iPreps

#iPreps, #TribHS

November 22, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

#TribHS football: WPIAL Championships recap

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Trib Cover

quad a page

Pine-Richland tops defending champion Central Catholic to capture first WPIAL Quad A title, by Paul Schofield.

WPIAL Class AAAA notebook: Pine-Richland has titles in three classifications, by George Guido.

WPIAL Class AAAA photo gallery

class aaa page

Central Valley beats rival West Allegheny to win Class AAA, by Chris Harlan.

WPIAL Class AAA notebook: Central Valley to face another merger in PIAA playoffs, by George Guido.

WPIAL Class AAA photo gallery

class aa page

South Fayette again defeats Aliquippa to defend Class AA title, by Bill West.

And this…

November 22, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

WPIAL Class AAA LIVE blog

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WPIAL Class AAA scoreboard

FINAL SCORE: Central Valley 35, West Allegheny 28

FOURTH QUARTER

Whitehead now has nine carries for 79 yards and a touchdown and six receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns. That’s 258 yards and three scores on 15 touches, an average of 17.2 yards per.

West Allegheny has a championship-caliber drive that sees Stephens convert a fourth-and-2 at the CV 7, then score on a 3-yard run to tie it at 28-28 with 2:28 remaining.

Central Valley uses an 18-yard run by George to get into West Allegheny territory, then a 13-yard pass to Shively to get the ball to the 20. There’s 24 seconds left. After a penalty pushes Central Valley back 5 yards, the Warriors’ George throws a 23-yard touchdown pass to BJ Powell and take a 35-28 lead with 19 seconds left.

After the kickoff, West Allegheny takes over at its 31 with 11 seconds remaining.

On first down, Koester completes a pass to the CV 48.

But on the next play, linebacker Skyler Cron sacks Koester to seal the 35-28 victory.

THIRD QUARTER

Jordan Whitehead is putting on quite a show.

The Central Valley star has seven carries for 78 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown run, and four receptions for 127 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown catch. That’s 11 offensive touches for 205 yards total offense. The Pitt cornerback recruit also has two tackles.

A turning-point play? West Allegheny’s Sean Orsini intercepts a George pass and returns it to the Central Valley 20 with 5:31 remaining in the third. The Indians respond with a 14-yard run by Terence Stephens for a first-and-goal from the 6, then followed with a TD run by Dillon. DJ Opsatnik’s point-after try is good, and the game is now tied at 21-21 with 4:54 left in the third.

After falling behind, 21-0, the momentum has shifted to West Allegheny’s favor in a big way.

West Allegheny’s defense comes up several big stops, and Justin Keast partially blocks a punt that lands at the Central Valley 27. The Indians attempt a 43-yard field goal by Opsatnik, who was 3 for 3 in the title game last year, but it is blocked by Joey Shively.

The Warriors take full advantage, faking a handoff to Preston Johnson and dumping a screen pass to Whitehead, who slipped two defenders, ducked another tackle and spun off Ryan Cunningham and accelerated for a 55-yard touchdown to give Central Valley a 28-21 lead with 1:42 left in the third quarter. In all, Whitehead made five players miss on his way to the end zone.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Central Valley 28, West Allegheny 21

SECOND QUARTER

Last year, Whitehead had three carries for 13 yards and one reception for 18 yards — a total of 18 yards total offense — against West Allegheny in the WPIAL final. This year, Whitehead had two carries for 16 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 122 yards and another score IN THE FIRST QUARTER.

George, by the way, is off to a great start. He’s 4 for 4 for 174 yards and two TDs. The last time I saw a quarterback so efficient in the WPIAL finals? West Allegheny’s Tyler Palko, who was 6 of 6 for 136 yards and three TDs against West Mifflin in 2000.

West Allegheny is back in this game, by the way. The Indians just completed a 73-yard bomb from Andrew Koester to Tyler Amedure to the Central Valley 2. On the next play, Dillon scores to cut it to 21-14 with 6:37 left in the half.

West Allegheny drove into Central Valley territory, but the Indians were stopped on a fourth-down attempt. The Warriors had the ball near midfield in the final seconds and Whitehead broke free to the right sideline but was knocked out of bounds near the 25.

HALFTIME: Central Valley 21, West Allegheny 14

FIRST QUARTER

After stopping West Allegheny on the opening drive, Central Valley takes an early lead on a 15-yard run by Pitt recruit Jordan Whitehead for a 7-0 edge with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter.

Central Valley turns to Whitehead again, this time on a pass from Johnny George that Whitehead turns into a 73-yard touchdown to give the Warriors a 14-0 lead with 4:32 left.

