Westmoreland County football notebook: Monessen writes feel-good playoff story

Thursday, November 4, 2021 | 7:00 PM

Monessen wasn’t supposed to be a playoff team.

Truth be told, many believed the Greyhounds would not recover from a 2020 season that saw roster numbers dip to new lows and the season end with three straight forfeits.

But new coach Wade Brown has the Greyhounds, who were 0-7 last year, back in the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the first time since 2018 when Devin Whitlock was the team’s freshman quarterback.

Monessen (4-6) is the No. 15 seed and faces a tall task in the first round Friday at No. 2 Cornell (7-2). But seedings don’t matter to a team just happy to be back in the postseason conversation.

Belief, Brown said, was just as important as keeping a roster intact.

“We’re just instilling in them that they are good football players,” Brown said. “And that they could compete with anybody given the opportunity.”

Monessen went from barely having enough players to fill a lineup to competing in the Tri-County South. The Greyhounds scored wins over Charleroi (24-6), Bentworth (50-7) and Jefferson-Morgan (26-0) for a three-game winning streak that had them riding high at 3-2 through five weeks.

Brown knew he was inheriting a raw rebuild but embraced the possibilities.

“I looked around and saw athletes everywhere,” Brown said. “It was just a matter of getting them to buy into the system. I thought we could be a playoff team. I actually think we could have finished better in the conference.”

Record-setting duo

Greensburg Salem announced via social media that quarterback Hayden Teska and receiver Cody Rubrecht earned spots in the Golden Lions’ record book.

Teska is now the program record holder for passing yards in a season (2,158). The mark was second overall in the WPIAL. Teska completed 135 of 282 passes with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Rubrecht, meantime, is the program leader in all-time receiving yards (1,004). He finished with 49 catches and 11 touchdowns. The yardage mark was No. 1 in the WPIAL. Rubrecht had 12 TD receptions.

Norwin gets WPIAL final

Norwin Knights Stadium will host the WPIAL Class 6A football championship at 7 p.m. Nov. 20. The WPIAL made the announcement before unveiling playoff brackets on Oct. 30.

Norwin hosted the Class 5A championship in 2019 between Peters Township and Gateway, and the ‘18 5A final that featured Penn Hills and West Allegheny.

“The Norwin School District is honored and excited to be able to host the 6A championship game,” Norwin athletic director Mike Burrell said. “We consider it a great honor and privilege to do so and looking forward to the opportunity.”

Covert to speak

The 3rd Bill Fralic Award banquet will be Dec. 4 at Longue Vue Club in Verona to honor the WPIAL’s top senior lineman.

The late Fralic, the legendary lineman from Penn Hills who went on to a brilliant college career at Pitt and an All-Pro career in the NFL, made a lot of friends over the years. One was recent NFL Hall of Fame inductee Jimbo Covert, who played alongside him at Pitt after a succussful high school career at Freedom.

Covert will share some of his memories of Fralic when he serves as the guest speaker at the banquet, which features a pancake breakfast. Fralic is often credited with inspiring the term, “pancake block.”

Local games

While a number of area teams will be home Friday for the start of the playoffs, a couple of local stadiums will serve as neutral sites.

Hempfield will host the Class A first-round matchup between Greensburg Central Catholic and OLSH, while Serra Catholic and Neshannock will play at Norwin in 2A.

GCC and Serra do not have turf fields, so the WPIAL moved their home games to nearby venues.

Penn-Trafford and Belle Vernon will be home next week for the quarterfinals.

Miles to go

Ligonier Valley never imagined it would get to see so much of the WPIAL landscape in its first two seasons back in the district. Neither did its bus drivers.

The Rams will make the two-hour, 90-mile trek to South Side Beaver for their Class 2A playoff opener Friday night.

The trip falls in line with others from last season when the team traveled to Frazier (100 miles round trip), Western Beaver (200 miles) and Waynesburg (150 miles).

Rested Leps

Belle Vernon is one of the most feared teams in the state, a WPIAL and PIAA playoff contender. But the Leopards have only played eight games. There aren’t many teams that have played a more compact schedule or had more down time than Belle Vernon (8-0).

The Leopards did not play a Week Zero game, had a bye week Oct. 22 when Uniontown left the WPIAL and shuffled its schedule, and now have a first-round bye.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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