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2005 Monday Morning Ramblings

Monday Morning Ramblings #1

Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out…

Anticipation. Excitement. Uncertainty. These are three words that sum up feelings at this time of year for high school football fans everywhere.

Don’t blink, the Trojans take the field this Friday for their first game and before you know it, we’ll be talking about playoffs. Just as fast as every prep sportswriter pens a column about the season being upon us it seems like the state championship games at Hershey are over and yet another high school football season is in the books. The middle flies by us before we even realize what’s going on. I say let’s enjoy each week like it’s the last this year otherwise it’s going to just fly by us again.

The WPIAL teams got an early start again this year to maintain the Championship Saturday format at Heinz Field for their championships which I still think are more important than states to the coaches. Pennsylvania and Ohio split their games against one another Saturday at Gateway’s Antimarino Stadium in Monroeville as Pittsburgh Central Catholic lost 14-6 to St. Edward (Cleveland) while Gateway came from behind to be Benedictine (Cleveland) in the nightcap. Not too shabby, as two of the better teams from Western Pennsylvania took on two of the best teams not only in Northeast Ohio but the entire Buckeye State.

I have seen some teams run the spread offense out of shotgun before but how about Terry Smith at Gateway. His squad took EVERY snap from the gun, even the kneel down at the end of the game! I have never seen that. The Gators have a team loaded with talent as quarterback Aaron Smith will be going to Pitt and he has some very talented skill players around him. One to watch is junior Jon Ditto who is a very tall wide receiver.

I would like to go on my first rant this season (and most likely NOT my last!). The two games on yesterday were broadcast on Fox Sports Pittsburgh and Fox Sports Ohio. Aside from that, people that get the Fox College Sports Digital channels were also able to see it. It’s safe to say people watched that game all over the country. That being said, I cannot believe the total hack job the guys covering the game did. With the exception of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Kevin Gorman, who couldn’t seem to get a word in edge wise, the crew did an absolutely terrible job covering the event. It seems like Jed Donohue gets worse each year. I enjoyed Gorman putting him in his place during the Central Catholic game when he said he didn’t feel Central Catholic’s Nate Williams didn’t get enough credit. Gorman took exception to that, mainly because his paper and the Post-Gazette ran features about him and he was an all-state player last year. How much more attention would you Jed?

If that’s not bad enough, then there was the “coach”, the third guy in the booth who was yelling out “HE’S GONE” at the end of the Central Catholic game. St. Edward was forced to punt with a few seconds left and when the Central player fielded the punt this guy sees the wall set up and feels the need to take over the play-by-play duties. My suggestion: be a little more professional and let the play develop. (Why St. Edward’s coach elected to punt and not just have the punter run around and run out the clock is beyond me.) And for the record, if you didn’t see the game, the Central player did not return the punt all the way.

Finally, why Gordon Blain is allowed to hold a microphone on the sideline is beyond me. He stumbled through the Aaron Smith made-for-TV college announcement and was even worse with Eugene Jarvis. Does anyone else think Jarvis hates the “dancing machine” nickname? It looked like he was cringing when Blain said it, although just being around that guy is enough to make one cringe. I guess he has Andrew Stockey of Operation Football to thank for that one!

What really irks me is that these guys from SportsFever fancy themselves as the leaders in statewide prep school sports. At least that’s the message I got from their commercials.

OK, I’m done with that. Back to the Trojans! As many of you already know we’re going through a bit of an expansion project here at the Nation. I posted an announcement earlier that talked about some of the new features and new contributors we’ll have in 2005. Jason Subich and I will debut “Point/Counterpoint” this Thursday. We’ll be tackling the issue of whether high schools should be playing games on Thursday or not so stay tuned, it should be good. We feel really confident that “Point/Counterpoint” is going to develop in to a very entertaining weekly piece on Trojan Nation.

Also, another exciting development not mentioned is the working relationship that is developing between us at the Trojan Nation and the staff at JHS. I have to thank Cyndi Ahlborn for the many things she helped me with since her first email to me last year. Brian Subich was also quick to give me information on his eighth graders and he’ll be coaching the freshmen team this year. Also, Tony Penna, Jr. has been more than generous with his time both through email and phone calls thus far and I look to working with him on an ongoing basis. I cannot thank everyone at the school enough for the help they’ve provided to me and I only hope our relationship can continue to flourish.

Last year I was pretty much writing everything based on observations, now we’ll have a little bit of insider scoop which will be nice and can help us tell both sides of the story. We will still be independent and opinionated but we aren’t above being put in our place! If anyone feels I’m off base with something written on the site, please note that my email address is on every piece I write for the site (as will be the same for the new contributors as well). I encourage viewer feedback and gladly welcome it.

I toyed with the idea of trying to gain access to the press box and write stories from there during the game, but I just can’t bring myself to be away from the stands. I go to the game with a set group of friends, many of whom I played ball at JHS with. In fact, many of my friendships to this day were gained through football. I guess I’d rather just “keep it real”!

So welcome back to the column guaranteed to spark more than a little controversy. It's a little something I like to call Monday Morning Ramblings.

High school football… you’ve got to love it!

See you at Trojan Stadium Friday night!

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back…

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #2

I heard a comedian last week say something about Labor Day and why it’s called such since there’s no work done on it. It was the kind of Jerry Seinfeld-type observational humor that makes one giggle (I mean hey, what’s the deal with airline food?) That makes me laugh because I can clearly remember from my playing days as a Trojan some of the toughest practices I had were on Labor Day as it was the first practice day that following the opening game, which was usually a loss. “It’s Labor Day and we’re gonna work” is one thing I can remember a coach yelling! Hey, it was deserved as those practices were coming off of losses to Bishop McCort in ‘92 and Punxsutawney in ‘93 that saw us get outscored 59-6!

To the current day, I don’t know if Coach Arcurio has the guys practicing today but I will say this: it’s no time for panic mode. The problem I have with sports fans is that they normally aren’t willing to give credit to their opponent or if they do it’s in a “no disrespect” type manner that really means the opposite. Sure, when you look at the surface it does look pretty bad that a school that dressed less than 30 players on their varsity football team nearly beat a school with the largest enrollment figure in all of the LHAC and is less than 100 boys away from being AAAA. However, let’s give a little credit where credit is due. A.J. Hoenstine and his staff definitely game planned well. I said that the Dragons played the Trojans well last year for a half and then JHS pulled away. I thought Friday’s game would go similarly but it didn’t.

Those kids had nothing to lose. They have to know they are the underdog playing the defending 6-AAA champion on their home field. If there is any pressure at this point of the season (which I say there isn’t and I’ll explain later) it would be square on the back of Johnstown. With all these factors in place, all Central did was execute their offensive game plan to a “T” and really move the ball well. I believe if they would have driven the full 95 yards and scored that they truly deserved to win the game. Well, even with the goal line stand they still played tough enough for a victory. If they sure up their defense and play four solid quarters on offense similar to Friday night one thing is for sure, they will be some teams they lost to last year.

