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Locals Struggle On Rough Night At PPMS

May 18 was not a good night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. 20 miles away at Heinz Field, Garth Brooks was drawing 75,000 fans to one of the biggest concerts in local history. Dirt track racers and their fans are also huge country music fans and often wear Brooks t shirts to races. Meanwhile, up at Erie, a major regional race was paying big purses and drawing area drivers and fans. And an overcast sky with rain already falling across the area caused many to decide PMS would be cancelling. So numbers were way down, both in the stands and among cars and teams in the pits.

Karlee Kovacs showed up with her brand new car (photo, below left). Danny Rich did the work getting it ready. It has the same engine but a totally new body, which was needed after a 4th turn crash on the last weekend of the 2018 season. That crash also gave Kovacs a concussion, which she took all Fall recovering from. The California State University junior was excited to be back, but her evening did not go well. She qualified for the Feature and started sixth, but drifted back and finished a very disappointing eighth, one of her lowest placings in three years.

Kyle Janus (photo, right) is also getting a new car. The 14 year old, who finished second in points last year in the Young Guns (teenage) Division, will debut his '95 Starfire with the Cavalier engine next week. He has been using a Chrysler engine for the last two years. It's helped him finish high in most races, but the new car will be more aerodynamic. On this night, however, he started second, slipped to third and stayed there through the finish. The Feature was won by Susie Randolph of Steubenville.

Rich of Imperial won the Sportsman Feature, but it took some perseverance. A storm with high wind, driving rain and lightning interrupted it for 30 minutes. The track was a lot slicker and faster afterward and car settings had to be adjusted accordingly.

The Limited Late Model Feature came after the storm and Justin Lamb didn't think he and his team adjusted his 93X (below, right) accurately enough. "It was a shade too loose," he told reporters. He started 3rd and stayed there for most of the race. Then, on a restart, another driver jumped the flag. Lamb had planned to floor it and go low on the first turn to move into first, but when he made his move he was blocked by the other driver. Officials disqualified the driver, but Lamb had lost his chance and finished third.

Lamb Wins Season Dirt Track Opener

Justin Lamb (93X in photo at right) opened the 2019 season at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway by winning the 25 lap Late Model Feature. Lamb, the 2018 regular season points champion, started second. He took the lead on lap nine and held it the rest of the way.

Imperial's Danny Rich won a heat race in the Sportsman Division and started in 6th place in the Feature. He took over the lead on lap six and held it for six laps until he spun out on turn two. Rich weas only able to work his way back up to eighth in the remaining laps. In Hobby Stocks, Karlee Kovacs started on the pole and stayed in first for several laps. Cautions and a restart kept rebunching the field and she drifted back to a sixth place finish. Kyle Janus of Coraopolis, once again the track's youngest driver, had a pretty good night. He started second in Young Guns and held that position for the entire race. Janus is a 14 year old ninth grader who has been racing for two full seasons even though he still can't get his drivers license for twomore years. Racing continues this Saturday (May 18th) at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway at 7 pm. Gates open at 5 pm for testing laps.

Slumping Raiders Lose To Eden 8-0

As Cornell Baseball Coach Bryan Mihalyi puts it, "The week set up nicely for us. We were hitting consistently and our pitching was solid."

And then it fell apart. One game was rained out. The Raiders lost at Union 5-0. Then they came home and were shut out by Eden 8-0.

"It's frustrating," Mihalyi told reporters later. "Our pitching was still solid. All those runs scored on either errors or just poor fielding. We had been so sharp for two weeks. Then all of a sudden we look like we're a step slow in reacting and like we're running to the ball in slow motion. Their hits were nothing special. Routine grounders and popups. Exactly what we want our pitching to force. Our fielders really let our pitchers down."

He was also frustrated with the hitting. "We're hitting the ball, making good contact. But we're not grouping our hits. We get two singles, but then strike out. Next inning, we put two more guys on base, then pop up. We get guys into scoring position, then hit into double plays. Yeh, part of that is luck. But we have to make our own luck. We have to rise to the occasion. When you're trying to come back, and you have two guys on base, you cannot strike out, or hit a weak grounder. You've got to step up, keep the rally going. We've got experienced guys here, guys who went to the playoffs last year, seniors. We should have won both these games."

The losses dropped Cornell below .500 in the section. It is once again the toughest in the WPIAL, with Union, Eden, and Quigley all among the top five. If Cornell is to reach the playoffs for the second straight year, they need a strong stretch drive.

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Cory LL Opens '19 Season With Numbers Down

The Coraopolis Youth Baseball Association opened its 2019 season Saturday with the usual pomp and circumstance and an eager flock of T Ballers and other boys and girls aged 5-9.

The Keith Holmes VFW Post provided the color guard (photo, right) and a Cornell student sang the national anthem. CYBA President Greg Woodard presented Jeanne Cosgrove with a commemorative plaque in honor of her husband, Randy, who passed away in December after a lifetime in sports. Cosgrove was the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 years and had been an Athletic Director for four local high schools. But baseball had been his passion, and he was a strong supporter of the Coraopolis Little League. The plaque will hang at the entrance to Bliwas Field.

It was a beautiful Spring afternoon and a good crowd turned out, but it was also a disappointing day. For the first time in 99 years, Coraopolis has no 11-12 year old team. Not enough signed up.

Coraopolis created its first grade school age baseball team in 1920 when the Chamber of Commerce invited all boys 10-12 to try out at Ewings Field. Many boys that age were required to work, either at home or as paperboys, delivery boys or janitorial assistants at businesses in town. So only 13 boys were on the team. But they competed up and down the Ohio Valley in a five month season, April through August.

This arrangement continued for 26 years. At one time or another, the Lions, Elk, Moose, Police Department, Fire Department, Masonic Lodge and Junior Chamber of Commerce sponsored the team.

Meanwhile, Carl Stotz up in Williamsport, Pa., was developing the idea for what he called Little League. During World War II the league grew in the Williamsport area. As the war ended in 1945, Little League invited towns across Pennsylvania to form their own leagues. The Coraopolis Kiwanis Club saw it as the ideal community service project and became one of Pennsylvania's first leagues.

Meanwhile, families had become more affluent and young boys were free to participate in sports. The Coraopolis Little League exploded. For the next 30 years it flourished, with 12 teams, divided into a National and American League. Each team played every other team, but it played the teams in its own division more often. Every August, the division winners met in a World Series.

Coraopolis had the only Little League in the area, so boys from Neville, Robinson, Moon and Crescent came into town to play. The League saw Ronnie Bliwas, Dave Duncan, Nick Spinelli, Jimmy Swartz, Frank Letteri, Serafino Fazio, Bob Croasman, Harold Dickerson, Ron Dickerson and a long list of other players come up through its ranks, then go on to careers in high school, college and pro sports.

But over the years, Moon and Robinson formed their own Little Leagues and as the mills closed Coraopolis lost population. Slowly the number of boys diminished. Little League expanded downward, adding Minor (age 9-10), Coach/Machine Pitch (7-8) and T Ball (5-6). And the Little League World Series became a major event. Leagues began forming All Star teams and competing in tournament games during June and July to help prepare for the state and regional playoffs, hoping to send their team to the Series. This meant that local Leagues shortened their schedules to only April, May and early June instead of all Summer, which reduced the appeal among average players.

Coraopolis no longer has its own League. Its teams compete in the Moon Area League.

But last year seemed to show a revival. Cory had the most players try out than it had seen in 20 years. It had enough for two teams at each age level. Many players showed great promise. Everything pointed to a very strong 2019 season.

Then, for whatever reason, many of those players chose not to return. Exactly why is a mystery.

"Some of them decided to play for other Moon League teams," says Greg Woodard, President of the Coraopolis Youth Baseball League and the coach of last year's 11-12 year old team. "Some burned out. Some developed other interests."

Last year's 11-12 year olds played in a lot of exciting games but had a losing season. That may have discouraged them.

But last year's "Major" team was on the down side of the age cycle. They had mostly 11 year olds and just turned 12 year olds. Their opponents had mostly 12 year olds and 13 year olds whose birthdays came just under the cut. This year, Coraopolis would have been on the up side of the age cycle, with mostly 12 year olds playing against opposing 11 year olds. But they didn't stick around to enjoy that advantage. In effect, they paid their dues but didn't wait for the payoff.

Woodard isn't even coaching this year. He has a new job which requires him to work on Saturdays and into weeknight evenings.

Some of those Coraopolis players, like Noah Slinde, are helping coach young Coraopolis teams. Some, like Walter Clarit, the famous "base path bandit," is concentrating on basketball and football. Others have become involved in Motocross or Boy Scouts. So once again Cory has a promising 9-10 year old group it hopes to develop for the future.

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Sams Holds Off Aliquippa As Raiders Roll

Cornelll was already up 5-1 when Coach Bryan Mihalyi replaced pitcher Hunter Smith with Blaine Sams. Smith had thrown in relief Monday at Carlynton and was at his limit of pitches.

Sams was in a sour mood after five innings of dubious calls, particularly balls across the shoelaces called strikes with Raiders at bat and Smith pitches across the belly button being called balls. "When I get in there, it's gonna be nothing but fast balls right down the middle," he announced. "Let's see how they deal with some heat."

The Quips didn't. Sams struck out nine as Cornell blew out Aliquippa 12-3 at ancient Morrell Field.

There was a brief hiccup in the fifth. Sams had struck out two when a walk, single and double brought in two runs to make it 5-3. But that was all. In the sixth and seventh innings it was three up and three down.

Smith had dealt some heat of his own. In four innings he struck out seven while forcing four groundouts and catching one off first base for a putout.

Both Morrell Field and this Aliquippa team are mere shadows of a strong past. In the 20th Century, Morrell was one of the WPIAL's iconic fields, with lights, deep outfield, large steel and concrete grandstand, pool table infield and sunken dugouts. Aliquippa was always a WPIAL contender. Today, the grandstand, neglected for decades, is cracked, rusty and in bad need of paint. The infield is an almost unplayable washboard surface. The Quips, meanwhile, lack the power hitters, fast quick and athletic fielders, and flame throwing pitchers. This is not your grandfather's Aliquippa.

Cornell didn't lose much time. In the top of the first, Hayden Hoffman doubled in Brandon Woods and Smith singled in Hoffman to make it 2-0. In the second, Woods singled in Tyler Ditoro for 3-0. Then in the third Ricky O'Brien doubled home Tylor Godfrey and Smith for 5-0. Cornell batters fell silent in the fourth and fifth, then awoke in the sixth. Patrick Scott, in his first high school at bat, doubled. Sams and Cody Maxwell singled to bring Scott home for 6-3. Godfrey tripled home Sams and Maxwell, then stole home himself to make it 9-2. In the seventh, Ditoro walked and Sams singled him home for 10-3. Woods doubled. Hoffman doubled home Sams and Woods for 12-3.

Mihalyi was disappointed. "I thought we took a step back," he said. "We played more as individuals tonight than as a team."

Cornell is now 3-2 with Union township coming to the Maple Street field this Friday. Hoffman will again be available to pitch.

But Smith will be questionable. He picked up two wins this week, but left the game Wednesday complaining of shoulder pain. Mihalyi suggested Ibuprofin and rest.

The game gave Mihalyi the chance to put in several younger players.

The Cornell coach also worked with individuals on their batting stance, on the plaement of the rear foot, and on coming to the ball aggressively rather than waiting for the ball to arrive.

Union is at the other end of the spectum from Aliquippa. The Scotties were in the WPIAL championship last year, losing to Vincentian. They join Vincentian, Eden Christian and Bishop Canevin as contenders. Cornell and Rochester are given outside chances to reach the playoffs.

In other section games, Union beat Quigley 6-3 and Bishop Canevin beat Rochester 15-5. In a revealing non conference game. Eden Christian defeated Sto-Rox 15-0.

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Divito, Harrison Named To All Star Team

Kaden DiVito and Zaire Harrison have been named to the WPIAL Section 1A All Star Team. As the top vote getter, DiVito is 2019's Most Valuable Player.

Also named to the elite squad are Nazareth Prep's 6-3 junior Will Taylor, Vincentian's 6-6 sophomore Angelo Reeves, Western Beaver's 5-8 junior Noah Grey, and Vincentian's 6-0 sophomore Alex Griggs. The reason there are six players named was that Gray, Griggs and Harrison all tied with the same number of votes.

There are no seniors named, meaning next year will be another intense fight for playoff spots. Section 1A is annually the WPIAL's toughest section. Cornell has reached the playoffs three straight years.

Sacred Heart's Dante Spadafora and Austin Wigley were named to the 3A-3 All Star Team. Moon's Connor Ryan and Donovan Johnson, Montour's Jaden Nelson, and West Allegheny's Jackson Faulk were named to the 5A-3 All Star Team.

DiVito (#15, right, #2 below), 5-11, is a hot shooting guard known for hitting threes. Harrison (#1 right and in the air below), 6-1, is listed as a guard, but scores most of his points on slashing drives to the basket. Both are extremely athletic. Harrison is also one of the WPIAL's top quarterbacks. DiVito is a wide receiver.

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Maxwell Double Drives In Three For Cornell Win

Cornell Coach Brian Mihalyi was hoping this would be a breakthrough year for his Cornell Raiders. Last year Cornell reached the WPIAL quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Vincentian. With most of that team back, this could be the year Cornell established itself as a consistent contender.

Then tryouts began and Mihalyi learned several of last year's starters weren't playing in 2019. It would be incorrect to call this year's team inexperienced. These players were on the roster in 2018. But to fill the holes left by graduation and those sitting out, Mihalyi has had to move everyone around.

"Except for our pitching, we don't have a single player at the same position he played last year."

Pitching is Cornell's great strength. Heyden Hoffman (photo, right) and Hunter Smith are two of the WPIAL's best. No team in Class A has a duo to match. Pitching is the key to high school baseball, so Hoffman and Smith give Cornell a chance to win each game.

And hitting is pretty reliable. These Raiders know when to wait out a pitcher and what kind of pitch they want to swing at.

But with players at unfamiliar positions, fielding is a work in progress. Mihalyi finds himself holding his breath on every grounder and routine fly.

"However, we've really come along a lot faster than I hoped. The fundamentals are the same, but different positions require different instincts, different lines and angles. These guys have really come on fast."

Cornell lost its opener to Western Beaver 11-7 and lost a tight one to Rochester 1-0.

But they've beaten Carrick 10-5 and Wednesday escaped Carlynton with a 6-4 win to even their record at 2-2 moving into Section IA.

The Carlynton win was another nailbiter. Carlynton took an early 4-2 lead off Hoffman. Beginning the 5th, Smith took the mound and shut the Cougars down with two groundouts and a strike out. He did it again in the sixth with two strikeouts and a fly out. In the bottom of the sixth Jason Keene, Tyler Ditoro, Blaine Sams and Brendon Woods all walked, forcing in Keene and cutting the margin to 4-3. Then Cody Maxwell doubled, driving in three for the 6-4 win. In the top of the seventh Carlynton tried a bunt, which was fielded for Out One. Smith struck out two. In the eighth he struck out one and slid the pitches high to force popups to center and left field.

"We were aggressive on the basepaths," Mihalyi said later, as the photo below of the runner preparing to slide into second shows. "We're starting to play as a unit. Our outfield and our infield are working together much better."

Cornell travels to Aliquippa Wednesday and is home Friday with Union.

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Vincentian Size Too Much For Cornell, 69-59

It was a night of extremes, two great high school basketball teams exactly opposite of each other.

As of March 2019 Cornell is the fastest, quickest, best shooting and best pressure defense team in all of Pennsylvania. The team as a whole had the highest scoring average in the state, and star Kaden DiVito (photo, right) was one of the state's top four individual scorers. But they're also officially the shortest boys team to make the playoffs anywhere in the state, with only one starter, Isiah Langston, over 6-0,. and he just barely, at 6-1. They also have zero depth. Drew Lopez and Sharone Bronaugh are coming along nicely as sophomores but need another off season before they're ready for this level of war and pressure. Plus, neither of them brings any height to the lineup.

As of March 2019 Vincentian is the finest collection of athletes a small high school can assemble. They're officially the tallest Class A team in the state, going 6-6, 6-6, 6-5 across the front and 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 according to who's in at the other positions. Vincentian is taller than the 12 Division III colleges in Pennsylvania. As a private academy, the Royals can attract players from 12 North Hills school districts or anywhere inside the city of Pittsburgh. They want a state championship and they've put together a team to go after it.

Friday night at Northgate Gym, in the state tournament quarterfinals, only Cornell stood in their path.

The teams had already split two regular season games. It would come down to pace. If Cornell could force a high speed, run and gun game, they would win. If Vincentian could slow it down, take the ball inside, and force a power game, they would win.

It was a classic Chess match.

Early on, Coach Bill Sacco's Raiders succeeded. They pushed the ball, their pressure defenses speeding up the Royals. Out in transition Cornell's speed and quickness gave them open shots. Rebounding was not a factor. With Vincentian keying on Divito, Zaire Harrison (photo, left) led the charge, scoring 13 of Cornell's first 26 points. At the end of one, Cornell led 24-13. Two minutes into the second quarter, it was still 26-18.

The problem with players under 6-0 guarding 6-6ers is always fouls. At 5:55 in the second, Harrison went to the bench with his third. No one on the bench can replace his 17 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, five steals and physical defense.

Vincentian Coach Tim Tyree called time. "No," he told his team. "This is not the game plan we agreed on. Slow it down. Take it inside. And we want a hand in the face of DiVito no matter where on the floor he is."

The Royals ground out runs of 9-0 and 6-0 to grab a 33-31 halftime lead.

They still couldn't totally stop DiVito. He opened the third quarter with two threes to give Cornell a 37-36 lead. But that was the last time the Raiders would lead. Vincentian patiently cranked out another 9-0 run to go ahead for good at 45-37.

Cornell did not go quietly. The Raiders battled back in the fourth quarter to within three at 51-48, but foul calls, some dubious, kept putting Vincentian on the line and they hit free throws to widen the lead back out again.

There were heroics aplenty. DiVito defied the hands in his face to score 24. 5-9 Luke Piccolo did his best to slow down 6-6 Angelo Reeves.

Langston (photo, right) again stepped forth with a monster game. Somehow, in the forest of 6-6, 6-6, 6-5, the 6-1 Langston hauled in 13 rebounds and took six of them back up over the treetops for scores. He finished with 14 points. College scouts in the stands who came to watch DiVito, Harrison and Vincentian's Ethan Embleton and Angelo Reeves left buzzing about how with a strong off season Langston could have a spectacular senior season next year and be on everyone's radar.

Cornell's Bill Sacco was visibly disappointed afterward. "What can we do?" he asked reporters. "They put my 17 point a game scorer on the bench after only one quarter. And we play our butts off on defense and they just lob passes over top of us."

But Sacco shrugged it off. "We're the smallest public high school in the western half of the state with the smallest team in the playoffs and these guys won 21 games. In the last three years they've made the playoffs every year and won 57 games."

Vincentian Coach Tim Tyree did not disagree. "We knew we had the size advantage,:" he told reporters. "We just had to make sure we took advantage of it. Sacco is a great coach. He knew how to beat us. In the first quarter, you saw what happened when we let him do what he wanted. We had to stop that. We also had to keep one or the other of our big men on DiVito, keep a hand in his face. He has one of the quickest releases I've ever seen on a high school player. That kid can win a game if you let him. He's really dangerous."

3s Rain, Langston Stars As Raiders Roll, 59-39

Limestone High School of the 10th Region near Clarion was hanging dangerously close. Coach Joe Ferguson had focused his defense on Kaden DiVito and Zaire Harrison. They would finish with only 19 and 12 points, well below their averages. The Lions were very patient on offense, waiting for a good shot. Cornell led by only two points after one and four at halftime, 12-10 and 22-18. This was exactly how the Lions had gone 21-1, made the State Tournament and beaten Juniata Valley in the first round. They hang around and wait for opponents to begin making mistakes or missing shots.

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco warned his team at halftime that they needed to widen that lead and somebody needed to step up to replace DiVito and Harrison, who were having hard time scoring or rebounding while being double teamed.

Up stepped Isiah Langston (#3 at right, in a photo from earlier in the season). The 6-1 junior, Cornell's only player over 6-0, had underperformed over the last six games. But he sure made up for it when the Raiders needed him most.

Langston finished with 18 rebounds, 14 points. three blocks, two steals, four assists and suffocating defense. It was the finest game of his career and ignited Cornell to a 59-39 victory and a trip to the Elite Eight.

The taller Lions had no answer for Langston. They had not prepared for him and could not match his athleticism. They had their top two defenders on DiVito and Harrison. Once King Walden sank three threes, they had to put their third best defender on him. That left their fourth and fifth defenders to deal with Langston, and that was a lost cause.

