Standing tall at the top of Class AA, just as it was last year and the year before that, is Aliquippa, the two-time defending WPIAL champion that has not lost to a WPIAL team since 2010. Right behind the Quips is Beaver Falls. Through their first three games, the Tigers are undefeated after outscoring their opponents by a combined 127-16. This marks the fifth time in the past seven seasons that Beaver Falls has gotten off to a 3-0 start under coach Ryan Matsook. Since taking over in 2006, Matsook's record is 63-17.
TALENT ON TALENT
The Tigers have three players who already have committed to Division I-A colleges. Senior offensive lineman Brock Boxen, at 6 feet 4, 270 pounds, has committed to Akron, as has standout wide receiver/defensive back Elijah Cottrill. Senior running back Sage Curry has committed to West Virginia, where he is expected to play linebacker. That number of Division I-A players on a Class AA team is noteworthy, but Matsook said it's hard to say if this is the most talented team he has coached at Beaver Falls. "When you throw Division I around, you can't lose sight of what Division I is looking for," he said. "The difference in Division I can be an inch or a tenth of a second. That's what separates those kind of kids."
AN INJURED STAR
While Cottrill is arguably the most-talented and dynamic player on the Beaver Falls roster, he has yet to play this season as he recovers from a knee injury. He already has had surgery and is out indefinitely. Matsook said that, while there is no definite timetable for a return, Cottrill will visit the doctor late this week and that they should know more after that. Last season, Cottrill caught a team-high 26 passes for 519 yards and nine touchdowns as the Tigers went 8-3. Cottrill's commitment to Akron is a soft one, because he also is a standout basketball player waiting on potential offers. Matsook, however, believes that if the right offer doesn't come in, his star will stick with football.
QUARTERBACK ON THE RISE
Dan Stratton is not among the select group of Division I-A-bound Beaver Falls players, but the senior quarterback could be joining that club by the end of the season. Matsook said that a number of Division I-AA programs have expressed interest in his quarterback, a group that includes Youngstown State, Robert Morris and Duquesne. Penn State also has shown interest in Stratton to be a part of its "run-on" program. Stratton primarily is being recruited as an athlete, although he has expressed a desire to continue playing quarterback. "I think he's going to open some eyes," Matsook said. "He'll land on his feet somewhere, there's no doubt about that." This season, Stratton has completed 16 of 27 passes for 393 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
A RIVAL LOOMS AHEAD
Although Beaver Falls has beaten its first three opponents -- Riverside, Mohawk and Ellwood City -- by an average of 37 points per game, those wins came against largely overwhelmed teams. This week, that changes, as the Tigers will play host to longtime rival Beaver. Up until last season, the Tigers had dominated recent games between the teams -- as they won six in a row from 2006-2011 -- but the Bobcats ended that run with a 34-20 victory in 2012. This season, utilizing a shotgun spread offense, Beaver has averaged 46.7 points in its first three games. "They present a whole new challenge to us than we faced the last three weeks," Matsook said.