Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

'07 champs still standing tall

This column originally ran in the Nov. 21 edition of The Mercury.

Two of last year’s state champions’ seasons are over and done with, their equipment cleaned and packed away until next August. The other two are still playing, and both will be lining up tonight for what they hope is the first of four more wins and another PIAA title.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Jeannette (and that fella by the name of Terrelle Pryor) finished on top in the AAAA and AA brackets last season, but will have to wait until next year for another attempt at a return trip to Hersheypark Stadium. But 2007’s Class AAA and A elite, Thomas Jefferson and Steelton-Highspire, which are ranked No. 1 in their respective brackets, are playing like they’re No. 1 … and will again be entertaining their home folk this weekend.

Week Three of Pennsylvania’s postseason kicks off tonight and continues Saturday with a slew of district and sub-regional finals, even a handful or two of district semifinals.

And, for the most part, what a card of high school football it is.

Two of the biggest schools in the entire state square off against two of their smallest rivals in this evening’s District 1-AAAA semifinals. Giant North Penn — second only to Reading High School on the PIAA’s enrollment chart — is unbeaten through 12 games, still ranked No. 2 in Pennsylvania as it’s been much of the season, and considered by many to be the untouchable this side of the empty steel mills in Harrisburg. The Knights, who have lost just once in five years at home, entertain Downingtown West (11-1), which has more than earned a spot in the semifinal show by beating seven opponents with winning records. And on the other side of the bracket, Neshaminy (11-1), the district’s only team other than North Penn to win a state title this decade, travels to unbeaten Garnet Valley (12-0), the AAA state runner-up a year ago that has showed no signs of wear and tear, or surrender, in many of its David-versus-Goliath match-ups this fall.

In Class AAA, Rustin (11-1) and Upper Moreland (10-1) — who took out Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals Pottsgrove and Owen J. Roberts last Friday night — square off in the district final at Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

Out in the District 3-A final, No. 1 ranked Steelton-Highspire (12-0) hopes to keep its second straight title run intact against Camp Hill (9-3). The Lions lost two of their last three regular-season games, including a 28-20 decision to Steel-High.

The Steamrollers, who have literally steamrolled everyone but Camp Hill this season, feature senior running back Jeremiah Young, who is just 65 yards away from the state career rushing record of 8,432 yards, set by East Stroudsburg’s James Mungro (1992-1995).

But if you prefer real drama between teams who simply do not like each other, take the long drive out to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for the Saturday Spectacular — all four of District 7’s finals.

These games are about a lot more than just district championships and advancing into the state playoffs … much, much more.

In Class A, it’s No. 6 ranked Monaca (11-1) and No. 3 Clairton (12-0). Monaca has been to the final four times and dropped all four, including its last three in a row (1998-2000), but none of the losses have been by more than a touchdown. Still, the Indians have to deal with arguably the most dominant team in all of Pennsylvania. Clairton is No. 5 on the scoring chart (44.5 points a game), and No.1 in scoring defense (allowing just 2.5 a game). The Bears have shut out seven opponents, and not one of the other five managed to put up more than seven points against them.

In Class AA, it’s No. 5 ranked Aliquippa (10-2) and No. 1 Beaver Falls (12-0), where bad blood and ill-feelings toward one another begin in youth football. Aliquippa is determined to avenge a 27-12 loss to the Tigers back in Week Three. Beaver Falls’ program boasts 575 wins, but not one appearance in the state playoffs because of losses to eventual state champions Washington (2001) and Jeannette (last year) in its previous two district final games.

In Class AAA, it’s No. 4 ranked Blackhawk (11-1) and No. 1 Thomas Jefferson (11-1). Neither team has really been challenged at all this season, at least TJ hasn’t since a season-opening loss to Ohio’s nationally ranked Glenville. Some feel Blackhawk isn’t capable of offering much of a challenge on Saturday, either. You can bet those comments made their way onto the Cougars’ bulletin board.

