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2004 Monday Morning Ramblings

Monday Morning Ramblings #3

9/13/04

I thought I would not ramble that much this Monday. It would be better fitting at this time to think back, reflect and pray.

As I sat on aluminum bleachers on the eve of the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our nation I pondered. Things really have not changed that much have they? Sure, it is a pain to have to take your shoes off before you go through metal detectors at airports. Sure, no one wants to have to get to a game a half hour before they normally would because you have to go through security. However I would argue that 99% of our daily lives, our pleasures, our hobbies, our interests really have gone on unaffected.

Terrorists can use themselves and planes as bombs. They can do the unthinkable and take schoolchildren hostage. They can do deplorable acts over and over again but is there anything any one individual can do to stop it? Sure we can make efforts to educate our young on tolerance and acceptance but will that be 100% effective? Probably not. There will also be some small element of evil in society. It is the concept of yin and yang. Even Christianity needs it. The idea of the Christian God is a wonderful thing for those of us that believe. I would argue that His greatness is only magnified by the evil, that being Satan, that He defeats gloriously.

So, sure, bad things are bound to happen, it’s the law of averages. But no bad things can really overshadow the accomplishments of our youth. In a time when our nation is at war and divided politically our kids are going to school. They are getting good grades. They are in the National Honor Society. They volunteer. They excel at athletics, band and many other extracurricular activities.

You do not see these stories for they are not sexy. They do not sell newspapers. Channel 6 is going to win the ratings battle by leading with church youth groups picking up trash on the side of the road or visiting a shut-in or collecting money for the Salvation Army during the holidays. For every one bad story about a shooting, stabbing, robbery, etc that are countless other good deeds that go unseen to the general public.

High school football is something special. It is a microcosm of society; a melting pot if you will. As much as our society claims to be integrated, where else do we see whites and blacks together in a social setting? Think of your church, if you are white, the church you go to is probably all white and vice versa. However, high school football teaches lessons, it teaches kids of all different backgrounds, family incomes, religion, neighborhoods to work together as a team. Skills that someday, those that chose to play will be very happy they learned at a young age.

High school football is everything good about America. It is competition. It is exciting. It is diverse. It is challenging. It is memory-making. It is physical, mental and emotional.

No matter what the current war brings to the future of our nation, no matter what terrorist attacks are yet to come one thing is for sure: no one will ever take high school football away from America. No amount of terrorists or homemade bombs can take that away from us.

May the victims of the 9/11 attacks, the War on Terror and the ongoing struggle in Iraq rest in peace and their memories be eternal.

God bless America.

Monday Morning Ramblings #4

Devastating. Embarrassing. Upsetting. Demoralizing. Disgusting. These are just a few of the adjectives that could be used to describe the Westmont upset of JHS this past Saturday night. It just did not appear as if Coach Arcurio had the team ready to play. The killer instinct was missing. I truly believe the squad was looking past Westmont. Not that they would be looking ahead to Richland, another team that they should beat, but the game plan just was not up to par. Even with a small halftime lead, it felt as if the Trojans were letting the Hilltoppers stick around.

I know I have been critical of the competition level of the LHAC, that are not many quality teams and the like. I stand by those statements though. You could blame this loss on the fact that the conference is weak. If JHS played in a conference with quality opponents week in, week out they would be on their toes for every single game. The weakness of this conference almost fosters this environment of letting up.

That being said, it is still no excuse for a superior Trojan squad to lose to an improved, yet not equal, Westmont team. Sure, I know, Westmont actually beat JHS before. It was the Trojans first season in the LHAC and Bill Caccotti’s last as head coach. One must understand that the program was programmed to lose in that era. The “work” that Corky McCabe and Caccotti did in that era took Bob Arcurio his entire first season to undo. The 2002 Trojans scratched and clawed to get into the playoffs at the end of the season.

Arcurio is not without blame though. When you have an all-state caliber running back that you know can break a run for 80 yards or more you have to wonder why he chose to take a knee at the end of the first half only up by 6. A touchdown there means a different result at the end of regulation, all other things constant. However, I think that taking the Hilltoppers lightly made this decision for the coach. Handing the ball off to #32 is an extremely low risk situation. So I do not jinx the situation I will choose my words lightly: a certain Trojan running back does NOT have the habit of causing a certain type of turnover that could happen while carrying the ball. That is all I will say about that!

