North Xtra: Pointing toward success

Craig Meyer's high school football notebook

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For the past year, much of the discussion in football has centered around the pronounced increase in scoring brought about by spread offenses that operate at an exceptionally fast rate. It's been a topic discussed ad nauseam in the NFL and also in the college game, with teams such as Oregon and Baylor serving as poster children for the change.

Has that trend now extended into high school football? More specifically to the WPIAL?

Two weeks into the 2013 season, at least statistically, that appears to be the case.

Nine teams from the North Xtra coverage area -- Seneca Valley, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Highlands, Mars Area, Kittanning, Shady Side Academy, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Avonworth -- are averaging at least 28 points per game. Seven of those nine schools are averaging more than 35 per game.

As a part of this offensive outburst have been games with cartoonish final scores. Mars defeated Derry Area, 64-7, last Friday. That same night, Shady Side Academy shut out Deer Lakes, 63-0. North Allegheny has won its first two games by a combined score of 97-14.

Some of the area's top teams regularly put up eye-popping numbers on clearly overwhelmed opponents, and that's at least part of the equation through these first two weeks. But by the end of last season, only three teams in the North Xtra coverage area ended up averaging more than 28 points per game, compared to the nine that have achieved that mark thus far.

Obviously, a majority of the schedule remains and by the end of the season, this discussion could be a statistical aberration. Things, as they so often do, may have a way of evening out.

Nonetheless, through the first two weeks of the season, it's hard to look past the high number of points scored by a high number of teams.

Mars gets back on track

Regarded by many as the preseason favorite in the Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference, the Planets' season got off to a less-than-ideal start with a 20-13 loss to Franklin Regional in which the team's wing-T offense was never able to get into any kind of rhythm behind a questionable offensive line.

Be it frustration from an opening-game loss or things just coming together, Mars straightened things out in Week 2 with a 57-point victory against Derry. Maybe the most encouraging sign for the Planets came with the performance of the team's offensive star, running back Josh Schultheis. After a disappointing although somewhat productive 2013 debut, Schultheis rushed for 219 yards and scored four touchdowns in the victory.

Schultheis' rushing total was his second-highest in a single game in his career, just 23 yards behind his 242-yard performance last season against Blackhawk in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

Talbots off to a rough start

Heading into the season, many coaches in the Greater Allegheny Conference were picking Hampton among the top four teams, with one even picking it to finish in first. Through the first two games of the season, those predictions may seem a little overly optimistic.

The Talbots have dropped their first two games, but the more pressing concern has been how they have lost the games. They have scored just one touchdown in each of the two games while allowing an average of 29.5 points per game. Hampton last started 0-2 in 2010, a season in which it ultimately finished 2-7.

Games of interest

Indiana at Mars, 7 p.m., Friday -- Both teams have already dropped games to Franklin Regional, but this game could establish whether the Little Indians or the Planets will be the one to pose the greater challenge to the Panthers in the Greater Allegheny Conference.

Shady Side Academy at Valley, 7:30 p.m., Friday -- Defensively, the Indians have been downright dominant in their first two games this season, as they pitched consecutive shutouts (defeating Ford City, 21-0, and Deer Lakes, 63-0). Shady Side is also a strong offensive team, with a running back tandem of Eric Harris and Pitt recruit Dennis Briggs. But the Vikings are also off to an impressive start, having won each of their first two games by 26 points. Last week, Demetrius Houser ran for three touchdowns in a victory against Burrell.

hsfootball

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG


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