A-K Valley football notebook: Riverview, Leechburg keep positive attitude amid rough start

Thursday, September 20, 2018 | 11:36 PM

Todd Massack knows what the record says next to Riverview’s name in the Class A Eastern Conference standings, but it doesn’t match what he sees when the Raiders practice daily at Riverside Park.

“We’ve had good practices all season long,” said Massack, whose team enters Friday’s conference tilt at Leechburg still seeking its first win. “Our guys have a good attitude. They come to work every day. They have a great work ethic. We’re not happy about being 0-3 right now, but if you came to our practices, you wouldn’t be able to tell what our record is.”

Whether Friday’s game falls into “must-win” territory for Riverview (0-3, 0-2) and Leechburg (1-3, 0-2), who trail significantly in the race for one of the Eastern Conference’s two guaranteed playoff bids, is unclear. But a victory for either team certainly would be welcomed by either team.

Riverview has been outscored, 137-7, in three games, which include last week’s conference contest against WPIAL powerhouse Clairton and a nonconference game against unbeaten Class 2A opponent Charleroi, which stunned Washington earlier this season.

Since a Week Zero triumph over Apollo-Ridge, Leechburg lost games to defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Jeannette, Rochester and Greensburg Central Catholic by a 109-6 margin. Leechburg coach Mark George said his team, like Riverview’s, was trying to stay positive, building off a strong second half in last week’s 29-0 loss to GCC.

“I think mental attitude is everything,” George said. “Leechburg has not had a lot of success on the football field for a long time now, and everybody knows that. I know that, fans know it … so we’ve got a whole group of kids who really haven’t seen a lot of success, and they’re playing right now. … We have to keep pushing them, we have to set expectations at a certain level, but we want to be positive about it, too.”

Riverview has won the last four meetings against Leechburg, including 16-0 last season.

Passing fancy

Kiski Area is going all-in on the spread offense with senior quarterback Ryne Wallace running the show, and through four weeks the Cavaliers are seeing the benefits.

Wallace passed for 390 yards and five touchdowns in the Cavaliers’ 37-0 rout of Fox Chapel in Week 3, career highs in both categories, as he continued his strong senior season. Through four games, the 6-foot-5 left-hander has 1,015 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception for Kiski Area (3-1, 2-1 Northern Conference).

“I love throwing the ball; it’s always a good time,” Wallace said after the Fox Chapel win. “But whatever the team needs to win. If we have to run the ball 35 times, it’s just whatever we have to do to win.”

Wallace split snaps last season with Bryson Venanzio, finishing with 1,146 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions. But he showed his potential in the season finale against Armstrong, passing for 380 yards.

With Venanzio now at Gateway, Wallace is alone as the Cavaliers’ top signal-caller. Coach Sam Albert praised his continued growth, which against Fox Chapel included improved decision-making. Kiski Area also makes good use of his left arm, as Wallace frequently throws downfield to top receiving threats Jack Colecchi, Tracey Morris and Troy Kuhn. A few potential big passing plays just missed against Fox Chapel, denying Wallace an even bigger night.

“He has progressed, and you hope he continues to progress,” Albert said. “I went to him and said, ‘Last year, (if) you threw a pick, we took you out. That’s not going to happen. It’s your team.’ ”

Airing it out

The Alle-Kiski Valley is developing its own air show, and it’s playing out on football fields every weekend.

Wallace’s five-touchdown performance was the second from an A-K Valley quarterback this season, joining Highlands’ Seth Cohen against Keystone Oaks. Deer Lakes’ Aris Hasley also passed for four touchdowns in a victory over Uniontown.

After passing for more than 2,000 yards last season, Cohen is on a similar pace in 2018, with 798 yards and seven touchdowns in four games. Hasley has 613 yards and six touchdowns in three games.

Early-season struggles

It has been a difficult four weeks for A-K Valley teams on the scoreboard.

Entering Friday’s games, local teams hold a cumulative record of 11-37. Kiski Area (3-1) has the only winning record of the 13 teams, while Apollo-Ridge (2-2) is the only other one with multiple victories. Fox Chapel, Freeport, Highlands, Riverview and Springdale are all searching for their first wins; Fox Chapel and Highlands are each 0-4, while the other three are 0-3.

Six weeks remain for the teams to turn around their fortunes, but they will need to work quickly. If the WPIAL playoffs were to start Friday, Apollo-Ridge, Kiski Area and Knoch would be the only teams playing.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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