Big Game Hunting – The Football Threepack for Week Fifteen

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 | 2:21 PM





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The PIAA playoffs are as easy as 1, 2, 3. One round down, two games to go, and three WPIAL teams still have hope for a state championship. The state tournament semi-finals are coming up this weekend here on the MSA Sports Network. West Allegheny is out after falling in the PIAA quarters to Erie Prep. North Allegheny, Aliquippa, and Clairton all move into the semifinals with a collective record of 42-0. I am not an expert of any sort, but to my layman’s eyes 42-0 seems pretty good. Who will continue on their way to Hershey?

AAAA Semifinal:
North Allegheny Tigers (14-0) vs West Lawn Wilson Bulldogs (13-1) Saturday December 8th @ 3:00 pm at Mansion Park in Altoona broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and the North Allegheny Sports Network by Randy Gore and Rick Meister

The Tigers roll into the semis with a convincing win over Erie McDowell last week rattling off 56 straight points after falling behind 6-0. Wilson is 13-1 on the season, their only loss came back in week two when they fell to Harrisburg 21-13. They avenged that loss last week in the quarterfinals rolling over Harrisburg 39-14.

North Allegheny’s passing game led the way in their quarterfinals win over McDowell. The Tigers rushed for a season low 71 yards last week but senior quarterback Mack Leftwich picked up the offense in a big way. Leftwich completed 14 of 15 passes for 284 yards and five touchdowns. For the season his numbers have officially become dramatic, Leftwich has completed 144 of 220 passes for 2915 yards and 40 touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Gregg Garrity is the Tigers top pass catcher with 55 catches for 1107 yards and 16 touchdowns, including seven catches for 128 yards and a pair of scores in the quarters. Junior Elijah Zeise and Zach Lyon also make big plays in the passing game for Art Walker with 22 and 21 catches respectively.

On the ground the Tigers get big production from both Alex DeCiantis and Leftwich. DeCiantis has rushed for 1063 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Leftwich has 457 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on the season.

Defensively the Tigers are nothing short of phenomenal. They are allowing just 7.3 points per game on the year. Senior linebacker Kevin Edwards leads them with 82 tackle son the year. Senior defensive lineman Jeremy Gonzales has 70 tackles including a team-high 12 sacks on the season.

The Tigers will want the run defense to be in top form against the Bulldogs. Doug Dahms’ team started the year very young offensively, with just one returning starter, but they have come into their own. For a shining example of that, witness their only loss against Harrisburg in week two they rushed the ball 34 times in that game for a total of 64 yards. Cut to, last weekend against that same Harrisburg team they rushed the ball 37 times for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

Senior running backs Jesse Poore and Jim Brooks have combined to rush for 1465 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season. Freshman Shane Dantzler looks like he will be one to watch for Wilson in the future, he has 332 yards on the ground this year.

Junior Matt Timochenko has been taking most of the snaps at quarterback of late, for the season he has completed 47 of 100 passes for four touchdowns and three interceptions. Javon Young is the Bulldogs leading receiver with 26 catches for 580 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

Defensively the Bulldogs were expected to be good with six starters returning and they have been fabulous, pitching five shutouts for the season. Senior linebacker Dominic Moyer leads them with 88 tackles including nine of the teams 32 sacks on the year.

The secondary is one of the best the Tigers will have faced all season. Brooks leads them there with seven interceptions but he has help from Young who has four of his own. As a team West Lawn Wilson has an astounding 23 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries.

Winner moves on to Hershey to face the winner of the Coatesville versus LaSalle College game for the PIAA championship.

AA Semifinal:
Aliquippa Quips (14-0) vs Richland Rams (14-0) Friday December 7th @ 7:00 pm at North Allegheny high school broadcast on
the MSA Sports Network and WKPL-FM 92.1 The Pickle by Rob Matzie and Jim Frederick also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WBVP-AM 1230 and WMBA-AM 1460 by Bob Barrickman and Tom Hays

Anytime a pair of football teams get together with combined records of 28-0 you imagine yourself getting the chance to see a good game. Richland, the District 6 champion, comes in off a 38-12 win over Hickory in the quarters while Aliquippa rolled Karns City 51-15 in their quarterfinals win.

Richland comes into this game with a very balanced offense they are averaging 192 yards passing per game and 236 yards rushing per game. The bulk of that work is getting done by a pair of juniors.

Junior quarterback Matt Shaffer has completed 145 of 233 passes for 1992 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season. He has also rushed for nearly 700 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

Junior running back Tanner Solarczyk has carried the football 224 times for 1950 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2012.

Shaffer has a pair of key targets to throw to. Senior Luke Shertzer leads the Rams with 53 catches for 841 yards and six touchdowns. Junior Kyle Flick leads them with 824 receiving yards on 51 catches including 12 touchdowns.

