Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 City Championship Preview

    To give the reader an idea of how long it has been since Allderdice last won a City Championship in football, let the Advocate put a discreet word in your ear.  The Advocate was five years old when the Dragons last hoisted the hardware.  He’s fifty-two now.  The United States had fought in three wars.  The US population in 1967 was 200 million. Today, it’s 318 million.  Israel won the Six Day War.  Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first black Supreme Court Justice.   Green Bay beat Kansas City 35-10 in the Super Bowl.  The cost of a First Class stamp was 5 cents.  Congress created the Public Broadcasting Service.   Top movies included: Bonnie and Clyde; The Graduate; and Cool Hand Luke.   The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.   Dr. Christiaan Barnard and his surgical team perform the first successful human heart transplant.  Deaths in 1967 included: Che Guevara; John Coltrane; and Spencer Tracy.  And the kids who’ll be playing in Saturday’s City Championship game won’t have been born until almost 30 years later.  
    Since 1967, ten different City League schools have won the City Championship in football.  Of that number, five of those schools: Schenley; Peabody; Oliver; South Hills; and South  are no longer open.   

Titles won since 1967
South Hills*
University Prep
*-School closed.

    Brashear last won City hardware in 2008.  University Prep, 2013, Carrick, 1983.
    Last week, these three schools, in addition to Allderdice entered the 2014 City League playoffs.  Carrick was the darkest of the dark horses by virtue of Perry being pulled out of the playoffs by school administrators due to their dust-up with Westinghouse back on October 10.
    Imagine the consternation the Raider coaches felt fresh off their loss to Wheeling Park, when they were told not to put their uniforms away and that they had one more game left, and that they had better put together a game plan to compete against the league leaders who destroyed them 48-7 a few weeks earlier.  You could imagine that having this gift dumped into their laps, they told their charges to play like they had nothing to lose.  And on last Friday night, Carrick did just that.
    Judging by the way the Raiders played in the first half, if they had a better team, they would be facing Brashear in the final instead of the ‘Dice.   By what the Advocate saw,  Allderdice looked  flat, disinterested and took Carrick completely for granted.  The Raiders managed to run for 147 yards against a usually stout Dragon defense, they also passed for 108 yards.  Carrick got on the board early in the first quarter when Hakeim McKenzie scored on a one yard run to put the Raiders up 6-0.  Allderdice scored twice within two minutes midway through the 2nd quarter from a 13 yard pass from James Jackson to Joe Graham and a 2 yard run from Jeremiah Hardrick to put the Dragons up 13-6.  
    In the third quarter, Carrick pulled to within one point, 13-12 when McKenzie ran in a 2 yard touchdown.  ‘Dice extended their lead to 19-12 four minutes later when  Dominic Balsamo pulled in a  9 yard Jackson pass.  It wasn’t until Hardrick snagged an interception and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown that the Advocate was finally able to breathe easy.  Lamone Harris’ 80 yard touchdown reception and Akeem Muhammad’s 7 yard touchdown run put the final nails into Carrick’s coffin.  But the Dragons did not look good in this game.  As in the game against U-Prep, both teams left lots of laundry on the field, combining for 19 penalties and 164 yards.  Allderdice accounted for 13 of those penalties.  

    Brashear came into their playoff matchup against University Prep on a three game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 114-31 during that effort, though it must be acknowledged that they were also beating up on the bottom feeders of the league.  In their first game against U-Prep back in week 2, the Bulls ended up losing to the Panthers 41-34, but they exposed the porous U-Prep defense to the rest of the league.  The Panthers had a robust offense, but they also could be scored upon.  If a team could find a way to exploit that defense while shutting down Ron Brown and the rest of the offense,  success could be theirs.  
    U-Prep started the season with four wins in a row, but Allderdice was able to shut down the vaunted offense in a penalty-filled and sloppy 15-8 grindfest.  The Panthers then traveled to Steubenville and were pasted 49-20 in a non-league road loss, which was not the best way to enter the playoffs.
    Brashear jumped out to a 3-0 lead off a 2 yard field goal from Dom Molinaro.  They then extended that lead to 10-0 when Qu’ran Powe scored off an 87 yard pick-six.   The Panthers scored their only points of the game when Ron Brown connected with Kenny Robinson on an 8 yard pass to bring U-Prep to 10-8,  but that was as close as the Panthers would get as Brashear would score 17 unanswered points to seal the win and a chance to win their tenth City championship.  Brashear pounded the U-Prep defense for 253 total yards including 172 on the ground.  Brown went 17 for 40 in an uncharacteristically poor performance  U-Prep coughed up the ball five times including four interceptions.  Brashear had three fumbles, losing two.
    Like the Allderdice-Carrick game, the zebras got a nice workout tossing flags, both teams combining for 11 penalties and 90 yards.

    Saturday November 1
    Brashear vs Allderdice.

    The Advocate’s Keys to the Game for Allderdice:
  1. Contain Brashear’s running game.  Allderdice had problems holding back a very motivated Carrick running game, allowing the Raiders to gain 149 yards on the ground.  That was a against a team that had only one win all season, and was thrust into the playoffs on short notice.  Brashear has a much better ground game, the ‘Dice cannot afford to let the Bulls run all over them.
  2. Come into the game motivated and with a mindset to dominate.  Allderdice was flat and disinterested against Carrick.  They take that attitude with Brashear, they will lose.  Brashear will be sky-high after beating University Prep, and like Carrick, will play like they have nothing to lose.   The Dragons have to come out, score early and often and not let the Bulls hang around.
  3. Cut down on the penalties.  The Dragons have a great offense, but that offense cannot score if they are constantly being pushed back by needless penalties.  On defense, penalties are free yards for the Bulls. While Allderdice’s defense is better than U-Prep’s, they still can’t afford to give away yards to Brashear that they didn’t earn. Eventually, those yards can turn into points.

    For Brashear:
  1. Keep James Jackson in the pocket.  Jackson is at his best when he’s running around in the backfield, creating chaos in the opposition’s defense.  When he’s not buying time for his receivers to get open, he’s calling his own number and supplementing Allderdice’s already potent running game.  Keeping him in the pocket won’t necessarily eliminate him as a threat-- he has a very good offensive line keeping him clean and equally good receivers--he does have a tendency to try and do too much while scrambling.  Brashear would do well to try and pressure Jackson into throwing picks or incompletions.
  2. Try and shut down Allderdice’s running game.  Jeremiah Hardrick is one of the best backs in the City. He’s fast, shifty, and is an excellent complement to James Jackson, who can also pick up yards on the ground.
  3. Play to the Bull’s strength, i.e. run the ball.  Brashear has the best running game Allderdice has seen all season.  If the Bulls can pound the ball against the Dragon defense and try to slow the game tempo down, they have a chance.  But if they try and make it a track meet, it won’t work.

    The last meeting between these two teams was won by the ‘Dice 36-0.  The Advocate thinks that the result won’t be a blowout.  But he thinks that Allderdice has what it needs to win this game if they come out fired up, motivated and ready to put Brashear away early.  Allderdice