East Xtra: There's no beating around Bush
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Cole Bush is a bruising back, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder who has combined strength and speed to lead the WPIAL in rushing. But carrying the ball is only part of his duties with the Burrell Buccaneers.
Bush has rushed for 753 yards on 89 carries this season, an 8.5-yards-per-carry average, in leading the first-place Bucs to a 3-0 record in the Class AA Allegheny Conference, 4-0 overall.
But Bush, who has scored 78 of Burrell's 137 points this season, also plays defense ... and special teams.
"Cole is just a well-rounded athlete, capable of playing in any position offensively and defensively," said Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt. "He really makes it easy for a coach."
While rushing for 130 yards on 25 carries in a key 27-6 win against Shady Side Academy last week, Bush, an all-conference performer at running back and linebacker, made five tackles and forced a fumble when he caught Shady Side quarterback Matt Granato near the goal line after a potential long scoring run and forced a fumble into the end zone for a Burrell touchback.
"It's exciting to see, the determination and the no quit, not only in Cole but the team" Horwatt said. "Him being a captain and a leader, his teammates see that 'no quit' in him and that funnels everybody else."
And before heading to the sidelines for rest? Bush punted five times last week for 174 yards, an average of 34.8 yards.
Gateway had to go pretty far back in the archives to dig up its own footage of last week's opponent.
The Gators took on Altoona in a Class AAAA Foothills Conference matchup and rolled to a 42-7 victory. The only other time the two teams met was in the 1969 WPIAL championship game at Pitt Stadium.
With Pete Antimarino on the sidelines in 1969, the Gators posted a 22-15 victory to give the legendary coach and the school their first WPIAL title. In that game, Mark Campbell and Mike Devine provided a one-two punch on the ground, while quarterback Rick Hrenko was steady under center.
Campbell finished the game with 80 yards rushing on 13 carries, Devine added 74 yards on eight carries and Hrenko was 4 of 4 passing.
After disposing of Altoona last week, the Gators now face a key competitor in the Foothills Conference. Gateway (4-0), the No. 2-ranked team in Class AAAA by the Post-Gazette, travels to Hempfield Area (3-1) to take on a Spartans team that hasn't beaten the Gators since 1989. Gateway leads the series, 12-2.
Kickoff Friday at Spartan Stadium is 7 p.m.
Norwin laid to rest its losing ways last week, while Riverview continues its unprecedented slide.
The Knights (1-3, 1-3) had lost 13 games in a row but jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Class AAAA Foothills Conference foe Latrobe (0-3, 1-3) en route to a 27-14 victory.
Riverview, meanwhile, hasn't seen this kind of start in decades.
The Raiders fell to 0-4 after a 16-0 loss to North Catholic Saturday. Riverview hasn't started a season 0-4 since it opened the 1987 season 0-5 under coach Jacob Cappa. The Raiders, who haven't even started a season 0-3 since then, defeated Mon Valley Catholic, 32-0, to end that losing streak and finished the 1987 season 2-8.
Riverview has a good shot at picking up its first win Saturday when it travels to winless Wilkinsburg in a 1 p.m. Class A Eastern Conference matchup. Norwin plays host to Connellsville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Demetrius Houser, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior running back at Valley, helped the Vikings (2-2) pull off a Class AA Allegheny Conference upset Friday night when he rushed for 111 yards on nine carries in a 9-8 victory against Freeport.
Freeport entered the contest unbeaten at 3-0 and may have been looking past the Vikings to its showdown this week with Shady Side Academy, but Valley got a 19-yard field goal from senior Steve Colagrande and a 56-yard scoring run by Houser in the third quarter to erase an 8-0 Freeport lead.
The Vikings, who have yet to score in double digits in a game, travel to Churchman Stadium to take on East Allegheny (1-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Freeport battles Shady Side Academy (3-1) in a clash of second-place teams in the conference.