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2008 Monday Morning Ramblings

Monday Morning Ramblings #1



What's up everyone? The 2008 season will be the fifth season of coverage of Johnstown High School football from the Trojan Nation website. I have decided to change some content, mostly just making minor tweaks and they are detailed below. 

First and foremost the goal of new daily content will remain, but the site will revert to six-days-a-week of coverage rather than seven.

Monday Morning Ramblings will continue to be the first post of each new week.

Tuesday's feature will now be Numberology. This used to be an extra feature, but beginning in 2008, it will be the normal Tuesday post. I won't start this feature until after week three as the first two weeks really don't show us that much as far as the playoff scene. To refresh your memory, or to those that don't know, Numberology is the feature where the breakdown in 6-AAA points is worked so you can see exactly where JHS and the rest of the district is in the playoff hunt. There will be no more Tuesday Trojan Trivia. Unfortunately this feature was never really as popular as I thought it would be and going forward I'd rather focus on the current season rather than spend the time researching a new question each week. As for the "A Look Ahead" content, that will be shifted to Thursdays (more on that below).

Wednesday will remain the same, except there will be no trivia answer as that feature has been discontinued. Bullet Points will remain the same report. The feature is split in half between an alumni report of JHS players in the pro and college ranks as well as a wrap-up of the previous week's sub-varsity (JV, Junior High, 8th grade and 7th grade) squads.

Thursday's Daily Feature will now be referred to as the Scouting Report. It will basically be the same content that was presented in Tuesday's past years ("A Look Ahead"). The reason for the move is that some teams aren't as quick to update their team stats in MaxPreps so the full picture of analysis is not always available by Tuesday. As for the former Thursday "Helmets and Sweats" content which looks around the LHAC and 6-AAA, that content will show up in MMR in abbreviated form. This may cause the MMR column to have some structure and be a little longer in length because each Monday (starting with week 2) will feature recaps of the previous week's games and previews of the coming week's games.

Friday (Tale of the Tape) and Saturday (Game Report) will remain the same.

The Sunday Report Card will be discontinued. Unfortunately, this was a feature I wasn't able to complete 100% of the time in 2007. Last year was a tough year for me as far as getting content out all the time because I was in the middle of moving during the season and didn't get all the games. This caused some missed content in the department of Game Reports and Report Cards.

Going forward, discontinuing the Report Card will give me more time to prepare a larger MMR piece than readers may have seen in the past.

Now to some other news:

Paypal:  I've added Paypal donate buttons at various parts of the site this year.  This site will ALWAYS remain free but it does take time to do this work so if you feel the urge to help out, feel free.  Donations will go towards paying for the monthly web fees as well as other projects on the horizon like possibly podcasting or video highlights. 

The message board is back:   I recently made the decision to bring the message board back.  I'll say this once and ONCE ONLY:  personal attacks on anyone will not be tolerated.  Also, it is a sports related board so keep non-sports stuff to a minimum.  For more information, read the message board page on this site as well as the welcome message on the board itself. 

1988 retrospective:  starting this Friday, I will be posting a week-by-week retrospective on the 1988 Trojan football team.  They went 10-0 in the regular season and finished 11-1 and won the Keystone Conference.  They were the first JHS team to make the playoffs in 40 years.  If you or anyone you know was a part of this team, please get in touch with me because I'm trying to get as much perspective on this as I can.   

OK, that's all for now.  I can't wait until Friday and Bedford at Trojan Stadium, how about you?  Thank goodness high school football is back!


Monday Morning Ramblings #2


Sorry this is actually Monday Evening Ramblings this week, but the Labor Day weekend always throws me for a loop. Anyway, let’s get at it:

First of all, my overall impression of the Trojans this is good. The offense, even when it did not score, seemed to move the ball pretty well. The defense got two big turnovers. Although the return game didn’t really get a chance to get in gear yet, Jon Maurazio did a fine job on kickoffs even though he didn’t get to attempt an extra point until late in the game. Overall, a fine first effort from the coaches and players this past Friday night.

Now, to some quick hits:

*****I am loving this running back by committee thing. The Trojans nearly had two running backs with 100 yards Friday night in Quadir Christian (108 yards) and Kashmir Pretlor (85 yards). Add to that the change of pace that Quatrell Rose added and the Trojans have a nice, three-headed machine at the position. Pretlor did a fine job on the inside, tackle-to-tackle type runs while Christian and Rose worked well stretching the field and turning the corner. Add to the mix quarterback John Siciliano, who looked very good on the ground, and even with what looks like a greatly improved passing game, the Trojans might be content to keep things on the ground if all is working. If it ain’t broke…

*****Had the Trojans scored at the end of the first half, the Bedford fans would be fit to be tied. Karma won out though as Bedford held the line on what appeared to be fifth down. My guess is, the down marker was not switched from first to second down following Siciliano spiking the ball to kill the clock. It’s the first week of real work for the officials, and I’d like to cut them some slack, but that’s not excusable.

*****I have to say I was MIGHTY disappointed in the Trojans coming out in blank helmets again this year. I pray that it’s just an equipment mishap, maybe the order from the supplier did not come in on time. We have one of the sharpest uniforms in the region, but the helmet with no logo makes it look unfinished.

*****I am making a slight adjustment in the daily content, rather than wait until Monday to recap the LHAC games AND preview the following week, I’m just going to recap the other five LHAC games (and 6-AAA games as well). I will use the Scouting Report to preview the upcoming week, as Helmets and Sweats did in the past. So after the more in-depth Johnstown preview, I will do shorter previews on the other teams’ games that week. Now, let’s look around the LHAC:

Forest Hills 50, Somerset 20: Zack Glessner was 13-for-16 with 201 yards and 1 touchdown as well as two rushing touchdowns while Scott Mehall rushed for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns and also had six receptions for 110 yards. Looks like Johnstown will have a tough one this Friday night.

Bishop Carroll 12, Central Cambria 7: BC wins the Battle for Ebensburg as Brendan Julock accounted for both Husky touchdowns and rushed for 165 yards in the victory.

Bishop McCort 48, Cambria Heights 0: Smooth sailing for the Crushers as Josh Seidel rushed for three scores while Luke James countered with two.

Richland 49, Penn Cambria 20: Brandon Bailey’s Rams came out of the game and made a statement with this blowout win. Jared Curcija had 111 yards rushing while quarterback Giovanni Ramires threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another.

Bishop Guilfoyle 24, Westmont 23: Heartbreaker for Matt Glennon in his first game as coach for the Hilltoppers. BG led 17-7 at the half but Westy battled back to force the extra play. However, a botched snap on their PAT attempt allowed the Marauders to win.

*****So there was Section 2 dominance the first week of play as only Forest Hills and Bishop Guilfoyle were able to bring home victories in the week of inter-sectional play. Section 2 teams outscored Section 1 teams 189-124.

*****A couple of notes outside the LHAC:

First and foremost, congratulations go out to Laurel Valley coach Jerry Page for getting his 200th win Friday night. There is not a more classy coach in our region.

Next, big props to Altoona for defeating WPIAL AAAA power North Allegheny this past weekend. I think it’s a great thing for the district to defeat a premier WPIAL program. Good job Mountain Lions.

If you’re looking for a good Friday night recap show of all things District 6, head to the MSA Sports Network webpage and check out the District 6 show. It’s based out of either Altoona or State College’s ESPN Radio affiliate so it’s got a Central PA flavor to it, but they mention most of the D6 teams as well. It’s just one hour and they archive it so you don’t even have to listen live (I listened to it Saturday afternoon).

