It's nearly impossible to pick out a single unifying story that adequately and appropriately sums up all that took place in the West Xtra region in the 2012 WPIAL football season.
The West Xtra Fabulous 22 is indication enough of that reality.
If there was one story that stood out more than the others this season in the West region, it was the dominance displayed by Aliquippa throughout the season en route to an appearance in the PIAA Class AA title game, where it lost to Wyomissing last Saturday.
The Quips have four players represented on the team -- running backs Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson, lineman Jaleel Fields and quarterback Malik Shegog -- just a small measure of how much talent was on their roster. The best news for the Quips and coach Mike Zmijanac might be that of those four players, three were juniors and have one more year of eligibility remaining.
The Fab 22 team is also loaded with players who found a way to do a little bit of everything to help their respective squads win.
There was Robert Foster, who is expected to announce tomorrow whether he will play at Pitt or Alabama, who excelled at wide receiver, punt and kick returner, as well as punter for Central Valley.
It's hard to forget the performance this season from Lenny Williams, who topped 1,000 yards on the ground and 2,000 in the air while helping lead Sto-Rox to its second consecutive WPIAL Class A championship game appearance.
Both Devin Wilson at Montour and Cole Chiappialle were constant threats as running backs and receivers, as each player had at least 520 receiving yards and 480 rushing yards. As football becomes even more specialized, even at the high school level, it's remarkable to see players who still make such profound all-around contributions.
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 five came from teams that finished with losing records -- Chiappialle, Alex Caratelli and Chandler Kincade of Blackhawk, Dan Zajac of Ambridge and Anthony Colaianni of Moon. Just two players on the list were on teams that failed to make the WPIAL playoffs (Zajac and Colaianni).
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 South Fayette were considered for placement on the South 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 almost no defensive statistics are kept, it can be hard to truly and accurately gauge value. Inevitably, those who stand out on offense, where performance is more easily quantified, get something of an advantage.
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 that are featured.
-- By Craig Meyer