iPreps

#iPreps, #TribHS

December 4, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Not just a role player

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Nate Conti saw the writing on the wall after his junior year and wondered whether Central Valley coaches would ask him to change positions.

A fullback who was the backup to Preston Johnson, Conti didn’t hesitate when asked to make a move to the offensive line.

“I told him, ‘You can be of some value to this team if you make a switch,’ ” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. “He was on board immediately. He said, ‘Coach, I want to get on the field and help this team win.’ ”

The 5-foot-11, 240-pound senior accepted it as a challenge to accept his role and play it well. Not only did he add 45 pounds in the offseason, Conti seized the starting job at right guard.

“I always thought of the fullback position as a mobile guard,” Conti said. “There’s a lot of pulling, which I enjoy. Sometimes, you can catch a guy not looking and put him on his rear end.”

Lyons calls Conti the “missing piece” that solidified an offensive line which returned only one starter, right tackle Zeke May.

“Those guys are our unsung heroes. They’ve been a rock,” Lyons said. “Our athletes get talked about a lot, but nothing happens without the guys up front.”

The Warriors’ front five will play a pivotal role against Bishop McDevitt, which has the skill to match Central Valley. This game will be decided in the trenches.

Which is what Conti loves.

“He’s been lights out,” Lyons said. “He’s exceeded all expectations for us, he really has. I thought he’d be a good fit. He’s an athletic kid, and he plays with great leverage. That was just a natural progression for him.

“In this day and age, for kids to buy into the team concept is rare. He’s one of those role players who just bought in.”

And played his role well.

#TribHS PAGE

HS page (1)

McDevitt’s Robinson, CV’s Whitehead focus of AAA semifinal matchup, by Chris Harlan.

Sports Illustrated writes that Whitehead, like Revis before him, stays home at Pitt.

Washington out as Moon football coach

HOOPS PREVIEWS

HS hoops page (2)

Class A boys basketball preview: Tough non-section schedule to prepare Monessen for another run to title game, by Jeremy Sellew.

OFF THE GRID

Seton-La Salle's Cletus Helton

Seton-La Salle’s Cletus Helton

Rebels open season as defending WPIAL Class AA champions, by Ray Fisher.

Baldwin's Jeff Wallander

Baldwin’s Jeff Wallander

Team chemistry crucial to Baldwin boys basketball team, by Ray Fisher.

Ray Fisher asks, Is it a rebuilding season for Baldwin girls basketball?

Fox Chapel assistant coach Stu Lyon (right)

Fox Chapel assistant coach Stu Lyon (right)

Fox Chapel great returns to his roots as JV basketball coach, by Marty Stewart.

Experienced Penn Hills girls hoops team excited for new season, by Ed Phillipps.

Norwin boys eager to put last season’s opening-round loss in the past, by Nathan Smith.

Norwin's Alayna Gribble

Norwin guard Alayna Gribble

Norwin girls basketball has depth, experience on its side this season, by Nathan Smith.

Thomas Jefferson's Justin Farrell

Thomas Jefferson’s Justin Farrell

Jaguars to defend section crown with new starting lineup, by Ray Fisher.

Ringgold's Nico Law

Ringgold’s Nico Law

Quarterback Law returns to court for youthful Ringgold, by Jeremy Sellew.

New Yough boys hoops coach stirring up excitement, by Dave Mackall.

Yough girls basketball team receives boost via returning standout Appolonia, by Dave Mackall.

Belle Vernon girls more than simply Kaitlyn Slagus, by Jeremy Sellew.

Keystone Oaks' Kayla Brownlee

Keystone Oaks’ Kayla Brownlee

Keystone Oaks girls under guidance of new coach, by Nathan Smith.

Brentwood's Emma Betz

Brentwood’s Emma Betz

Steel Valley boys, Brentwood girls defending champs in season-opening tournament, by Ray Fisher.

Carlynton's Conor Richardson

Carlynton’s Conor Richardson

Carlynton girls basketball has unfinished business, by Nathan Smith.

Bishop Canevin's Gina Vallecorsa

Bishop Canevin’s Gina Vallecorsa

Bishop Canevin girls basketball heads into season with youthful roster, by Nathan Smith.

Quaker Valley girls basketball hopes to find consistency, by Gary Horvath.

Stoddard reteaching basics as Sewickley Academy girls basketball coach, by Gary Horvath.

Shady Side Academy senior Gabby Harchelroad

Shady Side Academy senior Gabby Harchelroad

Shady Side Academy girls looking to improve with newcomers in lineup, by Marty Stewart.

Batts, Jeannette ready to make splash in Class A, by Dave Moio.

Jeannette girls to compete under new coach in new class, by Dave Moio.

Southmoreland boys basketball team boasts good mix, by Jason Black.

Springdale's Alex Pane

Springdale’s Alex Pane

Springdale boys basketball poised for soft landing, by Dave Yohe.

