Donnie Militzer is in his first season as Gateway's football coach, meaning he's spent only a little more than a month witnessing first-hand the talents of Gators' star Montae Nicholson.
It's safe to say Militzer has caught himself saying 'Wow' a few times while watching Nicholson play.
"Pretty much daily," Militzer said.
Nicholson is one of those players who truly has that "wow" factor. He has already shown this season why he is one of the most heavily recruited seniors in Pennsylvania.
It's only three games into the season, but if one were to select a player of the year in the WPIAL at this point, Nicholson might be the top choice. What has made Nicholson's season so special is that he is not just making an impact in one phase of the game. He's doing it in all three.
Nicholson has scored six touchdowns. Two have come on offense, two on defense and two on special teams. He has two touchdown receptions, two kickoff returns for touchdowns, an interception return for a score and a fumble return for a touchdown.
"He's been as impressive as you can be," said Militzer, who has guided the Gators to a 3-0 start. "He's scored pretty much every way you can. Anytime we need a big play, he seems to come up with it."
Nicholson rarely gets a breather. In addition to playing wide receiver and safety, he returns kicks and is also on Gateway's kick coverage teams.
In a 22-20 win against Greater Latrobe in the season opener, Gateway scored a touchdown to tie the score, 13-13, early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Nicholson forced a fumble, recovered it and returned it for a touchdown to give the Gators the lead for good.
Nicholson's best game was likely his three-touchdown effort in last week's 43-25 victory against Kiski Area. Nicholson scored on a 32-yard interception return and 14-yard reception in the first quarter, and returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Militzer said Nicholson has benefitted from his hard work during the track season last spring. Nicholson was the WPIAL Class AAA 110-meter hurdles champion and runner-up at the PIAA championships.
"His speed is at a different level from everyone else on the field," Militzer said.
Nicholson is still trying to narrow down a list of about three dozen scholarship offers. He made an official visit to Michigan State earlier this month, and has scheduled visits to Pitt and Oregon. He might take two other visits. Nicholson has attended both of Pitt's home games.
DeFloria a big-play threat
Typically, a player's odds of scoring a touchdown continue to increase the closer his team gets to the opponent's end zone.
Hempfield's Joey DeFloria is defying those odds.
A senior running back, DeFloria has scored seven touchdowns this season. The average distance of those scores is 57.4 yards. Take a 5-yard scoring run out of the equation, that average jumps to 66.1.
DeFloria's other touchdown runs have come from 72, 70 and 42 yards. He has also scored on a 76-yard reception, 77-yard kickoff return and 60-yard punt return.
DeFloria rushed for 279 yards in Hempfield's 42-28 win against Connellsville last week. No WPIAL player had more in Week 3.
Centurions try to rebound
Greensburg Central Catholic opened the season as the Post-Gazette's No. 5-ranked team in Class AA, but the Centurions are still seeking their first win. It's the first time the team has started 0-3 since 2002.
Part of the reason for the Centurions' early struggles has been their difficult schedule. The Centurions' losses have come to Washington, Mount Pleasant and Kittanning. Those teams are a combined 9-0.
Brighter days could be ahead, though. After facing 2-1 Waynesburg Central on Friday, the Centurions play consecutive games against Brownsville, Southmoreland and Charleroi Area, who are a combined 0-9.
Yough (2-1, 2-1) at Washington (3-0, 3-0), 7 p.m. Friday -- The first game of the post-Shai McKenzie era has come much earlier than expected for Washington, which lost its star senior running back last week to a torn ACL. The big key in this Class AA Interstate Conference game might be Washington's ability to slow down a potent Yough offense led by quarterback Tyler Donahue.