But he had help. After another tight three minutes in the third, after which Cornell still held a slim 26-20 lead, suddenly the Raiders exploded.

DiVito, Jeavontae King Walden (photo, left), Drew Lopez and then King Walden again all sank threes in a 90 second period. Cornell was up 38-25 and the game was over.

"You can't let them get that lead," Ferguson told reporters later. "That allows them to control the pace and they speed it up. When the game becomes a run and gun matchup they're almost impossible to beat. Those guys are really fast, quick, strong and athletic. When the game opens up, then you can't keep a hand in their faces. If they can see the basket, they're all dead shots."

King Walden ended up with nine points, and Drew Lopez added five. Despite being heavily guarded, Harrison still contributed seven rebounds, five assists, and a three.

Cornell also did its own spectacular job on defense. Lion leading scorer Deion Deas, averaging 20.2 ppg and totaling over 1000 points in a three year career, was held scoreless for the first time in his life. Ian Callen, Limestone's other 1000 point scorer, managed only 15. And the usually hot shooting Lions hit only 15 of 54 for 27.7%.

The win sets up a grudge match between Cornell and Section 1A rival Vincentian Friday night at Northgate at 7 pm in the PIAA quarterfinals. The teams split their regular season series, each winning at home. If Cornell wins, they will play another section rival, Nazareth, for the right to go to Harrisburg and play for the state championship.

OLSH Girls Upset In Grinding Defensive Slog
Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Back in the 1970s, when Title IX laws finally required schools to offer girls sports teams, girls basketball teams began by focusing on defense. Scores were in the high 20s and low 30s. It took several years for teams to develop the high powered offenses seen today.

The Allegheny Valley - Sacred Heart game at Armstrong HS Gym looked like a return to that time period. Both teams locked each other down with tight, sticky defenses. Open looks were hard to find, and both teams were disciplined enough not to waste possessions on hurried or contested shots. There were as many points scored on free throws as field goals.

It was a tense, nerve wracking game to watch. But sadly for OLSH, the result was a 35-33 overtime upset loss that knocked this group of seniors out of the State Tournament and ended their dream of a championship.

Charger star center Ashley Norling (#44, photo right) watched the overtime from the bench, having fouled out. Valley Coach Dave Sherman had designed his game plan around overplaying Norling inside. She still closed out her career with 17 points but it was a frustrating night for the big senior.

She scored the game's first two basket on layups for a 4-0 lead. But Valley senior Olivia Boocks drained two straight threes from on top to put her team up 6-2. OLSH's Haley Hamilton laid one in at 2:42 to tie it at 6-6, and no one could score for the rest of the quarter.

A rebound and putback by Kylee Eaton put Valley back up 8-6 to open the second.

Eaton was a problem for Norling and OLSH all night, finishing with 16 rebounds and eight points.

Norling laid one in to tie it at 8-8, then neither team could score for three minutes. Eaton finally broke free for a layup and 10-8 Valley lead at 3:54, but Maddie Hoff (#34, photo left) drained a three to put the Chargers back up 11-10 with 3:20.

In the final seconds of the second, Norling hit a free throw and Emily Schuck laid one in to give OLSH a 14-10 halftime edge. The Chargers usually have 20 by the end of the first quarter.

Eaton opened the third by scoring two quick layups and it was 15-14. Norling's three and Hannah Valenty's free throw put OLSH up 19-14 at 2:15. Another Eaton layup and a rebound follow and layup by Hoff made it 22-16 at the quarter break. That would be the biggest gap of the game.

Valley opened the fourth with an 8-3 run to pull to within 25-24 at 5:00. Neither team scored for two minutes. Then Hoff sank two free throws for 27-24 at 3:08. But Boocks came right back with two free throws and it was 27-26 at 2:21.

It looked like Norling might have won it at 00:23 when she was fouled and made both free throws for 29-26.

But Boocks was fouled on a three point attempt and sank two free throws to cut it to 29-28. The Falcons fouled Hoff as soon as OLSH passed the ball inside at 00:13:6. She missed the first shot of the one-and-one. The rebound came off to Eaton who fired it down to Boocks, whose shot rattled out at 00:01.5. But she was fouled and made the free throw to tie it at 29-29.

In the overtime, Cami McNany laid one in to put Valley up 31-29. One possession later, Cullen sank a free throw for 32-29 with 3:07.

Hoff made two free throws for 32-31 at 2:27. But Boocks hit two more free throws to push it back to 34-31 at 1:35. With 00:54 Boocks added one more free throw to make it 35-31.

Without Norling, OLSH was not only missing its best scoring threat, but the Valley defense could overplay Hoff and Haley Hamilton. However, they fouled Hamilton with 00:20. She made both free throws to cut the lead to 35-33. Sacred Heart got the ball back with 00:07 left but could not free anyone for a shot.

OLSH went the final 10 minutes (regulation plus overtime) without one field goal.

In addition to Norling's 17 points, Hoff scored nine, Schuck two, Hamilton two and Valenty one.

It was a great defensive effort by Valley, but Sacred Heart never seemed in synch. They've faced strong defensive efforts all season, and just about every team has double teamed Norling and overplayed Hoff. OLSH has dealt with those defenses with no great difficulty. On this night, their cutting seemed a step slow, their shots a degree off, and their reactions a second slow. In all likelihood, if these two games played a five game series, Sacred Heart would win 4-1. But on this one night, Valley played inspired. The Falcons seemed on a mission. The win continued a magical season. No Falcon team has ever even reached the State Tournament, and now they're going to the Elite Eight to play Everett from the Fifth Region.

That was evident postgame, when several Valley players were trembling and could hardly talk. "My heart is racing," Boocks told reporters. "It's like this is a dream and I'm afraid I'm going to wake up."

For Sacred Heart's girls, it will be a heartbroken Spring. They dreamed of winning the school its first state championship. However, it was still a dream season. They won the school its first Girls WPIAL title and were ranked high in the WPIAL and the state all season.

And Sacred Heart wasn't the only heartbroken team this week. WPIAL rivals Brentwood lost to Kane 52-47 and Bishop Canevin, ranked #1 all year until Sacred Heart upset them, lost to Everett 49-42. Shadyside also lost, 63-57 to Cambria.

OLSH Girls Eliminate Blairsville, 63-43
Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart's girls won their first PIAA State Tournament game Friday night by ousting Blairsville 63-43 at Peters Township.

The gane was never close. OLSH grabbed a 17-6 first quarter lead and extended it to 30-17 at halftime. The Chargers led 44-29 entering the fourth quarter.

This same Blairsville lineup had reached last year's state semifinals, but were no match for Sacred Heart's size, speed and quickness.

Ashley Norling led OLSH with 21 points. Emily Schuck added 14 and Maddie Hoff 12.

Sacred Heart is now 22-4 and plays Clarion Valley (19-4) Tuesday night at Armstrong HS Gym in Kittaning at 6 pm. Clarion Valley edged Cambridge Springs 47-44 last Friday. If the Chargers win Tuesday they will play Bishop Canevin Friday in the West Region finals for the right to go to Hershey and the State Championship.

Interestingly, there is another Sacred Heart in the tournament. The other Sacred Heart, out of the East, plays Mahoney Tuesday night at Easton.

 

Cornell Rallies In 4th To Advance In PIAA

Cornell used a furious last nine minutes to steal a 56-50 win over home town Shanksville and advance in the Pennsylvania State Tournament.

The first three quarters had been a back and forth affair, with each team making runs. Shanksville led 11-6 after one. In the second quarter, the Raiders went to their pressure defense and forced a dozen Shanksville turnovers, which they used to go on a 21-9 streak and take a 27-20 lead into halftime.

But the Vikings weren't done. Every starter scored in a 17-2 run to lead 37-29 with 60 seconds left in the third. Cornell seemed in disarray. Head Coach Bill Sacco called time.

Cornell exploded in a 60 second 8-0 run that tied it 37-37 going into the fourth. The teams battled back and forth. The lead changed hands six times. Finally, with 2:00 left, Zaire Harrison scored on a floater to give Cornell the lead for good, 52-48. Luke Piccolo scored the last two shots.

The Raiders ended the game on a 13-8 run.

Shanksville ends its season 21-6. The loss also ended the career of Bob Snyder, who has coached at the school south of Johnstown for 13 seasons. Under him, the Vikings have won two District titles and reached the PIAA play offs six times. Snyder has coached both his sons. This team graduates four seniors.

Kaden DiVito (on defense in photo at left) led Cornell with 19 points. Piccolo added 15, Harrison 12, Jaevantae King Walden eight and Isiah Langston two.

Piccolo and King Walden hit two three pointers, and DiVito and Harrison one each.

Cornell now plays Clarion Limestone Tuesday night at Armstrong HS in Kittaning at 7:30 pm.

If Cornell beats Limestone HS, they would play section rival Vincentian Friday. The Raiders, who spent much of the season ranked #1 in the WPIAL and fourth in the state, leads Pennsylvania Class A teams in scoring with a 75.3 average.

3rd Quarter Explosion Wins Title For OLSH
Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart used a 15-0 third quarter run to break a tight game wide open and roll to a 65-46 win over Serra Catholic and its first WPIAL boys basketball championship.

The first half had been tight. Sacred Heart was tripling 6-9 Serra center Jimmy Moon (#5 in the photo at right) and he still had 11 poinrs and 10 rebounds by halftime. Moon was passing out to open teammates on the perimeter but they weren't hitting. Serra was several inches taller and several pounds heavier at every position, and outrebounded OLSH 27-8.

But the Chargers came to play. Their pressing defenses forced Serra into 15 turnovers, and Sacred Heart scored on eight of them. OLSH drained the threes that Serra could not. And Ricco Tate blocked four shots. All of this produced a 27-25 Sacred Heart halftime lead.

OLSH Coach Mike Rodriguez wasn't happy heading for the locker room. "We have to box out," he told reporters. "We're getting killed on the boards. Moon is probably getting his points --- it's hard to totally shut down someone 6-9 --- but we have to stop the rest of rhem."

Serra Coach Justin Walther felt confident. "I'm happy," he said. "We're in a great position. We always jump on teams in the third quarter. We get a 10-15 point run, we'll get control of things."

It didn't happen. Instead, Sacred Heart's 1-2-2 trapping defense forced Serra into seven straight turnovers. Daren DiMichele turned three of them into layups and added two free throws. Brother Jake scored on a follow, Austin Wigley hit a three from up top, and Dante Spadafora drained a mid range jumper. Suddenly Sacred Heart led 42-25 and the game was for all purposes over.

Tate played a great defensive game on Moon, but the big Serra center still finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Tate blocked three more shots in the second half.

Serra dominated the boards, outrebounding OLSH 40-23. But that deadly Sacred Heart press cancelled out the rebounding. Serra turned the ball over 25 times to OLSH's eight. Again and again, Serra would rebound and then lose it trying to move the ball upcourt.

"That cost us the game," Walther said afterward. "You can't turn the ball over 25 times against a good team. This was the best press we've faced all year." Serra entered the game 19-1.

Daren DiMichele led Sacred Heart with 16 points. Spadafora added 14, Wigley 13, Tate 10, Jake DiMichele nine, Tyler Bradley and Michael Dugan two each.

For the DiMichele family, the championship was dejavu. Their father led StoRox to a WPIAL title.

The win was overdue for the Chargers. They reached the championship game in 2017 and 2018 but lost both times.

It also marked a unique sweep. Sacred Heart is the first school in the
WPIAL's 100 year history to win the football, girls basketball and boys basketball championship in the same school year. 16 previous schools have won a football and boys basketball title in the same school year.

Wigley, Tate and Bradley played on the Charger football team.

Sacred Heart, now 22-2, moves on to the PIAA State Tournament. Their first game will be next Saturday, March 9. Following games will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays until the state championship game on March 22.

 

And Win #300 For Coach Don Ecklerle
Sacred Heart Girls Bring Home WPIAL Title
Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart's girls basketball team, a relentless band of veterans who have been through the hardwood wars together for four years, capped off their senior season Thursday night by winning the WPIAL championship 50-48.

And it went right down to the last second. Brentwood staged a furious nine point rally to cut a 44-35 lead to 48-46. With five seconds left, Ashley Norling sank two free throws to make it 50-46. Brentwood called time, then fired the ball to Maura Daly at the three point line. She pivoted and went up for a shot, which went in as the Sacred Heart defender crashed into her.

So Daly would get a free throw. But had the shot been a two or a three? It took three officials conferring at the monitor for two minutes to decide. If it was a three, the score would be 50-49 and Daly's free throw could send the game into overtime. If it was a two, the score would be 50-48 and the free throw had to be missed in hopes a tipin could tie it.

The refs ruled Daly had her toe on the three point line so the shot counted two. Daly missed the free throw and Norling snatched the rebound as the buzzer sounded.

It was a thrilling end to a game that started out a runaway. OLSH grabbed a 7-0 lead behind shots by Norling and Haley Hamilton and held it 11-5 at the quarter stop and 20-15 at halftime.

Brentwood's Natalie Murrio almost won the game by herself. She scored her team's first nine points and 12 of the 15 they got in the first half. Then she led that fourth quarter rally with 14 of their final 16.

Murrio hit three treys and 11 of 19 field goal attempts overall. It wasn't until halfway through the second quarter that a teammate scored. But it wasn't enough. She finished with 27 points and 18 rebounds but no other Brentwood girl reached double figures in either.

Sacred Heart probably won it at the foul line. They made 18 of 20. In the wild fourth quarter, OLSH hit 12 of 15 free throws, which they desperately needed since they were only hitting three of 14 field goals.

Norling led Sacred Heart with 23 points. Emily Schuck added 11, Maddie Hoff nine and Hamilton seven.

Norling led OLSH with 12 rebounds. Hoff had 11.

It was Sacred Heart's fourth time in the championship game. They made it in 1996, 2006 and 2008.

Bishop Canevin had won the WPIAL three years in a row and were heavily favored to win it again and go on to win the state title. But OLSH upset Canevin in the semifinals 51-45.

The win was also revenge for Sacred Heart. Last year the Chargers went 19-2 but Brentwood knocked them out of the WPIAL 51-31 in quarters.

The win was also important because it gave Coach Don Eckerle his 300th win.

Eckerle took the Sacred Heart job in 2003 after the school finished 2-20. He hsd a losing season his first year, then guided his girls to the WPIAL post season 15 years in a row.

A week ago, Eckerle's chances of getting that 300th win this year did not look good. Canevin was seeded #1 and Brentwood #2 and both were heavy favorites over Sacred Heart.

This was the first time any of these girls had ever played in the Petersen Events Center.

The win means Sacred Heart will now face Blairsville of the Sixth Region in the State Tournament Friday, March 8. The PIAA will announce sites and times Monday. As a WPIAL winner, Sacred Heart should be awarded a location somewhere inside the WPIAL area. Blairsville is from Indiana County, northeast of Pittsburgh.

As a semifinalist, Canevin also advances to the State Tournament. It is possible OLSH could see either Canevin or Brentwood again since WPIAL teams are historically stronger than their opponents from other regions. Last year, the Sacred Heart boys met section rival Sewickley in state semifinals.

 

OLSH Crashes Championship Party, 51-45

A couple of funny things happened to Bishop Canevin on the way to the WPIAL championship.

Sacred Heart happened. Maddie Hoff happened. Ashley Norling happened.

The problem with the Chargers was that they never bought into the hype surrounding defending WPIAL champion Canevin, ranked #1 all year and considered a prohibitive favorite to repeat and go on to win the PIAA.

OLSH Coach Don Ecklerle suspected that if his girls could shut down the Canevin three point barrage, and convert the game to an inside match, they could win. For three days he preached the importance of keeping a hand in the face of every Canevin player outside the line. Sure enough, Canevin just made three from long range. That meant they had to beat Hoff and Norling inside. And that wasn't going to happen.

Shamyjha Price led Canevin with 25. But she fouled out trying to stop Norling, who scored 22. Hoff led OLSH with 23. So those two combined for 45 of OLSH's 51 points. They singlehandedly matched the Canevin total of 45. In the fourth quarter, with Canevin trying desperately to come back, the two scored 14 of Sacred Heart's 16 points.

Canevin led 10-6 after the first quarter. OLSH went ahead 20-17 at the half and held that edge 35-32 as they entered the fourth.

So the Chargers (20-4) will be unexpected guests at the WPIAL's Championship Party at Pitt's Petersen Events Center Thursday evening at 5 pm. They'll be dancing with Brentwood (19-3), which defeated Laurel 50-37 in the other semifinal.

Win or lose, OLSH will also advance to the State Tournament a week later. If they win, they guarantee a playoff site close to hime. If they lose, they could be sent to Erie, Clarion, Johnstown or Altoona.

Nazareth Matchup Suffocates Cornell, 71-57

Monday night in Ambridge was a disaster for the Cornell Raiders. They were unable to solve Nazareth's matchup defense and lost the WPIAL semifinal round 71-57.

So Nazareth, not Cornell, advances to play Vincentian Thursday night in Pitt's Petersen Events Center for the WPIAL championship. It was a heart breaking loss for this group of four juniors and a senior, who ranked #1 much of the year and dreamed of bringing home the WPIAL title for their veteran coach Bill Sacco.

It was by far Cornell's worst game of the year. They fell behind early and every time they mounted a rally it was derailed by missed shots, errant passes and the inability to rebound.

However, much of that was due to Nazareth's defense. The Saints, who were significantly taller at every position, had already split two games in Section 1A with Cornell, winning one in double overtime and losing the one at Cornell. They knew the Raiders' individual and team tendencies. Nazareth Coach Nehemiah Brazil surprised Cornell with a matchup zone operating out of a 1-3-1 alignment. A matchup zone basically plays every man individually within areas of the floor.

Because Cornell usually lines up with three perimeter players plus one at the top of the lane and one along the baseline, Nazareth looked for much of the night as if they were in a standard man to man. But whenever a Cornell player tried to drive, he found himself double teamed. Notice in the photos there are always two Saints guarding each Cornell player.

The taller, long armed Saints forced Cornell to hurry and distort their shots. Those three outer players and the one in the foul circle also interfered with Cornell passing lanes, preventing the short, snappy passes Cornell uses to reverse the floor and get open shots. Cornell fell into the trap of trying high cross court passes, which are suicide against a 1-3-1. Many of those passes either went out of bounds or were intercepted.

The Saints raised their defensive intensity much higher than it had been in the teams' previous meetings. "We knew they shoot lights out from the three point line," Brazil told reporters. "We emphasized that if we wanted to get to The Pete for the first time in school history, we had to bust our butts on defense on every single possession, that every single one of their guys could drain that three any time they could see the basket. We had to keep a hand in their face and keep our hands up when someone else had the ball to stop their passes."

The tall Saints with their arms raised would have been vulnerable to bounce passes but that's a weapon Cornell does not usually use.

Brazil also made a big deal of getting an early lead. "Cornell's strategy is they grab an early lead so teams have to play catchup, and to do that they have to speed up the tempo. Cornell loves that fast pace. Run and gun. We spent four days telling our guys we had to grab that lead right away, and then we had to control the pace of the game."

Cornell fell into that trap by missing their first three shots. The much taller Saints dominated the boards, so Cornell got no second chances. At the 6:56 mark, barely a minute in, Nazareth led 7-0.

The Raiders weren't finished. They spent the night launching one rally after the other. But they never took the lead or tied it.

Kaden DiVito scored on a layup at 6:02 and Jeavontae King Walden hit a side three at 5:20 to cut it to 7-5. Sharone Bronaugh (#50, above left) added a corner three for 9-8 at 4:40, and a minute later scored on a layup, seen in the photo, for 12-10. But free throws, a side three, a jumper, a layup off a steal and free throws gave Nazareth a 23-10 edge. Luke Piccolo and Zaire Harrison (bottom left) scored layups to cut that to 23-14 after one.

Cornell launched a furious rally in the second. DiVito hit a follow, a layup and a side three, Harrison two layups and Piccolo a layup and free throw off a beautiful Bronaugh assist to narrow it to 29-28 at 2:40. But Nazareth went into a control game and scored on a side three, then worked for a layup at the buzzer to pull back to 34-28 at halftime.

The Raiders opened the third with three straight steals off their press. DiVito hit a layup and a follow and Harrison a layup. DiVito added a three from on top, Isiah Langston (#3 at right) a layup and Broughton two free throws. But Nazareth used two side threes, three layups and a follow to hold a 48-41 lead entering the fourth. Meanwhile, DiVito, Harrison, Piccolo and King Walden continued to miss threes, and the Saints continued to rebound any misses. They also slowed the game down, at one point holding the ball for 2:30 waiting for a layup.

