Westmoreland County coaches give The Birdie the old ‘social distancing’ treatment

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Saturday, September 5, 2020 | 11:01 PM


The Birdie has been asked to social distance before so the concept is not altogether new to the local prep football expert.

“More than 6 feet, usually,” he said. “More like six football fields. Sometimes I wonder if people don’t really like me.”

Even before covid-19 wrapped its claws around the globe — “Like a center squeezing a football into the dirt before a snap,” Birdie unleashes on the copy desk — your favorite predictor of the pigskin was asked to keep his distance.

“When most coaches see me around practice they ask their assistant with the biggest muscles to escort me out,” the Birdie said.

“But now that I have my mask, they won’t be able to spot me as easily. I got into most summer workouts to see our local teams, except for Hempfield. They wouldn’t let me near the joint.”

The Birdie has been following safety protocols and practicing social distancing since March and is primed for a new, albeit shorter season.

He chewed off his fingernails — and toenails (eww) — as he waited for the state government, PIAA and WPIAL to finally decide on whether or not to have a season. He spent his entire stimulus check on golf.

One of his new habits was playing “Guess the New Athletic Director” with co-workers during Microsoft Teams meetings.

“So the Norwin guy is now at Hempfield and the Greensburg Salem guy moved to Norwin?” he asked. “Got it.”

The Birdie put his body through the rigors of offseason training during quarantine time and is fit and trim for opening night.

“Mrs. Birdie made me start walking to relieve the stress,” he said. “I spent many evenings strolling along the Five Star Trail in Greensburg and lost a few pounds. Five Star, like me.

“I would’ve jogged to Green Tree for the pairings meeting this year, but they bummed me out by canceling the time-honored tradition. Maybe next year.”

Armed with lifestyle changes and a tub of hand sanitizer, the Birdie is ready to predict winners in 2020. He welcomes Ligonier Valley to “The Big Show,” and predicts Greensburg Salem will get its long-awaited 700th win “early on the sked.”

Jeannette and Penn-Trafford get his “golden tickets.”

If media members are not permitted in press boxes, the Birdie said he is prepared to send a cardboard cutout of himself as his replacement.

“But they just gotta let us in,” he said. “There are way too many rubberneckers in these boxes as it is.

“Now is the time to give seats to us working scribes. Hey, now I can get some prime parking too.”

Without further adieu, here are his team predictions with regular-season wins.

Belle Vernon

The Birdie likes the options the Leopards have at quarterback and on defense.

Wins: 5

Playoffs: Yes

Derry

A sound running game and strong line play will keep the Trojans in the hunt.

Wins: 4

Playoffs: Yes

Franklin Regional

The tighter schedule didn’t do the Panthers any favors.

Wins: 3

Playoffs: No

Greensburg Central Catholic

A big line and key skill players will have the Centurions ahead a lot.

Wins: 5

Playoffs: Yes

Greensburg Salem

No. 700 will come, but a young team will have a tough time getting to 704.

Wins: 3

Playoffs: No

Hempfield

Even if the Spartans can stay healthy and mold a new QB, they will have another tough go in 6A.

Wins: 2

Playoffs: No

Jeannette

If the Jayhawks win their opener, watch out. Another skill-heavy team could roll in the Eastern Conference.

Wins: 6

Playoffs: Yes

Latrobe

A lot will depend on how the Wildcats perform up front.

Wins: 2

Playoffs: No

Ligonier Valley

A return to the WPIAL won’t be easy, but the Rams will be in a lot of games — if anyone wants to play them.

Wins: 2

Playoffs: No

Monessen

A youthful Greyhounds team is a year or two away from being factor, but they’ll compete.

Wins: 3

Playoffs: No

Mt. Pleasant

If the Vikings can get the running game revved up again, they’ll compete in their new section.

Wins: 3

Playoffs: No

Norwin

Defense and a running game need to show up or the Knights will filter to the bottom again in 6A.

Wins: 2

Playoffs: No

Penn-Trafford

Loaded at the skill spots, the Warriors can be dangerous if their line does its job.

Wins: 6

Playoffs: Yes

Southmoreland

Look for the big blockers to show improvement, but the Scotties have to get better on defense.

Wins: 3

Playoffs: No

Yough

The Cougars are more experienced and will turn some heads just when you write them off.

Wins: 3

Playoffs: No

Last season: 123-25 (83.1 %)

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