This is a weekly thing I do for a little Internet sports forum out of Western PA called the PA Sportsboard
I'm a fan of the high school football played by the schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, of which I'm a proud graduate. The Pittsburgh City League has been playing football since 1918, and has had thousands of players go one to play college football and more than a few go on to the NFL. These days the City League has a hard time competing against the better funded, organized and supported schools in the surrounding WPIAL which encompasses the League and includes all private and parochial schools in the City as well as all suburban public schools. I've always believed that the City League does not get the media attention it deserves, and I try in my own small way to get the League more coverage. One of the things I do is to provide the Sportsboard with a weekly preview of the current weeks games as well as a preseason preview and also playoff coverage. This is my season preview for the 2007 football season.
In a year where there is so much controversy in sports from alleged dog-fighting quarterbacks to alleged steroid enhanced home run kings to alleged mobbed up NBA referees, it's good to be able to concentrate on a sport that still has an image of purity and wholesomeness even though below the surface, the nastiness of pro and college sports has started to dig its hooks into this great institution.
From questionable transfers for "academic" intent to the supposed advantage of private and parochial schools in attracting players, to the hundreds of meat market websites touting the hottest college bound recruits, when you get right down to it, high school football even with all its problems is still about one thing: representing your community, school, and tribe. Putting on your schools colors, hearing your schools fight songs, running out onto the field to the screams of your fans. Hearing all the old guys in the diner on Monday morning second guessing the coach on why he ran a sweep on 3rd and 3 on the 30 yd line with 30 seconds to go in the game, down by three when the underneath pass was open all night long. Few things bind the disparate elements of a community together better than watching their champions doing battle on the field.
With that, it is the pleasure of Your City League Advocate to once again put forth his annual City League Preview for the 2007 season. Last season, the Oliver Bears won their first City League championship in 64 years. The perennial runner-up Brashear Bulls once again traveled to Heinz Field only to see another team raise the trophy. The Perry Commodores were upset in the semifinals to miss out on the title chase for the first time in seven years. This will be a season full of intrigue, and The Advocate will be along to capture all of it.
The 89th campaign of Pittsburgh City League football will begin on Friday August 31 with eight of the nine City teams in action against teams from the WPIAL and other PA, West Virginia, and Ohio teams.
Friday August 31
Allderdice @ WestMifflin 7:30pm
Carrick @ Hopewell 7:30pm
Leechburg @ Langley 7pm
Oliver @ Springdale 7:30pm
Schenley @ Fairview 7:30pm
Westinghouse @ Rochester 7:30pm
Saturday September 1
Erie Cathedral Prep @ Perry 3:30pm
Keystone Oaks @ Brashear 7pm
After making the playoffs in 2004 and 2005, the Dragons slipped to 3-7 last year and were out of the playoff chase by mid season. This year's 'Dice squad is determined to make amends and they have the studs to do it this year. The Green Hats are loaded with seniors and they are expected to provide the needed leadership to get this team into playoff contention. Coach Don Schmidt is throwing out the sputtering spread offense that resulted in the Dragons scoring 6 points or less in 5 of the 10 games, and is going back to old school City League football...toting the pig. And they have the man that can do it in All-City senior running back Joe Short who rushed for 1,000 yards last season. Fullback Don Fickley will also be carrying the ball as well as blocking for Short. The Dragons have a lot of battle tested beef on the offensive line in All-City offensive guard David Yancy and Jahlil Jones at center. Both of these young men have been starters since they walked onto the Allderdice campus as freshmen. Senior quarterback Chris Picoli will be expected to lead this team and must cut down on the mental mistakes if the Dragons are to have any success this season. The early season schedule is a mixed bag. After the lid-lifter against West Mifflin, the Dragons open City League play against the defending City Champion Oliver Bears, and two weeks later perennial powerhouse Perry will take on the Dragons. Your City League Advocate can see his Dragons making the playoffs if the running game succeeds and this group of seniors can step up and take charge.
For five of the last six years, the Brashear Bulls have made the short trip from Brookline across the West End Bridge to Heinz Field to contest for the City League title only to see that trophy hoisted by another team, usually Perry. And The Advocate has always said to anyone who'd listen that DaBulls will one day win the title. Well folks, jot this one down on your wrist in ink and carve it into your forehead with a number 9 chisel, for this Bulls team is the real deal. The Advocate will go out on a limb and state categorically that the 2007 City League Champions will be the Bulls from Brookline. This is the strongest Brashear team in a long time, and they will depend on the Terrific Trio of wide receivers of Ed Tinker, Quamane Bryant, and QB/ Safety Jermaine Bryant. All three of these guys are legit Div 1. recruits, and according to Rivals.com, Tinker is the second ranked receiver in the state. Eric Hemmingway will also fill out this rich stable of ball catchers. DaBulls will have a robust offensive line anchored by 305 pound center Andrew Moore, and the twin Wetzel brothers, Dave and John at 260 apiece. Look for balls to be flying all over the George this season when the Bulls are playing. The early schedule favors the Bulls after the home opener against Keystone Oaks, Schenley, Peabody, and Carrick will provide the appetizers for the big annual battle against Perry.
There's not much to say about the Carrick Raiders. This is a team that only scored one touchdown in the first four games of the season and only close wins against cellarmates Westinghouse and Langley kept the Tribe out of the City League cellar. Not much is coming back for Carrick this season. All-City selection James Jett will be the feature wide receiver in the Raider offense. The running duties will be shared by junior running back Ray Seskey, and senior quarterback Corey Page will be handling the snaps.