Springdale's Jillian Henley

Springdale’s Jillian Henley

Springdale girls hope to overcome small roster, by Dave Yohe.

West Shamokin's Jake Hough

West Shamokin’s Jake Hough

West Shamokin boys have experience to lean on in move to Class AAA, by Matt Grubba.

West Shamokin's Lizzy Cornish

West Shamokin’s Lizzy Cornish

Inexperienced West Shamokin squad long on athleticism, by Matt Grubba.

ON THE MAT

Penn-Trafford’s Coy picks Virginia, by Bill West.

Kiski Area wrestling looking up in section, Class AAA, by Doug Gulasy.

Kittanning's Jacob Robb

Kittanning’s Jacob Robb

With three-time champion Nolf gone, Kittanning needs leaders to emerge, by Matt Grubba.

New coach ready to lead Norwin wrestling, by Nathan Smith.

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December 3, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

‘More than the numbers’

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South Fayette's Brett Brumbaugh

South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh

Joe Rossi
said neither South Fayette’s coaching staff nor its star quarterback spends much time worrying about individual passing records, even though Brett Brumbaugh is on the cusp of breaking the state’s career mark on Saturday.

Brumbaugh completed 11 of 24 passes for 199 yards last week in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals, leaving him 105 yards shy of breaking the state record of 10,948 set by Port Allegany’s Matt Bodamer in 2012. So, it’s pretty much a given that Brumbaugh will break the mark Saturday against Hickory, likely in the first half.

“Coming into the season, I was thinking it was out of reach unless we made it this far and even if we did I didn’t know if I’d get it,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s exciting and humbling.”

Not that the Lions talk about it in practice.

“It hasn’t really been a distraction all season,” Rossi said. “We’re just kind of used to it. We just run our offense and whatever he throws for, he throws for. Honestly, it’s nothing. It’s just taking shape.”

Rossi cites an interesting example. Brumbaugh passed for 3,917 yards last season, just 34 shy of Bodamer’s single-season state record. If South Fayette coaches were aware of how close Brumbaugh was, they might have chased it during their PIAA championship game blowout of Imhotep Charter.

“We wish we would have known,” Rossi said. “We would have thrown one more pass. We don’t think about it and neither does he. We know he’s going to throw for his yards, and 105 is definitely a comforting number, rather than 304.”

But the state passing yards mark is not Brumbaugh’s best record. That would be his 43-2 mark as a starter. Brumbaugh was 2-1 as a freshman, 11-1 as a sophomore, 16-0 as a junior and 14-0 this year.

“More than the numbers,” Rossi said. “That’s his mentality. He is a winner. The records just come.”

#TribHS PAGE

HS page (1)

South Fayette prepares for a creative pass defense in PIAA rematch, by Bill West.

HOOPS PREVIEWS

HS hoops page (1)

Class A girls basketball preview: Three-time defending champion Vincentian adds talented transfer to veteran lineup, by Ed Phillipps.

HITTING THE LINKS

Belle Vernon's Phil Baldini

Belle Vernon’s Phil Baldini

Full speed ahead for Belle Vernon boys, by Jeremy Sellew.

Ringgold's Bailey Cooper

Ringgold’s Bailey Cooper

Schmidt, Cooper lead Ringgold, by Rick Bruni Jr.

Lacking interior size, Latrobe boys will rely on depth, overall talent, by Kevin Ritchart.

St. Joseph's Sam Beaver

St. Jospeh’s Sam Beaver

Dedication to defense key for St. Joseph’s boys, by William Whalen.

St. Joseph's Julie Hetu

St. Joseph’s Julie Hetu

St. Joseph’s girls out to write their own history after losses in quarterfinals, by William Whalen.

Burrell's Allan Beattie and Anthony Marra

Burrell’s Allan Beattie slams down Anthony Marra

With just one returning state qualifier, eight-time defending champion Burrell an ‘underdog,’ by Doug Gulasy.

Mt. Pleasant's Adam Patula

Mt. Pleasant’s Adam Patula

Mt. Pleasant’s young swim squads aided by veterans, by Jason Black.

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December 2, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Clairton proving its point

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Doug Paul heard talk that Berlin Brothersvalley would be losing to Clairton at halftime by a score of 70-0, but never told his team that the Bears were going to break the single-season state scoring record in their PIAA Class A quarterfinal.

That the score was 30-17 in Clairton’s favor at halftime exposed that the Bears’ defense was vulnerable, even if their offense showed an ability to score at will. It also proved why Clairton needs to score.

Mostly because its defense isn’t playing well enough to win a state title.

That’s why Clairton is eyeing the national single-season scoring record of 1,023 points, set by Aledo (Texas) last year. The Bears are only 17 points from breaking the old mark of 903, set by Albemarle (N.C.) in 2001.

