H.S. Football: Five burning questions as 2010 season begins
8/16/2010 3:31 AM
Football teams across the PIAA begin training camp today, the official start of the 2010 fall sports season.
From Avella to Mapletown, all 21 local teams are unbeaten, untied and yet to allow a point. That, of course, changes when the first games kick off Friday, Sept. 3.
But before we look ahead, it's time to look back at a particularly hectic and newsworthy offseason.
Legendary coach Guy Montecalvo resigned after seven years at Canon-McMillan, putting a possible end to a storied 30-year head coaching career. Ringgold's coaching carousel continued to turn and the Rams enter camp with their seventh head coach since 2000. Trinity's Ed Dalton continually made headlines with his on-again, off-again battle with the district's school board that is definitely on-again.
Those stories will greatly impact the 2010 season, a year that poses significant questions in need of answers.
1Will the area continue to produce Division I recruits?
By this time last year, Mike Hull (Penn State), Chad Hagan (Ohio State) and Ken Wilkins (Michigan) had all committed to Big Ten schools. Monessen's ShelDon Miller eventually signed with Akron.
Quality exists among this year's senior class but the number of major colleges making visits will decrease.
South Fayette senior Christian Brumbaugh holds scholarship offers from Akron, Bowling Green and Buffalo. Should Brumbaugh, the reigning Observer-Reporter Player of the Year, put up numbers resembling his junior season, more will follow.
"If I can go out an play extremely well and talk to some more colleges, (a fast start) would be a huge help," Brumbaugh said.
Peters Township quarterback Austin Hancock also wants a quick start to his senior season. Hancock does not have an offer yet, but schools from the Mid-American Conference along with Penn State and Michigan State have shown interest. Hancock's future could be at linebacker.
"My first four games are huge," Hancock said. "If I get some good film out, it's going to make a difference."
Canon-McMillan's Alex Adams and Washington's Julien Anderson have earned notice. South Fayette lineman Nolan Spicer - the WPIAL Class AA shot put champion - already committed to Division I-AA Liberty.
2Can a local team make it to Heinz Field?
What once happened with regularity, hasn't occurred in nearly a decade.
At least one team from the coverage area played for a WPIAL championship from 1993-1995 and 1997-2001. In 1993, McGuffey and Washington won titles, while West Greene played for one.
Since 2001, when Washington and Fort Cherry played in the first championship games at Heinz Field, no local team has appeared in a championship game.
Only three teams - Beth-Center, Monessen and South Fayette - won playoff games during the past two postseasons and no team has advanced past the quarterfinals.
Those three, along with Fort Cherry, enter training camp with several key lettermen back from teams that finished first or second in their respective conferences, but none will be a preseason favorite to play for a WPIAL championship.
3Will Dalton's lawsuit against Trinity Area School District have lingering effects?
The 2010 season will be Dalton's 12th as the Hillers' coach, but the first where he won't be the school's athletic director. Bobby Jones, a former men's basketball coach at Saint Francis (Pa.), was hired as Trinity's athletic director in late July.
Dalton, who filed a lawsuit claiming breach of oral employment contract before Jones' hire, maintains he and his players are completely focused on the upcoming season.
The Hillers also showed their support for Jones.
"We had a meeting (Aug. 12) and we let it be known that our new athletic director Bobby Jones had nothing to do with all this," Dalton said. "He must be treated with respect. He didn't come here because someone sued someone. He came here for a career opportunity."
4Which new head coach heads into the best situation?
First-year Canon-McMillan head coach Tim Sohyda may have the best long-term situation considering the Big Macs usually boast talented skill position players. West Greene's John Coss, who previously coached the Pioneers from 2000-01 and won seven games, must built depth and establish stability.
At Ringgold, Matt Humbert enters his first year as head coach. Humbert served as Ringgold's head coach the first two games of the 2009 season as Price served a school-mandated suspension. His career record is 2-0. In addition, he coaches a team loaded with returning starters and lettermen that was moved to the Class AAA Keystone Conference.
5What players are poised for breakthrough seasons?
A handful of talents, like Beth-Center's Jake Sofran, Washington's Marquis Brown, South Fayette's Jeff Davis, Carmichaels' Anthonie Farrar, Fort Cherry's Gary Kiefer and Jefferson-Morgan's Ryan Knight, put up video game-like numbers last year.
Several worthy candidates should do the same this year.
After playing behind Hull and Hagan, the aforementioned Adams gets his chance to be Canon-McMillan's featured runner. He combines aspects of both of his predecessors.
Beth-Center quarterback Sal Faieta has the frame and the arm to land on a college roster in a couple of years. For now, the junior will look to improve upon an impressive sophomore season.
And, Trinity, a frequent producer of Division I players, may have a pair of unheralded seniors in Ty Billie and Kyle McWreath gain more attention as the season progresses.
"McWreath has got to show a little better this year and he's got to have a breakout senior year," Dalton said. "The kid I think has the best shot is Billie. He just looks the part. He's 6-1, 190 and just chiseled for a wide receiver." Copyright Observer Publishing Co.