Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 City League Preview Week 8

*University Prep

    The final week of regular season play begins tonight, but the playoff matchups have already been set.  The tiebreaker for the three team dogpile that the Advocate so painstakingly described thankfully did not come down to the dreaded coin flip at Ritter’s at midnight.  
    All that there is left to do is to finish out the regular season with a final round of non-league action against familiar foes from West-By-Gawd-Virginia and Ohio, hopefully doing so without getting anybody valuable hurt, and prepare for the post-season fun.  
   Brashear opened last week’s play by punching their ticket to the party.  The Bulls crushed Carrick 46-13.  Quarterback Therran Coleman accounted for 267 yards of Brashear’s total offense rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for a pair.  Coleman ran 11 times for 183 yards and TD’s of 51 and 65 yards, and he connected on a 42 yard  touchdown pass to Qu’ran Powe, as well as a 42 yard score to Khalil Sanders.  The Bulls will face University Prep in the first playoff semifinal next week.
    The feature matchup between the two top dogs in the City wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty.  The Advocate hadn’t seen that much yellow on the field since the last Stiller pep rally he attended.  Both teams accounted for a whopping 23 penalties for 185 yards.  Numerous drives were stalled because of the accumulation of penalties,  The Advocate saw the ‘Dice defense get drawn offsides at least 4 times during the game.  Allderdice and U-Prep had averaged 31 and 32 points per game, respectively.  However, neither team could get a point on the board during the first half.  
    Neither quarterback threw the ball well in terms of completion percentage.  Ron Brown had a better game than James Jackson through the air completing 18 of 30 passes for 200 yards and 1 pick.  Jackson went 7 of 15 for 127 yards, 87 of which went to his brother Timothy. He also threw a pick.
    Where James Jackson and the rest of the Dragon offense did find success was carving up U-Prep’s porous run defense.  Jackson ran for 88 of Allderdice’s 148 yards on the ground.   
    The Dragons finally got on the board at 3:22 of the third quarter when Jackson called his own number running up the middle for a 1 yard score.   U-Prep responded at 9:21 of the fourth quarter when Ron Brown connected on a 9 yard touchdown pass to Desean Bonneau and successsfully made a two point conversion to pull ahead 8-7.  With six minutes left in the game and down by one, Allderdice found themselves pinned deep in their territory on their own two yard line.  James Jackson then executed an almost perfect 11 play, 98 yard drive, marching the Dragons down the field like he was channeling Tom Brady, or an early Big Ben.  
    The offensive line was opening up wide holes for Jackson and his running back Jeremiah Hardrick to run through.  In some cases, it looked like Jackson would literally walk through the U-Prep defense for positive yardage.  When he wasn’t calling his own number, he was faking handoffs, double reverses, inside handoffs, sweeps to the outside that left U-Prep completely confused.  The Wildcats had no solution for what Coach Jerry Haslett called his “NASCAR” package.  
    But U-Prep had one last chance to pull out the win getting down to the Allderdice 10, but they were penalized for a false-start and pushed back to the 34 yard line by consecutive sacks.  A final pass into the end zone as time expired was deflected, and the Dragons snapped a five game losing streak against U-Prep going back to 2011.   The Dragons will face the #4 seed Perry Commodores in the second playoff semifinal, but first, they will host the Cadets of Linsly Academy from West Virginia on this Friday night.
    Speaking of the One Stars, they claimed the final playoff spot by squeaking past Westinghouse 22-20, although the Advocate learned that there was quite a donnybrook after the final play. Apparently, a Westinghouse player struck a Perry player as time expired, and both benches emptied.  For about a minute and a half, both teams engaged in a large scrum in the middle of the field.  Coaches from both teams rushed in to break up the fight assisted by school security and one coach and two security officers were injured, both were treated and released.  Three Westinghouse players are facing disciplinary action, and the Advocate read in the Post-Gazette as he was preparing this piece that the Pittsburgh Public Schools have decided to cancel the final games this week for Perry and Westinghouse due to both teams leaving the sidelines to participate in the fight.  Perry was supposed to play a non-league game against Brashear and Westinghouse was supposed to travel to West Virginia to play Wheeling Central Catholic on Saturday afternoon.