After watching most of Gateway destroying Penn Hills on PCN I have to wonder what the hell the Post-Gazette was thinking ranking PH above Gateway, especially in light of the USA Today ranking the Gators #3 in the nation!

*****There was some chatter in the message board about the band and the work they put into their performances in support of football and I wanted to remind everyone about our Spirit page, which has links to both cheerleading and band. I have photos up right now but emails are out to advisors of both groups to provide me with info, so more to come on that.

*****Pitt football….WTF?!?!

*****If you haven’t noticed on the homepage, I’ll be running a retrospective all year long on the 1988 football team. Look for new stories each week to correspond with the week of the season. I have sent some emails out to players and coaches on that team and have received some responses. Stay tuned for the stories.

*****Finally, this week and every week after a Trojan win, I’ll end the MMR column by updating JHS’ status in the “Countdown to 600”. With the win Friday night, Johnstown is now 592-369-56.

Eight more wins to get #600!

Monday Morning Ramblings #3


*****I would never be happy with a loss, but leaving the game Friday night at Forest Hills, I felt great with what I saw in the second half. After witnessing a first half that was pretty grim and watching what looked like a beaten team walk off the field at the break, I absolutely loved the fight the Trojans played with in the second half. For the defense to shut the Rangers down in the third and fourth quarters, and scored a touchdown to boot, while the offense found its ways an answered with two scores of their own to tie the contest and send it to overtime.

I have to be honest, as a prognosticator, I thought Forest Hills would win, of course that doesn’t mean I’m not first and foremost a Trojan fan. I believe that Forest Hills has a very good, young football team and although I was disappointed, I really wasn’t that surprised with what I saw during the first half.

However, what I saw in the second half proved that although this Johnstown team may have some work to do, they showed they have a good team and will be able to play with the top teams in the this league.

Kudos to Coach Marabito, his coaching staff and most importantly, the players, for sticking with the game plan and not giving up.

*****If the reports are true and Kashmir Pretlor did indeed suffer a broken ankle Friday night, one would have to guess he’d likely be out for the season and that is a terrible shame. Pretlor was showing to be a force early on, on both sides of the ball with hard running and tough yards from his running back position and ball-hawking abilities on defense. The only saving grace is that he’s only a junior and will have plenty of time to rehab and be stronger for a senior season come 2009.

*****There were two other games that needed more than 48 minutes to complete Friday night. It took tw overtime sessions for Cambria Heights to defeat Somerset while Central Cambria needed an extra frame to take care of Richland. Details of those match-ups as well as the rest of the games in the LHAC can be seen below.

*****LHAC Capsules:

Cambria Heights 26, Somerset 20: The Highlanders get Justin Myers his maiden victory as a head coach after suffering through a winless campaign a year ago in his first year at the helm. Jeremy Priester had an amazing 47 carry, 207 yard performance that included two touchdowns in this double-overtime thriller.

Bishop McCort 39, Bishop Guilfoyle 35: High scoring affair on the fast track of Mansion Park as Eric Lowry scored three touchdowns for the Crushers in the victory. Chris Brown had a touchdown pass and returned an interception for a score in the losing effort. Both teams’ kickers came up with big field goals as Dane Domonkos hit from 38 yards out of the Crushers while Amanda James connected from 33 yards out for the Marauders.

Central Cambria 21, Richland 14: Andrew O’Saben had 103 yards and two touchdowns as the Red Devils held off the Richland Rams in overtime. Rams’ quarterback Giovanni Ramires had two touchdown passes in the loss.

Penn Cambria 36, Westmont 28: in somewhat of a surprise, the Panthers get a nice non-sectional victory over the Hilltoppers as Zak Newton led the way for Ernie Fetzer’s team with a 30 carry/255 yard/3 touchdown performance. Matt Glennon and Westmont, still looking for their first victory of the year, were led by T.J. Keklak’s 139 yards on the ground. He also had one touchdown in the loss.

Bishop Carroll 39, Bedford 16: No contest here in a game of two teams that appear to be going in the opposite direction. Brandon Julock had three rushing touchdowns and gained 141 yards on 17 carries in the win. Paul Detwiler had an 83-yard kickoff return for a score in the loss.

*****Update on the 1988 Retrospective: I posted the Altoona story last week but I wanted to post an update on this project. I have been in contact with Jerry Davitch, Tom Fleming and Chris Peduzzi and all three are very excited to participate with me on this project. I’ll be talking with Coach Davitch each week, asking his reflections on the game of that current week. Stayed tuned, and please get in touch with me if you or anyone you know was a player on that team, I’d love to get as much participation as possible.

*****Housekeeping: I’ll be out of town this coming weekend and won’t be able to attend the Westmont game. However, I’ll have all the daily pieces posted with the exception of the Saturday Game Report.

*****Countdown to 600: no movement here, since the Trojans lost. The all-time record now stands at 592-370-56.


Monday Morning Ramblings #4


*****Sorry, it's Monday evening again. That's what happens when you do some travel on the weekend.

*****Since I wasn't able to attend the Westmont game Friday night, I'm not going to make any assessments other than to say the obvious in that any loss is a disappointing one. I'll ask Coach Marabito in the Coach's Corner for further assessement. I will say this much: from seeing photos on the Tribune Democrat's website and WJAC's highlight video, the conditions looked less than ideal. That being said, the weather is the same for both teams so that's not an excuse.

*****This was the first shutout since Bishop McCort defeated the Trojans 30-0 back in 2006.

*****One positive, I noticed from the photos that ran on the Tribune Democrat's website that the Trojan head logo is back where it belongs on the side of the Johnstown helmet. I know most will think I'm biased, but that is one of the nicest logos in all of PA HS football. I rank it up there with the Aliquippa helmet.

 *****Break up the Scarlet Dragons! Central is off to a 3-0 start. After taking their lumps in the LHAC for years, A.J. Hoenstine has this program headed in the right direction. Central's teams always played tough and I'll always forget that unbelievable upset of Bishop McCort from 2001. That team finished the season 1-9 while McCort finished 11-3 and lost to eventual state champion Washington. This year, the Dragons have defeated two AAA teams in Indian Valley and Bellefonte to start off strong and amass a lot of playoff points.

*****LHAC recaps:

Richland 34, Bishop Carroll 24

Gino Ramires 347 yards passing and 5 TDs in the Rams' 34-24 win over Bishop Carroll. Three of those were to Tim Ripple.

Bishop Guilfoyle 47, Cambria Heights 14

Eugene Ehredt had 133 yards and a TD on the ground while QB Chris Brown was 8-for-13 with 198 yards and 2 TDs through the air.

Bishop McCort 39, Somerset 7

Eric Lowry scored three touchdowns on the ground while Dane Domonkos continues to be a double-threat as a receiver and kicker. He caught a 51-yard touchdown and kicked four extra points and a 33-yard field goal.

Forest Hills 23, Bedford 0

The Bisons remain winless as Zack Glessner passed for 262 yards in the victory for the undefeated Forest Hills Rangers.

Penn Cambria 14, Central Cambria 13

Another nice night for Zak Newton has he racked up 165 yards on 23 carries. Panthers' guard Matt Teeter scored a TD and two-point conversion in the win.

