George Guido: Willie Thrower luncheon set for April 9

Saturday, February 19, 2022 | 6:30 PM

On the 20th anniversary of Willie Thrower’s death, it’s a good time to look at the upcoming luncheon to decide the region’s top quarterback.

The second annual Willie Thrower Award will be issued April 9 at the New Kensington Quality Inn. Thrower, a New Kensington High School graduate who became the NFL’s first Black quarterback in 1953, died Feb. 20, 2002 at age 71.

The five quarterbacks up for the award are Brad Birch of Gateway; Jaren Brickner of Beaver Falls; Joey Daniels of Mt. Lebanon; Cadin Olsen of Armstrong and Devin Whitlock of Belle Vernon.

Also, the committee recently announced former Steelers cornerback J.T. Thomas will be the main speaker. Thomas was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 1973 and was a mainstay through the first four Super Bowl teams.

WPIAL executive director Amy Schueneman will be the featured speaker.

The committee also announced distinguished guests in attendance will include Allegheny County Judge Dwayne Woodruff, the former Steelers defensive back. Woodruff has been a Common Pleas Court judge since 2005.

Sam Clancy, former Pitt basketball great who switched to football and played 12 years in the pros as a defensive end, also will be on hand.

The quarterbacks were selected by a panel of two coaches from each WPIAL conference and the City League, along with 20 media members who regularly cover high school football.

Thrower helped lead New Kensington to WPIAL titles in 1946 and ’47, along with a runner-up status in 1945. He went on to become the first Black quarterback in the Big Ten with Michigan State before his barrier-breaking year with the Chicago Bears in 1953.

The Thrower award winner will take home a 29-pound replica of Thrower’s statue in Valley High Memorial Stadium.

Gimme some Re-Re-Re-Respect

So much for those who consider Section 1-4A boys basketball a weak grouping.

All four section teams won their opening-round WPIAL playoff games Friday night as Burrell defeated Elizabeth-Forward, 63-42, in the first home playoff basketball game in the school’s 58-year history.

No. 4-seeded North Catholic took care of Central Valley, 57-42. In a thriller, Justin Brannagan’s 3-pointer with 2 seconds left lifted Deer Lakes to a 39-37 victory over Blackhawk. And in the big upset of the first round, Freeport shocked Uniontown, a school making a WPIAL-record 71st playoff appearance, 56-49.

Shortage hits District 3

Many have been warning for years that a shortage of officials, particularly for high school football, could cause schools to move games to slots other than Friday nights.

Harrisburg’s ABC27 reported Mid-Penn Conference teams may move some high school football games to Thursdays or Saturday afternoons to “provide some flexibility for scheduling officials.” Translation: There aren’t enough officials to staff all the Friday games.

Dave Bitting, Lower Dauphin School District athletic director, suggested schools move at least one game per season to an alternate day.

The proposal will be voted on during a March 8 meeting.

Unless retiring officials are replaced soon, it will be a matter of when, not if, the WPIAL will make a similar request.

More Football

Westmoreland H.S. notebook: Belle Vernon’s Quinton Martin visits Florida State
2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Penn-Trafford’s Joe Enick
New coach presiding over positive offseason for Penn Hills football
2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Leechburg’s Braylan Lovelace
2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: North Allegheny’s Tyree Alualu