California University of Pennsylvania senior offensive lineman Taylor Nikithser (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny) was recently named the NCAA Division II recipient of the Rimington Award, which recognizes the most outstanding center.
The Rimington Award is presented to the premier center at the NCAA FCS, Division II and Division III levels, along with NAIA, while the Rimington Trophy is given to the top center at the NCAA FBS level. The award and trophy are named after Dave Rimington, who is the only two-time winner of the Outland Trophy while playing at Nebraska.
While at North Allegheny, Nikithser was a second-team all-conference selection and an All-Academic Gold choice by Pennsylvania Football News. He was a member of three WPIAL championship teams (2010, 2011, 2012) and two PIAA championship teams (2010, 2012) during his tenure at North Allegheny.
A two-year team captain at Cal-U, Nikithser was recently named an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Second-Team All-American while being the only center among the 10 national honorees on the offensive line. He also received All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West laurels for a third-consecutive season, including first-team status in the last two years. Nikithser garnered Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association (D2CCA) first-team all-region honors in 2017 after being a second-team selection as a junior.
Nikithser was a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy this season after being selected a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Second-Team Academic All-American as a junior. He also recently repeated as a CoSIDA academic all-district selection. Nikithser received the PSAC Champion Scholar Award in 2016, while helping lead the program to its first league title in eight years.
Nikithser started two games at right guard as a redshirt freshman in 2014 before shifting to center the following season. He made 33-straight starts at center before making his first career start at left tackle during the final game of the regular season. Nikithser returned to center the following week, as the Vulcans made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Playoffs.
Nikithser completed his bachelor’s degree in sport management last winter and will be earning his master’s degree in business administration this week.
Information and photo courtesy of California University Athletics.
The Big 56 Conference released its all-conference teams this afternoon and 16 Tigers were recognized as All-Northern Seven Conference performers, including five first-team selections. Senior offensive lineman Derek Devine, senior tight end Sam Humes, senior running back Turner White senior defensive lineman Dylan Wall and junior defensive back Joey Porter Jr. all received first-team laurels.
Devine, a University of Virginia commit, anchored the left tackle position and played a key role on an offensive that averaged 35 points per game. Humes was one of the most versatile players on the team and hauled in eight passes for 166 yards this season. Both Devine and Humes were pivotal in plowing open rushing lanes for White, a Cedarville University baseball recruit, who finished second on the team in rushing yards, racking up 1002 yards and 14 touchdowns.
On defense, Wall proved to be one of the top lineman in the conference and made 23 tackles, five for a loss, and added two sacks. In the defensive backfield, Porter was a ball hawk and reeled in a team-best seven interceptions and added a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Mt. Lebanon in week five.
Receiving second-team honors were senior receiver John Vardzel, senior kicker Dom Falo, senior tight end Brennan McCauley, junior linebacker Dante Caputo and junior linebacker/defensive back Nikko Rankin.
Northern Seven Conference honorable mention picks were senior offensive lineman Ian Truesdell, senior lineman/tight end Canyon Tuman, senior quarterback Luke Trueman, senior fullback Ryan Langdon, senior linebacker Alex Hays and defensive back Corey Melzer.
These teams met just two weeks ago but tonight North Allegheny (8-3) and Pine-Richland (11-0) will duel in the most important head-to-head meeting in the history of this heated rivalry. Tonight’s WPIAL Class 6A semifinal tilt marks the first time the Tigers and Rams will butt heads in a playoff game and it comes with a trip to Heinz Field at stake. North Allegheny is trying to reach the WPIAL championship game for the ninth time in program history. Pine-Richland is gunning for a sixth title game appearance.
In the regular season finale at Newman Stadium, the Tigers gave the undefeated Rams their stiffest test all season and were within one touchdown in the final quarter before Pine-Richland pulled away late for a 48-28 victory. The two teams combined for over 1,100 yards of offense in a highlight filled contest. The Rams provided the most splash plays with running backs Jordan Crawford and Kenny White each rushing for over 200 yards and two scores. Pine-Richland quarterback and Notre Dame recruit Phil Jurkovec rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
North Allegheny’s Turner White toted the football for 104 yards and threw for a touchdown on a 21-yard halfback pass to John Vardzel in the fourth quarter. It was White’s second career touchdown pass with both coming at the expense of Pine-Richland. Quarterback Luke Trueman also passed and rushed for a touchdown in the contest.
Tonight’s WPIAL semifinal clash between North Allegheny and Pine-Richland will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. from Ambridge High School. The game will be broadcast live via the internet on the North Allegheny Sports Network with the pregame show beginning at 7:10 p.m. A pregame chat with Tigers head coach Art Walker will be a part of the pregame festivities. Randy Gore and Rick Meister will have the call on the North Allegheny Sports Network. Click here to listen to tonight’s broadcast.
