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High School Spotlight

December 19, 2010

Hershey, Pa., As the sun was beginning to set on Hersheypark stadium during the pregame drills it appeared that the AAAA state championship game between the WPIAL’s North Allegheny Tigers and the District 12 champ LaSalle Explorers was going to be a battle of the Tigers ground and pound attack and the Explorers skill players. The Tigers took home gold on a 21-0 victory over the returning state champs from Philadelphia Catholic League.


Art Walker’s Tigers came into the game at 15-1 and without its star smash mouth RB Alex Papson who is recovering from a broken collarbone. Papson was the perfect complement to North Allegheny’s offensive line, a big, athletic bunch that has worn down defensive lines and plays very hard drive football for four quarters of every game.


Drew Gordon’s Explorers at 14-1 were at full strength after a thrilling 38-35 Eastern Pa win the week before over District 1 power North Penn. LaSalle has played a season of near flawless mistake free football relying on the playmaking of star Villanova bound RB Jamal Abdur-Rahman.


On LaSalle’s first possession the Tigers Kevin Cope recovered a Tim Wade fumble after Wade took a pass from quarterback Matt Magarity out of the backfield on LaSalle’s 40 yard line. North Allegheny went right to work on what have been their bread and butter all season, ground and pound football. They generated a methodical nine play drive with a steady diet of Papson’s understudy, Matt Steinback running primarily off tackle for 36 of their yards on the drive. Quarterback Michael Buchert took it in for a four yard touchdown and a North Allegheny 7-0 lead.


Near the end of the second quarter LaSalle went on an improbable 16 play drive that took up almost eight minutes. Begrudgingly, North Allegheny’s defense was bending but not breaking. Stalled on the Tiger 10 yard line LaSalle lined up to attempt a Ryan Winslow 25 yard field goal attempt. LaSalle was then called for a false start and after a timeout coach Gordon decided to roll the dice and go for the touchdown on the 15 yard line. Magarity’s pass intended for Rahman in the endzone was underthrown and intercepted by Seth Marx.


Still up by only 7-0, the Tigers had the ball at the end of the second quarter and ran one of two successful trick plays that proved the Explorers undoing. With the ball on the LaSalle 27 with under a minute left, Buchert ran a keeper around the right side and lateraled to Steinback who ran behind him going the other direction. The misdirection play caught LaSalle completely off guard and the touchdown run produced a gratifying 14-0 halftime lead.


If the first half trick play hurt LaSalle, the one that Walker called in the third quarter all by sealed LaSalle’s fate. On their second possession after intermission, wide receiver Brendan Coniker took a handoff for a reverse then threw downfield to a wide open Dan Slivka for a 30 yard gain and the ball on the Explorer one. Buchert took it in from there and a 21-0 lead which was the final score.


Trick plays aside; the defense of North Allegheny was the real story. Led by Coniker, Purdue recruit Robert Kugler and Justin Haser, the Tiger defense closed in effectively on every Rahman run limiting the Explorer star to 50 yards on 17 carries.


At game’s end the North Allegheny team huddled around their injured star Papson in a nice tribute to the player who has brought them to this point. In return, Papson can certainly be proud of the way his team played.

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HERSHEY, Pa. – High atop Section 26 of the visitors side of seating at HersheyPark Stadium, a group of South Fayette youth could be seen running back and forth across empty rows of bleachers during the second half of Saturday’s PIAA AA state championship game.

It was eerily similar to what was going on down on the gridiron below. West Catholic’s lethal rushing attack was moving forward full throttle and there was little South Fayette’s defense could do about it.


West Catholic (13-2) blew through the South Fayette (15-1) defense for 407 rushing yards and more than 500 yards of total offense to claim the Philadelphia Catholic League’s second PIAA football championship in a convincing 50-14 victory in the PIAA AA state championship game played at HersheyPark Stadium.

The victory was one to savor for West Catholic, which two years ago experienced the biggest of heartbreaks in a double overtime loss to Wilmington Area. Victory #520 in WC school history brought the school its long-awaited golden football to place in the trophy case. In the fourth quarter, ahead by 30 with victory all but a formality, the contingent of Burr fans started chanting, “Par-ty! Par-ty! Par-ty!”

Asked if the word “atonement” was appropriate to use this day, Burrs’ head coach Brian Fluck simply said, “Yes.”


“It’s tremendous,” Fluck said of the state football title. “This (win) is for all the West alumni; for the 2008 team; for all the people that back us. This victory shows that West Catholic is one of the best football teams in the state of Pennsylvania.”