Also, at what point do you get out of man-to-man coverage in the secondary? I still maintain that the JHS front seven is one of the toughest in the LHAC. The secondary, however, has shown some holes. They made the Ozbold to Khuri combination look like Montana to Rice in the second half. Westmont was pretty much drawing up plays and pitching the ball around at will. All credit to Stan Skowron and his staff for exploiting a chink in the armor that has LHAC coaches that remain on the JHS schedule licking their collective chops.

I wonder if this huge victory for the Westmont program will make the Westmont fans and parents a bit more acceptant of Coach Skowron. He has been much criticized since his tenure began. Honestly, I cannot think of a place I would least want to coach at than Westmont. Parents in that district are notably hard on coaches.

So, do I have egg on my face after the Trojan Nation picked JHS by 17 in its weekly “Tale of the Tape” feature? Heck no! They should have won by that much. This loss ranks up with Pitt losing to South Florida a few years back. I pity the Richland Rams next week. They will be going up against a buzz saw that will be looking to destroy whoever gets in its path after this loss.

Oh, and I have to mention the best line of the night in the crowd. It belongs to my longtime friend and former Trojan teammate Jason Subich. After a referee’s close call went JHS’ way, a Westmont fan yelled about “home cooking”. Jason turned around and said “Home cooking? You’re three miles over the hill!” That is classic and I will have to remember that when JHS takes the extremely long bus ride to Price Field in Westmont next year. I will be yelling “home cooking!” during the coin toss!

And for the underclassmen, nothing they do the rest of the year will take the bad taste out of their mouth from this loss until next year when the rematch takes place.

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #5

9/27/04

It is high time that the Trojans move to more of a passing attack. I liked what I saw in the stands at Herlinger Field this past Friday as far as that is concerned. Devin Carosi has gotten a little bit better with each start. He put up some nice numbers as did wide receiver Xavier Thomas, who can play some at quarterback himself although has yet to take any snaps this year. I say keep it that way, you do not fix what is not broke. “X” had two long catches, one of which ended in a score. Carosi just flat-out throws a nice ball.

I can only wonder what it would be like to put the Trojans in a shotgun, spread type offense with three or four wide receivers. LaRod is the perfect running back for that type of system as he is an all-purpose type guy. With the Trojans WR corps overcoming the case of the drops they had in Patton opening night it might behoove Coach Arcurio to at least put this type of package in.

Speaking of shotgun, spread type offenses it was déjà vu all over again Friday night. Former JHS Head Coaches Jerry Davitch and Tom Fleming are Superintendent and High School Principal respectively. Although it is odd to see these two in anything other than the Columbia blue and black it is good to see them both excel at different endeavors. Both are not only former coaches but alumni as well. I got a brief chance to speak with Coach Fleming and it is always good to catch up and reminisce about old times.

I have a beef. Look, I do not mind a school ripping off the classic University of Michigan helmet when their nickname is the Wolverines but what in the world are the Richland Rams biting that style for. Rams! Come on! You can’t find any knockoff St. Louis Rams decals to slap on those helmets.

And speaking of helmets, why, why, why is there still no decal gracing the plain black JHS helmet? The Trojans’ uniforms are probably one of the nicest sets around but that plain black helmet just make it look unfinished. Personally, I thought there was nothing wrong with the classic Trojan logo you see on the Trojan Nation homepage but that’s just me. There were some changes that got us to this point though. Corky McCabe experimented with a smaller Trojan head that had “Trojans” in script above it and Bill Caccoitti tried a plain block letter “J”. I was not too fond of either and quite frankly I do not want the school to adopt anything that would remind me of that God forsaken era! Come up with something new, maybe a knockoff of the USC logo I don’t know but put something on that helmet. (Well, I take that back, DO NOT put a number on the side. You cannot get away with that unless you are Alabama.)

Well, I am done for this week. Look for the trivia tomorrow and until then, peace.

