A long time ago in a land I called home, dreams of becoming a pro athlete filled my brain. Later on in life, I would find it might have been the result of a concussion from playing football.
Like many kids in my town, I played football, never accepting my limitations.
“Hey,” I would tell people later in life, “I might have been small, but I was slow.”
That, dear readers, is how sportswriters are created.
On a muggy August afternoon at Camp Rentz, a run-of-the-mill camp with a dozen cabins and two long pieces of pasture that served as our football haven for the first two weeks of the preseason, I was playing fullback against the first team defense.
On that defense was one Bruce Clark, one of the most talented players in New Castle’s great history. Clark was big, strong and aggressive, and would find fame playing defensive tackle next to Matt Millen at Penn State before moving on to the NFL, where he played eight seasons, mostly with the New Orleans Saints.
Anyway, the play in the mud-soaked practice field at Camp Rentz was a toss to me and I was supposed to get around Clark and dance into the end zone at the other end of the pasture.
Didn’t happen that way.
Clark came up and delivered a blow that I was sure would be felt by my future children. My helmet went one way, my body the other and the football sailed into the air, forcing a made scramble for it as the whistle blew ending the play.
I gathered myself, retrieving my helmet, and staggered back to the huddle.
“Get Tuscano out of there,” my head coach Lindy Lauro bellowed.
I didn’t understand why I was being replaced … until I realized I was now standing in the defensive huddle with what we called “getting your bell rung.”
I remember that hit some 41 years later. It gave me an appreciation for the defensive side of the game, which leads us to what we learned during Week 4 of the scholastic football season last weekend.
1. Defense is a passing thought – In Week 4, nine football games in this area produced at least 60 combined points or more, and not all fell under the Mercy Rule.
The Trinity-Blackhawk game produced 96 in the Hillers’ 62-34 win and Beth-Center’s 55-35 win over Bentworth was second with 90. McGuffey’s 56-28 loss to Elizabeth Forward was third with 84.
2. Defense never takes a day off – Washington found that out against Frazier when the undefeated Prexies defeated winless Frazier, 12-0, in a Century Conference game.
Washington allowed only 74 total yards and – most important – zero points to remain undefeated.
3. Defense helps produce unbeaten teams – The victory by Washington extended a winning streak to 33 straight regular-season games. South Fayette won its 52nd straight, in part, by holding Knoch to two irrelevant scores in a 52-14 win over Knoch.
4. Defenses can contain outstanding players – Mapletown’s Dylan Rush set a WPIAL single-game rushing record with 524 yards in a win over Avella in Week 3. The Eagles have a young and inexperienced team.
In Friday’s loss to unbeaten California, Rush gained 87 yards on 19 carries.
5. And sometimes, not so much – Trinity’s Joey Koroly set two records in the win over Blackhawk. He set the single-game rushing record with 358 yards and set the career scoring record with 43 TDs. Koroly has terrorized defenses for three years and is nearing the school’s career rushing mark of 3,304 yards, set by Ben Jennings (2003-05).
Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org