The North Allegheny Tigers (7-3) open the 2017 WPIAL Class 6A playoffs tonight with a visit to the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils (6-4). The Tigers enter the postseason as the third-place finisher out of the Northern Seven Conference. The Blue Devils were the second-place team out of the Southeastern Conference after falling to Bethel Park last week, 34-24, in a game for the conference title.
Tonight’s game is a rematch from week five when the Tigers defeated the Blue Devils on the road, 44-27. Senior quarterback Luke Trueman spearheaded the victory with 242 yards and three touchdowns and 122 yards rushing. The NA defense forced Mt. Lebanon quarterback James Stocker into two interceptions and one critical fumble in the third quarter that was returned 75-yards for a touchdown by defensive back Joey Porter Jr.
While the Tigers and Blue Devils have played each other often in the regular season, tonight’s game represents the first time since 2006 that NA and Mt. Lebanon have gone head-to-head in the playoffs. In that game, North Allegheny earned a 7-6 victory in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs. In a defensive struggle, the Tigers trailed most of the game but captured the victory when quarterback Goeff Greco rushed for an 11-yard touchdown with just 3:28 remaining in the contest. Kicker Rick Doyle tacked on the extra point to help secure a one-point victory.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. The North Allegheny Sports Network will broadcast the game live via the internet with the pregame show starting at 7:10 p.m. You can listen to tonight’s game by clicking here.
In one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season, the North Allegheny Tigers (7-2) host the top-ranked Pine-Richland Rams (9-0) tonight at Newman Stadium. With a win, the Rams can clinch an outright Northern Seven Conference title. A North Allegheny victory would earn the black and gold a share of the conference crown.
North Allegheny enters tonight’s contest riding a six-game winning streak. The Tigers most recent victory was a mercy-rule win over Hempfield in non-conference play, 63-28. (Highlights of NA’s win over Hempfield are below). Pine-Richland has run roughshod over every opponent this season and are coming off back-to-back shutouts of Shaler and Butler. The Rams most narrow margin of victory was 24 points during 53-29 victory over Mt. Lebanon in a week one game that really wasn’t all that close.
Pine-Richland is led by much-ballyhooed senior quarterback Phil Jurkovec. The Notre Dame commit is an uber-athletic signal caller with a strong arm and great speed. Jurkovec has passed for 2,254 yards this season with 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He’s rushed for another 396 yards and 12 scores. An astonishing career total, Jurkovec has passed for 6,517 yards and 53 touchdowns, while rushing for another 2,127 yards and 31 touchdowns.
There is a terrific supporting cast surrounding Jurkovec, including senior tailback Jordan Crawford who has toted the football for 669 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. Receiver Raymond Falcone is another standout on offense with 36 receptions, 745 yards and nine touchdowns. The Pine-Richland offense averages 50 points per game.
The Rams defense permits only 10 points per game, tops in Class 6A. Junior linebacker Tyler King is the team’s leading tackler with 71 stops. Senior defensive end Tommy Camino has a team-best seven sacks and free safety Luke Meckler has reeled in a team-high three interceptions. Other notables include defensive back Thomas Burns, the speedy younger brother of Steelers DB Artie Burns. Senior Kenny White, a transfer from West Allegheny, is another shutdown defensive back.
Playing on their own home turf, North Allegheny is looking to pull off the upset against the high-powered Rams. The Tigers would prefer to control the football with an offense that averages 37 points per game. Senior quarterback Luke Trueman leads NA in rushing with 788 yards, followed by senior tailback Turner White who was rushed for 758 yards and a team-best 11 touchdowns. A good change of pace option, junior Ben Maenza has toted the ball for 439 yards and seven scores. Through the air, Trueman has 1,055 yards passing and 12 touchdowns to six interceptions. Senior wideout John Vardzel has hauled in 18 passes for 381 yards and six touchdowns.
On defense, North Allegheny permits 16 points per game which is third best in Class 6A. Junior linebacker Dante Caputo is tops in tackles with 51 stops and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Alex Hays, Ethan Augustine and Brennan McCauley are the team leaders in sacks with three apiece. Junior ball hawk Joey Porter Jr. has five interceptions to pace the Tigers.
The last meeting between North Allegheny and Pine-Richland was a 47-10 road victory for the Tigers in the 2016 regular season finale. Jurkovec didn’t play in the game due to injury. NA’s Ethan Maenza accounted for 300 yards of total offense and six touchdowns to spearhead the victory for the Tigers.
Tonight’s game is set for a 7:06 p.m. kickoff at Newman Stadium. The game will be broadcast live by the North Allegheny Sports Network, with the pregame show getting underway at 6:40 p.m. To listen to tonight’s game, click here.
