High school football notebook: WPIAL’s highest-scoring teams set to square off
By: Chris Harlan
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 | 4:12 PM
If California averages 67 points and Imani Christian Academy averages 62, what will be the combined score when they face each other Saturday?
Maybe more than 100 points?
“If it's 2-0 at the end and we win, I'm very happy,” California coach Darrin Dillow said with a laugh.
The two schools rank as the highest-scoring teams in the WPIAL this season, adding some hype to a Class A nonconference matchup. Both are 3-0. California scored 86 points last Friday, and Imani Christian scored a season-high 70 a week earlier.
Those numbers have folks rooting for triple-digits when the teams meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, at Graham Field in Wilkinsburg.
“No, you won't see it,” Imani Christian coach Ronnell Heard said of triple-digits.
“I sure hope not,” Dillow said. “I really hope not.”
That's because both coaches also like their defenses. On average, California's has allowed just 6.3 points. Imani Christian allows only 11.7.
A year ago, Imani won this matchup 26-14.
“Everybody seems to be talking about the offense,” Dillow said. “Yes, the offense has been great. … But I really think defensively is where this game is going to be won. Both teams are going to score. There's not a question about that. It's just, whose defense is going to stop the other one the most?”
The teams score by the dozens but in different ways.
California recently installed the triple-option used on Saturdays by Georgia Tech and Navy. The team has thrown fewer than 10 passes this season, Dillow said. Junior running back Jelani Stafford has 325 yards on 32 carries, but the roster has at least a half-dozen potential rushers.
The Trojans have scored 67, 49 and 86 points.
Imani Christian uses a spread attack with senior quarterback Tawan Wesley and receivers Sam Fairley, Rahmon Hart and Raymond Jackson. The team likes to throw but showed last week it can run with Asante Watkins, a wideout who converted to halfback.
The Saints have scored 50, 70 and 66 points.
“I'm impressed with what we've been able to do,” Heard said. “Our guys had a really good offseason, put in a lot of work and they came in with a goal.”
This early-season success has added importance in part because both programs overcame tough years to get here. California went 1-9 in 2014, a year before Dillow took over as coach. Even worse, Imani Christian saw its team fold in 2013 before re-emerging under Heard, a fourth-year coach.
“It was down and out pretty good,” Dillow said. “We've really started from scratch. I pretty much had to teach the kids how to ride a bus. That's where it was.”
California is coming off an 83-13 victory over Avella, and Imani defeated Riverview, 66-6.
“I've been on the other end of those,” Heard said of the lopsided scores. “I just decided I'm going to bring a better team next time.”
Boyd, Wade picked for hall of fame
Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd was among 13 athletes chosen for induction as the first class in the Clairton Hall of Fame. Also chosen was Bears coach Wayne Wade Jr., along with alums Kamela Gissendanner, Daven Holly, Jim Kelly, Stewart Johnson, Ron Lancaster, Jonathan Marshall, Lamont Meacham, Mike Micka, Davlin Mullen, Gary Mullen and Joe Pagliei.
The inductees will be honored Sept. 21 with a dinner at the school and a pregame ceremony Sept. 22.
WPNT-22 will televise live the Class 5A conference matchup between Armstrong and Gateway at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Comcast game this week is Mt. Lebanon at Canon-McMillan. Xfinity customers will have access to the video Saturday through on-demand.