Big Game Hunting: The Football Fourpack for Week 10

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Opening round of the Highway to Heinz offers quite a few big games to choose from in each classification. The first week of the playoffs is an exciting time, thoughts of upsets are dancing in the heads of underdogs, and defending champs are readying again to meet the challenge of the post season. The eventual champion in each classification will be a team that took it one game at a time, and that is what we shall do as well here at Big Game Hunting. Here are the biggest games in each classification for week ten.

WPIAL Class AAAA First Round
#13 Bethel Park Black Hawks (4-5) @ #4 McKeesport Tigers (8-1)  
Friday November 5th @ 7:30pm Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and 1320 WJAS AM By Sam Hall and Steve Nagler

This opening round match in AAAA at first glance might seem like it has the potential to be a blowout for the favored McKeesport Tigers, and there is that possibility, but a closer look leads us at Big Game Hunting to think this might be a closer game than a lot of folks expect.

McKeesport has some tremendous athletes on both sides of the football, none more impressive than senior running back Sam Gooden who has been the focal point of their offense all season long. Nowhere was that more evident than in week nine when Gooden carried the football 30 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns as the Tigers won the Foothills conference championship with a 28-14 victory over the Gateway Gators.

The Tigers though have more than Gooden, sophomore quarterback Eddie Stockett has continually improved throughout the season and is playing some of his best football as the post season gets set to start. Kevin Johnson is a tremendous playmaker on both sides of the football for first year head coach Jim Ward. Johnson has good hands and great moves in the open field he is also a force on the defensive side of the football where the Tigers have done their best work all season long.

Delvon Simmons, Brandon Jackson and SaQuan Clark along with Johnson are the heart of one of the best defenses in the WPIAL. The Tigers allowed the second lowest number of points in AAAA for the season, allowing on average less than eight points per game. But they will have their hands full with a Bethel Park team that seems to be coming together at the right time for Jeff Metheny.

The Hawks faced what amounted to a playoff game in week nine at home against the Baldwin Highlanders and came up big in a convincing 28-7 win. Bre Ford senior tailback rushed for 22 yards and four touchdowns in the win, giving him 19 touchdowns for the season.

The combination of quarterback Anthony Cinello to wide receiver Lewis Dibble is continuing to impress and gives the Hawks big play capability from anywhere on the field. Bethel Park also receives a big boost heading into the post season by getting back one of their best skill players and defenders in senior Nick Kwiatkoski who returned to the line up in week nine after missing several games with an injury. Kwiatkoski is a difference maker in all phases for Bethel Park contributing in all three phases of the game especially on defense as a ball-hawking, hard hitting defensive back.

WPIAL Class AAA Opening Round
#10 Hopewell Vikings (5-4) @ #7 Franklin Regional Panthers (7-2)
Friday November 5th @ 7:30pm Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and KDKA-FM 93.7 The Fan By Paul Paterra and Dan Zangrilli

When Hopewell won in week nine against West Allegheny in overtime 34-31, the biggest Halloween nightmare for a lot of AAA coaches became a reality, Russell Shell was back in the playoffs. The Vikings used a remarkable four game winning streak at the end of the regular season to reach the playoffs and after a 1-4 start have really been playing in playoff-mode for the past four weeks already.

The junior running back Shell seems to always be in playoff-mode for the second straight season he has gone over 2000 yards rushing on the year with 2,102 yards and 25 touchdowns, those numbers are made even more remarkable when you think of his notoriety and the fact that teams almost exclusively gear up to try and stop him week in and week out.

A young team around Shell though has continued to develop and improve all season long for Viking head coach Dave Vestal. Junior quarterback Nolan Harmotto has completed almost 60% of his passes on the year for 669 yards and six touchdowns. Harmotto has also run for 251 yards and another three scores. Senior wide out Christian Farris is Harmottos favorite target with 26 catches for 349 yards on the year.

The Vikes will need to play better defense though if they hope to make a deep run into the playoffs, they are allowing the highest average points against in the entire AAA playoff field with a very unattractive 25.7 points per game.

Franklin Regional has a splendid running back of their own in sophomore Dane Brown, the 57 175 pounder has wracked up 1,274 yards on the ground for the season including 20 touchdowns for head coach Greg Bota.

