WPIAL Friday Night HighLights – Week Zero
By: Don Rebel
Saturday, August 26, 2017 | 9:07 PM
It felt like late September instead of late August Friday evening as more teams than last year decided to turn on the lights, charge admission and strike up the band for a football game rather than a second scrimmage. In the lone true tune-up for a lot of teams before conference play begins out of the shoot in Week One on September One, here are the standout performances that made Week Zero feel like something more than nothing.
Braeden Burchfield – Altoona
With a whole lot of action in between, this WPIAL vs. Pittsburgh City League opening night thriller began early with a Braeden Burchfield touchdown pass and ended late with another Burchfield scoring toss as Altoona prevailed at home over Allderdice. Burchfield hit on 17 of 27 passes for 295 yards and an 11-yard scoring pass to Tyler Petucci on the teams opening drive and ended with a fourth quarter game winning touchdown toss with a tow-point conversion run mixed in as the Mountain Lions edged the visiting Dragons 35-34.
Seth Morgan and Aidan Cain – Mount Lebanon
If Mount Lebanon quarterback Seth Morgan established himself as the Batman on opening night, then teammate Aiden Cain has become his trusty sidekick, Robin, the boy wonder. The dynamic duo left visiting Fox Chapel defender wondering how to low them down as Morgan connected on 18 of 35 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns, with ELEVEN of those completions caught by Cain, who registered 235 yards in those receptions and added three scoring catches as the Blue Devils came back to edge the Foxes 32-27.
Justin Sliwoski – Hempfield
Veteran head coach and former signal calling standout Rich Bowen has a well earned reputation of being a ‘quarterback whisperer’ as his teams always seem to have a strong passing game led by a stud QB. After one game, it appears 2017 will not be any different. Hempfield quarterback Justin Sliwoski was 15 of 23 passing for 278 yards and four touchdown passes to go along with a 5-yard scoring run as the Spartans rolled past the visiting Greensburg-Salem Golden Lions 49-21.
Melvin Blanks – North Hills
When six classifications became a reality in the fall of 2016, many long time rivalries came to an end. However Week Zero allows some of those rivalries to continue, as is the case with North HIlls and neighboring Shaler. In their opening season clash on Friday, the red and white proved they weren’t shooting Blanks, they were merely letting him go wild. Melvin Blanks nearly ran for 200 yards, finishing with 195 yards and three touchdowns, including a 97-yard kick off return for a score as the Indians cruised past the host Titans 45-17.
Brady Walker – Gateway
Every football fan knows Brady is an outstanding quarterback and can make opposing defenses look silly on any given Friday night. Friday night?!?! Yes, we speak of Gateway signal caller Brady Walker, who was 14 of 27 passing for 250 yards and a touchdown as the Gators knocked off host Woodland Hills on a special night as the Wolverines dedicated their field (now known as George Novak Field at The Wolvarena) to the only head football coach the school had ever known before last night, George Novak. A well earned honor for a legendary coach and great human being.
Austin Romanchak – Freeport
Apparently, the old saying has been adjusted a bit in the AK Valley. Now it goes; ‘When at Freeport, try to do as Romanchak does’…which won’t be easy for opposing quarterbacks. Austin Romanchak ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns, plus he hit on 8 of 12 passes for 93 yards and a score and added the cherry on top with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown as the host Yellow Jackets cruised to a 43-6 triumph over the Yough Cougars.
Ricky Guss – Quaker Valley
With all the commotion and upheaval around the Quaker Valley football program in the month leading up Kick Off 2017, Ricky Guss provided a bit of a calming influence over the black and white. Guss hit on 7 of 13 passes for 148 yards and three touchdown tosses of 47, 37 and 23 yards, plus he rushed for 148 yards and scored three more times as the Quakers rolled to a convincing 55-21 victory over the visiting Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans.
Geno Pellegini and Hunter Terry – Charleroi
Whether it was by land or through the air, Charleroi had great success moving and scoring the ball in a season opening game against Monessen in a battle of Mon Valley rivals. Quarterback Geno Pellegrini connected on 11 of 20 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns of 50, 21 and 9 yards through the air while teammate Hunter Terry rushed for 168 yards on the ground and capped the scoring with a 9-yard run as the Cougars rolled past the visiting Greyhounds 35-13.
Dominic Fundy – Beth-Center
Sto-Rox was scheduled to face Vincentian Academy in a second scrimmage on Friday, but when the Royals shut down their program last month, S-R was left scrambling for an opponent. They found one in Beth-Center for a Week Zero game instead of a scrimmage, and the choice proved to be no fun for the green and white. That’s because they had no answer for B-C’s Dominic Fundy, who rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 34 and 4 yards and added a two-point conversion run as the Bulldogs edged the host Vikings 32-26.
Twan Wesley – Imani Christian
Anybody who thought Imani Christian would suffer from a sophomore jinx after an outstanding first year in the WPIAL looks to be sadly mistaking. New quarterback Twan Wesley will have something to say about that as he hit on 21 of 37 passes for 301 yards as the Saints began year two in the district with an out of district 50-22 conquest of Union/Allegheny Clarion Valley.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.