iPreps

#iPreps, #TribHS

January 24, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Living up to their nickname

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My column on the potential for dominance and dysfunction at Steel Valley, where public-school politics has put the boys’ basketball program in a precarious position.

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Clutch free throws lift West Mifflin boys over Steel Valley, by Dave Mackall.

#TribHS roundup: Upper St. Clair holds off rival Bethel Park

A COMFORTABLE BUT CONTROVERSIAL WIN

Monessen's Justice Rice twists his way past Avella's Cody Dobbins

Monessen’s Justice Rice twists his way past Avella’s Cody Dobbins

Neither coach happy after Monessen beats Avella by 90 points, by Jeff Oliver.

A (TRIPLE-OT) DOUBLEHEADER

Plum’s turnovers spell doom in loss to McKeesport, by George Guido.

McKeesport Daily News roundup: McKeesport girls win in triple overtime

Plum’s Zezza gets milestone in loss

LET’S HEAR IT FOR HARRELL

GTR HS

Hempfield's Kason Harrell

Hempfield’s Kason Harrell

Greensburg Trib roundup: Harrell becomes Hempfield’s all-time scoring leader

Southmoreland's Tommy Pisula shoots over Salem's Dante Cook

Southmoreland’s Tommy Pisula shoots over Greensburg Salem’s Dante Cook

Southmoreland holds off Greensburg Salem in foul-filled contest, by Paul Schofield.

ON THE COURT

Connellsville's Colby Shipley shoots over Kiski Area's Matt Bisceglia

Connellsville’s Colby Shipley shoots over Kiski Area’s Matt Bisceglia

Connellsville holds off Kiski Area for big win, by Jason Black.

Ford City battles, earns hard-fought win over Wilkinsburg, by Matt Grubba.

Shady Side Academy's Mike Ware battles Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton for control of a rebound

Shady Side Academy’s Mike Ware battles Apollo-Ridge’s Tre Tipton for control of a rebound

Tipton helps lift Apollo-Ridge over Section 2-AA foe Shady Side Academy, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Valley Independent roundup: Charleroi gets huge road victory over Waynesburg

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January 23, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

A fresh look for Pine-Richland

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Led by freshman Jurkovec, Pine-Richland chasing first playoff berth since 2011, by Chris Harlan.

Gorman: Celebrating Western Pa.’s hoops history

#TribHS highlight reel: PBC Classic set for Sunday at Montour

ON THE COURT

Ford City's Christina Davis

Ford City’s Christina Davis (right) prepares to block a shot by Deer Lakes’ Jess Philistine

Davis scores career-high 31 to power Ford City girls, by Doug Gulasy.

Kittanning girls win, keep playoff hopes alive, by Matt Grubba.

Valley News Dispatch notebook: Injuries depleting Burrell girls roster, by Bill Beckner Jr.

#TribHS roundup: Quaker Valley tops No. 5 Chartiers Valley

Greensburg Trib roundup: Derry boys stun Southmoreland

McKeesport Daily News roundup: EF girls take down West Mifflin

#TribCup: Indiana girls use shutdown defense to succeed in Section 3

Jeannette's Julian Batts

Jeannette’s Julian Batts

Jeannette hoping to be in a groove once playoffs begin, by Paul Schofield.

Hempfield's Leah Knizner

Hempfield’s Leah Knizner battles for the ball with Latrobe’s Madison Kollar

Hempfield girls working to improve during season’s second half, by Kevin Ritchart.

Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown

Apollo-Ridge’s Duane Brown

Apollo-Ridge boys seeking best performance, by Bill Beckner Jr.

ON THE MAT

Belle Vernon, Burrell get top seeds for WPIAL team tournament, by Paul Schofield.

Connellsville, Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant learn playoff foes

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January 22, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Another undefeated falls

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Allderdice's Ramon Creighton (11) scores past Indiana's Riley Stapleton (23) and Jacob Zilinskas

Allderdice’s Ramon Creighton (11) scores past Indiana’s Riley Stapleton (23) and Jacob Zilinskas

City League power Allderdice hands Indiana first loss, by Chris Harlan.