"We were not going to get into a run and gun game with them," Brazil repeated.

The Saints put the game away by scoring six layups and a side three to open the fourth. The layups were simply a matter of using their height to go over top of Langston, King Walden and Harrison. That made it 63-41 at 4:06. Harrison and Piccolo each hit a layup and side three, and DiVito two layups and a follow, but it was too little too late.

The officiating didn't decide the game, but it didn't help. In a very physical battle under the boards and out on the floor, Cornell shot only three free throws.

Statistics tell a sad story. Every Cornell player scored far below his average. DiVito had 22, Harrison 13, Piccolo and Broughton seven each, King Walden and Sams three each and Langston two. Nazareth had four players in double figures.

Rebounding was even worse. DiVito and Langston had six each. Cornell's entire team had only 23 rebounds. Nazareth had 48.

Langston did have six assists. Cornell had four steals and one block. But overall it was Cornell's poorest offensive performance of the season. In three of Cornell's last five games they've shot poorly. Part of this is the better defenses they've faced. But some of those shots have been wide open. Teams do experience shooting slumps, and Cornell is certainly in one after leading the WPIAL in December and January.

In the final analysis the game revealed a key Cornell weakness which the Raiders have covered up almost all year. The tallest Raider is the 6-1 Langston. With their outside shooting, full court press and racehorse style, Cornell has nullified this size factor. But in February, Vincentian and Union and now Nazareth have slowed the game down, taken it inside, and just used their size. Nazareth, for example, only shot five threes. They scored almost all their points in the lane. With one 6-5 player, Cornell would be a state championship contender. But they don't have one, there's not one coming up, and unlike Nazareth and Vincentian they can't go into Pittsburgh and recruit one.

But the Raiders aren't done. Since the WPIAL is the state's largest region, they get to send their semifinalists on to State. Cornell will get a low draw, meaning they'll play the winner of one of the other regions, and they'll have to go there to play them. Last year, having also lost short of the finals, Cornell drew Shade at Johnstown, a game they lost. The girls last year drew North Clarion at Clarion. 2019 State Tournament pairings will be announced next week.

Cornell To Face Nazareth At Ambridge Monday

As expected, Cornell will face section rival Nazareth in the WPIAL semifinals Monday night at Ambridge High School at 8 pm.

The schools split their two meetings in Section A1. Nazareth beat Cornell 77-75 in double overtime at Robert Morris and Cornell whipped Nazareth 78-59 in Coraopolis. They tied for second in the section at 11-3. Both lost at Vincentian and at Union, in addition to handing each other a loss. Nazareth's lineup is basically imported from inner city Pittsburgh, as is most of its student body. The Emsworth academy targets talented students in need of a more nurturing environment than the large city schools provide.

The winner of the Cornell-Nazareth semifinal will advance to the Petersen Event Center at Pitt for the WPIAL Championship game Thursday. Vincentian, which won Section A1, is heavily favored to beat Monessen in the other semifinal and be the other finalist.

Cornell reached the semifinal by rolling over Greensburg Central Catholic 78-48. GCC made a game out of it in the first half, trailing only 22-14 after one and actually outscoring the Raiders 16-13 in the second for a 35-30 halftime score. But Coach Bill Sacco must have scorched the locker room walls at halftime, because Cornell hit GCC with a 23-2 third quarter to go up 58-32 and the game was over. The Raiders coasted 20-16 in the fourth.

Kaden DiVito led all scorers with 32. Isiah Langston (photo, right) added 16, Luke Piccolo 12, and Jaevontae King Walden 11.

King Walden may have to come through again Monday night. The last time Cornell and Nazareth met, the Saints focused on DiVito and held him to only 16 points. But King Walden stepped up. The 5-11 power forward turned in the best game of his career, scoring 20 points, crashing the boards and playing tough inside defense to lead Cornell to a 78-59 win. Despite being taller, Nazareth had no answer for King Walden inside. He was quicker, smoother and more aggressive. But he can't take Nazareth by surprise this time.

Cornell will have an edge in tournament experience. These Raiders are playing in their third WPIAL playoffs. Nazareth is in only its third year of WPIAL membership and has never been in this position. But the Saints do have a distinct size advantage The computer rates the game a tossup.

Cornell Seeded #2, With First Round Bye

Cornell got the best possible draw in the upcoming WPIAL Playoffs. The Raiders were seeded #2 and given a first round bye.

They will play the winner of the Greensburg Central Catholic - Geibel octafinal game, to be held this Friday at Charleroi at 8 pm.

That Cornell quarterfinal game will be played Thursday, February 21 at a site yet to be determined.

The other first round byes were awarded Vincentian, Nazareth, and Monessen. Four of the WPIAL's top five teams and five of its top six teams came out of Cornell's Section A1.

Also next Thursday, Nazareth will play the Union - Clairton winner, Vincentian will play the winner of the Bishop Canevin - Leechburg winner, and Monessen will play the winner of the St. Joseph - West Greene winner.

If all the seeded teams win, Cornell will play Nazareth in one semifinal and Vincentian will play Monessen in the other semifinal. Both games would be played on Monday, February 25th.

Vincentian and Cornell are favored to meet in the WPIAL championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center Thursday, February 28 at 7 pm

OLSH Girls Seeded #4, Play Burgettstown

Sacred Heart's girls were seeded #4 and will play Burgettstown Friday at Peters Twp at 8 pm in the upcoming WPIAL Tournament.

If they win, they will play the StoRox - Serra Catholic winner next Thursday at a yet to be announced site.

Bishop Canevin was seeded #1 and receives a first round bye. They will play the Ellis - Aliquippa winner next Thursday. Assuming all the favorites win, Sacred Heart will play Canevin in the semifinals Monday, February 25th.

In the other bracket, Brentwood received the #2 seed and first round bye. They will play the Frazier - Winchester Thurston winner. Laurel plays Chartiers - Houston and South Side Beaver plays Riverview. If Laurel and South Side win as favored, they would play each other in the quarterfinal. The winner of that game would play the Brentwood - Frazier - Thurston winner in the other semifinal.

The championship game is set for Pitt's Petersen Events Center Thursday, February 28 at 5 pm.

Sacred Heart has the size, experience and ballhandling to make a serious run, but Bishop Canevin and Brentwood have the same size and experience and better shooting. However if OLSH reaches the semifinals, even if they lost, they would still qualify for the State Tournament and could advance another game or two.

Piccolo Heroics Not Enough At Vincentian

Luke Piccolo hit six threes and scored 24 points in a valiant effort to save Cornell, but it wasn't enough Friday night as the Raiders lost to Vincentian 70-59.

It was a disastrous loss. Cornell came into the game in first place in Section A1, ranked #1 in the WPIAL and guaranteed to receive a #1 seed in the upcoming playoffs. They left tied for second with Nazareth, ranked #2 in the WPIAL and uncertain of their seeding.

The night was a perfect storm of adversity. The Vincentian gym is the second worst in the WPIAL, an outdated facility with a short, narrow nonregulation floor, loose rims that rattled with every shot, fans jammed in and mostly standing, and an outstanding Vincentian team with two 6-6 players inside.

Adding to the adversity was the Vincentian student section, camped behind one end zone. A rowdy band of clowns and extroverts, they annoyed Cornell but were definitely entertaining. They likened Coach Bill Sacco to Santa Claus and kept demanding where he'd parked his sleigh and left his beard. They played on Zaire Harrison's first initial, had ZZZZZZZZ posters, whenever he touched the ball made snoring noises, and when he shot free throws chanted that it was Nap Time. But they saved their best for Kaden Divito. Every time DiVito stepped to the free throw line, three of Vincentian's cutest girls stepped to the baseline holding up signs which read "Cutie #15 Will You Go To Prom With Me?"

Cornell had defeated Vincentian at home a month ago. But the Raiders did it by using their speed and quickness and hot shooting to nullify the Royals' height.

"This floor takes away our speed and quickness," Sacco explained afterward. "We can't outrun them down the floor because the floor's too short. And we can't spread them out because the floor's so narrow. The only way to beat them here is to shoot a high percentsge, and our shots weren't falling. We've been in sort of a shooting slump the last week."

There was a reason the shots weren't falling. DiVito and Harris have developed a habit, which they've used since they were freshmen. They catch the ball at the three point line, and, without dribbling, raise as if for a shot. If the defense goes up, they put the ball to the floor and, using an explosive first step, drive around to the basket. If the defense ignores the fake and stays in position with their arms raised, DiVito or Harris will take a step back to gain space, then go up and shoot over the defender. The problem is that the Vincentian floor is so narrow there's no space between the three point line and the out of bounds line. So when they take that step back they're out of bounds. They were called for this violation several times. But then, without that option, they couldn'r get their shots off.

Rather than his 27 point average, DiVito scored only 14. Rather than his 23 point average, Harrison scored only nine. That alone accounted for the 11 point loss.

But it got worse. Vincention defenders use a technique of sliding under players going up for a shot, as seen in the photo at left, where White #3 is sliding under Isiah Langston as he tries to get a shot off over 6-6 opponent Angelo Reeves. The player then has nowhere to come down, collides with the defender, and is called for charging. Basketball rules clearly state that the defense must give the offense room to come down, a principle called Verticality. But the officials Friday night were not giving Cornell that benefit. Harrison fouled out early in the fourth quarter and the others were all in foul trouble, forcing them to play cautiously.

Langston, at 6-2, somehow pulled down 12 rebounds against Griggs and Ethan Embleton, the 6-6 "twin towers" he was battling. But no other Cornell player was in double figures. Langston also blocked four Vincentian shots.

Vincentian exploded out of the gate. A tip in, layup, side three and free throw made it 0-8 before Jeavontae King Walden finally hit a side three. Harris laid one in to bring the Raiders to 5-8. Griggs and Embleton took turns laying it in over Cornell defenders to put the Royals up 5-13. A rebound and putback by Langston, a tipin by King Walden and a layup by Harris kept it close 11-15 as the first quarter ended. But a layup by Harris was waived off and he was given his first charging call or it would have been even closer.

Vincentian Coach Tim Tyree was determined DiVito would not beat him again, after Kaden had scorched the Royals for 36 at Cornell. So they had worked all week on doubleteaming DiVito, trying to deny him the ball, if he did get it not giving him a clear view of the basket, and having that second defender preventing him from driving (see photo, below). At 5-11, DiVito had taller defenders on him all night. He hit only four of 19, his worst shooting night in three years.

But that second defender had to come from somewhere. Tyree pulled him from Piccolo, assuming the 5-9 senior was not a scoring threat.

That was a mistake.

In the time out between quarters, Sacco turned to Piccolo. "Fire," he said. Two straight side threes tied the game at 17-17, a Langston side three put Cornell up 20-17, and the war was on.

Now that the Royals had Piccolo to guard, suddenly DiVito had only one man to beat and burst down the lane for two layups. Trying to stop this, the defense let Piccolo loose, and he slipped through for another layup. But the Royals also began hitting from outside, and clung to a 26-27 lead at the half. Harris and Piccolo both had two fouls by half.

Cornell continued to hang close in the third quarter. DiVito sank threes from the side and on top, King Walden added a side three, Piccolo and Harris scored layups, and Harris sank a free throw to put the Raiders up 37-36 with 4:24.

Tyree called time out. He ordered his players to stop shooting from outside. "We have two 6-6 guys on the hash marks," he told them. "Get the ball inside." Using spectacular dunks, close in shots and tip ins, Vincentian went on a 2-12 run. Griggs and Embleton also picked up their intensity on defense, blocking numerous Cornell shots. Cornell's only response was Langston hitting two free throws. Vincentian finished the third quarter with a 39-49 lead.

As the fourth quarter began, Harris and DiVito each had three fouls, and Harris picked up #4 and #5 in a minute's time. It was an exceptionally rough quarter. DiVito twice hit the floor so hard he was momentarily stunned, but got up and continued. Cornell couldn't get any shots off; the ones inside were blocked and the ones outside were distorted to shoot over taller defenders. From the beginning of the quarter until the 2:00 mark, Cornell's only points came on free throws. Finally Piccolo worked loose and drained three from the side and Langston laid one in.

Behind Piccolo, DiVito and Harris, Langston added nine points and King Walden three. DiVito and Harris each added seven rebounds to the 12 by Langston. Piccolo had seven steals.

It was a bitter pill for Sacco to swallow. "My garage is bigger than this gym," he told reporters.

The WPIAL announces tournament pairings Tuesday. Cornell still hopes for a first round bye.

Cornell JVs Drop Season Finale, 60-46

Cornell's Junior Varsity ended the season with a loss to Vincentian 60-46.

It was a baptism of fire for the Jayvees, most of whom had never been to the overgrown hall closet known as the Vincentian Gym. The floor, which is shorter and narrower than regulation, eliminated Cornell's speed edge, and the crowd, tightly packed in around the court, bothered them more as the game progressed and more fans arrived.

But Cornell came out ready to play and battled the whole way. Thanks to a Sharone Bronaugh three from the corner and Craig Pulford hook shot and free throw, the Raiders grabbed an early lead.

But Vincentian called time out and settled down. They came out, scored on a putback, stole the ball four straight times and laid each one in, and hit a corner three for a 13-6 lead. Pulford and Bronaugh then rebounded and put shots back, Bronaugh dribbled out to the side and sank a three, and Pulford put another one back to cut it to 15-14. Two Vincentian shots and a Drew Lopez (photo, right) layup ended the first quarter 18-17.

The game may well have been lost in the second quarter. The Royals hit a corner three, six layups, a putback and free throw. Cornell scored only five free throws and a Bronaugh layup so trailed 36-24 at halftime.

Pulford (#42 rebounding below) , a 6-1 freshman, has been improving steadily all season and turned in his best game ever against Vincentian. But he was not nearly big enough to deal with several 6-3 and 6-4 Royals.

Cornell's JVs have won all season due to their superior speed and quickness and their outside shooting. But Friday night the short and narrow Vincentian floor rendered that speed and quickness irrelevant. And the narrow floor prevented Cornell shooters from stepping back from the three point line. There isn't room.

Vincentian's size allowed them to control the boards. And Cornell wasn't hitting on the loose Vincentian rims, which rattled loudly on each shot.

Still, Cornell hung in there. Bronaugh and Michael J. Smith opened with layups. Smith (photo, below) drained a two from just inside the arc, Lopez laid one in , and Lopez, Blaine Sams and Pulford drained free throws. So the Raiders only trailed 47-40 entering the fourth quarter.

Bronaugh opened the final period with a layup to cut it to 47-42. But Cornell would not score again until the 2:00 mark when Smith scored on a putback. By then it was 58-44. Smith would add one final layup in the final seconds to bring it to 60-46.

Bronaugh led all scorers with 15. Lopez, Smith and Pulford each had nine. Sams added four.

Pulford led all rebounders with 14. Bronaugh was close behind with 13.

Cornell still won the section with a 10-2 record. Vincentian and Nazareth tied for second at 11-3. Union was third at 10-3. Union had one fewer game because the Cornell JV game at Union was not played. Cornell had two fewer games because in addition to not playing the game at Union, the JV game at Eden was stopped due to a power failure and never made up.

The JV will definitely lose Sams and Nathan Wooten and probably Bronaugh and Lopez to the varsity next year. That will leave Carmen D'Alessandro, Patrick Scott, Smith, and Pulford back for another JV year, plus whoever rises from this year's eighth grade team.

Rebuilding A Team From The Ground Up.....

How do you rebuild a sports program from ground zero? Cornell High School has faced that challenge twice in the last four years. First, Coach Ed Dawson had to bring back football after the school had abandoned it for five seasons. He warned the School Board it would be a tough uphill struggle and they would need patience. Beginning with freshmen but forced to play a varsity schedule, his teams lost every game for two years by one sided scores. Gradually, his players developed the experience and skills needed. In 2018 they finally won half their games, and in 2019 they expect to contend for a playoff berth. All of that, and Cornell, Coraopolis and Neville Island had a century of championship football tradition.

Now the school faces the same challenge in girls basketball. Its history is much bleaker. After the WPIAL launched girls basketball, Cornell went two decades with no team. At all. Challenged by Title 9 advocates, they held tryouts and no girl showed up. When the school did find enough girls to field a team, they lost every game by embarassing scores. Finally Cornell hired Shawn Urbano of McKees Rocks. Urbano had been an assistant at several schools. He promised to build a program, but warned it would take several years.

He kept his promise. He went down to the grade school, recruited a dozen girls, and worked with them year round. When those girls reached ninth grade, suddenly Cornell reached not only the WPIAL Playoffs but the State Tournament for four straight years. They ranked #1 off and on, beat traditional power Quigley, upset Farrell, saw Daeja Quick named Player of the Year, and sent girls off to college.

Then Urbano left for the coaching job at 5A Canon McMillan, and the school discovered that all this success had concealed a glaring error. The one group of girls was the only group recruited and developed. Below the one group, no players had been developed. As those girls graduated, no one was left. Not one.

So another complete rebuilding job would be needed. This time, Cornell turned to Mark Bolla, who had previously coached at Langley and Canevin.

What Bolla inherited was no seniors, no juniors and no sophomores. He had a dozen very enthusiastic freshmen with little or no middle school experience. Below this group is another dozen eighth graders which WPIAL rules do not allow to play in high school.

Cornell considered cancelling the varsity season and playing a freshman schedule. But area schools no longer field freshman teams, and their sophomores play on JV teams which play only as preliminaries to varsities. So that was not an option. Bolla's freshmen were going to be fed to the wolves in one of the WPIAL's toughest sections.

Where to begin? "Talking about an offense or defense is silly," Bolla explains. "We don't have the basic skills. If we can't dribble, pass, catch, shoot or rebound, it doesn't matter what offense we play. We just need to work on fundamentals."

The differences in height, weight, age, strength and experience were also overwhelming. "When the girl guarding you is a foot taller, she just stands there watching you fake to the right, fake to the left, use your clever footwork, and then she swats your shot away. You set a screen and the opponent swats you out of the way. You can box someone off the boards and she reaches over you for the rebound."

Cornell's biggest problem has been getting the ball up the floor. "Every team we play presses us full court. They're too tall to pass over and have arms too long to pass around. We don't have the strong, clever dribblers to dribble around or through them."

Bolla also found his girls lack the arm strength. "We need lots of off season work with a heavy ball to build up our sttength so we can fire those quick, snappy passes and shoot a shot from 15 feet or further from the basket. We're throwing the ball at the basket more than we're shooting it."

He started back in October with 10 players. Nveah Lee was lost due to concussions, and Braelynn Weaver was lost to knee injuries. They were his best two girls. His third best player, Stefania Wiley, prefers to be a student manager.

"Playing before an audience doesn't bother me," Wiley says. "And the game pressure doesn't bother me. I just like the administrative side of it. I could be the best student manager in the WPIAL. I could go to a really big time college on a student manager scholarship. I like doing this."

So Bolla has a starting lineup of Angel Matukae, Karly DiVito, Jada Jenkins, Sophia Sicili and Heather Stephenson. Reserves are Lorraine Bourne and J.J. Robinson.

Bolla's assistant coach is Rachel Belhy, who played at Fort Cherry High School and Washington & Jefferson College. She works in real estate sales during the day.

While Bolla and Belhy have worked on fundamental skills and basketball instincts, they've also been working on fragile egos.

After all, how many times can you lose 76-2 and 72-5 before you get discouraged and quit?

"This is the most wonderful group of girls," Bolla says. "They never miss a practice, never complain, never get frustrated or angry. But we tell them every day not to consider these games. For the other team, they're games. For us, they're practices. We're practicing all this year in preparation for next year." And the girls do seem to have bought into this view.

Especially Matukae and DiVito, who have the bloodlines. Matukae's sister is Maya Goins, who was one of those girls Urbano coached. She played on those WPIAL and PIAA teams. She also played softball and was a cheerleader. DiVito's brother is Kaden, star point guard on Cornell's #1 varsity.

Matukae (#43 in three photos, including the one at right) paused after practice and talked about the year. "We're just paying our dues," she explains. "This is all going to pay off. Those big kids, they graduate. And we're getting a whole year of varsity experience. We'll work the whole off season. Next year, we should be a lot better. We may still lose. But we'll lose by a normal score. Then, again, girls will graduate, and we'll all be back. The day's going to come....."

Matukae tried to explain how far she's come since November. "I was so intimidated. I was afraid of contact. I didn't want to go in there. I got knocked around, knocked to the floor. Now, I'll drive in for a layup, or go after a rebound. One of those big girls, they want to knock me around, OK, bring it on."