West Allegheny is in trouble. Central Valley scores again, this time on a 48-yard pass from George to B.J. Powell on a post pattern for a 21-0 lead with 2:15 left in the first. If West Allegheny is going to win, it can’t rely strictly on the run.

As fireworks erupted in the distance, West Allegheny created its own. The Indians scored on a 1-yard run by Chayse Dillon with 10 seconds left in the first quarter and cut it to 21-7.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: Central Valley 21, West Allegheny 7.

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November 21, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

WPIAL Class AA Championship LIVE blog

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WPIAL Class AA scoreboard

FINAL SCORE: South Fayette 31, Aliquippa 22

FOURTH QUARTER

After three quarters, Brumbaugh has completed 20 of 28 passes for 313 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. He entered the WPIAL Class AA final with 10,293 career yards, second in state history to Port Allegany’s Matt Bodamer (10,948).

If South Fayette wins, Brumbaugh has a chance to break the state career passing yards mark next week.

And South Fayette’s chance of winning just improved, as the Lions got a 36-yard field goal from Dan Trimbur to increase their lead to 31-14 with 6:29 remaining.

From the South Fayette 34, Fields completes a pass to Patrick Anderson for a first-and-goal at the 2. McGinnis, who transferred from Ambridge at mid-season, scores to cut it to 31-20 with 3:59 remaining.

The Quips, as usual, are going for two.

McGinnis takes a direct snap and sneaks in for the two-point conversion, making it 31-22.

That makes Trimbur’s field goal even more important, as the Lions have the luxury of a nine-point lead.

McGinnis, who has quickly become a do-it-all player for the Quips, kicked it onsides and recovered at the South Fayette 47 with 3:59 left. Fields then completes a pass to McGinnis for a 9-yard gain and a first down at the Lions’ 35. Fields then finds Jordan along the visiting sideline for a 6-yard gain to the 29.

But Beltz comes up with a huge sack for a 5-yard loss to create a third-and-9. Andrew Gedrys drops Fields for a 6-yard loss to force a fourth-and-15 from the 40 and for the Quips to take a timeout.

Here’s the pivotal play: Fields throws deep on the right sideline for Anderson, but Relihan breaks it up and forces a turnover on downs. South Fayette takes possession at its own 40 with about two minutes left.

Hayes uses some nifty footwork near the sideline to stay in bounds and cut back for a 25-yard gain and a first down. That should do it for South Fayette, which has Brumbaugh taking a knee.

THIRD QUARTER

South Fayette opened the second half by botching Aliquippa’s kickoff, then delivered a dagger.

Nick Ponikvar caught a pass from Brumbaugh along the home sideline and raced 86 yards for a touchdown, giving the Lions a 21-6 lead. Darrien Fields was in pursuit, but stumbled and stopped briefly. That

Aliquippa compounded matters by fumbling on its next possession, and South Fayette has the ball inside the Quips’ 20. But Brumbaugh threw an interception under duress, picked off by Kaezon Pugh at the 10.

Brumbaugh connected with Jack Relihan for a touchdown pass and 28-6 lead with 2:07 left in the third, but Aliquippa answered with a 58-yard pass to Stephon McGinnis with 34 seconds left. The Quips converted the two-point conversion on a pass to Thomas Perry to cut it to 28-14.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: South Fayette 28, Aliquippa 14

SECOND QUARTER

Brumbaugh opens the second quarter with a 19-yard pass to tight end Logan Sharp, who outleaps Sheldon Jeter to make the catch at the Aliquippa 48.

South Fayette made what appeared to be a big pass play on a second-and-17 at the Quips’ 42 when Brumbaugh threw off his back foot and found Sharp, who spun and made a diving catch. But Sharp was called for offensive pass interference, drawing a 15-yard penalty, for pushing off Fields.

On the very next play, the Quips were called for defensive pass interference, giving the Lions the ball back at Aliquippa’s 42. South Fayette went for the jugular, throwing to Trimbur, but it was broken up by Jassir Jordan.

On a third-and-10 at the Aliquippa 22, Brumbaugh connected with Trimbur for a 9-yard gain to set up a fourth-and-1. J.J. Walker, however, was stopped short on fourth down, giving the Quips possession at their own 14 with 52 seconds remaining in the half.

FIRST QUARTER

South Fayette running back Hunter Hayes goes left, then makes a dazzling cut to score on a 46-yard run to give the Lions a 7-0 lead at 8:33 of the first quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Aliquippa QB Darrien Fields throws an interception — picked off by linebacker Brett Beltz. Brett Brumbaugh connects on a long throw to Nick Ponikvar to set up his 13-yard touchdown pass to Dan Trimbur.

