2011 WPIAL Year in Review – Top 25 Stories: #20 – #16
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 | 4:26 PM
2011 has been a tremendous year in high school sports in the WPIAL. It was a year where some familiar champions wore the golden crown again while some new faces surfaced in the championship picture. It was a year when there was plenty of streaking (not like the 70’s) in both the good direction and the not so good direction. It was a year in which we welcomed some while sadly saying so long to others. Over the final few days of 2011, we here at the MSA Sports Network (who once again were there for it all) count down the Top 25 stories from around the WPIAL sports scene starting with #25 through #21.
#20 - USC SWEEPS BOYS AND GIRLS SOCCER GOLD
For the seventh time in WPIAL history and for the first time since way back in 2010, a school captured soccer titles in both the boys and girls WPIAL postseason tournaments. Mount Lebanon accomplished the feat twice, in 1984 and 1993. Quaker Valley did it twice in back-to-back years in 1991 and 1992. Then in 2010, Peters Township won both the Boys Class AAA and the Girls Class AAA crowns. Here in 2011, it was another South Hills Class AAA school that swept boys and girls soccer gold. What made the Panthers twin titles even more unique was that in both finals, USC beat rival and the defending champion Peters Township Indians to accomplish the rare feat. in the boys finals, Upper Saint Clair collected their sixth WPIAL soccer championship, leaving them one short of the record seven WPIAL soccer titles held by Peters Township. Stoned by Peter's defenders and keeper Chris Gagainas in opportunity after opportunity for the first 33 minutes plus, the Panthers finally broke through in the 34th minute when senior Matt Keirnan directed a shot with off his shin from just to the right at the top of the box, behind Gagianas who got a piece of it but not enough to stop USC from taking a 1-nil lead. After the Indians tied the score in the second half, freshman defender Garrett Blake had a throw in for USC from about 20 yards out, as the ball came into the middle of the box Mike Worthy got a piece of it, in fact it was just enough to squeeze it between Gagianas and another Indian defender, who appeared to miscommunicate and then subsequently misplay it into the game winning goal for Upper Saint Clair. In the girls title match in the 5th minute, Carley Bogan of the Panthers put a corner kick right in front of the goal mouth and redirected by Katey Woistman past Indians' keeper Megan Parker to give USC a 1-0 lead. After PT would took a 2-1 lead, Bogan would take a pass and rush past the Indians defense and drive a shot past Parker to knot the game at 2 goals apiece at the end of the first half. The only goal in the second half came when Panthers senior fullback Val Repischak took a shot from about 45 yards out which caught Parker off guard, and ball would sail right into the net to give USC a 3-2 advantage that they would hold on to for their eighth girls soccer championship.
#19 - COUGAR MOUNTAIN HIGH
Some schools go years between district championships. Yough High School had never won a WPIAL team championship...in ANY sport. Until this past softball season. The Cougars were co-champs in Class AAA Section 4 with Greensburg-Salem and finished the regular season with a 14-1 record. As the #4-seed, Yough beat New Castle, Belle Vernon and top-seed and defending champion Montour to reach the finals against perennial power Ambridge. Defense was not at a premium in the championship game the Cougars and Bridgers combined to commit ten errors. But Yough had something that Ambridge did not have and that was sensational senior left-handed pitcher Nicole Sleith, who struck out 15 Bridgers and permitted only four hits, one earned run and issued only one walk. Of the 98 pitches she threw, an incredible 70 of them were strikes. Sleith was also very good with the bat in her hands as she went 3 for 4 in the game with an RBI in leading Yough to a first ever WPIAL crown with a 4-2 victory. The Cougars would go on to lose to the eventual PIAA champion Valley Vikings in the state Quarterfinals, but that loss could not erase the first taste of gold for the green and orange.
#18 - ERIE McDOWELL HOSTS PLAYOFF GAME...THEN FORCED TO DEPART FROM WPIAL
In 2010, Erie McDowell, in its first year as an official member of the WPIAL in football only, qualified for the playoffs out of the Northern Seven Conference and lost 37-21 in the First Round to the Gators at Gateway High School. This past fall in their second year, the Trojans ended up as the second place team in the conference and thus hosted a District 7 postseason game. McDowell mauled McKeesport 42-7 Behind Khyre Drayer's 118 yards rushing and a touchdown plus two scores from Greg Garmon and would advance to the Quarterfinals the following week where their season ended in a tough 21-14 loss to Upper St. Clair at the neutral site of Seneca Valley High School. Hosting a District 7 football playoff game did not sit well with District 10 officials who moved to get McDowell back in D-10. A new rule was established stating District 10 will no longer allow school members to participate in playoffs outside of District 10. McDowell is a District 10 team in all other sports. Thus, the Trojans can no longer participate as a member of the WPIAL in football. The school had asked the WPIAL to have a D-7 regular season schedule but no be eligible for the WPIAL playoffs like McDowell did from 2006 through 2009, however the WPIAL refused their request if they could not be a full football member.
