Big Game Hunting for Week Two 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 | 9:41 PM

Friday and Saturday the MSA Sports Network has you covered with wall to wall games from week two of the WPIAL season, and hey, even if your game turns out to be not that good, at least you won’t have to watch the Pirates!

Some eyebrows were raised last week and there were also a lot of “I told you so”s being thrown around the WPIAL in week one. We continue to discover who is going to rise to the top, and who is going to find themselves in a dog fight for their playoff lives here in 2016. Because for sure, some of these teams are going to show a lot more fight for their playoff lives than the aforementioned Pirates. So forget that dusty old Jolly Roger over there in the corner and let’s go Big Game Hunting!

6A Northern Seven Conference:
#3 North Allegheny Tigers (0-0)(1-1) vs #1 Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings (1-0)(0-0) Friday September 9th @ 7:00 PM at Carnegie Mellon University broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and the North Allegheny Sports Network by Lee Mohn and Rick Meister

The Tigers rebounded from a heart-breaking week zero loss to defeat Bethel Park last week 21-14. North Allegheny rushed for nearly 250 yards in the win. The Tiger rushing game will come at you from all angles. Their two leading rushers so far on the young season are senior quarterback Ethan Maenza who has 33 carries for 174 yards, and senior wide receiver, Niko Mermigas who has seven carries for 105 yards. The Tigers third leading rusher is an actual running back in senior Mike Pope who has 24 carries for 60 yards.

The trio has combined to score seven of North Allegheny’s nine touchdowns on the year. Maenza has completed 13 of 25 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception. Mermigas has ten catches for 201 yards, no other Tiger has more than two catches on the season, so he will be the primary target when North Allegheny wants to throw the football.

Central had to some rebounding of their own after they got handled in week zero by St. John’s College out of Washington DC in week zero. The Vikings did just that throttling Shaler in week one 48-7. J.J. Younger had a big game offensively and on special teams for the Vikes with a 90 yard punt return for a touchdown.

Younger, a senior leads Central in the rushing categories of both, carries, 24 and yards, with 114. The Vikes have plenty of depth though running the football behind a great offensive line, David Adams has 12 carries for 87 yards and four other Vikings have rushed for 20 yards or more already in the young season.

Troy Fisher has completed nine of his 21 passing attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Vikes are not looking to air it out, but instead they would prefer to grind it out behind that offensive line. Justice Evans leads Central in receiving with 4 catches for 91 yards on the year.

Considering the way both these teams like to run this should be a pretty fast moving game on Friday night, so we will quickly find out who will become the favorite to win the Northern Seven Title.

5A Big East Conference:
#6 Armstrong Riverhawks (0-0)(2-0) vs #4 McKeesport Tigers (1-0)(1-0) Friday September 9th @ 7:00 PM at McKeesport high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Greg Warnock and Jake Holmes

Last week the Tigers got their first game under their belt, with a week one  hard-fought defensive battle, and a section win over the Franklin-Regional Panthers 14-7. The Riverhawks meanwhile played their second game of the year and rolled the Moon Tigers 35-0 behind another ho-hum 270 yard four touchdown rushing performance from Zane Dudek.

The “Zane Train” has been rolling for Armstrong, after a junior year where Dudek rushed for over 2000 yards the bar was set high heading into his senior year. So far he has soared over that bar, Dudek leads the entire WPIAL in rushing yards (548 on 46 carries) and touchdowns (nine). He is averaging nearly 12 yards per touch and also mix in three catches for 75 yards on the year so far.

Senior quarterback Michael Lhote has completed over 50% of his passes at 13 for 25 for 207 yards but he has thrown two interceptions without throwing for a touchdown. He will need to take better care of the ball against the McKeesport Tigers if the Riverhawks hope to remain unbeaten. Aside from Dudek Shawn Giddings has been the preferred target for Lhote. Giddings, a senior wide receiver has caught four passes for 49 yards.

The Tigers rushed for over 300 yards in their week one win over Franklin-Regional, but only put 14 points on the board.

Senior quarterback Jayvaun Shears carried 12 times for a team-high 116 yards and a score on the ground. Shears completed two of his seven passes for 36 yards.

Senior running back Breon Green was the other big-time rushing threat for McKeesport last week totaling 19 carries for 96 yards and a score.

The Tigers held the Panthers to 238 yards rushing last week as a team, Dudek has more than that in both games so far for the Riverhawks.

4A Northwest Nine Conference:
#4 Highlands Golden Rams (1-0)(1-0)  vs #8 New Castle Red Hurricane (1-0)(1-1) Friday September 9th @ 7:00 PM at New Castle high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WKST AM 1200 by Ken Hlebovy and Rob Gregory

The Golden Rams looked Golden indeed in week one after not playing a game in week zero. Highlands kicked off the 2016 campaign with an impressive 56-6 win over Ambridge. Eight touchdowns scored by eight different players for head coach Sam Albert.

None of those players were returning starter at quarterback Brayden Thimons or returning starter at wide receiver Mitch Dezort.

Thimons, last year completed 65 of 124 passes for 1250 yards and eight scores, while also rushing for 534 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns on the season.

Both Thimons and Dezort will be keys defensively for the Rams as well as they move into a very tough Northwest Nine conference schedule.

New Castle built a big lead then held on last week against Montour evening their overall record and improving to 1-0 in the conference. Senior quarterback Geno Stone rushed for a score, threw for a score and returned an interception for a score in the win for the Hurricane.

Marcus Hooker leads the ‘Cane with four touchdowns on the season and he is a playmaker, New Castle will look to get the ball in his hands as many times and as many different ways as possible. Garrett Farah leads New Castle in receptions in 2016.

