- High School
Some hot days of summer remain but; nothing says fall like cracking open a Football Four-pack. The 2011 WPIAL football season is here, and gets started with a bang all-around southwestern Pennsylvania all Labor Day weekend long. It’s open season so come one, come all let’s go WPIAL Big Game Hunting for the first time in 2011.
WPIAL Class AAAA Non-Conference
North Allegheny Tigers (0-0)(0-0) vs State College Little Lions (0-0)(0-0)
Friday September 2nd 7:00 pm Newman Stadium Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and the NASN by Lee Mohn and Rick Meister
These two teams met twice last season, in week one and in the state quarterfinals with North Allegheny outscoring the Little Lions 63-13, winning 42-7 in week one and 21-6 thirteen weeks later on a cold December night at Pine-Richland High School. The Tigers lost a bunch of talent from their WPIAL and PIAA championship team of 2010 but….they also have a bunch of talent returning for head coach Art Walker who enters his seventh season at the helm of North Allegheny.
The losses for the Tigers on offense come mainly from the skill positions as quarterback Mike Buchert and all-world running back Alex Papson have been lost to graduation. The good news is Alex Deciantis and Vinnie Congedo both saw significant playing time last year at running back, especially during the state playoff push when Papson was out with an injury. Congedo rushed for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the playoff win over State College, and the Tigers as a team rushed for 282 yards in that game. North Allegheny will also get a boost from North Hills’ transfer Isaiah Faulk who will add some playmaking ability at running back. Mack Leftwich will likely see a lot of snaps at quarterback for North Allegheny but in his first year as a starter he will be nicely supported by a couple of good wideouts in James Kleinhample and Brendan Coniker. The biggest strength for NA, as it was last year, will be up front where three returning starters will anchor a big strong experienced offensive line. Pete Thistle, Zach Harvey and Pat Kugler all return to the trenches for Art Walker and fullback Nick Passodelis figures to loom large as a pile mover as well.
Defensively the Tigers need to fill the void left by the graduation of last years leading tackler Kevin Cope at linebacker, but they do have a few returning starters from one of the best defenses in the WPIAL last year including sackmaster Nate Nachazel.
State College meanwhile comes off a (7-7) season last year with only five returning starters but they are some key guys, including 6’3’’ senior quarterback Josh Weakland who is “on the come” as they say. Last year Weakland threw for over 2100 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first year as a starter, he will look to really have a big season for the Little Lions in his senior year.
Head coach Al Wolski’s all-time mark at State high is an impressive (65-27) and he says he is used to only getting a few guys back as the Lions almost always have a senior laden club. With a roster consistently near 100 players, cracking the lineup as an underclassman can be difficult. Look for contributions on both sides of the ball from linebacker / running back Jack Haffner who is very physical and has nice hands out of the backfield. Up front the Lions think they will have more size than they did last year in the games against North Allegheny where they were occasionally overmatched. Jon Cox (6’3’’ 240lbs) figures to contribute on both sides in that department.
WPIAL Class AAA Non Conference
Central Valley Warriors (0-0)(0-0) vs Allderdice Dragons (0-0)(0-0)
Friday, September 2nd @ 7:00 pm Sarge Alberts Stadium
The Warriors will hard-pressed to improve on their inaugural season in the WPIAL after winning gold at Heinz Field last November. Head Coach Mark Lyons has some solid returnees to his club that plays in the toughest conference in the WPIAL, the Parkway.
A pair of returning quarterbacks for the Warriors gives them nice depth at that position both Curtis Lewis (27 of 57 for 507 yards and four touchdowns), and Matt Bradford (43 of 89 for 757 yards and 11 touchdowns) come back for their senior year leaving Mark Lyons with a decision to make. Lewis missed the second half of last season with a broken collarbone. Whatever coach decides the remaining player will contribute to the team in other ways.
The big playmaker for the Warriors will be junior Robert Foster who returns after an outstanding sophomore year and is turning a lot of college coaches’ heads in his direction with his combination of speed and size and athletic ability. Foster was a 1st team All-State player as a sophomore when he totaled 943 all-purpose yards including 25 catches and 11 touchdowns, he will be the Warriors go-to offensive weapon.
In the backfield the Warriors will need to replace last year’s leading rusher Lukas Turley, lost to graduation. Look for senior Aaron Law to pick up much of that slack, Law last year as a junior rushed it 88 times for 388 yards and three touchdowns.
Turley will also be missed on defense where he was Central Valley’s leading tackler, not only is Turley gone but Mike Kupper and Jimmy Pratchenko both also graduated taking over 200 tackles with them. Holes will need to be filled in the Warrior defense. All-Conference last year as a junior nose tackle, senior Austin David will be asked to switch to linebacker, and to be the leader of a young inexperienced Warrior defense. How David responds to these challenges will have a lot to say in the success of Central Valley’s defense for 2011.
Allderdice lost four of their last five games to end the 2010 season at 5-5. The Dragons also dropped a week one decision to Central Valley 35-0. Head coach Jerry Haslett has 18 returning starters from last years team and feels this is the year the Dragons can contend for the City League Championship.
Junior running back Patrick Ferguson returns after a splendid sophomore season in which he rushed for 1150 yards and averaged over six yards per carry. Ferguson rushed for 750 yards as a freshman. He has tremendous upside and likely will be a division one talent.
The Dragons will need to find a replacement at quarterback for Mike Pfleger who is lost to graduation if they hope to continue their success in District 8. The leading candidates right now are a pair of juniors in Braden Huff and Bishop Gaethers.
