West Xtra: Big stats don't yield many wins
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By taking even a cursory look at the WPIAL's statistical leaders, few schools stand out more than Blackhawk. The Cougars have three of the top playmakers in Class AAA at all of the key offensive skill positions.
At the helm, there's junior quarterback Chandler Kincade, a Pitt commit, who has thrown for 1,249 yards in six games and has yet to throw for fewer than 137 yards in a game this season. There's senior running back Cole Chiappialle, who has rushed for 832 yards and accounted for 1,183 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Rounding out the trio is senior wide receiver Alex Caratelli, who has caught 40 passes for 650 yards and three touchdowns.
More often than not, having talented playmakers on a roster equates to overall team success, but if that exists as the rule, Blackhawk stands as a glaring exception over halfway through the 2012 season. The Cougars are 1-5 and sit just a half-game ahead of Moon for last place in the Parkway Conference.
Blackhawk's current situation isn't an entirely senseless one, as several factors have contributed to the team's losing record, the first of which can be found on the other side of the ball from the team's group of stars -- defense.
Through their six games, the Cougars have given up an average of 32.2 points per game and have had just one game where they held an opponent to fewer than 20 points. In Blackhawk's past three games -- all of which were losses -- it has given up a total of 134 points, an average of 44.7 points per game.
Close losses have also contributed to the Cougars' woes. The team's five losses have been by an average of 12 points and three of the team's losses (West Allegheny, Hopewell and Beaver) have been by a combined six points, two of which were by a single point.
Blackhawk's first game of the season set the tone for this trend. After scoring a touchdown to go up 27-17 on West Allegheny with 1:34 remaining in the game, the Cougars saw the Indians respond with a touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. They then recovered the ensuing onside kick and scored a touchdown with just one second left to deal Blackhawk a staggering season-opening defeat.
The teams that Blackhawk has lost to, along with the fashion in which they have lost them, can also explain the largely sluggish season. The combined record of the five teams the Cougars have lost to is 22-8, with three of those opponents -- West Allegheny, Central Valley and Beaver -- having at least five wins each. The schedule will not get any easier this week, as they line up against Class AAA No. 1 Montour, but the team's final two games are against squads with a collective 4-8 record (Chartiers Valley and Ambridge).
Lastly, while the Cougars roster features a number of aforementioned stars, it also has a bevy of younger players and a relatively small number of upperclassmen. Of Blackhawk's 59 players, 29 are freshmen or sophomores compared to just 13 seniors.
Continuing the theme of standout players on underperforming teams, running back Anthony Colaianni is quietly having a strong season for Moon.
In his team's six games, Colaianni has rushed for 771 yards and five touchdowns. A junior, he has been a central part of an offense for a 1-5 Tigers team that is averaging 18.3 points per game, down about three points from last season's 2-7 team.
Although there have been a slew of teams posting extraordinary offensive numbers in the WPIAL this season, there has been a contingent of strong defenses, as well.
Of the WPIAL's 125 teams, 43 have season points-against totals below 100 (or giving up 16.5 points per game or fewer). Only six of those teams come from the West Xtra region -- Montour, Central Valley, West Allegheny, Aliquippa, Rochester and Avella. Of that group, Aliquippa has given up just 10 points this season, good for a WPIAL-best 1.7 points per game allowed.
There is a group of good games to be had in the West Xtra region this upcoming week. Rochester, fresh off a big win over then-undefeated Neshannock, will leave home this week to take on a 4-2 Laurel squad in a Big Seven Conference matchup. Central Valley, too, will hit the road to play a Hopewell team that has won three of its past four games.