*****Countdown to 600: again, no movement here with the Trojans' loss. Currently, the Trojans are 592-371-56.


Monday Morning Ramblings #5


*****Thanks for the bulletin board material: I could not believe that every single Tribune Democrat picker, the staff and the guests, nine in total, went with the Rams over the Trojans in Friday’s paper. Really? Based on what exactly? I wrote in my blog at PennLive that if the Rams could not defeat the Trojans with four years of Marco Pecora running the offense, what exactly made these guys think this would be the year? The Rams are now 0-7 against Johnstown since the Trojans joined the LHAC in 2001.

I’m not going to lie, I was plenty nervous before the game, thinking maybe this could be the year. But like with Somerset a year ago, I think a team that has failed to ever beat you has to prove they can before you actually pick them.

This is no means a knock on the Richland program either. Brandon Bailey has done a fine job getting that program turned around and in the right direction. The community should be proud of the job he, his staff and most importantly the players have done over the past five seasons or so.

As for this week’s picks, who knows. Johnstown lost 6-0 to Westmont but Westmont lost to a down Somerset team in overtime. Yes, Somerset beat Johnstown a year ago but I don’t think that has anything to do with this year. I look for the Trojans to avenge that loss this Friday.

*****How about that Trojan defense? Sure they still gave up some big plays in the passing game and that has to be a concern for Coach Marabito, but two nice interceptions from Alknon Williams and Ryan Sisco as well as holding the Rams and making them turn the ball over on downs several times were positives as was the stuffing of Ramires on that quarterback sneak in the second half. If the Rams score there, they take the lead and it may have been a very different ball game from that point forward.

*****LHAC recaps:

Bishop McCort 31, Bishop Carroll 7

Isa Wadley carried the ball 10 times for 154 yards and had three touchdowns in this big victory for the Crushers. Brandon Julock had 121 yards on 16 carries in the loss.

Central Cambria 42, Cambria Heights 6

The Red Devils got back on track with a blowout victory over the Highlanders of Cambria Heights. They were led by Andrew O’Saben’s 145 yards rushing. The CC defense held CH standout running back Jeremy Priester to just 18 yards on the ground.

Forest Hills 37, Bishop Guilfoyle 7

No sweat at all here for Don Bailey’s Rangers as they rode Scott Mehall’s 25 carry, 240 yard, 3 touchdown performance to an easy victory in section play against their visitors from Altoona. BG quarterback Chris Brown was 15-for-28 with 169 yards in the loss.

Penn Cambria 36, Bedford 28

Close call for Ernie Fetzer’s Panthers but they were able to hold on for the 8-point victory. Zak Newton rushed the ball 23 times for 216 yards while quarterback Josh Gallagher was 6-for-12 passing with 143 yards. His best target on the night was Matt Glenn who caught four balls for 99 yards.

Somerset 27, Westmont 21 (OT)

A 273-yard rushing performance from T.J. Keklak was wasted as Somerset fought back, forced overtime and ultimately prevailed. Trevor Niemiec passed for 125 yards and controlled the Eagles’ option attack, scoring two rushing touchdowns, including the game winner.

*****Countdown to 600: With the win, JHS improves to 593-371-56 all time. Seven more wins to go for 600.

*****Special thanks to Tom Fleming: and last but definitely not least I want to thank my coach, former Trojans’ head coach and current Richland superintendent Tom Fleming. Coach Fleming was gracious enough to give me a pre-game tour of Richland’s beautiful school and facilities. Richland truly has top-notch, world class facilities and they have a lot to be proud of.

Monday Morning Ramblings #6


*****Well, the Trojans have a nice two-game winning streak, are 2-1 in the section and look to be playing very good ball heading into a tough stretch of their schedule with back-to-back games against Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort.

The offense is doing a fine job spreading the ball around to many players, the defense has played as physical as they have in recent years and the kicking game is a strength. This year’s version of the Trojans looks like it has the potential for good things. Let’s hope that potential is realized.

*****Friday was my first chance to see the new and improved facilities at Somerset High School and I have to say, I was very impressed. Sure, they had the field turf a year ago but this is the first year for the improved bleachers and field house. There is also the rock memorial and goal post as well as new concession stands and bathrooms. I’m no germ-a-phobe, but the old restroom facilities that were under the home bleachers were beyond gross. What they have now is a great improvement.

When you look around the LHAC you have to be impressed with what are some really nice facilities. Trojan Stadium, Herlinger Field, the new Point Stadium, BC’s adopted home at St. Francis and now Somerset are all really nice places to watch games. I’m not crazy about the set up at the Point but you have to think the playing surface is a total upgrade from the old days of playing on the infield dirt.

*****Note to the Somerset public address announcer: less is more. You don’t need to be a play-by-play announcer, just tell me the result of the play.

*****Here’s one that’s got me puzzled. How is it that NFL officials aren’t differentiating between five and fifteen yard face mask penalties anymore but we’re supposed to entrust high school officials with telling the difference?

*****Another observation from the stands: why went coaches get angry on the sidelines to they take their hats off, but instead of throwing them on the ground (which would be the expected reaction if one was upset), they just hold them in their hands?!?! This isn’t something I’ve only seen on the Trojan sidelines, but numerous sidelines at all levels of football. It just looks funny.

*****For the “stay classy” file: I really could do without certain school board members taunting the fans of opposing teams from across the sideline like I observed Friday night. First, you’re like a mile away so it’s not as if anyone could see you anyway and secondly, you look like a damn fool. The next time you see a teenager behaving in a less-than-gracious manner rather than say “damn kids have no respect” you might want to look around at the adults they have as so-called role models.

*****Before I get into my LHAC weekly recap, I just want to mention that the offensive side of the ball was high-scoring for the week, especially on Friday night. In the five games that were played Friday night, 234 points were scored by the winning team, averaging to 46.8 per game. In two of those contests, the losing club scored more than 30. The lowest score by a winning side in those Friday games was Bishop McCort with 38. Forest Hills scored 60 and Central Cambria put 53 on the board.

*****LHAC recaps:

Bishop Carroll 40, Westmont 35

It was all offense at DeGol Field as Brendan Julock had 245 yards on 35 carries and scored four times for the Huskies in the victory. T.J. Keklak ran for 2 touchdowns and passed another in the loss.

Bishop McCort 38, Richland 34

A late fumble by the Rams while attempting to run out the clock with a 34-31 lead was the big play the Crushers needed to pull this win out. Eric Lowry (17 carries, 112 yards) scored the go-ahead touchdown from 8 yards out.

Central Cambria 53, Bedford 22

All CC here as Bedford's dreadful rebuilding process contines. Andrew O'Saben had three touchdowns and 226 yards rushing in the win.

Forest Hills 60, Cambria Heights 0

All Rangers, all night here as Don Bailey's team enjoyed a 40-0 lead at the half. Scott Mehall had 247 yards rushing for FH in the win.

Bishop Guilfoyle 23, Penn Cambria 12

The Marauders overcame a 6-2 halftime deficit to defeat the Panthers on the turf of Mansion Park. Chris Brown passed for a touchdown and ran for two others while Eugene Ehredt had 138 yards on 31 carries in the victory. Zak Newton scored both touchdowns for PC in the loss.

*****With the regular season half over, I would like to take a moment to see how the rest of the LHAC is doing in district playoff standings in other classifications.

There are no AAAA teams in the LHAC and Johnstown is the only AAA (and we’ll breakdown their standing in Tuesday’s Numberology) but there are many implications for AA and A brackets.

In AA, Forest Hills is 5-0 and in second place with 580 points, trailing Central by 50 points. Penn Cambria (340), Central Cambria (330) and Richland (240) are in places four through six.

