George Guido: Ligonier Valley set to check final box, enter WPIAL

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019 | 5:59 PM


The WPIAL could have a new member school by late Wednesday afternoon.

The PIAA is expected to give final approval to the Ligonier Valley High School move from PIAA District 6 to the WPIAL (District 7).

The school’s request passed the first two hurdles — a release from District 6 and approval to join from the WPIAL. The vote is listed early on the PIAA Board of Directors agenda, so the move might be official by the time you read this.

Then the question will be which classification the Rams will play in for the various sports.

In the current two-year enrollment cycle, Ligonier Valley was right on the border between Class 3A and 2A — 198 males in the top three grades.

Ligonier Valley’s football team has had an incredible run of 61-7 in the past five seasons and the school’s softball team has been one of the top programs in western Pennsylvania for some time.

The Rams basketball team also won a District 6 title in 2018.

Beyond the classification question, all that’s left to speculate is which conference or section Ligonier Valley will play in.

Basketball season begins

High school basketball begins Friday and if fans can’t get to the games in person, the electronic media is set to go.

The Trib High School Sports Network will have anywhere between 15 and 25 live broadcasts on any given Tuesday or Friday night — more as the playoffs approach.

Log on to tribhssn.triblive.com for a list of game coverage.

Mike Choma and Mike Pavlik will begin their 19th season of broadcasting Highlands basketball beginning Friday night when the Golden Rams meet Armstrong in their tip-off tournament. Replays can be seen on Comcast Cable Channel 190. Check the local TV listings or visit YouTube.com the next day and search for Highlands High Sports.

Also, Scott Briggs will be carrying Knoch basketball games live on WISR Radio 680-AM starting Friday as the Knights play in the Butler tip-off tournament.

Freddie Cox

Former Minnesota Vikings placekicker and Pitt and Monongahela High School standout Freddie Cox died Nov. 20.

For a relatively brief time in the off-season, Cox was a substitute teacher in the New Kensington-Arnold School District. In those days, many NFL players took a second job after the season because of low salaries in the league.

Kickers like Cox made nowhere near the $20 million contract that Justin Tucker signed with the Ravens.

Cox played in 210 NFL games from 1963-77. That’s fifth on the all-time list of players from WPIAL schools who played in the NFL behind Youngwood’s George Blanda (340 games), Woodland Hills’ Jason Taylor (233), Central Catholic’s Dan Marino (231) and Seton La Salle’s Jim Sweeney (222).

Late in his career, he became a licensed chiropractor and is perhaps most famous for inventing a soft football intended for use in children’s kicking games.

The object was later known as a Nerf ball when he sold the invention to Parker Brothers. He was still receiving an annual royalty check of $200,000 from Parker Brothers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Jula retires

Monday came the surprising news that Ambridge coach Mark Jula has retired from coaching after compiling a record of 561-373 over 38 seasons as a head coach.

Some might have forgotten that Jula got his start at Highlands High School as an assistant under late coach Tom Myers.

At the time, I was doing a live scoreboard show on game nights at the old Westmoreland Cable Channel 3. Jula always got a big kick out of me asking viewers to turn away from the TV screen if they didn’t want to know the final score of the game being replayed.

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