“It will take a lot of points to break it,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “Is it within our sights? Yes, but it will take averaging (68.5) points.”

The Bears have been unbelievable on offense under new coordinator Shawn Liotta, who has installed a merciless no-huddle offense that puts pressure on opponents by setting an incredible pace and getting the Bears’ skill players the ball in space.

“Our goal is to be there before the sticks move,” Clairton senior receiver Jamie Hines said. “If the refs aren’t ready, our goal is completed.”

It should come as no surprise that Clairton boasts a 2,000-yard rusher in sophomore tailback Lamont Wade and a 2,000-yard passer in senior quarterback Ryan Williams, who has thrown for 600-plus yards and 11 touchdowns in the past two games alone. The Bears have scored 80 points once, 70-plus five times, 60 or more nine times and at least 50 points in 12 of their 14 games.

So, their offense might be their best defense.

“It’s hard to stop us offensively,” Wade said. “Every time we get the ball, we’re looking get in the end zone. If we don’t, we win the field position.”

#TribHS PAGE

HS page (5)

Clairton preparing for another challenge in PIAA semifinals, by Dave Mackall.

#TribHS notebook: All-state soccer teams announced

RECRUITING

Peters Township quarterback Corey Owen is excited to share some news:

And Highlands running back Elijah Jackson has his fingers crossed:

December 1, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

#TribHS weekend recap: Class AA girls basketball preview

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Shaler’s Brianna Schwartz

Shaler’s Schwartz wins prestigious cross country race, one of three WPIAL runners to qualify for national meet.

PIAA FOOTBALL SEMIFINALS

The PIAA has announced times, dates and sites for the football semifinals.

On Friday, Central Valley (14-0) will play Bishop McDevitt (14-0) at 7 p.m. in a Class AAA game at Mansion Park in Altoona, and Clairton (14-0) will take on Sharpsville (11-3) at 7 p.m. in a Class A game at North Allegheny.

On Saturday, Class AAAA Pine-Richland (14-0) will head to Mansion Park in Altoona for a 1 p.m. game against Wilson (14-0), and South Fayette (14-0) will play Hickory (11-2) at 1 p.m. in a Class AA game at Slippery Rock University. The PIAA championships are Dec. 12-13 at Hersheypark Stadium.

#TribHS PAGE

HS hoops page

Class AA girls basketball preview: Pair of Division I recruits return for defending WPIAL, PIAA champion Seton-La Salle, by Ray Fisher.

Beaver Falls' Zach Duffy

Beaver Falls guard Zach Duffy

Class AAA boys basketball preview: Change in classification creates natural rivalries for Beaver Falls, by Chris Harlan.

West Mifflin's Karlyn Garner

West Mifflin’s Karlyn Garner

Hill’s hard work translates into another scoring threat for West Mifflin, by Ed Phillipps.

West Mifflin's Alyssa Cairns

West Mifflin’s Alyssa Cairns

West Mifflin girls basketball team prepared to face difficult road, by Ed Phillipps.

Leechburg's Ryan McDermott

Leechburg’s Ryan McDermott

Leechburg boys basketball strives for more consistency this season, by William Whalen.

Leechburg's Mikayla Lovelace

Leechburg’s Mikayla Lovelace

Leechburg girls hope youth pays off, by William Whalen.

Mt. Pleasant's L.J. Sutton

Mt. Pleasant’s L.J. Sutton

Mt. Pleasant boys basketball team relies on blend of seniors, young talents, by Dave Stofcheck.

Charleroi's Bill Wiltz and Matt Carr

Charleroi coach Bill Wiltz with Matt Carr

Cougars optimistic with new starting five, by Jeremy Sellew.

Monessen's Teraee Bradford

Monessen’s Teraee Bradford

Naccarato’s Greyhounds looking to improve, by Bill Hughes.

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November 29, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

#TribHS football: PIAA quarterfinals recap

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Gorman column

Gorman: Are mergers the future of Western Pennsylvania football?

HS football page 2 -- Clairton

Williams throws six TDs as Clairton sets state scoring record, by Dave Mackall.

PTR cover

Led by Whitehead’s four TDs, Central Valley cruises into PIAA semifinals, by Chris Harlan.

Trib photographer Christopher Horner captured all four of Central Valley star Jordan Whitehead’s first-half touchdowns, including the second one — which appeared on the cover of Saturday’s sports section:

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HS football page 1 -SF and CV

South Fayette wins 300th, moves closer to title defense, by George Guido.

Connor Slomka

Pine-Richland’s Connor Slomka

Pine-Richland overcomes penalties, mistakes for 49-29 victory over State College, by Chris Harlan.

#TribHS HOOPS PREVIEW

HS hoops page

WPIAL Class AAA girls basketball preview: WPIAL, PIAA champion Blackhawk girls to face challenges in title defense, by Ed Phillipps.