In A, Bishop McCort is 5-0 and in second place with 660 points, trailing first place Purchase Line by just ten points. Bishop Guileful (410) and Bishop Carroll (400) are in ninth and tenth place.

*****How about the weekend from LaRod Stephens-Howling for the Pitt Panthers! Coach Dave Wannstedt remarked in his post-game interview that his performance were earn a game ball. We’ll break more of his stats down in Wednesday’s Bullet Points column.

This brings up a question that has been brought up time and time again and according to this version of the PG’s Pitt Q&A:

When are we going to see McCoy and Stephens-Howling in the backfield together? Candy Straub, Harrisburg

ZEISE: Good question. I have no idea but it was something we were told would happen and it was worked on throughout training camp. Heck, I even wrote a story about it. Again, all of these things are situational and coaches have concerns about trying to do too much or get too many formations involved so it wouldn't shock me if we see fewer formations and whatnot as opposed to more. In fact, Dave Wannstedt said as much on Monday at his news conference, that the Panthers are trying too do many things on offense and that is taking him somewhat out of his comfort zone.

I guess patience is a virtue. I mean, look at the Trojans running this spread attack consistently for the first time since we were promised it by Bob Arcurio in the preseason of 2006! My point is, it’s a long college season and we’re still pretty much in the early going.

*****RIP Paul Newman. I believe this man was the quintessential American actor and his work, both on and off the big screen will be sorely missed. Of course he’ll always be Reg Dunlop, player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs to me!

Rather than do a poor job on recalling Newman, I’ll let Mike Mastovich’s fine story that ran in yesterday’s Tribune Democrat do the talking.

*****I just want to let everyone know that the 1988 Retrospective has not been forgotten. I plan on re-connecting with Coach Davitch and some other members of that team. Coach Davitch has been out of town and I’ve been busy with a new addition to the Keklak household (our new puppy Sophie) so things got a little behind.

I plan on speaking with Coach this week and getting weeks three through six caught up.

*****Last and definitely not least, the win over Somerset puts us one step closer to the coveted win 600. The Trojans are now 594-371-56 and just six wins shy of the mark.


Monday Morning Ramblings #7


*****What a big win for the Trojans Saturday night! Not only does the team improve to 4-2 but they leap frog their way into second place in the District 6-AAA standings. I’ll break down the playoff scene in more detail tomorrow, and there is still a lot of season to go, but it would be great to have the Trojans not only back in the playoffs, but hosting a first round game.

The Trojans have won three in a row and have put together some really good performances on defense lately, not that the offense hasn’t been doing its part, but as the cliché goes: defense wins championships! It appears like the team is in a great position going into the rivalry game with McCort.

*****Speaking of McCort, I attended most of the Crushers’ game with Westmont Saturday afternoon at Price Field. Now I’m not going to say they aren’t a good team, but I really think they are beatable. Whether or not that will happen will hinge on the Trojans’ ability to stop the run. The Crushers attempted a grand total of one pass at the time I left the game, early in the third. I don’t think they attempted anymore the rest of the day.

But why do I think they’re beatable? Well, Westmont hung with them for the first half. It was only 14-7 Crushers at the half but then the team came out of the locker room and exploded for 24 points in the third to put the game away. Sure, the Hilltoppers were jacked up because that’s their rivalry too. I would fathom that there are many more players on the Crushers’ roster that would attend Westmont than Johnstown had their parents sent them to public school. However, they’re still a huge rival for Johnstown and I’m a firm believer in the other sports cliché that you throw the records out in rivalry games. Look at past Army/Navy games, hell, look at Pitt/WVU last year! Add to the mix that Johnstown is 4-2 and no slouch as they their two losses were both by only six points.

It won’t be easy, but this team probably has the best chance to get the school back on the winning side of this rivalry since the 2004 game that saw McCort need a last second field goal to get the victory.

*****One last note on the Westy/McCort game, I can’t tell you how entertained I was by Bruce Wechtenhiser and his rendition of “The Hilltopper”. Wechtenhiser, a teacher in the Westmont district, sports hiking boots and socks, khaki shorts and a Robin Hood-style hat and has a mini-bullhorn. He was really fun to watch and the kids in the band seemed to enjoy him!

*****Great job by everyone involved in recognizing the 1958 team as well as the cheerleaders collecting dollars for the Trojan College Access Program. It really was a successful night, both on and off the field.

*****LHAC recaps:

Bishop Guilfoyle 29, Bedford 28

It took overtime to settle this one, but ultimately, the Bisons remained winless on the season. BG quarterback Chris Brown scored three rushing touchdowns.

Central Cambria 27, Forest Hills 0

Shock of the week here, not only with the upset itself but a 27-point shutout. Andrew O’Saben had 130 yards on 24 carries while four different Red Devils accounted for their scoring strikes as CC knocked FH from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Penn Cambria 42, Cambria Heights 7

Another big night from, guess who, Zak Newton as the Panther running back amassed 250 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout of the Highlanders.

Richland 42, Somerset 14

Gino Ramires was 19-for-38 for 318 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown as the Rams invaded the turf in Somerset for the big win. Two 100-yard performances were wasted in the loss for Somerset in Trevor Niemiec (123 yards) and Chase Dykstra (106 yards).

Bishop McCort 38, Westmont 14

And then there was one, as in undefeated squad in the LHAC. Although Westmont hung tough in the first half, only trailing 14-7 at the break, it was all Crushers in the second half as Ken Salem’s team exploded for 24 points as Isa Wadley (131 yards) and Eric Lowry (121 yards) had big games. T.J. Keklak and Dan Price scored for the Hilltoppers in the loss.

To some off-topic stuff:

*****What a great win for the Pitt Panthers Thursday night over South Florida in Tampa. That’s the best the team has played since they shocked the world and beat WVU a year ago.

Pitt has been rewarded for their turnaround as they are back in the Top 25, currently ranked #24. Oh, what could have been had they not, inexplicably, lost to Bowling Green at home.

*****I got the trifecta for my teams winning this weekend with victories from the Trojans, the Panthers and the Steelers!

*****One of my other passions, hockey, got going over the weekend. The Penguins looked pretty good Saturday, not so good yesterday but split their season opening series with Ottawa. Truthfully, I think that splitting a two-game set in Sweden to open the regular season is acceptable, let’s see what happens when the boys get back to North America and embark on the “real” regular season.

*****I’m hardly an MMA fan (in fact, I HATE it but that’s a rant for another day), but I was sad to see Kimbo Slice get defeated so easily by a relief fighter since Ken Shamrock cancelled out of the CBS EliteXC event Saturday night. I was hoping Carlton Haselrig would be the one that would have exposed Slice for the fraud he was.

*****Did anyone catch those fireworks for the Pittsburgh 250th birthday celebration? Wow!

*****Countdown to 600: we’re down to five wins needed to get JHS to the coveted mark of 600 wins. All-time, Johnstown is now 595-371-56.

*****I’ll end with something non-sports related: today is the deadline for registering to vote if you want to vote in this year’s presidential election. Your registration form must be postmarked today in order for you to be eligible.

Monday Morning Ramblings #8


*****Damn. We just can’t beat McCort can we? I guess we’ll have to wait until next year.

*****The all-time series is now at 15-9-1 in favor of Johnstown but at this rate, McCort will have overtaken the Trojans by 2015.