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McKeesport girls thrive in Section 2-AAAA with ability to run, rebound, by Bill West.

Gorman: Aloi eligible, ready to play

#TribHS highlight reel: WPIAL releases football schedules; NFHS honors Blackhawk coach

Burrell’s Horwatt out as football coach, by Bill Beckner Jr.

ON THE COURT

Greensburg Central Catholic's Nikki Adisey

Greensburg Central Catholic’s Nikki Adisey

No. 3 Greensburg Central Catholic hoping to avenge losses to No. 1 Burrell, by Ed Phillipps.

Sewickley Academy's Chris Groetsch and Rochester's Isaiah Hauser

Sewickley Academy’s Chris Groetsch (left) battles for possession with Rochester’s Isaiah Hauser

Sophomore guard Groetsch providing spark for Sewickley Academy, by Gary Horvath.

Monessen girls’ losing streak hits four games, by Jeff Oliver.

ON THE MAT

Franklin Regional's Mike Kemerer

Franklin Regional’s Mike Kemerer celebrates his win over Latrobe’s Jake Willochell in the 145-pound bout of the Section 1-AAA team wrestling tournament

Franklin Regional states case for No. 1 seed, by Paul Schofield.

Franklin Regional's Gus Solomon

Franklin Regional’s Gus Solomon

Franklin Regional sophomore Solomon enjoying breakout season, by Michael Love.

South Fayette junior Jasper Wolfe locks up South Park freshman Brendan Weil in their 120-pound match

South Fayette junior Jasper Wolfe locks up South Park freshman Brendan Weil in their 120-pound match

Top-ranked South Fayette wrestling here to stay, by Gary Horvath.

#TribHS roundup: Canon-Mac wins 14th straight section title

Burrell captures 12th straight section crown, by Doug Gulasy.

Latrobe's Luke Shaffer wrestles Kiski Area's Alex Delp in the 182-pound bout of the first round of the Section 1-AAA team wrestling tournament

Latrobe’s Luke Shaffer wrestles Kiski Area’s Alex Delp in the 182-pound bout of the first round of the Section 1-AAA team wrestling tournament

Kiski Area takes third in Section 1-AAA, by Paul Schofield.

Southmoreland beats Mt. Pleasant for third place in Section 2-AA, by Jason Black.

Southmoreland soaring to new heights, by Paul Paterra.

Bell gets 100th victory as Belle Vernon defends Section 2-AAA title, by Bill Hughes.

McKeesport Daily News roundup: South Allegheny finishes third at Section 3-AA tourney

Keystone Oaks junior Kazalas hungry for success, by Nathan Smith.

ON THE ICE

Bishop Canevin's Kaden Kelly

Bishop Canevin’s Kaden Kelly

Bishop Canevin hockey returning to full strength, by Nathan Smith.

Recent play of goalie Harkins allows Quaker Valley offense to thrive, by Gary Horvath.

Gateway hopes to put halt to losing streak, by Michael Love.

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January 21, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Not your average Joe

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Joe Hamilton

Joe Hamilton

Jack Fullen has known Joe Hamilton since 1969, when they were both coaching at New Brighton. Hamilton was the football coach, Fullen the cross country and basketball coach. When Fullen was hired as athletic director at Blackhawk, he brought Hamilton in as the Cougars’ football coach.

On Tuesday, after five decades on the sidelines and 39 seasons at Blackhawk, Hamilton retired as a high school football coach.

One of Fullen’s favorite memories occurred early in Hamilton’s tenure, when the Cougars were playing in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals at Mt. Lebanon Stadium and announced their arrival as a potential powerhouse.

“Belle Vernon was warming up, our kids had gone into the locker room and 33 buses of students and fans arrived,” Fullen said. “As each bus came around, they were chanting ‘Blackhawk!’ It just rang out through that whole valley. The kids at Belle Vernon were looking around. They didn’t know what happened.”

Hamilton had a legendary career that included 342 victories, four WPIAL championships, 10 WPIAL title-game appearances and four PIAA finals appearances. But it was time to go.