Just like that, South Fayette leads, 14-0, at 6:12 of the first quarter.

The Quips turned to their ground game, rotating their running backs to drive downfield. On a second-and-5 at the South Fayette 6, Anthony Barton rumbled for a touchdown to cut it to 14-6 with five seconds left in the first quarter. Kaezon Pugh’s two-point run was stopped short by Zach Radinik and Jason Massey-Sears.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: South Fayette 14, Aliquippa 6

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November 21, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

WPIAL Class AAAA Championship LIVE blog

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WPIAL Class AAAA scoreboard

FINAL SCORE: Pine-Richland 21, Central Catholic 13

FOURTH QUARTER

Central turned to its best player, Petrishen, in the wildcat and answered with a scoring drive of its own. Petrishen scored on a 5-yard run to cut it to 14-7.

Now, out of character, Pine-Richland is slowing down its hurry-up offense and trying to take time off the clock. The Rams still aren’t using a huddle but they are stalling between plays and then running the ball behind Slomka.

But on fourth-and-5 at the Central 47, the Rams line up like they’re going for. They don’t draw Central offsides, so DiNucci pooches a punt to the Vikings’ 9.

With a third-and-15 at its 14 with 2:04 remaining, Central calls timeout.

Petrishen takes a shotgun snap and throws to the left sideline toward Damar Hamlin, but Gastion breaks up the pass to force fourth down. Mitchell MacZura lined up deep in punt formation, but Petrishen took a direct snap and handed off to Hamlin. Pine-Richland didn’t fall for it, stopping Hamlin near the line of scrimmage.

That play right there shows you the importance of a quarterback in this sport.

After a couple runs by Slomka, DiNucci runs a bootleg and scores on a 6-yard run for a 21-7 lead.

If Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz’s reaction was any indication — he raised both arms on the sideline — that should clinch the Rams’ first WPIAL championship as a Quad-A school. Kasperowicz also joins an exclusive club of men who have won WPIAL football titles as a player and head coach. He was the quarterback on North Hills’ WPIAL and PIAA champs in 1993.

Frerotte throws a last-gasp touchdown pass to tight end Graham Adomitis as time expired to cut it to 21-13, so no extra-point kick was necessary.

THIRD QUARTER

PTR-WPIAL-AAAA02-112214

Pine-Richland’s Michael Merhaut

DiNucci led the Rams on a scoring drive to open the half, capitalizing on a Central facemask penalty to set up a first-and-goal at the 6. On second down, DiNucci flipped a shovel pass to Michael Merhaut for a 6-yard touchdown. Adam Napotnik’s kick gave Pine-Richland a 7-0 lead at 10:24 of the third quarter.

Central responds with a good kickoff return by Bryan Glover and Petrishen picking up a pivotal first down on third-and-2 at the P-R 29. The Vikings, however, followed a 5-yard loss with a dead-ball personal foul that took them back to the 43 and were forced to punt.

The Rams followed with another long drive, highlighted by Slomka’s 27-yard run to the Central 25 and a pair of pass interference penalties. On a first-and-10 at the 12, Joseph Joy fumbled and it was recovered by Central’s Romello Broughton. But there was an inadvertent whistle by an official, which forced a replay of the down. Just like that, a big break for Central turned into a big break for Pine-Richland.

Pine-Richland took full advantage, with D’Ondre Gastion throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to DiNucci to give the Rams a 14-0 advantage with 2:51 left in the third quarter. It has to go down as the biggest officiating blunder in a WPIAL championship game since the 2011 Quad-A final between North Allegheny and Upper St. Clair.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Pine-Richland 14, Central Catholic 0.

SECOND QUARTER

My apologies for not having the live blog going for the first half, but I was reporting for my column for Saturday’s paper and didn’t get back to the press box until the final minute.

I called for a shootout in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship between Central Catholic and Pine-Richland.

So, of course, it’s a scoreless tie.

PTR-WPIAL-AAAA04-112214

Central’s Johnny Petrishen

Central has Johnny Petrishen playing quarterback for the second consecutive week, and the Vikings have the ball at the Pine-Richland 32 with 14 seconds left. On first down, Petrishen pitched it to Gunnar Frerotte, but his pass into the end zone fell short of his intended target. On second down, Frerotte was sacked.

Safe to say, not what we expected.

HALFTIME: Central Catholic 0, Pine-Richland 0.