Riding the wave of a five-game winning streak, the North Allegheny Tigers (6-2) host the Hempfield Spartans (1-7) tonight at Newman Stadium in a non-conference clash. The Tigers clinched a playoff berth out of the Northern Seven Conference with a 49-14 victory at Seneca Valley last week. The Spartans have lost seven in a row and recently dropped a 42-27 decision to Penn Hills last Friday.
Hempfield opened the season with a 49-21 triumph over Greensburg Salem in a week zero contest but have since lost every game. The Spartans offense has been formidable, averaging 25 points per game and is led by senior quarterback Justin Sliwoski. Receiving attention from Patriot League and Ivy League schools, Sliwoski is a strong-armed pocket passer who threw for over 2,000 yards last season and 18 touchdowns on his way to first-team All-Big 56 Conference honors. Sliwoski missed two weeks earlier in the season due to injury but has since played well and has amassed 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns. His top weapon in the passing game is senior tight end Braden Brose who has hauled in 42 passes for 589 yards and six scores. Brose was also a first-team all-conference pick a year ago.
Hempfield’s struggles this season has not been on offense but instead on defense with a unit that permits 37 points per game, third most in Class 6A. North Allegheny will try to exploit the Spartans defense with an offense that averages 34 points per game. The maestro in the Tigers’ offensive orchestra is senior quarterback Luke Trueman who has passed for 967 yards and 10 touchdowns. Trueman has also rushed for 637 yards and four touchdowns this season, posting a 136-yard effort against Seneca Valley last week. North Allegheny’s leading rusher is senior tailback Turner White with 660 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior John Vardzel is the top receiver with 17 catches for 350 yards and five scores.
The North Allegheny defense has posted back-to-back five turnover performances and has allowed just 15 points per game. The top tackler for the Tigers is junior Dante Caputo with 45 stops and two sacks. Senior linebacker Alex Hays leads the unit in sacks with three, to go along with 36 tackles. In the secondary, Joey Porter Jr. has pirated five enemy passes, including a three-interception performance last week against Seneca Valley.
The last meeting between North Allegheny and Hempfield occurred in the WPIAL quarterfinals last season and ended with a Tigers victory, 42-7. Turner White rushed 101 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the way for NA.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Newman Stadium. The game will be broadcast live via the internet on the North Allegheny Sports Network. The pregame show gets underway at 7:10 p.m. and will feature a pregame interview with Tigers head coach Art Walker. You can listen to tonight’s broadcast by clicking here.
Winners of four in a row, the North Allegheny Tigers (5-2) look to make it five straight with a visit to Seneca Valley (1-5) tonight to take on the Raiders at NexTier Stadium. The Tigers split their two meetings with the Raiders last season, beating SV 49-14 in the regular season but dropping a heartbreaking 28-27 decision in the WPIAL semifinals. The semifinal contest was decided on the final play of the game by a blocked extra point.
North Allegheny would love to earn a measure of revenge for last year’s playoff defeat and will face a Raiders team that is much better than their 1-5 record would indicate. Seneca Valley has played tough with some of the top teams in Class 6A, including an eight-point loss to third-ranked Central Catholic in week four.
Seneca Valley is led by head coach Ron Butchle who is in his second stint with the Raiders. Butchle coached SV from 2004-2008 and was the offensive coordinator under Dave Vestal the past two seasons. Butchle’s squad is paced on offense by quarterback Gabe Lawson who has passed for 655 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Lawson is also the team’s leading rusher with 254 yards and four scores. Defensively, the linebacking corps of Gabe Miller, Jake Stebbins and Saige Ley is a strength for the team. Miller was a 1st-Team All-Conference selection last season and was the player who blocked the extra point against NA in the WPIAL semifinals last November.
North Allegheny is coming off a dominant defensive performance during a 27-16 win against Penn Hills. The Tigers defense forced five turnovers, including two interceptions by Joey Porter Jr. The NA defense has permitted only 15 points per game this season and is led by junior linebacker Dante Caputo with 42 tackles. Senior Alex Hays has a team-best three sacks and posted an interception last week as well.
The Tigers offense is facilitated by senior quarterback Luke Trueman who has passed for 874 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, Trueman has rushed for 501 yards and two more scores. The rushing attack is spearheaded by Turner White and his team-leading 581 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior receiver John Vardzel is the top target in the passing game with 15 receptions for 312 yards and four touchdowns.
Kickoff for tonight’s game between North Allegheny and Seneca Valley is slated for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live by the North Allegheny Sports Network with the pregame show getting underway at 7:10 p.m. To listen to tonight’s broadcast, click here.
The North Allegheny Tigers (3-2) take to the road for the second straight week for a non-section clash with the high-powered Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils. The Tigers sit in third place in the Northern Seven Conference with a 2-1 conference mark following back-to-back blowouts of Shaler and Butler. Meanwhile, Mt. Lebanon is a perfect 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference and in first place, a half-game ahead of Bethel Park.
