High School Notebook: Coaches are not critical after losing by 80 points
The Avonworth High School defense stops a run by Riverview's Tim Wagner, middle, on a rainy Saturday. The Antelopes shut Riverview out, 26-0.
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In the previous 59 WPIAL football seasons, a team scored 80 or more points in a game only two times. Then it happened twice in the same night.
Clairton defeated Avella, 84-0, Friday night in a Class A game. But Gateway went one better and defeated Norwin, 85-0, in a Class AAAA contest.
Those games were certainly two for the ages in terms of points. The Post-Gazette has scores dating to 1952. From that year through last season, the only other teams to score 80 in a game were North Allegheny in 1996 (83-7 against Ambridge) and Brownsville in 1998 (85-19 against South Allegheny).
In blowouts such as the two Friday, questions always come up: How long did the starters play? Was a team still passing in the second half? Was a team running up the score?
In the Clairton game, the Bears led, 76-0, at halftime. Gateway led Norwin, 62-0, at halftime. Neither Avella coach Ryan Cecchini nor Norwin coach Art Tragesser were critical of their opponents.
"Nothing bothered me that Clairton did," Cecchini said. "The only problem I had was when it got to be 50-0, we asked the officials if they would just start the mercy rule and use a running clock. They told us they couldn't until the second half. I mean, it wasn't like we were going to come back."
In the second half, Cecchini convinced the officials to play only eight-minute quarters instead of the regulation 12 minutes. The clock also ran continuously. Under the WPIAL and PIAA mercy rule, the clock runs continuously in the second half when a team is ahead by 35 points.
Tragesser said: "I'm just coaching my team and trying to get our kids to play as hard as they can. What the other team does is no concern of mine, really. ... You'll have to ask the other guy."
Avella (0-5) is a program that has struggled mightily, winning only five games since 2003. Against Clairton, which has a 36-game winning streak, Avella had minus-28 yards of offense.
"What really killed us was our punting," Cecchini said. "It was so wet and we botched several snaps. Clairton got the ball at, like, our 10-yard line several times. I can't blame them. It was our fault."
Avella also has struggled with roster size in recent years. Three years ago, the team had 14 players. Cecchini is in his first season as coach and he started the season with 30 players. But some starters are out with injuries. Then a few days before the first game, starting quarterback Eric Richards transferred to Trinity.
"You have no idea what it feels like when you get that phone call," Cecchini said.
Against Clairton, Avella had 18 players in uniform -- 1 senior, 2 juniors, 10 sophomores and 5 freshmen. Three freshmen started.
In the Norwin-Gateway game, Norwin had only two first downs and 28 total yards. But Tragesser, who also has been a head coach at Penn-Trafford and Jeannette, said the outcome of the game has made him even more determined.
"It's really a great challenge this week as coaches to get these kids to bounce back," said Tragesser, whose team is 0-5 . "I told them after the game, 'I still love coaching you.'
"Maybe the kids can learn something from this for later on in life. They're going to maybe face a situation like this where everything isn't going to work for you. It might look hopeless. But if you can keep battling and fighting, that's what it's about. If we can win a game this year, it would be my best coaching job ever."
Although the Gateway and Clairton point totals were among the highest in the past 60 years, they weren't close to the WPIAL scoring record. From the start of the WPIAL in the early 1900s through 1930, there were a number of teams that scored 100 or more points. The WPIAL record for points in a game is believed to be 140, set by Johnstown in a 140-0 victory against Pittsburgh South in 1917.
The funny thing is Johnstown played for the WPIAL title that year against Washington and the final score in the championship game was 0-0.
Only six Class AAAA running backs in the history of the WPIAL have rushed for 4,000 career yards. Central Catholic's Damon Jones-Moore and Mt. Lebanon's Luke Hagy are in a race to reach the milestone.
Jones-Moore has 3,819 career yards, while Hagy has 3,780. Jones-Moore has been on the varsity since his freshman year. What is interesting about Hagy is he has been on the varsity since only his sophomore year.
Thomas Jefferson (3-2) has won 34 consecutive conference games, and the Jaguars' streak will be on the line Friday when they entertain Chartiers Valley (4-1). The previous time Thomas Jefferson lost a conference game was 2005, when the Jaguars were defeated by West Mifflin, 28-15, in the regular-season finale.
Thomas Jefferson, by the way, has the most wins in the state in the past decade, according to the Pennsylvania Football News. Since the 2002 season, Thomas Jefferson has 117 wins and Southern Columbia is second with 114. Two other WPIAL teams are in the top five. Clairton is fourth with 104 and Central Catholic fifth with 103.
Is this what you would call a dead issue?
A junior varsity coach in New York was suspended for two weeks without pay for making his players lie down in a cemetery as a motivational ploy after his team lost a game.
Jim Marsh, the JV coach at Marcellus High School, said he borrowed the idea from a scene in the movie "Remember the Titans." Marcellus was returning home from a loss when Marsh had the team bus pull over at a cemetery. He told the 24 players to lie down between rows of graves, and some players laid on top of graves. Some parents complained to school officials after hearing about the incident.