HITTING THE LINKS

South Allegheny's Dylan Papson

South Allegheny’s Dylan Papson

Season of change on tap for South Allegheny basketball, by Dave Mackall.

South Allegheny's Alyssa

South Allegheny’s Alyssa Kennedy

South Allegheny girls basketball team will rotate two different lineups, by Dave Mackall.

Knoch boys deal with early season injury, by George Guiodo.

Knoch's Allie Megahan

Knoch’s Allie Megahan

Knoch girls putting focus on defensive end, by George Guido.

Knoch's Molly Bauer

Knoch’s Molly Bauer and her teammates stretch at practices.

Connellsville girls basketball looks for returns to be leaders, by Jason Black.

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November 29, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

#TribHS football: PIAA quarterfinals LIVE blog

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Welcome to the PIAA quarterfinals edition of the iPreps LIVE blog, where we will provide commentary, WPIAL football playoff game updates and the running Twitter feed from the #TribHS sports staff on your right.

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Clairton’s Lamont Wade runs against Berlin Brothersvalley

PIAA CLASS A
Clairton-Berlin Brothersvalley

From Kevin Gorman at Elizabeth Forward Stadium:

FINAL: Clairton 52, Berlin Brothersvalley 24

FOURTH QUARTER
The Bears open the final quarter on a fourth-and-8 at their own 44 — and go for it. Williams completes a pass to Wade for a 16-yard gain. That is followed by a 17-yard run by Dreher, and Clairton has a first-and-10 at the Berlin 22. … The Bears have a first-and-goal from the Berlin 5, but Jackson is dropped for a 6-yard loss. On the next play, Williams dumps a pass to Wade for an 11-yard touchdown, the second consecutive game he has thrown for five touchdowns. Clairton uses a trick play, with Mathews taking a reverse and throwing a two-point pass to Williams for a 44-24 lead with 9:54 remaining. (That’s awfully close to Dave Mackall’s 48-14 prediction in the Trib preview story). … Williams finds Hines in the left corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown, the sixth scoring pass for Williams, who is 20 for 31 for 295 yards. Mathews scores two on a run for a 52-24 lead with 5:21 left. … Berlin Brothersvalley is stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1, and the Bears take over on downs. Braden Fochtman has 32 carries for 241 yards, along with 252 yards in kick returns.

THIRD QUARTER
Dreher returns, but Tyreike Hammonds is injured early in the second half. … The Bears recover a Berlin fumble, then score on Williams’ 1-yard keeper for a 36-17 lead at 9:49 of the third. … On a fourth-and-4 at the Berlin 12, Williams rolls right and throws a pass just over the outstretched arms of Raymone Clifford in the end zone. Berlin takes over on downs. … And Braden Fochtman races 89 yards for the touchdown, out-sprinting the Clairton secondary to cut it to 36-24 with 3:52 remaining in the third. Fochtman, a 5-foot-8, 171-pound junior, has incredible speed and has rushed for 187 yards, scoring once by run and another time on a kick return. … Fochtman has 226 yards on kick returns and 191 rushing, so that’s 417 all-purpose yards against the No. 1-ranked defense in the WPIAL.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Clairton 36, Berlin Brothersvalley 24

SECOND QUARTER
Berlin Brothersvalley has a first-and-10 at the Clairton 17, its deepest drive of the game. Williams, by the way, was 6 for 6 for 152 yards and three touchdowns (to three receivers) in the first quarter. … The Mountaineers now have a first-and-goal from the Clairton 5. … On third-and-goal at the 4, the Bears were called for pass interference. On the next play, Bryce Fochtman scores on a 2-yard run to cut it to 22-7 at 8:32 of the second. … Williams scrambles and evades the Berlin rush, then throws a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jjuan Jackson. The Bears add a two-point conversion pass from Williams to Harrison Dreher for a 30-7 lead with 7:30 left in the half. Williams is now 8 for 8 for 179 yards and four TDs, all to different receivers. That gives Clairton the state’s single-season scoring record, at 864 points. And counting. Jeannete set the state mark in 2007, with 860 points. … Berlin responds with a dazzling 85-yard kick return by Braden Fochtman, who made several defenders miss and cut across the field to score and make it 30-14. … Williams completed his first nine passes for 216 yards and four TDs, but the Bears have had back-to-back incomplete passes. Make that four incomplete passes, and Berlin takes over on downs. … Braden Fochtman breaks off a 45-yard run to the Clairton 6. Berlin, trailing, 30-14, is threatening to score again. But Clairton holds, and Berlin settles for a 20-yard field goal by Carter Raupach to cut it to 30-17 with 9.9 seconds left in the half. … An entertaining end to the half, as Clairton throws a hook-and-sugar pass and the Bears continue to lateral the ball and zigzag around the field, going backwards 29 yards until Hines was tackled at the Berlin 7. On a sour note, Dreher was injured on the play and was on the field for several minutes after the horn. He is being helped off the field by two coaches.