#17 - WPIAL ALUMNI SHINING BRIGHT ON DRAFT DAY
The fact that the district has so many great athletes move forward to bigger and grander stages after high school sports was once again shown to be true at various pro drafts this past year. In April, a former WPIAL football player was taken in the First Round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Aliquippa High School alum and University of Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin was selected with the 26th overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs. In early June, two then high school seniors and five former WPIAL baseball players were selected in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. They included CORY MAZZONI - 71st Overall Pick by the New York Mets in Round 2 - Seneca Valley High School Grad; JUSTIN BIANCO - 93rd Overall Pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Round 3 - Peters Township High School Senior; SCOTT McGOUGH - 164th Overall Pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Round 5 - Plum High School Grad; KEVAN SMITH - 231st Overall Pick by the Chicago White Sox in Round 7 - Seneca Valley High School Grad; JOHN LEONARD - 274th Overall Pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Round 9 - Connellsville High School Senior; DEREK LAW - 297th Overall Pick by the San Francisco Giants in Round 9 - Seton-LaSalle High School Grad; JORDAN STERANKA - 910th Overall Pick by the Houston Astros in Round 29 - Mount Lebanon High School Grad. The in late June, it was time for some PIHL alums to shine. Three amatuer hockey players from the Pittsburgh area were selected among the first 64 players slected in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft: JOHN GIBSON - Baldwin-Whitehall - Goaltender - Taken in 2nd Round with 39th overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks; BRANDON SAAD - Pine-Richland - Left Wing - Taken in 2nd Round with 43rd overall pick by the Chicago Black Hawks; VINCE TROCHECK - Upper St. Clair - Center - Taken in 3rd Round with 64th overall pick by the Florida Panthers. The in August, one of the most celebrated athletes in WPIAL history found a new home. Terrell Pryor, the former Jeannette Jayhawk and Ohio State Buckeye was picked by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the NFL Supplemental Draft. The 6-5, 232-pound quarterback was one of the greatest players in WPIAL history. Pryor led his Jeannette Jayhawks team to the 2007 WPIAL Class AA title and has the Jayhawks in the PIAA final for the second year in a row. He became the first player in WPIAL history to go over 4,000 yards passing and 4,000 rushing. He went over 4,000 passing in the state quarterfinals his senior year and 4,000 rushing a week later. In his senior season, Pryor rushed for 1,690 yards on 131 attempts, a gaudy 12.9 average. He completed 84 of 126 passes (67 percent) for 1,806 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also has scored 31 touchdowns.
#16 - FOUR WPIAL BOYS BASKETBALL TEAMS MAKE IT TO STATE FINALS...ALL FOUR LOSE
1984 was the first year that the PIAA crowned four basketball champions for both the boys and girls. In the 27 years since, the WPIAL had sent four boys basketball teams to the state finals only once. In 2004, Penn Hills in AAAA, Moon in AAA, Sto-Rox in AA and Sewickley Academy in A all played for a state title in Hershey with the Indians, Tigers and Vikings all winning PIAA gold. (in 1989, Aliquippa, Brentwood and Monessen made it to the championship game from WPIAL while Brashear made it from the City League). in March of 2011, the WPIAL surprisingly repeated that feat as four teams won the 'Western' side of the bracket to advance to the finals at Penn State. But unlike 2004 when three district teams came home with the gold, Happy Valley was no Happy Place for Mount Lebanon, Montour, Greensburg Central Catholic and Lincoln Park. The Blue Devils fell to heavily favorite Chester 72-60 in Overtime in Class AAAA, the Spartans lost to Neumann-Goretti 55-45 in Class AAA, the Centurions got whacked by Imhotep Charter 67-34 in Class AA and the Leopards went down to Philadelphia Math, Civics and Sciences 87-74 making for a whole lot of silver coming west back home from State College.