  Defensively junior Jacob Urban will become the stuff of urban legend if his play continues the way it has all season. Urban leads the Rams with an astounding 132 tackles on the season. The 6’0’’ 175 pound linebacker also has recorded five sacks and four forced fumbles.

The Quips will look to keep it rolling with the big three on offense. Quarterback Malik Shegog and junior running backs Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson. Both running backs are well over a thousand yards on the year with Henry pacing the club with 1558 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season. Swanson is also into the 20’s in touchdowns scored on the year with 21.

It is tough to put the Quips into perspective, but more than one coach this year has called this the best Aliquippa team they have seen, and that is saying a lot. The Quips have now won 28 of their last 29 games including WPIAL championships #14 and #15.

Aliquippa is the number one team in the WPIAL in scoring and in points allowed, that is made even more impressive by a couple impressive facts that are not listed in the numbers. First they are by enrollment a single A school, they are playing up to AA competition, and secondly they beat most teams so badly that their starters rarely play the entire game. Just as they were last week against Karns City the Quips top players are mostly spending the second half of football games cheering on and coaching up their younger counterparts. 

Last year the Quips lost a tough one in this round falling to Tyrone 20-19, it was turnovers that cost them that game, and it says here that turnovers are the only thing that can cause them serious problems this year in the semi finals. You can bet Mike Zmijanac will be emphasizing holding onto the football heading into this contest.

Winner here moves on to Hershey where they will play the winner of the Imhotep Charter vs Wyomissing game.

A Semifinal:
Clairton Bears (14-0) vs Port Allegany Gators (13-0)
Friday December 7th @ 7:00 pm at Deer Lakes high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Bob Orkwis and Brandon Showers

61, no asterisk needed for this particular 61, it is the 61 game winning streak for the Clairton Bears the longest streak in WPIAL history, the longest streak in Pennsylvania state history and the current longest winning streak in the nation.

This game matches two very different teams in terms of PIAA playoff history. The Bears are in playing in their fifth straight PIAA semifinal, they are 4-0 in the preceding four and looking for their fourth straight PIAA championship. Port Allegany meanwhile has reached this point in the tournament for the very first time in school history.

The Gators get here thanks to a fantastic and improbable finish last Friday against Sharpsville in their quarterfinal match. Out of timeouts and trailing Sharpsville by a point with little over a minute to play they got a dramatic fumble caused and recovered on what would have been the game clinching run for Sharpsville and turned that into a game winning 40 yard touchdown drive.

The Gators feature the Gatorade Pennsylvania high school player of the year in quarterback Matt Bodamer. Bodamer, (whose father is Port Allegany head coach Mike Bodamer) has completed 215 of 301 passes for 3758 yards this season. Bodamer is already all over the Pennsylvania state record book for passing feats, check the list. He is the all-time leader in career passing yards with 10,755 and counting a full 1003 yards ahead of former record holder Derek Buganza from Brockway. Bodamer trails Buganza’s single season yardage mark by 66 yards heading into this game. Bodamer’s 2011 season yardage total of 3766 is good for third on that list. Bodamer is the career passing touchdowns record holder with 136 to date, 18 clear of Lancaster Catholic’s Kyle Smith. Bodamer has thrown 51 touchdown passes this season leaving him one shy of the all-time state record of 52 set by South Fayette’s Christian Brumbaugh in 2010. So basically Bodamer is one touchdown and 66 yards passing away from holding every major Pennsylvania state record for passing. While that seems like easy pickings, this will be the first time he has seen a defense like the Clairton Bears will bring to Deer Lakes.

Fans attending this game in my opinion will get to see the best quarterback in the state and the best football player in the state. The Quarterback is Bodamer, the best football player in the state of Pennsylvania is Clairton’s Tyler Boyd. Boyd frankly can do anything he wants on a football field, he can catch, run, throw, and tackle as well as any player I have ever seen. Most of the time this year, he has played running back for Tom Nola’s Bears. That has resulted in 180 carries for 2350 yards and he has scored touchdowns in a variety of ways totaling 47 on the season.

Clairton will be missing one of their top receivers and one of their top defensive backs when they face the Gators and Bodamer. Titus Howard, a 6’4’’ 175 pound junior is a Pitt recruit. On the season he had over 500 yards receiving, nearly 200 yards rushing and was a key member of one of the best defensive backfields in the state of Pennsylvania.

Clairton quarterback Armani Ford has completed 69 of 104 passes for 1658 yards, he has tossed over 20 touchdown passes and also rushed for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns on the season.

Robert Boatright, Santeaun Sims and Terrish Webb will continue to do what they do defensively and pick up a little slack left by the absence of Howard. In the opinion of this reporter that will be plenty and the Bears will streak into Hershey toting a 62 game winning streak. Where they will take on the winner of the Bellwood Antis vs Dunmore game for the PIAA championship. 


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