Football Notebook: Deer Lakes is looking to end playoff drought

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When WPIAL football committee members get together in two weeks to decide playoff pairings, it could be a first-time experience.

They might actually type "Deer Lakes" into the Class AA bracket.

Deer Lakes has a good shot at making the playoffs for the first time in school history. After defeating Freeport, 35-21, Friday night, the Lancers are all alone in second place in the Allegheny Conference with a 4-1 record. Burrell, Freeport and Shady Side Academy are tied for third at 3-2. The top four teams make the playoffs and Deer Lakes' final two games are against Burrell and Shady Side Academy.

To understand how big a playoff berth would be for Deer Lakes, consider this fact: Of the 126 schools playing WPIAL football, 119 have been in the league at least two decades. Of those 119 teams, Deer Lakes is the only school that has never made the WPIAL playoffs.

Folks in the Deer Lakes school district apparently are getting excited about the year of the Deer.

"My wife and I went to a social function [Saturday night] and everyone was talking about the [Freeport] game and how they're so proud and happy," Deer Lakes coach Todd Hazlett said. "That's a big change. In years past, people were almost offering condolences."


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Hazlett is in his fourth season as coach and the Lancers didn't win more than two games in the three previous years. They are 5-2 overall and are guaranteed of the first winning season at the school since 1995.

"The big key has been my senior players," Hazlett said. "This group just dedicated themselves in the offseason and just thoroughly convinced themselves that they were going to be successful this year. ... This group of seniors wanted to be the group that rewrote history and they're about to do it."

Deer Lakes' offense has also been a major factor in the turnaround. The Lancers have scored 134 points in the past four games. They haven't scored that much in a season since 2004.

"For three years, we had a very good quarterback in Geoff Landry and we tried to build around him," Hazlett said. "This year, we took the approach that we have some returning offensive linemen, so we were going to run the ball."

Besides Deer Lakes, the next two longest WPIAL playoff droughts belong to Southmoreland and Avella. Southmoreland hasn't been to the playoffs since 1979 and Avella hasn't made the postseason since 1976.

Making their points

When Clairton beat Brentwood, 52-0, Friday, it marked the fifth time in seven games Clairton has scored 50 or more. The Bears are close to Jeannette's record pace of 2007.

After seven games, Clairton is averaging 54 points a game. After seven games in 2007, Jeannette was averaging 56 points a game. Jeannette, led by Terrelle Pryor, went on to score a state record 860 points that season.

Coach makes Facebook curfew

A lot of coaches might have a curfew for players the night before games. A coach from Philadelphia has instituted a curfew for his team the night before games, but it is to stop them from getting on Facebook.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Imhotep Charter coach Marc Wilson issued a curfew, not allowing his players to post on the social networking site after 11 p.m. the night before games. Wilson said the main reason for the curfew was to stop trash talking among players on Facebook.

"We've seen it happen before where individuals start an exchange on Facebook, and it leads to something that becomes more physical and realistic," Wilson told the Inquirer.

City kicker

Robert Fields' 20-yard field goal for Carrick was a notable happening Friday night, and not just because it gave the Raiders an 11-8 upset win against Langley. It was notable because it was the first field goal made in the City League this season.

Check this out

• Hopewell's Rushel Shell needs only 295 yards rushing in the final two games to reach 2,000 for the season. Only three WPIAL players have rushed for 2,000 yards in the regular season, but it would be the second time for Shell. He gained 2,043 last year. The other two to gain 2,000 in the regular season were Laurel Highlands' Jim Smith (2,026 in 1989) and Mars' Bill Bair (2,112 in 2007).

• Lancaster Catholic's Kyle Smith set the state record for career passing yardage last season with 8,545 yards, but his record didn't last long. Derek Buganza of Brockway High in District 9 broke the record Saturday when he threw for 286 yards in a 35-14 victory against Elk County Catholic. Buganza has 8,549 yards.

Buganza, a senior, now has three state records. He also has the record for single-season yards (3,824 last season) and single-game yards (594 last year).

Ryan Brumfield of Owen J. Roberts rushed for 329 yards against Pottsgrove and became southeastern Pennsylvania's all-time leading rusher with 7,451 career yards.


For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/highschoolsports . Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.


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