The Birdie hands out 5-star reviews, makes Westmoreland County Week 5 picks

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 | 5:41 PM

Last week: 11-3 (78.6%)

Season: 43-18 (70.5%)

Covering games for so many years has given the Birdie an appreciation for football stadiums.

He could practically offer professional reviews on Yelp.

“More like, Help,” a scoretaker yells as he hangs up the phone. “Your picks could use a life raft.”

Back to the point:

“You have the good, the bad and the ugly,” the county’s high school football mastermind said. “People ask me if I get to pick the games I go to. I tell them, of course I do, I’m the Birdie. But I don’t always choose a game because it has an alluring matchup. No, a lot of times, the facilities, professionalism and ambiance mean the most. Oh, and the food.”

So, the Birdie decided to give gold stars to the best stadiums in this week’s column space.

His favorite venue: Hempfield.

“Great parking. Nice people. Massive press box at Spartan Stadium is like a hotel, and there is always good food. I leave with a full tummy and feel like a king.”

His other top spots, ranked in order: Penn-Trafford, Norwin, Franklin Regional, Latrobe and Belle Vernon.

“While the 7:30 kickoff is a dinosaur, P-T hits on everything else right across the board,” Birdie said. “Feels like a college game day there. Food is often homemade. Yum.

Norwin has it all, which is why the WPIAL likes it for championship games. There’s a full kitchen in the upstairs of the press box. (Tell ‘em a little Birdie told you that).

“FR always brings it, too. The subs, I mean. Solid press box game, as well. Am I still allowed in after my Shaler pick?

Latrobe always has parking and pizza, and it may just offer the best press box view. Nicest grass field in the WPIAL.

Belle Vernon. The Beach. It also has the total package. Although, they won’t let me sit in the lifeguard chair.”

The Birdie threw an honorable mention at venerable Offutt Field (Greensburg Salem) — “They have an elevator” — along with Mt. Pleasant, Derry, and Yough.

“Those places are almost identical,” Birdie said. “Same cookie-cutter setup. Derry, I see your special menu and I like you for it. Peep that pick a little ways down, Trojans.”

If places are too small, have limited space (for the media) in press boxes or don’t provide him with halftime refreshment, they did not make the cut.

“Maybe next year,” he said. “Nothing personal. My friends in the working press and I need your accomodations to give your team the best coverage.”

Now for his say on Week 4:

Franklin Regional (3-2, 0-1) at Plum (2-3, 0-2): The records go out the window when these neighbors show up for their annual block party. Franklin Regional will have some surprises for the Mustangs. Franklin Regional, 27-20

Hempfield (1-4, 0-1) at Gateway (2-3, 2-0): Gateway took it to the Spartans last year, crushing their hopeful start. The momentum will continue with an air show. Gateway, 49-7

Penn-Trafford (2-3, 1-0) at Norwin (2-3, 1-0): Another rivalry game that is sneaky good. The Birdie always appreciates good line play, and the Warriors have size. Watch the defensive lines make a difference. Penn-Trafford, 24-20

Trinity (3-2, 1-1) at Latrobe (3-2, 1-1): Latrobe will establish the run and take advantage of quality field position all night. Latrobe, 27-14

Belle Vernon (3-1, 0-0) at South Allegheny (1-3, 0-0): The Mighty Leopards finally get a break on the schedule. Big plays from the kickoff for Belle Vernon, which is fuming after its first loss. Belle Vernon, 41-0

Mt. Pleasant (4-1, 0-0) at Greensburg Salem (1-4, 0-0): Offutt Field can be a tough place to play, and the host Golden Lions will be ready for the newly ranked Vikings. But they won’t be able to slow the run enough. Mt. Pleasant, 25-10

Southmoreland (3-2, 0-0) at Elizabeth Forward (5-0, 0-0): Losses to Knoch and Deer Lakes have the Birdie taking a second look at Southmoreland. The Scotties have a chance to prove a lot this week, but … Elizabeth Forward, 28-7

Serra Catholic (0-4, 0-1) at Derry (3-2, 2-0): This is not the same old Serra and it certainly is not the same old Derry. The Trojans are playoff contenders again and this is a signature win they need. Derry, 17-9

Yough (1-4, 0-2) at Ligonier Valley (2-3, 1-1): The ups and downs of Yough and Ligonier Valley have made this game look like a word problem to the Birdie. He’ll simplify things: Take the Rams at home. Ligonier Valley, 28-19

Greensburg Central Catholic (3-2, 1-0) at Clairton (3-2, 2-0): It is tough to get a read on this Clairton team, and GCC has had success against the Bears in the recent past. Look for a tight finish. Clairton, 22-19

Riverview (3-2, 1-1) at Jeannette (4-1, 1-0): The Birdie didn’t expect this many wins from Jeannette. Here comes another one this week. Jeannette, 21-14

Monessen (1-4, 0-2) at West Greene (4-1, 2-0): Monessen has not impressed the Birdie so far. He thinks West Greene will run right at the Greyhounds. West Greene, 29-13

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