With the unofficial midpoint of the WPIAL and City League football regular season having passed, it's time for The Fumbler to step up to the podium and hand out his midseason Fumblies. Here are his "bests" to this point.
Player -- Tyler Boyd, Clairton. No clear winner here, but Boyd's statistics and what he means to his team can't be ignored. He has rushed for 663 yards and scored 15 touchdowns for a team that has extended the nation's longest current win streak to 52 games. Last week, Boyd scored on a run, a reception, an interception return and fumble return.
Coach -- Pat Monroe, South Allegheny. This veteran coach doesn't have the same talent available as he did in his 15-year run at Duquesne, but Monroe has guided South Allegheny to a 4-1 start after it won only three games the past three seasons. The Gladiators (3-1 in Class AA Century Conference) are looking for their first playoff berth since 1986.
Game -- Washington 18, Jeannette 15, Sept. 28. With Jeannette on the verge of wrapping up a huge win in a battle of undefeated teams, Washington's star running back, Shai McKenzie, came up big on special teams, returning a blocked punt 47 yards for a touchdown with 19 seconds left to give the Little Prexies the stunning victory.
Even the best have a down week or two. The Fumbler included. After a fantastic first four weeks, he slipped up a little, going 45-22. That makes his season record 253-80 (.759).
Here are his thoughts on this weekend's top games:
North Allegheny (5-0) at Gateway (5-0), 7:30 p.m. today -- The past two times these Class AAAA heavyweights went toe to toe, a trip to Heinz Field was on the line. This time, it's only a regular-season game, but the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs could be at stake. Tale of the tape ... North Allegheny: Ranked No. 1. Top scoring defense in Class AAAA. Mack Leftwich, the leading passer in the class; Gateway: Ranked No. 2. Top scoring offense in Class AAAA. Thomas Woodson, the third-leading passer in the class. ... No knockout here, but The Fumbler likes the two-time defending WPIAL champion in four, hard-fought quarters. Winner: North Allegheny.
Elizabeth Forward (3-2, 3-2) at West Mifflin (5-0, 5-0), 7:30 p.m. today -- When The Fumbler thinks of West Mifflin, Kennywood and Jim's Hot Dogs come to mind. Kennywood is famous for such roller coasters as the Thunderbolt and Racer; Jim's is known for its toasted buns and special sauce. There's also a special Jim on the football team -- Jimmy Wheeler -- who leads the WPIAL in rushing (1,061 yards). When Wheelerraces a defender, he usually toasts them. Expect a few more servings. Winner: West Mifflin.
Mount Pleasant (5-0, 5-0) at Jeannette (4-1, 4-1), 7 p.m. today -- The Jayhawks continue to be one of Class AA's premier programs, but Mount Pleasant is undefeated and with plenty to prove. Consecutive games against Jeannette and Interstate Conference co-leader Washington will tell us a lot about the Vikings. As for the Jayhawks, they don't have Pryor, but ... Winner: Jeannette.
Neshannock (5-0, 5-0) at Rochester (5-0, 4-0), 7:30 p.m. today -- If The Fumbler had earned a nickel every time he heard somebody predict Neshannock would be 5-0, he'd be as broke as he already is. This is a program that last season finished with a winning record for the first time since '04. Kudos to first-year coach Fred Mozzocio, who has the Lancers on the verge of sewing up their second playoff berth in a decade. Neshannock has bucked history already, but they have also scored just one touchdown against Rochester the past four seasons. Winner: Rochester.
And the rest (home teams in capital letters):
CITY LEAGUE -- UNIVERSITY PREP over Allderdice; Brashear over CARRICK.
WPIAL CLASS AAAA -- (Foothills Conference) Hempfield over ALTOONA; McKEESPORT over Latrobe; KISKI AREA over Norwin; Penn-Trafford over CONNELLSVILLE. (Northern Eight) NORTH HILLS over Fox Chapel; CENTRAL CATHOLIC over Pine-Richland; SENECA VALLEY over Shaler. (Southeastern) MT. LEBANON over Canon-McMillan; BETHEL PARK over Penn Hills; Peters Township over PLUM; Woodland Hills over BALDWIN.
WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Big Nine) TRINITY over Belle Vernon; THOMAS JEFFERSON over Laurel Highlands; Ringgold over ALBERT GALLATIN. (Greater Allegheny) HIGHLANDS over Derry; INDIANA over Greensburg Salem; Hampton over HOLLIDAYSBURG. (Parkway) HOPEWELL over Ambridge; Blackhawk over NEW CASTLE; Montour over CHARTIERS VALLEY; CENTRAL VALLEY over Moon.
WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) SHADY SIDE ACADEMY over East Allegheny; KITTANNING over Ford City; BURRELL over Freeport. (Century) SOUTH FAYETTE over Quaker Valley; SOUTH ALLEGHENY over McGuffey; South Park over KEYSTONE OAKS. (Interstate) WASHINGTON over Brownsville; WAYNESBURG over Charleroi; GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC over Southmoreland. (Midwestern) Beaver over RIVERSIDE; Beaver Falls over NEW BRIGHTON; ALIQUIPPA over Freedom; ELLWOOD CITY over Mohawk.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) Sto-Rox over UNION. (Black Hills) Bishop Canevin over FORT CHERRY; CHARTIERS-HOUSTON over Carlynton; Clairton over BRENTWOOD; Monessen over SERRA CATHOLIC. (Eastern) NORTH CATHOLIC over Avonworth; Northgate over LEECHBURG; APOLLO-RIDGE over Springdale; WEST SHAMOKIN over Wilkinsburg. (Tri-County South) MAPLETOWN over Bentworth; Beth-Center over JEFFERSON-MORGAN; AVELLA over Frazier.
NON-CONFERENCE -- Shenango over RIVERVIEW; MARS over Uniontown; Upper St. Clair over BUTLER; YOUGH over Valley; WEST GREENE over Vincentian; West Allegheny over STEEL VALLEY.
WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) SUMMIT ACADEMY over Deer Lakes. (Century) Seton-LaSalle over BURGETTSTOWN.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) Laurel over WESTERN BEAVER; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart over SOUTH SIDE BEAVER. (Tri-County South) Carmichaels over GEIBEL CATHOLIC. (Black Hills) IMANI CHRISTIAN over California.
NON-CONFERENCE -- BALTIMORE BOYS LATIN, MD. over Kiski School.