After a hard-fought game and defeat to Central Catholic in week two, the Tigers bounced back with two straight victories in conference play. Senior running back Turner White has led the charge with three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and has churned up a team-high 507 yards on the season and six touchdowns. Junior tailback Ben Maenza has provided a terrific change-of-pace and also has six scores to go along with 202 yards on the year. Look for the Tigers to utilize the ground game, which includes quarterback Luke Trueman and his 307 rushing yards, to control the clock and keep the football away from Mt. Lebanon.
The Blue Devils possess a quick-strike offense that runs plays at a hurried pace and averages 35.8 points per game, second best in Class 6A. The top threat in the offense is senior receiver Aiden Cain who has already amassed over 1,000 yards on 56 receptions. Finally healthy, Cain is one of the top receivers statistically in the nation after battling through two ACL injuries over the last two years. His 27 catch, 350-yard performance against Pine-Richland in week one set a new state record in both statistical categories.
The facilitator in the Mt. Lebanon offense is senior quarterback James Stocker who appears fully recovered from a torn tendon in his knee suffered while playing pickup basketball in the offseason. Stocker has passed for 637 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. His backup, Seth Morgan, saw the majority of the snaps in the early weeks of the season and has passed for 869 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception. Both QB’s are viable options in the passing game no matter who is in the contest. Anchoring the tailback position is senior Antonio LaSota who has gained 421 yards and three touchdowns on 80 carries.
Defensively, Mt. Lebanon has permitted 22.2 points per game, sixth most in Class 6A. Safety Michael Palmer leads the Blue Devils in tackles with 31. Senior lineman Coleman Coco is tops in sacks with four. North Allegheny has allowed only 12.6 points per game, second best in the Northern Seven Conference and third stingiest overall in Class 6A. The Tigers leading tackler is junior Dante Caputo who has 38 stops and two sacks on the year.
Kickoff for tonight’s game between North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon is slated for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live by the North Allegheny Sports Network, with the pregame show getting underway at 7:10 p.m. You can listen to tonight’s game by clicking here.
The North Allegheny Sports Network will provide a pay-per-view video stream of tonight’s Northern Seven Conference clash between the North Allegheny Tigers(2-2) and the Butler Golden Tornado (1-2). The live pay-per-view video stream is $8.00 and can be seen by clicking this link.
The Tigers are coming off a 55-7 blowout win over the Shaler Titans last week. Senior running back Turner White posted a game-high 124 yards on just five carries and two touchdowns in the victory. It was the second-straight 100-yard effort by White. For video highlights of last week’s win, see below.
Butler, who hasn’t had a winning season since 1997, was shutout by Seneca Valley last Friday night, 35-0. The Golden Tornado are led by senior multi-purpose back Luke Michalek who has rushed for 202 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. The pregame show on the North Allegheny Sports Network gets underway at 7:10 p.m. and includes a pregame interview with Tigers head coach Art Walker.
The North Allegheny Tigers (1-2) are eying their first conference win on Friday night with a home contest against winless Shaler (0-3) at Newman Stadium. The Tigers are coming off a hard-fought loss to No. 2-ranked Central Catholic last week, 14-7. Shaler dropped its 17th consecutive game in week two with a 27-7 defeat to the Norwin Knights.
The 17 straight losses for Shaler is the longest current losing streak in the WPIAL. This comes after the Titans ended a 34-game losing streak with a 30-20 victory over Butler during the 2015 season. Shaler’s last victory came against Fox Chapel, 14-9, on October 9, 2015.
Faced with the task of rebuilding the Shaler program is first-year head coach Jim Ryan. Ryan is a former player and middle school football coach at Shaler who also played collegiately at Slippery Rock University. Ryan, who graduated in 2000 from Shaler, played on the Titans only team to win a section title in 1998 under former head coach Frank Rocco. For Ryan, progress can’t be measure in wins and losses but in strides that are made by his players each week. The Titans certainly displayed a strong desire and improved fundamentals in last week’s game against Norwin. Shaler played to a 7-7 tie at halftime until the Knights took control in the second half.
Providing a nucleus to build around are running backs Jake Pollak and Joey Kramer. The junior duo has combined for 271 yards rushing so far this season and saw significant playing time as sophomores last year. Starters on defense as well, look for Kramer and Pollak to make some plays during the coarse of the 2017 season.
For North Allegheny, the approach against Shaler is the same as it is against any other team and that is to play fundamental football and capture a victory. The Tigers turned the ball over three times in the first half against Central Catholic last week and that is certainly an area that head coach Art Walker wants to see addressed on Friday night.
