Pitt Recruit Petrishen Helps Hold Central’s “Chain Gang” Together

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I’m Matt Popchock, and I’m just getting started.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior safety Johnny Petrishen says: He may arrive at a college decision within the next month, but he will also be very deliberate. Pitt and Virginia seem to be the prime contenders, and he just got back from attending a game between the ACC rivals in Charlottesville. Another ACC program, Wake Forest, is said by some to be on Petrishen’s radar as well.

POPCHOCK SAYS: What impressed me the most about Petrishen when I caught up with him after the Vikings’ latest victory, a blowout of Class AAAA Northern Eight rival Seneca Valley at NexTier Stadium, was the way he talked up Central’s team defense, the self-proclaimed “Chain Gang”:

Petrishen didn’t get to move the chains at all in Week 7, but he has played an integral role in making Central Catholic the least scored-upon team in the WPIAL, and opposing players in a position to throw or kick the ball in his general direction are showing him more respect every week.

He was right about one thing he said before we parted ways: Keep your eye on junior jack-of-all-trades Ronnie Jones. By the end of last Friday night, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

Johnny Petrishen lines up during last year's WPIAL Championships. (Photo Credit: Scout.com)
Johnny Petrishen lines up during last year’s WPIAL Championships. (Photo Credit: Scout.com)

Terry Totten has coached multiple D-I prospects over the years while bringing multiple WPIAL and PIAA championships to Oakland, including the district crown his Vikings won last year. Petrishen will be a fine college player, and if Pitt does land him, it would be a blessing to have some depth at safety, with Pat Amara still in need of seasoning and Ray Vinopal graduating.

But since Paul Chryst isn’t doing anything tonight or tomorrow, he might want to finagle a seat in sold-out Highmark Stadium tonight (or at least turn his TV to ROOT Sports at 7:30) to watch Jones as the Vikings host capable challenger Pine-Richland in a battle of Northern Eight unbeatens. It will be an epic clash of great defense versus great offense, and Jones could be an x-factor.

Even though Central was already in control by the time he seized the spotlight last week, his two punt return touchdowns, in any context, were spectacular. On his first, which went for just over 60 yards, Jones broke three tackles right around midfield before cutting to his right and beating everybody down the sideline. On his second, he went for 75, using the same sideline, and spun off what looked like a sure tackle deep in Seneca territory before going the rest of the way.

His oh-by-the-way touchdown run of 33 yards demonstrates that, for all the seniors Totten was thought to have a tough time replacing, he still has options.

If Ronnie Jones stays the course, it could be just a matter of time before he hears the same knocks on his door that Petrishen has from the NCAA.


CBS Philadelphia, per the Associated Press, says: A pair of Northampton High School soccer coaches have resigned over their own indifference to a racial incident on the pitch. Certain players of theirs were caught chanting “Ebola!” at an opposing player of African origin.

POPCHOCK SAYS: It is sobering to think that, in my lifetime, high school sports has not left racism behind. Alas, it is also reality; there’s more than enough knuckleheads in this country–many of them, sadly, with the ability to procreate–to keep that despicable tradition alive.

I’ve seen a football coach get pushed out of his job for what I suspected were racial reasons. I’ve heard accounts of fights breaking out at basketball games in which N-bombs were dropped on certain players. Different situations have been dealt with differently. In the case of these eastern Pennsylvania soccer coaches, the embattled school responded by starting a charity drive, which is nice.

But do all parties concerned ever really learn anything? Is the problem ever really solved?

There’s a way to ensure those things happen, besides due diligence from game officials. Hit the guilty parties where it hurts: their pride.

I propose the following rule to the PIAA: If your team and/or fans are caught hurling racial epithets, your team forfeits the game, immediately and irrevocably. Adding a tiered system of player suspensions to this rule for first-time and repeat offenders might not be a bad idea either.

Heck, do they want an idea that’s even better still? Hit Northampton in the wallet.


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I’m headed down the Mon Valley and into Memorial Stadium for the Week 8 POPCHOCK ON PREPS High School Football Game of the Week, as Monessen (4-3, 4-3) hosts Clairton (6-0, 7-0) in what should be an emotional Class A Eastern Conference grudge match.

Last year the Greyhounds were giant killers:

This year, now that the PA-record win streak is history, the Bears have gotten back to the business of making history. They’ve scored 496 points entering Week 8, having already broken the Pennsylvania regular-season record of 480 set by Terrelle Pryor-led Jeannette in 2007. They’re averaging an insane, and yet, somehow, quite sane 70.9 points per game.

Translation: Clairton, mathematically, could break that team’s full-season record of 860 points at Heinz Field, before the state playoffs begin.


Clairton has firmly re-established itself as a PIAA title favorite, while Monessen would be completely left out in the cold if it finished the regular campaign tied with Springdale for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. It’s going to take another special effort by the Hounds to echo the signature win of head coach Andy Pacak’s career.

Under the direction of new coach Wayne Wade, junior wide receiver Aaron Mathews has become the Bears’ latest big star. Panther Lair editor Chris Peak ranks him as the No. 6 overall player in Pennsylvania’s Class of 2016, and puts him just outside his top 50 junior receivers nationally.

He already holds offers from Akron, Temple, Toledo, West Virginia and Pitt, and he is reportedly very high on the Panthers. Hey, somebody’s gotta be the next Tyler Boyd, right?

Wade’s young cousin, featured tailback Lamont Wade, could also someday make a name for himself on Saturdays. He has run for 14 touchdowns and needs just 89 more yards to hit the 1,000 mark.

Monessen quarterback Noah Rullo, his team’s primary offensive weapon, needs just one yard to hit that mark in the passing department, having thrown for 12 TDs against six picks in the meantime.

When the Hounds stunned Clairton in 2013, the Bears held the PIAA record for longest overall win streak–but they were stopped shy of the record for longest regular-season win streak. Smethport won 67 straight regular season games 1989-96.

To steal a line from Mike White, I’m just sayin’…

I’m Matt Popchock, and that’s all she wrote. Enjoy your game, and I’ll have more on mine later!

Author: Matt Popchock

Follow Popchock on Twitter @PopchockSays or contact him at mpopchock@verizon.net.

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