What to watch in Week 2: WPIAL’s top passing attack has showdown with Clairton

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Friday, September 9, 2022 | 3:00 AM


Our Lady of the Sacred Heart quarterback Nehemiah Azeem has already thrown for almost 700 yards and ranks as the top passer in the WPIAL, but his coach knows what skeptics are probably saying.

Prove it again, this time against Clairton.

“I think we already kind of showed we are for real, no matter what happens Saturday,” said OLSH coach Donnie Militzer, whose Chargers are 2-0.

No. 2 OLSH hosts No. 3 Clairton (0-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Moon.

Azeem threw for 437 yards against Shenango in Week Zero and followed up with a 257-yard game against Rochester in Week 1. As Militzer points out, both teams were WPIAL playoff qualifiers a year ago.

The 5-foot-9 senior has completed 47 of 73 attempts for 694 yards and eight touchdowns.

“The thing that impresses me the most is he can make every throw,” Militzer said. “Coaching at the (FCS) level the last past four years, his arm is as good as anyone I’ve come across at that level.”

OLSH hired Militzer in March after four seasons as an assistant at Robert Morris. He previously was a head coach at Gateway and Charleroi.

His quarterbacks coach is Jimmy Moore, a 2,300-yard passer for Militzer as a Gateway senior in 2013. If Azeem could maintain his current 350-yard per game average, he’d surpass that total by Week 6.

“Everywhere I’ve been, our offense has been able to throw for some yards,” Militzer said. “Guys like playing in the system. With (Azeem), he has just embraced everything about it. I wrote the playbook and he knows it as well as me, if not better.”

Saturday’s game with Clairton is a rematch from the 2021 WPIAL quarterfinals. OLSH won 29-15, as Azeem passed for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Looking for a win

Ellwood City hasn’t won a football game since the 2018 finale, a 27-game losing streak that ranks as the longest active in the WPIAL.

Might there be hope here in Week 2 for the Wolverines and first-year coach Dan Bradley? Their opponent Friday night is Carlynton, a young team that’s trying to end its own six-game losing streak. Both teams are 0-2.

Ellwood City hasn’t won a game since Oct. 26, 2018. That night the team celebrated a 34-26 win at home over Brentwood in the season finale.

The Wolverines endured three winless seasons since, finishing 0-10 in 2019, 0-7 in 2020 and 0-8 last season. They’re 0-2 this year after losses to Brentwood, 34-21, and Union, 20-6.

The school district hired Bradley in January, giving the program a coach with a winning pedigree. Bradley went 49-19 in six seasons at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart with a WPIAL Class A title in 2018 and a runner-up finish last season.

Carlynton started its season with losses to Carrick, 14-0, and Riverview, 38-8.

These ones count

It’s safe to say the WPIAL is easing into conference play. The 59-game WPIAL schedule for Week 2 includes only three conference matchups:

Canon-McMillan at Seneca Valley in Class 6A

Baldwin at Upper St. Clair in the Allegheny Six

Pine-Richland at Penn Hills in the Northeast

The City League also has its first league game of the season at 7 p.m. Friday when Perry faces Westinghouse at Cupples Stadium.

Looking for a win, too

Mt. Lebanon and Moon had great seasons a year ago, with both reaching the WPIAL finals. But when they meet Friday in Moon for a nonconference game, they’ll each be trying to avoid a rare 0-3 start.

Moon, the WPIAL Class 5A runner-up last year, hasn’t started a season with three consecutive losses since 2011. Yet, the Tigers started this year with losses to West Allegheny, 41-0, and Montour, 14-2.

It’s been even longer for Mt. Lebanon. The reigning WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A champion hasn’t endured an 0-3 start since 2008. This year, the Blue Devils have lost to Gateway, 21-6, and Bethel Park in overtime, 27-24.

Moon missed the playoffs in 2011, but Mt. Lebanon qualified in ‘08 despite losing its first five games.

Season opener for Mohawk

Mohawk will finally start its football season with a nonconference game Friday at Laurel, ending a three-week pause over hazing allegations.

The Warriors canceled a preseason scrimmage and their first two regular-season games as school district administrators and the Lawrence County district attorney investigated. The school district found that the incident involved a “small number of individual players” and was not part of a systemic problem.

“While the incident is disturbing and unacceptable, it is not a part of the District’s culture and appropriate parties have been and will be held accountable,” the district said in a statement last week.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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