MSA Sports Top 25 WPIAL Stories of 2012 Countdown – #5 through #1
Wednesday, January 2, 2013 | 10:11 AM
It has become a tradition like no other…at least during the holidays here at The Network. It's time to look back at another high school sports year with the top stories from around the WPIAL in 2012. We conclude our countdown with the five stories that ended up #5 through #1.
#5 – A DOMINANT TIGERS RUN
No other school had as dominant of a three years run in the 33 year history of WPIAL Class quad A football than what North Allegheny has done in 2010, 2011 and here in 2012. The Tigers became the first district school to win three straight WPIAL Class AAAA titles, they have won two of the last three state championships, they have a current 29-game winning streak against WPIAL teams and NA will carry an overall winning streak of 16 in a row into the 2013 season.
After winning the Northern Eight Conference and three District 7 postseason games, the Tigers made their third straight trip to Heinz Field for the third WPIAL championship game between North Allegheny and Woodland Hills and the outcome was a lot like the second matchup…a 21-14 victory over the Wolverines, the same final score as when the teams met in the 2010 finals.
North Allegheny struck first less than three minutes into the game when quarterback Mack Leftwich hit senior tight end Zach Lyon who made a nifty one handed catch and ran the final ten yards to complete a 44-yard run and catch. Ben Ziolkowski’s extra point put NA up 7-0.
Woodland Hills took the first punch, but did not blink. On their first touch of the ball on offense, they drove 69 yards on only six plays highlighted by a 47-yard scamper by freshman running back Miles Sanders. Three plays later, the Wolverines were on the board when senior quarterback Cody McClelland hit Tom Greene on an 11-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone. Donald Cassidy’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.
The two-time defending champions found themselves trailing for one of the few times all year early in the second quarter thanks to a rare mistake by Leftwich. He fumbled the ball at his own 6-yard line, recovered by Woody High’s Alex Beasley. It took the Wolverines four plays, but Sanders finally hammered it home on fourth and goal to put the underdogs up 14-7.
But the Tigers didn’t trail for long. They drove the ball 64-yards on 12 plays capped by a Leftwich to Lyon scoring connection again, this time on a 5-yard toss to even the game after the point after at 14 each.
After forcing a Woodland Hills punt, the Tigers were able to take the lead by scoring late in the first half. Starting at their own 18 with only 70 seconds left, Leftwich hit Elijah Zeise on a 50-yard hook-up to move the ball to the Wolverines 32. One play later, it was Leftwich to senior receiver Gregg Garrity on a deep slant for a 32-yard scoring play with only 25 seconds left in the second quarter as NA took a 21-14 lead into the locker room.
Game plans changed and the two defenses took over in the second half. Each time had scoring opportunities thwarted, including a Woodland Hills third quarter drive that ended at the North Allegheny 13 yard line with a McClelland incomplete pass and a fourth quarter Wolverines drive that ended at the Tigers 6-yard line on another incompletion.
After a third straight WPIAL gold trophy and two more one-sided wins in the PIAA state playoffs, it was back to Hershey for Art Walkers Tigers.
North Allegheny completed an undefeated season with a record setting 63-28 victory over the Coatesville Red Raiders in the PIAA Quad-A Championship game at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Tigers racked up 456 yards of offense in the win, including 289 posted by quarterback Mack Leftwich. The 63 points was the most scored by a winning team in a state championship game, breaking the record of 56 set by Central Bucks West in a 56-7 victory over New Castle in the 1998 title game. The 91 combined points was also a title game record.
Leftwich threw for 199 yards on 16-20 and two scores, the UTEP recruit, ran for one touchdown. Alex DeCiantis ran 21 times for 115 yards, the Tigers racked up 26 first downs on the night. The win give the Tigers their third Quad-A state title, winning also in 1990 and 2010.
North Allegheny scored on the opening possession as Leftwich moved the Tigers down the field in twelve plays, hitting Skylar Cox for an eight yard touchdown. Coatesville went down the field to the 20 yard line but Dre Boggs fumbled, Brendan Coniker went 80 yards untouched for a touchdown and a 14-0 NA lead. The defense scored again, Daquan Worley fumbled, Kevin Edwards recovered, broke a tackle and rambled 52 yards for a score.
Coatesville answered with Isaiah Flamer’s 60 yard kickoff return, Emmett Hunt scored on the third play to put the Red Raiders on the board. But Gregg Garrity returned the kickoff to the Coatesville 47, Leftwich scored on a five yard run with 27 seconds left in the quarter. The 28 points by the Tigers tied a PIAA championship record for points in the first quarter.