"I used to think basketball was a noncontact sport. Wow, have I learned different. Those big girls knock us around the whole game and nothing gets called. So instead of waiting for an official to call a foul, I've learned we all just have to toughen up."

DiVito (#12 in the photo at left and below) nodded her head in agreement. "The game is finally slowing down," she described. "And I've learned to consider each possession a little game all by itself. They beat me once, twice, three times, OK, let's see how well I can do THIS time. Let's see if I can get the ball into the front court THIS time."

DiVito also tried to put into words how much different high school basktball was from grade school and middle school. "Everyone takes this so much more seriously. They're over there keeping statistics. Your scores and statistics are in the newspapers. People pay to come to the games. Everyone's always talking about which teams are going to make the playoffs. Fans are screaming at the refs. It's like WOW, this is a really big deal."

Her mother, Jennifer Trimmer DiVito, who between the boys and girls' teams is often at games four nights a week, has tried to be encouraging at home. "It's been tough on Karly and it's even been tough on me. It hurts to sit here in the stands and watch her getting beat night after night. She's gotten down sometimes, but I keep telling her to see the long range. When they were freshmen, the Rochester girls never won a game. Now they're seniors, won the section and are ranked #1. One thing Karly has learned from Kaden is the value of hard work. In sports, nothing comes easy. But if you keep working, eventually you get your rewards."

Bolla used to get intense about winning, but this year he's taken a very low key approach. "What one thing can we focus on tonight? What did we learn tonight? What do we most need to work on for our next game?"

With the flood of eighth graders rising, he looks forward to having the numbers to run a real JV team and Varsity.

"It's quite possible some of those eighth graders might end up making the varsity, even starting on the varsity. We get 15 or 16 girls out here, everything will get a whole lot more interesting. We can have legitimate scrimmages. We can run competitive drills. We can have some depth if someone gets in foul trouble, or someone is sick or hurt."

In a century of school athletics, research has clearly shown that for small schools to be competitive, strong middle school programs and off season programs are essential. When it comes to girls, Cornell hasn't had either with any consistency. Bolla is determined to change that.

"We've got to get these girls off to a camp or two, and work with them here ourselves. During the season, all you have time to work on is the next opponent. It's during the offseason you work on fundamentals and on your shots and on building up your body. Girls don't like to get in the weightroom, but we're being outwrestled for rebounds and passes. We've got to get strong enough that when we get our hands on a rebound we can bring it in and pass it out to a teammate.

"The reason we need to get them off to camp is so they can hear someone beside me stressing the same fundamentals. After a while, kids tune out a teacher or coach or --- yes, even a parent. They've heard the same thing so many times they quit listening. But then when someone you don't know tells you that same thing suddenly you take it seriouosly.

"These girls also need to spend a week or two in an environment where everyone is devoted to basketball 24-7. They wake up talking about it, talk about it at breakfast, work on their game all morning, talk about it at lunch, work on their game all afternoon, talk about it at dinner, work on their game all evening, and go to bed talking about it. Our girls need to see how girls at other schools are so totally devoted to getting better."

OLSH Girls Bid Farewell To Home Crowd

Sacred Heart's senior laden varsity bid farewell to its home fans Thursday night with a 63-29 thrashing of South Side.

The game was preceded by the usual Senior Night ceremony, in which Ashley Norling, Maddie Hoff, Kennede Mickle, Tess Deken and Kate Penn were honored for their four years of outstanding play. Mickle was sidelined this season by injury but still suited up and sat on the bench for this game.

The game itself was an afterthought. It was over quickly. OLSH grabbed a 13-2 first quarter lead and rolled it out to 32-4 at halftime and 42-15 at the third quarter stop.

In a touching moment, with six seconds to go, a setup technical foul was called and Mickle was sent in to shoot it. She made the shot, thus putting her name in the scorebook.

Sacred Heart's size, quickness and athleticism was simply too much for South Side. The visitors could not get decent shots off over the taller SH defenders, and never got a second shot because SH controlled the boards. On defense, Norling (#44 driving at right) blocked shots and prevented any kind of interior passes. On offense she hit threes, layups, jumpers and a soft hook from the hash mark. Hoff (#34, below left) kept pace, draining threes and when the defense came out to stop her drove for easy layups. Norling and Hoff shared scoring honors with 24 each. Haley Hamilton (#11) added seven, Hannah Valenty three, Walsh two and Kennedy Nichol one.

The Chargers tied with Laurel for the section championship. They play 6A Butler at Kennedy Catholic Saturday, then wait for the WPIAL Tournament draw Tuesday. They are currently ranked second in 2A.

OLSH Girls JVs Finish Unbeaten In 2A

When both boys and girls varsities are winning their sections and ranked at the top of the WPIAL, no one pays much attention to the junior varsity. They play the preliminary games at 6 pm before most fans get to the gym and their scores aren't reported on TV or in the newspapers.

But while no one has been paying attention, Sacred Heart's JV girls have run up an unbeaten record in Class 2A and won the mythical Section championship. They don't get a trophy for that, and there is no WPIAL JV playoff. So their season officially ended Thursday night with a 36-23 win over South Side. OLSH led the whole way, but not by much. They grabbed an 8-5 first quarter edge and held it 14-9 at half. South Side only had a six girl roster, so Sacred Heart's up tempo offense and high pressure defense began wearing the visitors down. It was 26-15 after three, and the Chargers substituted freely in the fourth.

Kaley Constantine led all scorers with nine. Syria Johnson added eight.

OLSH does have two losses, one to 5A Trinity and one to 4A Blackhawk. Both those JV teams also won their sections.

Photos are posted full strength so they can be enlarged and printed.

Piccolo Launches Cornell Past Quigley, 61-28

Basketball coaches worry about an easy game sandwiched in between two tough games. They call it a "trap game," and historically many upsets have occurred in such situations.

Cornell faced this Tuesday in a home game with Quigley, sandwiched in between two difficult road trips to Union and Vincentian. Even worse, it was Senior Night, on which graduating players and cheerleaders were honored in a pregame ceremony. With parents part of the ceremony, the seniors are often flushed with emotion and play erratically.

Quigley has size and shooting and was capable of threatening Cornell. They took the tip, scored on a layup, and next time down drained a three from the side for a 5-0 lead. Zaire Harrison picked up a quick foul at the 6:16 mark. The Senior Night crowd grew quiet.

Up stepped Cornell's only senior, Luke Piccolo (#20 in the first three photos). He drained one three from the side and another from the corner. That put the Raiders up 6-5 and the rout was on. They went on a 26-0 run. Jeavontae King Walden hit two corner threes and Kaden DiVito hit a three from the side, one from the corner and four layups. Finally, with 4:47 left in the first half, Quigley laid one in to end the drought, 26-7, but the game was over.

Isiah Langston finished off the half with two layups. Drew Lopez hit a corner three and DiVito added a side three to put Cornell up 36-7 at the break.

Piccolo contributed a lot more than early threes. That's him wheeling away from the basket with a rebound in the photo at right. He helped crash the boards, played aggressive defense, and kept the ball moving.

DiVito (#2 in the photos) dominated the first three minutes of the third quarter with two layups and a corner three. Piccolo added threes from the corner and side. Langston (photo, bottom left) and Harrison (#1) scored layups and DiVito a 15 foot jumper. The third quarter score was 57-15.

The fourth quarter was played with Cornell's JVs. Sharone Bronaugh hit two layups and Drew Lopez added three. That was all. Quigley actually outscored Cornell in the fourth quarter to narrow the final to 61-28.

Most of the onesided score was due to one trend : Quigley missing shots off to the left side of the rim. Zaire Harrison (#1) kept rebounding them and either firing the ball upcourt or dribbling quickly upcourt with it himself, eventually passing to teammates for layups. This made Harrison the night's leading rebounder with 10 and leading assist producer with eight.

DiVito led all scorers with 24. Piccolo had 12, Harrison nine, Langston, Lopez and King Walden six each, and Bronaugh four. There were lots of missed Quigley shots and lots of rebounds but they were spread around equally. Only Harrison was in double figures.

The win left Cornell 18-3, in a tie with the section lead with Vincentian with equal 11-2 records, ranked #1 in the WPIAL and #4 in the state.

In other games Tuesday night, Western Beaver beat Rochester 80-48, Vincentian beat Eden 65-50 and, most importantly, Nazareth beat Union 74-41. This leaves Nazareth second at 10-3 and Union third at 9-4.

So the Game Of The Year looms Friday night at Vincentian. The winner wins the section, the #1 seed in the WPIAL tournament, and a first round bye. The loser ends up tied for second with Nazareth.

It's another of those gyms where visiting teams rarely win and Cornell in particular has not won. It's a smaller floor than standard. It has three rows of bleachers on each side with a student section in the end zone. It will be standing room only.

The student section models itself after the Cameron Crazies at Duke, the Erupption Zone at Kentucky and Roys Rowdies at North Carolina. They harass visitng players and coaches without mercy, giving them nicknames and making up chants. The students are packed in tightly along the end line and make life especially difficult for anyone shooting free throws. During last year's Cornell game officials had security escort two students out of the gym. Front row spectators on three sides have their feet on the out of bounds line so players throwing the ball inbounds have to deal with the crowd. The end zone opposite the student section is a brick wall. Ideally a visiting team would grab the student end for first half warm ups, so it could have the brick wall during the critical second half. Teams with experience playing there often have their JV teams immediately start warming up at that student end as soon as the JV game ends to prevent the home varsity from grabbing it.

Vincentian is a Catholic academy sitting high on a hill overlooking McKnight Road. The easiest routes to get there are via Mt. Nebo Road off I-79 or via Camp Horne Road off the Ohio River Boulevard. The JV game will begin at 6. Cornell fans should arrive early because seating is extremely limited and late arrivals may be refused admission.

Smith Ignites 2nd Half Cornell Explosion, 54-37

In their final home game of the season Tuesday night, Cornell's Junior Varsity did not look good. It was a ragged sloppy first half. There were slow, floating, easily stolen passes, repeated walking violations, players repeatedly tied up by defenders for jump balls, and few rebounds. Quigley sometimes led, often tied, and never trailed by more than three. A layup with six seconds to go cut Cornell's halftime lead to a slim 19-18.

The Raiders needed a spark. They got two.

Michael J. Smith, a 5-8 freshman guard (#33), poured in 10 points in a three minute 11-2 run to open the third quarter. That put Cornell up 30-20 and Quigley never recovered.

Meanwhile, 5-11 sophomore Sharone Bronaugh went to war on the boards. Cornell had been outrebounded in the first half but Bronaugh took ownership of both boards in the second.

Back at the game's beginning, Smith had opened scoring with a rebound and putback 30 seconds in to put Cornell up 2-0. Patrick Scott added a free throw and Carmine D'Allessandro (#4 in photos below) turned a steal into a layup for 5-0. But then the errors began, and the taller, older, more experienced Spartans went up 8-5 at 3:04. Bronaugh (photo, below) rebounded and laid in a smooth reverse layup, then the next time down the floor rebounded again and took it back up to put Cornell ahead 9-8 at 0:50. Blaine Sams scored a layup at the buzzer for an 11-8 lead as the quarter ended.

Drew Lopez hit a corner three to open the second, but a Quigley side three and layup tied at 13-13. Craig Pulford, a 6-0 freshman, twice followed a rebound with a putback, and D'Allessandro pulled off another steal and layup. But Quigley continued to slip past Cornell's defense for layups to hang close in the 19-18 halftime score.

That set up Smith's third quarter explosion. Bronaugh outmuscled and outquicked the taller Spartans, grabbing rebounds and either taking them back up or dishing off to teammates for layups.

After Smith's scoring spree, Blaine Sams added two free throws and a three from on top, Lopez laid one in, Nathan Wooten sank a free throw, and Bronaugh grabbed a rebound, drove out the baseline, pivoted and drained a corner three. That put the Raiders up 41-25 after three.

Lopez opened the fourth with two straight layups for 45-25. A layup by Pulford and 15 foot jumper by Smith made it 49-27 at 5:15. Another Smith corner three and Bronaugh layup closed out Cornell scoring.

Smith led all scorers with 18. Lopez and Bronaugh added nine each, Sams seven, Pulford six, D'Allessandro four and Wooten one.

Bronaugh led all rebounders with 13. He also led everyone with nine assists.

The win gave Cornell an 11-2 record with one game left, Friday at Vincentian. There is no postseason for JV teams but all JV players will dress for all Cornell Varsity games in the WPIAL Tournament, and several of them will see action.

Union Frustration Continues, 83-71

Some teams are almost impossible to beat on their home floors. Regardless of what kind of season they're having on the road, they shoot an amazingly high percentage at home and, buoyed by their boisterous crowd, raise their level of play to another level.

Union Township is one of those. Going all the way back to the 1940s, the Scotties go season after season without losing at home. In the 1950s, Coach Butler Hennon and his Wampum HS Indians were Pennsylvania's most famous program, winning 12 straight section championships, eight WPIAL and three state championships. But in a 40 year career Hennon only won once at Union, in 1955 when his team went 31-0. Cornell has never won there. Coach Bill Sacco, who has coached at five different high schools, has never won there. Vincentian, despite its section, WPIAL and state titles, has never won there. Rochester has never won there.

If ever Cornell and Sacco were goiing to win at Union, this was the year. The Raiders lead Section 1-A, have experience, depth, speed, shooting, defense and athleticism, are #1 in the WPIAL, and came in with the section title riding on the game. Furthermore, Cornell had buried Union 61-34 at Coraopolis in early January.

But it wasn't enough. The Union Magic held, in an 83-71 win that will cost Cornell its #1 ranking and possibly its section championship and #1 tournament seed.

The game was frustrating. Whether it was rattled by the large and vocal crowd, or the unfriendly officiating, or the tight rims, or whether it was too intense, or whether it was just due for an off night after a string of 10 outstanding games, Cornell was not at its best.

Raider shots that have been going in all year rimmed out. A defense that has smothered opponents was suddenly allowing open threes.

Part of this was due to Union. After being scorched at Cornell earlier, the Scotties have prepared carefully for this game. They're ranked #3 in the WPIAL and are fighting for their own postseason seeding. They focused on denying Kaden DiVito, Zaire Harrison and Jeavontae King Walden their favorite shooting spots, on blocking Isiah Langston off the boards, and on spreading the floor, overloading one side to draw the defense, then quickly reversing the floor and passing the ball to either Nate Meeks or Seth Pinkerton for wide open shots on the weak side.

DiVito, Harrison and King Walden watched shots rimming out all night. But they had defenders pressuring them on every play. They were forced to hurry their shots, shooting off balance and without squaring to the basket. As the accompanying phoros show, they were often double teamed, preventing their usual slashing drives to the basket. Since high school basketball has no shot clock, the answer to this defense is to be patient and keep passing, screening and cutting until someone gets open even if it results in a low scoring game. But that's not who Cornell is. Their style is a running, gunning, high scoring game. And it has worked all year.

But not Friday night. The start was an omen of things to come. Cornell got the tap, came roaring down, and promptly missed a layup, a follow and a 15 ft. jump shot. Union hit two straight layups for 4-0 and Cornell spent the rest of rhe night playing catch up.

They hung tight, though. Isiah Langston finally laid one in at 6:38. Three Divito layups, a King Walden tipin and baseline jumper, a layup and side three by Harrison, and free throws by Luke Piccolo kept Cornell within two at 21-19 to nd the first quarter.

Union unleashed a barrage of threes in the second quarter. Cornell responded with free throws by Harrison and DiVito, layups by King Walden, Harrison, Langston, Piccolo, and a follow by Sharone Bronaugh. Langston took over late in the second, with a jumper, free throws, three from on top, and a spectacular dunk off a lob pass. So Union barely clung to a 45-43 halftime lead. The game had become very physical, with heavy contact on almost every shot, drive and rebound. DiVito went to the floor hard and hurt his thumb after one attempted baseline drive.

The third quarter saw heavy knocking and banging with few fouls called. King Walden tied the game with a layup as the quarter opened. A Pinkerton jumper from the side and a Meeks three from on top put the Scotties up 50-45 and Cornell would never again tie it. DiVito hit a jumper from the lane, Harrison laid one in, and DiVito, Langston and Drew Lopez added free throws to keep Cornell within reach at 58-53.

The fourth quarter saw Cornell repeatedly closing to within one or two points, and Union pulling back out. King Walden hit a corner two for 55-58 but a side jumper, layup and free throws made it 64-55. Divito connected on a side three and Harrison laid one in for 64-60 at 5:06. King Walden sank a follow and DiVito a corner three for 68-65 at 3:40. By this point the capacity crowd was on its feet and would remain there the rest of the way. A free throw made it 69-65 but a Harrison top three cut that to 69-68 with 2:59. A layup and free throws pulled it back out to 72-68, but two Divito free throws and one by Harrison cut it to 72-71 at 2:20. But that would be the last Cornell points scored. Union hit another three from the corner and sank nine free throws over the last 90 seconds. Harrison and DiVito frantically tried to bring the Raiders back with threes but couldn't hit.

Seth Pinkerton led all scorers with 28 and Nate Meeks added 26. Six of Meeks' and seven of Pinkerton's shots were from beyond the arc. DiVito led Cornell with 19. Harrison added 18, King Walden 14, Langston 13, Piccolo four, Bronaugh two and Lopez one.

King Walden led Cornell rebounders with 10. Langston added eight and DiVito seven. Harrison contributed eight assists.

If Cornell wins at Vincentian this Friday, they will still win the section. If they lose Vincentian will win it with Cornell and Union tied for second.

Chargers Clinch Section Championship, 79-54

On a bitterly cold night outside, Sacred Heart scorched Laurel 79-54 and wrapped up the Section 2A-3 championship.

Meanwhile, out in Beaver County, South Side upset Sewickley 68-64. Its senior star having quit the team, the Panthers have lost three straight.

This leaves Sacred Heart all alone at the top. The Chargers lead the section with a 10-0 record. They also lead the WPIAL 2A at 17-1. And they're second in the state behind Philadelphia Constitution HS.

South Side Beaver is now second in the section at 7-3. The Beavers are 14-5 overall. Sewickley is third in the section at 6-3 and 9-7. Sacred Heart has only two section games left, Mohawk at home and Sewickley away. Even if they lost both those games, they would finish one game ahead of both South Side and Sewickley.

OLSH also has a home game with Obama Academy from Pittsburgh, and an away game at New Brighton.

The Laurel game was over after four minutes. The Chargers ran up a 20-5 lead and pushed it to 42-22 at the half. It was 60-34 after three.

Darin Dimichele led all scorers with 18. Austin Wigley and Ricco Tate added 14 points each. Jake Dimichele scored 13.

Cornell Beats Eden Second Time In Four Days

Due to a quirk in scheduling, Cornell had to play Eden Saturday over there, then play a return match in Coraopolis Tuesday night. This was caused by a power failure three weeks ago, when the first Eden game had to be postponed.

It didn't matter. The Raiders used exactly the same hyper tempo to roll to another win, this one 91-48.

Like most of Cornell's games this year, this one was over early. Luke Piccolo hit threes from the side and the top, Kaden DiVito scored one layup, and Isiah Langston laid two more in (photo, right), and Cornell was up 12-4. Another Langston layup and free throws by him and DiVito pushed it to 17-7 after one.

Threes from Piccolo and Zaire Harrison, layups by Jeavontae KingWalden, Harrison, and Langston, and free throws and three straight threes by DiVito produced a 40-22 halftime edge.

King Walden has been struggling with the flu and only scored seven points. But two of them came on a beautiful hook shot with 6:11 in the third quarter (photo, below left). Threes from Piccolo, Langston, Harrison, DiVito, and King Walden, a layup by Drew Lopez and 15 ft. jump shot by DiVito gave Cornell a third quarter 64-34 score.

Langston and Harrison laid three in apiece in the fourth. DiVito and Lopez added their own layups and Sharone Bronaugh (photo bottom left) hit a corner three. Numerous free throws pushed the final out to 91-48.

DiVito led all scorers with 24. Harrison added 21, Langston 20, Piccolo 12, King Walden seven, Lopez four and Bronaugh three.

The taller Warriors controlled the boards but Cornell's rebounding was spread evenly. Langston and DiVito hauled in seven each. Harrison added six.

Langston, who has played several outstanding games in a row, also had seven steals and three blocks.

Harrison, DiVito and Langston each contributed six assists.

The win leaves Cornell 17-2 on the season and 10-1 in Section 1A-1. The Raiders lead the section and rank #1 in the WPIAL and #4 in the state.

But trouble looms. The regular season is winding up, and in a sort of grand finale Cornell must travel to Union Friday and Vincentian next Friday, with a home game against Quigley between.

