When Mark Washington took over as the Moon Area football coach more than two years ago, he inherited a program that was not necessarily in shambles, but it certainly was not in a good state.
Seven seasons after they went 9-2 and made the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals, the Tigers had just concluded a four-year stretch in which they went 4-33, a run that included back-to-back winless seasons in 2008 and '09.
Not even three years later, the program -- thus far, at least -- looks like it may be on its way back up.
Through its first five games of the season, Moon is 4-1, its best start since 2006, and is tied for second place in the Parkway Conference standings more than halfway through the regular season.
In their four victories this season, the Tigers have averaged 38 points per game with an offense led by senior running back Cole Blake. After netting 131 yards in a more limited role behind Anthony Colaianni last season, Blake has rushed for 683 yards in the team's first five games, breaking the 100-yard plateau three times. Colaianni, who led the Tigers in rushing last season with 998 yards, is likely out for the season with a knee injury sustained last spring.
Now in his third season as coach, Washington is 8-15 overall, but he has the program in a good position for its first WPIAL playoff appearance since 2006, when it finished 6-5.
Moon's surprisingly hot start is not a product of a weak schedule, as it faced the same five teams in its first five games last season and went 1-4, but its level of competition will get even tougher as the season continues.
Friday, it will play host to a 4-1 Central Valley team that is one of the top teams in the Parkway Conference and two weeks later, it will play New Castle, which has won four consecutive games after dropping its season opener.
Last Friday was a continuation in what has been a trend in the West Xtra coverage area this season -- that Fort Cherry and Ellwood City both have extremely productive players in their respective backfields.
Senior Koltan Kobrys has asserted himself as one of the best players in Class A this season with 976 rushing yards in the Rangers' first five games, rushing for more than 200 yards in three of those contests. With his 207 yards in a loss to Clairton last Friday, he already has surpassed his 2012 rushing total.
With his team at 3-2, senior Jared Meyers has rushed for 721 yards and is coming off his best single-game performance of the season, rushing for 222 yards in a 58-21 victory against crosstown rival Riverside last Friday. Last season, Meyers rushed for 1,060 yards, but he has 216 more yards than he did at the same juncture in 2012.
Indians holding strong
As the Post-Gazette's No. 2 team in Class AAA and as the defending WPIAL champion, West Allegheny's success is often attributed to a multi-faceted rushing attack that few teams seem to be able to stop.
Impressive as that offense is -- after all, it does average just shy of 40 points per game -- the Indians' defense deserves an equal share of that praise. In their five games this season, they are allowing only 6.6 points per game after holding a strong Central Valley offense, one that averaged 39.3 points entering the game, without an offensive touchdown in a win last Friday. West Allegheny has limited 16 of its past 17 WPIAL opponents to fewer than 20 points.
Games of interest
Union at Sto-Rox, 7 p.m., Friday -- The game itself isn't expected to be close, but it's likely that it could be the setting for some WPIAL history. Vikings senior quarterback Lenny Williams is 256 yards and two passing touchdowns behind Christian Brumbaugh's WPIAL career records in those categories.
New Brighton at Beaver Falls, 7:30 p.m., Friday -- The status and severity of Gabe Greco's ankle injury is still unknown, but even without him, the Lions still scored 42 points in a victory last week against Freedom.
Avella at Frazier, 7 p.m., Friday -- As has been noted, the Eagles actually have the longest win streak (six) of all WPIAL teams, one which they extended last week with a victory against Geibel. Last season, Avella also got off to a 5-0 start, but a loss to the Commodores in Week 6 was the start of a three-game losing streak that kept them out of the WPIAL playoffs.hsfootball
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG