Xtra Points: City League's University Prep rides hot QB in PIAA playoffs
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Under usual Thanksgiving circumstances, Akil Young would have run some errands for his mother Thursday morning in order for her to get dinner ready for family and friends.
But this year, Young had to spend Thanksgiving morning at football practice.
It was unusual for Young to still be practicing. That's because he plays for University Prep of the City League -- and City League teams usually aren't practicing this time of year. Their equipment usually is packed away for the season.
But University Prep still is playing. The Wildcats have won two PIAA playoff games and will play Selinsgrove in a PIAA Class AAA game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona.
"This is the first time I've ever played football this far into November," Young said.
A win will put University Prep into the PIAA quarterfinals next week. A City League team hasn't made it to the PIAA quarterfinals since Oliver in 2006. No City League team has made the semifinals since Perry in '02.
That year, Perry did not allow a point its first 13 games. Another shutout would have tied a national record for consecutive shutouts. But Hopewell, led by standout running back-linebacker Paul Posluszny, defeated Perry, 20-3, in the semifinals at North Allegheny.
Although that Perry team was built on defense, University Prep is thriving because of its offense -- and Young's passing in particular.
University Prep has defeated Somerset, 47-38, and Clearfield, 36-22, in the first two rounds of the PIAA playoffs. Young, a senior, has been terrific, throwing for 815 yards in the two games. He was 30 of 46 for 462 yards against Somerset and 23 of 36 for 353 yards against a previously undefeated Clearfield team.
"I guess we might have surprised a few people," Young said. "But this was one of our goals, to make a run in states and get our name out there. We're really not on the map, so we wanted to overcome some challenges."
As for his big statistics throwing the past two games, Young said, "Everything is just clicking. The offensive line is giving me enough time to make proper reads, the receivers are making good catches and running with the ball, and the coaches are calling great plays. We're just keeping the whole offense flowing."
Against Selinsgrove, University Prep will face a team that has shut out its past two opponents and three of the past five.
Selinsgrove (9-3) was 1-9 last season but won a PIAA title as recently as '09. The Seals are young. Juvan Batts, a freshman, leads the team in rushing and had 219 yards on 20 carries last week against Milton. Zach Adams, the team's second-leading rusher, is a sophomore, while quarterback Isaiah Rapp also is a sophomore.
Tickets for all four WPIAL championship games are available at Heinz Field. Cost is $10, and all seating is general admission. Student tickets will not be available at the gate.
All four WPIAL championship games will be televised live by Root Sports. The Class A game will be played at 11 a.m., followed by the Class AAAA game at 2 p.m. Class AA will be at 5 and Class AAA at 8.
Usually, the Class A game is first, followed by AA, AAA and AAAA. But the WPIAL changed the order of the games at the request of Root.
The station asked for the change because it planned to televise a Penguins game tonight. That would have forced the Class AAAA game to be shown on a delayed basis, but the Class AAAA game usually gets good TV ratings.
Due to some conflicts with Penguins games in the past, Root has had to show the Class AAAA game on tape, but didn't want to do it again.
Even though there will be no hockey due to the NHL lockout, Root decided to stick with its original plan and the WPIAL agreed.
All four games will be on radio through the MSA Sports Network. The Class A game will be on The Fan (93.7 FM). The Class AA game will be on KDKA (1020 AM), WJPA (95.3 FM), WBVP (1230 AM) and WMBA (1460 AM).
The Class AAA game will be on The Fan and also WJPA. The Class AAAA game will be on KDKA.
The games also can be heard on MSA's web site at www.msasports.net
When it comes to coaches with WPIAL titles, it is feast or famine for those in the WPIAL championship games this year. Five of the coaches have 24 championships among them while three never have won a championship.
Woodland Hills' George Novak goes into the Class AAAA final with six championships and has a chance to become only the second coach in WPIAL history to win seven. Among the other coaches in the championships, West Allegheny's Bob Palko and Clairton's Tom Nola have five championships while Aliquippa's Mike Zmijanac and North Allegheny's Art Walker have four each.
Meanwhile, Washington's Mike Bosnic, Sto-Rox's Dan Bradley and West Mifflin's Ray Braszo never have won a championship. This is Bradley's first year as a head coach.
The four championship coaches, as well as City League championship coach Bill Gallagher of Perry, will be honored at the Curbstone Coaches luncheon Dec. 11 at noon at the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center in Ross. The luncheon is open to the public.
One of the longest-standing and most-coveted records in the history of high school football was broken Friday. Derrick Henry, a running back at Yulee High School (Fla.) ran for 482 yards on 58 carries and broke the national record for career rushing, set by legendary Ken Hall of Sugar Land High (Texas) from 1950-53.
Henry, a 6-foot-3, 238-pound senior and a University of Alabama recruit, now has 11,612 yards and 148 career touchdowns.
He also has the record for consecutive 100-yard games with 45. Hopewell's Rushel Shell, a freshman at Pitt, had the old record with 39.
First Published November 23, 2012 12:00 am