The Tigers added to the lead in the second after Hunt shanked an eight yard punt. Alex DeCiantis scored on a 22 yard run, NA was driving again, but DeCiantis fumbled on the 13 yard line, on the next play Worley went 89 yards for a score, the half ended at 35-14 the Tigers on top.
Coatesville took the opening possession of the second half in eight plays, Hunt scored his second touchdown, again from a yard out, but it was all North Allegheny the rest of the way. Leftwich hit Garrity for a 17 yard touchdown, DeCiantis added a 1 yard run late in the third, set up by an Edwards interception. The senior tacked on a 1 yard touchdown with 8:44 remaining to kick the mercy rule in.
But the scoring wasn’t over, Nick Cully broke a 60 yard run for the Tigers, Hunt hit Boggs for a 43 yard score with 4:14 left.
Head coach Art Walker was very pleased with his offensive performance, he added that Leftwich is the best quarterback that he has ever coached and was proud of all of his kids. Walker had a chain with 11 links with him during the post-game interview, he said that signifies his offense and the links allow them to play as one. One dominant team that is.
#4 – A PAIR OF CLASSIC PITCHERS DUOS
A WPIAL Class AAA Semifinals showdown at North Allegheny High school in May produced one of the best pitched matchups in WPIAL baseball playoff history.
The Blackhawk Cougars won a game for the ages, going nine innings to beat the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars 1-0. The game was highly anticipated as Pitt recruit and TJ ace Greg Schneider was on the mound facing Blackhawk ace and super sophomore Brendan McKay.
The game turned in to a pitcher’s duel that both schools fans will be talking about for years.
The Jaguars had a single in the 2nd inning with two out and left the runner stranded as McKay got out number 3 with a strikeout.
In the 3rd Colton Booher led off with a double for TJ, and was sacrificed to 3rd. With one out, the top of the order up and the infield in, McKay promptly struck out the next two batters. That started a streak of 15 in a row he would retire into the 8th inning.
Schneider was even better. He hit a batter in the first with 2 outs, then struck out the next batter to end the inning. In the 4th the lead-off batter reached after the 3rd strike passed ball, but was thrown out trying to steal 2nd. Schneider struck the next two batters out. In the 4th a runner reached base on an error with two outs but was erased at second base on a fielders choice.
The Cougars did not have a runner past first base until the 9th. They only hit 1 ball out of the infield thru 8 innings and that was a fly ball out to CF. It all came down to the 9th inning. The Cougars led off the 9th with a chopper up the middle by Brandon Mansel for a base hit, breaking up the no hitter. Brendan Kearny then bunted, on a play the catcher should have taken, Schneider came rushing in from the mound to field it, as he did he slipped and fell, as he did he fired to First base. The ball soared over the first basemen's head down the right field line scoring Mansel from 1st base. Schneider struck out 2 of the next 3 to get out of the inning. In the bottom of the 9th McKay struck out the side.
McKay faced only 29 batters in 9 innings. An error in the 8th was followed up by a pick off, he retired the last 20 batters including the pick off. He struck out 15 and walked none, giving up 2 hits to get the win. " I knew how good the other pitcher was, I tried to match what he did every inning to keep my team in the game," said McKay. "I’ve never seen a game where each pitcher kept matching the other like this" said Cougars manager Bob Amalia.
Schneider the tough luck loser of the game faced 31 batters, 4 over the limit, giving up 1 run, 2 hits, no walks, hitting one batter and striking out 15.
After Blackhawk went on to beat Belle Vernon 1-0 in the championship game, becoming the first school to win three straight playoff games by a 1-0 score, the two teams and the same two pitchers would meet again in a PIAA Class AAA Quarterfinals state playoff game.
In a rematch of that Semifinals classic, the Cougars exploded for more runs than they had scored the entire district and state playoffs combined in a 6-1 victory.
Blackhawk scored five runs in the seventh inning. After one out, Brandon Mansell tripled to right center, with the infield in Brendan Kearney singled past first baseman Joe Shaffer to bring home the go-ahead run. Kearney said he was looking for something to drive in the air to right field or hard thru the infield. He got a fast ball and got it thru. The Cougars added on with three consecutive singles by Brendan McKay, Matt Emge and Tyler Craig. Steve O'Hara was hit by a pitch to bring in the sixth run.
McKay was stellar on the mound allowing just four hits and fanning twelve. Greg Schneider was the hard luck loser for the second time against the Cougars, he went 6.1 innings, allowing five runs, three earned, he fanned eleven.
