Birdie counts down highlights of season, makes A-K Valley playoff picks

Wednesday, November 2, 2022 | 5:53 PM

Last week: 8-1

Season: 96-15 (86.5%)

Nothing gets The Birdie more excited than the start of the postseason. He’s been sitting at his keyboard, literally shaking in anticipation all week.

(Might be anticipation. Might be a reaction to Mounds and Almond Joys he’s been jamming in his beak every 15 minutes since Monday night. But probably anticipation.)

“Sunday football isn’t any fun around here this fall. Saturdays aren’t much better,” he said. “Friday nights are what it’s all about.”

With that, he launched into an epic rant counting down all his favorite highlights of the 2022 high school football season in the A-K Valley.

He remembered Burrell’s Devin Beattie rushing for 298 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Imani Christian on Sept. 20.

He recalled a Herculean effort from Nick Curci on Oct. 21, when the Apollo-Ridge senior ran for 338 yards and scored his fifth touchdown in overtime in an upset victory over defending WPIAL champ Serra Catholic.

Then there was a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by Freeport’s Gavin Croney in an Oct. 1 game against Shady Side Academy. In hindsight, that play gave the Yellowjackets a 12-7 win, the Class 3A Allegheny 6 Conference title and a first-round playoff bye.

Don’t forget the quote of the year after kicker Ryan Croushore made a 31-yard field goal in the final two minutes to lead Burrell to a 30-27 win over Valley on Sept. 9.

“I had no doubt that he was going to knock that thing through,” Burrell coach Shawn Liotta said. “I don’t know if he has a girlfriend, but he might have one after he made this kick.”

As for the game of the year, how about a 37-36 victory for Deer Lakes over Knoch on Sept. 30? There were five touchdowns and 38 points scored in the fourth quarter.

Some might give individual performance of the year honors to Highlands junior Aaran Randolph, who was downright unstoppable in a 54-22 win over Mars on Sept. 30. He scored touchdowns on three consecutive offensive plays and had a hand in six scores on the night.

Birdie has another unbelievable showing in mind, though.

“I’d say the most impressive thing that happened this football season was when The Birdie went 12-0 on his Week 5 picks,” The Birdie said, slipping into third person, as he often does.

“I need four more correct predictions this week to hit 100 for the season. Don’t bet against me.”

Latrobe (6-4) at Highlands (9-1): The Wildcats made some serious strides this season, and running back Robert Fulton is a big-time threat. But the Golden Rams have a handful of big-time threats. Highlands, 40-20

Deer Lakes (4-6) at Beaver (7-3): After missing the playoffs by a narrow margin last season, the Lancers can celebrate a postseason berth this year. The Bobcats, meanwhile, have scored at least 48 points in each of their last three games. Beaver, 35-22

Burrell (6-4) at Neshannock (9-1): The Bucs’ ball-control offense is the recipe for an upset, but the Lancers have won five in a row, scoring an average of 43.6 points during that stretch. Neshannock, 38-21

Apollo-Ridge (6-4) at Keystone Oaks (8-2): The Birdie’s upset special of the week. He watched the Vikings punish Serra Catholic on the ground with waves of blockers in Week 8. Keystone Oaks is a formidable foe, but this is a tough attack to prepare for in a week. Apollo-Ridge, 35-34

Leechburg (7-3) at Mapletown (10-0): The most fascinating matchup on the board. The Birdie knows all about the Tri County South’s struggles in the WPIAL playoffs. But man, the Maples are 10-0 and Landan Stevenson is a force to be reckoned with. The Blue Devils have the weapons to advance, but it’s a tricky one, for sure. Leechburg, 28-27

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