South Xtra: EF standout finds ways to score

Brad Everett's High School Football Notebook

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Elizabeth Forward's Matt Bernadowski has already made a name for himself in track.

Now it seems like no one can track him down on the football field.

Bernadowski, a senior wide receiver and also one of the top hurdlers in the state, is a gamebreaker. When he gets the ball in his hands, fans hold their breath in anticipation of what will happen next, and defenders are typically left trying to catch their breath.

"Our thoughts are that at any time he can take it to the house," Elizabeth Forward coach Mike LeDonne said.

Four weeks into the season, Bernadowski is among the WPIAL leaders in touchdowns with 11. The scores have come on runs, receptions, punt returns and a kick return. The average yardage on those scores is 44.9. He's helped Elizabeth Forward to a 3-1 start.

Bernadowski (6 feet 2, 180 pounds) has had a pair of four-touchdown games and one three-touchdown effort. In last week's 35-13 win against Belle Vernon Area, Bernadowski scored on an 89-yard kickoff return, 45-yard punt return, 41-yard run and 10-yard reception from standout quarterback JaQuan Davidson.

LeDonne involves Berna-dowski in the offensive game plan, but it's what the latter is doing on special teams that might be opening the most eyes. Bernadowski has already returned four kicks for touchdowns -- three punt returns and a kickoff return. There will be few -- if any -- WPIAL players who accomplish that during the entire season.

During one game this season, Bernadowski fielded a punt at his team's 5-yard line. Initially, LeDonne was not pleased. However, that changed quickly.

"I said, 'No, no, no.' Then it was 'Go, go, go,'" LeDonne said.

LeDonne, who was an assistant coach at Clairton prior to going to Elizabeth Forward, compared Bernadowski to former Bears standout and current Pitt player Kevin Weatherspoon.

"He has that speed and he's an elusive guy," LeDonne said. "He'll get bottled up, but he'll find some space and take off. He tries to make things happen. He definitely has that extra gear, probably better than anybody."

On the track, he's as good in the hurdles as just about anybody in the state. At the most recent PIAA Class AAA championships, Bernadowski placed third in the 110-meter hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles.

It had appeared that track would be part of Bernadowski's future in college, but football has quickly entered the equation.

"This had to be the year to show what he can do on the football field," LeDonne said. "Do I think he can be a Division I player? Yes, I do."

Baldwin has a connection

The line "Doug Altavilla to Luke Smorey for a touchdown" is catching on at Baldwin.

Altavilla, a junior quarterback, and Smorey, a senior wide receiver, have hooked up for seven touchdowns this season, making them one of the most productive pass-catch duos in the WPIAL.

"They have a good chemistry going with one another," Baldwin first-year coach Pete Wagner said.

Altavilla has thrown nine touchdown passes. He's tossed at least one to Smorey in each game, and has connected with him twice in three different games. The biggest hookup came in last week's 20-19 overtime win at Mt. Lebanon.

After Mt. Lebanon scored a touchdown but failed to convert the extra point on the first possession of overtime, Altavilla found his favorite receiver for a 10-yard touchdown. Prajal Sharma's ensuing extra point was good, giving Baldwin (2-2) its first win against Mt. Lebanon since 2004.

What's next for Clairton?

The longest winning streak in Pennsylvania high school history ended last week in a 42-24 loss to Monessen, so Clairton (3-1, 3-1) will look to start a new one when it travels to take on undefeated Fort Cherry (4-0, 4-0) in a Black Hills Conference game Friday.

This won't be any easier for Clairton. Fort Cherry has a potent offense that averages 45 points per game and features running back Koltan Kobrys, who has rushed for more than 700 yards and eight touchdowns. Fort Cherry won at Monessen, 49-33, two weeks ago.

Clairton's run ended at 66 games. During that time, the Bears outscored their opponents, 2,925-303, pitched 35 shutouts and scored 40 or more points 45 times.

Game Watch

Ringgold (3-1, 3-1) at West Mifflin (4-0, 4-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday -- Ringgold has scored a whopping 159 points the past three weeks, but the Rams will get their first big test this week since a season-opening 31-10 loss to Thomas Jefferson. West Mifflin has given up 18 points this season.



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