Friday, August 31, 2012

Florida high school played girl QB

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) – Erin DiMeglio of South Plantation High School played quarterback in a boys’ regular-season game Friday night.
She is believed to be the first girl in state history to play the position in a regular-season game.
DiMeglio played two snaps, both handoffs from the shot gun formation, in the final minutes of South Plantation’s 31-14 victory over Nova.
With fans chanting “Put Erin in,” DiMeglio entered the game with about 1:40 left to play.

Camp Kovak, Somerset (fourth stop)

The trophy case just outside the doors to the coaches office in the field house at Somerset High School's football stadium isn't a particularly crowded display.

There's mementos commemorating the Golden Eagles' 1990 LHAC championship. There are pictures and a few other pieces of memorabilia from an undefeated team in 1950s ... and not much else.

When it comes to tradition, Somerset football doesn't have much.

And that makes establishing a winning attitude - a task given to second-year head coach Bob Landis and his staff - a tough task. Not that it can't be done, even for a program whose last winning season came in 2007. And that winning season was preceded by a winning season, well, let's just say it took a while.

Somerset's roster is filled with baseball players, and the Golden Eagles' baseball program is well-known because they win and win frequently. 

"I don't know why there's not more tradition," Landis said. "When you look at athletes, there's more around here than other places."

Somerset, which won three games in 2011 after a winless season two years ago, competes in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference and has moved back up to Class AAA this season. The Golden Eagles will rely on several key members of its baseball team, particularly junior quarterback Tanner Stull, on the field.

"Even with other sports, the guys are working all year-round," Landis said. "One goal is consistency. We want to be very consistent on offense and on defense. They're working hard. Our numbers are low for our size but we're seeing good effort."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Patriot-News football rankings


CLASS AAAA -- Record -- Previous rank
1. *Central Dauphin (3) -- 15-1 -- 1
2. LaSalle College HS (12) -- 12-2 -- 4
3. Gateway (7) -- 9-3 -- 7
4. North Allegheny (7) -- 14-1 -- 2
5. North Penn (1) -- 13-3 -- 3
6. Upper St. Clair (7) -- 11-2 -- 5
7. Easton (11) -- 11-2 -- NR
8. Wilson (3) -- 12-2 -- 9
9. Downingtown East (1) -- 9-3 -- NR
10. McDowell (10) -- 8-3 -- NR

Teams to watch: Cumberland Valley (3) 11-2, Pennridge (1) 7-5, Pittsburgh C.C. (7) 11-1, Ridley (1) 8-3, St. Joseph’s Prep (12) 6-4, Woodland Hills (7) 6-4.
CLASS AAA -- Record -- Previous rank
1. *Archbishop Wood (12) -- 14-1 -- 1
2. Cathedral Prep (10) -- 9-3 -- 7
3. Bishop McDevitt (3) -- 13-3 -- 2
4. Central Valley (7) -- 11-1 -- 5
5. Franklin Regional (7) -- 11-1 -- 8
6. Cardinal O’Hara (12) -- 5-4 -- NR
7. x-Lancaster Catholic (3) -- 16-0 -- NR
8. Montour (7) -- 12-3 -- 3
9. Berwick (2) -- 9-3 -- NR
10. Strong Vincent (10) -- 8-3 -- NR

Teams to watch: Clearfield (9) 11-2, Manheim Central (3) 8-3, Pottsgrove (1) 11-3, Scranton Prep (2) 7-4, Thomas Jefferson (7) 7-4, West Allegheny (7) 5-5.
CLASS AA -- Record -- previous rank
1. Aliquippa (7) -- 14-1 -- 3
2. Jeannette (7) -- 12-1 -- 5
3. Wyomissing (3) -- 11-1 -- NR
4. Hickory (10) -- 11-2 -- 9
5. Mount Carmel (4) -- 12-2 -- 6
6. Seton-LaSalle (7) -- 11-1 -- 8
7. Wilkes-Barre GAR (2) -- 11-2 -- NR
8. Grove City (10) -- 11-1 -- NR
9. Pen Argyl (11) -- 13-1 -- 7
10. South Fayette (7) -- 7-4 -- NR