“It’s a tough decision to make, but whenever you get to be 73 — I heard that 77 is average male’s life, so I better go out and have some fun,” Hamilton said. “I did it as much for my wife as for me because she’s put up with this for 51 years. It takes a special person. There’s a lot of things we never could do in the fall. I stuck around because I knew the program wasn’t going to be good this past year. I hope I’m leaving the program in good shape for somebody.”

Gorman: Farewell to a classy coach

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Canon-Mac faces tough tests with 100-match section streak on the line, by Bill West.

RECRUITING

Pine-Richland QB Ben DiNucci

Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci

Pitt offers scholarship to Pine-Richland quarterback, by Jerry DiPaola.

Freeport QB-DB Romanchak commits to Robert Morris, by Doug Gulasy.

ON THE MAT

Burrell's Trent Bechtold tries to evade Kiski Area's Noah Levett

Burrell’s Trent Bechtold tries to evade Kiski Area’s Noah Levett in their 113-pound match

Freshmen wrestlers help Alle-Kiski Valley teams maintain tradition, by Doug Gulasy.

#TribHS wrestling notebook: Section tournaments help determine WPIAL’s top seeds in AAA, AA, by Paul Schofield.

Derry wrestlers celebrate anniversary, by Kevin Ritchart.

ON THE COURT

Pine-Richland trio celebrates win over No. 2 NA

Pine-Richland’s Andrew Petcash (left) celebrates with Alex Goitz and Adam Alexander after scoring a three-point play in the final seconds of their game against North Allegheny

#TribHS roundup: Pine-Richland upsets No. 2 North Allegheny

Derry's Cam Gerhard

Derry’s Cam Gerhard

Greensburg roundup: Greensburg Salem boys topple Yough

McKeesport Daily News roundup: Fox Chapel edges McKeesport

Highlands Brayden Timons

Highlands’ (31) Brayden Timons protects a rebound gained against Knoch’s (24) Josh Knochel

Highlands uses defense to key victory over Knoch, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Freeport boys use hot shooting to sink Burrell, by George Guido.

Serra gets key home victory over Clairton to even section record, by Dave Mackall.

Charleroi's John Arnold

Charleroi’s John Arnold

Fourth-quarter run, Arnold vault Cougars, by Jeff Oliver.

Greyhounds roll again in Section 3-A

Southmoreland's Ben Niemiec (right) looks to drive past Kittanning's Zane Dudek

Southmoreland’s Ben Niemiec (right) looks to drive past Kittanning’s Zane Dudek

Southmoreland boys stop Kittanning, by Jason Black.

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January 20, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Just say no

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Jim Render remembers the parking-lot conversation with the Upper St. Clair superintendent, a year after skipping the inaugural PIAA playoffs. The Panthers had won the WPIAL Class AAAA championship, only to watch runner-up Central Catholic go on to claim the PIAA title.

“What happened in 1988, you had to tell the state in September whether you would participate in the state playoffs,” Render said. “Our school district said no – a lot of them said no – because nobody had anything to draw on whether they’d make it go. Well, they did make it go.”

That was the argument Render made in convincing his superintendent — and school district — to have a change of heart. It worked, and USC would go on to win the 1989 PIAA Class AAAA championship.

“I said, ‘How often would we go, maybe once every 10 years?’” Render said. “I knew I had a decent team coming back but wasn’t thinking in terms of winning a state championship. So they changed it and we went. It would have been nice if we’d have won the first two, I know that.”

That ’89 USC team, by the way, is in the WPIAL Hall of Fame.

This is why I called Render, along with Woodland Hills coach George Novak and Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak , to ask about a proposal to expand PIAA football to six classifications. All have won multiple WPIAL championships and played in multiple PIAA finals.

What struck me is that all three agreed that not participating in the PIAA playoffs would take something away from a championship-caliber season. But none of them disagreed with my column that Western Pennsylvania schools would be better off ending their season with the WPIAL finals than expanding to six classifications.

“Maybe it’s time we say, ‘Let’s just end it with the WPIAL championships,'” Render said.