Now to the previous point of pressure. The Trojans situation is very unique insofar as the LHAC really doesn’t mean a lot as far as advancing in the playoffs. A loss to Central Friday night, while as bad as it would have made everyone felt, really wouldn’t be the end of the world. The 6-AAA field is small and not too terribly strong. I’ll hit on this more later in the week but although Bellefonte looks ready to make another run and Huntingdon should be back in the playoff hunt, as long as Johnstown handles their business on the field and wins 6 or 7 games they really should be a lock for at worst a four seed in the playoffs. Obviously they want to win every game and get the opening round home field advantage in the first round. That has proven to be advantageous the last two years as the odds really are on your side with a home playoff game.

To wrap up this point, I just want to say that you have to factor in to a season thinking you might lose a game that you really shouldn’t. For instance, last year, on paper Westmont should have had no business beating Johnstown. That’s why they play the games. As devastating as that loss felt at the time, it really didn’t make a difference come postseason. I would have hated to see JHS lose to Central to open the season but it would not have been the end of the world.

I know, I know, one game at a time and here I am prognosticating the playoff scene. Sure, the team wants to win every game it steps on the field but realism should let you know that probably isn’t going to happen. And it doesn’t mean anything if you do, look at Bedford last year. The only LHAC to go undefeated in the regular season and they’re booted out of the playoffs in the first round. I’d rather back in to the playoffs at 5-4 and advance three or four games than have that happened.

Bright spots weren’t plentiful at Heinz Field Saturday night as the Dave Wannstedt-era began at Pitt but LaRod Stephens had a small positive contribution. Although he didn’t get to return any kicks as they were either kicked short or to the other return man, Marcus Furman (who by the way, was the one that fumbled NOT LaRod in case you were watching on ABC). He did gain 17 yards on his 2 carries at running back and Matt Cavanaugh appears to have a special package that features him. He’ll line up in almost an H-back position in a three point stance and go in motion way wide to the sideline. He then runs what looks like a takeoff or go route that appears to be there to clear out space for the tight end. Although they didn’t throw to him, both passes out of the formation went to his side of the pattern. Hopefully before too long he’ll get the end zone, although I really thought he was going to get in on his second carry. We’ll get another chance to see Friday night as the Panthers will be in Athens, Ohio to take on Ohio U in a game that will be on ESPN2.

Of course I know you’ll be setting your VCR or Tivo as you’ll be at the Johnstown game!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #3

Oh boy…

To say all is not well in Trojanland would be an understatement. As my cohort Jason Subich can be heard saying, they “gotta lotta work to do.” After the performance Friday night, there should probably be t-shirts printed with that mantra on them.

All hope is not lost though. I told many friends as well as members of the coaching staff I thought this team would go 6-3. I said that one of those losses would be to a team they really should not lose to, similar to Westmont a year ago. Personally, I don’t think wanting to go undefeated in the regular season is the way to go. I know the Pittsburgh Central Catholic squad from a year ago would disagree with me but look at Bedford last year or the Perry Traditional team from a few years ago. They seemed to be more interested in that scoreless streak than anything. Hopewell scored on them, put them in shock and went on to win the western final and then states. The Commodores, which no one would argue was the better team, went back to the Hilltop to get started on the basketball season early.

If its adversity you want, you got it. This team has it and they have to overcome it. I believe they will. They just need a kick start, a fresh start if you will. I think it’s safe to say the team, with all its talent, has underachieved in both games this year. That being said, there have been positives. The way they were able to comeback against Central, the fact that they truly didn’t surrender victory until the final gun against Penn Cambria. They did their best to mount a comeback and fell short but it was not for lack of effort.

One thing that irks me about the common football fan is that they are always quick to point out deficiencies in their team and coaching staff and never give any credit to the team on the other side of the field. Let’s applaud what Ernie Fetzer and the Panthers were able to accomplish Friday night. They had a game plan, stuck with it, executed it, and beat JHS.

Even as bleak as things seemed in the stands this season is NOT over. Regardless of the “supporters” I heard saying the team would be lucky to win two games this year, this game really wasn’t “in the bag” until the Trojans failed to convert that 4th and 25. The Trojans could have scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion and been six points away from a tie. Asking a high school team to recover an onside kick is a lot but if they score on that drive they are in the position to at least attempt it. It really was a tale of two halves in a way, and the Trojans that showed up the second half were a different, more energized squad than the first. I believe the game could have been a different story had the Trojans deferred and received the kickoff in the second half. Penn Cambria, although they didn’t score, took a lot of time off the clock that first drive of the half.

Another play that proves the old “game of inches” cliché is the quarterback throwback that was attempted. Had Reed had protection, he would have found a wide open Hody in the flat that would have probably taken the ball in for the score or at the very least, deep in to PC territory. Reed never even had a chance, the PC pass rush was in his face as soon as he got the ball.

So no, the Trojans weren’t “playing like girls” as I heard one “fan” yelling. In fact, quite honestly, if you aren’t going to be positive in your support for the team don’t show up. I am a firm believer that high school kids should not be booed, chided, or ridiculed during a game. Now I know why I enjoy sitting on the visitor’s side of the bleachers at Trojan Stadium for home games. It’s to avoid that type of nonsense.

One point that needs reiterated about Johnstown football though is motivation. Not for JHS, but the opponent. The players and coaches need to realize that for most teams playing and beating the Trojans is like winning the Super Bowl. Did you see how the kids from PC reacted at the end of the game? You think they reacted as happily after the win over Somerset? Probably not. Schools give a little extra when they see that jersey with “Johnstown” on the front. Remember how hype Central Cambria was to knock off the Trojans back in 2001 during the Trojans’ first LHAC campaign? The 13 squads that have beaten JHS since the Trojans entrance have tasted a victory sweeter than average.

What does this mean for Johnstown? Game planning, preparation, practice, execution all have to be done with the lowest margin of error. And now the target is even bigger as you best believe that the remaining schools on JHS’ schedule are now looking at a more winnable game.

Another bright spot Friday night was when my mother called my cell phone to tell me that LaRod had returned the opening kickoff to the house in Pitt’s game at Ohio U. As I took the call and told those sitting around me with excitement, I looked around and saw a sight unlike anything I had ever been a part of. EVERYONE with a cell phone in the stands was on it as someone had called them to tell them the good news. People were giving thumbs up and cheering, it was truly a unique scene to be a part of. And what a classy move of solidarity on Penn Cambria’s part as they announced the play over the loudspeaker.