Teams to watch: Imhotep Charter (12) 7-4, Penn Cambria (6) 9-3, Trinity (3) 9-3, Tyrone (6) 14-2, Washington (7) 8-3, Wyoming Area (2) 7-4.
CLASS A -- Record -- Previous rank
1. Clairton* (7) -- 16-0 -- 1
2. Southern Columbia (4) -- 14-2 -- 2
3. Dunmore (2) -- 10-1 -- NR
4. Rochester (7) -- 10-2 -- 4
5. Penns Manor (6) -- 12-2 -- 7
6. Bishop Canevin (7) -- 11-1 -- 8
7. Sharpsville (10) -- 13-1 -- 5
8. Old Forge (2) -- 10-3 -- NR
9. Bellwood-Antis (6) -- 10-2 -- NR
10. West Middlesex (10) -- 7-5 -- NR

Teams to watch: Line Mountain (4) 10-2, Mercyhurst Prep (10) 9-2, Monessen (7) 6-4, Port Allegany (9) 11-2, Riverside (2) 7-5, Shenandoah Valley (11) 8-4.
    *-2011 PIAA champion. x-2011 Class AA champion. Teams listed with final 2011 record. Number in parentheses is PIAA district. Produced by Eric Epler and Andy Shay.

Geibel forfeits first two games

Districts 5 and 6 aren't the only places where some small school struggle to field enough players to field a football team.

A few years back, I covered the Avella football team as it made some national headlines when a cheerleader joined the team to help the Eagles reach 11 players. Imagine that going against Clairton. Seriously, it happened.

Now news comes out of Fayette County that Geibel Catholic, long a struggling football program, has forfeited its opening two games against Frazier and Beth-Center - two of the better teams in the Tri-County South Conference. In some ways, the news is probably welcomed for Frazier and Beth-Center as those programs get an opportunity to practice amongst themselves instead of playing a game against inferior competition.

Yet, it begs the question - why hold onto a program when there isn't enough players?

For more on the Geibel situation, click here.

While there aren't any programs within The Tribune-Democrat's coverage area facing such dire circumstances, the possibility exists it could happen some day. In the era of budget cuts, some schools need to look at the feasibility of fielding a football team.

APB, Where are they now?

The Varsity Club embraces tradition, and the mountain regions of Cambria and Somerset counties, not to mention the parts of Bedford, Indiana and Westmoreland counties which consist of The Tribune-Democrat's coverage area, is oozing with legendary teams, coaches and athletes.

Every week, The Varsity Club, with significant help from the readers, will hope to find out what some local legends are up to.

The Varsity Club's first All Points Bulletin is issued for former Windber great Paul Romanchock.

Scan back 30 years, and it's difficult to find an athlete from Somerset County who accomplished more at the high school level than Romanchock, a multi-sport standout who had Division I coaches wishing he'd sign with them.

At 6-4, Romanchock was a dominating post presence on some of the great basketball teams in Windber history. In 1987, Romanchock led the Ramblers to the PIAA Class AA championship game.

As good at basketball as Romanchock was, he was a highly recruited quarterback and was once described by a Philadelphia newspaper as having a "missile-launcher for an arm." He played in the Big 33 Classic and landed at the University of Maryland. There, Romanchock competed for the starting quarterback position against a couple future NFL quarterbacks in Scott Zolak and Neil O'Donnell.

Anyone knowing of Romanchock's whereabouts is urged to contact The Varsity Club.

Camp Kovak, Conemaugh Township (third stop)

When it comes to scholastic sports success, Conemaugh Township seems to have it covered.

The Indians are perennial postseason contenders in just about every sport and every season. This fall, the football team should be no exception even if Conemaugh Township has one of its smallest groups of returning starters in recent memory.

And a big reason why is the guys up front.

Conemaugh Township has the ability to be one of the toughest teams in the WestPAC.

As senior tailback Tanner Cahill said, "When our smallest lineman is 185, I know we're in good shape."

Cahill will be the primary runner behind a line which includes Ben Shaw, listed at 290 but a plyer head coach Sam Zambanini is extremely mobile for his size. Another lineman poised for a breakout season is sophomore Steve Summits, who weighs 250 and lettered as a freshman. Alex Stahl, another sophomore, is a returning starter.

