Thursday, November 15, 2007

City Championship Preview

One school has been to the City Championship football game five out the last six years, and between 1978 and 1988 won 7 City Titles. Since then this team has gone 18 years without hoisting the trophy. The other school has won over 300 City League championships in 17 boys and girls sports since 1927, but has won the Championships in football only once and that was forty years ago. Since then they have been to the title game once in 2000 only to lose to the Perry Commodores.

This Thursday on the scruffy, muddy turf of Heinz Field, one school's streak of futility will be broken while the other will have to wait for at least one more year for satisfaction. To the majority of the football fans in Western PA, the Pittsburgh City League Championship football game is just a district championship. One of ten that are being settled in November. But to the fans of the nine schools that make up the City League, this game is the culmination of a season's sacrifice of blood,sweat, and tears starting in training camp in August continuing through the regular season and playoff matchups at the George on Thursdays, Fridays, ahd Saturdays, and culminating on the field where most of the players watch their hometown heroes do battle on Sunday afternoons. The winner earns the greatest honor in Pittsburgh high school sports...City Champion.

Coming out of Beechview in Pittsburgh's South Hills, the undefeated John A. Brashear Bulls are the heavy favorite to win their first City Championship in football since 1988. The Bulls have a load of talent at the skill positions. They can throw and run the ball equally well. They have speed and quickness. While they are not the most disciplined team that has come out of the City League, they have been able to overcome that shortfall with sheer D1 level talent. They have not been tested in the City League all season. They have outscored their league opponents 342-47. The Bulls have 5 mercy rule victories and 3 shutouts. The closest any City team has come to challenging them was 13 points. They enter this game as a result of a 62-14 beating of the upstart Carrick Raiders. Jermaine Robinson passed the ball for 195 yds and 2 passes for touchdowns. They scored off three Carrick turnovers. The Bulls were up on Carrick 47-6 at halftime.

The Taylor Allderdice Dragons hail from the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh's East End. They own the longest streak without a City Championship in football at 40 years. They do not have the speed of Brashear. They can run the ball, but passing is a different story. They are undersized. But what this team lacks in physical attributes, they more than make up in heart and guts. This team is built around of a core of seniors who started as soon as they came to Allderdice as freshmen and have started every game since. They have improved every year in the last four years, their coach Don Schmidt came in at the same time as these freshmen and molded this team into a unit that has more heart and fire than any previous Dragon team that the Advocate has seen. They have bought into Schmidt's philosophy of total team effort. This Dragon team is completely unselfish. They don't care who gets the credit as long as they win. The aren't afraid to hit people and can play smashmouth football with anyone. The Dragons have put up impressive number of their own. They have scored 40 or more points in three of their last five games and have put up 40 or more points 4 times this season. They are second in the City League in offense and defense scoring only 23 points less than Brashear against league opponents (276-253) They have three running backs that have over 400 yds rushing each. Joe Short has rushed for 444 yds in the last three games and scored 13 touchdowns over that span, and has rushed for over 1,000 yds for the second consecutive season. He may only be 5' 7", and 170 lbs but he's not afraid to pound the ball up the middle. He is the fastest back in the City League and is almost impossible to catch in the open field. The 'Dice will rely on Short heavily in this game. Allderdice beat #2 ranked Schenley 16-15 on a Short touchdown with five minutes left in the game and a superb defensive effort to earn this title shot.

The Advocate's Keys to the Game:

To win, Brashear must:

1. Take advantage of their speed and height advantage and throw over the Dragons pass defense.
2. Not expect to run well against the Dragon run D which is the best in the City.
3. Stack up 7-8 men in the box to run against Short.

Allderdice must...

1. Take advantage of their 6' 6" tight end Will Clark to supplement the passing game.
2. Try and run Short to the outside more often where his speed can be a factor.
3. Not be dazzled by playing at Heinz Field or for playing for the City Championship. Play with reckless abandon.

Another factor will be the turf at Heinz Field. The middle of the field is pretty chewed up, Neither team has much experience on grass this season. Brashear played all of its games including the non league games at the George, which is artificial turf. Allderdice played one non-league game on grass at Brooke, and the other on the turf at West Mifflin. but at the same time, both teams practice on grass. However, because Brashear has played five title games at Heinz during the '00s they will have the small advantage such knowledge can afford. The weather forecast for Thursday evening calls for 30% chance of rain, and a high in the low 40's, and a low in the low 30's. The middle of the field could slow down both team's running games, but will especially affect Allderdice because of their reliance on toting the pig.

Predictions.

Your City League Advocate went 2-0 last week and is now 47-8 for the season.

Thursday November 15
7:00pm

Allderdice(7-4) vs Brashear(11-0)
All the pressure is on Brashear. They were the league favorites at the beginning of the season predicted to go to Heinz Field by all the pundits, Your City League Advocate included. They have won every game, most convincingly. For them to lose ther title for a sixth time in seven years would mark them as the ultimate chokers. Allderdice has absolutely nothing to lose. They were expected to make the playoffs, but not get to Heinz Field. No one except the 40 guys in the green helmets and white jersies expects the Dragons to win. The last time these two teams played, Brashear beat the 'Dice 32-6. The Advocate, while a proud Allderdice alum who has watched this team in person six times this season, knows that the Dragons are the prohibitive underdogs. He predicts that Brashear will be hoisting the hardware at about 10 pm Thursday night, but he hopes to hell that he's wrong. Allderdice will have to play the game of their lives and hope that Brashear has a complete meltdown. Either way, the Advocate tips his hat to the 2007 Dragons win or lose. They are a helluva team, and they will get that elusive City Title if not this year, very, very soon. Brashear by 10