The timeline of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart's football team playing in the WPIAL has only spanned the greater part of four seasons, dating back to 2010, but that brief history has not been a kind one to the Chargers.
In each of the past three seasons, they fell short of a potential WPIAL playoff berth, even missing out after going 5-4 in 2011 before bottoming out with a 1-8 record last season. But six games into this season, that all looks like it could be changing.
After a victory last Friday, OLSH is 3-3 overall and in the Big Seven Conference where the Chargers currently reside in fifth place, a half-game behind Western Beaver (3-3, 3-2) for the conference's final playoff spot.
"We're stronger, we're more physical," coach Bill Daniels said. "We don't have any superstars, but we have a lot of good players on this team. We have a lot of people contributing. That's what I like the most about the team this year, that it is a team."
That it's taken the Chargers this long to make the playoffs might seem like a surprise after they posted a winning record in just their second WPIAL season. But after a disastrous 2012 season, one in which they lost their final seven games amidst a flurry of injuries, it seemed like the climb to relevance might take some time.
Even as recently as the team's fourth game of the season, it appeared like there was still quite a way for the program to go. After starting quarterback Bill Mulcahey sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the second game of the season, OLSH lost three consecutive games to fall to 1-3, the last of which was a 54-0 loss to Sto-Rox that Daniels said forced the team to "do a lot of soul searching."
Whatever internal assessments were done, they've worked, at least in the past two games, when the Chargers defeated Shenango and South Side Beaver. Daniels lauded the contributions made by players such as wide receiver Nick Metz, offensive lineman/linebacker Nick Theobald, fullback/middle linebacker Tom Marra, as well as quarterback Joseph Sebes, who has shown improvement since stepping in for Mulcahey.
A 4-3 start appears unlikely, as they play Class A No. 3 Neshannock Friday, but a manageable final two games against Rochester and Wilkinsburg could lead the Chargers to new heights and an unfamiliar destination -- a possible WPIAL playoff berth.
"It would be reaffirmation that we're progressing as a program and building that confidence that we're going the right thing and trying to build a good football program," Daniels said.
The Chargers will need lots of help, however, because they lost the head-to-head battle against Western Beaver, the first tie-breaker for determining a playoff spot. Western Beaver must play undefeated Sto-Rox this Saturday, but has two conference games remaining against Shenango (2-4, 1-4) and South Side Beaver (0-6, 0-6).
Williams sets mark
Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams continued a benchmark senior season last Friday with three touchdown passes in a victory against Union, making him the WPIAL's all-time leader in career passing touchdowns with 89, breaking the record set by former South Fayette quarterback Christian Brumbaugh.
He didn't quite eclipse one of Brumbaugh's other career records, however. In the Vikings' win, Williams passed for 161 yards, giving him 7,067 for his career and putting him 95 yards behind Brumbaugh's mark of 7,162.
A few weeks after Clairton's historic 66-game win streak was snapped, the WPIAL's longest remaining run of consecutive victories came to an end, as Avella lost to Frazier last Friday, 33-9, ending the Eagles' six-game win streak dating back to the final week of last year's regular season.
Now, 17 teams in the WPIAL are tied for the area's longest winning streak with six consecutive wins apiece. Five of those teams are in the West Xtra coverage area -- West Allegheny, South Fayette, Beaver Falls, Aliquippa and Sto-Rox.
Games of interest
West Allegheny at New Castle, 7:30 p.m., Friday -- The Indians are undefeated through six games and are outscoring teams by an average of 33.5 points per game. The Red Hurricanes are 5-1, their best six-game start since 1987.
Seton-La Salle at Quaker Valley, 7 p.m., Friday -- Exciting as their 5-0 start was, the Quakers knew they were about to face the most difficult part of their schedule. After a 34-point loss to South Fayette, they have to face the Rebels, with whom they are tied for second place in the Century Conference.
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG First Published October 9, 2013 8:00 PM