High school notebook: It's hard to play with the big boys
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Four WPIAL football teams went out of state to play in national events last weekend -- and all four lost. So, Western Pennsylvania's reputation took a hit. Or did it?
When these national events are put together, organizers like to invite Western Pennsylvania teams. But it seems they don't always get Western Pennsylvania's top team for that season.
For example, the teams that played out of state this past weekend were Central Catholic, Thomas Jefferson, Woodland Hills and McKeesport. But Gateway did not participate. The Gators were highly regarded coming into the season and many believed they were the top team in the WPIAL this season, by far.
"If we could get our right teams into these games, we could compete better," Gateway coach Terry Smith said.
Thomas Jefferson has been one of the most successful programs in the state the past decade, but the Jaguars are still Class AAA, the second-largest classification. They played Glenville of Cleveland, which has become one of the strongest programs in Ohio's largest classification. Thomas Jefferson had to be an underdog and the Jaguars lost, 34-13, in the Friends of Coal Classic in Wheeling.
Central Catholic also played in the Wheeling event and was hammered by Lakeland, Fla., 35-0. But this isn't expected to be one of Central's strongest teams in recent years. Central Catholic teams of 2007 and '04 probably would have fared much better.
Smith attended the games in Wheeling and said: "I think Central's team last year would've beaten Lakeland. ... Just watching both of those games, I think we would've had a good shot at beating those teams."
A year ago, Gateway played Ohio power Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and lost, 27-6. Central Catholic played Northmont, Ohio, one day later and won, 34-6. Northmont wasn't a powerhouse team last year. They might have been better games if Central Catholic and Gateway had switched opponents.
This past Saturday, Woodland Hills lost to Justin Northwest (Texas), 13-12, at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The same day, McKeesport lost to Colerain, Ohio, 14-7, in overtime in Cincinnati. Neither Woodland Hills nor McKeesport was ranked in the Post-Gazette's top five WPIAL Class AAAA teams at the start of the season.
But McKeesport represented the WPIAL well, playing a Colerain team that was 12-1 last year and had knocked off St. Xavier the week before. St. Xavier was ranked nationally before the loss.
"When some of our teams play these national teams, we're also at a disadvantage sometimes because those schools draw players from all over the place. They have almost open enrollments," Smith said. "With most of our schools [in the WPIAL], we have to deal with who is living in our district."
What these games might have proven is this: Maybe only a few schools in Western Pennsylvania and the state could compete with the likes of Lakeland and Glenville. But in Florida and Ohio, there are probably nine or 10 more teams in each state that are on par with those two schools. In other words, Florida and Ohio have many more top-notch teams.
"Some of these schools have 10 Division I college players on their teams," Smith said. "It's impossible to have that here."
Wilkinsburg has rented portable lights and will play Friday night home games the next two weeks. Last year, Wilkinsburg played one night home game for the first time in 11 years.
Shady Side Academy has installed permanent lights at its home field and will play three night games this season. The Indians, however, will still play two Saturday afternoon home contests.
Because of construction at the school, Ambridge has scheduled all of its home games for Saturday afternoons, but athletic director Randy Cosgrove said it's possible the team could still play a few Friday night games using portable lights.
• Central Catholic quarterback Nolan Krivijanski has a dislocated left kneecap but could be back with the team in a month. Krivijanski, a senior, was injured in the first quarter of Central Catholic's game Monday against Lakeland, Fla. The injury was originally thought to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
• Colin Rodkey, a senior offensive lineman at Gateway and an Indiana University recruit, has not practiced yet this season. Rodkey is still recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring and might not be able to practice until midseason.
• Pine-Richland quarterback Vinny Nittoli is out indefinitely because of a leg injury.
Talk about a tough night throwing the football. Sophomore quarterback Brig Gerlich of Seguin, Texas, threw nine interceptions in a 51-6 loss to New Braunfels. Funny thing is, Gerlich still threw for 232 yards.
Former Schenley basketball star Deandre Kane has decided to attend Patterson School, a prep school in Lenoir, N.C. A few weeks ago, Kane had said he would attend New Hampton, a prep school in New Hampshire. But he decided Patterson was a better fit for him.
Patterson has one of the top prep school basketball programs in the country. Coach Chris Chaney has produced more than 100 Division I college players and eight NBA draft picks. Three years ago, six Patterson players signed with Division I colleges and three of them went to Oklahoma, Memphis and Arizona.
"Pitt and Jamie Dixon really helped out a lot in getting Deandre to Patterson," said Kane's father, Calvin.
Kane, a 6-foot-3 guard, decided to attend a prep school to raise his grades. He is expected to be recruited by Division I colleges, including Pitt.
• Football coach Garry Cathell left Butler to become Elizabeth Forward's coach in 2007. When Cathell left Butler, Jeff McAnallen took over.
Now how is this for coincidence? Both Cathell and McAnallen were winless last season, but they both got their first wins this past Friday.
• At ceremonies before last Saturday's game, Western Beaver named its field Rich Niedbala Field, after the former coach who won three WPIAL titles in 31 seasons.
• Add this one to the list of unusual nicknames. Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah, is the Beetdiggers. They "beat" Massillon Washington in the Kirk Herbstreit Classic in Ohio last weekend.
• Perennial California power Oaks Christian High had two transfers battling for the starting quarterback job. The winner was Nate Montana, a junior and the son of some legendary quarterback.
First Published September 5, 2008 5:36 am