HALFTIME: Clairton 30, Berlin Brothersvalley 17.

FIRST QUARTER
Berlin Brothersvalley won the coin toss, but, surprisingly, deferred until the second half. Clairton took that as a sign that an onsides kick was on the way, and had 10 players up. The kickoff went to Jamie Hines, who returned it to the Berlin 42. Three plays later, Ryan Williams threw a 45-yard scoring pass to Lamont Wade. Noah Hamlin ran for a two-point conversion and Clairton leads, 8-0, at 10:56 of the first quarter. … Clairton scores on its second possession, as Williams finds Aaron Mathews on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Wade scores the two-point conversion, and the Bears lead, 16-0, at 7:43 of the first. After two series, Williams is 3 of 3 for 85 yards and two touchdowns. … The Bears are now 10 points shy of Jeannette’s state single-season scoring record of 860 points in 2007. … Berlin Brothersvalley hasn’t been able to get its offense going, but the Mountaineers just pinned Clairton at its own 1-yard line with a coffin-corner kick. And the Bears cap an eight-play, 99-yard scoring drive with a 46-yard pass from Williams to Hines. But Jjuan Jackson was stopped on a two-point attempt and the Bears lead, 22-0. They are now four points shy of tying the state record. … Braden Fochtman returns the ensuing kickoff to the Clairton 28. He was stopped by Williams, the kicker.
END OF FIRST QUARTER: Clairton 22, Berlin Brothersvalley 0.

PIAA CLASS AAA
Central Valley vs. Conneaut

From Chris Harlan at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium

FINAL: Central Valley 52, Conneaut 23

THIRD QUARTER
At the half, Whitehead has 205 yards on seven first-half carries after his 63-yard TD catch (a short toss) changed to a run. … CV’s Kurt Reinstadtler catches a 22-yard TD from Chris Callaghan and it’s mercy rule time. CV leads, 52-14, with 9:15 in the third. … A Central Valley punt snap goes through the end zone and it’s 52-16 with 2:44 left in the third. …
END OF THIRD QUARTER: Central Valley 52, Conneaut 23

SECOND QUARTER
Conneaut QB Hunter Merritt hurting after a roughing-the-passer penalty against Central Valley. It came on fourth-and-4 incomplete pass. … After a late hit put Merritt on the sideline with an injury, backup Connor Mattera added a 14-yard touchdown run to pull within a touchdown of Central Valley, 21-14, with 9:33 left in the second quarter. … CV’s Preston Johnson catches a 29-yard TD catch from Johnny George to lead 28-14 with 7:41 left until halftime. … Whitehead scores a third touchdown with a 41-yard touchdown run. CV leads 35-14. … Whitehead adds a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of a possession for a 42-14 lead with 2:14 left in the half. … CV’s Brendan Jugan kicks a 34-yard field goal to make it 45-14 with 1:05 remaining. Conneaut hasn’t been the same team since Merritt was hurt.
HALFTIME: Central Valley 45, Conneaut 14

FIRST QUARTER
Central Valley moved 65 yards in seven plays, ending with a 17-yard touchdown run by Jordan Whitehead to lead 7-0 with 8:15 left in the first quarter. Whitehead touched the ball on five of seven plays. … Conneaut responds with a four-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. Hunter Merritt ran 28 yards for the touchdown to force a 7-7 tie with 7:03 left in the first quarter. … Central Valley reclaims the lead, 14-7, with a 35-yard touchdown run on a reverse by Kurt Reinstadtler with 5:55 in the first quarter. … A second touchdown by Whitehead and Central Valley leads 21-7. Whitehead caught a short pass and carried it 63 yards with 1:33 left in the first.
END OF FIRST QUARTER: Central Valley 21, Conneaut 7.

PIAA CLASS AA
South Fayette vs. Karns City

From George Guido at Clarion Memorial Stadium

FINAL: South Fayette 42, Karns City 15.

FOURTH QUARTER
Brumbaugh enters the fourth quarter with 199 yards passing, needing 105 to become the state’s all-time leading passer. Problem is, South Fayette has the comfort of a 34-point lead and doesn’t need to throw the ball. … Karns City’s Ethan Conto scores with 22 seconds left, but South Fayette leads 42-15. … The record will have to wait a week: Brumbaugh finishes with 199 yards passing, Hayes with 183 rushing.