Union and Vincentian are both difficult places to play. Vincentian trails Cornell by a game, 9-2, having lost at Cornell and at Union. The Centurions rank #2 in the WPIAL and #6 in the state. Union is third in the section with an 8-3 record, having lost at Cornell, at Vincentian, and at Nazareth. Union is ranked #3 in the WPIAL.

Assuming Cornell wins the home game with Quigley, if it wins both the road games it wins the section and the #1 WPIAL Tournament seed. If it loses at Union but wins at Vincentian, it will hand Vincentian a third loss, meaning Cornell will win the section with a 12-2 record. But if Cornell wins at Union and loses at Vincentian, it will end up tied with Vincentian for the section lead with identical 12-2 records.

That would be critical because the WPIAL breaks ties based on schedule strength outside the section. Cornell plays a tough schedule, with games at 5A Brashear and Carrick plus Sto Rox and Canevin. But Vincentian plays a tougher one, with games at Moon, Lincoln Park and Sewickley. The advantage of a #1 seed is the first round bye and the easier draw.

Sams, Bronaugh Lead Cornell JVs 52-50

In the final two weeks of the regular season, junior Blaine Sams and sophomore Sharone Bronaugh are coming on strong for the Cornell Junior Varsity.

Tuesday night, against one of Section 1A-1's best JV teams, Sams (#12 in photo at right) turned in the best game of his career and topped it off with a 25 foot three point shot at the buzzer to give Cornell a 52-50 thriller over tall, talented Eden.

Sams scored 20 points, including four three pointers. He also had five steals, six assists, five rebounds and seven defensive stops.

Bronaugh (#50 in photo below) was equally impressive with 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and five defensive stops.

The win gave Cornell's Jayvees a 10-2 record, their only losses being to 5A Brashear in the season opener and to Nazareth Prep in the section. A problem in this era is that some schools don't have enough boys to field JV teams, and varsities participate in tournaments and special "classic" doubleheaders with no JV prelims. The days of a JV team going 21-1 and advancing to the JV playoffs are gone. No JV team plays that many games and there is no longer a JV postseason tournament.

Nevertheless, this has become a very good Cornell JV team. And Eden was a formidable opponent.

The visitors led the entire first quarter. Free throws by Sams and Patrick Scott were the only Cornell scores for the first six minutes. Finally the Raiders went to their press and Drew Lopez (photo bottom left) took a steal in for layup at 2:28. That made it 9-5. Lopez scored two more layups, Bronaugh added one, and Sams hit two free throws to finally tie it at 13-13 as the quarter ended.

This JV team has become very good at its full court press. A pressing team has to have quick hands, quick feet, good floor vision and stamina, and when the Raiders have Bronaugh, Lopez, Sams, M.J. Smith and Scott in they have those qualities at all five positions. Their press speeds opponents up beyond their comfort level, wears them down, and exposes any ballhandling weaknesses.

In the second quarter, Sams took over. He made two layups off the press, one three from the top and one from the side. Bronaugh added a runner in the lane under contact and two free throws. Nathan Wooten scored a baseline runner to give Cornell a 29-25 halftime edge.

But Eden wasn't done. The Warriors used layups, free throws, a side three and a tip in to finish the third with a 39-35 lead. Cornell's only scoring was on two Bronaugh layups and a Sams follow.

The fourth was a shootout. Eden used a side three, tip in and free throws to keep the lead. Bronaugh's layup and side three, a Lopez baseline runner, a Sams three from on top and a Lopez free throw finally tied it at 46-46 with 1:26. Sharone went up under heavy traffic, shown in the photo at left, scored and was fouled. He hit the free throw for a 49-46 lead with 1:10. Still, Eden wasn't done. Warrior free throws cut it to 49-48 and a jumper from the lane put them ahead 50-49 with 48 seconds left. Cornell wanted to go to Bronaugh inside for a layup or at least free throws, but Eden overplayed him and prevented a pass as time ticked down. Finally Lopez drove the lane and when the defense collapsed he fired a pass to wide open Sams, who took the winning three pointer from the side. The ball settled in the net as the buzzer sounded.

In sddition to 20 points each by Sams and Bronaugh, Lopez had nine, Wooten two and Scott one.

Cornell faces difficult games at Union and Vincentian and a home finale with Quigley.

Laurel Shocks Sacred Heart 43-42

No one saw this one coming. Sacred Heart had beaten Laurel 49-39 at Laurel. The OLSH girls had also beaten everyone else in Section 2A-1 and with a win Monday night would have wrapped up the section title.

Yet somehow Laurel came into Sacred Heart and handed the WPIAL's second ranked team a 43-42 loss in the biggest Western Hills upset of the year in boys or girls basketball. OLSH now finds itself tied with Laurel for first place in the section with only two weeks to go.

Laurel grabbed a 12-6 lead but Sacred Heart exploded with a 17-4 second quarter for a 23-16 halftime edge. Laurel rallied, however, cutting it to 33-28 after three, then outscored the home team 15-9 in the fourth.

Caroline Gibson was the key for Laurel. She scored 13 points, including the winning layup with four seconds left. Ashley Norling led OLSH with 20. Maddie Hoff added 12. But Laurel shur down everyone else.

Laurel and Sacred Heart now have identical 13-4 and 10-1 records. The Chargers will probably drop from their #2 ranking, and Laurel may move up from its #4 position. Bishop Canevin is #1.

Big Third Quarter Pushes OLSH Past LaSalle

Sacred Heart pushed its season record to 16-1 Saturday afternoon with a 65-47 win over 3A Seton LaSalle.

The game was close for a half. LaSalle trailed by only three, 15-12, after one and 29-24 at the half. But the Chargers exploded for an 18-9 third and took a 47-33 lead into the fourth.

Daren DiMichele and Austin Wigley led OLSH with 18 and 16 points respectively. Michael Bigley had 31 for LaSalle.

The game was part of the late season PBC Hall of Fame Classic held at Montour High School. LaSalle ranks #3 in Class 3A at 13-3 and 8-1.

Sacred Heart resumes Section 2A-3 Tuesday night.

Arch rival Sewickley lost its second straight game Saturday, losing to Chartiers Valley 55-39. OLSH must travel to Sewickley next week.

 

One Down, Two To Go For Cornell, 81-50

Cornell finishes the regular season with three difficult road games, to Eden, Union and Vincentian.

Saturday afternoon, the Raiders played the first one, at Eden. It's a makeup from a game postponed two weeks ago.

Eden keyed on Kaden DiVito, Zaier Harrison and Jeavontae King Walden, and they succeeded in holding those three well below their averages. But Isiah Langston (photo, right) stepped up with 29 points to lead Cornell to an 81-50 rout and maintain its one game lead on Vincentian in Section 1A-1.

Cornell put it away early with a 20-6 first quarter lead. The Raiders expanded that to 41-18 halftime and 62-34 third quarter edges.

In addition to Langston's 29, DiVito scored 22 and Harrison 18.

So Cornell is now down to two dangerous road trips, to Union this Friday and Vincentian next Friday. If they win both, they win the section. If they win one, they finish tied with Vincentian. If they lose both, they finish as runnerup to Vincentian.

In between, the Raiders host Eden Tuesday night and Quigley next Tuesday on Senior Night.

Cornell remains #1 in the WPIAL and #4 in the state. Vincentian is #2 in the WPIAL and #6 in the state. Union is #3 in the WPIAL.

Cornell Coasts 86-61 As Union Falls 67-52

Cornell coasted past Rochester 86-61 Friday night to maintain its lead in Section 1A-1. But elsewhere, Vincentian knocked Union out of second, 67-52. That leaves Vincentian all alone in second place, one game behind Cornell. The two play at Vincentian the last night of the season. Union is now tied with Nazareth for third.

The Rochester game was another routine win. Cornell led 14-9 after one and exploded in quarters two and three for 30 points each. That made it 44-17 at the half and 74-21 after three.

Kaden Divito, the WPIAL's fourth leading scorers among all classes, led everyone with 26. Isiah Langston was second with 13. That's Jeavontae King Walden (#14) driving the baseline at right, with Langston (#3) in the lane looking for a pass.

Cornell now begins a dangerous stretch of three road games at Eden (at noon today), Union and Vincentian. If the Raiders win all three they will finish alone in first place. If they win two of the three they will finish tied with Vincentian for first. If they only win one of the three they will drop to second and Vincentian will win another section title.

OLSH Wins 83-47 As Sewickley Is Upset 81-77
Photo by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart dismantled Burgettstown 83-47 Friday night but the big news in Section 2A-3 was Shenango upsetting Sewickley 81-77. That dropped the Panthers two games back and, barring a monumental upset of OLSH, guarantees the Chargers a section title even if they lose their big return match at Sewickley the final week of the season.

The Burgettstown game was another rout. Sacred Heart grabbed a 21-7 lead and expanded it to 39-20 at halftime. It was 66-31 after three.

The DiMicheles, Jake and Daren, led scorers with 17 and 13. Dante Spadafora and Austin Wigley added 10 each.

OLSH remains #1 in the section and the WPIAL and #2 in the state behind Philadelphia Constitution HS. The Chargers are 9-0 in section and 15-1 overall, their only loss coming at 3A North Catholic 87-81.

Winning the section outright is a major achievement because it earns a team a first round bye and a favorable draw in the upcoming WPIAL playoffs.

 

 

Chargers Win On Big Second Quarter 76-65
Photo by Carolyn McAndrews

South Side, fighting for a postseason berth as a section runnerup, came out fighting. Jake McDougal scored 20 points and teammates Logan English and Trevor Roach added 17 and 14. The Beavers got the lead and gradually extended it to 24-17. During the quarter break, OLSH Coach Mike Rodriguez told his team they were in a battle and needed a massive second quarter rally.

They got it. The Chargers roared back to outscore South Side 25-10 and take a 42-34 halftime lead. They continued that surge with a 16-10 third quarter for a 58-44 edge entering the fourth. South Side pulled off its own rally, 21-18, in the closing minutes, but it wasn't nearly enough.

Dante Spadafora and Jake DiMichael led Sacred Heart with 18 points each. Daren DiMichael added 12 and Austin Wigley 10.

The win kept Sacred Heart in first place in Section 2A-3, one game ahead of second place Sewickley. In other section games, Shenango beat Mohawk 63-38 and Laurel beat Burgettstown 72-64. Sewickley hosts Kiski Academy tonight.

OLSH remains #1 in the WPIAL Class 2A and #2 in the state, behind Philadelphia's Constitution High School.

Cornell Wins A Yawner Over Western, 81-41

Cornell's section leading and top ranked Raiders yawned to an 81-41 win over outmanned Western Beaver Tuesday night.

Kaden Divito (dribbling in photo, right) led all scorers with 31 points. Zaier Harrison added 14, Jaevontae King Walden and Isiah Langston 10 each. All four are juniors.

The game was over in the first quarter. Cornell grabbed a 22-12 lead and extended it to 41-24 at halftime. Then it got worse. The Raiders outscored Western 17-6 in the third to lead 58-30.

Cornell leads the section with a 7-1 record (13-2 overall). Vincentian beat Nazareth 69-65 Tuesday night. Vincentian and Union are now tied for second with 7-2 records. Nazareth is fourth at 6-3. Cornell travels to Eden this Saturday, then travels to Union and Vincentian the first two Fridays in February.

OLSH Marches On, 79-68 Over Shenango
Photo by Carolyn McAndrews

#1 in the section and district and #2 in the state, OLSH continued its march toward the postseason with a 79-68 Friday night win over Shenango.

The visitors had to be taken seriously. Shenango is in contention for its own postseason berth as a runnerup. The Wildcats hold opponents to 57.3 points per game and boast one of the WPIAL's top scorers in Colin McQuiston.

And, in fact, Shenango played even with the Chargers in the second, third and fourth quarters. McQuiston poured in 32 points while teammates Reis Watkins and Ryan Perretti added 15 and 11.

But OLSH won it in the first, grabbing a 24-13 lead and holding that edge the rest of the way. Shenango cut it back to 28-27 at 1:53, before the Chargers pulled out to 34-27 at halftime. Shenango made a few runs in the third to get within five and four. However, either Daren or Jake DiMichele, Mike Dugan or Dante Spadafora would hit a few timely threes or layups and pull the Chargers back out to 10. Daren finished with 25, Jake with 19, Mike with 15 and Dante with 11.

The win left Sacred Heart at 7-0 in Section 2A-3 and 13-1 on the season. With the other section contenders at home, the Chargers appear likely to cruise until their big return match over at Sewickley, which lurks only one game behind at 6-1. That game will almost certainly decide the section championship and seedings for the upcoming WPIAL Tournament.

King Walden Steps Up To Give Cornell Sweep

"We were determined Kaden DiVito wasn't going to beat us," Nazareth Coach Nehemiah Brazil said. "If Cornell was going to win, somebody else would have to step up." Sure enough, with defenders shadowing his every move, DiVito, averaging 27 points a game and coming off a 36 point outburst against Vincentian, was held to 16.

Enter junior Jeavontae King Walden (photo, right), who sat out last year with an ankle injury. The 5-11 power forward turned in the best game of his career, scoring 20 points, crashing the boards and playing tough inside defense to lead Cornell to a 78-59 win over the top ranked Saints before the largest and loudest crowd of the season. Despite being taller, Nazareth had no answer for him inside. King Walden was quicker, smoother and more aggressive.

Isiah Langston added 19, Zaier Harrison 17 and Divito 16. And they wasted no time getting started. Thanks to four three pointers, Cornell jumped out to a 9-0 lead and 20-10 first quarter edge. Five more three pointers in the second quarter put the Raiders up 45-23 at halftime. The Saints came back to 66-53 in the fourth quarter but had to foul to stop Cornell's weave offense, and the Raiders hit every free throw.

Senior Luke Piccolo added two threes to give Cornell 11 from beyond the line.

Cornell now stands alone in first place in Section 1A-1, one game ahead of Nazareth and two up on Vincentian and Union. The Raiders swept the #1, #2 and #3 WPIAL teams on consecutive home nights.

The computer now has Cornell as #1 in the WPIAL and #4 in the state. But the next three weeks will be tough. The Raiders go to Eden Saturday, Jan. 26; to Union Friday, Feb. 1; and to Vincentian Friday, Feb. 8. To win the section they have to win two of those three.

Sacred Heart Doubles Aliquippa 54-27

Sacred Heart doubled the score on Aliquippa 54-27 Thursday night to maintain its firm lead on first place in Section 2A-1.

It was never in doubt. OLSH grabbed a 19-7 lead and expanded it to 34-10 at the half. Substituting freely, they held on 45-18 after three.

Haley Hamilton led all scorers with 16. Maddie Hoff was second with 13.

That's Emily Schuck (32) in the photo at right.

The Chantelles* are still second in the WPIAL behind Bishop Canevin.

Next week Sacred Heart travels to New Brighton and Shenango.

In other Section 2A-1 Thursday, Laurel pasted Northgate 73-18, South Side won at Sto-Rox 41-23, and Shenango beat New Brighton 47-35.

Laurel is in second place, one game back, at 6-1. South Side is in third, two games back, at 5-2. Both Laurel and South Side have yet to come to Sacred Heart.

*Latin, French feminine case for Chargers.

Chargers Take Control (For Now), 77-69

Sacred Heart held off arch rival Sewickley 77-69 Tuesday night to take over sole possession of first place in Section 2A-3. The Chargers are #1 in the WPIAL and #2 in the state, behind the same Constitution team that beat them in last year's state finals.

OLSH now stands 12-1 on the season and 6-0 in the section. Sewickley is 7-4 and 5-1.

Jake DiMichele led the Chargers with 21 points. Brother Daren added 20, Dante Spadafora 15 and Ricco Tate 12. For Sewickley, Isiah Warfield poured in 34 and Donald Belt 26, 24 of which came in eight three pointers.

Sacred Heart won the game in the first quarter, when it exploded for a 24-12 lead. They pushed that out to 17 points in the second before Sewickley whittled it back down to 40-33 at halftime. The closest the Panthers got was 55-51 at the end of the third. Sewickley kept threatening in the fourth but each time they narrowed the lead, OLSH would hit a shot or two or a free throw, and pull back out.

Sewickley was not at full strength. Senior Nate Ridgeway was out sick, and Rees Blaylock hurt a knee in the first quarter. He continued to play but noticeably favored it the rest of the way.

Narrow as it was, this was the widest margin of victory between the two in recent years. Last year they met twice in the section, once in the WPIAL finals and once in the state tournament semifinals. Sewickley won the first three and Austin Wigley hit a shot in overtime to win it for OLSH in the semi. In all four games, the average difference was 2.5 points.

They'll meet again the final week of the regular season over at Sewickley.

"With Ridgeway out and Blaylock hurt we were a lot shorter than usual," Sewickley Coach Win Palmer said afterward. "So it was a chance for our other players to step up. I thought they did a good job. This'll toughen us up for the second half."

Sacred Heart plays Shenango Friday night and South Side next Tuesday.

FINALLY!! Cornell Beats Vincentian 84-75

Cornell finally pulled off a win over Vincentian 84-75 Tuesday night to narrow its hold on first place in the section and set up a third showdown Friday with Nazareth. The Raiders have now won the first two showdown games over Union and Vincentian.

Cornell and Nazareth are now tied for first place in Section 1A-1. Cornell suffered its only section loss to Nazareth back in December. A Raider win Friday would leave Cornell all alone atop the section entering the second half of the season. Vincentian has won the section three straight years.

Tuesday night was an epic battle before a screaming crowd. Vincentian led after one, 23-22, but Cornell outscored the Centurions 27-19 in a wild run-and-gun second to take a 49-42 halftime edge. The Raiders did it again in the third, 18-16 to go up 67-58. They battled on even terms in the fourth, each scoring 17.

Kaden DiVito turned in the best game of his career, leading both teams with 36 points (He had scored 46 at Deer Lakes but Vincentian is a much stronger opponent). Isiah Langston (photo, right) added 16 and Jeavontae Kingwalden 10.

OLSH Girls Win Key Game At South Side

The Section 2A-1 race was between Laurel, South Side and Sacred Heart. A week ago, Sacred Heart defeated Laurel. Monday night was the other key showdown, at Beaver South Side. It was supposed to be close, as the homestanding Ewes faced a must win situation.

But it was only a battle in the first half. OLSH gradually pulled away in the second half to win 46-28 and, barring a key injury, illness or academic casualty, practically wrapped up the section title with half its games yet to go.

Sacred Heart never trailed, grabbing an early 13-8 lead and holding it at halftime, 21-15. A 13-4 edge in the third quarter widened it to 34-19 and the girls cruised home.

Defense was the key. OLSH held the Ewes without a field goal for 12 minutes, beginning at halftime and extending until the 4:00 mark of the fourth quarter. During that time, all South Side could get were four free throws in the third quarter and five in the fourth. Sacred Heart's full court press and harassing half court traps suffocated the home team.

Ashley Norling led all scorers with 16. Haley Hamilton added 13.

The win leaves Sacred Heart all alone in first place with a 7-0 record. Laurel is second at 6-1, with South Side now in third at 5-2. The Chargers also rank #2 in the WPIAL and #3 in Pennsylvania.

OLSH gets Laurel at home on Monday, January 28 and South Side at home on Thursday, February 7, the final night of the regular season.

Coach Don Eckerle was still taking the season one game at a time. "We've still got to develop some of our other players," he said. "There will come a night when Norling, or Hamilton, or Hoff will get in foul trouble, or be hurt or not feeling well. We have to have others ready to step up. Some of those other players are still finding their roles. It's essential they're ready before we get into the playoffs."

Sacred Heart Destroys Mohawk, 83-23

Sacred Heart's boys destroyed Mohawk Friday night 83-23 to hold their position as the #1 team in the WPIAL and the state.

It was a rout. OLSH jumped out 23-9 and led 49-18 at halftime. The Chargers were up 65-20 after three. Even with OLSH reserves in, Mohawk could only manage three points in the fourth quarter.

The DiMichele brothers led Sacred Heart scoring. Jake had 22 and Daren had 16. No Mohawk player reached double figures.

The win leaves #1 Sacred Heart and #2 Sewickley tied for first in Section 2A-3 with identical 5-0 records. The tie will be broken Tuesday night as they clash at Sacred Heart. The Chargers are slight favorites based mostly on home court advantage. The two met in the last two WPIAL finals with Sewickley winning both times. But Sacred Heart won in state semifinals last year to go on to the state championship game, which fhey lost 81-71 to Philadelphia Constitutiuon HS.

Cornell Sets Up Showdown Week, 79-41

Cornell routed Quigley 79-41 Friday night to set up Showdown Week next Tuesday and Friday.

