With the end of another season of WPIAL football rapidly approaching this holiday weekend comes the opportunity to look back on the year that was and what defined it. There were standout players, memorable performances and nail-biting games, among other things, that have formed a long-running narrative.
But of all the countless plays, of all the tackles made, of all the yards gained, what exactly has stood out? Who has proven to be the best in a crowded group, one that includes more than 100 area high schools?
In years past, those who have compiled area notebooks have given out end-of-the-year awards, usually by using a pun involving their name. Since mine lends itself to no other option, here is the inaugural "Craig's List" for the South Xtra region:
• Player of the Year: Tyler Boyd, Clairton running back
Although he isn't at the top of the WPIAL's rushing or receiving lists, no player in the South Xtra region -- or the entire Western Pennsylvania area, frankly -- makes as big of an offensive impact in a number of different areas than Boyd.
He is third among all WPIAL running backs in rushing yards with 1,979 yards (meaning he should easily eclipse 2,000 in the Bears' Class A championship game Friday against Sto-Rox at Heinz Field) and his 13.4 yards per carry is the most of any back with at least 20 carries this season. There's also the matter of his 560 receiving yards, giving him more total offensive yards than any WPIAL player who is not a quarterback.
Simply put, no player has had an all-around impact on an offense quite like Boyd.
Honorable mention: Shai McKenzie, Washington; Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette; Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette; Devin Wilson, Montour; Chavas Rawlins, Monessen
• Rusher of the Year: Shai McKenzie
Washington's appearance in the Class AA title game would have been a surprise to many a few weeks ago, let alone at the beginning of the season, and nobody has been a bigger reason for that than McKenzie, the Little Prexies' star junior.
McKenzie leads the WPIAL in rushing yards with 2,656, ahead of the next closest player (West Mifflin's Jim Wheeler) by more than 600 yards, along with 46 touchdowns. Not only are his stats compelling, but McKenzie has also managed to save some of his best performances for his team's biggest games, with no single showing standing out more than his 293-yard, four-touchdown effort in Washington's 26-14 upset of South Fayette in the Class AA semifinals.
Honorable mention: Boyd; Justin Vickless, Brentwood; Mike Minjock, Peters Township; Dorian Brown, Baldwin
• Passer of the Year: Brett Brumbaugh
The Brumbaugh name is a well-known one in local football circles. Christian Brumbaugh is the WPIAL's all-time leading passer and Luke Brumbaugh just completed a strong senior season at Seton-LaSalle. Brett, the youngest of the three, has only added value to the family name with his performance this season.
In his first season as a full-time starter at South Fayette, Brumbaugh became the WPIAL's leader in passing yards with 2,818, along with 37 touchdown passes, helping lead a South Fayette offense that was one of the most potent in the area. And the good news for the Lions (and the bad news for the rest of Class AA)? He's just a sophomore.
Honorable mention: Joe Carroll, Thomas Jefferson; Luke Brumbaugh; Charlie Manack, Frazier
• Coach of the Year: Pat Monroe, South Allegheny
One of the hardest tasks in sports for a coach can be turning what is a perpetual loser, one wrought with all of the factors that come with decades of coming up short, into a successful program. This year, Monroe accomplished just that. It was a historic season at South Allegheny, where the Gladiators went 7-3 a year removed from going 1-9 and made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 1986. Monroe certainly deserves his fair share of credit for the turnaround.
Honorable mention: Jeff Metheny, Bethel Park; Mike Bosnic, Washington; Mike LeDonne, Elizabeth Forward.
• Stat of the Year: 59
As if it needs any more elaboration at this point, it's the number of consecutive games won by the Clairton football team, which ties a state record set by Central Bucks West. The Bears can break that record with a victory against Sto-Rox in the Class A title game Friday at Heinz Field.hsfootball
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @craig_a_meyer