THIRD QUARTER
Brett Brumbaugh is 7 for 19 for 104 yards, with an interception and no touchdowns at the half. He needed 304 yards to break the state’s career passing record of 10,948 yards, set by Port Allegany’s Matt Bodamer. So, if you’re keeping score at home, Brumbaugh needs to pass for 200 yards in the second half to set a new record.
… Hayes scores again. This time, after a Karns City fumble recovered by Logan Sharp, he goes in from 1 yard and SF leads 29-0 with 11:16 left in third quarter. … Brumbaugh tosses a 6-yard TD pass to Sharp to make it 36-0 and evoke the mercy rule. … Karns City answers on Collin Dunmyre’s 53-yard TD run, plus a two-point conversion. KC trails SF, 36-8. … Brumbaugh has 181 yards before starting this drive, but Hayes is stealing the show tonight, scoring for a fourth time. He goes 18 yards for a score and SF leads 42-8 with 39 seconds left in the third.
END OF THIRD QUARTER: South Fayette 42, Karns City 8

SECOND QUARTER
Dan Trimbur kicks a 25-yard field goal to give the Lions a 90 lead with 5:54 left in the half. … Hunter Hayes scores from 9 yards and South Fayette leads Karns City, 16-0, with 1:47 left in the first half. Hayes cracked the 100-yard mark on that play, on only 15 carries. He has scored two TDs. … After forcing a fourth punt of the first half, South Fayette’s Nick Ponikvar returns the punt 77 yards for a score to give the Lions a 22-0 lead with :03 left in the first half. …
HALFTIME: South Fayette 22, Karns City 0.

FIRST QUARTER
Brett Brumbaugh, who needed 304 yards to become the state’s all-time leading passer, has thrown for 50 yards and the Lions are on the scoreboard first.
END OF FIRST QUARTER: South Fayette 6, Karns City 0.

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November 28, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Kasperowicz joins exclusive club

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Eric Kasperowicz

Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz

It was a brilliant call, but mostly for the preparation that Eric Kasperowicz put into it.

When an inadvertent whistle negated a Pine-Richland fumble that was recovered by Central Catholic in the WPIAL Class AAAA final, the Rams got the ball back. While awaiting the officials’ decision, Kasperowicz had Pine-Richland huddle, pulled the fire alarm and called a play known as “Texas.”

“That was a sudden-change situation in our eyes,” Kasperowicz said. “We call them ‘fire alarms,’ our trick plays. We practice that play four times a week for the past 16 weeks, since preseason. There’s nothing worse than getting in a situation like that and ask the kids to go out there and perform it.”

The play, which Kasperowicz saw Southlake Carroll run last year in the Texas state playoffs, involved quarterback Ben DiNucci faking an audible, stepping to his right while a direct snap goes to running back Connor Slomka for a sweep left. Receiver D’Ondre Gastion came in motion from the left and took a pitch from Slomka, then threw a pass to a wide-open DiNucci for a touchdown and 14-0 lead.

“I’m constantly studying the game,” Kasperowicz said. “It’s a copycat league. It’s stuff you draw up in the dirt. Why recreate the wheel?”

Kasperowicz is in rarefied air, as one of a handful of men to win a WPIAL football championship as a player at North Hills (’93) and now, as head coach at Pine-Richland. Now, he has the Rams chasing a state title. If Pine-Richland were to win, Kasperowicz would be the first in PIAA history to win state titles as a player and coach.

“As a player, I could control it,” Kasperowicz said. “I was a quarterback and safety and made calls on both sides of the ball. As a coach, that’s the ultimate challenge. You want the kids to do what they’re coached to do. You’re putting them in a position to be success. That’s my job, to make sure these guys are playing the best they can.
“If not, that comes back to you as a coach. You need to look in the mirror.”

Just as Kasperowicz shared his WPIAL championship experiences with his team during their road to Heinz Field, he plans to do the same with Pine-Richland about what it was like to win a PIAA title.

“You know what to expect,” Kasperowicz said. “I’ve been there. I’ve had those experiences. It’s my job to convey those experiences and tell them what to expect. It’s just another football game. You’ve got to line up and play like you’ve done all season. It’s valuable. I think it’s important to show those kids that it’s not impossible.”

#TribHS PAGE

TribHS page

WPIAL champion Pine-Richland hopes to avoid ‘classic drop-off’ against six-loss State College, by Chris Harlan.

WHAT THEY SAID

While Clairton QB Ryan Williams gives thanks for football and family…

November 27, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

A ‘perfect’ finish for Central Valley

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Central Valley's B.J. Powell

Central Valley coach Mark Lyons hugs B.J. Powell after the Warriors beat West Allegheny for the WPIAL Class AAA championship

Everyone at Heinz Field was expecting the ball to go to Jordan Whitehead.

B.J. Powell knew better.

Central Valley coach Mark Lyons has such confidence in Powell that he used his star as a decoy in the last minute of the WPIAL Class AAA final.

While Whitehead went in motion, Powell ran a post-corner route. John George pump-faked, then tossed a 23-yarder to a wide-open Powell with 19 seconds left to clinch a 28-21 win over West Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA championship.

“It was the perfect play for the perfect situation,” Powell said. “When you’re called on, you have to make the play. Once I heard the fans roaring, it was the greatest feeling I’d ever had.”

Lyons described the 6-foot-3 senior’s pulse as a “flat line,” one that’s ice-cold in the clutch.