The Quigley game was over as soon as it started. Cornell jumped out to a 22-8 lead and extended it to 41-11 at halftime. Coach Bill Sacco substituted freely in the second half. Quigley scored 17 points in the third quarter but it was still 59-28 entering the fourth.

Kaden DiVito led all scorers with 33, maintaining his position as the third highest scorer in the entire WPIAL. Zaire Harrison was close behind with 29. Jeavantae Kingwalden added 11.

Elsewhere in Section 1A-1, Western Beaver rolled over Rochester 84-50, Vincentian pounded Eden 77-52, and Nazareth beat Union 76-61.

This leaves Cornell, Vincentian and Nazareth tied for the section lead with one loss each. Union is a game behind with two losses.

Cornell plays Vincentian Tuesday night and Nazareth Friday night, both at home. Cornell has not beaten Vincentian in several years, losing both both home and away in the section and then losing to them again in the WPIAL playoffs. Cornell suffered its only section loss to Nazareth by one basket in overtime back in December. If Cornell is to win the section and get that first round bye and favorable postseason draw it is essential they win both games next week. The Raiders have yet to go to Union, Eden and Vincentian, all very difficult places to play, so it's quite possible they may pick up a second or even third loss. They need to inflict a second loss on Nazareth and Vincentian right now. Union gets Nazareth at home and Nazareth gets Vincentian at home later this month, so it's very likely the section winner will have two or even three losses. WPIAL computer rankings have Vincentian, Cornell, Nazareth and Union ranked 1-2-3-4 in class A, with Monessen 5th, so Section 1A-1 is overloaded with power teams.

SH Girls "Win Ugly" Over Northgate, 65-24

It was not a pretty game. There were errant passes, fouls, jump balls, ballhandling mistakes, missed layups and lots of wrestling around on the floor for loose balls.

But Sacred Heart was just too much for Northgate and cruised to a 65-24 win. Northgate scored first on a baseline jump shot. But the Flames wouldn't score again until a free throw with a minute left in the quarter. By then, Ashley Norling had hit a layup and free throw, Hannah Valenty a layup and corner three, Maddie Hoff a three from the side, one from the top and a jump shot, and Tess Deken two free throws for a 19-2 lead.

Norling and Haley Hamilton opened the second with layups and then Hoff took over. She drained a side three, two free throws, a layup and a baseline jumper. Norling and Deken added free throws and OLSH led at halftime 35-11.

Northgate could not penetrate the Charger inside defense. All the Flames could do was fire threes, few of which they hit.

And the third quarter got worse fast. Hamilton and Norling hit free throws, Valenty a layup, Norling a baseline jumper, Emily Schuck a rebound and follow, Hoff a top three, Deken a long baseline push shot and Katie Penn two free throws for a 52-17 lead with 2:01.

At this point Coach Don Eckerle began substituting freely. Katie Hoff scored a soft hook, Kennedy Walsh a layup and free throw and Abby Aiello a rebound and follow for 59-19.

The fourth quarter featured a running clock except for free throws, so there wasn't much scoring. Walsh hit a layup and free throw, and Katie Hoff a follow and free throw.

Hoff led all scorers with 18, followed closely by Norling with 16. The other scoring was Walsh six, Deken and Katie Hoff five, Schuck and Valenty four, Hamilton three, and Aiello and Penn two.

Coach Eckerle was skeptical. "Any win in the section is good, and we shot a lot better tonight," he told reporters. "But we were way too careless with the ball. We've got to eliminate these mistakes before we go on the road."

Sacred Heart travels to South Side Beaver Monday. South Side won at Aliquippa 44-32 Thursday night, but lost to Laurel 36-32 Monday so now trails Sacred Heart by one game in the section standings, 5-1 to 6-0. Laurel is tied with South Side at 5-1. For South Side to contend for the section title they must defeat OLSH at home Monday.

South Side cannot be overlooked. They've lost four games, but three of the losses were to Lincoln Park, an opponent in Cleveland and one in California.

 

Free Throws, Wigley Lead OLSH, 76-68
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Austin Wigley scored 31 points and his teammates hit 24 of 25 free throws as Sacred Heart beat visiting Aliquippa 76-68 Tuesday night.

It was a huge game for the Chargers. Their unbeaten season had been ended by North Catholic Saturday and Aliquippa was another highly ranked opponent. Even though it was a non section game, a capacity crowd filled the OLSH gym.

Sacred Heart had lost the North Catholic game by falling behind by 10 points in the first quarter. They made sure this didn't happen again. Wigley and Dante Spadafora hit threes the first two trips down the floor. At the 6:00 mark, OLSH held a 10-2 lead. They maintained it 25-19 at the quarter stop.

Aliquippa's best rally came in the second quarter when they cut the lead to 27-26. But a Sacred Heart time out quelled that, and the Chargers went on a 12-0 run for a 41-31 halftime edge.

The Quips cut it back to seven, 50-43, after three, and the teams battled on even terms through the fourth. Aliquippa never could narrow the gap.

The Quip full court press, which has proven deadly for so many teams, did not work. Spadafora took the first pass and brought the ball upcourt. In their attemprs to stop him, Aliquippa defnders fouled him, and he hit 10 for 10 free throws.

Spadafora finished with 18 points.

Although it has several competent three point shooters, Sacred Heart didn't use them much. As the second half wore on, the Chargers more and more focused on working for the uncontested layup. The Quips had no choice but to go out and chase them on the perimeter, which opened things up inside.

The win leaves Sacred Heart 10-1. The Chargers return to the section wars Friday at Mohawk.

"We knew we had to control the tempo and not get into a run and gun with Aliquippa," OLSH Coach Mike Rodriguez said. "For the most part we did that. Just a few times they sped the tempo up but we were able to regain control and slow it back down."

Aliquippa drops to 7-4 overall, but that's misleading. The Quips have played a tough schedule of much larger schools. They're expected it battle with Lincoln Park for their section title.

Sacred Heart and Sewickley Academy are currently tied for the section lead with 4-0 records. They're two games ahead of second place South Side, which stands 2-2.

Cornell Defense Suffocates Union 61-34

Last year, Union Township (Newcastle) sank a barrage of threes and handed Cornell a devastating home loss that derailed the Raider drive to a section title. That loss festered in the minds of Cornell players for 12 months and gave their coaches grounds to focus on defense for the last week.

This year's Union team is ranked #1 in the WPIAL and sat atop Section 1A-1 standings with a 5-0 record. The Scotties have already beaten Vincentian by eight points and once again are known for their three point shooting.

Tuesday night, Cornell was more than ready. The Raiders were on a mission. Every time a Union player touched the ball, a hand was in his face. Every time a Union player went to one of his favorite shooting spots, a Cornell player was there waiting for him. And the pressure was relentless. Every time down the floor. Everywhere on the floor. Every shot, every player.

The result was a Union team averaging 76 points a game couldn't score. Its 34 points was the lowest for a Union varsity in five years.

This year's three point bomber is Scott Pinkerton, averaging 25 points per game. "We felt if we could shut him down we had a good chance," Cornell Coach Bill Sacco said later. Pinkerton finished with 15, most of which came after the game was out of reach and the Cornell reserves were in.

With all those Union shots missing, Cornell crashed the boards. Isiah Langston (#3 in the photo at right) led with 15 rebounds. A Union team that has outrebounded every team all year got very few second shots.

Those rebounds were fired downcourt, mostly to Kaden Divito (dribbling, photo below) or Zaire Harrison (shooting, photo bottom).

Divito came ready for war. In pregame warmups, he hit 11 straight threes and 14 of 15. He and Harrison scored 15 of Cornell's first 17 points en route to a 17-8 lead. The other two points were on a hashmark jumper by Sharone Bronaugh.

Divito and Harrison were two of the starters in that loss last year, and they continued their personal vendetta in the second quarter. Luke Piccolo hit a layup and free throw, and Langston scored on a follow. But Divito and Harrison started sinking threes, Divito from the side and Harrison from on top. At halftime it was 31-17.

Sacco preaches to his teams about the importance of the first three minutes of the third quarter. "When you have a team down, you've got to put them away," he emphasizes.

To open the third, Langston scored on a follow, Divito hit a top three and Piccolo laid one in for 38-17.

Langston drained a corner three, Blaine Sams hit a layup, and Divito a corner three and two free throws for a 47-27 lead at the quarter stop.

Cornell suffered its only lapse early in the fourth, with several errant passes. But Sacco called time and ordered the team into its trademark five man weave. Union came out to guard this and passes went behind them to Divito and Langston for layups. Union sent in its smaller, quicker guards to apply pressure, and Harrison sank a side three. Langston hit one conventional layup and then put the exclamation point on the win with a spectacular dunk on which he went high, fired the ball down, it hit the back of the rim, bounced way above the backboard, and dropped back through the basket.

Divito led all scorers with 26. Langston added 13, Harrison 12, Piccolo six, and Sams and Bronaugh two each.

Divito had seven assists and Langston six. Jeavontae Kingwalden contributed seven rebounds and four steals. Divito added five rebounds.

The win leaves Cornell, Union, Vincentian, Nazareth and Eden tied for first place with one loss each. Tuesday night, Eden rolled over Western Beaver 66-38, Vincentian beat Quigley 78-45 and Nazareth won at Rochester 75-45. Those standings will shake out over the next two weeks, however, as all the top five teams play each other. Cornell goes to Quigley this Friday, but hosts Vincentian and Nazareth next Tuesday and Friday, then gets Eden a week later.

Cornell JVs Grab Section Lead, 45-37

Cornell's Junior Varsity, a random mix of last year's junior high team and a few sophomores and juniors, rose to their finest game of the season Tuesday night to beat a taller, beefier and older Union 45-37.

The win left the Raiders all alone atop the Section 1A-1 standings.

Everyone did their part, but three sophomores who turned in the best games of their careers were Drew Lopez (photo, right), a silky smooth guard with an explosive first step, Sharone Bronaugh (photo below), coming into his own as a rugged rebounder, defender and scorer in the low post, and M.J. Smith, (bottom center photo), a versatile wing man who can score, rebound, handle the ball or defend anywhere on the floor.

They faced quite a challenge in Union, which had won six games by outrebounding and outshooting everyone. And Union opened up with a corner three and several layups to take an early lead and keep retaking it until almost half.

But Bronaugh and Smith rebounding and firing it out to Lopez gave him three layups and Cornell a 7-5 lead after one. Blaine Sams and Smith hit side threes, Patrick Scott and Smith scored on layups and Bronaugh added a free throw for an 18-13 halftime edge.

Layups by Sams, Lopez and Smith, a baseline jumper by Bronaugh after a rebound, and a great rebound and putback by Nathan Wooten (photo below right) kept Cornell up 31-21 after three.

The final quarter saw several heroics. Bronaugh hauled down a rebound and executed a reverse pivot jump shot at the hashmark. Lopez scored on a double pump underhanded layup through two defenders. Patrick Scott hit a hashmark jumper. Then Union went to a full court press with 3:51 left and Cornell fired past it for layups by Craig Pulford and Lopez and two by Bronaugh.

Lopez led all scorers with 14. Bronaugh and Smith each had nine, Sams five, Scott four, and Pulford and Wooten two each.

The deciding factor was Cornell's quickness. The Raiders outquicked Union on offense and defense but most importantly on the boards. Cornell's Carmen D'Allessandro (photo below left) also frustrated Union. The smallest player on a WPIAL roster, D'Allessandro uses his size as an advantage. As the photo shows, he's so much smaller than opponents that if they try to crouch down, they're in an awkward stance and can't keep up, and if they stand upright he dribbles or passes around or under them.

Cornell's coaching staff was happy about the win. "The actual score is irrelevant since there's no WPIAL playoff for JV teams. We don't care what the record is. Undefeated is just something for the kids to get excited about. What we do care about is the progress this team is showing. They're learning to play together, to play under control, to make good decisions out there. They're learning how much effort it takes to win, and how once you get a lead on a team, you need to put them away and not let them back in it."

Cold Shooting OLSH Wins Anyway, 58-21

Sacred Heart couldn't buy a basket. They made only one of their first 15 shots. But visiting Sto-Rox couldn't hit either, and OLSH finally got back on track. In the last three minutes of the first quarter, Ashley Norling sank four free throws, Katie Penn and Grace Bradley laid in one each, Haley Hamilton hit a layup and a jumper, and it was 12-0.

Maddie Hoff took over in the second. She hit threes from the side and one from on top, then added a follow underneath. Hamilton hit a layup, Hannah Varlenty two more, and Norling added a jumper and two layups for a 35-9 halftime edge.

The third quarter was more of the same. Norling sank two corner threes, a follow and a free throw. Hamilton added two free throws and a layup, Hoff laid one in, and Emily Schuck hit a foul line jumper to make it 52-17. There wasn't much scoring in the fourth. Schuck and Hoff hit layups and Norling a jumper from the top of the lane. Reserves saw plenty of action.

The win left Sacred Heart 8-3 overall and 5-0 in the section. They're 3rd in the WPIAL Class 2A rankings.

Sacred Heart had a size advantage, but the real difference in the game was their quickness. Their quicker feet allowed them to get position underneath and on defense, and their quicker hands allowed them to steal the ball repeatedly. Coach Don Eckerle (seen standing in the photo below) was satisfied with the win but told reporters his team still had work to do.

"It's nice to have these experienced seniors who have learned how to win under various situations," he said. "But we have to spread our scoring more. If we're going to achieve our goals for this year, we have to give defenses as many problems as possible. And we sure can't afford scoring droughts like we had tonight."

Norling led all scorers with 21. Hoff had 13, Hamilton 10, Schuck and Varlenty four each, and Penn and Bradley two each.

OLSH Girls Rally In 4th To Win 56-41
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

The OLSH girls struggled for three quarters against Washington Saturday afternoon in the Chuck Mahoney Classic at Burgettstown. They looked to be in trouble after three. But a furious fourth quarter rally pushed them to a 56-41 victory and a 7-3 record. OLSH is ranked 3rd in Class 2A.

Washington stayed right with Sacred Heart for much of the gane. It was 12-10 after one and 26-22 at the half. The Prexies took a 36-34 lead at the end of the third and seemed to have seized the momentum.

But then Sacred Heart exploded in a 22-5 final stanza for the 56-41 lead.

Ashley Norling led OLSH with 25. Maddie Hoff added 12.

Sacred Heart returns to Section 2A-1 action this week with home games against Sto-Rox Monday and Northgate Thursday. The girls presently lead the section with a 4-0 record, tied with South Side. But the big showdown is coming next Monday when OLSH travels to South Side.

Their southern Beaver County rivals are 8-3 on the season, having lost exhibition games in Cleveland and California and a cross county matchup with Lincoln Park.

North Catholic Hands OLSH First Loss 87-81
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

North Catholic grabbed a 25-15 first quarter lead Saturday afternoon and then hung on to hand Sacred Heart its first loss of the season, 87-81.

The Chargers fought back but could never overcome that 10 point deficit. They scored 21 in the second quarter while holding North Catholic to 16 and went to halftime trailing only 41-36. They outscored North Catholic 24-23 in a furious third quarter rally and cut the gap to 64-60. But the home team outlasted Sacred Heart 23-21 in the fourth.

The real story of the game was North Catholic's Isaac Degregorio. Sacred Heart tried everything and could not stop him. He ended with 35 points.

Austin Wigley led Sacred Heart with 26. Dante Spadafora added 22, Jake Dimichele 16 and Ricco Tate 10.

North Catholic is now 7-3 overall and 2-1 in its 3A section.

Sacred Heart falls to 9-1 but is still 4-0 in the section and ranked #2 in Class 2A. The Chargers play 3A Aliquippa at home Tuesday night. Aliquippa is 7-3 overall, having lost to Butler, ranked #1 in 6A, Moon, ranked #1 in 5A, and Lincoln Park, ranked #1 in 3A. The Quips have their usual tall, fast, quick, hot shooting lineup.

OLSH resumes Section 2A-3 action Friday at Mohawk.

Big Third Quarter Boosts Raiders, 66-53

Chartiers Houston rose to one of its better games of its 6-6 season and only trailed Cornell 19-15 Saturday after one and 31-25 at halftime. But the Raiders went to their press and exploded for an 18-5 third quarter to nail down a 68-53 win.

Ch-H focused on Kaden Divito and held him to 10, his lowest output of the year. But Zaire Harrison (with ball in photo, right) stepped up with 16. Isiah Langston and Jeavonte Kingwalden added 12 each.

The game was played at Burgettstown at 3 pm as part of the one day Chuck Mahoney Classic.

Cornell is now 9-2 and ranked #4 in the WPIAL.

But the Raiders have one of the year's most important showdowns this week, a Tuesday night home battle with Union. Union is ranked #1 in the WPIAL, has already beaten Vincentian, and stands 10-1 overall and 4-0 in Section 1A-1. The Scotties last year handed Cornell a devastating loss at home that relegated the Raiders to a runnerup berth in the postseason.

Unbeaten OLSH Cruises Over Laurel 84-44
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart was already comfortably ahead 48-29 at the half but then exploded with a 34 point third quarter to leave visiting Laurel in the dust, 84-44 Friday night at its Montour Hill gym.

It left OLSH in the lead in Section 2A-3 at 4-0, a game ahead of second place Sewickley at 3-0.

Daren DiMichele led the Chargers with 19 points, 11 of them coming in that red hot third quarter.

Dante Spadafora added 15, while Ricco Tate had 13 and Austin Wigley 12. Tate also led SH rebounders with 10.

The third quarter got all the attention, but Sacred Heart put the game away in the first with a 25-12 start. Both teams had their reserves in for the fourth quarter and not much scoring occurred.

The Chargers are now unbeaten and ranked #2 among WPIAL Class 2A teams.

They play at 3A North Catholic this afternoon (Saturday) and return home to host always tough Aliquippa Tuesday. Their next Section game is Friday at Mohawk.

It's Lights Out For Cornell JVs At Eden

Friday was a dark night for Cornell's unbeaten Junior Varsity in every possible way.

Drew Lopez and Sharone Bronaugh missed practices over the holidays so were held out early. Jeavontae Kingwalden is playing more in varsity games so is only playing a few minutes with the JVs.

Four freshmen (Carmine D'Allessandro, Patrick Scott, M.J. Smith and Craig Pulford) and one junior (Nathan Wooten) started against a taller, older and more experienced Eden Christian team that began the game hot on its home floor.

The result was a first quarter disaster. Cornell fell behind 12-0 and 15-1. Finally Kingwalden was sent in to stop the bleeding and hit a three from on top to make it 15-4. Blaine Sams scored a layup (photo right) and Kingwalden a jump shot for 20-8 at the quarter break. Sams hit two threes and Kingwalden a layup[ and suddenly it was 20-16 with 4:38 left til half. But Eden continued its hot shooting and Cornell went cold. The only Raider point the rest of the way was one free throw by Bronaugh.

The halftime score was 33-17. Patrick Scott opened up the third quarter with two layups and two free throws to cut it to 33-22. It seemed just possible Cornell might stage a miraculous rally.

Then the lights went out. Literally. A power outage in the North Hills cut the lights in the Noblestown Road area. Duquesne Light estimated a three hour wait, so officials postponed the game. Because it's a section game, it will have to be rescheduled but no date has been set.

The Eden gym is a contradictory place. It's the most beautiful in the county. It's small but a crafted wood ceiling (photo, left) and bright lights set it apart from the concrete block, steel girder underlit gyms at most schools. Eden's floor is a few feet shorter and narrower than regulation and it doesn't seat many. If the temperature rises above 50 the floor beads up with moisture so Eden runs the AC permanently and fans have to keep their coats on. Still, it's a fine place to play or watch a game.

Cornell plays Chartiers Houston today (Saturday) at 3 at Burgettstown.

Cornell Blows Out Bishop Canevin, 71-35

After a close first quarter, Cornell went to its full court press and blew Bishop Canevin off its own floor 71-35 Friday night.

The win gave Cornell the championship of the Bishop Canevin Holiday . Tournament. Zaire Harrison and Kaden Divito were named to rhe All Tournament team. The Raiders are now 8-2 on the season and ranked 4th in the WPIAL.

Despite the onesided final score, it was an interesting game. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco started sophomore Sharone Bronaugh (#50 in bottom photo) and junior Blaine Sams. They totalled their most varsity minutes ever, giving Sacco confidence in his bench entering the Section 1A grind resuming next Friday at Eden.

Isiah Langston (#3 in photo, right) turned in his best game so far. He contributed 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and played solid defense.

Canevin learned from watching Carrick Thursday night. The Crusaders started in a triangle and two defense but instead of doubleteaming Divito they decided to guard Divito and Harrison with one man each while using the triangle to prevent any inside shots.

