Jeannette's drop to Class A was a tough decision

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If WPIAL football were a building, Jeannette coach Roy Hall believes his team should occupy space on the first floor and quit trying to live on the second floor.

The Jeannette school board finally agreed with Hall's reisdency ideas.

The Jeannette board voted earlier this week to have football and all other sports teams compete in Class A of the WPIAL, beginning next school year. Although Jeannette's school enrollment is small enough to put the Jayhawks in Class A, the football team and others had decided to play "up" in Class AA in previous seasons.

The move down is a significant one because Jeannette has been successful for many years in Class AA football and also lately in boys basketball -- and even girls basketball.

The board also did an about face in its thinking on the subject. Only a few weeks ago, the board voted, 5-4, for the football team and others to stay up in Class AA, despite Hall's request to play in Class A. Then on Monday night, the board reconsidered and voted, 6-3, to drop to Class A.

Some parents got a petition together for the board to vote for Class A.

"I'm just glad the board reconsidered," Hall said. "Believe me, with the rich tradition we have here, it wasn't like we just did this now. We met two years ago and requested this."

Hall said a simple numbers game is the reason for his request to play in Class A. Hall said there are only 289 students -- boys and girls -- in grades 9-12 this school year.

"We're just a shrinking district," Hall said. "Our sophomore class has only 51 total students -- boys and girls. Our eighth grade group is about the same. We don't have a junior-high football program here and our midget football program this year, which is grades seven and eight, had only 14 players. We're steadily shrinking."

It used to be that Jeannette's enrollment was large enough that the Jayhawks played football in the WPIAL's biggest classification. For example, in the 1970s Jeannette had playoff games in the largest class against Mt. Lebanon, Gateway and Penn Hills.

In 1980, when the WPIAL went from three to four classifications, Jeannette dropped to Class AA. Since then, the Jayhawks have won four WPIAL Class AA titles and made it to the championship game four other times.

The 2007 team that featured quarterback Terrelle Pryor won WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles and was one of the best on its level in WPIAL history.

Jeannette has made the WPIAL playoffs 36 times, second-most in league history behind Aliquippa. Aliquippa has a smaller school enrollment than Jeannette but the Quips also choose to play "up" in Class AA. Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac has said the Quips will continue to play in Class AA.

Jeannette failed to qualify for the playoffs this year with a 4-5 record.

"This had nothing to do with the record this year," Hall said. "When we sent letters to the board this year asking them [about Class A], we were 3-0. I know we have some people who have been longtime Jayhawks fans and there's a lot of pride here, especially after what Terrelle and Jordan Hall did. But we just don't have the numbers any more."

Jeannette boys basketball coach Adrian Batts is OK with the decision to move down.

"I think it's harder to get recruited by colleges in basketball when you're in Class A," Batts said. "But either way, I was OK with it. In the end, if it's better for the kids, then I'm in agreement with it."

Allderdice vs. McDowell

While WPIAL football is in the semifinals this weekend, there is one City League team still playing. Allderdice (5-5) plays McDowell (5-5) tonight at Cupples Stadium on the South Side.

McDowell is a District 10 team from Erie, but the Trojans played a WPIAL schedule from 2006-11. McDowell has asked to rejoin the WPIAL again next year.

This McDowell team has a .500 record, but the Trojans have played a tough schedule, including games against some traditional powers in Ohio.

Four of McDowell's five losses have been to Ohio teams -- Mentor, 44-30, Cleveland St. Ignatius, 49-10, Lakewood St. Edward, 56-7, and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, 34-14. The fifth loss was to defending PIAA Class AAA champion Erie Cathedral Prep, 45-17.

McDowell relies on its well-balanced running game. Tyler Hammond, Tyree Spearman and Jake Tarasovitch all have between 400 and 500 yards rushing.

Nicholson an All-American

Montae Nicholson, star senior receiver-defensive back at Gateway, has been selected to play in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio Jan. 4. The game includes top players around the country and will be televised live by NBC.

Eighteen players from the WPIAL have played in the All-American Bowl since it was started in 2001. Some of them have been Jeannette's Terrelle Pryor (MVP in 2008), West Allegheny's Tyler Palko, Woodland Hills' Ryan Mundy, Gateway's Justin King, Central Catholic's Stefen Wisniewski, Thomas Jefferson's Lucas Nix and Clairton's Tyler Boyd.

Winter sports

Fall sports are still going on, but the official start of practice for winter sports teams in Pennsylvania is Monday.

The Post-Gazette preseason WPIAL boys basketball rankings don't come out until December, but early picks for the top teams are Hampton and New Castle in Class AAAA, Chartiers Valley and Central Valley in AAA, Beaver Falls and Seton-LaSalle in Class AA and Lincoln Park and Vincentian in Class A.

Upper St. Clair coach resigns

Upper St. Clair boys golf coach Todd Flynn told his team Tuesday night he was retiring after 23 years as the school's boys varsity golf coach. The decision came less than a month after the Panthers' Grant Engel won the PIAA Class AAA individual championship and Flynn's team won the PIAA Class AAA team title.


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