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #6

Pardon me if I feel “punk’d” by the Somerset High School team. They appeared to not show up after I have touted them as a much improved team in the LHAC. They looked just like the Eagles of old Friday night. Yes, I realize they were without Josh Simmons but I just expected more from an Ernie Fetzer coached ball club. I guess you cannot coach speed and athleticism. You can have the most disciplined squad in the conference and still not be able to out run pure athletes when they simply execute a game plan.

This goes back to what we at “The Nation” have been saying all along: the LHAC is weak. I know some teams, like Westmont, have shown improvement. I am not saying that each week is a cake walk with the exception of a few squads. JHS learned a hard lesson in being overconfident against the Hill toppers a few weeks ago. However, I stand by what I said at the beginning of this season. There are a select few teams that are solid (Bishop Carroll, Forest Hills, Johnstown and Bishop McCort), there are a few on the cusp (Central Cambria and Westmont), the rest, with apologies to Tony Kornheiser, stink.

Furthermore, how fun is it from a fan’s aspect to watch these types of games? It is a fine line, you want your team to win but I think deep in the heart of every true fan you want to see a hard fought game. I have not seen that this year. With a few notable exceptions, the scoreboard for the LHAC has been loaded with lopsided victories with the bottom feeders like Penn Cambria, Central and Cambria Heights on the losing side.

The 12-0 JHS win against Forest Hills and the 7-6 loss to Bishop Carroll were classics. Even the opening of Trojan Stadium, a 14-9 win over Bishop McCort, was at least exciting. Some of these games for the fans are just going through the motions. Parents of schools like the three bottom feeders already mentioned cannot possibly think their kids have a chance against the Trojans, Rangers, Huskies or Crushers. In a way, this is a teenager’s first lesson in the “real world”. You will not always be “on top”, the first person picked for the job, etc.

However, everyone deserves to be on a level playing field. I will not make apologies for Somerset, they are a Class AAA school but let’s face it: Class A Richland has no business being on the same field against Johnstown and Bishop McCort in back-to-back weeks.

I live in Pittsburgh. District 5 & 6 football is fun to watch but it is no match for the WPIAL. That is understandable as the WPIAL is the biggest district in all of Pennsylvania but it also explains a lot about the D 5-6’s inability to win PIAA gold. The teams just are not good enough.

I am not saying that there aren’t good teams in District 5 & 6. Tyrone, Philipsburg Osceola, Blairsville, Berlin Brothersvalley, Windber, Moshannon Valley and Juniata Valley are all solid teams. I just think the best teams would all benefit each other if they played each other during the regular season. You know, in order to be the best you have to beat the best. This may have something to do with JHS losing to Huntingdon in the playoffs last year. The Bearcats did not necessarily have a better team, actually that was quite the contrary. However, they played a much more competitive schedule during the regular season and they were ready to play a tough, four full quarters against the Trojans. Blowouts against Richland in which you sit your starting unit the entire second half may be nice to boost the ego, but they do not get you in game shape come playoff time. Why do you think Art Walker, Jr. kept his starters, mainly Eugene Jarvis, in the game a week ago when they were up by more than 50 points. His team was out of shape when it came to playoff time and having to play a full game.

I think that the geographic advantages that the LHAC offers are far outweighed by the non-competitive nature of the teams in the conference. This is true not only with football but with basketball as well.

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #7

Yes, I know, I have complained about the lopsided scores of some of the Trojan games this year. This is double-standard as I was loving every minute of the 35-0 win against Bishop Carroll Friday. Johnstown was the better team last year and fell one point short. They were the better team this year and it showed. I normally do not buy in to that hype of getting revenge for last year but this is one of the rare times I will. Anyone and everyone at that game last year in Ebensburg knew this. Thankfully, the Trojans whipped the Huskies so bad that there was no room for bad officiating.

Speaking of the officials, that poor guy must have been nervous seeing that the game was on television. He would turn on his microphone and be out of breath and stammering his words, facing the wrong sideline. Hey, I guess the refs get game day jitters too! All in all though, the crew did a nice job with penalties and spotting the ball which is more than can be said about last year.

Yes, not only was this butt-whipping being taped to be locally broadcast Tuesday and Thursday on the Atlantic Broadband cable system locally but it was the PCN Game of the Week, aired on Saturday night for all the state to see. What a great way to showcase our team, school and facility.

And although the commentary was sketchy at times, for instance, before the game the play-by-play stated “that’s what their telling us” in regards to LaRod Stephens going to Pitt. Uh, that was only reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. This guy spoke the words like it was cutting edge news or a rumor.

I did like how the color analyst mentioned that the three wings of the new Johnstown High School are named after the three old junior high schools (Garfield, Cochran and Joseph Johns).

With his performance Friday night, LaRod Stephens eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. He now has 1,162 yards on 99 carries and has scored 17 touchdowns. Yes, he is the star of the team but that is only part of the story. I really believe the much-improved play of quarterback Devin Carosi is a big reason why the Trojans have steadily increased their balanced attack. Not only that but the receivers Xavier Thomas and Reggie Farrior have been catching most of what has been thrown their way. Oh, and how about the job of the offensive line, giving Stephens and Simms holes to run through and Carosi all the time in the world to throw. Devin looked very comfortable Friday night in the pocket, only flushed once making a bad throw that resulted in an interception. Other than that the line keep him clean.

I truly believe that losing to Bishop Carroll last year stung more than losing to Huntingdon in the playoffs. JHS was not going to win a state title with the team it had last year. You cannot tell me watching the snowstorm between Pine-Richland and Manheim Central in the PIAA Class AAA final that JHS could have competed against those squads. The Trojans belong in the conversation of the best Class AAA teams in the state but are not yet at elite.

Bishop Carroll on the other hand is an elite program, albeit in Class A. The Trojans know they should have won that game last year. The way the game went down, as well as the bad blood and attitude shown on both sides of the ball and stands just adds fuel to the fire. JHS can safely consider Carroll a rival now that they have beaten them.

Something about the Husky program just irks me. I arrived at Trojan Stadium early to secure some seats for some of my friends. Due to the lack of quality General Admission seating on the home side, our crew has been sitting on the visitor’s sideline. Two female fans arrived shortly after I had set up shot. One old enough to be my mother if not older saw my Trojan blanket and started on me right away. She told me “I was going to be out of my element”. Well, needless to say we could not find this woman in the second half. Out of my element huh? Hey honey, get your own stadium before you tell me where to sit at in mine OK?

More attitude: Paul Forcellini was shut down most of the night by the Trojan defense and was visibly upset on the sideline during the second half, once seen shouting at Coach Craig Sponsky. Word has it that Coach does not run the tightest ship in the area of discipline and that shows when a team is losing. I have even heard on more than one occasion that he allows his players to call him “Craig”. Unacceptable. You cannot always win on talent alone, you need discipline.

And one final ramble, I am very disappointed in the complete lack of promotion for the Homecoming activities. JHS grad Jeff Richardson, the only Trojan to ever play in a Super Bowl, came back as an honorary captain. How many people signed up for the on-field, pre-game functions? Less than 10! Why you ask? Maybe because the school thought that total lack of promotion would be the way to get people to participate. All that was put in print was a 2 inch by 2 inch classified ad on the Back Page section of the Tribune Democrat last Saturday which vaguely described the event. No specifics other than phone numbers to call. This type of special event should have gotten a full press-release article in the Sports section. Now, I am saying this as self-promotion for the Sports Information Director job I would like created for myself (I have a proposal and business plan for that when the time is right!). I am more outraged that the school and athletic department would not have wanted do something more in order to have a big turn out. I guarantee had a similar idea been thought up by Central Catholic, Penn Hills, Woodland Hills, those schools would have had to turn people down.

A school with such a storied past and great tradition deserves better.

 

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #8

10/18/04

Well, I have had two days to get over the loss to McCort. It really was nothing that an upset Pitt win against Boston College and a big win by the Steelers against the Cowboys could not remedy! It has been 11 years since I have stepped foot on a high school football field and I still hate losing to the Crushers. I guess that is the way it should be, they are the natural rivalry. If there is one thing that the LHAC setup has gotten right, it was putting Bishop McCort and Johnstown in the same section, guaranteeing the teams play each other every season.

