George Guido: Dominant Leechburg proving well-rounded

Saturday, September 17, 2022 | 5:36 PM

Leechburg’s offense is certainly prolific, but the Blue Devils have been playing some stellar “D.”

Fourth in this week’s TribHSSN Class A rankings, Leechburg shut out a third consecutive opponent Friday night with the 77-0 dominance of Springdale.

It’s the first time Leechburg has blanked three in row since 1955 when the Blue Devils defeated Apollo, 33-0, Tarentum, 13-0, and Kittanning, 25-0, under coach Bill McCandless. Leechburg finished 7-2 that season and was in WPIAL title contention until a season-ending 6-2 loss to Freeport.

But back to this season, Leechburg’s 77 points was also a school record, edging the mark of 76 set against Riverview in 2020.

Leechburg’s original record in a game was 62 against Blairsville in 1950, but that mark has been surpassed five times in the last three seasons.

Now, the Blue Devils will try to do something the program has never done: defeat Clairton.

The closest Leechburg has ever come to beating the Bears was a 6-6 tie in 1991.

Notable deaths

Speaking of Leechburg, Frank Cignetti, the coach who guided the Blue Devils to their second WPIAL title in 1965, died last weekend at 84.

He was born Oct. 8, 1937, in the Paulton section of Washington Township. He took over the head coaching reins at Leechburg in 1962 at age 24.

After a 5-5 mark his first season, the Blue Devils went 8-2 in 1963 and 9-2 in 1964, setting up a 10-0 title run in 1965 for a record of 32-9 before Cignetti joined the collegiate ranks.

Also, Gene Sullivan, who coached Richland to WPIAL titles in 1969 and ’70 before becoming an outstanding college coach at Geneva, died Sept. 8 at 88.

During his 11 years at Richland — before the Pine came along — his record was 84-24. But taking the seasons 1968-71, the Rams were 38-2 in an era when the school’s sports were covered by the Tarentum Valley Daily News and the former WKPA Radio of New Kensington.

Richland had a 25-game winning streak that was halted by Leechburg in 1971.

In his inaugural 1965 season, Richland was 0-9. But in Year Two, Sullivan had the Rams in the AIC Bowl game.

Sullivan was a graduate of the former Avalon High School and played football at Maryland.

A devout Christian, he was the perfect fit for Geneva and a pleasure to interview.

Then word came Wednesday that former state representative and Ford City student-athlete Jeff Pyle had died at 57.

Pyle was a center on the basketball team for coaches Mark Fruehan and, later, Tom Dinga. He graduated in 1982.

After graduating from West Virginia, Pyle’s focus was education. He became a teacher at Ford City High School and was once teacher of the year in the Armstrong School District.

He entered politics as Ford City’s mayor and later was an eight-term representative in the state legislature.

After Ford City closed and was demolished, Pyle made it his business to create a lasting legacy to the site where he studied, taught and played basketball by securing funding for a Butler County Community College campus.

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