West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler has a number in mind for the amount of yards he hopes to rush for this season ... and it's a rather large one.
"I'm trying to get 3,000 yards," Wheeler said this week.
Wheeler took a big first step toward achieving that goal by rushing for 359 yards in last Friday's 59-0 season-opening win at Laurel Highlands. No other WPIAL player rushed for more yards in Week 1. In fact, none came within 72 yards.
What's scary is that number could have been much bigger. Wheeler carried the ball only 16 times (that's 22.4 yards per carry), and because the score became lopsided so early -- West Mifflin led, 40-0, at halftime -- he was pulled from the game after the first series of the second half.
Wheeler, a standout sprinter in track, had touchdown runs of 15 and 91 yards, the latter being a career long.
He is by no means a "Week 1 wonder." As a junior last season, Wheeler established himself as one of the best running backs in the WPIAL. He rushed for a school-record 2,226 yards and scored 29 touchdowns. Only Washington's Shai McKenzie (2,689) and Clairton's Tyler Boyd (2,567) had better numbers. Wheeler was named to the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22.
Wheeler (5 feet 9, 170 pounds) said his primary goal is helping West Mifflin win the WPIAL Class AAA championship. The Titans went 11-2 and made it to the final last season, where they lost to West Allegheny, 34-8. It was the only game all season in which Wheeler was held to fewer than 100 yards.
"I think we can be even better this year," he said.
Wheeler might be, too. If he reaches the 3,000-yard plateau, it would be historic. Former Hopewell star Rushel Shell set the WPIAL single-season record by running for 2,740 yards in 2009.
Belle Vernon QB sharp
Travis Snyder completed only six passes in Belle Vernon Area's 48-20 victory against Uniontown, but it's what he did with those throws that has him leading the WPIAL in touchdown passes.
Snyder, a junior, finished 6 of 8 with five touchdowns. Four of them came in the first half.
"Stat-wise, he looked great," Belle Vernon coach Aaron Krepps said. "He played well. His receivers helped him out, too."
Two of his targets accounted for all five scores. Senior wide receiver Cody Menges was on the receiving end of three (36, 13 and 23 yards) and senior tight end Jake Sweitzer hauled in two (22 and 31 yards). Menges also returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown.
If Snyder would have thrown just a few more passes, he might have matched his touchdown total from a year ago. Snyder, who was Belle Vernon's starting quarterback for the majority of the season, finished with eight touchdown passes.
Steel Valley in a rush
Steel Valley's top running backs the past few years were in a rush to start the season, and the most recent member of that group continued the trend last Friday.
Senior D'Andre Pickens rushed for 214 yards and five touchdowns in leading Steel Valley to a 47-13 win at Keystone Oaks.
It marked the fourth year in a row a Steel Valley player has rushed for more than 200 yards in the season opener, and the third straight year that player has scored five touchdowns. Pickens rushed for 214 yards and five touchdowns last season. In 2011, Dontez Williams ran for 224 yards and five touchdowns. In 2010, Delrece Williams rushed for 226 yards.
Pickens would like to put a season together like Delrece Williams had in 2010. Williams rushed for a WPIAL regular-season record 2,149 yards. He ended the season with 2,388 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Elizabeth Forward (1-0) at Thomas Jefferson (1-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday -- Thomas Jefferson is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA and has not lost to Elizabeth Forward since 1989. The Jaguars won by just two points (21-19) in last year's meeting, however, and this could be Elizabeth Forward's most talented team in more than a decade.
Brentwood (1-0) at Monessen (1-0), 7 p.m. Friday -- This is a big one in the Class A Black Hills Conference. Monessen won at Brentwood, 35-28, last season. Monessen running back Clintell Gillaspie had two long touchdown receptions in that game and scored on 85- and 47-yard runs last week against California.