Minus a couple big plays, the Tigers defense performed extremely well against the Vikings. Junior linebacker Dante Caputo led NA with nine tackles last week and owns a team-best 21 stops on the season. Sophomore defensive back Luke Collella grabbed the defense’s first interception of the season and junior Ethan Augustine corralled a Vikings turnover by recovering a fumble.
On offense, running back Turner White delivered his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season with 161 yards and a score against Central Catholic. On the season, White leads the team with 237 yards rushing and averages 5.3 yards per carry. Quarterback Luke Trueman has passed for 335 yards on the year and rushed for 210 yards, combining for three total touchdowns. The leading receiver for NA is senior John Vardzell who has hauled in seven passes for 98 yards.
Kickoff for Friday’s contest between North Allegheny and Shaler is slated for 7:30 p.m. from Newman Stadium. The game will be broadcast live via the internet on the North Allegheny Sports Network with the pregame show getting underway at 7:10 p.m. The pregame show will include an interview with head coach Art Walker. To listen to the game, click here.
The North Allegheny Tigers (1-1) look to bounce back from a week one loss to Bethel Park with a home contest against conference rival Central Catholic (1-1) tonight at Newman Stadium. The Tigers fell to the Black Hawks last week in non-conference play, 35-15, but are hungry to face the reigning Class 6A champions this evening. The Vikings, meanwhile, rebounded nicely from a 40-7 defeat to a strong Cathedral Prep team in week zero with a 49-0 waxing of the Shaler Titans last Friday. Along with last year’s WPIAL crown, Central Catholic has won three WPIAL titles in the last four seasons.
The Vikings lost 17 starters from last year’s championship team and entered the 2017 campaign as a much younger squad than in recent years. However, Central Catholic still boasts several players with Division-I talent and an experienced field general at quarterback. Senior Troy Fisher is a three-year starter at the position and has committed to play collegiately at Lafayette College in the Patriot League. A pro-style quarterback, Fisher has thrown for 330 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions so far this season. Fisher is coming off a junior season in which he threw for almost 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns, to go along with 571 yards rushing and 12 more scores.
In addition to Fisher, another Viking that has received some headlines is senior fullback and defensive lineman, David Green. Green is headed to the University of Pittsburgh next season where he’s tabbed to play on the defensive front. Senior receiver and defensive back Khalil Weathers is drawing Division I interest and will be another player to keep an eye on tonight. Central Catholic is coached by Terry Totten who is in his 13th season leading the Vikings and boasts a head coaching record of 148-22.
North Allegheny head coach Art Walker is in his 13th season leading the Tigers and previsously spent time as Central Catholic’s head coach from 1998-2004. With a career record of 180-54 with five WPIAL titles and three state crowns, Walker and the Tigers would like to add another important victory to the win column tonight against a familiar foe.
Senior quarterback Luke Trueman continues to develop and is the Tigers team leader in passing and rushing. Trueman has thrown for 228 yards and two touchdowns, and has rushed for 143 yards and one score. Running back Ben Maenza has toted the football 13 times for 84 yards and three touchdowns, while backfield mate Turner White has gained 76 yards and one touchdown. At receiver, John Vardzel leads the team with seven catches for 98 yards. Junior wideout Joey Porter Jr. has hauled in six passes for 83 yards with all of his production coming in last week’s game against Bethel Park. On defense, linebacker Dante Caputo is the leading tackler with 15 stops and one sack. Seniors Josh Sanders and Alex Hays have 12 tackles each, followed by middle linebacker Ryan Langdon who has 10 tackles.
Central Catholic has won four of the last five meetings with North Allegheny, including a 55-14 victory in week two last season. North Allegheny’s lone win in that span is a 24-17 triumph over the Vikings on September 18, 2015 at Newman Stadium.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. The North Allegheny Sports Network will provide an audio broadcast of the game with the pregame show slated for 7:10 p.m., including an interview with NA head coach Art Walker. Randy Gore and Rick Meister will have the call. To listen to tonight’s broadcast, click here.
Following a dominating victory over Morgantown at the Western Pennsylvania Football Classic, the North Allegheny Tigers (1-0) will take on a familiar WPIAL opponent with a visit to Bethel Park to play the Black Hawks. Electing to participate in a scrimmage last week rather than play a Week Zero game, the Black Hawks will be playing in their season opener on Friday night. This interconference matchup between the Tigers and Black Hawks will be video streamed live from Bethel Park via pay-per-view ($8.00) by the North Allegheny Sports Network. If you can’t make it to the game, you can watch the contest by clicking here.
