For more than two weeks, the United States government went into shutdown mode.
What's caught The Fumbler by surprise is that he's received dozens of phone calls recently asking if he was going to shut down, as well. Interestingly, The Fumbler had considered it.
Don't get him wrong: The Fumbler loves his job. He's been doing it for decades. He's very good at it. He's a huge fan of high school football.
What The Fumbler was concerned about -- much like the U.S. government -- was budgets and healthcare. And this had nothing to do with President Obama ... or Obama Academy, for that matter.
The Fumbler is what is known as a "free-lance prognosticator." He's contracted by the Post-Gazette through the National Prognosticators Association. The NPA has a limited budget, and it does not provide healthcare.
Well, in recent months, the NPA had contemplated decreasing its budget even further. And with healthcare costs soaring, The Fumbler wasn't sure if he could afford to continue the job he enjoys so much.
"What should I do?" The Fumbler thought to himself.
Making this huge professional decision kept The Fumbler up at night. He began to lose his appetite -- he dropped 10 pounds in two weeks -- and he even teared up one night at a game.
Then, earlier this week, there was a breakthrough. The NPA decided not to decrease its budget. It also chose to pay for The Fumbler's health insurance, saying in a press release that keeping The Fumbler on board was one of its top priorities.
The Fumbler is here to stay.
After another excellent week in the books -- 53-11 (.828) -- The Fumbler now sports a season record of 378-81 (.823).
Remember, you can email The Fumbler at email@example.com.
Here are his thoughts on this weekend's top games:
Pine-Richland (4-3, 3-3) at North Hills (4-3, 3-2), 7:30 tonight -- Eric Kasperowicz was one of the best players in North Hills history. He quarterbacked the Indians to a WPIAL title and their first PIAA title in 1993 on his way to being named a Parade All-American. There won't be a homecoming parade for Kasperowicz tonight. That's because he's the first-year head coach at Pine-Richland, one of the schools North Hills is battling to earn a home playoff game. History says this one will be close. North Hills has beaten Pine-Richland the past five seasons, all by 11 points or fewer. In another nail-biter, the Indians will make Kasperowicz's homecoming less than homey. Winner: North Hills.
New Castle (5-2, 4-2) at Moon (5-2, 4-2), 7:30 tonight -- In 1969, the first man walked on the moon. It seems about that long since Moon and New Castle have been this relevant in football. New Castle has clinched its first playoff berth since 2009. As for Moon, the Tigers not only have earned a playoff spot, but are also one win away from their first winning season since 2006. This might be old news, but New Castle has a special player in Ohio State recruit Malik Hooker. He will land on the Moon and play out of this world. Winner: New Castle.
Aliquippa (7-0, 5-0) at Beaver Falls (7-0, 6-0), 7:30 tonight, Reeves Field, Geneva College -- These teams could both be 0-7, and it would still be a "must-see" game. Another chapter in a rivalry that dates to 1920 will take place tonight. The great Joe Namath came to town to watch this game a few years ago. When Darrelle Revis was with the New York Jets, he said in the week leading up to his team's playoff game with the Patriots that their rivalry with Tom Brady and company had nothing on Aliquippa-Beaver Falls. No fewer than six seniors in this game will be headed to play at Division I schools. What's on the line? Bragging rights. The Midwestern Conference title. A likely No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. Yeah, this is a big one. Winner: Aliquippa.
Neshannock (6-1) at North Catholic (7-0), Lt. J.C. Stone Field, North Park, 7:30 tonight -- It's rare to see a late season, non-conference matchup between two championship contenders. That's what we'll have, though, when Class A No. 2 North Catholic plays host to No. 3 Neshannock. Not only is Neshannock's Ernie Burkes a terrific quarterback, but The Fumbler likes his name. It makes The Fumbler think of Ernie "Big Ern" McCracken, a character played by Bill Murray in the movie Kingpin. Big Ern was a strike machine on the bowling lanes. Neshannock's Big Ern is just 5 feet 10, but he'll strike North Catholic with enough big plays to topple the Trojans. Winner: Neshannock.
And the rest (home teams in capital letters):
CITY LEAGUE -- Brashear over ALLDERDICE; Westinghouse over CARRICK.
WPIAL CLASS AAAA -- (Foothills Conference) LATROBE over Connellsville; McKEESPORT over Kiski Area; HEMPFIELD over Norwin; GATEWAY over Penn-Trafford. (Northern Eight) FOX CHAPEL over Butler; NORTH ALLEGHENY over Shaler. (Southeastern) BALDWIN over Canon-McMillan; Penn Hills over MT. LEBANON; WOODLAND HILLS over Peters Township; Upper St. Clair over PLUM.
WPIAL CLASS AAA -- (Big Nine) ELIZABETH FORWARD over Albert Gallatin; Belle Vernon over LAUREL HIGHLANDS; WEST MIFFLIN over Trinity; THOMAS JEFFERSON over Uniontown. (Greater Allegheny) Greensburg Salem over DERRY; MARS over Hollidaysburg; INDIANA over Knoch. (Parkway) Blackhawk over CHARTIERS VALLEY; Central Valley over AMBRIDGE; WEST ALLEGHENY over Montour.
WPIAL CLASS AA -- (Allegheny) EAST ALLEGHENY over Burrell; FORD CITY over Deer Lakes; SHADY SIDE ACADEMY over Summit Academy; KITTANNING over Valley. (Century) McGuffey over KEYSTONE OAKS; Quaker Valley over BURGETTSTOWN; STEEL VALLEY over South Allegheny; SOUTH FAYETTE over South Park. (Interstate) YOUGH over Greensburg Central Catholic; Mount Pleasant over BROWNSVILLE; Southmoreland over CHARLEROI; JEANNETTE over Waynesburg. (Midwestern) Beaver over ELLWOOD CITY; NEW BRIGHTON over Riverside.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) Rochester over OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART; Sto-Rox over LAUREL; Union over SOUTH SIDE BEAVER. (Black Hills) CARLYNTON over California; Clairton over SERRA CATHOLIC; Monessen over CHARTIERS-HOUSTON. (Eastern) WEST SHAMOKIN over Leechburg; Springdale over NORTHGATE; AVONWORTH over Wilkinsburg. (Tri-County South) Beth-Center over AVELLA; Carmichaels over BENTWORTH; WEST GREENE over Geibel Catholic; JEFFERSON-MORGAN over Mapletown.
NON-CONFERENCE -- Central Catholic over ALTOONA; HOPEWELL over Freedom; WASHINGTON over Freeport; SETON-LaSALLE over Mohawk; HIGHLANDS over Ringgold; Seneca Valley over BETHEL PARK; FRAZIER over Vincentian.
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Big Seven) WESTERN BEAVER over Shenango. (Eastern) Apollo-Ridge over RIVER-VIEW.
NON-CONFERENCE -- KISKI SCHOOL over Linsly School (W.Va.).
WPIAL CLASS A -- (Black Hills) Brentwood over BISHOP CANEVIN.
First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM