Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week for Oct. 16, 2023

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Monday, October 16, 2023 | 11:33 PM


In the last seven years, the Steel Valley football team has been creating its own glory days.

The Ironmen won WPIAL and PIAA championships in 2016 and another district title in 2017.

Following a couple of lean years, they returned to prominence in 2021 and won another WPIAL crown in 2022.

This season, Steel Valley is in first place in the Allegheny Conference and ranked No. 2 in Class 2A with a 6-1 overall record.

With every successful team, the Ironmen have leaned heavily on one stud player to lead the way on offense, from DeWayne Murray to Kam Williams to Nijhay Burt to Cruce Brookins.

This season though, the Steel Valley bell cow is showing a lot of bite … and bark to his game.

Junior running back Donald Barksdale has led the way on the ground with 1,063 yards and 20 touchdowns.

“Donald’s speed, power and breakaway ability on offense are his strengths,” Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo said. “He is a top-conditioned player and has great open-field ability. He also is a big-play player on defense.”

On Friday, in a battle for first place in the Allegheny Conference, Barksdale had a huge game, rushing for 256 yards on 19 carries for an average of 13.5 yards per tote as Steel Valley rolled past Burrell, 49-14.

“Donald‘s ability to break the long touchdown and his desire to be the best player on the field is some characteristics of what he is all about,” Braszo said.

Barksdale is among the leaders in the WPIAL in scoring, adding six more touchdowns against the Bucs.

He scored on runs of 35, 5, 16, 11 and 33 yards and caught a 40-yard scoring pass from Tyce Barron.

Which TD did he like the most on Friday?

“The receiving touchdown was my favorite,” Barksdale said. “My guys on the line did a great job blocking on that play, as they always do.”

The Ironmen were expected to deliver a Barksdale one-two punch this fall, but younger brother Da’ron has missed the last five games due to injury. Donald said his brother will be back, either in the next two weeks or in the playoffs.

“There has been more pressure on him when we lost Da’ Ron, but Donald wants to carry the ball and score every touchdown,” Braszo said.

Steel Valley has a one-game lead in the loss column over Imani Christian and Serra Catholic and controls its own destiny for another Allegheny Conference Crown.

The Ironmen visit Yough on Friday and host Serra Catholic in Week 9.

“We have been winning and are in a good position to win the conference, but we still need to improve certain phases of our team,” Braszo said. “We need to practice hard and improve our weaknesses, win our last two games and stay healthy for the playoffs.”

Week 7 honorable mention

Nolan DiLucia – Peters Township

There are no signs of anybody slowing down the mighty Peters Township express, being engineered by a sophomore quarterback. The Indians have scored a Class 5A-high 314 points in eight games and have only allowed 27 points. On Friday, Peters Township eclipsed the 40-point mark for the fourth time and registered the team’s fourth shutout in a 42-0 win at Mt. Lebanon. DiLucia was 14 of 20 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns.

Armand Hill – West Mifflin

The district youth movement continues with another freshman stepping up and putting up big numbers in his rookie season. Friday was a breakout performance for young West Mifflin running back Armand Hill, who rushed for 313 yards on 16 carries for a whopping average of 19.5 yards per carry. Hill also scored five Titans touchdowns on runs of 80, 12, 39, 41 and 2 yards as West Mifflin clinched a playoff berth in the 4A Western Hills Conference with a 57-13 victory at Quaker Valley.

Jaivin Peel, Western Beaver

It was another week and another monster performance by the district’s leading passer who, by the way, is only in ninth grade. Western Beaver freshman quarterback Jaivin Peel is scary good after delivering the treats to Golden Beavers fans in the form of 14 of 17 passing for 423 yards and five touchdown tosses in a Midwestern Athletic Conference playoff-clinching 60-13 win over New Brighton. Peel has now thrown for 2,157 yards this season and 26 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

2023 HSSN players of the week

Week 6 – Ethan Varesko, Beth-Center

Week 5 – Jay Wrona, Mohawk

Week 4 – Elijah Faulkner, Central Catholic

Week 3 – Jonah Williamson, Trinity

Week 2 – Jake Wolfe, Montour

Week 1 – Bruce Giles, Connellsville

Week Zero – Cameron Epps, South Allegheny

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