Few would argue with Fluck that West is one of the best after Saturday’s performance. The Burrs, or should we say, the “Blurrs” (for their impressive team speed) brought to Hershey a pro-I rushing offense that averaged 270 yards per game and had gouged out totals of 298, 486 and 347 yards in the last three weeks. With three backs with more than 740 yards and an offensive line that averaged 256 pounds per man, the Burrs ran, ran, ran, and to cross things up, ran some more.


“They physically beat us up a little bit,” said South Fayette head coach Joe Rossi.


After falling down 7-0 to the Lions on a Christian Brumbaugh 8-yard pass to Zach Challingsworth, the Burrs went to work. They ground out two first downs before Anthony Reid ended the drive with an intercepted pass, but South Fayette could muster zero points from the gift given by its defense.


Then, enter David Williams, a sophomore for West Catholic with plenty of speed to burn. On his first carry of the game, he went 81 yards to the house to break WC’s goose egg with 1:59 left in the opening stanza. On his second carry, he rambled 17 yards, moving the Burrs from the shadow of their own end zone to the 25 yard line. The very next play, Reid hooked up with senior Jaelen Strong-Rankin on a 75-yard touchdown pass with 8:45 left in the first half, and West Catholic never looked back or trailed again. Reid extended the Burrs’ lead to 20-7 with a 7-yard run on a bootleg play.


West Catholic capped its second quarter scoring binge with two more touchdowns – a 16-yard run by senior Brandon Hollomon and a 25-yard pass from Reid to Strong-Rankin with just :05 left in the half. The Burrs led, 36-14, posting an impressive 30 points, 234 yards of offense and eight first downs in the period to put the game out of reach.


The 25-yard touchdown pass right before halftime might have been the deciding dagger to South Fayette’s hopes of a PIAA title.


“We wanted to put the final nail in the coffin there,” Fluck said. “The kids came out and played with a tremendous amount of confidence and swagger today.”


West only attempted one pass in the second half – it was intercepted by South Fayette senior Ben Meredith – pounding it out between the front five of Dom DiGalbo, Todd-Jamal Waters, Mike Makor, Rodney Linder and Eric Wyant for 198 more yards of terra firma and two more touchdowns – a 4-yard run by Williams and a 26-yard run by Josh Mathis – to put the mercy rule and a running clock in effect with 10:27 left in the two team’s 2010 seasons.


“The last couple of weeks we’d been playing really well up front,” Fluck said. “Our guys played well up front today.”


Brumbaugh’s career at South Fayette ended shortly after that final West score. Harrassed and pressured all day by the Burrs’ relentless defense, the Lions’ record-setting field general was lifted with 9:14 left in the game for what Rossi called “safety concerns,” noting, “He took some pretty good shots and we wanted to protect him.”


Brumbaugh, who will continue his football career at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, completed 11-of-26 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns, both to Zach Challingsworth (5 rec., 73 yards, 2 TD).


South Fayette, which had averaged more than 240 yards passing per game, was held 130 yards below its average. The Lions’ offense, which averaged 42 points per game and had rolled up more than 530 yards in the PIAA semifinals against Forest Hills, was limited to just 138 yards this day and nine first downs. SF’s ground game was bottled up well – yielding a scant 22 yards on 19 carries – and paced by Trevor Fiorentini’s 41 yards on nine rushes.


“Trevor tried to do a nice job for us on the ground (but they’d pretty much taken that away and made us one-dimensional),” Rossi said.


South Fayette’s final 2010 breakdown, “Family,” was broken between sobs and tears and the sting of defeat. Moments before, the entire green and white contingent, an estimated 2,000 in number, gave their Lions a standing ovation as the team accepted the silver football trophy signifying state runners-up. As public address announcer Bob Schellenberg said, “You have made the McDonald community very proud,” the SF crowd rose to a standing ovation once more.


“There’s pain right now,” Rossi admitted. “But this has been a journey they’ll remember. It’s been a special year and they’re a special group of guys. I hate to see them go.”


West Catholic, meanwhile, was paced by Williams’ 181 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts. Hollomon added 104 yards on 14 attempts, Mathis 61 yards on eight carries and Reid 30 yards on six attempts. The Burrs finished with 531 yards of offense and 23 first downs. Reid finished 3-of-6 passing for 124 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.


The theme, however, was atonement.


And this day, for West Catholic, atonement was almost sweeter than Hershey’s chocolate.

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Late Touchdown earns Central Catholic a Title


Written by: Dean Beers on Saturday, December 18th, 2010

By Dean Beers,


Hershey -  Brendan Nosovitch and his team have had big plays all throughout the playoffs. The Vikings needed a big one being behind 27-21 with less than 3 minutes to go in the game.


