5 things to watch in Week 3 of high school football: Sept. 13-14

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Thursday, September 12, 2019 | 9:00 PM


If Avonworth quarterback Park Penrod throws a touchdown or scrambles for a first down, his name won’t echo through the stadium Friday night.

Instead, the Oak Hill Field announcer will recognize Avonworth graduate Richard McCormick, an Army soldier who was killed in action in Vietnam.

Penrod is among nine Avonworth and 10 New Brighton players who’ll each honor a military member who died while serving when their teams meet in the second annual Gold Star Game in New Brighton.

“Nineteen boys will give up their name Friday night and play in honor of a Western Pennsylvania fallen hero,” said Dana Tabay, a 1998 Avonworth graduate who organized the event.

Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Tabay’s brother, Robert Gilbertson, was a petty officer second class in the Navy when he died in 2007. The 1999 Avonworth graduate will be represented Friday by Antelopes senior Jordan Rapp.

“I wanted to find a way to honor my brother,” Tabay said. “It took 11 years, but now I’m able to do that through this football game. And we’re able to honor not just him but all of Western Pennsylvania’s fallen.”

Tabay, a diving coach for Washington & Jefferson swimming, lives in New Brighton, where her husband coaches. When the WPIAL scheduled Avonworth and New Brighton to face one another in nonconference games in 2018 and ‘19, Tabay decided that was the perfect matchup for a Gold Star Game.

After a successful night last season, Tabay expanded the event this year to include a second game Sept. 20 between Bethel Park and Central Catholic at the Wolvarena.

“My goal for this game is to have it played everywhere across Western Pennsylvania,” Tabay said.

The event is modeled after a Gold Star Game at Harrisburg’s Central Dauphin with some differences. The two WPIAL games recognize military members from as far back at World War II. Another difference is the WPIAL games involve players from both teams.

Also to be honored Friday are David Albanese, Samuel Bialowas, William Bilbo, Robert T. Callahan, Joseph D. Caskey, Eric Holman, Lynn Hoffman, Andrew M. Hovancik, David “Toby” Hopkins, James E. Hupp, Clarence Keister, Mark W. Melcher, Freddie Mullen, Donald Pierce, Jonathan Schmidt, Edward See and James F. Tritt.

Many are alumni from the two schools.

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Who says they’re meaningless?

Most teams are entering the heart of their conference schedule, but the WPIAL’s computer also created a few terrific nonconference matchups for Week 3.

These games won’t affect playoff qualifying, but they could influence seeds when the WPIAL committee meets in a couple of months.

That list includes Central Valley vs. North Catholic, two undefeated Class 3A teams that are building resumes as WPIAL contenders. A year ago, North Catholic won this matchup 14-13.

Fourth-ranked Central Valley is 3-0 this season after starting last year 0-4. The Warriors have outscored their first three opponents 108-21.

Second-ranked North Catholic (2-0) has outscored teams 82-26.

In Class 2A, No. 5 Avonworth (3-0) visits New Brighton (3-0). In Class A, California (3-0) visits No. 2 Laurel (3-0).

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Air attack in Class A

Two of the WPIAL’s top passing offenses meet Friday in Coraopolis when Sto-Rox visits Cornell in the Class A Big Seven.

Sto-Rox (3-0, 2-0) is led by senior quarterback Eric Wilson, who has passed for 868 yards in three games. Cornell (2-0, 1-0) has senior Zaire Harrison, who has 518 passing yards in two games.

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Welcome to 6A

Mt. Lebanon and new coach Bob Palko face their first big Class 6A test Friday when the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (2-1, 2-0) host fourth-ranked Seneca Valley (1-2, 1-1). Seneca Valley won 17-14 when the teams met last season.

Mt. Lebanon opened this season with conference wins over Canon-McMillan (49-21) and Butler (63-7). Seneca Valley lost 10-7 to Central Catholic in Week 1 before defeating Canon-McMillan, 27-7, last week.

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A century celebration

Ambridge is celebrating 100 years of Bridgers football with a pregame ceremony Friday night. Ambridge faces Blackhawk at 7 p.m. The football program won its lone WPIAL title in 1932 under coach Moe Rubenstein, the namesake for the Bridgers’ stadium.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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