The pitcher’s duel that everyone expected came true thru the first three innings. Schneider allowed a base runner in each inning, but struck out five, including the final outs of the first, second and third. McKay allowed a one out double to Joe McHugh in the first, but set down the next eight batters, six by strikeout. Blackhawk had a chance again in the fourth, after two outs, Steve O'Hara walked and moved to second on a wild pitch, but Schneider got Nick Martin to strike out to end the inning.
TJ squandered an opportunity as McHugh drew a leadoff walk, coach Rich Krivanek called for the hit and run, McHugh took off, Schneider hit a fly ball to right field, McHugh rounded second as O'Hara made the catch, he was doubled off first for the second out. Both teams stranded a runner in the fifth, Blackhawk finally scored a run in the sixth, after one out Emge singled to right center, Craig singled to put two runners on base, O'Hara hit an easy double play ball to second, Craig went hard into second base, forcing McHugh to throw low on the turn, the ball got away from Shaffer at first, allowing courtesy runner Zach Hildebrand to score.
Thomas Jefferson broke a scoreless streak for Blackhawk in the sixth, Ryan Ruffing singled with one out, then with two outs, Schneider drove a high fastball into right center for a triple, scoring Ruffing. That run ended the Blackhawk shutout streak at 42.2 innings, the Cougars had not allowed a run since May 5th. Blackhawk head coach Bob Amalia said he was waiting for the offense to break out, the defense has been great for the Cougars, they are errorless in nine consecutive games. He said Kearney is a good contact hitter and he knew he would come thru in a big situation.
Emge was 2-4 with an rbi, Craig also was 2-4 for Blackhawk, which lost to west York in the state Semfinals to finish 2012 22-3 overall. For TJ, McHugh and Colton Booher doubled, Schneider tripled as the Jaguars finished 17-6 overall.
#3 – GOLDEN GULIBON
The 2012 WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships were in the books at Chartiers Valley High School back in February with the story of the night being the Fourth WPIAL Championship captured by Derry's Jimmy Gulibon, who became the 22nd wrestler in WPIAL history to win gold in all four years of his high school career.
Here is the impressive list the Gulibon has joined:
- Andy Puchany, Canonsburg (1936-1939)
- James Conklin, Waynesburg (1940-1943)
- Donald Haney, Canonsburg (1947-1950)
- Manuel Pihakis, Canonsburg (1949-1952)
- John Dasta, Penn Hills (1985-1988)
- John Richey, Connellsville (1988-1991)
- Cary Kolat, Jefferson-Morgan (1989-1992)
- Mark Angle, Canon-McMillan (1992-1995)
- Justin Tracanna, Jefferson-Morgan (1993-1996)
- Shawn Whyte, West Greene (1995-1998)
- Troy Letters, Shaler (1998-2001)
- Joe Makara, Burrell (2000-2003)
- Larry Hall, Jeannette (2001-2004)
- Coleman Scott, Waynesburg (2001-2004)
- Troy Dolan, Derry (2004-2007)
- Colin Johnston, Canon-McMillan (2005-2008)
- Jordan Shields, Burrell (2005-2008)
- Dane Johnson, Shady Side Academy (2006-2009)
- Matthew Cunningham, Shady Side Academy (2007-2010)
- Geoffrey Alexander, Shady Side Academy (2008-2011)
- Nico Megaludis, Franklin Regional (2008-2011)
- Jimmy Gulibon, Derry Area (2009-2012)
Gulibon was not done with his impressive scholastic resume.
In his usual dominating fashion, Gulibon joined a very elite club by becoming the tenth wrestler in PIAA history to win four individual state titles at the 75th annual PIAA Wrestling Championships at the GIANT Center in Hershey back in March. On the strength of four takedowns, the Trojans’ senior cruised to a 9-3 decision over Keystone Oaks’ Nick Zanetta in the Class AA 126-pound final.
Gulibon also defeated Zanetta, a junior, at the WPIAL Class AA Championships two weeks ago, 11-4, and at the PIAA Southwest Regional tournament last Saturday, 11-3. The Penn State recruit, named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament, finishes his high school career with a 136-4 record. Gulibon won Class AAA titles as a freshman and sophomore and AA championships the past two seasons.
The other nine wrestlers to win four state championships are Jim Conklin, Waynesburg (1943); Jerry Maurey, Clearfield (1950); Mike Johnson, Lock Haven (1961); Matt Gerhard, Catasauqua (1984); Ty Moore, North Allegheny (1990); John Hughes, Benton (1991); Cary Kolat, Jefferson Morgan (1992); Bob Crawford, Milton (1993), and McGuffey’s Jeremy Hunter (1996).
