South Xtra: 'Bradleys' put a cap on season

Brad Everett's High School Football Notebook

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Johnny Football? Jameis Winston? A.J. McCarron? You've got to wait until next month to see who wins the Heisman Trophy.

Luckily, you can read the winners of a different type of award in this column. These are "The Bradleys." They are given out to honor some of the top performers and performances of the 2013 WPIAL football season among South Xtra schools.

To the winners: There won't be any fancy dinner or prize, but, in at least one man's anything-but-humble opinion, seeing your name in this space will be much more memorable.

MVP -- Jimmy Wheeler, West Mifflin. The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. "Wheels" ran nothing like a bus. He was more like a Corvette. Wheeler ran the ball like no other player this season and was the workhorse for a West Mifflin team that wouldn't have finished 10-2 or reached the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals without him. He opened eyes from the get-go, rushing for 360 yards in the season opener. He went on to rush for more than 200 yards eight times. Wheeler had 46 carries in one game and 39 in two others. He finished with a WPIAL-leading 2,616 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Offensive player of the year -- Nico Law, Ringgold. Rams players must double as security guards, because no opponent could break the Law. Talk to Law and he doesn't want to simply be known as a "running quarterback," but there's no denying he's tremendous on the move with the ball in his hands. You could say there has never been a dual-threat quarterback like Law in WPIAL history. He is believed to be the first WPIAL player to pass and rush for 1,000 yards each in the regular season. When it was all said and done, Law produced 1,494 yards passing and 1,210 rushing. And get this? He's just a junior.

Defensive player of the year -- Chase Winovich, Thomas Jefferson. Offenses staring across the line from the Thomas Jefferson defense assuredly all said the same thing: Keep an eye on No. 15. Winovich, a linebacker headed to play collegiately at Michigan, was a menace, constantly making plays and disrupting others. He had 13 sacks heading into Thomas Jefferson's WPIAL Class AAA semifinal loss to Central Valley, and was the star of a Jaguars defense that surrendered only 93 points this season. Offensively, he lined up at either quarterback or running back, and rushed for 245 yards in a Big Nine Conference-clinching win at West Mifflin.

Coach of the year -- George Smith, McKeesport. By George, McKeesport made a wise decision in bringing back Smith, who had taken three years off after 28 seasons of coaching what had been a perennial power. The players seemed to love him and the community began to rally around the program again. Smith brought back his flexbone offense and a few of his old coaches, and it was as if he had never left. The Tigers had gone 21-9 but had not won a playoff game in his absence. This year Smith led them to a conference title, their first undefeated regular season since 1994 and then to the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals.

Team of the year -- South Fayette. The only South Xtra area team to make it to Heinz Field has flexed its muscles so much this season, you would think coach Joe Rossi was a weightlifting instructor. South Fayette will try to win its second WPIAL Class AA title in four years when it battles two-time defending champion Aliquippa Saturday at Heinz Field. Led by quarterback Brett Brumbaugh, the undefeated Lions are averaging 47 points per game, while a seldom-talked-about, yet exceptional defense has given up more than seven points just twice.

Best game -- West Mifflin 47, Moon 42 (Nov. 1). Defenses from both teams took the night off, as Wheeler and Moon's Cole Blake put on a rushing exhibition in this first-round playoff game. Wheeler rushed for 359 yards and six touchdowns, including a pair of fourth-quarter scores that rallied the Titans from a nine-point deficit to gain the win. Blake rushed for 309 yards and five touchdowns. It is believed to be the first time two players have rushed for 300 yards in a WPIAL game.

Biggest surprise -- Clairton. This distinction is not because the Bears saw their PIAA record 66-game winning streak end, but because they went 9-2 and fell just a touchdown short of making it to the WPIAL Class A championship game for the sixth year in a row. This Clairton team was young and didn't have much big-game experience. Fresh faces such as sophomore Aaron Mathews and freshman Lamont Wade showed that Clairton will continue to be a force for years to come.


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