The size and toughness will be needed in a conference where North Star is considered the favorite but Berlin, Windber, Blacklick Valley and Portage are also considered contenders. Plus, the Indians figure to lean more heavily toward the run this season and plan on using a wishbone formation on occasion.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Camp Kovak, Shade (second stop)

Trying to change the culture for a football team without a postseason appearance since 1989 and fewer than 30 players takes some ingenuity.

Shade High School tried a couple different things for the upcoming season.

For starters, the Panthers are the only local program with co-head coaches. Mike Pribish and Don Fyfe are both considered head coaches for the 2012 season.

Pribish had been the head coach the past three years. He comes from a well-known family in the coal-mining communities surrounding Shade, where people are called or remembered more by their nicknames than their given ones. Pribish played football at Navy and IUP. His brother, George, started in Pitt's secondary during the late 1960s.

Fyfe also serves as a head coach at Shade during the early 2000s. He's worked closely with the defense, which figures to be Shade's strength. Matt Orner finished with more than 100 tackles a year ago and is back at linebacker.

Another thing Shade experimented with during camp was splitting up the starting group, so members of the starting offense could practice against starting defenders and vice verse.

"We tried doing it just top change it up," Pribish said. "We were looking pretty good offensively, but that was against our backups, so we broke the line in half first then did it with the rest of the defense. We needed to see if we were really blocking as well as it looked."

Camp Kovak, Windber (first stop)

Blogger's note: The following is a feature for The Varsity Club that follows the travels of The Tribune-Democrat sports editor Mike Kovak during high school football training camps. Kovak made six stops (in order) - Windber, Shade, Conemaugh Township, Somerset, Rockwood and North Star.

The single-wing offense, which was created by former Pitt coach Glenn "Pop" Warner while he coached Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians, was common practice ... in the 1940s. When Windber adopted the offense back in 2004 under the direction of then-head coach Phil DeMarco, the Ramblers were one of approximately 50 high school programs using the single-wing.

Not sure what the numbers are these days, but it's worked well enough for Windber. Not only will the Ramblers continue to utilize the single-wing, Westmont Hilltop and first-year head coach Pat Barron has adopted the offense for this season.

Success breeds imitation, and, last year, Windber's offense was rather prolific behind running back Colin Bryan.

In 2011, Bryan was The Tribune-Democrat Offensive Player of the Year for good reason. The current walk-on at Penn State rushed for 2,352 yards and scored a mind-boggling 37 touchdowns a year ago. His play helped the Ramblers reached the District 5A championship game, where they lost to North Star by two touchdowns. Bryan was hurt in that game.

Windber has plenty of talent and toughness to compete for WestPAC and District 5 title once again. The key to the Ramblers' season will likely be how well Dustin Blough plays in the role of featured runner. As Blough's teammates stated during camp, replacing Bryan is "almost impossible."

"Athletically, he's very gifted," second-year Windber coach Matt Grohal said. "(Bryan) was a bit injury-prone until his senior year. If Dustin can stay healthy, he's going to have a great year at tailback."

If Blough or another key player does get injured, Windber believes the depth is in place to remain competitive.

"At single-A, staying healthy is huge," Grohal said. "Our starting 11 is quality, but we have key backup depth. I think we have a tremendous amount of backup depth."

Preseason volleyball rankings

Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association
Preseason State Rankings
Class AAA (District)
1. Hempfield (3)
2. Parkland (11)
3. Bishop Shanahan (1)
4. Upper Merion (1)
5. North Allegheny (7)
6. Susquehannock (3)
7. State College (6)
8. Seneca Valley (7)
9. Pine Richland (7)
10. Exeter (3)
Class AA
1. Allentown Central Catholic (11)
2. Hopewell (7)
3. Bethlehem Catholic (11)
4. Freeport (7)
5. Delone Catholic (3)
6. Fort LeBoeuf (10)
7. Merion Mercy (1)
8. Villa Maria (1)
9. Huntingdon (6)
10. Holy Redeemer (2)
Class A
1. Clarion (9)
2. Greensburg Central Catholic (7)
3. Bishop Guilfoyle (6)
4. Sharpsville (10)
5. Penns Manor (6)
6. Avonworth (7)
7. Northern Cambria (6)
8. Marian Catholic (11)
9. Nativity BVN (11)
10. Maplewood (10)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

PFN preseason state rankings

From Pennsylvania Football News ... preseason rankings.