Unfortunately for Pitt, it was one of their few bright moments on the night as well. It was the only touchdown they scored and touchdown Tyler Palko, let’s just say his expletives could be saved for his own performance. Wannstedt’s gotta lotta work to do too! They could be 0-3 after traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend.

Oh, and LaRod’s one carry for one yard might not light up your stat sheet but it was an amazing effort just to get back to the line of scrimmage. Yes we’re biased, but many of us in the Trojan Nation are clamoring for the “Johnstown Jet” to get some more playing time!

Will Tyler suffer from a sophomore jinx? Probably not. He’s need to get busy like his days back at West A. and he’ll be fine. You want a real sophomore jinx… pass on Kanye West’s new CD because it’s garbage. Even the track with Jay-Z is sub par. Download tracks two and three for your iPod and save the $10, grab your copy of College Dropout and relive what could have been.

Maybe cat should have gotten that diploma!

OK, I know, I know, but it’s Ramblings….!!!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #4

So much for being 5-0 when we meet Bishop Carroll huh?!

That being said, I still am a firm believer that season still is actually in pretty good shape. Why you ask? First of all, aside from a 1-2 start the Trojans still remain in third place in the 6-AAA points. It is by no means a stranglehold or lock but if you project the rest of the season the Trojans really should be alright come November granted there isn’t an implosion and a five-game losing streak or something.

The other positive thing I see is that regardless of losing to Penn Cambria and Westmont this really isn’t a bad football team. Look at the performances the team has put together in the second half of the last two games. They surely didn’t give up. I think what is upsetting is that this team has talent. There are some really good, athletic kids on the squad. It’s not like in the late 90s when the teams were putting up bad records and you went in to a game knowing the team had a slim to none chance of winning against some of those WPIAL teams. This team has players and they’ve made some plays, they just need to put a complete effort together. Four quarters played this Friday against Richland the way the squad played in the second half of the last two games and it should be a good night for the Trojans.

Defensively the secondary has been a concern since the first scrimmage and nothing really changed on Saturday in Westmont. There were too many big plays, third conversions and the like, that Paul Vrabel was able to complete or they were able to get on the ground. Some good stops have been made, but lacking this year thus far has been that big game changing turnover like a fumble or INT returned for a touchdown. Nothing can light a spark under an offense like the defense getting in the act and helping out.

Oh, and what’s the deal with Westmont anyway? They seem to have our number as of late, handing the Trojans their first Trojan Stadium defeat last year as well. In fact, other than the 2003 blowout at Price Field, JHS only won one other contest with the Hilltoppers. That was in 2002 and it was a slim 7-6 game with Westy missing a field goal as time expired (sound familiar Pitt fans?!) Oh well, no need to dwell, there’s always next year for them, this year’s squad has to move on.

Other observations:

How about the debut of Myron Coleman? #2 looks to be a difference maker that can break a big play every time he touches the ball and is definitely a great complement to Xavier Thomas and Antwuan Reed on offense and can score anytime he gets the chance to return a punt. Where has he been you ask? Well, he was sick a few days leading up to the Penn Cambria game and missed a few practices so he didn’t dress. As for the week before, well, let’s just say there was a “paperwork error” with Bishop McCort and the PIAA. I guess there’s no problem with a kid going from a Catholic school to a public school (of the district he lives in and has every right to attend and participate in extracurricular activities) when it’s discovered he wants to play football. Whatever.

I had to laugh at the referee give Johnstown a sideline warning in the second half. Mainly because there was only like seven to ten feet from the sideline to a rope that was separating the sideline from the stands. Where else could they go, it’s not as if they had all kinds of room. Price Field is different than most football fields with a track around it because on the visitors’ sideline they have the space for the field events so the bleachers are actually inside the track rather than outside of it, like at Trojan Stadium and most other venues. (Personally, the way some “fans” were acting, I would have rather sat farther back anyway. Seriously, each week some of you really remind me why I enjoy sitting on the visitors’ sideline at Trojan Stadium.)

On officiating, I saw the comments that Coach Arcurio made to Mike Mastovich about the holding calls. I will say this, there was one drive where the Trojans were really killed with penalties. I’m sure the zebras were more than happy to through as many flags as possible as they were probably tightened up with the PIAA official evaluator in the crowd and the game going out statewide on PCN. That all being said, Westy was only penalized 10 fewer yards for the game. I appreciate that he’s protecting his kids, I just can’t put games on officials. I will give you these two plays: the Hody interception on the drive in the first half and Reed’s fumble on a toss sweep in the fourth quarter. The interception killed a drive that appeared to be destined for the end zone. The fumble on the toss sweep, although recovered by Reed, had green grass ahead of it and could have been the touchdown there. The illegal forward pass that negated the tying score would never even been an issue. You can’t say there are a few plays you missed on defense and not hold the offense accountable (you know, the whole “can’t have it both ways” conversation!) All I’m saying is you watch a game tape and there are numerous plays, if executed properly, could change the outcome of a game on both sides of the ball and special teams as well. JHS had chances, they just didn’t take advantage of all of them. That’s not the officials fault.

Breakup the Penn Cambria Panthers! Is this squad for real? It sure looks that way as they beat Central Cambria to win the goal post trophy (huh???) and have improved to 3-0 for the first time since, well, who knows?! All I know is this, credit those kids up in Cresson, they seem to have bought in to whatever Ernie Fetzer and his staff are selling them. Maybe that loss to them won’t be so bad after all!

And last and definitely not least, how cool was it to see the blue and black on screen during a nationally televised ABC college football game Saturday? Pitt played Nebraska and they had some game footage of LaRod from last year. LaRod finished the game with 98 yards on 17 carries, although he should have had 100 as he was over it twice, only to lose yards on runs because of a lack of blocking on the offensive line. Although things are looking to good at Pitt with the 0-3 start, LaRod seems to be a lone bright spot in the scheme of things. Aside from a few nice deep balls thrown by Palko (who had another sub par game) LaRod was pretty much the only offense the Panthers could muster. Rashad Jennings may have injured himself right out of a job.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #5

I normally scoff at coach speak and hearing the “one day at a time” stuff that coaches and players hit you with at all levels of football but I will say this. I do NOT underestimate the statements of Coach Arcurio following the win against Richland Friday night. This really is an improved Richland club and that’s all-around. From the kids to the coaching staff and administration to the fans even. I remember being at the game last year at Richland and overhearing a fan state “well, at least hockey season will be starting soon.” Friday night their fans were as enthusiastic as I’ve seen them in years.

You probably aren’t surprised by this coming from me. I harped on this much of last week and in my conservative prediction of margin of victory in “Tale of the Tape” Friday. I truly was surprised. Not that the Trojans won, but how convincing it really was. I think the reason is two-fold.

