George Guido: Riverview chasing WPIAL title but almost never existed

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Saturday, May 29, 2021 | 8:09 PM


As Riverview prepares for its WPIAL Class A baseball title game Tuesday against Union, now might be a good time to recall that the high school almost never came into existence.

Riverview is wrapping up 50 academic years, but the school’s creation wasn’t on the list of proposed school mergers during the 1960s.

On Dec. 19, 1962, Allegheny County school officials disclosed a round of mergers that would do away with small, community-based school systems.

The original plan was to absorb Oakmont into the Plum Borough School, and Verona students would be sent to Penn Hills. At the time, school systems were largely governed county-by-county.

When state Act 561 of the 1961 was created, nearly every municipality in the state had its own school district. Most covered grades 1-8, and students went to the high school if its municipality sponsored one. If not, the student had a choice of several high schools and paid tuition to attend.

For instance, a student in Harmar Township who finished eighth grade continued to either Oakmont, Springdale or Aspinwall high schools until the Allegheny Valley School District was formed in 1965. After that, all Harmar students went to Springdale.

But officials in Oakmont and Verona didn’t like the thought of small-town pupils going to larger high schools. So Oakmont football coach/athletic director Chuck Wagner and Verona athletic director Joe Zelek — and others — worked to convince the county that consolidating Oakmont and Verona would work.

Eventually, the county warmed up to the idea and Riverview came into being in the fall of 1971. Another configuration involving Alle-Kiski Valley schools in December of 1962 would have molded Tarentum, East Deer, Fawn and Frazer into one high school. Har-Brack (Harrison Township and Brackenridge) and West Deer would have been left intact. Also, Pine-Richland and Hampton would have been merged, but those two managed to stay apart.

Fast forward to this week: The Raiders will chase their first WPIAL baseball title Tuesday against Union at 1:30 at Wild Things Park in Washington. If Riverview wins, the Raiders will open PIAA play June 7 somewhere in WPIAL territory against the District 9 runner-up. If Riverview loses, the Raiders will travel north to face the runner-up from District 10.

Riverview’s only other WPIAL title-game appearance was a loss in 2001 to California.

The Raiders won the 1983 PIAA title, entering the tournament as a semifinalist.

Holtz visits Lancers

Nothing like have a real, live NFL player show up at your offseason workout session.

That’s what happened recently at Deer Lakes when Chicago Bears tight end J.P. Holtz dropped by Lancers Stadium.

Holtz attended Deer Lakes schools as a youth before moving on to Shaler in seventh grade. Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk has become friends with Holtz over the years.

“I told the guys we were having an NFL player was coming to the workout, but it wasn’t a Steeler,” Burk said. “Some of the guys were looking at my social media and figured out who it was. But it was nice of J.P. to come by.”

After a solid career at Pitt, Holtz was signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and played for Washington shortly thereafter. He was picked up on waivers by the Bears and played all 16 games last season, signing an extension with Chicago in March.

More High School Other

Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame finds home in Tarentum
Penn-Trafford notebook: Bushy Run Legion off to strong start
Franklin Regional grad Tommy Kegerreis named All-American
Plum spring athletes earn postseason honors
High school scores, summaries and schedules for June 11, 2021

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