South Xtra: Like colleges, WPIAL teams lighting it up
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More than halfway through the 2012 season, the WPIAL has shown that it is not immune to something that is over-taking and almost defining the modern game of football -- explosive offensive play.
The trend of outrageous quaterback play in the NFL has been well-documented in the past several seasons and, with West Virginia serving as the model just an hour south of Pittsburgh, the college game has witnessed teams compiling almost cartoonish numbers this year.
Even at the high school level -- the WPIAL in this case -- offenses have been having banner seasons. Of the 125 teams in the WPIAL, 30 have scored 180 points or more this season (or at least 30 points per game).
One area of the WPIAL that is well-represented among those teams is the South Xtra region, which has eight teams in that group. Moreover, of the top 10 scoring teams in the WPIAL this season, four are from the South region -- South Fayette (No. 2), Clairton (No. 3), Thomas Jefferson (No. 6) and Washington (No. 7).
South Fayette, ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL Class AA and No. 3 in the PIAA, trails only Aliquippa in total points (311-304) and points per game (51.8-50.1). Since opening their season with a 42-6 victory against McGuffey, the Lions have scored more than 50 points in all of their games (three of which were shutouts), including a 51-12 trouncing of a Seton-LaSalle team that had not allowed an offensive touchdown entering the game.
Clairton's gargantuan win streak that has reached 53 games has benefitted from the Bears strong play on the offensive side of the ball. Despite losing a number of players from last year's undefeated team that won the PIAA championship, Clairton has scored 285 points in six games, a 47.5-points-per-game mark that actually puts the Bears on pace to eclipse their 2011 regular-season scoring total of 423 points (47 points per game).
Thomas Jefferson is off to a 6-0 start -- having already matched its regular season win total from last season -- part of which can certainly be credited to an improved offensive unit. Having scored 252 points, the Jaguars are just 36 points shy of reaching their 2011 regular-season scoring total of 288, and their points per game average is up 10 points (32 to 42).
In his first season as a stater, senior quarterback Joe Carroll has thrown for 1,114 yards and 23 touchdowns with two interceptions, completing 57 of 97 passes.
Washington rounds out the group with an offense that has scored 247 points and is averaging 41.2 points per game. Like the other high-scoring South Xtra region teams, the Prexies have seen improvement in their scoring this season, as they surpassed their 2011 scoring total of 183 points in their fifth game of the season, a surprisingly low-scoring 18-15 win over Jeannette.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, those four teams, through a combined 24 games this season, have yet to lose.
After a 2011 season in which he turned the heads of WPIAL fans and Division I-A coaches, McKeesport's Eddie Stockett more than established that he could throw the ball. This season, it looks like he may be trying to prove he can run it.
Stockett has carried the ball 84 times this season for 368 yards after rushing for 136 yards on 60 carries all of last season. In a 34-2 win against Greater Latrobe last week, Stockett ran for a career-high 138 yards. With this increased emphasis on rushing, part of which comes from the Tigers returning just six starters, Stockett's passing numbers have slipped. After throwing for 1,772 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011, Stockett, an Akron commit, has thrown for 457 yards and three touchdowns so far this season.
In fact, with 84 rushing attempts this season, Stockett has carried the ball more than Mc- Keesport's primary back, West Virginia commit Hodari Christian, who has 74 carries for 406 yards.
South Park has won two consecutive games to reassert itself in the top half of the competitive Class AA Century Conference, bringing its overall record to 3-3 and nearly matching its 2011 regular-season win total of four.
Part of that progress can be tied to senior running back Jared Becker, who has now rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the Eagles' games. In those games where Becker broke triple digits in rushing yards, South Park went 3-1. With games remaining against South Fayette and Seton-LaSalle, the Eagles will certainly need for Becker to continue that kind of production.