At the half, Petrishen led all rushers with 67 yards on 15 carries, while Ronnie Jones added 39 yards on five carries and Vinny Emmanuele had 33 on six carries. Pine-Richland’s Ben DiNucci completed 7 of 13 passes for 87 yards with an interception (by David Adams), while Connor Slomka ran for 25 yards on seven carries.

Central outgained Pine-Richland, 136-109, in total offense, had 10 first downs to the Rams’ six and had a 9:32 edge in time of possession (16:46 to 7:14).

PTR-WPIAL-AAAA03-112214

Central’s Vinny Emanuele

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November 21, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

WPIAL Class A Championship LIVE blog

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WPIAL Class A scoreboard

FINAL SCORE: Clairton 46, Avonworth 14

Clairton wins its sixth WPIAL Class A championship in seven years and seventh in nine years. The Bears now have 11 WPIAL titles, which ties New Castle for second-most in WPIAL history, behind Aliquippa (15).

FOURTH QUARTER

PTR-WPIAL-A-08-112214

Pitt star Tyler Boyd wearing his Clairton letterman jacket while cheering the Bears

The ‘Lopes ended the third quarter with a 6-yard pass to Paul Heflin to set up a third-and-4 at the 37. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Drwal hit a streaking Cole Jenkins for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Cole Pappas made the point-after try to cut it to 34-14 with 11:51 remaining.

After Wasko threw a fullback option for a big gain last week, the ‘Lopes try it again. This one draws a pass interference penalty on Clairton, giving Avonworth a first down at its 48.

Avonworth recovers a Clairton fumble, but the ‘Lopes are stopped short on fourth-and-8 at the Bears’ 40.

Wade records his third interception, which sets up a 29-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Hines to give the Bears a 40-14 lead over Avonworth with 5:42 remaining.

Clairton’s Harrison Dreher with a pick-6. He picks off Drwal and returns it 55 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 46-3 lead with 4:35 left.

Lamont Wade intercepts his fourth pass of the game with two minutes left to seal it.

THIRD QUARTER

Williams, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 183 yards in the first half, starts hot by connecting on a pair of passes before his swing pass to Wade went for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 34-7 lead.

Avonworth went deep into Clairton territory, but Mathews intercepts a Drwal pass and returns it to the Bears’ 23 at 6:27 of the third quarter.

Another Avonworth drive in Clairton territory ends with a pick, this one after a Drwal pass is tipped by Dreher and lands in the hands of Wade with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter. Getting behind has hurt Avonworth in a big way, given that the ‘Lopes lost top passer Zach Chandler to a leg injury in Week 3 against Brentwood and they have relied mostly upon the run.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Clairton 34, Avonworth 7

SECOND QUARTER

PTR-WPIAL-A07-112214

Lamont Wade carries against Avonworth

STATS UPDATE: After one quarter, Wade has seven carries for 98 yards and a touchdown while Williams is 2 of 3 for 42 yards and a touchdown. Hughley leads Avonworth with 37 yards on four carries and Drwal 35 yards on five carries. The ‘Lopes are 0 for 2 passing, with an interception.

Avonworth goes for it on fourth down again, but Drwal’s pass falls incomplete. The Bears take over at their own 38, and Williams runs a bootleg left 27 yards to the Avonworth 33. Two plays later, Wade fumbles after running into one of his own linemen and the ball takes a high bounce into the hands of Avonworth’s Garrett Day.

Williams makes a spectacular 26-yard touchdown pass and Jamie Hines out-leaps the double coverage of Kurt Niklaus and Cole Jenkins in the back of the end zone. Clairton converts the two-point conversion on a Williams pass to Harrison Dreher for a 20-7 lead at 3:45 of the second quarter.

PTR-WPIAL-A06-112214

Clairton’s Jamie Hines making the catch

Williams is stealing the show, throwing his third touchdown pass — a 36-yarder to Aaron Mathews with 1:16 remaining in the half. Williams then rolls out and runs for the two-point conversion for a 28-7 lead.

PTR-WPIAL-A03-112214

Aaron Mathews celebrates his touchdown

Avonworth takes a shot downfield, but the pass is almost intercepted. The Bears take over at their own 48 with four seconds left in the half. Clairton attempts a hook-and-ladder, with Williams throwing to Hines, who never had control and whose attempted lateral hit the turf.

HALFTIME: Clairton 28, Avonworth 7

FIRST QUARTER

DCIM118GOPRO

Clairton coach Wayne Wade addresses the Bears before the WPIAL Class A final

Josh Drwal

Avonworth quarterback Josh Drwal warms up, with injured Zach Chandler in background

Talking to Clairton coaches before the game, there seemed to be some concern with Avonworth’s size up front.