They got one. A 70-yard pass from Nosovitch to senior tight end Jack Sandherr (5 catches, 128 yards) took the Vikings (16-0) from their own 12-yard line to the Bishop McDevitt 18 –yard line.


One play later, Viking junior quarterback Nosovitch went up the middle 18 yards for the go ahead score, for a lead they would never relinquish. The Vikings would earn their 3rd PIAA State Title with a 28-27 win over the Crusaders of Bishop McDevitt. The Vikings also won PIAA State Titles in 1993 and 1998.


The Crusaders took the first lead of the game on their first possession. They drove 65 yards on 7 plays, capping the drive off when McDevitt senior quarterback Matt Johnson threw a 28 -yard touchdown pass to Brian Lamelle (4 catches, 82 yards). An extra point  gave the team a 7-0 lead.


Central Catholic would answer right back.  Nosovitch completed passes of 8, 16 and 31 yards on the drive, but ended the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven all.


After both teams exchanged punts, the Crusaders had half the field to work with.


Crusader (13-3) senior running back Jameel Poteat (19 rushes, 71 yards) scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 22-yard touchdown run. An extra point gave the Crusaders a 14-7 lead.


It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter when the Vikings’ scored again. The Vikings’ defense had pinned the Crusaders back at their own eight-yard line, when they forced a McDevitt punt which only went 17 yards.


On second down and 11, Nosovitch fumbled the ball but Nathan Roberts recovered the ball for the Viking on the 25 yard line. On the next play, Nosovitch scored on a 25-yard touchdown run. The game was tied at 14 going into halftime.


Central Catholic’s first possession of the second half gave them the lead. The Vikings drove 73 yards on 6 plays, with the big play coming on a Nosovitch to Kevin McKellick (3 catches, 45 yards) 29 – yard pass to the Crusaders 35 yard line. Four plays later, Nosovitch threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kevin Gulyas (7 catches, 61 yards). The Vikings lead 21-14.


After a series of exchanged punts, Crusader Miles Williams intercepted a Nosovitch pass and returned it to midfield. It took McDevitt six plays to score on a Matt Johnson 9nine–yard run. The game was tied at 21.


After a Central Catholic turnover on downs, McDevitt drove 57 yards to retake the lead. Poteat did most of the work on this drive, rushing for 25 yards including a three-yard touchdown run. The kick failed, and the Crusaders led 27-21 with seven minutes to go in the game.


Nosovitch finished the game passing 16 for 27 and a touchdown, with 236 yards. He also rushed for 47 yards and 3 touchdowns. We believe he is also the first quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.


Johnson, a Bowling Green recruit, completed 18 passes in 34 attempts, with 235 yards. He also rushed for 5 yards and a touchdown.

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Hershey, Pa., Spotting the Riverside Vikings a 24-0 lead in the first 14 minutes, the Clairton Bears went on  a scoring spree and held on for a 36-30 win and back to back class A State titles at Hershey stadium.


The Vikings got on the board on their third possession in one play when Senior running back Nick Rossi ran aroundthe right end for a 64 yard touchdown. Quarterback Corey Talerico then hit Kyle Walsh with the two point conversion and a 8- 0 lead.


After a quick three and out for the Bears, the Vikings scored again, this time in three plays with a 60 yard touchdown pass from Talerico to Walsh. Rossi ran for the two point conversion and a 16-0 lead.


Riverside went to paydirt again with a seven play drive ending with a 23 yard touchdown pass from Talerico to Tommy Armillay.  Paul Lassiter took it in for the two point conversion and a 24-0 lead.


The turning point in the game came on the Bears next possession. They generated a six minute, 10 play, 65 yard drive and the big play came on a third down conversion from the Vikings 36 with Tyler Boyd running for 30 yards to the Vikings six. Senior Bishop Neal made a crushing block on a Viking defender on the play. The block appeared to give the Bears momentum. Two plays later Quarterback Desimon Green scored from the two. Boyd ran in for the two point conversion and the score was 24-8.


Before the half ended Clairton put two more scores on the board, a 37 yard touchdown pass from Green to Boyd and a nifty 21 yard TD from Junior backup QB Capri Thompson to Joshua Page.


Clairton then took their first lead in the third quarter with an 82 yarder from green to Boyd, and continued the scoring with a more sustained drive ending with a Trenton Coles two yard run.


In the 4th Quarter, the Vikings rallied with a Talerico to Michael Killino 35 yard touchdown.


After holding the Bears and getting the ball back with a minute left and a chance to tie the game, Talerico’s pass was intercepted and the Bears were finally able to relax and hoist gold and the state title.


Riverside played a valiant game in defeat. The 30 points scored by Riverside were almost as much as Clairton (30) gave up all year prior to this game.

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