Class AAAA:
Rank - School - District
1. Central Dauphin (3)
2. North Allegheny (7)
3. Wilson (West Lawn) (3)
4. Easton Area (11)     
5. North Penn (1)
6. La Salle College (12)
7. Gateway (7)
8. Downingtown East (1)
9. Upper St. Clair (7)
10. Ridley (1)
Others to Watch:
Abington (1)
Bethlehem Freedom (11)
Council Rock North (1)
Cumberland Valley (3)
Delaware Valley (2)
Garnet Valley (1)
McDowell (10)
McKeesport (7)
Parkland (11)
Pennridge (1)
Pennsbury (1)
Pittsburgh Central Catholic (7)
Roman Catholic (12)
Scranton (2)
Seneca Valley (7)
St. Joseph's Prep (12)
State College (6)
Whitehall (11)
Woodland Hills (7)

Class AAA:
Rank - School - District
1. Archbishop Wood (12)
2. Bishop McDevitt (3)
3. Franklin Regional (7)
4. Central Valley (7) 
5. Cathedral Prep (10)
6. Manheim Central (3)
7. Cardinal O'Hara (12)
8. Pottsgrove (1)
9. Berwick Area (2)
10. West Allegheny (7)
 Others to Watch:
Blackhawk (7)
Clearfield (9)
Cocalico (3)
Knoch (7)
Lampeter-Strasburg (3)
Lancaster Catholic (3)
Mars Area (7)
Montour (7)
Pottsville (11)
Scranton Prep (2)
Shippensburg (3)
Strath Haven (1)
Strong Vincent (10)
Valley View (2)
West Chester Henderson (1)
West York (3)

Class AA:
Rank - School - District
1. Aliquippa (7)
2. Wyomissing (3)
3. Mount Carmel (4)
4. Jeannette (7) 
5. Grove City (10)
6. Hickory (10)
7. Pen Argyl (11)
8. GAR Memorial (2)
9. South Fayette (7)
10. Washington (7)
 Others to Watch:
Beaver Falls (7)
Bermudian Springs (3)
Danville (4)
Forest Hills (6)
Imhotep Charter (12)
Karns City (9)
Mifflinburg (4)
Montoursville (4)
Northern Lehigh (11)
Richland (6)
Seton-LaSalle (7)
Towanda (4)
Trinity (3)
Tyrone Area (6)
West Catholic (12)
Wilmington (10)
Wyoming Area (2)

 Class A:
Rank - School - District
1. Clairton (7)
2. Southern Columbia (4)
3. Dunmore (2)
4. Rochester Area (7) 
5. Sharpsville (10)
6. Brentwood (7)
7. Penns Manor (6)
8. Bellwood-Antis (6)
9. Old Forge (2)
10. Port Allegany (9)
Others to Watch:
Avonworth (7)
Bethlehem-Center (7)
Bishop Canevin (7)
Clarion Area (9)
Coudersport (9)
Delone Catholic (3)
Elk County Catholic (9)
Line Mountain (4)
Mercyhurst Prep (10)
Minersville (11)
North Star (5)
Pius X (11)
Riverside (2)
Schuylkill Haven (11)
Shenandoah Valley (11)
Sto-Rox (7)
West Middlesex (10)

Friday, August 17, 2012

A cautionary tale

Here's a post from my old blog, "The Varsity Letters" ... I think it's a fun story and consider it a warning to area athletic directors.

No scaffolding please!