They led for a while with two threes and three layups. But Divito scored three layups, a free throw and a three from up top, and Luke Piccolo added another top three to finally pull Cornell ahead 13-12 as the quarter ended.

Langston opened the second quarter with a layup but a Canevin top three tied it at 15-15. Sacco had seen enough. He called time and ordered the Raiders into their full court press. The Crusaders absolutely could not deal with the quick hands and foot speed of Cornell and could nor get the ball past midcourt. Operating off steals and quick passes down floor, Langston hit a top three, Jeavontae Kingwalden (photo, left) a foul line jump shot, Harrison and Divito layups and Piccolo a side three. Suddenly it was 27-15.

Canevin called time. Coach Kevin Trost diagrammed a play to get the ball upcourt, bringing two players over to the sideline below the trap. Cornell only had one player guarding that area, so whichever player he did not pick up would be open for the pass out of the trap. This worked for about a minute, and Canevin scored two jumpers from the side and two free throws to narrow the score to 29-21.

But Cornell adjusted, bringing Kingwalden over to pick up the second receiver. And the Raiders were off and running again. A follow and layup by Harrison and top three by Piccolo pushed it to 34-21 at halftime.

Cornell stayed in the press in the third quarter and put Canevin away. A Langston jumper from the circle, free throws and a top three by Divito, a layup by Langston and two more by Divito, and two straight threes by Blaine Sams put the Raiders up 55-24 with 1:36 to go in the third and Sacco called off the press.

The fourth was just a matter of working on offensive sets and waiting for layups. Bronaugh followed two rebounds with layups, and Langston, Harrison, Divito and Piccolo laid several more in for the 71-35 final. At 2:05 Sacco ordered the outside weave, and Cornell played out the clock with no further shots. Canevin fell to 5-3. Divito led all scorers with 29 points. Langston and Piccolo had 11, Harrison eight, Sams six, Bronaugh four and Kingwalden two. Divito had six assists and Harrison led with eight steals.

Bronaugh (photo, right) continues to develop as a rebounder and inner defender. But he still tends to wander away from the hashmark out to the perimeter, instead of establishing himself as a muscular presence inside. Cornell is rich with quick fast hot shooting guards but needs more strong low post play. Bronaugh should be breaking quickly from the hashmark to the foul line, then down the opposite side of the lane to the other hash mark, constantly calling for the ball. At the least, this would force the defense to cover him, freeing teammates for drives and short jumpers. Even better, with an explosive first step or a few moves, maybe a reverse layup or foul line jumper, he could become a scoring threat. With defenses already going nuts trying to stop Divito, Harrison and Langston, a consistent scoring threat in the lane would be a devastating weapon.

Divito, Harrison Lead Cornell Past Carrick

Juniors Kaden Divito (photo, right) and Zaire Harrison (photo, below) scored 27 and 25 points to lead a furious second half rally as Cornell caught up to Carrick and eked out a 67-59 win in the first round of the Bishop Canevin Tournament.

Cornell had trailed the entire game, much of it by 10 and 11 points. The taller and more experienced Pittsburgh City School double teamed Divito and matched Cornell's speed, quickness and clever shooting.

Divito began the night struggling. Bothered by a hamstring muscle, he was denied the ball as the doubleteaming defense overplayed the passing lanes.

"I've watched Divito beat too many teams," Carrick Coach Walt Malinski said. "We worked all week on shutting him down."

They did for a while. Kaden broke away for only two layups in the first quarter. Harrison scored on a layup and a free throw early. No one else helped. Carrick controlled the boards and led 15-7 after one.

It got worse in the second. Divito hit one three from the corner and one from above the circle. Harrison added four layups, a runner, a three from up top and a free throw. Isiah Langston contributed a free throw. But Carrick was also hitting threes and scored on plenty of layups and follows to lead 38-29 at halftime.

Finally, in the third quarter, Cornell started clicking. Carrick defenders were getting in foul trouble and had to back off Divito. A blistering half time talk sent Cornell back onto the floor with renewed vigor.

Divito opened the attack with a layup, a side three, a jumper from the circle and a rebound and follow to singlehandedly cut it to 38-36 with 3:37.

Jeavonte Kingwalden picked up his fourth foul with 3:20 left in the third and Langston his fourth right at the end. This left Carrick with an even greater size and rebounding advantage. But Harrison laid one in and Divito added another layup and follow to keep Cornell close 44-42 at the quarter break.

The fourth quarter was a battle all the way. A Harrison layup and two free throws by Sharone Broughton kept it close at 48-46 with 6:50. A side three by Divito cut it to 50-49 at 6:00, and a top three by Divito tied it at 52 with 5:40. Harrison and Broughton scored layups to put Cornell ahead for the first time, 56-52 with 3:54. A follow by Langston and Harrison free throws extended it to 60-54 with 1:18. Kingwalden fouled out at 1:12 and Cornell Coach Bill Sacco sent the Raiders into their outside weave. Carrick had to foul. Harrison hit two free throws at 0:53 and Langston sank one at 0:29 to make it 63-57. He missed the second and Broughton muscled up against taller opponents and hauled down a huge rebound. He was fouled in the process and sank the free throw for 64-57 . Broughton and Langston would hit additional free throws for the 67-59 final.

Divito led all scorers with 27 as Harrison had 25. Divito also led all rebounders with 12 and added six assists. Langston had 10 rebounds and Harrison three steals. Cornell plays in the finals tonight (Friday) at 8 pm.

Cornell Smashes Sto-Rox 65-45

Cornell, playing an unusual two games in two days, still had enough energy to smash Sto-Rox 65-45 Saturday.

Only the first quarter was close. Cornell led 14-12 going into the second. Then they went to their press and blew Sto Rox away 17-4 for a 31-16 halftime lead. The Raiders continued to roll, 22-11 in the third, and ahead 53-27 it was time for the reserves.

Kaden Divito led all scorers with 27 points. Zaire Harrison had 15. For Sto-Rox Malik Smith scored 14. Sto Rox falls to 4-3.

Cornell, now 6-2, takes Christmas off, then returns to action next Thursday (December 27) against Imani at Bishop Canevin at 6 pm in Greentree. Canevin is only a few blocks off the Parkway West.

Imani is a Pittsburgh academy which knocked Cornell out of the WPIAL playoffs two years ago. As a nonboundary school Imani can recruit across the city plus in the eastern suburbs like Wilkinsburg, Swissvale and Braddock.

Sacred Heart Boys Still Unbeaten, 74-40
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart's boys put Burgettstown away early Friday night in a 74-40 romp.

The win left the Chargers still unbeaten overall and in section play and ranked #1 in the WPIAL in Class 2A.

OLSH led 22-4 after the first quarter and 37-13 at halftime. They pushed it out to 63-31 in the third quarter.

Although Sacred Heart enjoyed a productive night on offense, it was their defense that stifled Burgettstown. The Blue Devils had trouble getting the ball up the floor, running their plays and getting their usual shots off.

SH's Jake DiMichele led all scorers with 15. Dane Spadafora had 13 and Daren DiMichele 10.

The Chargers will play two games in the Deer Lakes Tournament next week, then return to section play against Laurel Friday night, January 4.

OLSH Girls Crush Shenango 72-18
Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Our Lady of Sacred Heart crushed Shenango 72-18 Thursday night to bring their record to 4-2, 3-0 in Section 2A-1.

It was never close. Sacred Heart led 20-4 after one and 38-6 at halftime. The girls pushed that to 54-14 after three.

Maddie Hoff led all scorers with 18. Ashley Norling and Grace Bradley added 13 each and Haley Hamilton got in double figures with 10.

OLSH now breaks for Christmas, then plays two games in the Keystone Oaks Tournament December 27-28. Their first opponent is Montour.

Raiders Grab Road Win At Rochester 82-44

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco's theory is that to win the section a team has to win all its home games and four road games. To make the playoffs as a runnerup a team has to win all its home games and three road games.

His Raiders took a step towards those goals Friday night by picking up a road win at Rochester. It was a pretty impressive road win, too, 82-44.

Cornell was a little slow out of the starting gate, leading only 16-11 after the first quarter. But the Raiders went to their press in the second, outscoring Rochester 36-11 for a 52-22 halftime edge. The Rams couldn't handle the press, committing turnover after turnover. They were taller than Cornell at three positions but didn't have the speed, quickness or shooting.

"We play better at high speed than we do in a grind it out game," Sacco observed. "Our press lets us speed a game up."

Sacco substituted freely throughout the second half.

Kaden Divito led all scorers with 30, 15 coming off five three pointers. Isiah Langston had 17 and Zaire Harrison 15.

It came on an important night in the section, as Union, ranked #2 in the WPIAL, knocked off #1 Vincentian 81-76, Eden beat Quigley 68-59 and Nazareth won at Western Beaver.

So as the teams break for Christmas, Union stands alone atop the section at 3-0. Cornell, Eden, Vincentian and Nazareth are tied for second at 2-1. Western is third at 1-2. Rochester and Quigley are tied for last at 0-3.

In January the Raiders get back to the Section 1A wars at Eden January 4 and home with Union January 8 in what will be one of the most important games of the year. But first, Cornell plays Sto-Rox today (Saturday) at Montour at 5 pm and Imani at Bishop Canevin December 27 (Thursday) at 6 pm.

Cornell Cruises Over Western Beaver, 85-47

Cornell jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back Tuesday night in an 85-47 home win over Western Beaver.

Fans eyed the visitor lineup apprehensively during warmups. The Golden Beavers had impressive size and were hitting their practice shots. But the Raiders ran off and left them once the game started.

Kaden Divito started the avalanche with a three from on top. Layups by Isiah Langston and Jeavontae Kingwalden, a top three by Langston, and layups by Divito and Luke Piccolo (photo, below) made it 14-0 with 3:22. Two layups by Zaire Harrison (shooting in photo, right) made it 18-7 at the quarter break.

Langston opened the second with a free throw. Harrison then added four layups, a free throw and a top three; Divito hit a corner three and a layup and Drew Lopez laid one in for the 38-19 halftime edge.

In the third, Cornell's press produced a flurry of steals and nine layups by Divoto, Harrison, Langston. "Z" added a free throw and it was 59-32 at the quarter break.

In rhe fourth period, layups by Langston, Divito, Harrison, numerous free throws by Blaine Sams, Patrick Scott, Divito, Langston, and Sharone Bronaugh made it 85-47.

Divito led all scorers with 31. Harrison added 25 and Langston 18.

Langston led all rebounders with 10, followed by Kingwalden with eight.

Divito also has 10 assists and six steals.

Elsewhere in the section, Vincentian edged Nazareth Prep at home 72-67, Eden beat Rochester at home 58-49, and Union won at Quigley 71-41.

That leaves Vincentian and Union with an early lead at 2-0 each. Cornell is tied in second with Nazareth, Eden and Western Beaver at 1-1 each. Rochester and Quigley are at the bottom at 0-2 each.

Cornell plays at Rochester Friday night. It faces two exhibition games on neutral floors over the holidays : Sto-Rox at Montour this Saturday (December 22), and Imani at Bishop Canevin Thursday, December 27.

In January the Raiders get back to the Section 1A wars at Eden January 4 and home with Union January 8.

Vincentian is ranked #1 in the WPIAL, with Cornell #3. The Raiders were ranked #2 but lost to Brashear and Nazareth Prep. The loss to 5A Brashear didn't hurt much, especially since it was at Brashear. But the loss on a neutral court to Nazareth did hurt.

Statewide, Vincentian is ranked #5 and Cornell #10.

Vincentian plays at Cornell January 15th. Cornell plays at Vincentian the last night of the regular season, February 8th. Those two games could decide the section championship but the loss to Nazareth puts Cornell at a disadvantage unless someone else upsets Vincentian.

Cornell JVs Continue To Improve, 52-30

Cornell's Junior Varsity continues to improve with each game. The young Raiders stepped up considerably Tuesday night with a 52-30 home win over Western Beaver.

The Golden Beavers are not one of the top JVs in Section 1A. But they do have size, bulk, good shooting, speed and experience and gave Cornell a good game for a half. They led throughout rhe first quarter and stayed close in the second.

Sharone Bronaugh (dribbling in photo below) scored on the baseline and Patrick Scott (with the ball in photo, right) added a free throw for a brief Cornell lead at 3-2 with 4:29, but Western quickly used a layup and free throws to regain it at 6-3. Jeavonte Kingwalden's three from the side and free throws kept Cornell close but it was 8-10 at the quarter break.

Drew Lopez (#24 in photo below) took over in rhe second. He hit a side three and two layups off steals to put Cornell up 15-10.

Craig Pulford and Bronaugh added layups and Kingwalden a side three for a 23-15 halftime lead.

Cornell went to a press in the third quarter and came up with repeated steals. Lopez scored on four layups (three off steals) and a free throw and Kingwalden hit a three from on top and another layup for a 37-23 third quarter advantage.

That set up the usual scenario where Cornell's sophomores and juniors depart for the dressing room and preparation for the varsity game and the freshmen are left to hang on. But they're getting better at that. Tuesday, instead of gradually losing the lead or protecting it with a ball control game, they actually expanded it from 14 points to 22, from 37-23 to 52-30.

The signal that the freshmen had become more aggressive came with 6:00 to go when Carmine D'Allessandro ("Nootch") sank a three from on top. D'Allessandro at 5-0 is the smallest player on any high school roster in the WPIAL, but he's a slick ballhandler, a pest on defense and a good shot when he can get a clear view of the basket. As the photo below shows, he's dwarfed by the defense, but he's a crowd favorite. A side three by M.J. Smith, a top three and layup by Blaine Sams (#12, waiting for the pass in the photo below), and two layups by Scott rounded out the scoring.

Lopez led everyone with 16 points. Kingwalden added 13. They're both varsity level players. Lopez is only a sophomore. Kingwalden is a junior but lost all last season with an ankle injury.

It's the development of the other JV players that makes coming to watch the JV game worthwhile.

Scott is becoming an effective point guard. He still shows lapses where he thinks of shot first rather than penetrate and assist first. He does not yet fully grasp the idea that the job of the point guard is to make everyone else better. But it's only December, and he's ahead of schedule. He shows speed, quickness and good floor vision.

Bronaugh is also struggling to fully understand his role. At 5-10 he sees himself as a perimeter player and keeps drifting outside. But his bulk and strength make him a badly needed inside rebounder, defender and scorer. He should eventually be the next Antonio Gary, who from 2014-2017 manned the low post on consecutive Cornell playoff teams. Gary was also just 5-10 but developed the moves and skills to compete against opponents six inches taller. As a sophomore, Bronaugh should be leading this JV team with 15 rebounds every game.

The Cornell JVs play at Rochester Friday night.

Nazareth Hands Cornell Damaging 2OT Loss, 77-75

Undefeated Nazareth Prep's Jabriel Johnson scored with three seconds left in the second overtime to hand Cornell a damaging 77-75 loss in the section 1A opener Friday night for both teams.

It blew a golden opportunity for the Raiders. Nazareth's gym has an undersized floor and no scoreboard (the one it installed last year isn't working), so the school has moved home games to the new Robert Morris Events Center. Last year section contenders had a difficult time with the cramped quarters, Union lost there, and Cornell barely escaped with a one point victory. So getting to play Nazareth on a neutral floor instead was a chance to pick up a valuable road win.

Vincentian, ranked #1 in the WPIAL, and Union, ranked fourth, both won big, the Centurions 80-44 over Rochester and the Scotties 73-41 over Eden. So with one more free throw in regulation, Cornell could have started the section tied for first place. Instead, the Raiders are now a game down while Nazareth is tied for first.

The 80-44 and 73-41 margins also suggest that Vincentian and Union are stronger then expected. Section 1A was already rated the toughest in the WPIAL and now looks to be even tougher. It has four private schools which can (and do) recruit their teams from a wide area. And it has eight teams. The other sections have seven or even six, have only one or two private schools, and have one or no ranked teams.

Nazareth Prep is the former Holy Family Institute. Located on a hilltop campus where Camp Horne Road intersects the Ohio River Boulevard, Nazareth is a Catholic school which provides intense tutoring, counseling and small classes to remediate students and help them gain entry to colleges.

As Holy Family, these starters made the WPIAL playoffs last season. With those players back, two transfers and five new recruits, this Nazareth team is loaded. Cornell edged them twice last year, but Coach Bill Sacco knew they were dangerous.

And Cornell came ready to play. The Raiders grabbed a 16-12 first quarter lead. Nazareth outscored them 18-12 in the second to lead 30-28 at halftime. The two battled on even terms throughout the wild, physical second half, with Cornell narrowing the lead to one, 42-41 at the end of the third. They again outscored Nazareth, 20-19, to tie it at 61-61 at the buzzer. The first overtime ended 68-68. The second overtime could have gone either way. But Nazareth prevailed 77-75.

Cornell's Kaden Divito (photo, above) led all scorers with 27. Zaire Harrison had 20 and Isiah Langston (photo, left) 11. Will Taylor led Nazareth with 22. Tre Harvey had 14, Hasaan Ismaeli 12 and Jabriel Johnson 11 for the winners.

The key to the game might have been in the scoring. Cornell got double digit scoring from its three returning upperclassmen, but needed one of the newcomers to step up. None did. Nazareth had four double digit scorers. In a one basket double overtime game, that tiny margin made the difference.

Divito and Harrison scored most of their points on slashing drives to the basket, with a few threes each when the defense sagged back to stop those drives. But Nazareth had a decided size advantage and not only kept Cornell from getting many second shots, but did get their own second shots at the other end.

Cornell plays Western Beaver at home Tuesday night.

Cornell Routs Braddock 71-36

Cornell warmed up for its first big section showdown by routing Braddock 71-36 Tuesday night.

Kaden Divito (photo, right) led the Raiders with 25 points on both threes and acrobatic drives down the lane.

But Cornell opened the game with a flurry of baskets from all of its major starters. Zaire Harrison contributed a layup, Jaevontae King Walden hit a three from up top, Isiah Langston a three from the side, Luke Piccolo (photo below) a layup, and Divito two free throws. Suddenly it was 12-2 and the game was, for all practical purposes, over with 4:37 left in the first quarter.

Another twisting Harrison layup and a three and Divito free throws made it 22-8 at the break.

The spread widened much further in the second quarter. Layups and free throws by Divito, threes by Langston and Blaine Sams, and a free theow by Sharone Bronaugh pushed it to 37-13 by halftime.

King Walden and Divito did all the scoring for the first four minutes of the third quarter, King Walden a side three and layup and Divito two layups and a corner three. Free throws by Harrison and Bronaugh and layups by Sams and Harrison put Cornell up 60-22 entering the fourth quarter.

Reserves played most of the fourth quarter, with freshmen finishing out trhe last four minutes.

Behind Divito's 25 points, Langston had 14, Harrison nine, King Walden eight and Sams seven.

Langston led all rebounders with 10.

Divito led everyone with seven assists. Langston had six.

So the Raiders are now 3-1 entering their early season showdown with Nazareth Prep at the Robert Morris University UPMC Events Center Friday night.

Nazareth Prep, in Emsworth, is the former Holy Family Institute. Under new management, it has greatly expanded its athletic program from four to 10 teams in everything from football and basketball to bowling.

Holy Family had already begun to import inner city Pittsburgh youth, and Nazareth Prep has continued that policy. Last year, the team made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time, and with the addition of several talented newcomers to a returning core of veterans, this team is favored to do so again.

Last year Cornell beat Holy Family twice, but both games were close. Cornell escaped with a one point win over at Holy Family.

For a century, WPIAL teams played "exhibition" games in December and did not begin section play until January. That gave football players time to regain their basketball timing and reflexes. But the regular season extended until late February and only section winners advanced to the postseason. Since the WPIAL began taking more teams from each section, the playoffs take longer, so they start in mid February. That has forced the scheduling of December section games.

This season is going to be especially difficult for Section One teams. Eden Christian has been added to the section. So Vincentian, Nazareth, Quigley and Eden, all of which can recruit from multiple school districts, join traditional powers Union, Rochester and Cornell in one section. Obviously, several of these teams will be sitting out the postseason.

"We can't afford to lose any home games," Cornell Coach Bill Sacco stressed. "The key is to win every home game and split on the road. That would give you a record of 11-3, which should be enough to advance. But this Nazareth game on a neutral court could give us a golden opportunity to pick up a win away from home."

Raider JVs Hang On For 34-24 Win Over Braddock

Once Cornell's sophomores and juniors go back to the locker room to prepare for the varsity game, the freshmen are left to face the opposing Junior Varsity in the fourth quarter. They're not yet very good at this. At Brashear Monday night, they were outscored 18-4 and lost. So Cornell's new strategy is to run up a lead, then order the freshmen to go into a ball control offense.