It used to be a huge thing for McCort to beat Johnstown. The first time was in 1989 and there was fighting in the streets of downtown Johnstown following the game. And then there was the one that came during my days, a 27-8 loss. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had to see the score spray painted on the school as I made my way to films the next day.

The Trojans had dominated the Crushers and previously, Johnstown Catholic prior to the 1980s. Heck, Jerry Davitch was roasted one time as the only Johnstown coach to ever lose to Bishop McCort. Well, 14 years and three coaches later (sorry Tom Fleming, Bill Caccotti and Bob Arcurio) it really is not any big thing. You could say they have had the upper hand, aside from last year’s emotional inaugural Trojan Stadium game, the Trojans have not beaten the Crushers since a 14-12 win in 1973.

Johnstown could also learn a lot from how the school, its fans, parents, boosters and alumni promote the school. Aside from having one of the best websites devoted to the athletic program I have ever seen for a high school (it is as good, if not better than some small colleges) their program is beautiful. It looks like what I have become accustomed to living down here in Pittsburgh and picking up at WPIAL games. Beautiful color team picture on the front, great design, tons of info including team photos of some of the better teams in the school’s history, all-time records and bios of alums that have gone pro. I challenge someone to give me a program from between say 1988 and now from JHS and show me the difference. It is the essentially the same design and layout. This year’s is especially uninspired, there are not even schedules for the JV, Freshman and junior high teams. A school with such a great tradition, JHS started playing football more than 20 years prior to Johnstown Catholic/Bishop McCort) deserves better. If you are wondering, I am STILL working on the Sports Information Director proposal.

OK, I am done on that for now. Let me address the game. I am not sure why Bob Arcurio and Brian Wright continued to run the ball inside on first and second down when it clearly was not working. Ken Salem made the proper adjustment at the half and called outside running plays for the speedy Shawn Lewis, surely the same could have been done with LaRod.

Secondly, the line play was lacking. I hate to spout clichés but I really think the McCort “hogs” wanted it more. Actually, they were anything but hogs, they looked very big and athletic and fired off the line on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If the inside run was not working, JHS simply could not drop back to pass as Devin Carosi was pressured all night.

Ben Landis missed another field goal attempt which puzzles me since he continues to be consistent on extra points, knocking through both his attempts Friday night. Make no mistake about it, Landis is the best kicker JHS has had in years, if ever. Yes, Cameron Pollard in ‘93 and Nick Teeter in ‘91 were both consistent in kicking extra points but neither was ever asked to kick a field goal. And Spanish foreign exchange student Arturo Vega was simply an abnormality that came along in ‘90 and Jerry Davitch smartly took advantage of the situation. Coach Arcurio owes it to this kid to get him some attempts in the final two games to increase his confidence in the three-pointers. LaRod will be gone next year and I doubt if touchdowns are going to come as easy to the Trojan offense. Landis is only a sophomore and he is probably going to continue to get better. A kid can practice all he wants but nothing beats game experience, so give the kid a shot on 4th down, especially since we are pretty much a lock for the playoffs.

That is all for now, the Trojans are off to Cresson this week to take on Penn Cambria and should win easily. We will talk about that tomorrow in Tuesday Trojan Trivia and “A Look Ahead”.

Monday Morning Ramblings #9

10/25/04

Last week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a piece by Mike White on the growing number of freshmen players making significant impacts on the varsity level (for story go to: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04296/399786.stm). The piece features Peters Township quarterback Tyler Porko who, despite being only 14 years old, is the Indians starting signal caller. Highlands also has a starting freshman at quarterback in Steve Pancik. That is quite amazing if you step back and look at it. The WPIAL is clearly the highest, most competitive level of high school football in the western half of the state (some would argue the entire state but the PIAA titles don’t back up those claims). For two Class AAA teams, arguably the strongest of all classifications in the WPIAL, to be going with ninth graders at quarterback is impressive to say the least. It should be pointed out that Peters Township is 3-5 and Highlands is 1-7 so I guess the moral of the story is let’s not hand the keys to the city yet to these guys. However, let puberty it them and they will only mature and grow up in their roles and it cannot be anything but positive for their respective programs.

