Scholastic Notebook – 11/01/2013

Friday, November 1, 2013 | 1:08 PM

Moon’s running game went from Colaianni to Cole, and now everything is cool with the Tigers on the ground.

Moon is in the WPIAL football playoffs this season for the first time since 2006, and one of the main reasons for the turnaround is Cole Blake, a senior running back who is the fifth-leading rusher in the WPIAL heading into the playoffs.

Blake has made a name for himself, rushing for 1,457 yards. He set a school record with 342 yards in one game. But Blake’s story is interesting in that he only got a chance to be the featured back this year because of an injury. Suffice to say, Blake has run with that chance.

For the past two seasons, Moon’s running game was led by Anthony Colaianni, who rushed for 751 and 998 yards as a sophomore and junior. Blake played a minimal role, rushing for 131 yards last year and 289 as a sophomore.

Colaianni was expected to be the feature back again, but was forced to miss this season because of a knee injury. Blake took over and has turned Moon into Cole country. He has three games with at least 200 yards rushing and tonight he will play in a game that could turn into the battle of the backs. Two of the top five rushers in the WPIAL will be in this game. The other is West Mifflin’s Jimmy Wheeler, who leads the WPIAL with 2,022 yards.

The 2,000 club

Wheeler is only the fifth running back in WPIAL history to rush for 2,000 yards in the regular season. Rushel Shell of Hopewell did it twice with 2,102 yards in 2010 and 2,043 in 2009. Steel Valley’s Delrece Williams had 2,149 in 2010, Mars’ Bill Bair 2,112 in 2007 and Laurel Highlands’ Jim Smith 2,026 in 1989.

Perfect Storm

There was an unusually large number of teams in WPIAL football that finished the regular season with undefeated records. Twelve teams went 9-0 this season, which ties 2011 as the most in at least 15 years.

The undefeateds were Upper St. Clair, Central Catholic, Thomas Jefferson, West Allegheny, Kittanning, South Fayette, Mount Pleasant, Aliquippa, Sto-Rox, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Beth-Center.

Plum Dandy

It didn’t get much notice because it happened on a Wednesday night, but a rather significant streak came to an end earlier this week. The Plum football team defeated Greensburg Salem, 30-22, in a non-conference game to end a 25-game losing streak.

Plum scored more points in that game than it had all season to that point. Plum had scored 26 points until then.

They Shall Receive

It’s not often that you see a receiver with 1,000 yards receiving during the regular season in district football. But there were two this year in the WPIAL-City League. University Prep's Marcus Johnson had 48 catches for 1,099 yards and Baldwin’s Luke Smorey had 1,039 yards on 55 catches.

It’s Been a While

Summit Academy and West Shamokin are playing in the WPIAL football playoffs Friday for the first time ever. For a handful of other teams, it has certainly been a long time since they won a playoff game.

Avella is in the playoffs for the first time since 1976 but the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since 1961.

Kittanning hasn’t won a playoff game since 1975, Frazier since 1983 and Kiski Area since 1990.

The First Time

The WPIAL soccer championships are Friday night and Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium at Station Square. This is the first time the WPIAL will hold title games at Highmark, which just opened earlier this year.

This is also the first time in the title games for five different teams. The Hopewell and Central Valley girls are playing in a championship for the first time. Meanwhile, this is the first title appearance for the South Fayette, West Allegheny and Beaver County Christian boys teams.

State Cross-County Championships

The PIAA cross-country championships are Saturday in Hershey and Shaler’s Brianna Schwartz will try to do something that hasn’t been done by a WPIAL girl in a long time.

Schwartz is one of the favorites in the PIAA Class AAA girls’ race. It has been 11 years since a WPIAL girl has won the PIAA title in the highest classification. The last one was West Allegheny’s Christine Taranto in 2002. A WPIAL runner has won the highest classification only six times overall since the 1970s.

Schwartz would seem to have a decent shot at the title. She broke a course record at the WPIAL championships last week. She finished third at last year’s PIAA meet, but the top five finishers last year were all non-seniors.

Connection with Pitt

The connection with the Pitt womens basketball team and the Seton-LaSalle girls team already runs deep.

New Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio is a Seton-LaSalle graduate. And since she took the job, she has landed three recruits from Seton-LaSalle.

The latest Seton-LaSalle girl to commit to Pitt was Yacine Diop, a 5-10 guard who committed this week. Diop is a senior and ranked one of the top 100 players in the country. She has only been at Seton-LaSalle for two school years. Originally from Senegal, she transferred to Seton-LaSalle last year but was ruled ineligible by the WPIAL and PIAA, saying she transferred for athletic intent.

Fellow Seton-LaSalle senior Naje Gibson committed to Pitt earlier this year. She is a 6-foot forward.

And McConnell-Serio got a commitment from a Seton-LaSalle junior. Cassidy Walsh committed to Duquesne during her sophomore year when McConnell-Serio was the Dukes’ coach. But she changed to Pitt when McConnell-Serio became the Panthers coach.

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