*****One thing that really impressed me from the McCort offense was the way their skill players blocked down field. They must be watching a lot of tape of Hines Ward. It is very rare for a team to be able to beat the Trojans on the outside because of JHS’ speed, but McCort was terribly effective at tying up Trojan defensive backs and linebackers away from the line of scrimmage. On one play, I witnessed Isa Wadley take out two Trojans with one block. That is the type of stuff winning teams are made of.

*****I was very disappointed in the sub-par effort of the Tribune Democrat in coverage leading up to this game. It’s one of the bigger games in the area and the preview article that ran last week. How they would not put either Mike Mastovich (who covered the game) or Cory Isenberg, the two lead prep scribes for the paper, is beyond me.

*****Speaking of disappointments, a Bronx cheer from the “fans” when JHS finally got a first down? Really? Come on folks, let’s keep things in perspective as these are teenage boys.

*****You can always find a silver lining, even in the darkest of losses, and I found one here in the hurry-up offense the Trojans ran. It was the only way they could get the ball moving in the early going. Sicilano looked very comfortable in it. Hopefully it’s something we’ll see more of in the weeks to come.

*****It wasn’t all bad news during McCort week as I’d like to extend congratulations to Brian Subich and the freshmen team as they defeated the Crushers on Thursday night. It was a big win for the team and also personally for Subich as it’s the first time in his tenure as frosh coach that he has beaten McCort. We’ll have more on the details of the big win on Wednesday.

Maybe there is a turn around in the cards for the JHS-McCort series in the next few years. Last year, the eighth grade team was the only one in the program to defeat McCort. This year, most of those same kids make up the ninth graders that won last week. Only time will tell.

*****A final word on the McCort game: a fake punt while you’re up 35-7 in the third quarter Coach Salem. Really?!?!

*****Congrats to Dave Istanich and his choice on his move to the next level and verbally committing to Florida International. Good things happen for guys that can get it done both in the classroom and on the gridiron. Way to go “Big Dave”!

*****Even though the loss was ugly, things in the District 6-AAA playoff scene pretty much remain the same. Hollidaysburg was the only of the four teams to win their head-to-head match-up. We’ll break this down more for Tuesday’s Numberology but JHS remains in second place. This stretch run is vital for JHS to clinch

As bleak as things seemed Friday night, and it was pretty bad, it’s important to keep things in proper perspective. It’s one game. The team is still set up nicely to advance in the playoffs and hopefully they’ll learn from the mistakes made Friday night at the Point. Hollidaysburg is the clear favorite in 6-AAA but I think Johnstown is the clear second team as Bellefonte and Hollidaysburg have been less than impressive. There is a very good chance the Trojans can be competing for the district title at Mansion Park come mid-November. Of course, first things first……

*****Last week we mentioned “The Hilltopper”, Westmont’s real-life mascot. Did you know he had a website?

*****Faces in the crowd: Carlton Haslerig was seen at the Point for the game Friday night. He’s looking as fit as I’ve seen him since his days wrestling at UPJ. Also, I got to see former Trojans’ Coach Jerry Davitch and among other things, thank him in person for all the time he’s given me to in regards to our 1988 retrospective.

*****Now time for our weekly recap around the LHAC:

Bedford 26, Cambria Heights 6

The Bisons finally got their maiden victory on the season and first for Coach Dan Smith as QB Mike Short was 5-for-14 with 96 yards and one touchdown passing in the victory.

Central Cambria 44, Bishop Guilfoyle 26

Andrew O'Saben had another strong evening, rushing for 233 yards and a touchdown in a big win for the Red Devils. He also returned a kickoff 91 yards to the house. Chris Brown had three touchdown passes for BG in the loss, two of which went to Andrew Passonetti.

Forest Hills 28, Penn Cambria 20

This was an old-fashioned dog fight but the Rangers held on for a big section victory. Scott Mehall was the man for FH, rushing for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 12 carries. It was business as usual for the losers in this contest too as Zak Newton had 100 yards rushing on 23 carries. He ran and threw for a touchdown.

Westmont 13, Richland 7

Big game for T.J. Keklak, finishing just four rushing yards shy of a 300-yard performance as he carried the ball a workman-like 39 times for 296 yards and scored both Westy touchdowns. Gino Ramires was 16-for-25 for 96 yards and a 30-yard touchdown strike to Tim Ripple in just one half of play because he had to leave the game due to an injury.

Bishop Carroll 42, Somerset 20

Brendan Julock had 137 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground while QB Chad Panick had 95 yards and 2 scores through the air as the Huskies eased their way to a sectional victory over the Golden Eagles.

*****Countdown to 600 update: no movement this week, the loss drops JHS’ all-time record to 595-372-56. Still five wins to go for this magical mark. Just think, a three-game winning streak and winning the district championship will get us to this mark! I know that’s thinking way ahead, but I’m allowed to as I’m not a coach! Even if that doesn’t happen, it just shows how close the program is to this magical victory. If it doesn’t happen this year, it’s a downright given that will happen in 2009.


Monday Morning Ramblings #9


Some random musings from the weekend that was:

*****I thought Ryan Sisco played a hell of a game Friday night. Not only did he have yet another interception, his fourth of the season, but he made two big tackles that may have saved touchdowns and at the least saved the Trojans big yardage. One was on a run by Priester, the other on a kick return by Stanek.

*****Another nice week for the no-huddle offense, this time rewarding the team’s hard work with a touchdown. On their next to last possession of the first half they ran the set for six plays with the only hiccough being an illegal procedure penalty.

*****I have to say I was very impressed with the offensive skill players of Vescovi, Priester and Stanek. Those three made big plays all night on the offensive side of the ball. Although the Highlanders just couldn’t keep up with the Trojans on defense, I am really impressed with the strides their program has made. Justin Myers is a good, young coach and I hope he’s able to continue to build up there and make positive gains. They truly were better than a one-win team on the field Friday night.

*****Cambria Heights’ band was not only the biggest, but the best band I’ve seen this year.

*****Elsewhere in the LHAC:

Bishop Guilfoyle 50, Somerset 29

Chris Brown accounted for four BG touchdowns, two by air and two by ground, as the Mauraders easily took care of the Golden Eagles. Somerset QB Trevor Niemiec had three rushing touchdowns in the losing effort.

Bishop McCort 47, Penn Cambria 14

The Crushers continue to roll as they stay undefeated on the season and took care of the visiting Penn Cambria Panthers Friday night. Eric Lowry had 132 yards rushing and four touchdowns (1 receiving, 3 rushing) in the win. The Panthers were paced by Zak Newton's

Forest Hills 27, Bishop Carroll 0

Scott Mehall had 202 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries as the Forest Hills Rangers shut out Bishop Carroll. Zack Glessner had a touchdown pass and Patrick Donoughe, who was 3-for-3 on PATs, also booted two field goals in the win.

Richland 41, Bedford 20

Gino Ramires was back in action for the Rams and that spelled trouble for Bedford as the junior had 236 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Mike Short hit Zach Hess for two touchdown passes for the Bisons in the loss.

Central Cambria 28, Westmont 13

Ben Ridgely scored a rushing touchdown and also returned an interception for six while Andrew O'Saben carried the ball 26 times for 122 yards as the Red Devils held off the Hilltoppers at Price Field on Saturday afternoon.

*****Regular viewers of the site know I like to break down the Trojans and the rest of the 6-AAA playoff scene every Tuesday but today, I’d like to see where the rest of the LHAC teams that are in playoff contention are (note: I‘ll update the points once the data is available on the D6 website):

Class AA:

Forest Hills:  the Rangers are 7-1 with 890 points, good enough for third place in the 5/6-AA standings, behind only Tyrone and Central.  FH is also rated as "Others to Watch" in the PA Football News' statewide poll in Class AA.