The reasons why are another story. One is that there would be a disparity between the numbers in each classification. There would only be about 10 WPIAL schools in 6A, which would force them to all play in the same conference and make for some rough road trips (see: Seneca Valley to Connellsville). Also, there could be as much as a 400-student difference between the biggest and smallest schools in 6A.

And six WPIAL title games would end Heinz Field hosting the championships.

“It would create hardship for us going to Heinz Field,” WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said. “It’s an event that we think is special for the kids who play and the communities that take part in it. Every kid that puts on a uniform in the fall wants an opportunity to participate. Their goal is to get to Heinz Field. Once they do it, they want to win a state title. We don’t want it to get to that point.”

That’s not to mention the WPIAL-wide belief that the Philadelphia private schools aren’t playing by the same rules.

Which is a column for another day.

“I’m not so sure that everybody is following the rules the way they are written,” O’Malley said. “The private schools are dominating the PIAA tournament.”

Yet O’Malley made it clear that WPIAL secession from the PIAA isn’t in the plans.

“We are not a proponent for segregation,” he said. “We are a proponent for stricter, more enforceable regulations.”

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Shaler players embrace coach’s grueling practices, playing style, by Bill West.

Gorman: Just say no to 6 classifications

#TribHS highlight reel: Hoops for a Cure set this weekend

ON THE ICE

Seneca Valley goalie Alyssa Peterson

Seneca Valley goalie Alyssa Peterson

Seneca Valley female goalie a natural in the net, by Jerry Clark.

Mars' Paul Maust scores against South Fayette

Mars’ Paul Maust scores against South Fayette

Mars fighting for PIHL Class A top seed, by Joe Sager.

Plum hockey team to unveil new jerseys, by Doug Gulasy.

RECRUITING

Seneca Valley OL Tyler Hudanick

Seneca Valley lineman Tyler Hudanick

Seneca Valley lineman Tyler Hudanick commits to UCF, by Chris Harlan.

Woodland Hills defensive lineman Daniel Gibson also made his college choice:

Burrell's Natalie Myers

Burrell’s Natalie Myers

Burrell’s Myers picks Youngstown State, by Bill Beckner Jr.

West Allegheny wrestler Nate Hall will be staying close to home, too:

Freeport QB Andrew Romanchak

Freeport quarterback Andrew Romanchak

A-K Valley notebook: Freeport’s Romanchak offered by Robert Morris, by Bill Beckner Jr.

ON THE COURT

Pine-Richland's Chelsea Rourke drives to the basket against North Allegheny's Grace Weiers

Pine-Richland’s Chelsea Rourke drives against North Allegheny’s Grace Weiers

#TribHS roundup: Steel Valley earns upset win over No. 3 Uniontown, by Dave Mackall.

Belle Vernon's Kaitlin Slagus

Belle Vernon’s Kaitlin Slagus

Belle Vernon’s Slagus hits milestone in win

Geibel sweeps season series with Mapletown, by Jason Black.

Riverview roars back in second half, rips Leechburg, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Apollo-Ridge defense clamps down on Freeport, by Matt Grubba.

McKeesport Daily News roundup: Sieg reaches milestone as Serra girls win

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January 18, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Too many As?

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Opinions differ on more classifications for high school football, by Chris Harlan.

RECRUITING

Jordan Whitehead won the Pittsburgh Athletic Association’s Mercury Award Friday night, and the Central Valley star talked about his football future.

Kittanning's Nick Bowers

Kittanning’s Nick Bowers

Another player who committed to the Panthers, Kittanning’s Nick Bowers, not ruling out Pitt, by Bill Beckner Jr.

A pair of WPIAL standouts announced their college choices on Twitter this weekend:

Peters Township QB Cory Owen, who previously picked New Hampshire, had a change of heart:

Seneca Valley OL Tyler Hudanick made a verbal commitment to UCF during an official visit.

College coaches already are moving onto the Class of 2016, as Central Catholic junior LB David Adams received his first scholarship offer from West Virginia University:

Freeport's Josh Beale

Freeport’s Josh Beale

Freeport’s Josh Beale, meantime, will have to decide between basketball and baseball, by William Whalen.

