WPIAL Big Game Hunting: The Football Four-Pack – 09/14/2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | 6:01 PM

Told ya it goes fast; week three is upon us in the blink of an eye, and trust me it’s only going to get faster. Monumental big time match-up in AAAA this week, winner of this one becomes a big-time favorite to end up at Heinz Field in late November. Contrast is the name of the game in AAA. In AA we will check out a pretty wide open Allegheny Conference and in single A two unbeatens from the Eastern Conference take us out Big Game Hunting.

WPIAL Class AAAA Non-Conference
#2 Upper Saint Clair Panthers (2-0)(0-0) @ #3 North Allegheny Tigers (2-0) (1-0) 
Friday September 16th 7:30 pm @ Newman Stadium Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and ESPN Radio AM 970 by Matt Vandriak and Josh Rowntree also broadcast on the NASN by Randy Gore and Rick Meister

These two teams have had very impressive starts to the season, as most thought they might. Upper Saint Clair has outscored their first two opponents 91-0, that includes a 49-0 dismantling of what most thought would be a very good Shaler team in week one. North Allegheny meanwhile has thundered through their first two weeks of the 2011 campaign without missing a beat despite tremendous losses to graduation from last season.

North Allegheny knew they would have strong line play returning and some experienced solid runners of the football, but junior quarterback Mack Leftwich has been a very pleasant surprise for the Tigers fans. Leftwich has completed 18 of 29 passes on the year for 274 yards and five touchdowns to go along with only a single interception. Leftwich has been buoyed by great receiver play from Jame Kleinhample and Greg Garrity. Garrity has seven catches on the year for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kleinhample caught three passes for 65 yards against Butler including a 28 yard touchdown. Isaiah Faulk has caught a pair of touchdowns as well.

The Tigers ground game has continued to roll minus Alex Papson, as Alex DeCiantas has toted the rock 22 times for 154 yards, and Vinnie Congedo has chipped in with 162 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries, that’s an impressive average of 10.8 yards per carry.

If there was anything Art Walker’s club felt they needed to improve on after a week one 53-21 win over State College it might have been the defensive side of the football, and they did just that in week two, holding Butler to just five first downs. The Tiger defense allowed only 23 passing yards and 41 rushing yards in their week two win over Butler 49-7.

USC meanwhile has been a juggernaut in 2011 and the balance of their greatness might be the most impressive thing about Jim Render’s team.

Quarterback Dakota Conwell starts the balance for the Panthers with tremendous balance of his own, balance between an ability to beat you with his arm or his legs, oh and on defense as well. Conwell is an absolute triple threat. In limited action because of non-competitive games he has been spectacular, in week one in less than a half of football against Shaler he completed 4 of 7 passes for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  In week two he was a huge part of USC’s 255 yards rushing against Norwin in a 42-0 win including a four yard touchdown run.

Conwell has a great wideout in Mike Wilcox who takes the lid off a lot of defenses in the WPIAL, Wilcox caught touchdown passes of 27 and 31 yards in week one, and defenses have to try to account for his speed with cushion which opens them up to get beaten by the run. The run for the Panthers all starts up front with one of the biggest, most athletic, most experienced lines in the WPIAL. Jake Radzuikinus, Ian Park and Austin Park headline a group that features all five line-man as returning starters, oh and throw in outstanding tight end Jack Schwaba. All told the front line for the Panthers averages 255 pounds.

That means easy pickings for the likes of Conwell and a great stable of tailbacks carrying the pigskin for Upper Saint Clair, and Matt Paxton, A.J. McGuire and Phil Saracco make the most of those pickings.

The Panthers have great special teams as well Killan Mulkern is one of the best kickers in the WPIAL and Rori Blair, a standout junior defensive end has blocked a punt in each of the Panthers first two games on the season.   

WPIAL Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference
Indiana Little Indians (2-0)(0-0) @ Highlands Golden Rams (2-0) (0-0)
Friday, September 16th @ 7:30 pm Highlands High School
Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Jack Benedict and Bill Otto

Skinning a cat and getting to 2-0 have something in common; there is more than one way to accomplish both. Both Indiana and Highlands are 2-0 on the young 2011 season but the manner in which they have achieved that mark could not differ much more.

Indiana has been an absolute explosion of big play offense in 2011 outscoring their first two opponents 112-19, behind huge play after huge play. Senior wide receiver Tyrayl Veney (6’3’’ 185 pounds) has been a one man wrecking-crew for the Little Indians. Veney has returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns on the season one for 82 yards and one for 92 yards. He has also been a tremendous threat as a receiver with four touchdown catches on the year. He can go deep and make the catch or catch it short and beat with his outstanding speed and moves.

Indiana Head Coach Mark Zilinskas has to very happy about the play of senior quarterback Logan Weaver who transferred into the program this year from Punxsutawney where he was already pass happy with the Chucks. Weaver so far has been tremendous with both his arm and his legs. He has thrown for seven touchdowns in two weeks and run for another.  Weaver along with Veney and another senior, running back Kyle Decker combine to form a triumvirate of offensive firepower that makes Indiana a threat to score from anywhere at anytime, and they have done a lot of that this season.

They might need that offensive firepower going up against a Highlands defense that has been stellar allowing only 18 points on the year. But while the defense has been spectacular Sam Albert’s Golden Rams offense has struggled to put up points, managing only 23 on the short year. They have been in some very tight games and will need the offense to improve and the defense to play tough if they hope to keep this one close.

