The Birdie makes a grand entrance before making Week 8 Westmoreland County picks

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 | 8:39 PM

Last week: 10-1 (90.9%)

Season: 73-24 (75.3%)

Because he is as impressionable as a 5-year-old watching cartoons, the Birdie is captivated easily.

(He still watches cartoon reruns every Saturday morning before he breaks down Friday night film.)

What has caught his eye this season are the large and burly inflatable tunnels some local teams use for pregame.

“I saw the one at Franklin Regional,” Birdie said, still fuming mad at Yough for costing him a perfect week. “There was smoke coming out and a giant panther on top. It was boss.

“And how about that Viking at Mt. Pleasant? That dude is a beast. I want one in my yard.”

What the Birdie really wants is his own, bouncy-house inflatable in his likeness.

“Actually, every local team should have one,” Birdie said. “It would look just like me, only it would breathe fire and growl. Yeah, yeah. And it would be muscular and athletic.”

The Birdie sometimes parades around the office in a tank top like Pat McAfee.

“If he’s so rich, why can’t he afford sleeves?” Birdie said about the former Plum kicker. “But I digress.”

A part-timer sticks a pin in his confidence.

“Your inflatable would have a dad bod, wear beat-up Chuck Taylors and would breathe Cheeto dust,” the part-timer quipped.

“There is one thing that makes sense about it: Your picks are full of hot air.”

With the energy of a dying fly on a press box windowsill, the Birdie made his way into a local gym.

An employee asked him if he was interested in a membership.

“No,” the Birdie said. “But can you give me directions to the big football mascot inflatable store? A friend needs some intro pageantry. The announcer would be like, ‘Here comes the Birdie!’ ”

The confused employee asked for a manager, but the Birdie left before they came back, bursting out the front door like he was running through a tunnel.

“I get free subs from Franklin Regional and candy at Mt. Pleasant,” Birdie said. “I’ll have to ask them where they got their mascot tunnels. I’m going to get mine.”

Now for the smoke — and mirrors — that are his Week 8 picks:

Gateway (4-4, 4-0) at Norwin (2-6, 1-2): Gateway already had the conference title secured, but the Gators want momentum heading to the postseason. Gateway, 42-20

Plum (2-6, 0-4) at Hempfield (1-7, 0-3): With a strong ground attack, the Mustangs have been able to push some teams around. Hempfield will have trouble up front, but it will be a close game. Plum, 32-26

Latrobe (6-2, 4-1) at McKeesport (7-1, 4-0): If Latrobe wanted a playoff test, this is it. The Tigers are fast and physical. McKeesport, 28-14

Belle Vernon (6-1, 3-0) at Southmoreland (5-3, 2-1): The Birdie likes this matchup of playoff teams, only because there are several playmakers. Belle Vernon has a few more of them. Belle Vernon, 40-21

Greensburg Salem (1-7, 0-3) at Elizabeth Forward (8-0, 3-0): While better days lie ahead for Greensburg Salem, Elizabeth Forward is ready to make a run now. Too much talent on that defense. Elizabeth Forward, 49-7

Mt. Pleasant (5-3, 1-2) at South Allegheny (1-7, 0-3): Mt. Pleasant shouldn’t have to go far into the playbook this week. Look for short, punishing drives from the Vikings in a bounce-back win. Mt. Pleasant, 26-6

Derry (3-5, 2-3) at Burrell (4-4, 3-2): The best matchups aren’t always reserved for the headline games. This could be a nailbiter. Derry, 16-15

Imani Christian (5-2, 3-1) at Ligonier Valley (2-6, 1-4): Imani will hit some big plays early and make the Rams one dimensional. Imani Christian, 38-7

Steel Valley (6-1, 5-0) at Yough (2-6, 1-4): Look for Steel Valley to set up shop on short fields and take it to the Cougars early. Steel Valley, 41-6

Jeannette (6-2, 3-1) at Springdale (1-7, 0-4): Jeannette needs this one after a tough loss to GCC. The Jayhawks should be able to throw on the Dynamos’ secondary. Jeannette, 28-8

Riverview (4-3, 2-1) at Greensburg Central Catholic (5-3, 3-1): While GCC has big-play ability, the Raiders are sneaky good up front and have a solid running game. GCC, 30-20

Mapletown (3-5, 1-4) at Monessen (2-6, 1-4): Nobody wants to finish last in the Tri-County South. Monessen slowly is getting better, and this will be a boost for the team. Monessen, 12-9

North Allegheny (7-1) at Penn-Trafford (4-4): This could be power football at its finest with a pair of smashmouth teams bumping pads up front. North Allegheny, 35-14

North Hills (3-5) at Franklin Regional (6-2): North Hills — which, don’t forget, has a win over Gateway — is physical and smart. But Franklin Regional’s defense is trending upward. Franklin Regional, 23-13

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