“He doesn’t waver,” Lyons said. “You couldn’t tell if he dropped one or had the winning touchdown. We can turn around and toss it to Jordan 40 times, but in a game like this you’ve got to have other players involved.”

Powell has 38 receptions for 724 yards and nine touchdowns, providing a passing threat that prevents defenses from selling out to stop Whitehead.

“It’s hard to guard us,” said George, Central Valley’s quarterback said. “We have all these playmakers, especially with the best player in the state.”

That Whitehead isn’t Central Valley’s only offensive threat is why the Warriors ended West Allegheny’s two-year reign as WPIAL champs and why they have a chance to become the first WPIAL Class AAA team to advance to a PIAA final since Thomas Jefferson in 2008.

And if Central Valley needs a big play along the way, Powell has proven to be the perfect pick.

#TribHS PAGE

TribHS page

PIAA quarterfinalists Central Valley, Conneaut sharing success after mergers, by Bill West.

#TribHS notebook: Apollo-Ridge’s Tipton named conference dual-award winner, by Bill Beckner Jr.

HOOPS PREVIEW PAGE

HS hoops page

Class AAAA girls basketball preview: Penn-Trafford welcomes doubters as it begins WPIAL title defense, by Bill West.

RECRUITING

Vincentian's Brenna Wise

Vincentian’s Brenna Wise

Vincentian Academy’s Wise signs with Pitt, by Jerry Clark.

HITTING THE LINKS

Penn-Trafford's Timmy Vecchio

Penn-Trafford’s Timmy Vecchio

Penn-Trafford boys basketball returning experienced roster, by Nathan Smith.

Chartiers Valley's Eddie Flohr

Chartiers Valley’s Eddie Flohr

Chartiers Valley preparing for jump to Class AAAA, by Nathan Smith.

Fox Chapel coach Zach Skrinjar

Fox Chapel boys basketball coach Zach Skrinjar

Fox Chapel out to replace pair of 1,000-point scorers, by Marty Stewart.

Fox Chapel girls prepare for life without state’s player of the year, by Marty Stewart.

Kiski Area's Justice Evans

Kiski Area’s Justice Evans

Kiski Area boys ready for an encore, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Kiski Area's Emily Cieslinski

Kiski Area’s Emily Cieslinski

Kiski Area girls brace for rough season, by Bill Beckner Jr.

Norwin's Curtis Perz

Norwin’s Curtis Perz

Norwin boys basketball looks to use fast pace, deep bench, by Nathan Smith.

Keystone Oaks boys hoops coach focused on changing program’s culture, by Nathan Smith.

Steel Valley plans to play up-tempo with first-year coach Schifino, by Karen Kadilak.

Steel Valley players looking for experience, by Karen Kadilak.

Shady Side's Jackson Fitzgerald

Shady Side Academy’s Jackson Fitzgerald

Shady Side boys seek return to postseason, by Marty Stewart.

After struggling in Class AA, Serra basketball welcomes moving down in classification, by Andrew John.

Serra's Katie Sieg

Serra’s Katie Sieg

Despite youth, Serra girls basketball remains optimistic for postseason, by Andrew John.

Brentwood Boosters’ annual tip-off tournament set for Dec. 5-6, by Ray Fisher.

Youth movement in place in Brentwood girls’ basketball program, by Ray Fisher.

Southmoreland's Olivia Porter

Southmoreland’s Olivia Porter

Southmoreland girls hoops team optimistic, by Paul Paterra.

Richard Costanzo

Former Thomas Jefferson star Richard Costanzo

Thomas Jefferson’s top all-time soccer players recognized, by Ray Fisher.

Bishop Canevin hockey looking for scoring touch, by Nathan Smith.

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November 26, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

South Fayette’s secret weapon

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South Fayette's Dan Trimbur

South Fayette WR Dan Trimur celebrates his touchdown (with Ryan Schmider) against Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class AA championship game at Heinz Field

Dan Trimbur sat at his locker stall at Heinz Field, staring in stunned silence at the celebration surrounding him.

South Fayette had defended its WPIAL Class AA championship, but Trimbur couldn’t quite comprehend his contributions.

“It was all starting to sink in,” he said, “how amazing it was.”

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound sophomore receiver had five catches for 54 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown, in the WPIAL final.

“I was thinking how awesome it would be to catch a touchdown at Heinz Field,” Trimbur said, “but I didn’t expect it.”

What Trimbur expected least was to provide the winning points. He kicked four point-after tries, but it was his 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the 31-22 victory over Aliquippa.

Not bad for a kid who played soccer “maybe in fourth grade” but volunteered to kick when senior Brian Coyne was injured.

“In the moment, I was trying not to think about it,” Trimbur said of his kick. “I was just thinking about making it. I just tried to kick it straight.”