Led by longtime head coach Jeff Metheny, the Black Hawks have been known for their consistency and fundamentally sound football. Entering his 24th season as head coach, Metheny has guided Bethel Park to 18 playoff appearances and a WPIAL title in 2008. Bethel Park is coming off a 5-5 season a year ago which ended with a quarterfinal round exit to Pine-Richland, 35-32. The season finale was a microcosm of the entire season for Bethel Park as it took a last-second field goal by the Rams to claim victory. Bethel Park lost four games last season by a touchdown or less, bringing to reality the fine line that exists between winning and losing. One of those losses was a week one defeat to North Allegheny, 21-14, in which the Tigers broke a 14-14 deadlock with a rushing touchdown by Michael Pope with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter.
While there are some question marks at the skill positions, there’s little doubt that the strength of the 2017 Black Hawks will be the line of scrimmage. Bethel Park returns all five starters on the offensive line, headlined by WVU recruit James Gmiter at tackle. Joining Gmiter at tackle is Connor Wholey who is being recruited by Ivy League schools. Guard Gavin Vargesko can bench press 330 pounds and fellow guard Dan Kwiatkoski is the younger brother of Nick Kwiatkoski who currently plays linebacker for the Chicago Bears. At center is senior Liam Williams and David Opferman is a returning starter at tight end.
Clearly the line of scrimmage is expected to be a focal point for Bethel Park on a weekly basis, but who will operate behind the line is still a mystery. A spirited preseason battle at quarterback has ensued between senior Carmen Esposito, junior Luke Surunis and sophomore Anthony Chicitt. Whoever gets the start under center on Friday night will try to replace southpaw quarterback Cole Rodgers who performed admirably last season. The most experienced skill player for Bethel Park is senior John Doleno who rushed for 265 yards and caught 15 passes for 259 receiving yards. Doleno was used as a slotback last season and scored four total touchdowns. Bethel Park will need to make up the offensive production left behind by former running back Terron Murphy who posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons over the last two years.
If there were any question marks about the North Allegheny quarterback position heading into last week’s game, senior Luke Trueman turned those question marks into exclamation points with a fabulous debut in his first varsity start. Trueman keyed the 45-0 rout of Morgantown with 165 yards passing, 56 yards rushing and three total touchdowns en route to Wright Automotive Player of the Game honors. Last week’s contest was a complete victory for the Tigers with the defense limiting Morgantown to only 83 total yards of offense and just five first downs. The shutout was NA’s first since posting a 49-0 whitewash at Shaler on September 19, 2016. Senior Alex Hays was the top tackler against Morgantown with six stops and one sack. The NA special teams chipped in as well courtesy of a Joey Porter Jr. 46-yard punt return touchdown.
Kickoff for North Allegheny’s non-conference battle with Bethel Park is slated for 7:30 p.m. in the south hills. The game will be broadcast and video streamed live by the North Allegheny Sports Network. Randy Gore and Rick Meister will have the call.
The North Allegheny punished the Morgantown Mohigans to open the Western Pennsylvania Legends Football Classic on Friday, August 25. Video highlights are below:
Wright Field at Newman Stadium played host to three additional games at the Football Classic on Saturday, August 26. Highlights from our live video stream on the North Allegheny Sports Network are below:
The North Allegheny Athletic Department is excited to announce that all three football games on Saturday, August 26 at the Western Pennsylvania Legends Football Classic will be video streamed live on a Pay-Per-View basis. Each game can be viewed at a $10 cost. Broadcast links are provided below next to each game preview.
South Side vs. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart – 12:00 p.m. – CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO
Saturday’s first contest matches up a pair of playoff teams from 2016. The South Side Rams are looking to return to the postseason for the fourth consecutive season out of Class AA’s Midwestern Conference but will need to retool following the graduation of several key pieces to last year’s playoff puzzle. Second-year head coach Luke Travelpiece will look to two-way lineman Jake Navarra for senior leadership. Navarra is in his third year as a team captain and will try to steer the Rams’ ship on the front lines. The running game will have to move on after the graduation of 1,300-yard rusher A.J. Crider who is now at Toledo. His younger brother, Jaelen Crider, seems poised for a breakout campaign and could be a big source of offense for South Side.
After posting a combined 1-17 record from 2014-2015, the 2016 OLSH squad charged to a 7-2 regular season and an appearance in the WPIAL playoffs out of Class A’s Big Seven Conference. Unlike South Side, there will be a wealth of experience returning for second-year head coach Dan Bradley. Back at quarterback is the head coaches’ son, Tyler Bradley, who threw for almost 2,400 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. Also returning is junior RB/DB Austin Wigley who posted 624 yards rushing, 88 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. Tyler Bradley and Wigley help comprise a deep talent pool for the Chargers this season. Last year’s postseason appearance was the first in the short seven-year history of OLSH football and is a big reason for optimism heading into season number eight for the Chargers.