#2 – BILL STANLEY’s BIG THROW
At every invitational and championship meet this spring, South Park’s Bill Stanley has set a meet record in the javelin, including a toss of 227-0 for a new WPIAL record a week earlier back in May. But Stanley did a lot more than set a meet record at the state championships. Stanley is now a national record holder.
Stanley, a senior, won the Class AAA javelin title at Shippensburg University and set a national record with a throw of 246 feet, 9 inches. Stanley’s throw, which came on his first of the competition, beat the old record of 244-2, set in 2010 by Sam Crouser of Gresham, Ore. The national record is recognized by the National Federation of High School Associations. NFHS national records can only be set at state championship meets or NFHS-sanctioned meets.
“I’m still a little surprised I got a national record, but I was throwing in the 240s at practice Thursday,” Stanley said.
Stanley easily beat the PIAA Class AAA record of 224-2. His previous best this season was 234-9, which was good for second-best in the country. Stanley scaled back his training this week for the PIAA meet.
“I didn’t lift at all and I practiced only Thursday,” he said. “At the WPIAL championships, I was exhausted after every throw. I just needed a little break to get my strength back.”
#1 – BOUT DAT – THE LEGEND GROWS
At some point you run out of superlatives. Another conference championship…another district championship…another state championship…another undefeated season…and 16 more wins to add to their WPIAL and PIAA record win streak.
After a scare in Week One and a narrow 22-20 victory over Chartiers-Houston, Clairton cruised to wins in the next eleven weeks, including impressive blowout wins over eventual playoff teams Monessen (52-7), Brentwood (42-7) and Bishop Canevin (53-15) before pounding Frazier (58-6), Brentwood again (39-0) and Neshannock (37-7) in the WPIAL playoffs for its now annual trip to the finals at the North Shore of Pittsburgh.
Not only did the Bears defend their WPIAL Class A title, their fifth straight, but broke the all-time state record with their 60th win in a row. And they did it in convincing fashion, with a 58-21 win over the Sto-Rox Vikings at Heinz Field.
With the win, the Bears stand all by themselves in Pennsylvania history, eclipsing Central Bucks West record of 59 wins in a row set back from 1997-2000. Clairton’s last loss came in the 2009 season opener and the Bears currently hold the longest win streak in the country.
Clairton would get the scoring started on their first offensive drive of the game. After converting on a fourth down past midfield, QB Armani Ford hit his senior wide receiver, Titus Howard for a 35-yard touchdown pass along the right sideline. Clairton took the early 6-0 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
The Vikings would get on the board thanks to a Clairton miscue. The Bears’ senior standout, Tyler Boyd, was set up to punt deep in his own territory, but the snap was low and Boyd could not handle it right away. When he did pick up the ball, he opted to run instead of kick on the run. He was stopped at his own 23. From there, Sto-Rox took 53 seconds to get the ball in the endzone. Lenny Williams hit Elisha Bonner on an 18-yard TD pass. Bonner also kicked the extra point to give Sto-Rox 7-6 lead with about a minute and a half left in the 1st quarter.
That was the only time Sto-Rox would lead in the game, as Clairton would turn on the jets from there. With 7:25 left in the 2nd quarter, Ford found Terrish Webb on a 22-yard touchdown pass on a jump ball where Webb beat Sto-Rox’s Ben Shackelford and put up six. The two-point conversion made it 14-7.
But Clairton was just warming up, as Boyd, took a double reverse, wound up and found Santeaun Sims all by himself downfield for a 74 yard TD pass. After a two-point conversion, the Bears would lead 22-7.
Sto-Rox got on the board right before the half after a Clairton pass interference call on 4th down. A few plays later, the Vikings Brendan Blair would hit paydirt to cut the deficit to 22-13 at halftime after the missed extra point.
In the 2nd half, Clairton looked like they were from another world. They would outscore the Vikings in the third quarter 28-8. The Bears took the ball 73 yards in 2 and a half minutes on their first drive of the half. After a couple nice runs from Boyd, Ford would hit Webb for their second hook up of the day to make it 28-13. The two-point conversion was no good.
The Vikings would go for it on 4th down in their own territory on their next drive, and Clairton made them pay as Dryan Davenport intercepted Williams and returned the ball to the Sto-Rox 14. On the next play, Tyler Boyd scored on a 14 yd TD run. An extra point would put the Bears up 35-13.
Sto-Rox would work the ball up to midfield on their next drive when Williams took over and ran 52 yards for a Vikings TD to cut the deficit to 14 after a two-point conversion, but that was as close as the Vikings would get.
