Upper St. Clair has hopes of pulling off a first in boys soccer -- win three consecutive PIAA titles.
But the Panthers will have to do it without their highly successful coach, who was injured in an accident at his home last month.
Uwe Schneider, who has won four state championships in 10 years as coach, was hanging shutters last month at his house in Mt. Lebanon when the ladder fell, according to Upper St. Clair athletic director Matt Mellinger. Schneider fell two stories and both of his legs were broken. He sustained multiple broken bones in his left leg and had surgery to put pins and rods in the leg. He had another surgery for an infection in the leg.
Schneider was in the hospital for more than two weeks. He decided to not coach this season and also will take time off as a German teacher at Upper St. Clair High School.
"He was extremely bummed because he knows he had a good team coming back," said Mellinger. "He cannot put pressure on either leg for a while, so he decided not to coach this year."
Upper St. Clair didn't know whether to bump up an assistant to head coach, or try to look outside the program. But a new coach would only come aboard for one year.
Upper St. Clair eventually hired Mike Blatz, the director of the Century United soccer club in Pittsburgh. Blatz, a former star at South Fayette High School in the late 1980s, also is a former head coach at Chartiers Valley.
"Mike stepped in because basically there is a core group of kids that we have who have done very well playing for Century United," Mellinger said. "He and Uwe have known each other. Uwe is doing as well as he can, but he has a long road back. ... Not only has Mike taken on the role of coach, but he's keeping Uwe involved, talking to him about the team and meeting with him about players.
"It was a horrible thing that happened to Uwe. But the scenario with Mike coming on has ended up playing out about as good as we could hope for."
Through the first two weeks of high school football practices, there were some injuries to notable players.
• Quaker Valley quarterback/defensive back Dane Jackson injured his knee in practice this week, and it is not known how long he will be out.
• Serra quarterback Zac Quattrone threw for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 last season. But he is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone sustained in the team's first scrimmage last Saturday. It is a crushing blow to a Serra team that went 1-9 last season and had only 24 players out for the team this season.
• Central Catholic running back Ron George is out indefinitely with a leg injury. George figured to be a key to the offense after senior Riley Redman, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, was ruled ineligible because he is over the age limit. Grant Foster, another running back with potential, wasn't cleared to play at the start of preseason practices because of knee surgery. But Foster has since been cleared and is now back with the team.
More on Rowan
Now that basketball standout Maverick Rowan has decided to leave Lincoln Park and transfer to Cardinal Gibbons High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the big question is what does this mean for his verbal commitment to Pitt? Rowan, who will be a junior, accepted a scholarship to Pitt last summer.
Don't be surprised if Rowan opens his recruiting in the near future. He played well this summer in AAU tournaments and other events, and sources have said other college coaches like him.
Rowan's decision to leave Lincoln Park has as much to do with his father, Ron, as it does Maverick. Ron Rowan was a standout player at Beaver Falls who went on to play at Notre Dame and St. John's and had a brief stint in the NBA before a long career overseas. Ron has trained his son for years and will be an assistant coach at Cardinal Gibbons. Ron also was an assistant at Lincoln Park last year and wanted to coach his son, no matter where he went. Over the past two years, the Rowans even looked into having Maverick attend Montverde or IMG Academy, two other schools in Florida.
Ron Rowan is moving his entire family to Florida and one of the reasons is he has landed a job as a local rep in Florida with Adidas. Maverick played in a number of Adidas-sponsored events this summer. Whether this means anything or not, Pitt is a Nike-sponsored school.
WPIAL approves 'playbacks'
The WPIAL board of directors this week voted to start using "playbacks" to decide some PIAA playoff spots in boys and girls basketball.
Beginning this season, the WPIAL will use playbacks to determine seeds 5 or lower for the PIAA playoffs. Previously, the WPIAL used the "follow the leader" system. In other words, if five teams from a WPIAL classification qualified for the PIAA playoffs, the No. 5 team was the team that lost in the quarterfinals to the team that won the WPIAL championship.
Now the league will have a playoff among the quarterfinal losers to determine seeds 5 or lower. The league will continue to use the follow the leader system for seeds 1-4.
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.