The Antelopes went for it on fourth-and-9 at the Clairton 37, but Josh Drwal’s lateral was fumbled and recovered by Clairton.

Avonworth has two things to worry about in this game.

One is this scheme:

Wayne Wade III with towel

Wayne Wade III shows off Clairton’s motto

The other is this guy:

Lamont Wade

Clairton RB Lamont Wade

And Lamont Wade delivers the first strike, accelerating through the right side and scoring on a 54-yard run to give the Bears a 6-0 lead at 6:08 of the first quarter. Clairton’s two-point conversion pass failed.

Avonworth answers, as Drwal breaks off a 43-yard run before being pushed out of bounds by Wade at the Clairton 2. On the next play, fullback Brandon Wasko hero of the ‘Lopes semifinal win over defending PIAA champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic — scores on a 2-yard plunge. Avonworth converts the point-after kick and now leads, 7-6, with 4:42 left in the first quarter.

Wade breaks off a 26-yard run to Avonworth territory. After the Bears drew a 5-yard false start penalty, Ryan Williams throws a beautiful bomb to Noah Hamlin for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Clairton tries a halfback option pass with Wade, but it falls incomplete.

PTR-WPIAL-A04-112214

Clairton’s Noah Hamlin makes the catch

Clairton now leads Avonworth, 12-7, with 3:59 remaining in the first quarter.

Wade does it on defense, too, as he picks off a Drwal pass intended for Jamal Hughley while backpedaling, and Clairton takes over at its own 22. On third-and-16 at the Clairton 16, Williams rolls right but when he tries to plant to pass to Aaron Mathews downfield, Williams slips and falls for a 6-yard loss.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: Clairton 12, Avonworth 7.

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November 21, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Highway to Heinz: WPIAL Championships preview

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The WPIAL celebrates a century of crowning football champions Friday with its annual quadruple-header at Heinz Field, and Trib Total Media is celebrating it with a special WPIAL championship edition. The eight-page section reviews the evolution of the WPIAL playoffs, starts the debate over the greatest WPIAL championship teams of all time and previews all four finals. Even better, it will be for sale outside the stadium.

WPIAL COVER

From venues to playoff format, much has changed in 100 years of WPIAL championships, by Chris Harlan.

Which begged us to ask this question: Who’s the best WPIAL championship team ever?

WPIAL top 10 new

The #TribHS staff starts the debate by presenting the WPIAL’s top 10 football championships of all time

But I make the argument that the best WPIAL champion ever is a matter of the heart.

WPIAL CLASS AAAA

Quad A preview

Explosive offense carries Pine-Richland into finals, by Paul Schofield.

Central Catholic has a number in mind:

The Pine-Richland student section secured a real, live mascot:

And it got the attention of a famous alum:

WPIAL CLASS AAA

AAA preview

Plenty of respect between Parkway Conference rivals, by Ed Phillipps.

WPIAL CLASS AA

AA preview

WPIAL final wins over Aliquippa haven’t changed South Fayette’s underdog mentality, by Bill West.

Brett Brumbaugh is reminiscing about the summer:

Meantime, Aliquippa’s Kaezon Pugh has his mind on winter:

November 20, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Highway to Heinz: Central faces ‘phenomenon’

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Central Catholic's Johnny Petrishen

Central Catholic’s Johnny Petrishen

Terry Totten didn’t hide his admiration for Pine-Richland’s hurry-up offense after a 48-28 loss to the Rams in Week 8, even as the Central Catholic coach was scheming to stop it. Totten likened it to preparing for McKeesport’s wishbone and flexbone option.

“It’s unique, as far as I can see,” Totten said. “The flip side was the old McKeesport teams that could 3 yards you to death. You couldn’t get the ball back. This is a completely different end of the spectrum. I’ve been in big games where you take a couple great players out, mainly the tailback. They execute with balance with both running and passing. If you’re not in the right spot, you’re in trouble. They find you in those wrong places.”

So, if Central Catholic faces a ‘phenomenon’ in Pine-Richland, should we expect a shootout between the high-scoring teams?

“You almost have to figure on that,” Totten said. “Answering them score for score is tough to do. We almost did it. You’ve got to be real sharp to do that.”

As Paul Schofield writes, Central’s wildcat with Johnny Petrishen is the wild card . Petrishen moved from receiver to taking direct snaps at quarterback against Penn-Trafford and had a breakout game.

“We’ve had that offense before,” Totten said. “We went to it and it was working. We have to see what transpires Friday, but we certainly will have it ready.”