3A Interstate Conference:
#10 South Park  Eagles (1-0)(1-0) vs #4 Mount Pleasant Vikings (1-0)(2-0) Friday September 9th @ 7:00 PM at Mount Pleasant high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WLSW FM 103.9 by T.J. DiStefano and Aaron Willis 

Mount Pleasant had a solid 2015 season going 7-3 losing in the first round to Beaver and have some pretty high expectations heading into this year.

The Vikes have come to play here in 2016 bursting out of the gate with convincing a pair wins, they are scoring over 43 points per game with a very balanced and efficient offense.

Senior quarterback Johnny Yester has completed 69% of his passes going 16 of 23 for 416 yards and four touchdowns without tossing an interception.

Senior wide receiver Keith Kalp is Yester’s number one target with nine catches for 268 yards and a score.

Chris Wagner and Jake Newill form a nice one-two punch rushing for football for Bo Ruffner, the duo has combined for 289 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.

South Park controlled Southmoreland in their first game of the 2016 campaign last week 42-8 behind senior quarterback Jordan Kmonk who threw for 160 yards and rushed for a team-high 36 more in the win. Kmonk added three scoring strikes in the win.

The Eagles look to build off a 4-5 no playoffs run in 2015, they did win four of their final five games though and combined with that week one win they are happy with five of their last six.

Adam Morris and Isaiah Mack will get the bulk of the carries for the Eagles in Marty Rieck.

Devin Turner had 4 catches for 119 yards and three scores in the week one win for South Park, the 6’2’’ junior wide receiver expects to be a huge part of a big season for the Eagles.

2A Three Rivers Conference:
#4 Avonworth Antelopes (1-0)(1-0) vs #1 Steel Valley Ironmen (0-0)(1-0) Friday September 9th @ 7:00 PM at Campbell Field in Munhall broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Matt Vandriak and Cory Campano 

As expected DeWayne Murray had a monster game for the Ironmen in week one. Murray rushed for 183 yards and four scores in a 41-7 thrashing of Riverside on the road by Steel Valley.

Steel Valley quarterback Ryan Harper completed five of nine passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Steel Valley enters 2016 with some of the highest expectations in the entire WPIAL after reaching the semi-finals last year behind Murray and the rushing attack and adding one of the best receivers and defensive backs in the WPIAL in Paris Ford.

Those expectations only grow after that decisive week one win. Rod Steele’s Ironmen will be more balanced in their attack this season with the addition of Ford. They were run heavy last year with Murray despite the fact that teams were able to key their defense around stopping him still managing to rush for 1615 yards and 36 touchdowns. Murray was also the leading receiver for Steel Valley last year with 205 yards receiving. That will not be the case this year with Ford who also scored a touchdown in week one drawing at least one and most of the time two defenders out of the box to try and cover him.

That should open things up for Murray and the run game. Try to stop Murray by packing the box and Ford can turn any touch, into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

The ‘Lopes and Duke Johncour have built themselves into a program at Avonworth. The’Lopes went 8-3 a year ago falling to Clairton in the quarterfinals.

In week one they got everything they wanted from Carlynton and only a Garrett Day 59 yard run for a score early in the fourth quarter kept them from being knocked off by the Cougars, as they came away with a 26-25 victory.

Day and Derek Johncour split time at quarterback last week with Day completing 9 of 19 passes for 140 yards and a pair of scores, while Johncour, a sophomore hooked up on four of five attempts, but for just 24 yards.

Matt Crilly had three catches for 76 yards in the win, Day led the charge for the Avonworth running game rushing for 131 yards on 15 carries.

Avonworth is very young and the competition steps up in a big way this week on the road in Munhall. It’s early but like any great coach Duke Johncour wants to find out where his team stands when it comes to the elite teams in this league. They will find out Friday night.

1A Non-Conference:
#8 Fort Cherry Rangers (1-0)(1-0) vs #10 Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions(1-0)(1-1)  Saturday September 10th @ 1:00 PM at Greensburg Central Catholic high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Matt Vandriak and Chris Lackner

Fort Cherry plays in the Tri-County South and Greensburg Central Catholic in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers enter 2016 coming off a 2-7 2015 campaign but with several key returnees and a big-time transfer coming in the person of Ryhan Culberson the expectations are pretty high. Fort Cherry picked up a week one win in section play over California 26-20. Culberson completed 7 of 11 passes for 125 yards and three scores, caught two passes for 35 yards, and rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown as well, have yourself a day Mr. Culberson!

Scott Miller caught four passes on the win for the Rangers totaling 111 yards and including a pair of scores.

Sophomore Brady Whalen completed six of the nine passes he threw on the day for 98 yards. Look for Nick Cook to make big contributions in both the running and pass games for Fort Cherry as well the senior running back is a big-time playmaker and a force to be reckoned with in the Rangers defense as well.

GCC meanwhile rebounded from a week zero loss to Westinghouse to beat Imani Christian last week 23-20

Dan Mahoney’s club will rely heavily on senior quarterback Don Eisaman, look for Eisaman in a fantastic MSA Sports Center Stage with the boss Don Rebel on our website.

Eisaman rushed for a pair of scores in week one and threw for another score. For the season he is 20 of 41 for 206 yards and two touchdowns, he has also thrown a pair of interceptions.

Alvin Ross and Jassan Eubank are the main targets for Eisaman. The duo has combined for 11 catches and 125 yards so far in 2016.

On the ground Ross gets the bulk of the touches he has amassed 97 yards rushing on 45 carries for the year.

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