The Fumbler: Gardner knows his onions

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Hearing the words are a rite of passage at the end of October, much like World Series, Halloween and election ads on TV -- Gardner Points.

Gardner Points is a system the WPIAL uses to break ties for spots in its football playoffs. In what falls just short of an equation taught in calculus, the method the WPIAL has used for decades -- which sometimes consists of Gardner Points, then WPIAL tiebreaker system and potentially even a coin toss -- can be difficult to determine and explain, particularly heading into the final week of the regular season.

This begs the question: Where do Gardner Points come from?

Well, back when The Fumbler was in his early 20s, he had already gained a love and appreciation for WPIAL football. One of his other interests was gardening.

The Fumbler spent a substantial amount of time maintaining his tomato garden and a collection of flowers that included roses, tulips and daffodils. This was all with the assistance of The Fumbler's good friend, Stump, who, of course, was a tree expert.

So, as legend has it, Stump and The Fumbler were in a football mood one morning before going to watch Duquesne play Clairton. A competition ensued in which the two began to toss tomatoes in a basket.

When there was a score, the two called it ... you guessed it, Gardner Points.

The Fumbler's season record moved up a few percentage points after he went 52-13 in his Week 9 picks, upping his overall mark to 417-111 (.789).

If you have any football questions -- or even need gardening tips -- feel free to email The Fumbler at

Here are his thoughts on this weekend's top games:

Mt. Lebanon (8-0, 7-0) at Upper St. Clair (7-1, 6-1), 7:30 p.m. today -- When The Fumbler goes to a game, he typically shuns the press box and instead watches from the stands. But, when he attends a game at Upper St. Clair, he makes an exception because the school sometimes buys Chick-fil-A for press box guests. Upper St. Clair basketball coach Danny Holzer hooks up The Fumbler with chicken sandwiches and nuggets. The way The Fumbler sees it, any school willing to go out of their way to feed him should get something in return. Thus ... Winner: Upper St. Clair.

West Mifflin (8-0, 7-0) at Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 7-0), 7:30 p.m. today -- Call it "The Battle for Bragging Rights at Century III Mall." Also call it a matchup of excellent teams with contrasting styles. West Mifflin will lean on Jimmy Wheeler (the WPIAL's second-leading rusher) and a speedy ground game; Thomas Jefferson and Joe Carroll (who has thrown 31 touchdown passes) will try to conquer the Titans through the air. Allegheny County Airport might be in West Mifflin, but the Jaguars will own the sky. Winner: Thomas Jefferson.

Beaver (8-0, 7-0) at Aliquippa (8-0, 7-0), 7 p.m. today -- One of The Fumbler's favorite things about watching a game at The Pit -- along with eating those delicious gyros -- is seeing Aliquippa's Indian mascot ride his horse onto the field and fire a flaming spear into the turf. It only makes sense because the Quips have some red-hot thoroughbreds in their stable of backs, led by Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson. That group helped the Quips gallop over Beaver Falls, 66-7. There will be no horsing around this time, either, when they beat Beaver for the Class AA Midwestern Conference title. Winner: Aliquippa.

Sto-Rox (7-1, 6-1) at Rochester (8-0, 7-0), 7 p.m. today -- Everybody in Rochester knows the name Lauryn Williams, the former Olympic gold-medal winning sprinter who grew up in the town. When Rochester faces Sto-Rox, the Rams will be forced to go against another fast-moving Williams -- Vikings quarterback Lenny Williams. It's Williams who is one of the WPIAL's top passers with 1,538 yards and 19 touchdowns. Williams threw and ran for better than 100 yards in Sto-Rox's 48-27 win against Rochester last season. Fact: That was Rochester's only loss in its past 28 conference games. Opinion: No. 2 is on its way. Winner: Sto-Rox.

And the rest (home teams in capital letters):


CITY LEAGUE PLAYOFFS (Semifinal) -- PERRY over Allderdice.

WPIAL CLASS AAAA -- (Foothills Conference) ALTOONA over Connellsville; Gateway over McKEESPORT; Kiski Area over LATROBE; Penn-Trafford over HEMPFIELD. (Northern Eight) Central Catholic over BUTLER; NORTH ALLEGHENY over North Hills; Seneca Valley over FOX CHAPEL. (Southeastern) Bethel Park over BALDWIN; WOODLAND HILLS over Penn Hills; Peters Township over CANON-McMILLAN.

WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Big Nine) Belle Vernon over ALBERT GALLATIN; RINGGOLD over Trinity; Uniontown over LAUREL HIGHLANDS. (Greater Allegheny) FRANKLIN REGIONAL over Derry; INDIANA over Hollidaysburg; HIGHLANDS over Knoch; HAMPTON over Mars. (Parkway) Blackhawk over AMBRIDGE; MONTOUR over Moon; New Castle over HOPEWELL; West Allegheny over CHARTIERS VALLEY.

WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) BURRELL over Deer Lakes; Shady Side Academy over KITTANNING; FREEPORT over Summit Academy; Valley over FORD CITY. (Century) Keystone Oaks over BURGETTSTOWN; STEEL VALLEY over McGuffey; SOUTH FAYETTE over South Allegheny; SETON-LaSALLE over South Park. (Interstate) CHARLEROI over Brownsville; Yough over SOUTHMORE-LAND, WASHINGTON over Waynesburg. (Midwestern) NEW BRIGHTON over Mohawk; FREEDOM over Riverside.

WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) LAUREL over Shenango; NESHANNOCK over Union. (Black Hills) Bishop Canevin over SERRA CATHOLIC; BRENTWOOD over California; CHARTIERS-HOUSTON over Fort Cherry; CLAIRTON over Imani Christian; Monessen over CARLYNTON. (Eastern) Apollo-Ridge over WEST SHAMOKIN; NORTHGATE over Avonworth; NORTH CATHOLIC over Leechburg; SPRINGDALE over Riverview. (Tri-County South) Avella over BENTWORTH; JEFFERSON-MORGAN over Geibel Catholic; FRAZIER over Mapletown; CARMICHAELS over West Greene.

NON-CONFERENCE -- Central Valley over BEAVER FALLS; QUAKER VALLEY over Ellwood City; ELIZABETH FORWARD over Greensburg Salem; Mount Pleasant over EAST ALLEGHENY; PINE-RICHLAND over Plum; NORWIN over Shaler; BETH-CENTER over Vincentian; Wilkinsburg over OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART.

Saturday afternoon

WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) WESTERN BEAVER over South Side Beaver.




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