ON THE COURT

Sunday VND

Plum’s James Edwards grows into one of the area’s top scorers, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Plum boys rely on defense, patience to sink Fox Chapel, by Bill Beckner Jr.

One week after I wrote about Matty McConnell stepping out of the shadow of his older brother, T.J. McConnell, the Chartiers Valley star dropped 54 points on Bethel Park.

#TribHS roundup: Burgettstown edges Southmoreland to win own invitational

Freeport's Kevin Lynch splits two Highlands defenders

Freeport’s Kevin Lynch (left) shoots while defended by Highlands’ Lamar McCamey (40) and Tyler Grosholz

Mars ends Ford City’s win streak, by William Whalen.

Norwin boys sink 10 3-pointers to derail Connellsville, by Jason Black.

Greensburg Trib roundup: Latrobe downs Penn-Trafford in Section 1-AAAA

McKeesport Daily News roundup: McKeesport boys top Franklin Regional

ON THE MAT

Fox Chapel's Andrew Kopco

Pine-Richland’s Hunter Baxter beats Fox Chapel’s Andrew Kopco, 15-1, in the 113-pound final at the Allegheny County wrestling championships.

Fox Chapel’s Kopco fights his way to county final, by Bill West.

Penn Hills senior Campbell repeats as county wrestling champion, by Bill West.

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January 16, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Clairton makes public apology

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Clairton fight in PIAA final

Clairton faces possible discipline after a melee in the PIAA Class A final

After workshop with Charlie Batch, Clairton players offer video apology to Bishop Guilfoyle for incident in PIAA Class A football final, by Dave Mackall.

In an unrelated story, Uniontown is considering discipline for girls basketball players who wore ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirt, by Renatta Signorini.

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TribHS page

Indiana's Dylan Stapleton (center) fights off Southmoreland's Benjamin Niemiec as they chase a loose ball

Indiana’s Dylan Stapleton (center) fights off Southmoreland’s Benjamin Niemiec as they chase a loose ball

No. 1 Indiana boasts top defense in WPIAL, leading to a lot of dunks, by Chris Harlan.

Gorman: Pittsburgh Athletic Association Mercury Awards a great event

#TribHS highlight reel: Burgettstown also hosting wrestling this weekend

RECRUITING

New Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi makes the rounds to WPIAL schools to meet recruits.

Kittanning’s Nick Bowers got a home visit:

Meantime, schools already are focusing on the Class of 2016.

Central Catholic junior defensive end Rashad Wheeler picked up his first scholarship offer:

January 15, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

A no-brainer for Narduzzi

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Pine-Richland QB Ben DiNucci

Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci

With QB recruit Alex Hornibrook reneging on his commitment to enroll at Wisconsin, new Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi is wise to give a long look to Pine-Richland QB Ben DiNucci, who became the first player in state history to pass for 4,000 yards in a single season and will work out for Pitt coaches, by Jerry DiPaola.

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Ambridge stars draw from their older siblings’ experiences, by Bill West.

Gorman: Down go the undefeateds

#TribHS highlight reel: Big 33 participant streak carries on

ON THE COURT

Plum's James Edwards

Plum’s James Edwards

Junior guard Edwards a consistent force for Plum, by Michael Love.

Steel Valley falls again to hot-shooting South Fayette, by Dave Mackall.

Greyhounds keep rolling in Section 3-A

Chartiers Valley's Eddie Flohr

Chartiers Valley’s Eddie Flohr dives for a loose ball

Chartiers Valley junior Flohr providing scoring spark, by Nathan Smith.

Baldwin's Lauren Gilbert

Baldwin’s Lauren Gilbert

Gilbert making her point in the backcourt for Baldwin girls basketball team, by Ed Phillipps.

Keystone Oaks' Alexa Valforte

Keystone Oaks’ Alexa Valforte

Keystone Oaks girls hoops contends with injuries, inexperience, by Nathan Smith.

Carlynton's Jordan Melko

Carlynton’s Jordan Melko

Carlynton girls basketball bouncing back from three-game skid, by Nathan Smith.

Quaker Valley girls basketball hopes to improve in season’s second half, by Gary Horvath.