Frazier vs. McGuffey – 3:30 pm – CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO STREAM
The second game of the day is a rematch from last year’s inaugural Western Pennsylvania Legends Football Classic as the Frazier Commodores take on the McGuffey Highlanders. A season ago, McGuffey outlasted Frazier for a 38-28 victory at Newman Stadium. The victory propelled the Highlanders to a 3-1 start to the season. However, devastating injuries and losses in four of its last six games denied McGuffey a playoff spot in Class AAA’s Interstate Conference.
Despite losing starting quarterback and 1,000-yard rusher Marcus Czulewicz to graduation, McGuffey returns seven starters on offense and nine on defense, including lineman Marko Olivarez and linebacker Chase Miller who head coach Ed Dalton describes as “legit Division I recruits.” A member of the McGuffey track & field team, Olivarez finished second in the shot put at the WPIAL Class AA championship. Running back Christian Clutter is the top returning skill player who was the second-leading rusher and receiver, posting a combined 561 yards and seven touchdowns.
Frazier’s course in 2016 ran in contrast to McGuffey’s. Getting off to a sluggish 2-4 start, the Commodores rebounded and used a three-game winning streak to reach the playoffs out of Class AA’s Century Conference. Brentwood ultimately ended Frazier’s run in the WPIAL first round but the late-season surge has provided some momentum heading into this season. There are five returning starters on offense for the Commodores, including multi-purpose back J.D. Celaschi. Celaschi was the second-leading receiver last year with 41 catches for 647 yards and six touchdowns and is the favorite to take over at quarterback for grad Chris Pierce.
Penn Hills vs. Plum – 7:00 pm – CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO STREAM
The nightcap of Saturday’s tripleheader pits the Penn Hills Indians against the Plum Mustangs. Both teams missed the playoffs last season in their respective classifications but there is much optimism for both teams entering Week Zero.
For Class 6A Penn Hills, the game signifies the dawn of a new era of Indians football with the arrival of first-year head coach Jon LeDonne. After spending the past three seasons as the head coach at Shaler, LeDonne inherits a talent-rich roster from former head coach John Peterman who departed to become the Athletic Director at Kiski Area High School. LeDonne’s offense will be spearheaded by two top-flight Division I recruits. Quarterback Hollis Mathis has big shoes to fill in taking over for 2,300-yard passer Cam Tarrant, but he’s already gaining the attention of major colleges and received an offer from Howard in May. Mathis will have the luxury of throwing to Michigan State recruit Julian Major who reeled in 31 passes for 433 yards and seven scores a season ago.
After an injury-riddled 2-7 season, the Plum Mustangs are hoping to get back to the playoffs out of Class 5A’s Big East Conference. The Mustangs reached the postseason in 2014 and 2015 and have playoff aspirations this year because of a senior-laden roster. Considered a major strength for Plum entering the year is an experienced offensive line that includes Nic Florek, Nick Stitt, Aaron Shefler, Mike Giannuzzi and Mike Jones. This offensive front will pave the way for a hard-charging rushing attack that features senior tailback Corey Thomas and fullback Dakota Sunday. Thomas’ propensity to run with physicality shouldn’t be surprising to opponents considering he was an All-Big 56 Conference selection at linebacker in 2016. Head coach Matt Morgan, a former University of Pittsburgh and St. Louis Rams offensive lineman, also enjoys churning out yardage on the ground if possible.
The North Allegheny Tigers open the 2017 season on Friday night against the Morgantown Mohigans at Newman Stadium. The contest is not only the season opener for the Tigers but also the kickoff to this weekend’s Western Pennsylvania Legends Football Classic. Along with the NA vs. Morgantown game, there will be three additional contests played on Saturday. (Click here for a preview of the three Saturday games at the Western Pennsylvania Legends Football Classic.)
Following a 9-3 season and appearance in the WPIAL semifinals, the Tigers are eager to build upon their efforts from last season. There will be several new faces in the starting lineup, including quarterback Luke Trueman who takes over for the 2016 Class 6A Player of the Year, Ethan Maenza. Trueman’s older brother, Riley, also played QB at North Allegheny and Luke should be well-groomed to trigger the offense. An all-conference selection on the baseball diamond, Trueman possesses the strong arm and athleticism necessary to play quarterback for the Tigers.
Trueman will have plenty of talented surrounding him and two new explosive receivers to throw to. Senior John Varzdel is a transfer from Wando High School in South Carolina and already has an offer from Georgetown. Junior wideout Joey Porter Jr. is a transfer from North Catholic who bears the name of his father who played linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is currently the Steelers outside linebackers coach. Along with Varzdell and Porter Jr., the Tigers return veteran receivers Jack Potts and Corey Melzer.
