It really is a "new" season for Summit Academy football every year. The school for adjudicated youth usually has only one or two of the same players from the previous year.
But for the first time, Summit Academy will have a new experience at the end of the season.
Summit Academy is going to the WPIAL playoffs. That had never been said before Friday night.
Despite a 38-8 loss to Shady Side Academy, the Summit Academy Knights clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the all-boys school in Herman, Butler County, joined the WPIAL in 1998. No matter what Summit Academy does Saturday in the regular-season finale against Freeport, it will be in the playoffs. If Summit Academy (4-4, 4-3) beats Freeport (2-6, 2-5), Summit Academy will finish third in the Class AA Allegheny Conference.
Knights coach Steve Sherer and defensive coordinator John McCloud deal with almost an entirely new roster every season. A few players even leave in the middle of the season because they have completed the "program" at Summit Academy.
"We have only one player back from last year and most of these kids have never played football before," Sherer said. "We've tried to teach the game along the way and for the most part, the kids have responded. ... This is really a great accomplishment for the kids and the staff."
Summit Academy has some players from Western Pennsylvania, but also a number of players from Eastern Pennsylvania. The significance of making the WPIAL playoffs might be lost on some of them. Then again, Sherer said this is one of the most positive experiences some of the players have had in a long time. Sherer said football success can help immensely in trying to get students going in the right direction in life.
"We talk to them all the time about playing for the playoffs," Sherer said. "You try to instill a goal in their minds. I remember last year when we found out we were out of the playoffs. They let down. What's there to play for? Then this year when we were 1-3, I started second-guessing myself. I wondered, 'What am I missing?'
"I'd say a lot of these kids don't realize the significance of this right now. But in five years, or 10 years they will -- and they will never forget it. Something like this can leave a lasting impression on them."
More playoff talk
West Shamokin defeated Leechburg, 36-6, to gain a playoff spot for the first time since the school started playing WPIAL football in 2004.
If Avella beats Bentworth Friday or Mapletown loses to Frazier, Avella will make the playoffs for the first time since 1976.
We meet again
The City League playoffs start Thursday and if the two matchups sound like games that were just played, it's because they are.
Allderdice (4-4) plays Brashear (4-4) in one semifinal Thursday at Cupples Stadium in South Side. Allderdice defeated Brashear, 23-18, Friday in the regular-season finale.
In the other semifinal Friday at Cupples, University Prep (7-0) meets Perry (3-5). University Prep defeated Perry, 36-6, Thursday in their regular-season finale.
Four teams from the six-team City League make the playoffs. The first-place team from the regular season meets the fourth-place team, and the second- and third-place teams meet. University Prep finished first in the regular season and Perry fourth. Allderdice finished second and Brashear third.
Wheels in motion
West Mifflin's Jimmy "Wheels" Wheeler has 1,996 yards rushing this season and needs 154 yards Friday against Thomas Jefferson to break the WPIAL regular-season rushing record of 2,149, set by Steel Valley's Delrece Williams in 2010. Wheeler would be only the fifth WPIAL running back to rush for 2,000 yards in the regular season.
Wheeler also has 4,264 as a junior and senior and 4,351 for his career.
Lenny the runner
One week after he became the leading passer in the history of the WPIAL, Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams threw for only 131 yards Friday against Laurel.
No problem; he hurt Laurel with his legs.
Williams rushed for 116 yards on 21 carries in a 28-17 victory against Laurel. It was his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season and he has 313 yards rushing.
Made for TV
The McKeesport at Gateway game Thursday will decide first place in the Class AAAA Foothills Conference and the game can be seen live on Root Sports (7 p.m. kickoff).hsfootball
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh First Published October 20, 2013 8:00 PM