I can recall two guys of somewhat local interest making their marks on the gridiron on the varsity level as fresh fish. Jim Patterson was a three-year starter for Greensburg Salem from 1991-93 but also saw playing time as a freshman. Patterson was also an accomplished wrestler for the Lions. Joe Nastasi played for his father at Northern Bedford High School and eventually went on to be a solid role player and possession receiver for Joe Paterno at Penn State. Nastasi was a four year letter winner in football and basketball and had a brief tryout with the Cleveland Browns.

This has not been the case with the Johnstown football program. Although Antwuan Reed has been starting on defense most of the year as a freshman, this is something JHS normally does not do. Prior to Reed this season and kicker Ben Landis last year, the last freshman to make an impact on the varsity roster was Anthony Andrews at the end of Tom Fleming’s tenure as coach. Fleming also gave tight end Anthony Woodard a quick look at the varsity level in ‘91 but thought better of it. That team was stacked with talent and a tight end really was not a good fit for a shotgun, spread type of attack. Woodard and his white helmet were quickly sent back to freshmen practice and he eventually transferred to Vo-Tech, playing for JHS defensive coordinator and athletic director Tony Penna.

Unless a kid is very, very special I am against rushing him to the varsity level. I think more schools need to take the approach with their program from the junior high level up and develop consistencies in plays, schemes and formations. One-on-one coaching at the earliest levels is key to grooming successful football players at the varsity level. Taking that away from a potentially good player could retard their grow and actually set them back.

The numbers game is always an issue, if your team does not have a lot of players out, then you could be forced to go with a younger team. This should really never be a problem with a school the size of Johnstown. It was a huge deal for a sophomore to be a starter when I was playing. A freshman, well, that was unfathomable.

As far as other sports are concerned, I think that is an apples and oranges argument. A kid can start baseball, basketball or soccer as a freshman. Football is completely different game, it is nowhere near as physical. I can tell you from experience as I was a starter on the Johnstown baseball team in 1991. Baseball was a game I had played since I was age 6 and quite frankly, the age gap between 15 and 18 year olds is really not that significant. In fact, those are the ages the players are eligible to play American Legion ball in. However, if you would have taken me in the fall of 1990 and asked me to play varsity football, well, I probably would have seriously injured myself! I was not even ready to contribute significantly at the varsity level until my junior year. I, like many other kids, did not start playing football until I got to seventh grade.

Kids are playing in pee wee leagues now at a much younger age. Also, the advent of full-fledged strength training systems, methods and programs are an advantage that today’s player has over players from years past.

I would still err on the side of caution when it comes to lining up a ninth grader on the varsity level. You better be certain that that player is special. Guys like Sto-Rox grad Adam DiMichele (four-year letter winner in baseball, football and basketball) only come along once in a great while. The rest of us schlubs have to play freshman and JV ball!

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #10

11/1/04

Who’d have thunk it? Back-to-back-to-back games at Trojan Stadium from Thursday through Saturday last week and the best game of the three was Richland and Central Thursday night? That’s right, a battle of 1-7 teams was better than four teams, all playoff bound, playing each other the following nights. Yes, a scrappy Central Scarlet Dragon team made the trek from Martinsburg to Trojan Stadium for the second time this season (having played the Trojans as well as they could have wished for earlier this year). Led by QB Colby Hazenstab and RB Scott McMaster, the Scarlet Dragons came from behind to down the Richland Rams. I wonder if Fred Yanity is going to blame the unfair conditions of the LHAC for the Rams blowing a 26-7 halftime lead. I guess that kind of lead would be easier to hold say, in the WestPAC? The only conditions that Richland should be worrying about is the poor condition their field was in all year.

As for the Friday night showdown, let’s just say I expected a bit more out of Central Cambria. They never were able to adjust to the Trojan pass rush and give Matt Mesaros time enough to throw. JHS held the heralded quarterback to under 100 yards through the air. It appeared as if the Trojan coaching staff really did their homework in preparing for a team that predominantly uses the pass. Perhaps preparing for a better opponent come playoff time?

