Championship Weekend News and Notes
Hershey, Pa., Four games: The best in the west versus the best in the east. If you’re a high school football junkie like me, well, it may be cliché, but doesn’t get any better than this.
It’s a time to take the entire season in and enjoy what the PIAA can do from media coverage to the games themselves. This year I give them an A-plus in every department from my sideline view to catching a couple of the games on TV.
Media Coverage: Mike Zambelli is without question a sensational coverage guy for all of PIAA sports. It’s almost as if the role were created for him. His handling on the PCN preview show, as usual, was direct, poignant, and on cue with every question he had for the panel.
The viewers were given a good idea of what to expect in all four games. Zambelli sees the game from our perspective. After their victory over Pine Richland, he asked St. Joe’s Prep boss Gabe Infante what he said to Ram quarterback Ben DiNucci after the game.
“I told him Penn’s (University of Pennsylvania) getting themselves one heck of a quarterback,” said Infante. “And since you’ll be in Philadelphia, come see us if there is anything we could do for you.”
Great question; even better answer.
I try to make it a point to get to the parking lot before some of the games to get reactions from tailgaters. It’s hard to describe the emotions of a parent wearing his son’s jersey while sipping hot chocolate and sharing stories of the team’s success. Sort of like Christmas and New Years wrapped up in one.
I had the opportunity to speak to the parents of Altoona area small school Bishop Guilfoyle quarterback Brandon Chadbourn (who verballed to Villanova) and a brother—sophomore wideout, Ben.
I asked the father his opinion of the general consensus that it will be Clairton’s speed versus the Marauders’ power.
“Don’t underestimate our speed,” Dad said, and he was so right. Guilfoyle was able to nullify the big play ability of sophomore “highlight reel” running back Lamont Wade, keeping him at bay for most of the game.
Outside of the ugly incident that happened after the game involving the Bears, I was very impressed with the play of quarterback Ryan Williams, who had a knack of extending any play he wanted. And you couldn’t help but notice his pocket-presence and release.
Williams ran their combination of Wing-T, option read, and spread offense effortlessly, and he could be heard motivating his offensive line during the second half. He alone was responsible for giving their last offense play any chance at all by avoiding a solid pass rush, moving to his left before the incompletion to James Hines.
Wade is an incredible talent. His 66-yard touchdown reception was high pointed between two Guilfoyle defenders, and he outran the entire secondary on his 64-yard TD run.
The Dunmore/South Fayette matchup was the most lopsided contrast in styles. The Bucks had an average of 50 pounds on the line of scrimmage and were able to take advantage of SF quarterback Brett Brumbaugh’s inability at first to generate an efficient passing game due to the wind conditions. During the first half it looked like men smashing boys to the ground.
But to South Fayette’s credit, they punched back in the second half in a big way.
Both teams travelled well, but Dunmore’s attendance floored me. I was told that Dunmore closed their town for this game. Now that’s being committed to your high school football team!
Central Valley entered their AAA title tilt with heavy hearts after attending the funeral of lineman Dominick Treemarchi. As I watched them and Archbishop Wood warm up, it was apparent that the Warriors were much smaller than the Vikings. However, they had the best player on the field (or any field I was on this year) in Jordan Whitehead.
Whitehead has everything: great speed, recovery ability, route jumping, high pointing, hand-eye coordination, and lastly, he is a hitter. I see him playing on Sundays if he wants.
He jumped a route on a pass by the Vikings’ Anthony Russo, broke four tackles and almost took it to the house if it wasn’t for a great tackle by Alex Arcangeli.
He did get jolted during a first half tackle on Arcangeli and played hurt most of the game. After the game he told reporters that he has played with his teammates since he was five years old and will miss them terribly.
Speaking of Arcangeli, there was a D1 coordinator looking at one of his commits and came away very impressed with his toughness. “I like this kid” said the coach. “I intend to speak with him.”
As of now, Arcangeli has only received some mild interest from a couple of D3 schools.
Everyone talks about the talent pool in Archbishop Wood’s huddle. This team is also very well coached. They have the best zone blocking scheme of anyone I’ve seen in a long time, and they play with precision and crispness on both sides of the ball. Great talent and solid coaching should prove a dangerous combination for any team they play.
The PIAA gods treated us to one of the best AAAA games ever: St. Joe’s and undefeated Pine-Richland. I’ve seen Prep running back D’Andre Swift a couple dozen times. I’ve always been sold on his breakaway speed, but he also moves piles. He put on two inches and 25 pounds in the off-season, and the result is a player who can break the big one or run an effective dive up the middle.
He and Bennie Walls will be an outstanding one-two punch on next year’s squad.
And what about the Rams quarterback DiNucci? Everyone in these parts (Philly area) saw him as a poor man’s (LaSalle QB) Kyle Shurmer. DiNucci is every bit as accurate as Shurmer but a much better scrambler. I haven’t seen a guy with his poise even on the big stage. He almost single handedly brought the Rams back from a deficit no one comes back from against Gabe Infante.
Last night’s game may get him more interest from programs higher than the Ivy League.
Speaking of Infante, he is a master of making second half adjustments. Tied at 14, the Prep scored twice in two minutes to open the second half.
Hard to believe we are done with 2014. Hopefully 2015 in Hershey can bring the same fireworks.
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