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I’m Matt Popchock, and I’m just getting started.
POPCHOCK ON PREPS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME OF THE WEEK:
Central Valley Warriors (7-1 in Class AAA Parkway Conference, 11-2 overall last year)
at Montour Spartans (4-4 in Class AAA Parkway Conference, 5-5 overall last year)
7:00 p.m. EDT – Thomas J. Birko Memorial Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: This might be the most ambitious rebuilding project Lou Cerro has had on his hands since the ESPN cameras went away; receiver Tyler Carswell (307 yards and two TDs in 2013) is one of the only known threats remaining on Montour’s unproven offense. Not exactly the best time to play top undecided WPIAL prospect Jordan Whitehead (No. 4 in the district with 20 total TDs in 2013), nor senior linebacker Preston Johnson, who made all-conference last year despite grabbing fewer headlines. Johnson, also an underrated tailback (372 rushing yards, 12 TDs in 2013), can spell Whitehead offensively:
Friday could be a big night for Whitehead, who lists Pitt among the colleges he’ll choose from Oct. 3, and for Central Valley as a whole. If the Spartans can’t step up, CV is in position to echo last year’s lopsided win:
I’ll be in Robinson Township Friday night with more on this game. Here are some other interesting Week 1 contests:
North Allegheny (5-2 in Class AAAA Northern Eight Conference, 7-4 overall last year)
at Seneca Valley (6-1 in Class AAAA Northern Eight Conference, 9-2 overall last year)
7:30 p.m. EDT – NexTier Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: The Tigers had manhandled the Raiders year after year until last fall, when Seneca finally got over the hump. Frankly, if all-conference quarterback T.J. Holl just takes better care of the ball than counterpart Jeff Clemens (again), this early test might be surprisingly easier than that signature victory was.
Woodland Hills (7-1 in Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, 10-3 overall last year)
at Peters Township (4-4 in Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, 5-5 overall last year)
7:30 p.m. EDT – Peters Township Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: The Wolverines are talented enough to avenge their 2013 WPIAL championship loss, but they’re notoriously slow starters. The Indians are athletic enough to catch them napping, but they’ve been mired in mediocrity. Deciding the outcome will be the ground war between Peters’ dual-threat quarterback, Cory Owen, and Penn State commit Miles Sanders, Woody High’s top tailback.
Ringgold (6-2 in Class AAA Big Nine Conference, 7-3 overall last year)
at Thomas Jefferson (8-0 in Class AAA Big Nine Conference, 11-1 overall last year)
7:30 p.m. EDT – Thomas Jefferson Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: Every time we think a particular Big Nine team might be a threat to TJ, that team usually ends up getting punished by TJ. Bill Cherpak’s Jaguars just know how to win these kind of games, especially at home. But let’s humor the Rams and see what burgeoning quarterback Nico Law can do, in the air and/or on the ground, against the perennial powerhouse.
Apollo-Ridge (6-2 in Class A Eastern Conference, 8-3 overall last year)
at West Shamokin (5-3 in Class A Eastern Conference, 6-4 overall last year)
7:00 p.m. EDT – Jack E. Boyer Field
POPCHOCK SAYS: Biennial realignment in the WPIAL pushed these teams out of the Class A Eastern Conference and up to Class AA, where they remain section rivals in the Allegheny Conference. The Wolves, coming off an unprecedented playoff berth, would like to remain a winning team–which, just a few years ago, was unimaginable. Pitt commit Tre Tipton leads both the receiving corps and the secondary for the Vikings, but who’s going to throw to him? In fact, will we see Tipton line up under center at some point?
Quaker Valley (7-1 in Class AA Century Conference, 8-3 overall last year)
at Keystone Oaks (2-6 in Class AA Century Conference, 2-7 overall last year)
7:00 p.m. EDT – Dormont Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: This matchup lost luster after the recent news that QV quarterback and Pitt (cornerback) commit Dane Jackson would be out for a while–in perspective, a short while, the Quakers hope–with a meniscus tear. But I’m still curious to see if their offense can rally around backup QB Amos Luptak, or if KO coach Greg Perry can win his first game back at his alma mater.
Monessen (8-1 in Class A Black Hills Conference, 10-2 overall last year)
at Greensburg Central Catholic (5-3 in Class AA Interstate Conference, 5-5 overall last year)
7:00 p.m. EDT – Centurion Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: Technically, the Centurions have been a Class A team all along; this year they simply chose not to “play up” and to accept their enrollment-based relegation for the first time in over a decade. As GCC is wont to do, it has cultivated some terrific talent up front. Monessen, conversely, has lost a lot of talent up front and will try to make up for it where the Greyhounds usually have talent: everywhere else. The highlight of this Eastern Conference opener will be the QB duel between their signal-caller, Noah Rullo, and GCC returnee Tommy Pellis.
Bethel Park (6-2 in Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, 6-4 overall last year)
at Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7-0 in Class AAAA Northern Eight Conference, 15-1 overall last year)
7:30 p.m. EDT – Gesling Stadium
POPCHOCK SAYS: Bethel quarterback Levi Metheny is the son of legendary head coach Jeff Metheny, and he’s done a phenomenal job as a three-year starter. Not to be outdone, receiver Braxton Swann (son of Lynn), tailback Grant Foster (son of Barry), and quarterback Gunnar Frerotte (son of Gus) will suit up for new-look Central. So, now that we’ve settled the age-old “my old man could take your old man” argument, I wonder which Quad-A hopeful will pass this acid test?
I’m Matt Popchock, and that’s all she wrote.
(h/t StatEasy, WTAE Operation Football, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Trib Total Media; featured image of Central Valley senior athlete Jordan Whitehead courtesy of BlueGoldSports.com.)