"Three-peat" seems to be the highlight for this year's East Xtra Fab 22. Two players are making their third appearances on the team: Dane Brown of Franklin Regional and Patrick Ferguson of Allderdice.
Brown opened the season with 177 yards against Mars Area, but injuries shut him down the next three weeks and he didn't gain 100 yards again until the seventh game of the season. He still managed to finish with 860 yards on 125 carries.
Ferguson finished his City League career as one of its top players. He followed a solid junior season in which he rushed for 936 yards and led Allderdice to the City League title game with 834 yards this season on 150 carries.
Six juniors stand out on the East Xtra Fab 22: Franklin Regional's Adam Mihoci, University Prep's Marcus Johnson, Hempfield Area's Max Adams, Central Catholic's Zach DeLuca and Gateway's Delvon Randall and Montae Nicholson.
Nicholson is considered one of the top junior defensive backs in the country who already has major-college offers and will team with Randall to give Gateway an impressive combination at both wide receiver and defensive back next season.
Making it possible for all the skill players to display their talents are the big boys up front. Five members of the East Xtra Fab 22 team are standout two-way linemen: Central Catholic's DeLuca, Woodland Hills' Jawan Turner, Jeannette's Logan Hoak, Hempfield Area's Max Adams and Franklin Regional's Mihoci.
Players from 10 schools were featured in this year's East Xtra Fab 22.
Players are selected as the "best 22" regardless of their position or their school's classification. They were selected by the Post-Gazette's scholastic sports staff based on writers' observations, interviews with coaches, examination of statistics and balloting for all-conference teams. Players from McKeesport Area were selected to the South Xtra Fab 22.
A coach of the year is not chosen for the East Xtra Fab 22 squad, but not because one wasn't deserving. In fact, for the amount of time devoted to coaching these student-athletes, all coaches deserve recognition.
A few coaches, however, stood out.
Valley finished 0-8 last year and entered this season with a 22-game losing streak. Former Vikings assistant Chad Walsh took over as head coach, ended the losing streak with a victory in the first game of the season and guided Valley to a 6-4 record and into the Class AA playoffs. After back-to-back 1-8 seasons, first-year Hempfield Area coach Rich Bowen led the Spartans to a 4-6 overall record and also into the playoffs.
But it's difficult not to vote for George Novak of Woodland Hills. The Wolverines finished a quiet third in the Southeastern Conference, rolled through the postseason and gave North Allegheny all it could handle in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game before falling short, 21-14. It seems every year, regardless of talent, Novak has Woodland Hills poised and ready for a postseason run.
First Published December 20, 2012 5:00 AM