4)                         24-3    NR

8.     Elk County Catholic (9)                     19-7     NR

9 .    Lebanon Catholic (3)                          18-8    NR

10.   New Hope Academy (3)                    18-6     NR

Honorable mention: Church Farm (1) 23-7, Cochranton (10) 15-8, Kennedy Catholic (10) 17-7, Mahanoy Area (11) 22-6, Marian Catholic (11) 18-6, Monessen (7) 10-14, North Catholic (7) 16-7, Our Lady of Sacred Heart (7) 19-5, Ridgway (9) 23-6, Shade (5) 26-2.


December 1, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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PIAA releases semifinal sites


Three teams from the WPIAL have advanced to the PIAA football semifinals. North Catholic will play Friday night, while South Fayette and Central Catholic each play Saturday. The schedule is below.

PIAA Tournament
Class AAAA
Saturday’s schedule
St. Joe’s Prep (11-2) vs. Neshaminy (13-1) at Northeast High School, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.; Central Catholic (14-0) vs. Lower Dauphin (13-1) at Altoona High School, 1 p.m.

Class AAA
Friday’s schedule
Archbishop Wood (11-2) vs. Berwick (14-0) at Allentown, 7 p.m.; Bishop McDevitt (13-1) vs. Erie Cathedral Prep (13-0) at Clearfield, 7 p.m.

Class AA
Saturday’s schedule
Berks Catholic (14-0) vs. Imhotep (13-1) at Governor Mifflin, 3 p.m.; Hickory (12-1) vs. South Fayette (14-0) at Slippery Rock University, 1 p.m.

Class A
Friday’s schedule
Old Forge (13-1) vs. Steelton-Highspire (12-1) at Hazleton, 7 p.m.; Clarion (14-0) vs. North Catholic (14-0) at DuBois, 7 p.m.


November 25, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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PIAA announces enrollment cutoff figures


Later this week, the PIAA is expected to announce what classification each school district in the state will be slotted in based on the enrollment of current students in grades 9-11 for the next two-year cycle.

The organization mailed the individual school districts of their standing Friday. Some schools received their information Monday.

Below are the final numbers that will be used for each sport:

Boys sports

Baseball: Class A (1-146), AA (147-257), AAA (258-450), AAAA (451 and above).

Boys basketball: Class A (1-125), AA (126-234), AAA (235-411), AAAA (412 and above).

Boys cross country: Class A (1-207), AA (208-399), AAA (400 and above).

Football: Class A (1-174), AA (175-299), AAA (300-492), AAAA (493 and above).

Boys golf: Class AA (1-297), AAA (298 and above).

Boys soccer: Class A (1-213), AA (214-401), AAA (402 and above)

Boys swimming: Class AA (1-409), AAA (410 and above).

Boys tennis: Class AA (1-377), AAA (378 and above).

Boys track and field: Class AA (1-277), AAA (278 and above).

Boys volleyball: Class AA (1-467), AAA (468 and above).

Wrestling: Class AA (1-336), AAA (337 and above).

Girls sports

Girls basketball: Class A (1-125), AA (126-229), AAA (230-403), AAAA (404 and above).

Girls cross country: Class A (1-195), AA (196-384), AAA (385 and above).

Field hockey: Class AA (1-393), AAA (394 and above).

Girls golf: Class AA (1-302), AAA (303 and above).

Girls soccer: Class A (1-213), AA (214-393) and AAA (394 and above).

Softball: Class A (1-146), AA (147-246), AAA (247-444), AAAA (445 and above).

Girls swimming: Class AA (1-392), AAA (393 and above).

Girls tennis: Class AA (1-356), AAA (357 and above).

Girls track and field: Class AA (1-265), AAA (266 and above).

Girls volleyball: Class A (1-173), AA (174-376), AAA (377 and above).



November 24, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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PIAA announces quarterfinal sites/dates/times


The four WPIAL championship teams have learned can set their plans for the weekend after the PIAA announced the sites, times and dates for the football quarterfinals.

In Class AAAA, Central Catholic will play Erie McDowell at 1 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Erie.

In Class AAA, West Allegheny plays Erie Cathedral Prep at 7 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny.

In Class AA, South Fayette will take on Karns City at 1 p.m. Saturday at Clarion University.

In Class A, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic plays Tussey Mountain at 7 p.m. Friday at Hampton.

For a complete list of PIAA matchups, visit


November 12, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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Extras from an emotional day in Sharon


Lost in the snow, the last-second win and everything else associated with Girard’s 22-19 victory over Sharon last night was a poignant moment between two players.

On opposing teams.

Who had never met.

On one side, Girard quarterback Joe Dunn had thrown the game-winning touchdown pass to Bryan Divido with 13.3 seconds left to deal a crushing loss to an emotionally crushed Sharon team.

On the other was Troy Hejazi, the Sharon player who was dropped off 20 minutes before Friday’s fatal accident that killed his two best friends. Hejazi found out his friends were dead when a police officer knocked on his door while investigating the accident.

Dunn sought out Hejazi, a tight end and linebacker, and tried to console him. Hejazi, who slept in teammate Corey Swartz’s No. 9 jersey Sunday night then wore it for the game, cried, as many did.

“Honestly, it brought me to tears — and I don’t even know the kid,” Dunn said. “They had some heart to come out and play today with that tragic accident.”

Here’s Girard coach Jim Funk on Dunn’s gesture:

“We preach character, but it’s one thing to preach it and another to show it. Our kids are high, high character kids. That impressed me more than any ball he threw tonight.”

After spending the better part of Monday around these guys, I can say with confidence that a lot of us would be better served if we were as strong as these kids from Sharon.

Yes, I know speed was likely a factor in the crash, and the driver of the other vehicle died, too. My point isn’t about that.

It’s about those affected, still in high school, who had to confront yet another tragedy in their lives.

And they did one heck of a job.

—Jason Mackey


November 12, 2013
by Bill Hartlep

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Jeannette decides to move to Class A


A month after the Jeannette School Board voted to keep the football team in Class AA despite a Class A enrollment, the board voted 6-3 Monday to allow all athletic teams to participate in Class A for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

Jeannette football coach Roy Hall and athletic director Matt Lebe asked the board to allow the team to play in Class A, but that was denied during the October meeting.

Fans and supporters, however, signed a petition and gave it to Superintendent Matthew Hutcheson last week to ask the board to reconsider.

Voting for the move were Donna Highlands, Randy Highlands, David Valerio, Mark Gogolsky, Anita Mash and Patricia Caralli. Board President Joe Yorio, Bill Brasco and Moe Lewis voted to keep football in Class AA.

“I’m happy in a way, now the pressure will be on me,” Hall said. “There are very tough teams in Class A. I’m happy they looked at it.”

Hall sent a letter to the board when his team was 3-0. He said it wasn’t because the team finished with five consecutive losses.

“Just because we’re going to Class A, nothing is a given,” Hall said. “There are a lot teams we used to play. There will be some battles.”
–Paul Schofield

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