First, I think the Trojans took advantage of every break the Rams gave them, or that JHS created schematically. In order to beat an opponent you have to score off of every turnover they give you. That appeared to be the theme early with the points off the fumble on the kickoff and the interception returned for the touchdown. The Trojans’ offense really didn’t have much to do in the first half.

Second, I really think that Richland appeared to be playing in to the strengths of the Johnstown defense way too much. Just one look at the size of the Richland offensive line against the front four of Johnstown could tell you that Marco Pecora wasn’t going to have the time to get a five step drop and set up a pocket passing game. The Trojans sacked Ram quarterbacks seven times and LaVarr Stephens and Aaron Brezovic each had two.

When the Rams came out in the second half they ran some three step drops and quick stops and ins with some success. Granted the Rams were already behind by four scores when they touched the ball in the second half so there really wasn’t that much Brandon Bailey could do at that point.

Richland also ran some option with some success, especially on the pitchman. Although the Trojans have great team speed, that is a raw skill. It appears they still have some work to do with discipline and assignments. This is also the case with the secondary. While I like the chances of our defensive backs in a footrace, that is not the way football is played. This is why I thought for sure that Richland would have a little more success. I’m not down on my assessment of Richland though, realistically I think they could double their win total of a year ago (when they were 2-8). I can see them beating Somerset, Central and Ligonier Valley who all remain on their schedule. 2-8 vs. 4-6 might not seem like that big of a deal here in the Trojan Nation but for a program that is 17-58 in the last six seasons and hasn’t had a winning season since 1999 it is a big deal.

I just want to ramble quickly on two non-JHS related topics. First, I have to laugh at Gary Hogeboom’s strategy on the most recent installment of CBS’ reality show juggernaut Survivor. He is playing it low key and actually lying about his past as a quarterback in the NFL. A young lady on the opposing team remembers who he is and when he was called out about it, he denied. OK, this guy was a mediocre at best NFL quarterback and an even worse reality show player.

(Before you hit my inbox with emails titled “Who the heck is Gary Hogeboom?” look here.)

Sour grapes from the McKeesport High School football program and it starts at the top with cranky old man #1 in the WPIAL head coach George Smith. (He was McKeesport’s coach the last time the Tigers played the Trojans, when Jerry Davitch was still coach!). Rather than just take the 6-0 loss to Highlands in a game that was called because of rain and lightning (it was a meaningless non-conference game and if you know anything about the WPIAL non-conference games mean so little they are actually referred to at times as “preseason” games.) Smith complained, being smart alecky when asked about the game. “What game” I think were his words when asked by one Pittsburgh reporter. Rather than take one more loss on his overall record he’s insisting the game be completed and it will be… …on Monday, October 24. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, if McKeesport and Highlands qualify for the WPIAL playoffs they’ll play their first round game that Friday or Saturday.

Anyone that knows me knows how I despise the Pennsylvania coaches that insist in continuing the Thanksgiving Day games and then playing a PIAA playoff game on Saturday.

If my son is a player on one of those teams and gets hurt on a Monday and can’t play in the playoffs I am one unhappy camper for sure.

Friday Night Politics I guess!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

Monday Morning Ramblings #6

Sometimes a score or a newspaper story or even a highlight package on the 11:00 news doesn’t tell the whole story of a game and I think that last Friday night’s win against Somerset is a prime example of this thought in action.

I think it is safe to say that if Johnstown plays the rest of the season like they did the first half against Somerset it could be a long rest of the season. The skill level of the Golden Eagles is nowhere near the level of the Trojans yet they were able to somehow stay in the game and have the score tied at halftime.

And although the Trojans pulled away in the second half to make it appear like a blowout there really shouldn’t be any patting of backs just yet. Despite a three touchdown victory, the Trojan defense had the ball run right up the middle on them pretty much the entire first half and had the Eagles’ quarterback not overthrown so many of his receivers I believe the Trojans could have been in some serious trouble.

Against an opponent like Somerset the team was able to regroup and separate itself at halftime but it isn’t going to be as easy with the stretch of their schedule coming up. Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort are two teams that you must play absolute mistake free football to be in the game with. The separation factor won’t be there because these teams will get even stronger on the momentum of a big first half.

One other alarming thing is the way Johnstown has let teams seem to win the time of possession battle. Against Somerset and previously against Penn Cambria it seemed at key times the defense wasn’t able to get off the field and even when the opponent eventually turned the ball over on downs, damage was done as valuable minutes ticked off the clock. This made the comeback extremely difficult against Penn Cambria. Even Friday night Somerset put together some good sustained drives up against the Trojans.

This could spell trouble because from the way the Bishop Carroll/Westmont game when, the Huskies have no problem eating up clock even if they don’t put six on the board.

The Trojans’ season in a nutshell thus far as been a slow start in the first half and a strong second half to either attempt to comeback or to widen the margin of victory. The only truly total, four quarter effort to date came against Richland. That is the only game that they really poured it on all four quarters.

In order to beat the Huskies or Crushers they’ll need that type of effort plus a little more. They’ll also need the moxie to drive down the field to win the game like they did week one against Central. Adversity always shows its face for the big games so expect the team to be asked to dig deep the next two weeks.

Playoffs are on the line and right now, JHS sits in third place currently but that by no means is a lock. The Trojans could really benefit by beating a Bishop Carroll or McCort because of the bonus points for wins by an opponent you’ve beaten. The Trojans desperately need to beat some quality opponents because at the end of week nine it really could come down to 10 or 20 points. Especially with the rest of the 6-AAA table having an advantage by playing a tougher schedule and more AAA opponents.

The next four weeks is crunch time. There are no easy wins left on the schedule. Big time teams and big time players live for this stuff!

Let’s roll!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

I normally scoff at coach speak and hearing the “one day at a time” stuff that coaches and players hit you with at all levels of football but I will say this. I do NOT underestimate the statements of Coach Arcurio following the win against Richland Friday night. This really is an improved Richland club and that’s all-around. From the kids to the coaching staff and administration to the fans even. I remember being at the game last year at Richland and overhearing a fan state “well, at least hockey season will be starting soon.” Friday night their fans were as enthusiastic as I’ve seen them in years.

You probably aren’t surprised by this coming from me. I harped on this much of last week and in my conservative prediction of margin of victory in “Tale of the Tape” Friday. I truly was surprised. Not that the Trojans won, but how convincing it really was. I think the reason is two-fold.

First, I think the Trojans took advantage of every break the Rams gave them, or that JHS created schematically. In order to beat an opponent you have to score off of every turnover they give you. That appeared to be the theme early with the points off the fumble on the kickoff and the interception returned for the touchdown. The Trojans’ offense really didn’t have much to do in the first half.

