The Fumbler: There's no rattling this guy on his picks

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As The Fumbler sat in his seat Tuesday night at PNC Park, eating nachos and gulping down a tasty beverage, he couldn't help but laugh when one of the most memorable moments from the Pirates wild-card playoff win against the Cincinnati Reds took place.

If you didn't see the game -- first off, shame on you! -- fans bombarded Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto with near-deafening chants of "Cue-to! Cue-to!" in the second inning.

Cueto proceeded to drop the ball, making the taunts even louder. On the very next pitch, Pirates catcher Russell Martin smacked a home run, sending the crowd into absolute bedlam.

So, why is The Fumbler -- expert on all matters football-related -- discussing baseball?

Here's your answer.

Back in the day, The Fumbler had a rival from Cincinnati named Johnny Prognosticator. Johnny challenged The Fumbler to travel to Cincinnati to make his WPIAL and City League picks one day in the fall of 1988.

The Fumbler, always up for a challenge, took him up on the offer, and found himself sitting at a desk in a large room at a hotel in Cincinnati selecting his winners as thousands of hecklers stood nearby trying to throw him off his game.

The Fumbler, hands still greasy from some KFC he ate for lunch, dropped his pencil on the ground.

Quickly, chants of "Fum-bler! Fum-bler!" reverberated around the room.

The Fumbler didn't panic. He made his picks and -- much to the dismay of his critics -- correctly picked 96 percent of the games that week.

Johnny Prognosticator never was the same.

The Fumbler never has changed. He went 54-11 (.830) last week and is now 269-62 (.812) for the season.

Here are his thoughts on this weekend's top games:

Gateway (5-0) at North Allegheny (4-1), 7:30 tonight -- In one of the top non-conference matchups this season, Gateway is hoping for a reversal of fortune. A season ago, the Gators were also 5-0, but suffered their first loss to North Allegheny. Both teams have been tested. Gateway had to rally to score a six-point win against Hempfield last week, and defeated Latrobe by two in the season opener. North Allegheny lost to Seneca Valley and topped Pine-Richland by one point the following week. If the Tigers crack a fortune cookie today, the piece of paper will read, "You will be happy tonight." Winner: North Allegheny.

South Fayette (5-0, 5-0) at Quaker Valley (5-0, 5-0), 7 tonight -- One of the most well-known Quakers -- at least in this part of the country -- was a guy named William Penn. You might have heard of him: He founded Pennsylvania in 1681. Something that hasn't been well known over the years is the Quaker Valley football team, which has made the WPIAL playoffs only four times in history. The school was founded in 1956. This group of Quakers has been outstanding, but The Fumbler likes the Lions and their prolific offense -- they average a WPIAL-best 52.6 points per game -- just a little more. Winner: South Fayette.

North Catholic (5-0, 5-0) at Avonworth (5-0, 4-0), 7:30 tonight -- Did you know that Avonworth has players named Dalton Day and Matt Goodnight? If they had a teammate with the last name of Morning, they might have the best trio of names in the WPIAL. The Antelopes have experienced a lot of good nights this season, and the day has come for them to seize control of the Class A Eastern Conference. The group will part the scarlet and red -- North Catholic's colors -- with none other than a standout running back with the name of Moses (Giles). The Antelopes will leave saying to North Catholic: "Buenas noches!" Winner: Avonworth.

University Prep (4-0, 2-0) vs. Allderdice (2-3, 2-0) at Cupples Stadium, 7 tonight -- Only four WPIAL or City League quarterbacks threw for at least 1,686 yards and 23 touchdowns in the regular season last season. It's taken University Prep's Ron Brown just four games to accomplish it this season. The Fumbler has also heard a lot of good things about Brown's favorite target, Marcus Johnson, who is tops in the WPIAL and City League in receptions and receiving touchdowns. At Cupples Stadium, a couple of prolific University Prep players will continue to put up dazzling numbers. Winner: University Prep.

And the rest (home teams in capital letters):



WPIAL CLASS AAAA -- (Foothills Conference) HEMPFIELD over Altoona; PENN-TRAFFORD over Connellsville; Kiski Area over NORWIN; McKeesport over LATROBE. (Northern Eight) Central Catholic over PINE-RICHLAND; North Hills over FOX CHAPEL; Seneca Valley over SHALER. (Southeastern) WOODLAND HILLS over Baldwin; PENN HILLS over Bethel Park; Mt. Lebanon over CANON-McMILLAN; PETERS TOWNSHIP over Plum.

WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Big Nine) RINGGOLD over Albert Gallatin; Thomas Jefferson over LAUREL HIGHLANDS; BELLE VERNON over Trinity. (Greater Allegheny) Highlands over DERRY; HAMPTON over Hollidaysburg; GREENSBURG SALEM over Indiana; FRANKLIN REGIONAL over Knoch. (Parkway) Central Valley over MOON; MONTOUR over Chartiers Valley; New Castle over BLACKHAWK.

WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) Burrell over FREEPORT; Kittanning over FORD CITY; Shady Side Academy over EAST ALLEGHENY; Summit Academy over DEER LAKES. (Century) SETON-LaSALLE over Burgettstown; SOUTH PARK over Keystone Oaks; McGUFFEY over South Allegheny. (Interstate) Greensburg Central Catholic over SOUTHMORELAND; MOUNT PLEASANT over Jeannette; Washington over BROWNSVILLE; Waynesburg over CHARLEROI. (Midwestern) Aliquippa over FREEDOM; BEAVER FALLS over New Brighton.

WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) NESHANNOCK over Rochester; OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART over South Side Beaver; STO-ROX over Union; LAUREL over Western Beaver. (Black Hills) CLAIRTON over Brentwood; CARLYNTON over Chartiers-Houston; Fort Cherry over BISHOP CANEVIN; MONESSEN over Serra Catholic. (Eastern) Apollo-Ridge over SPRINGDALE; Leechburg over NORTHGATE. (Tri-County South) FRAZIER over Avella; CARMICHAELS over Geibel Catholic; BETH-CENTER over Jefferson-Morgan; Mapletown over BENTWORTH.

NON-CONFERENCE -- UPPER ST. CLAIR over Butler; WHEELING CENTRAL CATHOLIC (W.VA) over Kiski School; Mars over UNIONTOWN; SHENANGO over Riverview; WEST ALLEGHENY over Steel Valley; West Greene over VINCENTIAN; VALLEY over Yough.

Saturday afternoon

WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Parkway) AMBRIDGE over Hopewell.

WPIAL CLASS A -- (Eastern) West Shamokin over WILKINSBURG.

Saturday night

WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Midwestern) Ellwood City over MOHAWK; BEAVER over Riverside.



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