Their best player is senior offensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett who has started since his freshman year. Jarrett (6’3’’ 325 pounds) is very highly touted and sorting through a bevy of major college offers. Also getting a lot of interest from college coaches is Jay Barlow a senior defensive end and tight end. Barlow (6’3’’ 220 pounds) has tremendous bloodlines his cousin is Kevan Barlow former Pitt running back and NFLer.
The Dragons will use this game as a measuring stick to see how far they have come since last year look for this game to be much more competitive than the last time these teams met.
WPIAL Class AA v AAA Non Conference
South Fayette Lions (0-0) @ West Mifflin Titans (0-0)(0-0)
Friday, September 2nd @ 7:30 pm Titan Stadium
Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and 1360 WMNY-AM by Paul Paterra and Dan Zangrilli
The Lions are the poster child for skill players lost to graduation but Joe Rossi does have a lot of returnees in the trenches. They will get a great measuring stick in AAA West Mifflin in week one.
Offensively South Fayette will be looking for big things from senior wide receiver and Toledo recruit Zach Challingsworth who caught 13 touchdown passes last season as the Lions went 15-1 and won WPIAL Gold before falling in the state championship game. Also returning as a skill guy is Trevor Fiorentini who rushed for over 300 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Fiorentini (5’11’’ 225 pounds) brings a load both blocking and carrying the ball, he will also be counted on for big things on the other side of the ball as a linebacker.
Coach Rossi also has some beef on the hoof up front with (6’4’’ 300 pounds) Sean Lacinski, Nick Guyan (6’0’’ 215 pounds) and Kevin Hitlan (6’2’’ 200 pounds) all returning starters back for their senior year leading the way. They will make holes for Fiorentini, and protect a new Lions quarterback who will have some giant sized shoes to fill in the wake of graduated Christian Brumbaugh. Look for John Lerda to be that guy Lerda is a senior and has great size (6’3’’185 pounds) also on the depth chart for South Fayette is Christian’s younger brother Brett Brumbaugh a freshman.
West Mifflin and Ray Braszo loved being reunited last year as the Titans reached the playoffs for the first time in four years in the first year of coach Braszo’s second stint. Sorry if you have to read that previous sentence twice. The Titans have some serious playmakers returning on offense including one of the leading rushers from the WPIAL last season Shamar Greene, Greene rushed for nearly 1200 yards last season. He will be the guy the Titans look to get them to the next level.
Derrick Fulmore will take over at quarterback for the departed Jordan McClung, Fulmore will have a nice line in front of him led by Tyree Atkinson. Fulmore will also have a returning receiver in Demetrius Hayes, plus Ray always has a bevy of speedy athletic kids who step up and make plays for the Titans waiting in the wings.
Linebacker Kevin Clarke returns for his senior year and will be the guy the Titans look to as the leader of their defense.
WPIAL Class A vs Class AA Non Conference
Clairton Bears (0-0)(0-0) vs Washington Little Prexies (AA) (0-0)(0-0)
Friday, September 2nd @ 7:30pm
Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Greg Warnock and Mike Krcil
Wow! What else is there to say about the Clairton Bears? Papa Bear Tom Nola’s team is coming off their third straight WPIAL championship, and two consecutive PIAA Championships, the Bears have won 31 straight games and, they look to be very loaded coming into the 2011 season.
Capri Thompson will step in at quarterback and take over for Desimon Green, Thompson showed great things last year when playing in spot duty as Green was banged up from time to time. Thompson also excelled over the summer as the bears were a dominating seven-on-seven team going up against powerhouses from all over the country.
The Bears will have one of if not THE fastest player in the WPIAL back in wide receiver Trenton Coles a multi-sprint Gold Medalist in WPIAL track. Look for the Bears to do whatever they can to get the ball into his hands as often as possible. Tyler Boyd will slide into the running back duties vacated by the injury to Trenton’s younger brother Karvonn Coles.
The Bears will still be strong up front look for Carvan Thompson and Erik Walker to continue to move the pile for the Bears on both sides of the football. It will be interesting to see how the Bears’ defense responds to the departure of defensive coordinator Mike LeDonne who has left the program for a head coaching position at Elizabeth Forward. The Bear defense under LeDonne was to be frank, otherworldy the last few years putting up phenomenal stats and squelching even the most highly-touted of offenses. The play of returning linebacker Devonte Gardlock will have a great deal to do with whether or not they can maintain that tremendous tradition.
Wash High meanwhile appears to be poised for a run at the playoffs in the third year of head coach Mike Bosnic. Bosnic has some great athletes and a lot of experience returning to the 2011 version of the Prexies.
Quarterback Josh Wise returns for his second year as a starter at the helm of the Prexies who appear to have the horses in the backfield ready to role in Jaylin Kelly, Joe Phillips (who suffered an injury during camp but is expected to be ready for week one) and Shai McKenzie. The Prexies started out 1-5 last season but clearly figured some things out in winning their last four in a row to finish at 5-5 and just out of the playoff picture in the Century conference.
The key for Washington will likely be the battle in the trenches where Coach Bosnic will need some younger guys to step up and make key contributions. If Phillips is all the way better he will be looked at as a leader on the defensive line, how his teammates respond to him and how the new guys on the offensive line respond to the stiff competition they will face in the Century conference will be the telling factor in the Prexies’ 2011 season.