It also helps that senior Joe Tindal, a three-year starter, returns at cornerback after missing last game with strep throat. And tight end Graham Adomitis, hero of the 2013 WPIAL final, also is back for the Vikings. But Central has its work cut out in trying to stop Rams coach Eric Kasperowicz’s offense.

“I think he’s doing a hell of a job. I think he’s a great coach,” Totten said. “There’s no great secret out there. You have to mix it up. You have to stay a call ahead of them, get them out of their rhythm. They’ve seen it up close and personal. This team is good at getting you to mix up a coverage and blow a coverage. One thing sets up another. … It’s pretty sophisticated.”

There’s no simple answer, except for scoring more in a shootout.

Meantime, Pine-Richland has a problem:

#TribHS PAGE

HS page (3)

The #TribHS highlight reel leads with noting that Shaler’s hockey team thrives in Class AAA, but the big news is that the WPIAL denied Sto-Rox’s request to drop back to Class A in football. That was a rumor going around at the time when Mauro Monz resigned at Carlynton, believing that the Cougars couldn’t cut it in Class AA and that they should drop back down after the season.

KG SHOW PODCAST

Listen to the podcast of the WPIAL football championship edition of The Kevin Gorman Show on TribLIVE Radio, where #TribHS reporters Chris Harlan and Bill West joined me on Wednesday to break down the games in all four classifications. (The show normally is on from 2-3 p.m. on Fridays):

HITTING THE LINKS

Karns City football

Karns City’s Collin Dunmyre (middle) runs for an 83-yard touchdown against St. Marys during last week’s District 9 Class AA championship game

Karns City, Chestnut Ridge set for third straight PIAA football clash, by Matt Grubba.

Gateway, Franklin Regional hockey teams renew rivalry, by Michael Love.

Thomas Jefferson senior Allie Yurkovich

Thomas Jefferson’s Allie Yurkovich

Thomas Jefferson girls’ volleyball team flourishing, by Ray Fisher.

Baldwin's Maddi Sgattoni

Baldwin’s Maddi Sgattoni

Baldwin netters land WPIAL accolades, by Ray Fisher.

Fisher: Baldwin’s Vertullo has ‘knack’ for ringing up goals

Burrell's Max Garda

Burrell’s Max Garda

Burrell boys basketball team moves to Class AAA, eager to compete, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Burrell's Sydney Bordonaro

Burrell’s Sydney Bordonaro

Burrell girls work new faces into solid nucleus, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Jen Papich

Jenny Papich was Gannon’s female student-athlete of the year

Fox Chapel grad Papich makes jump into coaching, by Marty Stewart.

Geibel's Brent Plisko

Geibel’s Brent Plisko

With starters back, Geibel boys basketball team expects big improvement, by Jason Black.

RECRUITING

Chartiers Valley D-I signees

Chartiers Valley athletes (from left to right) Drew Damich (West Virginia swimming), Alexa Golden (Kent State basketball), Maria Lohman (North Carolina diving) and Matty McConnell (Robert Morris basketball) signed their letters of intent last week

Four Chartiers Valley athletes headed to Division-I programs, by Nathan Smith.

Carlynton's Conor Richardson

Carlynton’s Conor Richardson

Carlynton’s Richardson signs with Duquesne, by Nathan Smith.

Sewickley Academy's Kayla Guerin

Sewickley Academy’s Kayla Guerin with mother Kara (right) and lacrosse coach Cheryl Lassen

Sewickley Academy’s Guerin lands offer from Lafayette, by Gary Horvath.

Quaker Valley's Tyler Garbee

Tyler Garbee with his parents Keelie and Richard

Quaker Valley pitcher Garbee lands at Akron, by Gary Horvath.

Quaker Valley's Jane Merriman

Quaker Valley’s Jane Merriman

Quaker Valley’s Merriman signs with Wisconsin for rowing, by Karen Kadilak.

Quaker Valley's Aubrie Tarris and Kayla Foster

Quaker Valley seniors Aubrie Tarris (left) and Kayla Foster (right) pose with lacrosse coach Nellie Kraus (middle)

Quaker Valley lacrosse standouts Foster, Tarris commit to Liberty, by Gary Horvath.

Norwin swimmer Painter headed to Kentucky, by Nathan Smith.

Norwin catcher Wensel signs with Lafayette, by Nathan Smith.

Norwin's Connor Perry

Norwin’s Connor Perry

Norwin outfielder Perry signs with Lock Haven, by Nathan Smith.

Norwin wrestler Miller signs with Pitt-Johnstown, by Nathan Smith.

Seton-La Salle’s Zola, Dadig sign with IUP, Youngstown State, by Ray Fisher.