"We’ve all had them. Those moments when you ask yourself, "What the heck am I doing? Is this what has become of my life?" Sure, like most people, those thoughts occasionally bounced around the cranium, but anything along those lines was quickly forgotten Oct. 7, 2006 while covering a football game between Serra Catholic and Beth-Center in Fredericktown. (Remember, turn right at the butcher shop.) Both teams took unbeaten records into the game, and the winner would go on to claim a conference championship.
That winner was Beth-Center. The Bulldogs beat Serra Catholic, 13-6, on an unusually chilly Friday night and went on to win their first 11 games before stumbling against Clairton in the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
It was a major step in Beth-Center’s climb toward the upper crust of Class A football, a place the Bulldogs occasionally hang out.
It’s also the night I thought my life might end while covering a high school sporting event.
Normally, a big game at Beth-Center draws the likes of ... well, me. Maybe one other scribe, possibly a radio station. This Friday night was different as there was an unusually high media interest in the game, including a television crew. At a press box with the capacity of Beth-Center’s, accommodations needed to be made. So, for whatever reason, a 20-foot scaffold was staged behind the main spectator area.
I drew the assignment for the Observer-Reporter. Josh Yohe, the fine Penguins reporter for the Tribune-Review, drew the assignment for the McKeesport Daily News. As guys in the business go, we’re both pretty easy-going, not the type to throw a fuss over seating. So, when the press box became overwhelmed with people, the decision to look for other accommodations was made.
To the scaffold.
So, Yohe and I slung our belongings over our shoulders and made the climb. Twenty feet sure looked lower from the ground.
The conditions were far from ideal. In fact, they were a bit unsettling. But, at least, we figured a good story could be told.
As the game progressed, the wind picked up. The scaffold swayed. The temperatures dropped.
And that was only the first quarter.
Yep, this was going to be one long night, but the investment had been made and, maybe, the thought of getting down from the scaffold was more unsettling than actually being perched atop it.
Mercifully, the second quarter ended (only one half to go) and many of the game’s revelers headed toward the concession stand, located behind the scaffold and below the press box. Among those attending the game was a coworker and his son. The coworker stopped to chat during halftime. Actually, he came over to make fun of us for being on a scaffold. As the conversation continued, the coworker’s son began to rock the recently thrown together structure.
He wasn’t the biggest guy, but the scaffold wasn’t the most stable. What seemed like some innocent pushing on firm ground actually swayed the top of the scaffold with some serious movement.
Not sure what went through Yohe’s mind, but I pictured my immediate future including a rushed ambulance ride to Mon Valley Hospital.
This business, particularly at the grass-roots level, holds its share of surprises and difficult situations, but I sure hope it’s the last time an assignment involves scaffolding.
If it does happen again, it won’t happen as a member of the O-R sports staff as Tuesday night marks my last with the Observer Publishing Company.
Starting Monday, July 9, the main contributor to The Varsity Letters will be the sports editor of the Tribune-Democrat, located in Johnstown. It’s an exciting opportunity, one too good to pass.
The scaffold incident is one of many accumulated over almost 13 years working for the O-R, and definitely a favorite. One reason I waited so long to write about it is, well, I don’t find it necessary to write about myself.
Never considered myself part of the story.
Never will, this lame attempt an obvious exception.
Hopefully, after 13 years, readers realize my desire was to make high school coverage about the athletes. A novel concept, huh?
Made the occasional friend along the way. Made the occasional person(s) upset along the way. Cultivated sources. Worked hard. Every time a player, coach or parent complained about not being an Athlete of the Week, Player of the Year or Athlete of the Year, I felt validated.
When I arrived, Fort Cherry’s Mike Vernillo was ready to break the WPIAL career rushing record. Waynesburg football was set to establish a lasting legacy. Sports that rarely received coverage, were about to make some headlines.
These days, Twitter has become a popular vehicle for communication. Like many, I was hesitant in accepting social media. Like many, I no longer know how to do my job without it. (Yes, I will continue to track the future success of many student-athletes I’ve gotten to know in recent years via Twitter.)
It’s been one interesting ride, and one that lasted a lot longer than originally planned. Yet, it’s a stay I’ll always appreciate."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Welcome readers. You've just found The Varsity Club - a blog from The Tribune Democrat primarily dedicated to high school and college sports (mostly the latter).

Bookmark this page and check back frequently.

The focus here will be on athletes from The Tribune-Democrat coverage area, but on occasion topics outside the area merit discussion. Hopefully, this will become a destination for readers wanting additional information on local sports.

Thank you for visiting and please come back.