In week one Highlands got by Freeport 10-6 when quarterback Gage Clark (a Kennywood MSA preseason all-star at defensive back) hooked up with Jerrail Carver for a touchdown and the defense made that stand up with a phenomenal seven sacks and a big fumble recovery from linebacker Allan Cratsenberg. Then in week two against Derry Clark came through late in the first half with a five yard touchdown run that pushed Highlands on top of Derry 13-12. Once again the defense came up big for Sam Albert’s team blanking the Trojans in the second half for the win.

So a major contrast in styles is set up for Friday night up in Highlands. The so far, unstoppable force of the Indiana offense against the so far immovable power of the Golden rams defense. Winner gets a share of first place in the Greater Allegheny Conference.

WPIAL Class AA Allegheny Conference 
#10 Shady Side Academy Indians (1-1)(0-0) @ Freeport Yellowjackets (1-1)(0-0)
Friday, September 16th @ 7:30 pm James Swartz Field
Broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Greg Warnock and Brandon Showers

Through two weeks and already as they get set to start conference play there is not a single unbeaten team remaining in the Allegheny Conference. Conference play begins this week and that means there is not really a clear favorite…who will step up? Someone will take a big step forward as Shady Side Academy travels up 28 to take on the Freeport Yellowjackets.

Shady Side looked very comfortable in a week one win over Oliver 43-14.  Senior quarterback Reggie Mitchell, a Wisconsin recruit at defensive back, completed 10 of 13 passes in week one for 121 yards. The offensive firepower for the Indians though came on the legs of sophomore Jarred Brevard who ran for 146 yards and four touchdowns in the win.

Dave Havern’s club though had difficulty generating offense in a week two loss against the second ranked team in AA, the Seton LaSalle Rebels, falling 30-0. The good news for Indians fans is that, for the most part the game was pretty close, in fact, it was only 7-0 at halftime before the Rebels broke it open in the second half. The bad news is how they broke it open; giving up big chunks of yardage on the ground to Kevin Hart and Seton. All told Hart ran for 209 yards and scored four touchdowns against Shady Side. The other bad news of course is the goose egg.

Dave Havern has nice size and leadership up front with a pretty good offensive line including senior center Andy Geisler at 5’11’’ 230. Geisler, also a wrestler, blows up a lot of defensive linemen, and will be looking to create some gaping holes for Brevard to roll through against the Yellowjackets.

Freeport and head coach John Gaillot are looking to grow up quickly, the Yellowjackets are very young but, took a big step in a convincing week two win over Quaker Valley 26-0 last week. Junior running back Damon Smith rushed for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win. Returning starter and junior quarterback Brendan Lynch is still looking to really get on track in the 2011 campaign for Freeport.

The Yelloyjackets have a good looking player in junior Dustin Koedel who has been dynamic as a punt returner including returning five punts for a total of 131 yards in the win over QV. Big plays in the special teams could loom large against a Shady Side team that allowed a Kevin Hart kickoff return for a touchdown against Seton LaSalle. 

WPIAL Class A Eastern Conference
#5 Bishop Canevin Crusaders (2-0)(2-0) @ Northgate Flames (2-0)(1-0)
Friday, September 16th @ 7:30pm @ Northgate

Bob Jacoby’s Bishop Canevin Crusaders are starting to make a lot of folks around the WPIAL turn their heads toward Dormont Stadium with an impressive 2-0 start to the 2011 campaign. Bob Jacoby’s team has been impressive running the football against some pretty decent competition in the Eastern Conference. Canevin outscored their first two opponents (Avonworth and OLSH) by a margin of 73-6.

Senior running back Casey McCaffrey and senior wide receiver Bobby Gustine have both gone over the has stepped in as quarterback for Bishop Canevin after Matt Butter’s graduation and done a very nice job running the offense. The 5’10’’ 151 pound Mechas in fact had a monster game in the week two win over OLSH throwing for a pair of touchdown passes and running 45 yards for another. Jordan Maloney, a returning starter for Bob Jacoby’s defense has also become a nice contributor to the offense.

Linebacker Mike Dunn was the leading tackler for the Crusaders last year and the 6’1’’ 225 pound junior continues to be a stand out for Jacoby on both sides of the football, leading a defense that is allowing just three points per game and an offensive line that is making some huge holes up front.

Northgate is off to a 2-0 start for the first time in five years with a nice mix on offense of youth and veteran leadership.

That mix comes into play at quarterback for T.J.Wiley’s club as well, as senior John Girvin, a three year starter and freshman Johnny Camello have both seen good success at quarterback this season already. In a week one win over OLSH Camello tossed a pair of touchdown passes and Girvin did the same, and then for good measure, tacked on a touchdown run. In week two as the Flames got by Jefferson-Morgan 26-13, Girvin threw another two touchdown passes and junior running back Cody Walter rushed for three touchdowns in the win.

Girvin, at 6’5’’ and 220 pounds also heads a list of impressive performers at linebacker for the Flames that includes fellow senior Rob Jones (6’1’’ 205 pounds) and junior Mackenzie Quinn who checks in at 6’1’’’ and 185 pounds. How well those guys can defend the Canevin rushing attack will hav a lot to do with the outcome of this football game.

century mark in each of the first two games of the season for BC. McCaffrey has rolled it up to the tune of 240 yards for the season, including a three touchdown night in week two. Gustine meanwhile has rushed for 245 yards on the year including an 82 yard scamper in week one against Avonworth. Gustine is also a deep threat as a receiver

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