Franklin Regional's Gillian Kane

Franklin Regional’s Gillian Kane, with her parents, Jodine and Joseph. In back, from left, are Franklin Regional athletic director Zach Kessler and girls volleyball coach Mike Feorene

Franklin Regional’s Kane overcomes injuries, signs with George Washington, by Michael Love.

Franklin Regional's Austin Mortimer

Austin Mortimer with his parents, Robert and Mickey, and (back) Franklin swim coaches Jodi Horvath and Lucas Marsak

Franklin Regional’s Mortimer signs to swim at Ohio State, by Michael Love.

Penn-Trafford's Maria Palarino

Penn-Trafford’s Maria Palarino

Penn-Trafford’s Palarino signs to play basketball at St. Francis Brooklyn, by Nathan Smith.

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November 19, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Highway to Heinz: Palko perfect in WPIAL final

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Cherp_Palko

West Allegheny coach Bob Palko (right)

For as long as I’ve known him, Bob Palko has talked about the team concept. One year, he had the word TEAM printed on the back of T-shirts. So, the West Allegheny coach isn’t about to start talking about himself the week of its game against Central Valley for the WPIAL Class AAA championship.

“We don’t think about it. We don’t talk about it,” Palko said. “I don’t worry about what I can’t control. All I can control is how hard we work today.”

Even if he has the chance to become the first coach in league history to win eight WPIAL titles?

“I don’t even think about it, honest to God,” Palko said. “I don’t worry about who’s done what or anybody else. I don’t look at pictures from ’97 or 2001.”

In the regard, not only is Palko perfect for West Allegheny but it helps explain why he’s a perfect 7-0 in WPIAL title games.

For further explanation, I talked to a couple of coaches who played against Palko’s West Allegheny teams in the WPIAL finals. Both Dave Vestal of Hopewell and Ray Braszo of West Mifflin — who each lost twice to West Allegheny in the WPIAL finals — marveled at how difficult is to prepare for its wildcat package.

“You know what’s coming and it’s tough to defend,” Vestal said. “They’re going to run the gap-scheme or the isolation scheme. They’re going to have an extra blocker because they snap it to the running back. They play around with the formation a little bit. They run it downhill and see a crease or they find a cutback. They always have a kid who’s really good at it. That’s when they’re dangerous, when they’re at their best.”

Added Braszo: “There’s really not a lot you can do. At that point, it’s hard to change things you’ve been doing because you’ll be messing your own team up. They block very well. They know their assignments.”

That’s because Palko puts a premium on preparation, of asking his players to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the team and for putting the team goals ahead of individual glory.

“Winning, to me,” Palko said, “is a byproduct of doing all the other stuff right.”

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Now healthy, Central Valley quarterback George ‘hungry’ for victory, by Ed Phillipps.

#TribHS highlight reel: Southmoreland wrestler ruled ineligible

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Central Catholic's Johnny Petrishen

Central Catholic’s Johnny Petrishen is a Lower Burrell resident

Looking back on an eventful season in A-K Valley, by George Guido.

Ligonier Valley QB Collin Smith

Ligonier Valley quarterback Collin Smith scores a touchdown during the first quarter of a game against Homer-Center

Ligonier Valley vows to return to playoffs in 2015, by Kevin Ritchart.

Apollo-Ridge's Alex Smith

Apollo-Ridge’s Alex Smith

Apollo-Ridge wants fast pace this season, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Apollo-Ridge girls aim to repeat fast start, avoid lapses, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Ford City coach Tom Young and Allie Good

Ford City coach Tom Young and Allie Good

Ford City, Kittanning winter teams look forward to ‘last ride’ before merger, by Matt Grubba.

Geibel junior Riley Bocan

Geibel’s Riley Bocan

Geibel girls basketball primed to continue upward trend, by Jason Black.

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November 18, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Highway to Heinz: Quips on record run

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PTR-FTAB14-Aliquippa02-082414

Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac watches Kaezon Pugh in practice

Even after Aliquippa lost the first backfield to feature a pair of 4,000-yard rushers in Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson to graduation, Mike Zmijanac told his Quips that he thought they could return to the WPIAL Class AA championship game.

“I thought we had a chance,” Zmijanac said. “I told them in the spring that a lot of people thought we were going to suck after those guys left, but that I thought we were going to fool them. The places that have a program, they’re never bad. … It’s the program.”

Aliquippa is a program on a record run. The Quips are in the WPIAL final for the seventh consecutive year, an unprecedented stretch that includes three Class AA championships, which is something that has come to be expected at Aliquippa.