Trimbur was an unlikely hero for South Fayette. He has 23 catches for 368 yards, but didn’t start until senior Roman Denson injured his finger. All four of Trimbur’s touchdowns have come in the playoffs, one in each game, each bigger than the last.

South Fayette offensive coordinator Andrew DiDonato was impressed with how Trimbur ran deep routes and made several first-down catches but kept his composure to make the kick.

South Fayette coach Joe Rossi sees similarities between Trimbur and former stars Zach Challingsworth (Pitt) and Justin Watson (Penn).

“We put a lot on his shoulders,” Rossi said, “and he did a great job.”

#TribHS PAGE

TribHS page

South Fayette, Karns City set for rematch in PIAA quarterfinals, by Matt Grubba.

BRUMBAUGH WATCH: It’s worth noting that South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh , already the WPIAL’s career passing leader and first to break the 10,000-yard mark, needs 304 yards to become the state’s all-time leading passer.

Brumbaugh, who is averaging 251.5 yards a game but passed for 382 yards against Seton-La Salle in the semifinals and 352 against Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class AA championship, should have a good chance of breaking the record against Karns City. If he accomplishes the feat, the WPIAL would boast both the state’s all-time leading passer and rusher, Rushel Shell of Hopewell (9,078 yards).

UNDERDOGS

Sports Illustrated visited Western Pennsylvania for a special story and video on the 100-year rivalry between Ford City and Kittanning, which will merge to form Armstrong High School next fall.

It’s worth watching.

HITTING THE LINKS

Gateway's Thomas Kromka and Daylon Harris

Gateway’s Thomas Kromka (left) and Daylon Harris defend on Upper St. Clair’s Will Ross

Gateway boys expect to have a deep rotation, by Michael Love.

Gateway's Morgan Hainsey

Gateway’s Morgan Hainsey

Gateway girls again the hunters in section race, by Michael Love.

Plum's James Edwards

Plum’s James Edwards

Plum boys set to begin defense of section title, by Michael Love.

Plum girls coach Eric Gillis

Plum girls coach Eric Gillis talks to his team

Opportunities abound for young Plum girls basketball squad, by Michael Love.

Highlands' Kaison Branch

Highlands’ Kaison Branch

Highlands boys put defense first, by George Guido.

Highlands' Ashlyn Jonczak

Highlands’ Ashlyn Jonczak

Highlands girls looking for improvement after 3-16 campaign, by George Guido.

Quaker Valley boys ready for their time, by Gary Horvath.

Sewickley Academy boys basketball facing new challenges, by Gary Horvath.

Same school, new team for Elizabeth Forward boys basketball coach Kosanovich, by Kevin Lohman.

Elizabeth Forward girls basketball team has new coach, same winning attitude, by Kevin Lohman.

Plum's Nate Turchick

Plum’s Nate Turchick

Plum wrestling hoping to solidify younger lineup, by Dave Schrecengost.

Seven starters back to lead Gateway wrestling, by Michael Love.

Franklin Regional pulls away in PIHL bout with Gateway, by Michael Love.

Latrobe hockey spending two-week layoff ‘fine tuning,’ by Alex Oltmanns.

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November 25, 2014
by Kevin Gorman

Making history at Clairton

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Daily News tab cover

Daily News tab cover story

Even before he was hired as head coach, Wayne Wade was a natural fit at Clairton.

Wade accomplished a WPIAL first, as he’s believed to be the first African-American coach to win a WPIAL football championship in the league’s 100 years of crowning champions.

“I was aware of it,” Wade said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind. When I took over the first time at Clairton (in 2001), I was the first African-American to hold the head-coaching position in football at Clairton. That was kind of a historical moment.”

As Dave Mackall writes, the state scoring record is within reach for Clairton.

But Clairton’s high-scoring ways taught Wade a valuable lesson this season, as he drew criticism for running up the score early this season. Although the state record remained a goal, the Bears no longer left their starters in until the fourth quarter. Wade also indicated that officials called some phantom penalties as a way to call back some of Clairton’s touchdowns against overmatched opponents.

“It was starting to become a cancer for us,” Wade said. “It was a negative. It was something that wasn’t positive. … We’re not in the game of trying to embarrass children. It was like a black eye that we didn’t need.”

Leading Clairton to another WPIAL championship — its sixth in seven years and seventh in nine — was another story, especially when Wade learned that he and his Bears made history.

“To win in my first year feels great, it really does,” Wade said. “I just want to keep it going. I want the kids to enjoy this feeling every year.”

#TribHS PAGE

HS page (3)

Pine-Richland’s ‘Neil’ the ram has happy home, by Bill West.

HITTING THE LINKS

The word on Central Catholic safety-return specialist Johnny Petrishen was that he had narrowed his college choices to Pitt and Virginia but was holding out hope for an offer from Penn State. From his reaction on Twitter, it looks like the Nittany Lions might be the new team to beat.