Second, I really think that Richland appeared to be playing in to the strengths of the Johnstown defense way too much. Just one look at the size of the Richland offensive line against the front four of Johnstown could tell you that Marco Pecora wasn’t going to have the time to get a five step drop and set up a pocket passing game. The Trojans sacked Ram quarterbacks seven times and LaVarr Stephens and Aaron Brezovic each had two.

When the Rams came out in the second half they ran some three step drops and quick stops and ins with some success. Granted the Rams were already behind by four scores when they touched the ball in the second half so there really wasn’t that much Brandon Bailey could do at that point.

Richland also ran some option with some success, especially on the pitchman. Although the Trojans have great team speed, that is a raw skill. It appears they still have some work to do with discipline and assignments. This is also the case with the secondary. While I like the chances of our defensive backs in a footrace, that is not the way football is played. This is why I thought for sure that Richland would have a little more success. I’m not down on my assessment of Richland though, realistically I think they could double their win total of a year ago (when they were 2-8). I can see them beating Somerset, Central and Ligonier Valley who all remain on their schedule. 2-8 vs. 4-6 might not seem like that big of a deal here in the Trojan Nation but for a program that is 17-58 in the last six seasons and hasn’t had a winning season since 1999 it is a big deal.

I just want to ramble quickly on two non-JHS related topics. First, I have to laugh at Gary Hogeboom’s strategy on the most recent installment of CBS’ reality show juggernaut Survivor. He is playing it low key and actually lying about his past as a quarterback in the NFL. A young lady on the opposing team remembers who he is and when he was called out about it, he denied. OK, this guy was a mediocre at best NFL quarterback and an even worse reality show player.

(Before you hit my inbox with emails titled “Who the heck is Gary Hogeboom?” look here.)

Sour grapes from the McKeesport High School football program and it starts at the top with cranky old man #1 in the WPIAL head coach George Smith. (He was McKeesport’s coach the last time the Tigers played the Trojans, when Jerry Davitch was still coach!). Rather than just take the 6-0 loss to Highlands in a game that was called because of rain and lightning (it was a meaningless non-conference game and if you know anything about the WPIAL non-conference games mean so little they are actually referred to at times as “preseason” games.) Smith complained, being smart alecky when asked about the game. “What game” I think were his words when asked by one Pittsburgh reporter. Rather than take one more loss on his overall record he’s insisting the game be completed and it will be… …on Monday, October 24. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, if McKeesport and Highlands qualify for the WPIAL playoffs they’ll play their first round game that Friday or Saturday.

Anyone that knows me knows how I despise the Pennsylvania coaches that insist in continuing the Thanksgiving Day games and then playing a PIAA playoff game on Saturday.

If my son is a player on one of those teams and gets hurt on a Monday and can’t play in the playoffs I am one unhappy camper for sure.

Friday Night Politics I guess!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Monday Morning Ramblings #7

Football is a strange, strange animal.

I turned to Jason Subich after the first half of the Somerset game two weeks ago and said “if we play like this we will get out [expletive deleted] kicked the next two weeks.”

Truth be told, I felt better Friday night after watching the Trojans get shut out for the first time since 2002 than I did the previous week in a 21-point victory.

Sure, the offense didn’t play particularly well, but when you really breakdown the game it isn’t as bad as one might think. We were still able to run the ball well with Reed getting over 100 yards, although many of them were on that one big run. Not to use the weather as an excuse since both teams have to play in it, but Brandon Hody was asked to do a lot with a wet ball.

Yes, I do question the decision to throw the ball three straight times following the long Reed run, but that was one situation. Penalties, as they have all season, marred the drive on the short field following the blocked punt and the Trojans had no choice but to throw the ball.

I love the slip screen to Xavier, but like so many other big plays, it seems like we go to the well too much after we have success with a play. I’d like to believe we were setting something else up off that play, but normally a good team and coaching staff is going to recognize a play and that is to an extent what BC did with that screen.

Another question mark I have following the game is the non-factor that Myron Coleman has been on offense since the Westmont game. He had some nice catches and runs in that game against the Hilltoppers but Friday night, he only seemed to get on the field for kick returns. I don’t know if he’s been having troubles in practice and Andrews and Young have been outperforming him for playing time opposite “X” but it seems that this is a guy that has to get on the field. With his speed you have to find a way to get him the ball, even to create plays for him.

Hey, why not this week? With Coleman going against his old school in McCort this Friday night, that story seems to write itself. How sweet would it be for #2 to score a touchdown against his old teammates? Especially in light of the… …ahem… “paperwork error” that kept Coleman in street clothes for the Trojans’ opener against Central.

Believe you me, Johnstown/McCort doesn’t need any additional hype. This is the game. There will be bonfires and pep rallies all week. The two games between these teams that have taken place at Trojan Stadium have both been pretty dramatic. The inaugural game in ‘02 was 14-9 JHS and McCort had the ball at the end of the game and just didn’t have enough time to score. Who could forget last year’s game that came down to a Marc Domonkos chip shot?

This game will have top billing on all the TV stations and local newspapers and rightfully so. Personally, I feel good about the Trojans’ chances. I think Bishop McCort showed they’re a beatable team in the game against Bishop Carroll. I think the score of the JHS/Carroll game is misleading. I think this will be another close Trojans-Crushers game.

Get ready for another City Classic!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

Sometimes a score or a newspaper story or even a highlight package on the 11:00 news doesn’t tell the whole story of a game and I think that last Friday night’s win against Somerset is a prime example of this thought in action.

I think it is safe to say that if Johnstown plays the rest of the season like they did the first half against Somerset it could be a long rest of the season. The skill level of the Golden Eagles is nowhere near the level of the Trojans yet they were able to somehow stay in the game and have the score tied at halftime.

And although the Trojans pulled away in the second half to make it appear like a blowout there really shouldn’t be any patting of backs just yet. Despite a three touchdown victory, the Trojan defense had the ball run right up the middle on them pretty much the entire first half and had the Eagles’ quarterback not overthrown so many of his receivers I believe the Trojans could have been in some serious trouble.

Against an opponent like Somerset the team was able to regroup and separate itself at halftime but it isn’t going to be as easy with the stretch of their schedule coming up. Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort are two teams that you must play absolute mistake free football to be in the game with. The separation factor won’t be there because these teams will get even stronger on the momentum of a big first half.

One other alarming thing is the way Johnstown has let teams seem to win the time of possession battle. Against Somerset and previously against Penn Cambria it seemed at key times the defense wasn’t able to get off the field and even when the opponent eventually turned the ball over on downs, damage was done as valuable minutes ticked off the clock. This made the comeback extremely difficult against Penn Cambria. Even Friday night Somerset put together some good sustained drives up against the Trojans.