Two years ago, the Mustangs were just short of making the playoffs for the first time in nineteen years. Last season, the bottom fell out for the Ponies going 0-9 and being held to 8 points or less in six of those games. New coach Ken Wright steps out from the assistant ranks to the head coaching job, and he's tasked with trying to make something of this mess. Langley will have senior quarterback Mycheal Bailey leading the offense for the second season as a starter. Other notables include: Chris Jones at tailback and linebacker; Drew Owesu at running back/ wide receiver/ d-back/ equipment manager; Lineman Nick Beckas, senior receiver/d-back TJ Smith, and senior fullback/d-back Valon Wallace. The Advocate applauds the Langley Mustangs for giving it their best although, it will be very hard for this team to do much more than bottom third of the City League.
Last year, DaBears were the kings of the City League, and as unfamiliar as the title of City Champion was to the Oliver Bears
, an equally unfamiliar title now awaits them: Defending City Chmapions. The problem is that much of the talent that propelled the Bruins to the title has moved on, 17 seniors are gone from the Oliver sideline as well as long time Bear head coach Joe Zeglowitsch. New head coach Tim Keefer will have to take what's left of this proud Bear squad and whip them into shape to defend their title. All-City Junior Devaughn Copeland is the only skill position player returning as quarterback. Other starters coming back include: senior o-lineman Fred Wojichoski; senior tight end Terrance Morgan; and junior d-lineman Kevin Dosdor. The one thing going for the Bears is that the new head coach has retained most of the coaches from the Zeglowitsch staff and has kept up the continuity. The Advocate can see the Bears as maybe a team that has an outside chance to snag either the third or fourth place playoff spot. After Brashear, there's no clear cut second place team, so if the Bears can avoid big injuries, beat the teams they can beat and steal a game or two, they can be back in the playoffs.
The Highlanders will be the only City team this year not playing any non-conference games, although this wasn't by intent. Originally they were supposed to play Duquesne, but the closing of that high school and the dispersal of the football team to both West Mifflin and East Allegheny put the kibosh on that game and it was just too late to find a replacement, so Peabody will just be playing 8 games to the rest of the City's 10. The big focus for the Kilties this year will be the line play. Most of the starters on the o and d-lines have graduated, and their replacements will have to jell quickly. Ryan Bailey will be calling the signals for Peabody this season. He passed for over 1,000 yds and nine TDs and running back Stewart Townsend rushed for 927 yds and 11 TDs. The Highlanders will be tested early with a big game against Brashear on the 14th, although the the remaining games on the first half schedule are winnable. The fact that the Kilties are playing fewer games could work out in their favor in that they will be less beat up, and there is less chance for injury in games that don't really matter.
The Advocate has to wonder how the Perry faithful felt last year when their all-everything Commodores were knocked out of the title race by Brashear last year. Was this a sign of a changing of the guard in the City League, or was it just an simple off year for the perennial City Champions? One does not associate Perry with the word "rebuilding". Reloading is usually the term that describes the the warship that is Perry. This year the One-Stars will have to regroup and replace to major cogs in their machine: running back Jared Williams who will be attending Temple and Tarheel bound lineman Cameron Holland. Leading Receiver Harold Tardy will also be gone, leaving the starting jobs to senior John Henderson and Ray Walker, who'll be catching balls thrown by senior QB Erron Farrow. Running the ball for Perry will be Cedric Scott (5-9,195), and Deon Waters. The Advocate can always count on Perry scrimmaging and scheduling big, and the One Stars didn't disappoint this season, scrimmaging the likes of North Allegheny and Central Catholic and opening the season with District 10 powerhouse Erie Cathedral Prep making the trip into the George for a Saturday afternoon tilt. Later on this season, the Commodores will travel East to take on very tough Cumberland Valley.
In a decade that has seen 5 City League schools either retire or change head coaches, Coach Jim Trent proudly represents the remaining old guard. He's been at this game since The Advocate was wandering the halls of the 'Dice as a clueless student. He's probably forgotten more about football than most PCL coaches know. And he'll be calling on all that knowledge to get this Spartan team ready for the season. Leading rusher Jeremy Hawkins will return for a Spartan club that went to the playoffs last season. Schenley will open traveling up Rt 28 to play Fairview.
The Big Bad Bulldogs went out of state to get their newest head coach, picking up C.J. Connor from Hampton Crabber country. He'll be the latest in a seemingly revolving door of coaches that have tried to straighten out the once proud Bulldog legacy since the departure of long time head coach George Webb who retired in 2001. Since that time three coaches have come into the North Murtland Ave campus and all three have since left not having improved the Bulldogs lot. The Bulldogs will be relying on senior cornerback Mike Mollett, senior o and d tackle Albert Brock and junior defensive tackle David Palmer to provide needed leadership. The quarterback situation is still up in the air, but whoever it is will have a speedy receiver in Mycah Dawkins. The Dawgs will have a very tough opener against the always dangerous perennial WPIAL and PIAA state title contender Rochester Rams from WPIAL Class A
Well, there you have it, boys and girls, Your City League Advocates breakdown of the City League for 2007. Enjoy.
The Advocates Rankings
My Predictions for this weekends games will appear in a later post.
Names and numbers courtesy of the PG and the Trib.