Central Cambria:  the Red Devils are 6-2 with 780 points and in 4th place.

Penn Cambria:  the Panthers are in 6th place with 500 points and a 4-4 mark.

Richland:  the Rams are 4-4 and in 7th place with 480 points.

Westmont:  although the Hilltoppers are 2-6, they have 310 points and are currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in AA.

Class A:

Bishop McCort:  the Crushers are the runaway favorite here as they are 8-0 and have amassed 1200 points.  PFN has them ranked #6 in the state in Class A.

Bishop Guilfoyle:  the Mauraders are eighth in the 6-A standings with a 5-3 mark and 690 points.

Bishop Guilfoyle:  the Huskies hold down the 14th spot in the Class A bracket with a 4-4 mark and 580 points.

*****Conemaugh Valley's Steve Ling rushed for 401 yards in the Blue Jays' victory Saturday over Ferndale. I know I don't mention WestPAC games and teams much, but that amount of yardage, at any level, is quite impressive.

*****We had the trifecta of blowout wins for the big three in JHS, Pitt and the Steelers this past weekend.

*****Speaking of Pitt, I was able to attend their game with Navy in Annapolis and it was a great time. LaRod got two touchdowns (more on that this Wednesday) and to just soak in the experience at an military academy, it’s unlike any other experience in college football.

*****With the regular season winding down, I’m going to track senior running back Quadir Christian’s quest for a 1,000-yard season. This is a mark he should no doubt achieve as he entered Friday’s contest with Cambria Heights with 655 yards. His 239-yard performance puts him at 894 on the season. He has two regular season games to gain 106 yards, a goal that is well within his reach.

*****Countdown to 600: with the win, the Trojans now stand at 596-372-56.


Monday Morning Ramblings #10


*****It was a big win for Johnstown Friday night, but even bigger things happened off the field, namely the outcome of the Indian Valley/Bellefonte game. Indian Valley pulled off what has to be seen as a huge upset by defeating Bellefonte and in doing so, pretty much solidifies JHS’ spot in second place in the District 6-AAA standings. This means that the Trojans will enjoy a home playoff game which past performances show, is a big help, not only for Johnstown but for other teams around the district.

It was also a big victory for IV because an Altoona Mirror report suggested that should IV not win this game, they would pull out of the playoffs, leaving a three-team field in which Hollidaysburg would have enjoyed a bye and waited on the Johnstown-Bellefonte winner. Although an IV victory over Hollidaysburg is unlikely, anything can happen when a game is played on the field.

More on the playoff points standings in Tuesday’s Numberology.

*****John Siciliano continues to improve as the Trojans’ signal caller. Two of his three touchdown runs were on option-action. His passing, although limited, has been efficient and he’s been strong all season on the scramble, both by design and from plays breaking down.

*****Special Teams play will have to be improved for this week and beyond in a playoff run. A blocked PAT (another missed because of big pressure) and three big kickoff returns, one for a touchdown, are things you can’t always afford to have and still win a game.

*****What a great memory for “Big Dave” Istanich Friday night, during his final appearance on home turf in the regular season to pull down an interception like that. He also contributed with a blocked extra point, two plays that would be even bigger in a closer game but he’ll have the story of his interception and dragging of a BG defender for the rest of his life!

Elsewhere in the LHAC:

Bishop Carroll 46, Cambria Heights 7

Brendan Julock scored twice and rushed for 159 yards in the Huskies blowout victory over the Highlanders.

Bishop McCort 14, Central Cambria 13

The Crimson Crushers topped off their season by winning the LHAC and going undefeated but they had to earn it. An errant snap on a CC extra point was the difference here as Eric Lowry scored both McCort TDs, one rushing, one receiving.

Forest Hills 34, Richland 8

The Bailey Bowl wasn't much of a game as it was all Forest Hills as Scott Mehall scored two rushing TDs and one receiving while QB Zack Glessner was 4-of-7 for 147 yards and 2 TDs in the win.

Penn Cambria 40, Somerset 26

Zak Newton rushed for three TDs while Bobby Glenn caught one TD pass and returned a kickoff for another as the Panthers held off a game Golden Eagles squad to improve to 5-4.

Westmont 35, Bedford 0

This was the lone shutout of the weekend in LHAC-play as T.J. Keklak had 183 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Bisons.

*****Quadir Christian’s 180-yard performance Friday night put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Last week we showed him at 894 but later in the week, MaxPreps had him at 982. We’ll go with the latter (even though in either case he surpassed 1,000). On the season he has 1,162 yards. Hey, you never know, a deep run in the playoffs could put him at 2,000 but at the least, 1,500 is an accomplishable goal, and we’ll use this space to countdown to that now.

*****Last but now least, our other countdown, the one we’ve been doing all season, to 600 wins. The win over BG puts Johnstown all-time at 597-372-56. Just three more wins to go!


Monday Morning Ramblings #11


*****Oh what a difference a year makes!  Although the 2008 and 2007 Trojan teams sport identical 7-3 regular season records, only this year's squad qualifies for the postseason.  congratulations to the team and coaching staff for a great regular season and continued success in the playoffs.  Let's bring back that District title to J-town!

But first things first, it appears that the Trojans will play Indian Valley Friday night at 7:00 at Trojan Stadium.  It's a great thing to have a home playoff game, since joining the LHAC and 6-AAA in 2001, Johnstown has only lost one time in playoff action at Trojan Stadium (2006 against Hollidaysburg). 

*****Sorry no Saturday Game Report but I had to get home and get a few hours sleep before I was on the road to South Bend for the Pitt/Notre Dame game.

*****And what a game it was at Notre Dame!   I wanted Reed to get a shot at CB as Gary, Chappel and Berry all struggled.  Berry's stock has gone down recently in my opinion both at CB and it appears he has lost his punt return job (although TJ Porter didn't do much better).

I know every Joe Sixpack (or, Joe "the plumber" if you will!) doesn't see the difference in punt returns versus kickoff returns but it's huge.  That all being said, I wouldn't mind getting LaRod a look back there although it probably won't happen.

*****It was nice to see the wildcat look back on the Pitt offense.

*****Back to the Trojans, the series with PC is starting become quite the series.  I wouldn't necessarily call it a rivalry but the games seem to all be close.  This year by six, last year by 2, 8 points back in 2006, a 22-8 loss and a 14-0 win thrown in there, one thing you can count on is the game will be close.

*****With Quadir Christian out of the lineup last Friday, you may have received a glimpse of what the '09 offense will look like:  more passing and continued success on the run from John Siciliano.

*****Speaking of Siciliano, what an outstanding game this kid had Friday night.  Taking on an extended role in the offense, all the junior did was rush for 142 yards and one score and throw for 218 and throw for 3 touchdowns. 

*****LHAC recaps

Forest Hills 24, Westmont 7
With a playoff spot on the line the Hilltoppers played this one tough, in fact, they played it to a 7-7 tie in the first half but then the Rangers pulled away.  Scott Mehall carried the ball 24 times for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win.  T.J. Keklak ran for 93 yards and threw for 65 in the loss.  Westy's season ends at 3-7 while Forest Hills improves to 9-1 and head to the postseason.