And in Class AAAA, it’s No. 3 Bethel Park (12-0) against No. 1 Gateway (12-0). The Blackhawks have knocked off two of the big boys on the District 7 football block — Penn Hills and McKeesport by identical 20-13 scores, have two outstanding running backs and a very, very good quarterback. But Gateway, which has been among the top five teams in virtually every national ranking this season, has a defensive end by the name of B.J. Stevens, who has 21 sacks, and an offense that has produced 499 points.


MOUNT ’EM UP: Mount Carmel quarterback Marcus Wasilewski threw for four touchdowns last week to push his career total to a school-record 61. Matt Moroz caught his 100th pass of the season in that game, and teammate Colin Menapace booted his way into the school’s record book with his 25th straight point-after and 55th of the season. The Tornadoes (12-0) will need all that and more tonight against Montoursville (10-2) in the District 4-AA final.

ZACH ATTACK: Schuylkill Haven’s Zach Barket has run for 3,551 yards, 57 touchdowns, and 344 points, and he could add even bigger numbers to those totals in tonight’s sub-regional final against Commnications Tech. Barket, whose touchdowns and points scored are already single-season state records, needs 302 yards to break former Parkland standout Austin Scott’s mark (3,853). He is currently fourth on the state’s career rushing chart (7,680) behind Honesdale’s Terrin Ash (7,748), Young, and Mungro.


WIN SOME, LOSE SOME: Down in Mississippi, Leland used a last-second touchdown to upset Walnut, 24-21, last Friday night in the Class AA playoffs … or so it thought. The state’s executive committee on Tuesday overturned the officials’ call on the final play and awarded the win to Walnut. Leland scored on a 20-yard pass as time expired for the win, but a penalty was called for an illegal forward pass — which is distance and loss of down. But officials granted Leland another play and, ironically, scored again for the win. The MSHAA (like the PIAA) cited the National Football High School Rule Book, which states, “A period shall not be extended by an un-timed down if during the last timed down of the period one of the following occurs … (penalties) that specify a loss of down.”

Walnut coach Timmy Moore: “We felt like the activities association and executive committee would do the right thing and correct a wrong.”

Leland coach Eugene Sanders, who said he’s contemplating resigning: “They’re not doing the right thing for the kids. It should be decided by officials and not people sitting behind a desk. It has torn the kids up, and it has torn the community up.“

The officials crew from the game has been suspended for the rest of the season and put on probation for 2009.

KNOWING ANOTHER RULE: Down in Florida, Crestview took advantage of the rarely used rule that allows a free kick following a punt to pull out a dramatic 31-28 win over Washington. J.T. Arnold put a tee down and booted a 60-yard field goal with 2.4 seconds remaining to give Crestview the victory.

A LOT OF POINTS: Out in Nevada, Pahranagat Valley set two national (eight-man) football records with 17 touchdowns in its 128-74 win over Coleville in the state’s Class A semifinals. The Panthers recovered five of six onside-kicks in a blowout 44-8 third quarter. Wonder how Coleville quarterback Jason Peters felt after throwing for 490 yards and 10 touchdowns … in a loss?

BIG NUMBERS: Ponderosa (Calif.) junior Lyndell Scarr ran 26 times for 392 yards and eight touchdowns in a 61-35 rout of Oak Ridge. … Down in Arkansas, quarterback Spencer Keith threw for 515 yards and six touchdowns and ran for two more of his own in a 63-39 rout of Alma.

ROLLING ALONG: Long Beach Poly (Calif.) has now won 79 straight league games. … Nationally ranked St. Xavier (Ky.) has outscored its last five opponents by a 291-14 margin, or average spread of 56 points a game. … Centennial (Ariz.) and Timpview (Utah) are playing for their third straight state titles this weekend, while Maryville (Tenn.) goes for its fifth straight state championship.

Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home