On Clairton’s next play from scrimmage, Tyler Boyd showed why he is one of the best in the WPIAL, gliding downfield for a 77-yard touchdown. The Bears weren’t done, adding two more touchdowns, one on a 26-yard run from Bryon Clifford near the end of the 3rd quarter, and another on a Ford TD run from one yard out with 3:19 left in the 4th quarter. Simply put, it was Clairton’s day.
Tyler Boyd is being recruited by a number of Division I colleges and for good reason. He hit another gear in Friday’s title game, carrying the ball 16 times for 144 yards and also throwing the ball for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Bears quarterback Armani Ford had a very nice outing as well, going 9 for 16 for 180 yards for three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.
Sto-Rox’s QB Lenny Williams struggled to find time to throw with that Clairton defense barreling down on him. The Vikings dual threat quarterback finished 7 of 22 for 106 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 103 yards and a touchdown as Sto-Rox falls for the second consecutive year the Class A title game.
Clairton head coach Tom Nola won his sixth WPIAL titles in 11 seasons as Bears head coach.
Following wins 61 and 62 in a row in the state playoffs, it was back to Hershey for the golden Bears.
Clairton Bears won their 63rd consecutive game and fourth straight PIAA Class A championship with a 20-0 win over the Dunmore Bucks at Hersheypark Stadium in early December. The Bears did so in dominant fashion, running 66 plays and holding the football for over 30 minutes. The win streak is the longest in Pennsylvania football history and is the longest current streak in the country going into next season.
Tyler Boyd ran for 117 yards on 20 carries, Boyd scored on a 5 yard run on the opening drive of the game, giving him 51 touchdowns for the season and 117 for his career. Boyd passes Jason Barr of McGuffey to move into 5th place on the WPIAL all-time rushing list with 5,763 yards.
Clairton scored on the opening possession, but had to do so from deep in their own territory. Clairton faced a first and 23 after a block in the back, but the Bears were able to dig out of the hole and Boyd scored the touchdown, capping a eight play drive.
The Bears shut down the powerful running attack of the Bucks, who boasted a pair of one thousand yard rushers coming in with Daiquan Buckley and Austin Seamon. Buckley was held to 44 yards, Seamon 45.
Clairton moved the ball down the field in the second quarter, but came up short, turning the ball over at the 2 yard line, the Bears would get the football back and capitalized again. Terrish Webb took a pass along the near sideline and walked the chalk, diving for the 21 yard touchdown toss from Armani Ford. Webb connected with Ford for the two point conversion and a 14-0 lead with 40 seconds left. Dunmore drove down the field but Boyd picked off Brandon Kujawski on the final play of the half.
Clairton continued to control the ball and the clock in the third quarter, allowing Dunmore to run just eight plays in the quarter. The Bucks had a great chance to score in the fourth quarter, Kujawski over-threw Mike Kolcharno, who was wide open behind the Clairton secondary, that came on a fourth down play, allowing the Bears to take over.
Clairton capitalized as Ford, Bryon Clifford and Webb took over for Boyd, who did not play most of the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, the Bears also played without Pitt recruit Titus Howard, who missed a second straight game with a dislocated elbow, linebacker Robert Boatright wore Howard’s number 6 in his place.
The Bears scored on a seven play 65 yard drive with 4:06 remaining in regulation, Ford scrambled away from the defenders and took it down the sideline, driving into the end zone. The Bears were assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties following the touchdown, forcing
Clairton to kick off from the 12 yard line, Kolcharno had a great return to the Clairton 26, but the Bears forced a fumble, Clifford recovered and the Bears, despite two more unsportsmanlike penalties were able to run out the clock for the win.
Ford finished 10 of 18 for 150 yards, the quarterback did a great job moving the pocket and avoiding the Dunmore rush. Webb had seven catches for 100 yards. , Webb said he could not put the 63 game streak to words, he had his second straight big game on the chocolate stage, he scored twice in last year’s 35-19 victory over Southern Columbia.
Webb would not commit on his college choice, he has received an offers from Kent State and Pitt. Boyd added three catches for 50 yards and the interception. The Bears ended with 432 yards for the game and 23 first downs, Dunmore was held to 115 yards and just six first downs, the Bucks end the season at 14-2 and saw their eleven game winning streak come to an end.
With the victory, Clairton becomes the second school to win four consecutive titles, Southern Columbia won five straight championships from 2002-06, they have six titles overall. Berwick has won five titles, Central Bucks West and Clairton have won four each. Clairton loses 17 seniors from this season, including most of their skilled players. The Bears open the 2013 season at home to Char-Houston with a new crop, trying to keep this streak alive.
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