    The Advocate will now lay aside his character, and speak in his real voice.  Now I’ve been watching City League athletics in general and football in particular off and on since the late 70s.  I don’t purport to be an expert in the City League, I can’t quote chapter and verse which player is playing where, or who won what title when, off the top of his head. I’m just a born and raised City League guy who just wants to put out the word about a group of kids that doesn’t always get the press or coverage it deserves, or when it does get that coverage, it’s because of something negative or violent.  
    I love the City League and wants to see the success stories get the coverage and attention that the bad stuff gets.  I have watched a lot of City football games, and while I have seen more than my share of trash talking and pushing and shoving, I had never seen a fight this bad.  I wasn’t at this game in question, but I saw the video of the fight, and from that video, taken from a cell phone by the way, it didn’t seem much more than a big scrum, but of course that video can’t capture all that happened in vivid detail. It was probably a lot worse in person than the video showed.
    But I also saw that video when it was posted on Facebook, and the comments that were left frankly turned my stomach, which is no mean feat.  
 Comments calling the players:  “The filth of the City.”, “Future welfare recipients.”, “Animals.”, “Thugs.”, and some comments that I won’t post here because of their sheer nastiness.  And invariably those comments came from white folks talking about two teams of mostly black players.  
    I’m used to seeing trolls slip in their snide and overtly bigoted comments on Facebook whenever one of the media outlets posts a story there concerning problems at a predominantly minority school or neighborhood.  And maybe I should just chalk it up to people on the Internet in general and Facebook in particular doing hit and run comments with computer bravado, not having the balls to say that same thing to a person face to face.  
   But it still saddens me to see comments of this nature made about kids.  Sixteen, Seventeen year old kids!  Caught up in the moment of competition.  Yeah, the Westinghouse kid should not have hit the Perry kid after the play was over.  Yeah, the teams should not have rushed the field.  Yeah, fans should not have come out on to the field. Yeah, they should have been more ‘disciplined.’
   And I support the school district’s decision to cancel the final game of the season for Westinghouse and Perry and disciplining the players that started the melee.  But that doesn’t make it right to call a bunch of kids they know nothing about such vile things as: “The Filth of the City”; and “Animals and Thugs.”  The trolls don’t know these kids.  They don’t know what these kids are doing when they aren’t playing football.  
   Could they be up to no good? Maybe.  But the kids who are really up to no good aren’t playing football.  They’re hanging out on the streets, skipping school and being knuckleheads.  Maybe the players on Perry and Westignhouse’s teams aren’t the kind of kids you’d want your son or daughter to hang out with on first impression.  Maybe they talk a little too loud, use language that’s a little too coarse, maybe they wear their clothes a little too baggy.  Maybe they listen to music that offends your sensibilities.  
    But until you meet these kids and find out why they are how they are maybe you should reserve your judgement.  Some of these kids are forced to grow up a lot faster than they wanted to.  Some of these kids have seen horrific violence committed against their friends and loved ones.  Get a bunch of them together and ask them how many have seen or know someone who’s been shot or killed, and I bet you’ll see most every hand raised. How many of these kids come home every day to a home-cooked meal, how many of them are being raised by a single parent who’s busting his or her ass to try and put food on the table?  How many of them have parents who are nothing more than sperm donors and baby factories, forcing them to survive on their own?  How many of them, despite all that is going against them, get up every day and go to crappy schools, and try to learn by overcoming outdated books, obsolete computers, if there are computers in their classrooms, indifferent or overmatched teachers, and peers who don’t give a shit?  

    It’s easy to post drive-by comments from your smug suburban homes where everything is perfect and fights on the football field are seemingly few and far between.  It’s easy to stick your chest out and trumpet proudly that you home school your kids or send them to private schools, so they don’t have to mix with the “Filth of the City.”  That’s easy to do.  What about seeing a story like this, and instead of popping off about these kids being animals and thugs and taking a moment to learn about some of these kids.  They have hopes and dreams just like the kids from Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and North Allegheny do.  They want to get out of the ghetto, a lot of them want to go to college, a lot of them join the service, like I did, because they just couldn’t see another way out.  Don’t pass judgement on people until you know all the facts.  I know, I’m just tilting at windmills, trolls will always want to spread their muck on the Internet.  But those comments really got to me.

Because the City League is playing a non conference schedule this week, the Advocate will not be doing a preview of this week's games. U-Prep will be traveling to play Steubenville, OH Allderdice will be hosting Linsly Academy Carrick will be traveling to play Wheeling Park (WV) Brashear is open Perry and Westinghouse had their games cancelled due to their altercation last Friday night.

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