“It’s great. I think it’s fantastic,” Zmijanac said. “It’s what you should be doing with young people, setting expectations for success.”

That run also includes three WPIAL finals losses, which aren’t recognized on the rooftop of the field house at Carl A. Aschman Stadium, aka The Pit.

“That’s a fact. It’s not motivation. It’s a fact. That’s the way it is,” Zmijanac said. “We’re not going to put runners-up on the roof.”

Zmijanac makes it clear that nobody downgrades the Quips teams for not winning a championship, but that the goal is clear. And even though he never misses a chance to take a jab at an opponent, poking fun at South Fayette’s decided size advantage (293 boys in grades 9-11 to Aliquippa’s 138), the Aliquippa coach is impressed with the Lions’ 28-game winning streak, which includes a 34-28 victory over the Quips last year.

“They’re really good, defending state champs and haven’t come close to losing,” Zmijanac said. “That’s what championship games are for. It should be a great football game.”

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HS page

Where record-setting quarterback Brett Brumbaugh gets the Lion’s share of attention at South Fayette, Bill West takes a look at Aliquippa QB Darrien Fields, who will beready when his number is called.

TribHS highlight reel: WPIAL again rules Lincoln Park guard ineligible until Jan. 21, by Chris Harlan.

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Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths

Southmoreland’s Austin Griffiths

Southmoreland wrestler Griffiths ruled ineligible by the PIAA, by Jason Black.

#TribHS roundup: Deer Lakes’ Rupprecht scores 10 goals in win

Frazier girls basketball coach Ken Poling

New Frazier girls basketball coach Ken Poling

Frazier grad Poling set to coach school’s girls basketball team, by Jason Black.

McKeesport football team left it all on the field this season, by Dave Mackall.

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November 17, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

#TribHS weekend recap: Avonworth takes Highway to Heinz

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A banner was hung July 7 outside a house on Mt. Nebo Road with “Highway to Heinz Brandon No. 45″ painted in red letters. It has served as a daily reminder for Duke Johncour, who lives 300 yards away and passes the house on his way to Avonworth, that the Antelopes were destined for a drive to the WPIAL Class A championship.

The Brandon who wears No. 45 for Avonworth is Brandon Wasko, a senior captain whose play at fullback and middle linebacker fulfilled the ‘Lopes hopes.

The house belongs to Wasko’s maternal grandmother, Ruth Hogg, and her blind faith paid off when Wasko made three pivotal plays in what George Guido calls Avonworth’s signature drive in a 28-21 victory over defending PIAA champion Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Friday night in the WPIAL semifinals signature drive that lifted the Antelopes (11-1) to a date with Clairton (12-0) at Heinz Field.

“Seeing that poster, that piece of cloth, it just motivates you,” Wasko said. “Seeing that sign every day, knowing that we had the opportunity last year and didn’t seize it and knowing that this is my last shot, I had to make something out of it. That meant the world to me.”

What meant the world to Johncour was not just the plays that Wasko made but the one he didn’t. Johncour preaches a focus on family to his Avonworth team, that it’s not about the individual. So, after a handful of heartbreaking losses to North Catholic and in the playoffs, Wasko made a play that not only clinched the victory but left quite an impression on his coach.

With 49 seconds remaining, Wasko intercepted an Adam Sharlow pass.

“The whole field was in front of him,” Johncour said, “but he took two steps and took a knee. He knew the stakes. All he had to do was beat the quarterback and one or two linemen downfield. He said, ‘All I could think about was Heinz.’ We preach that it’s not about you. That was a representation. He could have had a pick-six if he wanted it, but he also could have fumbled and they could have picked it up and scored.”

Instead, Wasko proved his grandmother’s banner prophetic and turned Avonworth’s long road to Heinz Field — the ‘Lopes haven’t played for a WPIAL title since 1959 — into a short trip on Friday.

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HS page (2)

#TribHS highlight reel:
Practices for winter sports start today

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Peters Township boys soccer

Peters Township earns PIAA Class AAA title, by Bill West.

Canon-McMillan girls soccer

Central Bucks West goalkeeper Grace Bendon makes a save over Canon-McMillan’s Allison Thomas

Central Bucks West defeats Canon-McMillan in overtime to claim PIAA Class AAA girls soccer crown, by Bill West.

Brashear's Jerimiah Burkes

Brashear’s Jerimiah Burkes

Brashear bows out of state playoffs, by John Dudley.

Blairsville's Deion Robinson

Blairsville’s Deion Robinson loses the ball as he is hit by Portage’s Michael Bryja

Portage rallies from 18-point deficit to beat Blairsville, by Paul Schofield.

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