And speaking of coaching, I was happy that Bob Arcurio gave Ben Landis an opportunity to kick a field goal in the first half. Landis pushed it wide left from the right hash which is a promising sign. He was bending the ball and just went too far, opposed to being tight and missing the kick right. I actually thought that Arcurio could have given Landis a shot earlier in the half, although it would have been from about 41 yards. Given the distance past the goal posts that Landis consistently kicks his extra points, he’d at least gotten the ball in to the end zone which would have given Central Cambria the ball on the their own 20 rather than the spot of the kick.

As for the Red Devils, they better bone up and get ready for the Bedford Bisons again. Early word is that the two teams will meet again, this time in a round one playoff game at Bedford. Central Cambria lost to Bedford 25-22 in week five.

Saturday was the biggest disappointment of all. Forest Hills just flat out got beaten up by Bishop McCort. The Crushers pretty much did whatever they wanted all night and kept a very large contingent of Rangers fan quiet for most of the night. The Ranger Nation will get their chance at revenge though, as sources tell us that the two teams will rematch this at Saturday at… you guessed it, Trojan Stadium. Don Bailey and his team better have short memories, in fact, if I were them, I’d burn the game tape and act like week nine never happened.

Now, getting back to JHS, they will play Central Mountain on Friday night at Trojan Stadium. We will discuss the Wildcats more in detail in tomorrow’s “A Look Ahead” piece. Central Mountain finished the year 4-5 after beating Jersey Shore Friday night.

During the year, some of the “Nation” have e-mailed me and talked to me in person as to how I feel about the Trojans’ chances in winning the district. Some of you have thought I have taken too nonchalant an approach as to how easy it really should be for the Trojans to advance to inter-district play. Well, Friday night should answered any doubts. Huntingdon, the defending district champs, were playing Glen Mills. The Battling Bulls are a Class AAAA team out of District 1. The Bearcats were playing for the number one seed could not pull out the win. The Bearcats finished 5-4 as did the other AAA qualifier Bellefonte. The Trojans are the cream of the crop in the class and should roll to an inter-district match-up most likely with Selinsgrove. The Seals were 26-14 winners over Montoursville Friday night. They still have one more regular season game, this Friday at 6-3 Mount Carmel.

If all goes as planned, this could be the farthest a Trojan team advances in post-season play for quite sometime. See you at the playoffs.

Doug Keklak can be reached at trojannation@yahoo.com.

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #11

11/15/04

Nothing like a little controversy to boost the amount of material one can write. Fresh from a night of rest in an EconoLodge in Toledo, Ohio I returned to my humble abode and was tackling phone calls and e-mails from members of “The Nation” and their disdain with the “neutral” site of Selinsgrove High School for the inter-district playoff game between the Seals and Johnstown.

Granted, there is some precedent in the past of some less than neutral sites for games. I have mentioned last year’s Class AAAA western final between State College and Central Catholic many times. North Allegheny High School in Wexford is a great site, but it was hardly fair to ask State College to travel that far. There also have been some home games for teams in the inter-district rounds before. Last year State College got to host District 10 champs Erie Cathedral Prep and in Class AAA, Perry Traditional Academy hosted Erie Strong Vincent. Last year in Class A Bishop Carroll didn’t host WPIAL champ Springdale but they did get to play them at Mansion Park, considerably less of a drive for them. Two things about the above mentioned games: they all happened in the western part of the bracket (the east doesn’t seem to have these inequities) and the team hosting (or closer to the site) won in all cases. This does not bode well for the Trojans.

I know there is some back and forth with districts taking turns hosting inter-district rounds. For instance, although Perry was able to host Erie Strong Vincent last year, the year before, they were forced to travel to Erie to play General McLane. Although that team of the zero-tolerance defense won easily but was later railroaded by eventual state champions Hopewell. However, something really needs to be hammered out when two schools are three hours apart from each other. I had thought that this had something to do with District 4 being in the western part of the bracket and being somewhat of a concession. Maybe they didn’t really want to play in the west but the PIAA told them they could host the first inter-district game and they agreed. I have put some calls and e-mails out and have not yet received anything to prove or refute that. I will keep the nation posted on the subject should I hear anything.

I implore each and everyone of my readers to contact the PIAA and tell them how you feel about this “neutral” site. Click here and you can call, fax or e-mail them.