Shady Side Academy's Sarah Hacke

Shady Side Academy’s Sarah Hacke

Shady Side Academy’s Hacke helps girls basketball team to key wins, by Marty Stewart.

California's Lyndsey Hunn (00) drives past Monessen's Cara Grogan (22)

California’s Lyndsey Hunn drives past Monessen’s Cara Grogan

With early-season injuries mostly in the past, California girls looking to contend for title, by Ed Phillipps.

Southmoreland basketball player Brooke Cottom changed her uniform number from 20 to 5 this season to honor Brendan Walter, who died in a vehicle accident in July.

Southmoreland basketball player Brooke Cottom changed her uniform number from 20 to 5 this season to honor Brendan Walter, who died in a vehicle accident in July.

Southmoreland basketball player changes number to honor fallen friend, by Emily Donovan.

Southmoreland boys hoops team starts strong, by Jordan Pawlikowsky.

ON THE MAT

Belle Vernon Area's Joshua Godzin (black) wrestles Laurel Highlands' Jimmy Pierce

Belle Vernon Area’s Joshua Godzin (black) wrestles Laurel Highlands’ Jimmy Pierce

Belle Vernon pins Laurel Highlands to stay perfect, by Jeff Oliver.

Burrell's Alex Moses attempts to pin down Valley's Noah Baker during their 182-pound match

Burrell’s Alex Moses attempts to pin down Valley’s Noah Baker during their 182-pound match

Burrell wrestlers control Valley for victory, by Doug Gulasy.

Connellsville wrestlers handle Albert Gallatin, by Jason Black.

Kittanning preps for playoffs by drubbing Indiana, by Matt Grubba.

#TribHS roundup: Butler edges Seneca Valley in final bout

Fox Chapel set to host Allegheny County tournament, by Marty Stewart.

IN THE POOL

West Allegheny's Jarod Kehl
West Allegheny’s Jarod Kehl, a Kentucky recruit

West Allegheny swimmer has Olympic dreams, by Karen Kadilak.

Chartiers Valley swimmer looks to defend WPIAL titles, by Karen Kadilak.

Chartiers Valley swimming and diving shifting focus to individuals, by Gary Horvath.

Penn-Trafford junior diver Ference continues to improve, by Alex Oltmanns.

Thomas Jefferson boys, girls teams aiming for section success, by Jennifer Goga.

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January 14, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

Vestal starting over at Seneca Valley

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Dave Vestal

After 14 seasons as Hopewell head coach, Dave Vestal left for Seneca Valley

When Dave Vestal became head coach at Hopewell in 2001, it didn’t take long for him to turn the Vikings into a WPIAL Class AAA powerhouse. Vestal lost his opener at West Allegheny, then didn’t lose again until a rematch with the Indians at Heinz Field.

The following season, led by NFL linebacker Paul Posluszny, Hopewell won WPIAL and PIAA championships. Along the way, the Vikings beat a Perry Traditional Academy team that hadn’t allowed a point all season. Vestal was named the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coach of the year.

Now, after going 1-17 the past two seasons, Vestal is ready for a new challenge and taking over as head coach at Seneca Valley. He replaces Don Holl, who resigned in November after six seasons.

“I can’t believe 14 years has gone by, first of all, because it’s just flown,” Vestal said. “To me, it meant a lot to stay at the same school because you had so much pride and felt established. That’s why it’s going to be tough to leave Beaver County because this is all I’ve known. You look at the Jim Renders, Bob Palkos and George Novaks, who have been there for so long. It’s been tough. It’s time for a new challenge.”

Vestal believes whoever replaces him at Hopewell has a chance to be successful, given that the Vikings return a large junior class. He dealt with some difficulties this past season, ranging from injuries to insubordination, not to mention playing in a Parkway Conference that featured WPIAL finalists Central Valley and West Allegheny.

“When I first came in, we obviously had immediate success,” Vestal said. “Just looking at our conference and how it’s grown and seeing the talent level, it’s really at a high point now. We competed.”

One thing that helped his cause with Seneca Valley is the familiarity. Not only did Hopewell scrimmage Seneca Valley every year for the past eight seasons, but Vestal worked with Seneca Valley principal Mark Korcinsky when he was an assistant principal at Hopewell in 2001-02.

