It's nearly impossible to pick out a single unifying story that adequately and appropriately sums up all that took place in the South Xtra region in the 2012 WPIAL football season.
The South Xtra Fabulous 22 is indication enough of that reality.
Perhaps the biggest headline not just locally, but also across the state in high school football was Clairton's winning streak that ran all the way up to 63 games and culminated in a fourth consecutive state title.
Accordingly, there are a number of the Bears' key players represented on the team, likely the very three who are most responsible for the team's success in their four years with the program -- running back Tyler Boyd, along with wide receivers Terrish Webb and Titus Howard. The trio, all seniors, will be playing at the Division I-A level next season. Howard is a Pitt commit, while Boyd and Webb both are strongly considering staying home and suiting up for the Panthers. Webb recently decommitted from Kent State.
With a region that includes more than 30 schools, success this season did not begin and end with the Bears.
Several prolific offenses had their way for much of this season, with four players coming from what were two of the most potent attacks in the area -- South Fayette and Thomas Jefferson.
The pass-catch combinations of South Fayette's Brett Brumbaugh and Zach Challingsworth, as well as Thomas Jefferson's Joe Carroll and Zach Schademan lit up scoreboards to the tune of some truly mind-boggling statistics -- collectively, the four players accounted for 7,572 yards of offense and 116 touchdowns for offensive units that combined to score 1,034 points over the span of 24 games.
Just a quick look at the players who made the team shows the power of versatility. There are dual-threat quarterbacks such as Monessen's Chavas Rawlins, Upper St. Clair's Pete Coughlin and Elizabeth Forward's JaQuan Davidson. As can often be the case in high school football, a good portion of the players line up on both offense and defense.
As might be expected, team success can play some role in who makes these teams. The best players often help their teams make the playoffs and, in some cases win championships. Of the 22 players on the team, only three came from teams that finished with losing records -- Garrett Vulcano of Chartiers-Houston, Dorian Johnson of Belle Vernon and Dorian Brown of Baldwin.
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 Bishop Canevin were considered for placement on the West Xtra Fab 22.
Although there are only 22 players who make the cut, the final team is the product of a long process that takes into account so many talented players at different positions. When dealing with the apples-and-oranges comparison of deciding between a running back and a linebacker, particularly when defensive statistics are difficult to obtain, it can be hard to truly and accurately gauge value. Many players stood out this season in the WPIAL, a good number of which unfortunately did not make the team, but few did so more than the 22 who are featured.
-- By Craig Meyer