Richland 34, Cambria Heights 14
It was a battle of good quarterback play as the Rams were led by Gino Ramires' 19-for-27 performance that covered 174 yards.  He threw three touchdowns and was intercepted once.  His Highlander counterpart, Caleb Vescovi, was 10-for-19 with 183 yards and 1 touchdown.  He was picked off three times.  CH's season ends at 1-9 while Richland improved to 5-5 and heads to the playoffs.

Chestnut Ridge 20, Bedford 14
Archrivals going in different directions as the Lions are headed to the 5-AA title game next week while the Bisons season mercifully comes to an end.  Cody Shippey rushed for a score while Mike Short connected with Zach Hess for the other Bison score as their season ends with a 1-9 mark.  The Lions improve to 6-4.

Central Cambria 48, Somerset 6
All Red Devils here as the boys from Ebensburg flex their muscle heading to the postseason.  On half a nights work, Andrew O'Saben carried 17 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns.  CC improves to 7-3 and heads to the postseason while Somerset drops to 1-9 in closing out their season.

Moshannon Valley 14, Bishop Carroll 7
Heartbreaker here as the Huskies' season comes to an end from the hands of the Black Knights.  Shawn Perich connected with Chad Panick from nine yards out for the only BC score.  In the loss, Brendan Julock carried 19 times for 127 yards.  The Huskies end their season with a 5-5 mark.

Bellwood-Antis 37, Bishop Guifoyle 7
The Marauders season comes to an end as a very talented B-A squad beat them by 30.  In the loss, Chris Brown was 12-for-27 for 175 yards and threw the lone BG score, a 43-yard touchdown to Chris Damiano.  BG ends their season at 5-5.

Bishop McCort enjoyed a first round bye.  They will host Laurel Valley, 14-6 winners over Northern Cambria, this weekend at the Point.

*****Quadir, no movement in yardage as he didn't play so he's still at 1,167.

*****Countdown to 600: we're getting closer!  The win puts JHS at 598-372-56.


Monday Morning Ramblings #12


*****I’m going to lead with the entry I normally end each week’s MMR with: the Countdown to 600. As I have recently updated the home page to reflect this, the magic number for this monumental milestone is ONE! With the win over Indian Valley Friday night, the Trojans all-time mark is now 599-372-56.

How sweet would it be for the Trojans to achieve the 600th win in program history AND take home a district title in the same night?!?!

*****Surely, the Trojans will go into the game this week with Hollidaysburg as the underdog. The Golden Tigers have racked up nine straight victories after falling to State College in Week One. (Nothing to be ashamed of there as the Little Lions finished the regular season 10-0 and appear to be the favorites in the AAAA sub-regional comprised of Districts 6, 8, 9 and 10).

That being said, as impressive as Hollidaysburg’s season has been, when you look at their schedule, it’s safe to assume that after week one, they haven’t seen an athletic quarterback like John Siciliano too many times. He’s a legit threat in both the running game and as the last two game have shown, the passing game as well. I will break Hollidaysburg down more in detail come Thursday but I think it’s a safe bet that the Trojans are the best team Hollidaysburg has played in quite sometime.

Plus, you have to think that all the pressure is on the Golden Tigers this week. Much like the Trojans this week, they will be expected to win. If Johnstown just goes out and plays their game and has fun, playing loose and like champions, a win is definitely possible.

No worries, I think Hollidaysburg is taken the threat seriously…many of the team and coaching staff were enjoying their bye week in person at Trojan Stadium taking in the game and getting some live scouting work on their opponent for the district title game.

*****There were five other LHAC teams in playoff action over the weekend and including Johnstown’s win, the league was 4-2 in postseason action. Below are recaps of the contests not involving the Trojans:

Forest Hills 28, Richland 0

Scott Mehall ran for a school-record 323 yards as the Rangers had no problems with the Rams in this rematch of a regular season contest. Forest Hills improves to 10-1 and will take on Central in the semifinal round.

Bishop McCort 31, Laurel Valley 6

The off week was no bump in the road for the Crushers as they continue to look like they are on their way to a district title. Eric Lowry carried the ball 14 times for 101 yards in the win, which improved McCort to 10-0. The Crushers will take on Bellwood-Antis next.

Central Cambria 14, Huntingdon 0

The Red Devils improve to 8-3 after shutting out the Bearcats. Andrew O'Saben was yet again the catalyst for CC as he rushed the ball 30 times for 147 yards in the win. The Red Devils advance to take on Tyrone.

Central 21, Penn Cambria 14

Ernie Fetzer's Panthers were eliminated by former LHAC-member Central. In the loss, Zak Newton carried the ball 34 times for 201 yards and one touchdown. PC ends the season with a 5-6 record.

*****Johnstown’s win over Indian Valley also puts them at the eight-win mark, an accomplishment the program has not seen since 2004.

*****With his rushing performance Friday night, John Siciliano is unofficially at 815 yards rushing. He has an outside chance at becoming a 1,000-yard passer and rusher (his passing numbers after the IV game put him unofficially at 1,131 yards on the season). If this doesn’t happen this season one would have to think there is a distinct possibility that he could achieve this goal in his senior year.

*****I have struggled reporting Quadir’s rushing numbers because they have changed figures so much, I can only go with what is on MaxPreps. So, according to that site at this point in time, he had 1,121 yards going into the IV game. His 67 yards rushing in the game put him at 1,188 on the season.

*****Sorry, no Saturday Game Report this week, truth be told, I’m considering phasing that feature out for next year and beyond and going to just five days a week. If you go to the link for SGR, you’ll see links aplenty for the JHS/IV game.

*****I’ll end this week on a note I’ve played a few times before. The Trojans former AAA conference, in the WPIAL, the Keystone, has yet again been held winless in playoff action. The conference has not won a first round WPIAL game since 2000! Yes, it’s a testament to the fact that District 7 allows far too many teams in their postseason but also, to the Johnstown flavor, I really feel that had the Trojans been playing in that conference with the teams they have fielded since 2003, this streak would not be a story.


Monday Morning Ramblings #13


*****Well, unfortunately, the time has come to pen the final Monday Morning Ramblings of the season. As sad as that might be, I want to state how proud I am of this Johnstown Trojan football team. Congratulations to the players and Coach Marabito and his staff for an exciting season. Obviously, following Trojan football is a passion of mine and I want to thank everyone involved in the program for giving all of the fans an exciting season.

*****Despite losing some real important cogs in this team (like Quadir Christian, David Istanich and Jon Maruizio to name a few) the team really looks like it has the potential to have another good season in 2009. Although many skill players are back, the heart and soul of every successful team are the lines on both sides of the ball and as they go, so does the team. Coach Marabito loses three excellent linemen in Istanich, William Claar and James Haggerty. Replacing them, and developing players with ability like those three will be Coach’s biggest challenge this off season.

To the backs and receivers, you know what you have with quarterback John Siciliano and he’ll only get better. I expect his passing ability to greatly improve next season. Not to say he wasn’t good this year, but I just think when you run the ball more, a junior, first-time starter at QB has a lot of room to grow. Quadir has some big shoes to fill at running back but I think a committee approach could step in and fill the void. At tailback, Quattrell Rose returns and he has some experience and you’ll have a few guys in Javon Vuckovich and Elijah Haselrig moving up from the freshmen squad. At wideout, Jefferson and Agurs will return for their senior seasons and although Wyatt will graduate, you have a player in Gervon Simon that’s just a sophomore that received very limited time this year but got his feet wet as a freshmen. Sisco and Anderson got a lot of valuable time at the wideout position as well. Also, the freshmen quarterback Mark Watson will be moved to his more natural position in WR. Another player to watch is Alkwon Williams. As a freshmen he looked like a senior at times on defense this year (this kid would have looked like a man amongst boys on the freshmen team). He didn’t play any on offense this year but was listed as a running back in the program so I’m sure there is more to come on that.