“It felt right in my gut when I went up there,” Vestal said. “It was neat reconnecting with him. I think a lot went into it. I really like the area, the facilities are outstanding. I think it was the right job at the right time, a situation that just felt right in my gut. Usually when I walk into a place and it feels right, it usually is.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how Vestal fares outside Beaver County, where he has spent two decades, and deals with coaching at the largest school district in the WPIAL. He plans to waste no time in making himself visible in the community, by attending Seneca Valley’s basketball games this week and implementing a strength-training program on Wednesday.

“I want to make sure I’m visible and get to know the players and their parents,” Vestal said. “They can expect a positive, energetic, enthusiastic passionate football coach who wants them to grow as a player and a person. Getting to know your players and let them know that you care about them is invaluable.”

After winning big with backs like Posluszny and Rushel Shell, who set the state’s career rushing record, Vestal made it clear that he still believes in running the ball but isn’t married to the Wing-T or wildcat offense.

“I still think it comes down to winning that line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Vestal said. “I need to go up there and take a look at the players we have and make sure the system fits those players. You’ve got to use your quarterback as a weapon, as a runner. You want to make them a dangerous player.”

Of course, Vestal knows that Seneca Valley has lost talented players in recent years to Central Catholic and now has an additional challenge with Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic moving its campus to Cranberry. He understands that it’s going to be vital to connect with the district’s youth football program, given that Vestal grew up in Boardman, Ohio, where the public school has to compete with Cardinal Mooney.

“I know SV has had some success the past six years,” Vestal said. “When you talk about enrollment, the opportunity to go in and recruit our district, recruit our school. That’s exciting to talk about those numbers. When you put that together with the facilities in place, it’s a challenge but it’s exciting.”

REMEMBERING JUD

On Tuesday, I wrote that the Hempfield swim team planned to honor Judson Shiffler, the senior captain who died in an auto accident with a grand gesture during its meet against Greensburg Salem.

Memories of captain keep Hempfield swim team afloat, by Kevin Lohman.

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TribHS page

Despite delay, South Fayette’s Walker shifts smoothly to wrestling, by Bill West.

ON THE MAT

Hempfield's Fred Mantsch scrambles with Latrobe's Dylan Davis

Hempfield’s Fred Mantsch (top) scrambles with Latrobe’s Dylan Davis in their 120-pound championship bout at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Wrestling Tournament

Distracted Hempfield wrestler perseveres to capture second WCCA title, by Paul Schofield.

Canon-McMillan to host Class AA Southwest Regional, by Paul Schofield.

Belle Vernon's Jacob Dunlop (right) battles Southmoreland's Tyler Griffiths during their 106-pound consolation bout for third place at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Wrestling Tournament

Belle Vernon’s Jacob Dunlop (right) battles Southmoreland’s Tyler Griffiths during their 106-pound consolation bout for third place at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Wrestling Tournament

Despite changes at the top, Belle Vernon wrestlers thrive, by Jeff Oliver.

#TribHS wrestling notebook: Allegheny County event awaits big field, by Doug Gulasy.

Burrell's Al Beattie (left) and Kittanning's Jake Robb tie up during their 285-pound match

Burrell’s Al Beattie (left) and Kittanning’s Jake Robb tie up during the 285-pound match

Kittanning wrestler Robb quietly assumes leadership role, by Doug Gulasy.

ON THE COURT

Gateway's John Paul Kromka dunks against McKeesport

Gateway’s John Paul Kromka dunks against McKeesport

McKeesport sprints to victory over Gateway, by Dave Mackall.

#TribHS roundup: Hampton, North Hills no longer unbeaten

Hempfield's Kason Harrell drives to the basket over Latrobe forwards Matt Dragan, right, and Seth Holler

Hempfield guard Kason Harrell, left, drives to the basket over Latrobe forwards Matt Dragan, right, and Seth Holler

Hempfield stays hot, shuts down cold-shooting Latrobe, by Paul Schofield.

