South Xtra: Big boys up front play key roles in showdown

FOOTBALL/BETHEL PARK (1-0) AT MT. LEBANON (0-1)

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The spotlight will shine on two giant Division 1 prospects who are set to take the field for their respective teams Friday night.

The mammoth 6-foot-6, 328-pound offensive tackle Mike Grimm will anchor the line for the Bethel Park Black Hawks as they take on the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils and their highly recruited lineman, 6-foot-6, 300-pound Alex Bookser.

The two oak trees have spread their sturdy roots to draw in interest from a combined 43 Division I-A teams.

Grimm was the most highly sought after WPIAL offensive lineman of the 2014 class before he committed to Pitt in June. He received interest from 27 Division I schools and had 17 official offers. Some of those offers were from Baylor, Boston College, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Wisconsin to name a few.

The Grimm-led Black Hawks blanked Plum, 38-0, Friday, extending the Mustangs' losing streak to 17 games, in a Southeastern Conference win. Grimm helped pave the way for five rushing touchdowns while outgaining Plum, 255 to 74.

The Black Hawks defense was also active, forcing five turnovers.

The opening game for Bookser and the Blue Devils was disappointing as they suffered a 55-7 blowout loss against the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AAAA champion North Allegheny Tigers.

"That loss was not a reflection of our skill level, but we have to get back to executing sound fundamentals," Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk said. "We have to eliminate penalties and piece drives together."

The Blue Devils aided an inexperienced but talented Tigers team that returned only three starters from last season by committing eight penalties for 134 yards.

Melnyk said he doesn't know if it was the heat, that lack of experience on his team or if North Allegheny is "that good," but said he is making no excuses for how his team played.

"It's my job to prepare this football team and we will bounce back and get back to the drawing board," Melnyk said.

The lopsided defeat was also a night to forget for the decocorated Bookser as his Blue Devils squeaked out just 188 yards of offense. A 16-yard scamper into the end zone by Jake Rolfsen was the Blue Devils' only score late in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand.

Tigers quarterback Jeff Clemens nearly outgained the Blue Devils by himself passing for 184 yards on eight completions.

Mt. Lebanon threw for only 43 yards, but managed to muster 145 yards on the ground.

"It was not his best game, but he didn't play bad either," Melnyk said. "He's got to be the spear. We rely on him."

The gifted tackle has received offers from 16 Division 1 schools. Pitt is the early favorite to land him.

Melnyk said he knows a lot of expectation comes when you have a talent such as Bookser, but the coach said he will continue to call on his stalwart lineman when it matters most.

"When we need movement, we call on him," Melnyk said. "If he's playing well, the team will play well."

Like Bookser, Melnyk is well aware of the other big deal in the Friday night matchup.

"We can't go straight at Grimm and the other big boys on Bethel's line," he said. "We'll be playing right into their hands.

"We have to try and be creative and find other ways to attack them. Slugging it out with them is not to our advantage. We have to keep them off balance."

hsfootball

Kelton Brooks: kbrooks@post-gazette.com


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