At running back, Turner White will carry the load and proved that he is more than capable with ball in his hands during the 2016 playoffs. White rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns against Hempfield in the WPIAL quarterfinals and toted the football for 130 yards and a score against Seneca Valley in the WPIAL semifinals. White will look for rushing lanes behind the offensive lineman Derek Devine (University of Virginia commit), Dylan Wall, Ian Truesdell, Jack Graham and Elijah Boyd. Matt Sanfilippo and Quinn Rodak could also rotate into the lineup. Tight ends Brennan McCauley and Canyon Tuman, son of former Steelers tight end Jerame Tuman, bring a wealth of experience and muscle to the position.
On defense, the starting linemen on Friday night will consistent of Tuman, Wall, McCauley and King Gildon, son of former Steelers linebacker Jason Gildon. The linebackers will be led by Ryan Langdon who finished second on the team in tackles last season with 63 stops and added five sacks and a pick six. Langdon will be joined by starting outside linebackers Alex Hays and Dante Caputo. At defensive back, Melzer, Porter Jr., Nikko Rankin and Josh Sanders will anchor as starters in the secondary. Sanders is the most experienced returnee in the secondary and posted 37 tackles and an interception a year ago.
In the kicking game, Trueman will serve as NA’s punter for the second straight year while Dom Falo and Isaac West will compete for time as placekicker. The Tigers are coached by Art Walker Jr. who enters his 13th year of coaching the black and gold. Overall, Walker is in his 21st year and boasts a record of 179-53 with five WPIAL titles and three state championships.
The Tigers enter the year ranked No. 6 in the state in Class 6A. Playing in the powerful Northern Seven Conference, things won’t be easy and a tough tune-up game against Morgantown will prove important to prepare for the season ahead.
The Mohigans of Morgantown are coming off a 10-3 campaign and a semifinal appearance in the West Virginia State playoffs. The 2017 Mohigans will have little resemblance to the team that reached the state semifinals. Twenty-three seniors graduated from last year’s squad, and along with them, 90-percent of the team’s offensive production. On top of that, last season’s starting quarterback, Logan Holgerson, transferred to a Baltimore prep school in the offseason.
Morgantown will look to carry on its proud football tradition with an abundance of new starters and will turn to junior Aaron Alvarez at the quarterback position. Alvarez has already received praise as the new starter and performed well in the team’s scrimmage against Laurel Highlands last week. The most experienced offensive skill player is slot receiver Alajuan Robinson who hauled in 18 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown last season.
On defense, the Mohigans boast a hard-hitting middle linebacker in senior Cole Streyle. Adding muscle in the offseason, Streyle has been called a “weight-room warrior” by the coaching staff and hopes to build on a junior season that saw him make 38 tackles to go along with one sack and an interception. Additional leadership will be provided by senior Javohn Moore at free safety. Moore led Morgantown with 68 tackles in 2016 and collected two interceptions and three forced three fumbles.
Morgantown is led by second-year head coach Matt Lacy, the sixth head coach in program history. Lacy graduated from MHS in 1995 and joined the coaching staff in 1999 at the age of 21. After many years as an assistant, Lacy took over as head coach last season and installed a new spread offense, getting away from the old Wing-T offense the team had been using prior. The team continues to utilize a 3-4 look on defense.
Kickoff for the season opener between North Allegheny and Morgantown is set for 7:30 p.m. The contest will be broadcast live via the internet on the North Allegheny Sports Network with the pregame shot getting underway at 7:10 p.m. Randy Gore and Rick Meister will have the call. Click here to listen to the broadcast.
Tickets for Friday night’s game are $9 for adult reserved seats, $8 for adult general admission, and $5 for students. Tickets for Saturday are $8 for adults and $5 for students. All Saturday tickets are general admission and are good for all three games.
The Classic is partnering with Transitional Paths to Independent Living (TRPIL), a non-profit organization that aids people with disabilities to live in a manner they choose in a location that they also choose. TRPIL will receive a portion of the proceeds from the event.
The kickoff to the 2017 season is a little more than a month away and North Allegheny senior Derek Devine has announced that he’ll play college football at the University of Virginia. Devine made the decision public in late June via Twitter and wrote, “I am proud to announce that I am 100% committed to the University of Virginia!! #hoosrising18.” The 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman chose the Cavaliers over offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo and Eastern Kentucky.
After starting his junior season at right tackle, Devine will again be one of the anchors on the O-Line for what should be a strong North Allegheny football team this fall. A dual-sport athlete, Devine is also an outstanding grappler for the North Allegheny wrestling team. Last season, Devine captured a Section 3-AAA individual championship at 285 pounds and posted a record of 31-19.
Devine and the North Allegheny football team will open the 2017 season on August 25 against Morgantown (WV) at home at 7:30 p.m. The contest will be the opening game for the second annual Western Pennsylvania Legends Football Classic to be held at Wright Field at Newman Stadium.
(For a video of Devine’s junior year highlights, see below.)