This could spell trouble because from the way the Bishop Carroll/Westmont game when, the Huskies have no problem eating up clock even if they don’t put six on the board.

The Trojans’ season in a nutshell thus far as been a slow start in the first half and a strong second half to either attempt to comeback or to widen the margin of victory. The only truly total, four quarter effort to date came against Richland. That is the only game that they really poured it on all four quarters.

In order to beat the Huskies or Crushers they’ll need that type of effort plus a little more. They’ll also need the moxie to drive down the field to win the game like they did week one against Central. Adversity always shows its face for the big games so expect the team to be asked to dig deep the next two weeks.

Playoffs are on the line and right now, JHS sits in third place currently but that by no means is a lock. The Trojans could really benefit by beating a Bishop Carroll or McCort because of the bonus points for wins by an opponent you’ve beaten. The Trojans desperately need to beat some quality opponents because at the end of week nine it really could come down to 10 or 20 points. Especially with the rest of the 6-AAA table having an advantage by playing a tougher schedule and more AAA opponents.

The next four weeks is crunch time. There are no easy wins left on the schedule. Big time teams and big time players live for this stuff!

Let’s roll!

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Monday Morning Ramblings #8

Another year, another loss to McCort. What is it about the Crimson Crusher program that has the pale blue and black looking at a lot of “L”s as of late? In the last eight meetings between the Trojans and the Crushers, JHS is 1-6-1. This coming after an era of dominance from the Johnstown program. Up until Jerry Davitch’s 1989 team lost to McCort in a game during that woeful independent District 6-AAAA season, the Trojans had NEVER lost a game to McCort. This dating back to as early as when Bishop McCort was still known as Johnstown Catholic in 1933 up until 1973 when the Trojans nearly lost a game to a Crusher team laden with talent, including future Notre Dame and Denver Bronco standout Pete Duranko.

Well, one thing is for sure, amidst all the accusations of sponsors and recruiting one must give credit where credit is due. The Crushers have a very disciplined program. These teams, as far back as I can remember, do not make mental mistakes and force other teams to make them. Case in point, how many offsides penalties did Johnstown suffer Friday night? The answer is too many. It was reminiscent of ‘89 when a McCort team forced JHS to jump offsides three times in the opening drive. That set the tone for the first ever loss to a McCort team and a seemingly endless time period of McCort dominance over Johnstown at the varsity level. Event the high-powered ‘91 Trojan team led by Brian Mangiafico could only muster a tie against the Crushers, and that tie felt like a win in a small way because Johnstown had to drive the length of the field AND convert the 2-point conversion.

One aspect that sticks out like a sore thumb has been the McCort program’s ability to run the ball with success and distribute the ball between many backs. No one has committed to and ran the football better from the fullback position in the past 15 years than McCort. Why else would Coach Salem have the confidence to run a fullback trap at third and 13? There are plays in that playbook that I swear, go back to Frank Krevetski’s time at the helm.

Switching gears, as much as the Crushers statistically dominated the Trojans Friday night it was another close game. JHS had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to drive the field and tie. That was amazing considering the offense’s inability to move the ball all night coupled with McCort’s dominance in time of possession. It’s tough having to deal with a loss to your bitter rival, but it just goes to show that this is a great game and the best rivalry in the LHAC. There is no doubt in my mind that last year’s team was better than McCort and they lost. On the contrary, the ‘03 team probably overachieved in beating the Crushers that year.

Now, it’s time for me to be critical. I have to wonder why Myron Coleman hasn’t been a more integral part of the Trojans’ offensive attack. He has obviously showed his explosive playmaking ability with his punt return. You may have recalled that we called that Coleman would reach the end zone against his former teammates and we were glad to see that prediction come to fruition. That being said, why hasn’t he been more involved other than punt returns. He got a few touches against Westmont and showed he can gain yardage with the ball in his hands. Have Young and Andrews separated themselves in practice? Do they know the playbook better? Who knows? One thing is for sure, Xavier Thomas has been getting a lot of attention lately and I think he needs another playmaker, one with Coleman’s ability, on the field with him at all times to help carry the load. Otherwise, #1 is going to continue to see double teams.

Another question mark has been the lack of Brandon Hody working out of the shotgun. It was our understanding that some shotgun was added to the playbook during camp and I really think Friday night would have been a good time for it. Especially in that last chance before McCort took a knee after taking over on downs. JHS could only muster one pass play, the other three downs resulted in sacks of Hody. With the running ability Hody has displayed this year, I would think putting him in the gun would give him opportunity to see the oncoming rush quicker and possibly escape the pocket and either tuck it and run or hit a WR on the run and make something happen.

Finishing up, the McCort game is history and this week’s game with Central Cambria is big time. If the Trojans want a chance at defending their 6-AAA title, this is a must win. They are on the cusp of not even qualifying for the playoffs and a loss this week could all but eliminate them.

In other stories around the district, two pretty big upsets took place over the weekend, one in the WestPAC and one in the Heritage. Previously unbeaten Blairsville dropped its first game this year to the Marion Center Stingers while in the WestPAC the Berlin Brothersvalley Mountaineers dropped an overtime decision to lowly North Star.

And last but not least, JHS grad LaRod Stephens-Howling had another 90+ yard rushing performance in a win over the weekend against Big East foe South Florida. It was his first action in two weeks after sitting out games against Rutgers and Cincinnati after tweaking his ankle in the Youngstown State game.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Monday Morning Ramblings #9

I’d like to thank WJAC’s website for being one of the biggest buzz kills since my parents cancelled a week long trip after I had coordinated no less than three parties at the house during the week they intended to be away!

As I got through the door Friday night following the JHS win I got a phone call from fellow Trojan Nation staffer Jason Subich and he mentioned on the WJAC website that Central Mountain had beaten Cedar Cliff. It was important that Central Mountain lost in the scheme of things for JHS’ playoff chances to be as good as possible.

Jason had been crunching numbers all week and unofficially had it down to if JHS won against Central Cambria, they should be in. A Central Mountain game would have set up a very, very vital scenario this Friday against Bedford. Not only would the Trojans have to handle their business on the field in a road game against Bedford but Central Mountain would have to lose against a very bad Jersey Shore team. As that seemed unlikely needless to say we were a little bit down. That was rough considering how good we felt following the win.

However, when we went to our trusty partners at e-PASports and Pennsylvania Football News, we got the good news that the Wildcats of Central Mountain did in fact lose to Cedar Cliff. For those that don’t know, Cedar Cliff is a Quad-A team in the Mid Penn Conference. They play in the Commonwealth Division with State College, Altoona and State College among others. Central Mountain would have gotten a huge boost in points.

