High School notebook: Aliquippa greats give back to program

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Aliquippa High School has produced a number of players who have gone on to play in the NFL, and some of those players are giving back.

• The Aliquippa football team is going away to preseason camp this week at California University of Pa., thanks in large part to a monetary donation from legendary former Quip Mike Ditka.

• Aliquippa will have new Nike "NFL-style" uniforms this season, thanks largely to former player and current NFL star Darrelle Revis.

• The Aliquippa track team got new shoes in the spring and the Aliquippa midget league football program will be getting a new scoreboard this fall, thanks to donations from NFL player Tommie Campbell, another former Aliquippa player.

What Ditka, Revis and Campbell are doing makes Aliquippa football coach/athletic director Mike Zmijanac a little emotional.

"For people who do things like this for us, I couldn't even begin to express what it makes you feel like," said a grateful Zmijanac. "They don't want attention for what they've done. But I think it should be made public because I want them to have their proper due. Not everybody does things like this. We've had guys do other things like this that I'd rather not mention. But it is just great."

Zmijanac said Ditka has long been a big help to the program through Aliquippa boosters. The new Nike uniforms were not free but Zmijanac said, "Darrelle, through his contract with Nike, got us a price that was just right.

"I think what it all says is that they have learned valuable lessons that have been instilled from their folks, their grandparents and us as coaches. Those messages are don't forget where you came from and it's nice to give back. You don't have to give everything back. Sometimes, all you have to give back is your name.

"What they've done just makes you feel good, and you have to remember that outside of Ditka, these guys are young people. I hate to use the word kids but they might be 27 or 28 years old. Heck, I have socks older than that."

Opening-night showdown

Pennsylvania football teams don't start full-contact practices with full pads until Monday, but it's not too early to look at the first night of games Aug. 30. WPIAL Class AAAA has a showdown right away when Upper St. Clair plays at Woodland Hills. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette rankings come out Aug. 23, but Upper St. Clair and Woodland Hills are expected to be ranked among the top three or four teams.

Junior achievement

It is still a little early to judge the strength of the WPIAL Class of 2015. But one of the most heavily recruited players from the junior class is Baldwin offensive lineman Sterling Jenkins.

Jenkins is 6 feet 8, 290 pounds and his recruiting has taken off since the spring. He now has offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Ohio State and Michigan, among others.

Pitt recruit hurt

Pitt has five recruits from the WPIAL senior class, but one of those recruits you won't see playing this season.

Fox Chapel linebacker Quintin Wirginis, who made a verbal commitment to Pitt earlier this summer, injured his right foot in a 7-on-7 workout last month. There was ligament and bone damage and Wirginis had to have surgery.

Pitt's other four WPIAL recruits are Upper St. Clair defensive end Rori Blair, Shady Side Academy running back Dennis Briggs, Bethel Park offensive lineman Mike Grimm and North Allegheny receiver Elijah Zeise.

Committed -- sort of

Beaver Falls receiver/defensive back Elijah Cottrill has made a verbal commitment to Akron. Call it a soft commitment.

Cottrill accepted the scholarship but he also is a Division I prospect in basketball. Beaver Falls football coach Ryan Matsook said Cottrill will still wait to see if anything develops in basketball recruiting. Creighton has offered a scholarship for basketball and West Virginia is interested.

"I told him that if it doesn't work out in basketball, you have this [Akron football scholarship] to fall back on," Matsook said.

New coaches

This season, there are 27 new coaches in the WPIAL and one in the City League.

The new WPIAL coaches are: Baldwin's Pete Wagner, Bishop Canevin's Darren Schoppe, California's Bo Teets, Canon-McMillan's Ron Coder, Carmichaels' Ryan Krull, Chartiers Valley's Niel Loebig, Deer Lakes' T.J. Wiley, East Allegheny's Dom Pecora, Fort Cherry's Jim Shiel, Freedom's Tom Dubovic, Gateway's Donnie Militzer, Geibel's Pete Nace, Greensburg Salem's Dave Keefer, Hollidaysurg's Homer DeLattre, Imani Christian's Jason Bell, Laurel's Pat Cuba, McKeesport's George Smith, Nothgate's Brandon LeDonne, North Hills' Pat Carey, Pine-Richland's Eric Kasperowicz, Plum's Matt Morgan, Serra Catholic's Tony St. Angelo, Shenango's Mike Commesso, Southmoreland's Mark Adams, West Greene's Paul Kreuzer and West Shamokin's Jon McCullough.

The new coach in the City League is Carrick's Craig Aguglia.

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For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.


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