Greensburg roundup: Norwin boys top rival Penn-Trafford

Burrell's (22) Max Garda looks to pass the ball against Valley's (11) Dayon Lloyd

Burrell’s (22) Max Garda looks to pass the ball against Valley’s (11) Dayon Lloyd

Burrell hopes to continue winning formula after beating Valley, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Apollo-Ridge steals last Ford City game in home gym with third-quarter rally, by George Guido.

West Shamokin’s strong start sets tone in win over Kittanning, by Matt Grubba.

McKeesport Daily News roundup: South Allegheny edges East Allegheny in overtime

Connellsville senior Connell makes most of his chance, helps beat Albert Gallatin, by Jason Black.

Hot Monessen torches California, by Jeff Oliver.

Snyder’s basket gives Belle Vernon first Section 4-AAA win

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January 13, 2015
by Kevin Gorman

‘That’s who Jud was’

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Hempfield’s Judson Shiffler swims at Westmoreland County Coaches Association meet last February at Derry

The Hempfield swim team has been together non-stop the past three weeks, spending time either swimming in the pool or consoling each other outside of it since the sudden death of senior captain Judson Shiffler.

The Spartans host their first meet since Shiffler died Dec. 30 from injuries suffered in an auto accident. Hempfield’s race for Jud will honor Shiffler by paying tribute to him in a way that he would appreciate.

Hempfield coach Kevin Clougherty sounds like someone still in a state of disbelief, which makes sense given that Shiffler was his star swimmer and a model student to his teammates. Shiffler’s accident occurred shortly after he left Hempfield’s practice, from which he was excused for his strong work in the classroom.

“It was Jud’s day off. He had earned a day off since he had done so well academically,” Clougherty said. “He came in and wanted to get some work, and we told him to get some rest.”

By the minute, Clougherty can recall the events: The girls leaving their locker room at 12:15 p.m. Sitting in the hallway at 12:20 and hearing ambulances drive past the school. Clougherty, in his 17th season as Hempfield’s coach, immediately wondered if it was one of his swimmers. But he figured that Shiffler had left long ago and would be home by then. When he left the pool, he saw the ambulance at the scene of the accident and watched the Life Flight helicopter land. Soon after, he received a phone call with the news.

Hempfield swimmers coped the way they knew best, by swimming and talking. The pool was their refuge.

“Tuesday morning, we were back in the water,” Clougherty said. “We brought the kids in for regularly scheduled practice and sat and talked. Jud had not passed away yet, but this did not look good. Afterwards, we stayed and talked some more. The kids stayed 45 minutes after practice, just talking about Jud and telling stories about Jud. Then we got the phone call that Jud had passed away…”

Clougherty is impressed with how the school and his students have dealt with the tragedy, with the support that has been offered and how the swimmers have bonded.

“They got and are getting each other through this,” Clougherty said. “They know when somebody needs to cry, to laugh or just to talk. They learned this from Jud. That’s who Jud was. When one of our kids had a problem, Jud was there for them. It’s stereotypical to say, but he was a great kid — but he was different. He did not like the spotlight. Jud was very meticulous kid in his preparation. No matter what happens you keep doing your work. To do otherwise would be disrespectful to Jud.”

That’s why Hempfield will leave a lane open for Shiffler for the final lap of the 200-yard medley relay, for which he swam the anchor leg in the 50 free. It should be a touching tribute to a kid whose best was still ahead of him.

“Jud was a kid that was just starting to tap into his potential,” Clougherty said. “He grew up in the YMCA program and did well there but was a young, raw, skinny kid as a freshman. We started to see some potential. It was halfway through his sophomore year, we saw that he was going to be more than just really good, that he could be special.”

Nonetheless, it was something of a surprise when Shiffler won the WPIAL Class AAA title in the 50 freestyle last year. He finished 16th at the PIAA championships. As a senior, however, he was ranked No. 3 in the state.

“The 50 free was not his event until January of that year,” Clougherty said. “There was a lot of reason to think that he was going to be a breakout type of kid who was going to achieve some significant things this year. We made some technical changes on his turn. There was a hope that he’d really had things lined up to do some special things this year.”

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