Next year, I plan on calling on Jason to have a new piece called “Inside the Numbers” or “Numberology” or something of that nature. He has done a tremendous job of keeping me on my toes this year throughout the season as to what team in 6-AAA is where, who they are playing and pretty much just keeping up with the playoff race.

Also, for those of you that enjoyed out “Point/Counterpoint” series this year, fear not, we haven’t discontinued it, it’s just on hiatus. We are going to have one wrap up, it’s actually going to be a special Hindsight edition where we revisit our piece on the ESPN “Bound for Glory” show.

I guess my comrades here at the Nation will find it out in MMR first, but they will get an email on this new thing. I am going to do an exhibition bracket pool on the always exciting WPIAL Playoff tournament that culminates in the most exciting day of high school football for my money, Championship Saturday at Heinz Field. This will have not be an add on to our tight “The Pick Sheet” race, although there may be some overlap in games to pick. Fellas, I’ll send you out the details after the playoff pairings are announced. If you want to get a head start on the action, point a browser to http://www.msasportsnetwork.com/show.asp?region=1&id=13438 and listen to Don Rebel’s pairing show.

One thing I love about going to high school football games is just chatting with people. I love hearing rumors and scoop and it’s especially neat sitting with the visitor’s fans like we do at Trojan Stadium. I got to talking to a guy from Central Cambria Friday and we somehow got on the topic of Bishop Carroll and he said he heard that the Huskies will be playing all their home games at the new St. Francis Field in 2006. This would be a plus for them, rather than having to bus between either Central Cambria or Penn Cambria, to have a permanent home. An email is out to a contact from BC to see if that rumor can be confirmed or denied.

And finally on this good Monday morning I’d like to congratulate everyone’s favorite little big man on campus, LaRod Stephens-Howling on achieving his first 100 game on the college level. I had a flashback of good times at Trojan Stadium when #34 broke free against the Syracuse defense. I jumped out of my seat at Heinz Field, arms stretched over my head signaling touchdown. Although he was caught and did not score, he had a great game and all my Trojan biases aside, has been the number one running option in the Panthers’ offense this year hands down.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Monday Morning Ramblings #10

Where to start?

I truly believe that Friday’s 40-6 loss to Bedford was the program’s most disappointing loss since JHS entered the LHAC back in 2001. Let’s be honest, no one expected much of the team in Bill Caccotti’s last season in ‘01. The program had reached rock bottom at that point. Coach Arcurio’s first season back, in ‘02, I think the kids overachieved just to make the playoffs. ‘03 and ‘04 were stalwart years, with the team losing two games in ‘03 by a combined total of four points. We all know the successes of the ‘04 District Championship team. The losses suffered by the ‘03 and ‘04 were hard fought losses.

A win against Bedford would have provided great momentum going in to the playoffs. Even a close loss would have at least had more positives to build on than the way the team lost Friday. I’m not big on over-emotion or what I jokingly refer to as “fake-hype”. I wasn’t a rah-rah type of guy, that wasn’t my thing. However, you need SOME emotion and I saw very little from anyone on the sideline, coaches, players, no one. (Except at one inopportune time from the press box, but I’ll get to that a few paragraphs later). The performance in this game was the type that would be a textbook reference of how NOT to get ready for a playoff run.

What’s disappointing too, is that despite Bellefonte’s 8-1 record, I really thought before the performance against Bedford that Johnstown matched up pretty well with them. I know I’ve stated that I thought the LHAC was weak in the past, but the competition in that Mountain Athletic Conference has been pretty bad this year. Tyrone is head and shoulders above everyone in that league and the LHAC and they’ll probably show that during their playoff run. (Especially since one of their biggest obstacles in the west, Aliquippa, was upset by Washington Friday night in a huge WPIAL first round playoff upset). This year, I think Bellefonte and Huntingdon are on par with Johnstown, Westmont and Penn Cambria. I think that Bishop Carroll, Bishop McCort or Bedford would have their ways with Punxsy, Indian Valley, and Lewistown.

This all being said, if Johnstown plays the way they did against Bedford, the season is over.

And what about Bedford? I mean I don’t know if they are really that good. Those guys had the motivation of playing Johnstown for their senior night. They aren’t flashy, but they are disciplined and they execute. And when you add that combo to above average speed from their skill players, well, you get what you got Friday night. Across the line, they were well outweighed by JHS but it didn’t matter, they were able to win the battle in the trenches and those that know football know that is where the game is won or lost.

For all the talk about teams like Bishop McCort or Bishop Carroll having JHS’ number, I think the real nemesis for the Trojans has been the Bisons. The closest Johnstown has come to beating Bedford was back in ‘01 when they only lost by a touchdown. You would have to go back to the 1930s to find the last time JHS beat Bedford (1931 7-0; 1932 19-0; 1934 41-0).

I have to eat a little crow, or maybe keep it real a bit, I don’t know. I am the biggest proponent of teams with losing records not getting in to the playoffs. I’ve complained for years about this, mainly in the WPIAL where too many teams make the brackets. So, do I change my stance with Jtown at 4-5 and entering the playoffs? No. I still don’t think a team deserves to make the playoffs under .500, even the Trojans. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to cover them and pull for them to make a playoff run though.

Back to Friday night, time for my armchair quarterback session. I don’t think it would have been too outlandish had Coach Arcurio called for the onside kick after Johnstown’s score on Friday. Two things to consider, the defense hadn’t stopped Bedford yet and second even a missed recovery of the kick would have been better field possession wise because Bedford’s offense really was only working with half a field anyway. I know it’s a reach but hey, what single play in football can change momentum and get a team hyped up than a recovered onside kick.

Also, the phantom pass interference call on third-and-16 following Aaron Brezovic’s sack on second down could have been an early momentum changer as well. I liked JHS’ chances on a fourth and long as Bedford really didn’t look too impressive on the pass. That all being said, the defense still never really made a stop and you cannot blame the game on the refs.

This leads to my next point, I had to laugh (as many around me did with a hint of embarrassment) when one of the JHS coaches in the press box felt the need to yell at the refs after they failed to call illegal man down field on a botched play that lead to a big Bedford gain. Yes, it was a missed call but come on, the game was in the second half and pretty much decided. Furthermore, I think that although coaches absolutely should work officials, that should come from the coaches on the field. When you start yelling from the booth you just sound like some looney fan. As tight as the sideline is to the bleachers and press box, it was clear that it was done because he knew it would be heard. The last word on this: I would have preferred this type of emotion in the first half, trying to work on something to stop Bedford on.

Officiating played very, very little in to the outcome of this game.

It isn’t all bad though, even in the worst of games there is a silver lining. Aaron Brezovic has been on a tear as of late, he entered the Bedford game with 10 sacks and added a few more to his total Friday night. The good news for Coach Arcurio is that he’s only a junior and will be back for his senior season.

