"Three-peat" seems to be the theme for this year's North Xtra Fab 22.
North Allegheny captured its third consecutive WPIAL title, the first time in Class AAAA history a school won three championships in a row, en route to the PIAA title. The Tigers overwhelmed the competition in the postseason, outscoring the opposition, 316-103.
The Tigers had a solid supporting cast, led by five members of the North Xtra Fab 22: two-way lineman Pat Kugler, quarterback Mack Leftwich, wide receiver Gregg Garrity, center-defensive tackle Jeremy Gonzalez and defensive back Brendan Coniker.
There are several other outstanding players who made this year's North Xtra Fab 22.
Keeping with the three-peat theme, three running backs totaled school-record yardage this season: Seneca Valley's Forrest Barnes (1,676), Springdale's Sean Dugan (1,738) and Mars' Josh Schultheis (1,687, most by sophomore).
Those running backs -- and the quarterbacks who handed them the ball -- would be nowhere without the big boys up front.
Six linemen made this year's North Xtra Fab 22, with all playing impact roles on offense and defense. Perhaps none stood out more than North Allegheny's Kugler.
A three-year starter for the Tigers, Kugler had most of the major colleges in the country interested in him, including Ohio State, Florida and Florida State, but he chose Michigan. He allowed Leftwich and the North Allegheny offense enough time to score 671 points this season, while leading a Tigers defense up front that held the opposition to 140 points.
Fourteen schools were featured in this year's North 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.
There are six repeat performers on the North Xtra Fab 22: Kugler, Leftwich and Coniker of North Allegheny; Jordan Brown and Barnes of Seneca Valley; and Dugan of Springdale.
A coach of the year is not chosen for the North 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.
Butler Area entered this season lugging a 27-game conference losing streak, having lost 43 of its previous 46 conference games. Second-year coach Clyde Conti guided the Golden Tornado to a 3-4 Northern Eight Conference record and into the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Also, North Catholic finished 4-4 last season and failed to make the playoffs, but coach Bob Ravenstahl led the Trojans to an Eastern Conference title this season with just one loss and into the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
But it's hard to argue against Art Walker of North Allegheny. Walker captained the Tigers' ocean liner as it barreled through the Class AAAA competition to an unprecedented third-consecutive WPIAL championship and a PIAA title.
First Published December 20, 2012 5:00 AM