One thing that really depresses me about playing the game at Selinsgrove is the poor turnout at the district championship game. I know it was cold and I know it was foggy but there was more than ample seating available on the home side of the bleachers. In fact, the Johnstown contingency could have sat comfortably in the visitors’ side. I find this disheartening. I have been to 9 of the 11 games Johnstown has played thus far this year and I really have seen the same people at all the games. The community isn’t rallying around this team like they should be. If Bob Arcurio was disappointed in the turnout at the Central Cambria game (which he told the Tribune-Democrat), they he should have been doubly disappointed by the low turnout in the district semifinal at Trojan Stadium against Central Mountain and livid against the poor turnout at Mansion Park for the District 6-AAA title game. This team made history and not very many people came out to see it.

When I got back to Johnstown after the game I watched the WJAC sports and it appeared that there was quite a turnout at the Chiefs game. That’s fine, I’m as big a fan of the Chiefs and the ECHL as there is. I listen to their games on the internet and attend them if I’m in town and able to. As far as hockey goes, this is all people have. I would do nothing to wish them ill will and furthermore I doubt their crowd took anyone away from the Johnstown game. I just don’t know what people have to do that’s so important that they don’t come out to support the team. I’ve been to Woodland Hills games in Pittsburgh where it’s deep in the second quarter and their fans are still filing in.

Bellefonte isn’t excused from the poor turnout either. They had just about the same distance to travel as Johnstown and I’ve seen Class A schools come better than they did. You’ll see it again as the WPIAL Championships from Heinz Field will most likely be televised live on Fox Sports Pittsburgh. Check out the fans that come out to support Rochester and Clairton.

Tom Gravish made an inexcusable error Friday night, sending out his punt team on third down and being forced to burn a time-out. There was a penalty a few plays prior that caused a down to replay. I’m not sure if was necessarily Gravish’s fault, but as head coach that responsibility lies with you. Hey coach, you’re not in Canada! Needless to say, that was the least of Bellefonte’s worries.

I didn’t quite care much for Bob Arcurio going for two with the score 26-0 and the game clearly in hand. Ben Landis had missed an extra-point on the previous touchdown and Arcurio appeared to be steadfast on using “the card” or chart to go for two even though it really wasn’t needed. Then, a penalty was called on Johnstown pushing them back five yards. Even more to just kick it. Why not give Landis a kick from a bit farther away?

Now, if I didn’t quite care for the call to go for two I downright HATED the play call. Yes, I know, it was an outstanding catch by Xavier Thomas but it was unnecessary. To call a trick play, a halfback pass is borderline running it up/rubbing it in. Now I didn’t take it that way, I just thought it was stupid to show that play when it really wasn’t needed. The only positive is that they could possibly be setting up a fake where Carosi keeps the ball and bootlegs it in the end zone, or perhaps throws to a tight end in the end zone.

Oh well, what do I know, he has a shiny District 6 champions plaque in his office and I’m just here writing internet columns!!!

I really enjoy the high school coverage that WTAJ and Kellie Goodman do. It is especially valuable in the work I do at www.pennlive.com on the Southwestern PA Football Blog. However, she made a pretty big goof Friday night and not only that she made it twice. She stated that Johnstown would be playing Clearfield next week. There was enough time between the two references that a producer or researcher could have been able to correct her. Not only does that show the proper amount of homework wasn’t done (which really wasn’t hard, the brackets have been online for quite some time now) but the misinformation is very damaging to the general public. They see the newspaper account the next day that says something different (ie the correct information) and now they are confused. I’m sure that Tony Penna and Clearfield’s athletic director were flooded with voice messages from concerned fans.

If you would like to relive the District 6-AAA Championship game all over again check out Atlantic Broadband’s channel on the Johnstown cable system. They’ll be replaying the game on Tuesday and Thursday of this upcoming week. Check your local listing for start times.

The Grey Cup final is set. The BC Lions will take on the Toronto Argonauts next week in Ottawa. JHS and Maryland product had 5 catches for 42 yards in the western final against Saskachewan in which the Lions won an overtime thriller 27-25. Good luck to Geroy and the Lions, it will be neat if a Trojan can get a ring at any level of football.

Doug Keklak can be reached at trojannation@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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