Defensively, it’s tough to replace Big Dave’s impact in the middle of that line but Daveon Simms and Dajour Morris are back as is Williams. So the front eight look strong and the secondary loses Quadir but not much else.

The big blow Special Teams-wise will be Jon Maurizio. We’ve been a little spoiled in Trojanland the past seven or eight years as Ben Landis played from a freshmen on and Maurizio joined the team when Landis suffered a season ending injury during his senior year. Replacing the skills of Maurizio in both the punting and kicking game will be huge. Hopefully someone is waiting in the wings, either on the football or soccer team to step up and take the reins. I don’t want the Trojans to become on of those teams that goes for two all the time. If I were Coach, I’d be looking for not only a soccer-style player, but I’d be auditioning my big dogs on the line and seeing if any of them has the ability to pull off the old straight-on style.

*****Now, to assess the season that was 2008. 8-4 and an appearance in the district title game is something I’ll take. This is the first step in that attitude the program has to have that they belong in and should expect to be in the district championship every season. Every year in November, our team should be expecting to play for those gold medals at Mansion Park and anything less is not good enough.

You hate to hear stuff like this, but really, this team is a few plays away from being a 10-2 team. They forced the overtime against Forest Hills and realistically could have won that game and the Westmont game was played in such horrible conditions and they still had more than one opportunity to win the game. The McCort game was a butt whipping and the Hollidaysburg game, well, as much as it was great that we hung with them in the first half, I truly think the better team won as the Golden Tigers separated themselves.

Coach Marabito and the staff have the program pointed in the right direction and I look for continued success.

*****The return to the postseason was fun and exciting to cover. It should be noted that since the Trojans joined the LHAC and subsequently District 6, they’ve only missed the postseason twice: last season and back in 2001 under Bill Cacciotti. Naysayers might say “so what, 6-AAA is weak.” Well, rebuttal time as I crunched the numbers (because that’s what I do!) and came up with this year’s breakdown. If all other things remained the same and the season shook down exactly as it did, the Trojans would have been in all three of the other classifications. In Class A, they would have finished with 1,030 points and would have been the sixth seed. At Class AA, they would have earned 890 points and been the sixth seed. Finally, at Class AAAA, they would have earned 610 points and been the fifth seed. The team has nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to apologize for. You play the schedule you are given and your enrollment is what it is.

*****Since 2001, the Trojans are 4-5 in district postseason play and 4-6 overall in postseason (0-1 in PIAA playoffs).

*****I know a lot of people around the state are crazy about these districts and sub regions that have open playoffs where all teams, regardless of record, qualify. I’m with them, to a certain extent. While I give props to schools like Bellefonte that have policies that if you’re under .500 you don’t play in the playoffs, sometimes a geographic set up forces the PIAA’s hand. One thing I thought could be a possibility would be a sub regional in AAA between Districts 6 and 9. Both districts have four schools and the top four of those districts combined would have given you four quality teams with winning records. It would have forced Hollidaysburg to play week eleven and not enjoy a first round bye. It would have given the region a better team than Indian Valley in the first round. I know we’re stuck with the current set-up for another season but after that, let’s take a look at the numbers and put on a really good postseason again.

*****Did anyone else at the game Friday night detect a bias towards Hollidaysburg from the PA announcer? It’s not enough that the game was virtually a home game for them (don’t get me wrong, Mansion Park is where the district championship game belongs)! Isn’t the announcer supposed to be down the middle in what is essentially a neutral site game? This guy seemed to be REAL excited on big plays from the Golden Tigers and on the same types of plays from the Trojans the enthusiasm just wasn’t there. Heck, there were plays that Trojan defenders’ names were never mentioned on tackles they made. I know this is small potatoes but still, it was noticeable from the stands and should be addressed.

*****The LHAC was 2-2 in playoff action over the weekend. Here are how the other three teams fared:

Central Cambria 27, Tyrone 20

Another year and another upset of John Franco's Golden Eagles by the Central Cambria Red Devils. Andrew O'Saben was in his regular form, rushing the ball 32 times for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Bishop McCort 24, Bellwood-Antis 20

Back and forth affair at the Point Stadium but the Crushers ultimately prevailed. Dane Domonkos caught three passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, as well as booting a 42-yard field goal and all three Crusher extra points in the victory. Ken Salem's team improves to 11-0 and will play for the district title in one week's time.

Central 29, Forest Hills 26

Huge upset for the Scarlet Dragons as Lucas Runk racked up 154 yards on 22 carries including one rush that covered 94 yards for a touchdown as the former LHAC squad beat their one time sectional nemesis. Scott Mehall carried the ball 23 times for 160 yards in the loss for the Rangers, who end the season 10-2.

*****Up next for the weekend’s winners:

Bishop McCort, still undefeated, will take on Portage for all the marbles in 6-A. That contest will take place on Saturday, 11/22 at Mansion Park.

Also at Mansion Park, the night before, Central Cambria will take on former LHAC member Central for the 6-AA title.

With their win over the Trojans, Hollidaysburg advances to take on perennial 4-AAA champ Selinsgrove at Kemp Memorial Stadium in Shamokin, Friday night at 7:00.

*****Fans of WPIAL football have to absolutely LOVE the four match-ups that will be on tap Saturday afternoon on what will probably be a very chewed up field. Clairton/Monaca, Aliquippa/Beaver Falls, Thomas Jefferson/Blackhawk and Gateway/Bethel Park. What an outstanding day of football. Eight teams in what should be four great games. If you can’t get out to Heinz Field, check out the action on FSN.

*****Since the season is over, I thought I would post the Bullet Points updates for guys at the next level:

Geroy Simon caught five passes for 118 yards in the BC’s season ending 22-18 loss to Calgary in the CFL Western Finals. I’m unsure how CFL stats are kept and if postseason totals are separate or not so I’ll give you all of them. For the regular season, Simon caught 82 passes for 1418 yards and 10 touchdowns. In two playoff contests, he had 9 catches for 179 yards and 1 touchdown. Therefore, his grand totals on the year were 91 catches for 1597 yards and 11 touchdowns.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, Antwuan Reed and Scott Corson and the rest of the Pitt Panthers were off this week but have a big game this week at Cincinnati.

Forrest Harvey did not play in Westminster’s season ending 29-26 loss to Geneva. The Titans finished the season 5-5.

*****Quadir’s countdown: well, the senior fell short of the 1,500-yard mark but his 66 yards rushing against Hollidaysburg gave him a more-than-respectable 1254 yards on the season. Congratulations on a job well done #25. Your line gave you the openings and your legs did the rest!

*****I have to use this next to the last bullet point to apologize for the incomplete nature of my 1988 retrospective. The past three weeks or so have been crazy and have to get this done before Thanksgiving or it will never get done! I just haven’t had the time to contact Coach Davitch and give the series its due as of late. I’m not making any promises as to when, but I do plan on getting in touch with Coach. Stay tuned!

*****Last but not least, our Countdown to 600 fell one game short this season and the program ends the season with an all-time record of 599-373-56. One would think this mark will be achieved early in the 2009 season and the tracking to win #700 will begin.

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