Scholastic Notebook – 11/18/2011

Friday, November 18, 2011 | 1:31 PM

Having a chance to make it to a WPIAL championship game for the fifth time since 2004 is a driving force for the Gateway football team. But this team also has something else motivating it.

The spirit of Darrell Turner.

Turner would have been one of the top players on Gateway’s defense this year. He was one of the top tacklers on last year’s team and was hoping for a big senior season. But Turner was shot and killed in North Carolina this summer, while on the way to a 7 on 7 tournament in Florida.

Before the season started, Gateway said it was dedicating its season to Turner. The season is now in its 12th week. You’d think maybe the Gators wouldn’t talk as much about Turner, or think as much about him. No way, insisted Gateway coach Terry Smith, who said his team still has Turner on the top of their motivation list.

Gateway takes on undefeated North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA Semifinals Friday night.

"We’re still playing in the memory of Darrell Turner. That hasn’t stopped and that’s what is important right now," Smith said. "Our kids are going to lay it on the line and they’re laying it on the line for Darrell. That’s all that really matters to us."

Smith has been the coach for all of Gateway’s four championship appearances since 2004. But he said this season has been like no other. One of the reasons is Turner. But the other is because not many had Gateway pegged as one of the three or four teams in Class AAAA at the start of the season. It was thought that the young Gators were maybe a year away from contending for a WPIAL championship.

"This year is different in that we have had so much happen to this team in the past year," Smith said. "We weren’t a top five team in the preseason. No one was really talking about us. We’re kind of just chipping away and getting better each week.

"We’re playing well right now, but we’re still so far away from peaking. I just hope we close that gap quickly. Like last week against Penn-Trafford. We won, but we turned the ball over a few times. We had a punt blocked. There is still so much room for improvement with us."

Dalton Status Up In The Air

The Trinity school board voted Thursday night to table a motion to fire football coach Ed Dalton.

Dalton was reportedly told earlier in the week by Trinity athletic director Bobby Jones that his job would be opened at the school board meeting. Then the board voted, 5-4, to wait on opening his position.

It’s yet another chapter in board vs. Dalton story. His job had been opened twice in previous years, but the board re-hired him both times.

Top Wrestler Eligible

Standout wrestler Cody Wiercioch will be on the mats this season after all.

On Thursday, the PIAA ruled Wiercioch eligible, overturning an earlier WPIAL ruling. Wiercioch, who won a state championship two years ago, transferred from Charleroi to Canon-McMillan before this school year. The WPIAL ruled him ineligible, saying the transfer was at least in part for athletic intent, which is against PIAA and WPIAL rules.

Wiercioch appealed his case to the PIAA and won after a hearing Thursday.

Running Numbers

Luke Hagy finished his career at Mount Lebanon with 4,795 yards, third-best in WPIAL Class AAAA history, behind Marcus Furman and Matt Gavrish. But Hagy might not stay in third place for very long.

Friday night, Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s Damion Jones-Moore could surpass Hagy on the Class AAAA list. Jones-Moore has 4,714 yards and the Vikings play Upper St. Clair in a WPIAL Class AAAA Semifinal.

Also Friday night, Montour’s Julian Durden needs only 5 yards to reach 5,000 for his career. Durden has 4,995 – two seasons at North Catholic and two at Montour. Montour plays Central Valley in a Class AAA Semifinal.

Coaching Hire

Lou Rood stepped down as Bentworth’s football coach after this season. It didn’t take long for the school to hire his replacement – and it came from Rood’s staff.

Bentworth has hired Bob Niziol, who was an assistant coach under Rood, who stepped down after three seasons. Niziol has been coaching at Bentworth for a few years, following a playing career at Bethany from 2002-05. He is a teacher at Bentworth High School and is a graduate of Brentwood High.

City Championship

While the WPIAL semifinals are contested Friday night, the City League championship game will be played Saturday afternoon at Cupples Stadium on the South Side and here on the MSA Sports Network. University Prep meets Allderdice in the title game, and the winner will get to enjoy something totally new.

This is the first year for University Prep in the City League. On the other hand, Allderdice has only one City League championship in school history and that came in 1967.

There is more than the City League championship on the line, though. The winner represents the City League in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs against the winner of this weekend’s game between Strong Vincent (8-2) and State College (6-4).

3-7 Team in PIAA Playoffs

It might sound crazy for a 3-7 team to be in the state playoffs. But it’s true.

Oliver, a City League team, has a 3-7 record, but the Bears will play in the PIAA Class AA playoffs next weekend against the District 9 champion – either Moniteau (10-0) or Karns City (8-3).

The reason Oliver is in the PIAA playoffs is because the City League has a few teams that are Class AA in enrollment. So the PIAA gives the league a spot in the state playoffs. It has been this way since 2007. Oliver also was in the state playoffs last year and lost to Brockway, 44-14. Oliver had a 4-6 record heading into the PIAA playoffs last season.

Then … and Now

* Twenty-two years ago this week, Clairton defeated Jefferson-Morgan, 19-7, in the WPIAL Class A semifinals. The following week at Three Rivers Stadium, Clairton quarterback Wayne Wade threw for 83 yards and ran seven times for 30 as Clairton edged Laurel, 27-20, in the WPIAL championship game. After the WPIAL title game, Wade had 1,406 yards passing and 328 throwing.

Today? Wade is the defensive coordinator for Clairton.

* Twenty-five years ago this week, Terry Smith had a big game throwing the ball for Gateway as the Gators defeated Mt. Lebanon, 30-6, in a Class AAAA semifinal to set up a title game rematch with North Hills.

Today? Smith is Gateway’s coach.

* Eight years ago this week, Darrelle Revis intercepted pass and caught a 56-yard touchdown pass on the next play in Aliquippa’s 36-0 victory against Freedom in the Class AA semifinals.

Today? It’s Revis Island.

Showdown of Unbeatens

Just going by records, the best PIAA soccer championship game this weekend is the Class AA girls title match between Mars and Villa Joseph Marie. One of these teams will taste defeat for the first time this season.

Villa Joseph Marie is 22-0 while Mars is 24-0-1. Mars is facing a perennial power as Villa Joseph Marie has won eight state championships.

Three other WPIAL teams are in the championships – Upper St. Clair in Class AAA boys, Peters Township in Class AAA girls and Springdale in Class A girls.

Facing One of the Country’s Best?

The Upper St. Clair boys soccer team plays in the state title game against a team ranked in the top 10 in the country. Conestoga is ranked No. 6 in the most recent ESPN rankings.

But it’s not like Conestoga has rolled over everyone. The team won its first two PIAA games by one goal and its semifinal game in a shootout.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

More Football

Shaler beats Moon to win 1st girls flag football title
Former Highlands QB hired to coach Golden Rams football team
Franklin Regional lineman Nesler takes up cause of disabled veterans
Penn-Trafford football pipeline to Division I just getting started
Steve Sciullo settles into top spot at Hampton