Senior quarterback Chris Little has completed 39 of 66 passes on the year for 661 yards and nine touchdowns for the Panthers, he has also rushed for 230 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

Defensively junior linebacker Barry OBlock leads the Panthers with 50 combined tackles on the year. The Panther defense as a whole is only allowing around 14 points per game, they will need to be stout against Shell in round one to avoid the upset.

WPIAL Class AA Opening Round
#10 Steel Valley Ironmen (7-2) @ #7 Beaver Falls Tigers (8-1)
Friday November 5th @ 7:30pm Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WBVP AM 1230 By Bob Barrickman and Tom Hays

This might be the best opening round game in any classification as eyes will be on Reeves Field Friday night for what should be a tremendous football game.

Rod Steeles Ironmen have had a tremendous season and just seem to be getting better on a weekly basis finishing 7-2 in the very tough Century conference with their only losses coming to South Fayette and Seton-LaSalle.

The Ironmen have a powerful rushing football team led by senior Delrece Williams who became the all-time single season WPIAL record holder with 2,149 yards on the ground this year. Williams at 511 and 185 pounds is a tremendous combination of speed, power and elusiveness, and he is aided by a great offensive line as well as maybe the best blocking fullback in the WPIAL in James Caldwell. Williams was the leading scorer in the entire WPIAL as well this season with 31 touchdowns on the year.

Senior quarterback Jared Juristy is a playmaker in his own right for the Ironmen and if you stack the box too much to try and contain Williams, Juristy can run it himself or, beat you by throwing the football over the top or wide.

The Ironmen play a very physical brand of football on both sides including a defense that has allowed just 16 points per game on the year despite playing in the high scoring Century conference.

Beaver Falls fans, players and coaches might feel a little slighted by the playoff seed they received from the committee, but they better not focus on that because there is work ahead for the Tigers.

Beaver Falls senior quarterback Carlin Henderson completed 45 of 86 passes for the Fighting Tigers on the year for 719 yards and four touchdowns. The focal point though for the Beaver Fall offense has been junior running back Trey Hall who has toted the rock 111 times for 1045 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Defensively the Tigers only allowed 108 points all season long, that is an average of just 12 points per game. They are led by senior inside linebacker Devin Cook who has been an absolute beast for oopsing offenses to handle. Cook on the season rolled up a team high 73 tackles for Beaver Falls.

WPIAL Class A Opening Round
#9 Bishop Canevin Crusaders (8-1) @ #8 Fort Cherry Rangers (5-4)
Friday November 5th @ 7:30pm Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network at By Ed Troup and Greg Warnock

The Crusaders are an interesting story being the nine seed with just a single loss on the year, but as they say dems da breaks, we are sure Bob Jacoby will have his Crusaders ready to roll as they head to McDonald to take on the Fort Cherry Rangers.

The Crusaders have had a tremendous season on both sides of the football in tying for the Eastern conference championship. The numbers speak for themselves on offense they averaged 132 yards passing per game, 222 yds rushing per game and the most important offensive stat just barely under 40 points per game at 39.6. Defensively they held opponents to 11.8 points per game and averaged over five sacks per game.

Quarterback Matt Butter completed 50 of 102 passes for 1111 yards and a dozen touchdowns. His favorite target is junior wide receiver Bobby Gustine who caught 20 passes on the season for 506 yards and six touchdowns. Gustine also contributed mightily on special teams with two punt returns for touchdowns and a touchdown on an 85 yard kickoff return.

Rushing the football for the Crusaders was left largely to senior tailback Chris Walko who toted the rock 118 times on the year for 938 yards and eight touchdowns. Also contributing to the ground game was senior fullback Travis Lohr who rushed for almost 300 yards and six touchdowns of his own.

Lohr was also huge defensively for Canevin with four sacks, two interceptions, a recovered fumble and 62 tackles on the year.

Fort Cherry has been a solid balanced team out of the Black Hills conference with a second place finish behind the Clairton Bears.

The Rangers averaged around 130 yards throwing and 130 rushing per game on the season. Junior quarterback Tanner Garry has thrown for over 100 yards on the season including double digits in touchdown passes on the year.
Senior running back Gary Keifer is a dandy with over 700 yards on the ground also with double digits in the touchdown department. Defensively another Garry, junior Corey leads the Rangers with over 75 tackles on the season.

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