Best of the fall sports season
Who doesn’t like a good list?
Well, I suppose most wanted lists aren’t any fun, and honey-do lists tend to prevent lounging on the couch, egg nog in hand, watching Christmas Vacation.
But the transition period between high school sports seasons allows for some reflection, thinking back to what we’ve seen and even taking a glimpse ahead to next year.
With that in mind, here are my top 10 moments of the recently concluded fall sports season:
10. South Fayette boys soccer – No titles, I know. But the Lions scored what was perhaps the biggest upset of the fall playoffs by knocking off No. 1 seed South Park on penalty kicks in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals. In PKs, Lions coach Rob Eldridge pulled goalkeeper Alex Gedrys in favor of Andrew Pine ... sort of like Gordan Bombay pulling Goldberg in favor of Julie “The Cat” Gafney to beat Iceland at the end of D2. (Always up for a good Mighty Ducks reference)
9. So close ... again – Tom Nettles, a senior on the Peters Township golf team, finished second at the PIAA Class AAA championships for a second consecutive year. He did improve three strokes to shoot a 74-70-144 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, but he missed out on PIAA gold by one stroke ... again. It’s hard to not root for Nettles. Easily one of the most polite kids I’ve dealt with, and I’m sure he’ll be just fine at Division I Campbell University in North Carolina.
8. Hello, Yvon – Canon-McMillan junior tennis player Yvon Martinez moved to Washington County from Columbia, South America, this past summer and proceeded to win the Section 5-AAA singles title. She also reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing I’ll be writing about Martinez a lot come next season.
7. Avella football – The good side was a 5-0 start and a New York Times story detailing the town’s love affair with its winning football team. The bad was a three-game losing streak that knocked the Eagles out of playoff contention. Avella does, however, bring back almost all of its skill players. Maybe next year will be the year Avella can snap its postseason drought, which dates back to 1976.
6. Take that, Mom – Ringgold cross country runner Kirsten McMichael had a busy couple of weeks. After winning a Mingo Classic title, McMichael set the Mingo Creek Park course record, which was previously held by her Mom, Jennifer Lejeune-McMichael, en route to claiming the county championship. Jennifer, who’s Ringgold’s cross country coach, was there to see it, choking back tears all the way.
5. Peters Township girls tennis rules Hershey – Whether it was winning PIAA Class AAA doubles or team titles, the Indians had a pretty sweet end to the season, especially Sara Komer, the team’s No. 1 player. Komer teamed with Abby Cummings to win WPIAL and PIAA doubles titles – she did both last year alongside Stephanie Smith, who decided not to play high school tennis this fall – while also toughing it out through a hamstring injury to anchor the team. Peters Township won a second consecutive team crown with a 3-0 victory over Unionville. It was the Indians’ third in the past four years.
4. Evolution of Brett Brumbaugh – South Fayette’s sophomore quarterback went from surprise freshman starter in 2011 to the WPIAL’s top passer this season. He completed 154 of 245 passes (63 percent) for 2,823 yards and 37 touchdowns against only nine interceptions and three sacks. Watch South Fayette, and you can tell that Brumbaugh doesn’t have it easy; often he’ll cycle through three or four reads before finding his guy. Should be really interesting to watch him develop even more over the next two years. He does lose top wide receiver Zach Challingsworth, a Pitt recruit who caught 58 passes for 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns, but Conner Beck (29-457-4TD) and Justin Watson (28-592-8TD) return.
3. Canon-Mac totally redeems itself – Catch the Dumb & Dumber reference? Had Mighty Ducks above, another classic here. Anyhow, Canon-Mac boys soccer was the third-place team in Section 5-AAA during the regular season and went 0-4 against Peters Township and Upper St. Clair. But the Big Macs, who lost each of those games by one goal, upset its two biggest rivals en route to the school’s first WPIAL Class AAA title for boys soccer – as a No. 13 seed, no less. The Big Macs also beat Peters Township in the first round of the state playoffs before losing to Upper St. Clair, finishing the year at 19-5. Think head coach Larry Fingers might’ve started something? Big-time interested in soccer at C-M these days.
2. Wash High football is back – The Prexies went 8-3 in 2011 and nudged their way into the upper echelon of Class AA, but behind Shai McKenzie, Wash High blew past pretty much everyone that’s not Aliquippa. Much excitement was generated with a run to the WPIAL Class AA championship, and there’s plenty of reason to already look toward next year with McKenzie, who finished with 232 carries for 2,689 yards and 41 touchdowns, coming back. He also has a choice of several NCAA Division I schools this recruiting season. Wash High football is competing for WPIAL titles again, and one would think No. 7 isn’t all that far away.
1. Third time is a charm for PT – Not that Nos. 1 and 2 stunk, but the Peters Township girls soccer team won its third consecutive PIAA Class AAA title by beating a team – Cumberland Valley – that ruined the Indians’ perfect season, handing them a 3-2 loss in late September. Emily Franty scored off a feed from Olivia Roberson to beat CV, 1-0, the next time around. Roberson, who had 37 goals, will be at Duquesne next fall, one of several seniors the Indians lose. But Virginia recruit Veronica Latsko, who scored 36 goals this season to give her 107 in three years, will be back next year. Still plenty of reason to be excitement about the area’s most consistently dominant program.