So we’re on the road again… …to Bellefonte.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

Monday Morning Ramblings #11

Following the loss Friday night, Bob Arcurio told Centre Daily Times writer Ron Bracken, “That’s the best our kids have played all year.” I couldn’t agree more. Although that may be a tough pill to swallow considering JHS lost, you cannot fault the effort of the Trojans as a team. The team effort that was put forth in Bellefonte Friday night, well, it hurts that it didn’t end in a win. What fans got to see what one of the better games in the area all season. You can’t ask more than to be in position to win the game in the final minute.

4-6 is a disappointment, but there is no shame in going out the way this senior class did. Had the Bedford game and this game been flip-flopped, that would be a different story. I said it before and I’ll say it again, whatever was done by the coaching staff and the players between the loss to Bedford and the game last Friday night, I hope they bottle that up and save it for years to come. I don’t think I’ve seen such a drastic turnaround from a JHS team in quite sometime.

As with every season, as it comes to an end you have to come to the realization that you lose some guys to graduation and you keep some underclassmen for next year. One guy that is going to be extremely difficult to replace is Xavier Thomas. Not only for what he brought on the field from his WR position, but the intangibles, the things you can’t coach, the little things. The way this kid played to the whistle every play, even in that debacle against Bedford. The way he’d come to the sideline with Brandon Hody after most plays to pick up the play from offensive coordinator Tony Penna, Jr. A lot of people might not remember he got quite a few snaps at QB his sophomore year and had Hody fell to injury, best believe he would have been the guy under center. Just the way the guy performed in a district playoff game, having a 100+ yard game at WR and when Hody went down and couldn’t play on the fourth down snap, Thomas goes in to the game, fields the snap cleanly, goes in to nearly a perfect five-step drop and drills a pass to the end zone as if he’d been doing it all year. Sure it was intercepted, but for a brief moment that play was there. A lot of guys have speed and talent, but you also hear a lot about football IQ, this kid had. He got the game and he’ll be missed for that just as much if not more than his big numbers.

Another guy that will be missed is Jimmy Volocko. Every kid that thinks they’re too small to play ball with the big boys need only put some game tapes in and watch #4 on defense for JHS. This guy was the smallest guy on the field most times and many games seemed like he was in on every tackle.

Obviously two big horses like Kush and Corson will be missed, but a lot of this line was in their first year of starting at the varsity level. The line play, especially offense will be a concern and need going in to the 2006 season but there are some guys coming up from Coach Brian Subich’s freshmen team that could fight for playing time.

OK, we’ve talked about how is gone, but the bright side is look how is coming back. First of all your QB, Hody, who really looked to come of age Friday night and turned out to not be the liability some might have thought he was. Another year older, more mature and wiser, he’ll be a fine leader on the offensive side of the ball. Besides that, you have to remember that the tailback was only a sophomore this year. Antwuan Reed could use this Bellefonte game as the catapult to his high school career. Reed put up some good numbers and showed some flashes of brilliance this year. He could have a breakout junior year and really establish himself as the premier RB in the LHAC. The tall Demetrius Young is back at WR as will Adonis Jackson. Those are two guys with loads of raw skill. And on the defensive side of the ball what else can you say about the late season surge of Aaron Brezovic. This kid played super at the end of the year and helped build momentum that could have him be the defensive leader next season.

So, sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward. Was this team better than their 4-6 record? Absolutely. I played on a 4-6 team back in ‘93 and this ‘05 team would have had their way with my team. I am very proud with the fight they gave Bellefonte and how they ended their season. They can hold their heads high.

I’d like to end my final MMR with a “Heard in the Crowd” type piece of gossip to you chew on during the off season. I was talking to a person from Bellefonte when I arrived at the game Friday and this gentleman told me that there would be two new additions to the Mountain Athletic Football Conference next year. Martinsburg Central would move to the Nittany, or small school division and Central Mountain would move to the Seven Mountains, or large school division. While this is nothing but an unsubstantiated rumor right now, it definitely is food for thought. The move would be good, and it makes sense for both schools. I don’t know if Central would be any more competitive but at least they wouldn’t have to travel as much. Their bus probably has more miles on it than any other team in the LHAC. As for Central Mountain, it will be good for them just to be affiliated with a conference as they’ve played a brutal, independent schedule the last several years.

What is unclear is how the LHAC would respond. The set up in the conference is perfect right now. 12 teams that comprise two, six-team divisions. The scheduling is fairly easy as you start the season and end the season with two non-section games and play against section teams the middle five. Add that to the very public thoughts of the powers that be at Cambria Heights. CH clearly wants out of the LHAC and possibly move to the WestPAC or Heritage Conference.

There has been a lot of buzz about the possibility of Windber leaving the WestPAC to join the LHAC. However, people are quick to think of these things in football terms, forgetting these conferences are set up for all the sports. Also, there is a trickle down effect. If the LHAC loses teams and they pick up from the WestPAC then the does the WestPAC have to pick up teams from somewhere else? I believe Rockwood is going to become a member of the WestPAC so things could balance out but who knows. One thing is for sure, this is one we can debate the off season, or at least until an announcement is made.

I’ll say this, I would love to see a rebirth of Johnstown vs. Windber. Unfortunately the JHS/Altoona rivalry is long gone and Bishop McCort has taken it’s place since the two play every year but before all that, the JHS/Windber rivalry was king. Packed houses at the Point Stadium saw these two teams play on Thanksgiving Day each year and although that type of atmosphere would be a thing of the past, it would be great fun to see the Trojans and Ramblers face off at Trojan Stadium or Windber Stadium.

Another nugget to consider is that the 6-AAA scene might not be the easy cakewalk it has been in the past as far as qualifying for the playoffs goes. Why? Because rumor has it that Forest Hills will have the enrollment figures to make the bump up. If this turns out to be true everyone will have to step their game up. If all things remained constant except for FH moving up, the Rangers would have finished with 900 points and the second seed in the 6-AAA table. That would have bumped Huntingdon and Lewistown down a seed and knocked Johnstown out of the playoffs. Nothing official is available from the PIAA yet, but the numbers should be out around Christmastime. No word on any other schools potentially moving up or down in classification.

In closing, I’d like to thank Bob Arcurio, Tony Penna, Jr., Cyndi Ahlborn, Brian Subich, Adam Campagna and everyone else that at the school that helped contribute to the Trojan Nation this year. You helped make our second full year of football coverage even better than the first.

And last but certainly not least I would like to personally thank Jason, Amos and Greg for the excellent contributions they made to the site. You helped make the Nation bigger and better and I cannot thank you enough for that. I had a great time and I look forward to working with you guys in the future.

Doug Keklak can be reached at doug.keklak@trojannation.net.

 

 

 

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