South/East/West/North Xtra: Running back trio enjoys huge debuts
Share with others:
The top three rushers in the WPIAL after the opening week of the season aren't household names. In fact, all three had minimal experience as varsity running backs coming into the season.
North Catholic's P.J. Fulmore (265 yards), Fort Cherry's Kolton Kobrys (250) and Peters Township's Mike Minjock (247) ran rampant on opposing defenses in helping their respective teams gain opening-week wins.
The numbers were sensational, and the quick ascent into the spotlight made by each has been interesting in their own ways.
Fulmore, a sophomore, was moved up to the varsity team as a freshman, but saw limited carries and made more of an impact in the passing game.
In his first varsity start last Friday, Fulmore scored four touchdowns in a 40-21 victory at Apollo-Ridge.
"He's really developed in a year," North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said. "It's a product of his work ethic, the job the coaches have done with him, and his offensive line. He also has very good vision. It just seemed to come together [last week]."
Kobrys, a junior, started at wide receiver last season for Fort Cherry and was second on the team with 20 receptions. First-year coach Jim Shiel felt that Kobrys could be a bigger contributor at running back this season, so he had Kobrys make the switch.
Kobrys scored twice in a 31-21 win against Carlynton.
Minjock, a senior, has returned after missing most of the 2011 season with a right knee injury. But even when Minjock was healthy, he saw most of his action in junior varsity games. Minjock picked up right where former standout Andrew Erenberg left off by rushing for four touchdowns in helping Peters Township defeat visiting Baldwin, 40-12.
"Mike really stepped up the first game," said Peters Township coach Rich Piccinni. "Did I expect him to have that big of a game? No. But I did expect big things from him. He's a great track athlete. When he hits the hole, he's gone.
"He's a quiet kid who just goes about his business, and it showed Friday."
The opening game of the season is special for every team, but it proved to be extra special for Bethel Park last Friday.
Bethel Park's special teams units accounted for four touchdowns -- two punt returns, one kickoff return and one blocked punt return -- in a 55-14 win at Plum.
"I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that," said longtime Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny. "The kids are giving good effort and we have some difference makers in there. The guys want to go out and shine when they get their opportunities."
Senior Avery Dibble did a little more than dabble in the special teams showcase. Dibble -- who Metheny called the best athlete on the team -- was a big-play menace.
Dibble scored on punt returns of 41 and 54 yards, and returned an interception 25 yards for another touchdown.
Oh yeah, all of those came in the first quarter.
"He can be explosive," Metheny said. "He made a lot of big plays. He's got a lot of talent. He can be that good and better if he stays disciplined and works hard and listens to his coaches."
Bryan Rock, a senior, scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 18 yards in the second quarter.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, sophomore Chiante Pryor added some flavor on a 99-yard kickoff return that followed Plum's first touchdown.
A season ago, 11 WPIAL teams went the entire season without winning a game. This season, it took five of them only one game to get into the win column.
Valley, Mohawk, Avella, Leechburg and West Greene are guaranteed to finish with better records than they did last year after earning season-opening victories. All of them were 0-9 in 2011.
Valley's 14-7 triumph against Deer Lakes might have been the most significant considering it put an end to the Vikings' 22-game losing streak.
Avella hammered Vincentian -- which is fielding a football program for the first time -- by a score of 65-6. The Eagles scored 56 points all of last season.
Mohawk and West Greene won their games by one point.
The other six teams to go winless last season were Norwin, Canon-McMillan, McGuffey, Albert Gallatin, West Shamokin and South Side Beaver. All six lost their openers.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:00 am