Tuesday night against Braddock, that worked pretty well. The starters ran up a 32-21 lead by the end of the third quarter. Then the freshmen just held the ball and took only free throws or wide open layups. Patrick Scott (photo below) proved pretty slick at dribbling around the perimeter, passing off to M.J. Smith, Carmine D'Allessandro or Craig Pulford whenever the defense tried to overplay him.

The Raiders actually held the 32-21 score for four minutes. Finally a Braddock free throw at 3:53 and layup at 2:51 cut the lead to 32-24. But Scott dribbled away another minute before he passed to Smith, the defense tried to double team, and Scott cut to the basket for the return pass and a layup at 1:19, making it 34-24. Braddock went down and missed a layup, and Scott, Smith and D'Allessandro dribbled out the clock.

Cornell led the entire game but could never pull away. Jeavonte King Walden opened with two jump shots and two free throws and Sharone Bronaugh added a layup for an 8-7 first quarter margin.

A Scott layup, Bronaugh follow, and two layups and two free throws by Drew Lopez (photo right) pulled the Raiders out to an 18-11 halftime lead.

Kingwalden hit two threes from the side and one from the corner in the third quarter. Lopez added a free throw and a layup off a steal and Blaine Sams scored a layup for the 32-21 lead before they all left for the locker room.

King Walden led all scorers with 15. Lopez added nine, Bronaugh four, Scott four and Sams two.

The 5-10 Bronaugh again led all rebounders with 10.

Braddock had a significant height advantage but they did not shoot well. Their offense consisted of threes and layups. They didn't hit a jump shot all night.

But they penetrated the Cornell defense for seven layups, which did not please the Raider coaches. Even worse, on three other drives, they were fouled by players from behind, giving them free throws.

"We've got to learn to stay in position on defense, cut off the baseline and help out to stop those drives down the lane. This idea of letting the player get by you, then trying to grab him from behind, has to stop," they agreed afterward. "And once we take care of that, we have to do a better job of guarding those threes."

Cornell plays the Nazareth Prep Junior Varsity at 5:30 pm Friday at the Robert Morris University UPMC Events Center. Nazareth Prep is the former Holy Family Institute. Under new management, Nazareth Prep buses inner city youth to its suburban Emsworth campus.

Brashear Finally Gets Its Cornell Win, 71-61

If you're the smallest public high school in the WPIAL and you keep playing one of the largest, eventually that big school is going to beat you. That's what happened to Cornell Monday night. The Raiders have met Brashear several times in recent seasons, sometimes in the Carlynton or Moon Tournaments , sometimes at Cornell. They've all been bruising physical battles but Cornell has always pulled them out in the fourth quarter.

This time, Brashear finally got Cornell at home in its huge fortress like building on the south side of Mt. Washington. This year, the Bulls have their best team in a decade. They're big, physical and on their home floor a hot shooting team. That combination proved too much, as Brashear fought off Cornell 71-61.

The killer was the 11 threes Brashear hit. Every time Cornell closed the gap, another three or two would widen it again.

It didn't help that hot shooting guard Kaden Divito (driving in photo, below) picked up two quick fouls early. Divito had scored 22 points in the first quarter against Deer Lakes and went on to total 46, third highest in school history. He came back with another big night against St. Joe's. But those early fouls made him reluctant to drive or play quite as aggressively on defense. He still scored 20, but was not his usual self.

After a 5-4 lead, Cornell trailed throughout. But not by much. Luke Piccolo and Isiah Langston carried the scoring load early and the Raiders trailed only 13-10 after the first quarter. Brashear scored off three straight steals and a three to pull out to 22-12, but Zaire Harrison (shooting in photo, right), Divito and Langston brought Cornell back to 29-21 at the half.

A flurry of threes pushed Brashear out to 40-27. Harrison and Divito narrowed it, but Brashear rode another string of threes out to 50-35. The third ended 52-39.

In the fourth, Hsrrison and Divito shouldered almost all of Cornell's scoring, but their driving layups, short jumpers and free throws could not outweigh Brashear's continual threes. They cut the lead from 16 to eight but could get no closer.

Brashear's Lontae Smith, who launched many of those fatal threes, led all scorers with 27. For Cornell, Harrison scored 24, Divito 20 and Langston 11.

Langston led Cornell rebounding with 14 and Piccolo added seven. But Brashear outrebounded Cornell by a wide margin.

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco shrugged off the loss. "When your entire lineup plays football, it tskes a few weeks to shift over and get your basketball legs and basketball timing back," he told reporters.

Sacco is also replacing graduated seniors Desmond Ross and Ndhama Luster. His starters this season include 5-11 junior Divito at point, 6-0 junior Harrison at wing, 5-9 senior Piccolo at wing, 6-1 junior Langston at one forward and 5-11 junior Jeavontae Kingwalden at the other forward. 5-8 sophomore Drew Lopez, 5-10 sophomore Sharone Bronaugh and 5-9 junior Blaine Sams are first off the bench.

Cornell plays Propel Braddock tonight (Tuesday) at hone.

Cornell JVs Lose Opener To Brashear 57-41

Cornell's Junior Varsity Boys Basketball Team dropped their opener to Brashear 57-41 as missed shots, errors and mental lapses erased strong play by Drew Lopez, Blaine Sams and M.J. Smith.

The Raider coaching staff was not concerned about the loss. "We have young kids here who are still learning about the work ethic needed in high school basketball. They're still learning about intensity, about how to play together as a unit. And we're still cleaning up a lot of silly errors. Down the road, this bunch will be OK. December may be rough for them. But there's no playoff for JV teams. Losses don't count. The only thing that counts is getting better."

Brashear was a pretty tough opener. The 5A city school fielded a tall, strong, aggressive lineup which crashed the boards and played a very physical defense. The Bulls jumped out to a 10-2 lead as Cornell looked intimidated.

But the Raiders called time out and regrouped. Lopez scored on a layup, and Patrick Scott added two layups and a free throw to cut it to 10-9 as the first quarter ended.

The second quarter was pretty much even. Brashear kept scoring layups on Cornell errors and added two threes. Smith, Lopez, Sams (#12, photo, right) and Nathan Wooten hit jumpers, layups and free throws to stay close, 26-20.

The Bulls pulled out to 10 at 30-20, 32-22 and 37-27 in the third, but Lopez stole a pass and laid it in, and Sams sank a three to cut it to 37-32 at the break.

The fourth quarter began with a furious Cornell rally. Smith scored a layup and Carmine D'Allessandro sank a three to cut it to 39-37 with 4:28. But at that point seven Cornell players left to join the varsity in the locker room in preparation for the second game. That left five freshmen to finish out the JV game against a Brashear lineup of juniors. They only scored two more baskets, one layup by Scott and one by Smith, as the Bulls outscored Cornell 18-4 the rest of the way.

Lopez led the Raiders with 13. Sams and Smith had nine each.

Sharone Bronaugh (#50 in photo, left) led Cornell in rebounding with 10, but the Raiders were badly outrebounded by the bigger Bulls.

This is not a tall Cornell JV team. Wooten, a junior, is the tallest at 6-1, flanked by 6-0 freshman Craig Pulford. The others are 5-10 sophomore Bronaugh, 5-9 junior Blaine Sams, 5-8 freshman Smith, 5-8 sophomore Lopez and 5-0 freshman D'Allessandro.

The Jayvees face Propel Braddock tonight (Tuesday) at Cornell, then play Nazareth Prep (formerly Holy Family) at Robert Morris Friday.

"We have to get more aggressive on the boards," Cornell coaches agreed. "Brashear did not shoot particularly well, but they beat us on second and third shots. Even sometimes when we had our hands on rebounds, they would tear them away from us and go back up. We've got to get more aggressive, more physical, and quicker."

Farrell Wins State Football Championship

Mighty Farrell added another state championship trophy to its century long collection as the Steelers crushed Lackawanna Trail 55-20. Farrell was up 42-7 at halftime and played its reserves the entire second half.

Farrell, which ended Sacred Heart's run last week, 41-10, was never challenged by any team during the entire 15-0 season. OLSH was the only team to even get a lead on them, even though it only lasted a few minutes early in the game.

Farrell gained 500 yards compared to Lackawanna Trail's 194. Christian Lewis, who got 187 yards against Sacred Heart, gained 249 against Lackawanna Trail. Quarterback Kyi Wright, who was shut out against OLSH, passed for 111 yards in the final. The Chargers held Wright to 91 rushing yards. In the final, he rushed for 129. OLSH held Farrell to 337 yards rushing. Against Lackawanna Trail the Steelers rushed for 389. It was Farrell's seventh state football title, although this is its first undefeated team. The Steelers also have nine titles in basketball and seven in volleyball.

Big, Talented Farrell Ends OLSH Season
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Farrell High School has been ranked #1 in the state all season for several very good reasons. Friday night at Slippery Rock Stadium, Sacred Heart found out what those reasons were. In the process, they lost 41-10 to end the greatest season in their school's short football history.

Farrell is big, strong, fast and talented. The Steelers have four Division I prospects and a host of other players who have offers at lower levels.

Nowhere was this more evident than on the line. Sacred Heart's line has beaten opponents all year, protecting quarterback Tyler Bradley, opening gaps for OLSH runners to dart through, and, on defense, stopping other teams' runners from getting anything up the middle.

For a few minutes, it looked like they would do that again Friday. OLSH kicked off and held, forcing Farrell to punt. The Chargers took over and marched down field to the Farrell 23.

Farrell tightened up, but Ryan Gehring (photo below right) kicked a field goal with 7:34 in the first quarter to give the Chargers a 3-0 lead. It was the first time Farrell had trailed all season.

But Farrell Coach Jarrett Samuels called time out and changed strategy. He moved 6-4 283 lineman Kobe Hilton to fullback along with 6-3 240 QB Kyi Wright, who doubles as an All State linebacker and a Pitt recruit, and 6-0 185 RB Christian Lewis. He replaced a receiver with another tight end. In effect, Farrell gambled everything on a power running game. Their line was bigger at every position, averaging 6-3, 290. As Samuels told reporters afterward, "I had my hogs clear the way for my dogs." Farrell marched down the field entirely on the ground and scored for a 7-3 lead. Samuels first called for several plays up the middle. When Sacred Heart responded by packing its defense in, Farrell started pitching the ball out for sideline runs. The drive lasted 11 plays, covered 81 yards, and took five minutes.

The touchdown ignited Farrell's defense. After the ensuing kickoff, they slammed the door shut on any OLSH runs and penetrated Sacred Heart's backfield. Bradley was chased out of the pocket once, Kobe Hilton sacked him once and Austin Wigley was stopped for no gain.

OLSH tried a fake punt but the pass fell incomplete, and Farrell took over on the Sacred Heart 30. A few plays later, Lewis powered in from the five and Farrell led 14-3.

On the next Sacred Heart possession, Elijah Harper picked off a Bradley pass and Farrell ground out yardage until Wright took it in from the one. Farrell led 21-3.

Moments later, Wright scored on another one yard run to put the Steelers up 28-3 at half.

The only Sacred Heart touchdown came on the opening drive of the third quarter. Jaymar Pearson ran for 22, 14, 16 and five yards. He fumbled on a two yard run from the five, but Andrew Schnarre picked up the fumble and ran it in from the three. That made it 28-10.

But Farrell wasn't through. Lewis added runs of 69 and 56 yards for two more TDs.

The game stats were lopsided. Farrell outgained Sacred Heart 336-52 on the ground. But Bradley completed 10 of 23 passes for 108 yards, while Kyi Wright, who had passed for 1591 yards all seasson, only tried two passes and both fell incomplete.

Pearson carried 13 times for 73 yards, all in the second half. Wigley carried six times for six yards and Richard Banks carried once for six yards.

For Farrell, Lewis carried 21 times for 187 yards, Wright 15 times for 91 yards, Townsend four times for 33 yards, Harrison seven times for 19 yards, and Harley once for seven yards.

They sacked Bradley six times for minus 32 yards and chased him out of the pocket another dozen. Every time he touched the ball he had defenders in his face.

The Farrell linemen weigh 278, 282, 283, 295 and 310 pounds. This team has been playing together since they were freshmen.

Farrell now plays Lackawanna Trail at Hershey Thursday for the state title. Farrell has won six, including two straight in 1995-96, and lost in the finals several more times.

Bradley finishes with 3,352 yards for the season and over 8,000 yards for his career. Only five quarterbacks have ever reached the 8000 mark.

It's Farrell, 48-6
Photo courtesy of Corey Corbin, The Sharon Herald

As expected, Farrell defeated Coudersport and will face Sacred Heart in the PIAA semifinals Friday night at Slippery Rock. Farrell, the state's #1 ranked team, chewed up Coudersport 48-6 Saturday in a game where the clock was kept running through the second half. Farrell played its reserves the entire third and fourth quarters. Farrell led 14-0 after the first quarter and 48-0 at halftime.

Farrell has a balanced offense. Running back Christian Lewis is the greatest rusher in Farrell history, and, considering the championships the school has won and the Division I prospects it has produced over 100 years, that's quite an accomplishment. Against Couderport he carried 12 times for 109 yards, an average of 9.8 yards per carry. Lewis has rushed for 2031 yards this season. But the Steelers can go to the air. Against Coudersport, quarterback Kyi Wright was a perfect eight for eight for 176 yards. Joudon Townsend caught six of those for 172 yards. Townsend is another record setter. He is the greatest receiver in Farrell history. This season, he has caught passes for 1,169 yards. Farrell piled up 500 yards in total offense against Coudersport with 20 first downs.

OLSH Draws Farrell-Coudersport Winner

The PIAA has finalized the state football playoff ladder.

Coudersport defeated Smethport and will play # 1 Farrell Saturday, November 24, at Slippery Rock University at 1 pm. The winner will play # 3 Sacred Heart the following weekend. The site will depend on whether Farrell or Coudersport wins. The PIAA will pick a site approximately halfway between the two schools. If Farrell wins, Slippery Rock is a likelihood. If Coudersport wins, Indiana University (Pa.) is a likelihood, although Slippery Rock or Edinboro are possibilities.

In the East Regional, Lackawanna plays Halifax at North Lehigh and and United plays Juniata at Altoona. Those winners will play the same weekend Sacred Heart plays the Farrell-Coudersport winner. United is a rural school in Wheatfield, 30 miles north of Johnstown. The winners of the East and West Regionals will play for the state title on Thursday, December 6 at Hershey Park Stadium.

Unbeaten Farrell is heavily favored over Coudersport. Farrell has beaten University Prep 40-16, Wilmington 31-19, Union City 70-6, West Middlesex 40-0, Cambridge Springs 63-0, Mercer 47-0, Cochranton 76-12, Reynolds 54-8, Greenville 46-0, Reynolds 62-6 and Shade 56-8.

Sacred Heart Wins WPIAL Championship
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

All season long, Sacred Heart's interior line has come up big, protecting quarterback Tyler Bradley while he found receivers, and preventing teams from running up the middle.

Saturday afternoon, at hallowed Heinz Field, the line turned in its finest performance as Sacred Heart won its first WPIAL Championship 28-6 over Big Seven Conference rival Rochester.

On offense the line consists of center Dan Farrell (5-9 210 So) , tackles Eric Olexa (6-2 188 jr) and Dom Cook (6-0 200 sr), and guards Logan Gregory (6-0 240 sr) and Nico Harken (6-0 235 So). On defense add 6-0 205 sr Noah Campalong and 6-3 285 jr Dom Trombetta, at tackles.

Back in September, Sacred Heart had defeated Rochester 38-7. The general consensus was that OLSH's line had beaten Rochester's line on both sides of the ball. But the Rams have been in this championship game 13 times and won eight titles. It has also been in the state championship game four times and won it twice. Like any perennial championship contender, the Rams have great pride, and they had two months to study game film and figure out how to beat Sacred Heart should they get a second chance.

So this game came down to whether the Charger line could win another battle.

They did. Wow. Did they ever.

As shown by the accompanying photos, they were the stars. On the first play they forced a Rochester fumble (photo below), and they forced four more during the game. They didn't let the Rams past the 50 until halfway through the second quarter. 19 times they stood runners up for either no gain or a loss. Rochester never started a drive outside its own 30 and started two on its three and 11. The Rams earned their fewest first downs of the year.

Meanwhile, Bradley stood unfazed in the pocket (photo left), calmly waiting until his receivers got open and then hitting them with pinpoint passes. He finished with 13 of 22 completions for 169 yards, good for three touchdowns. He added one more by running it in himself.

Rochester hung in there, but Sacred Heart was in charge the whole way.

Bradley faked a handoff and ran the first touchdown in from the one. Ryan Gehring made the PAT kick for a 7-0 Sacred Heart lead.

The Chargers kicked off, and the Rams went three and out. But the center snap went over punter Tyreek Sherod's head. OLSH recovered on the 31. Bradley quickly hit Andrew Schnarre for the second TD. Gehring's kick made it 14-0, where it remained through halftime.

Rochester's only threat came late in the third . The Rams took over on their own 30 and drove 70 yards in 14 plays. Noah Whiteleather ran it in from the six to make it 14-6 with 5:06. Sacred Heart went three and out and the Rams took over. But OLSH held, and Rochester had to punt.

In the fourth quarter, Bradley hit Sig Saftner on a 15 yard crossing play and Gehring kicked the PAT for 21-7. After the Charger defense stopped Rochester again, Bradley fired a 33 yarder to Richard Banks and Gehring's kick made it 28-6. Rochester never again threatened.

The Rams actually outgained Sacred Heart on the ground. They carried 52 times for 167 yards. OLSH carried 28 times for 73 yards. But the Chargers buried Rochester in the air, 169 yards to 32. That gave OLSH 242 total yards to Rochester's 199.

Sacred Heart's rushing yardage was spread among five runners. Austin Wigley carried 12 times for 32 yards, Banks carried 10 times for 25 times, Bradley carried three times for 10 yards, Campalong carried twice for four yards, and Ryan Parry carried once for two yards.

"We had our chances," Rochester Coach Ron Matsook told reporters after the game. "We actually had the ball for more minutes than they did. We had more first downs. But it came down to field position and line play. They averaged more than 10 yards per punt more than we did and they kept us bottled up all afternoon. We fumbled the ball five times. And they whipped us on the line all day, both on offense and defense."

It climaxed one of the more dramatic rags to riches stories in WPIAL history. Four years ago Sacred Heart was winless. In this Year Eight of the program, OLSH is WPIAL champion. The Chargers get Thanksgiving Weekend to give thanks for their success and heal their bruises. Then it's back to war, as they prepare for the State Playoffs.

The playoffs, as usual, are bewildering. Other states seed teams. The PIAA uses geography. Farrell is unbeaten and ranked #1. Sacred Heart has one loss and is ranked #3. Anywhere else, Sacred Heart would not meet Farrell until the state championship game.

But since they're both in the western half of the state, the PIAA will match them in the West Region to see which one goes on to the state finals. Still, they should not meet until the West Region Final. But since they're both in the southwestern corner, Sacred Heart may face Farrell November 23 or 24.

Farrell defeated #5 Shade Sunday 56-8. Coudersport plays Smethport Monday.

The win over Rochester was not without casualties. Noah Campalong, a key player on both offense and defense, suffered a broken ankle late in the first half. He had surgery Sunday and is obviously lost for the year.

But for a week, OLSH players will savor this esperience. "Coming out of that tunnel....." Richard Banks tried to explain to reporters, his voice trailing off. "The Steelers play here. All those NFL greats play here. It was just.....so cool." Several of his teammates explained how nervous they were before the game. "It was unreal," they agreed. "Something to remember all our lives. It made all the hard work worth it."

Sacred Heart Heads For Heinz, 27-7
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

All their lives, these Sacred Heart players have dreamed of someday playing in Heinz Field for a championship. Now, thanks to a 27-7 pasting of powerful Clairton, they're going.

On a cold rainy Friday night at Dormont Stadium, Noah Campalong wasn't taking any chances. OLSH was up 14-7 for the entire third quarter. But the Bears are famous for fourth quarter rallies, especially in playoff games. So Campalong personally scored two more touchdowns in the fourth, one on a two yard run with 11:02, the other on an 11 yard Tyler Bradley pass at 4:37.

The game was a lot closer than the final score suggests. The first quarter saw both offenses going three and out back and forth. Finally, an interception by Sig Saftner set up Sacred Heart. A 39 yard Bradley pass to Andrew Schnarre put the ball on the Clairton six. Austin Wigley ran it in at 1:09.

Then, with 10:59 in the second quarter, Bradley found Richard Banks for a 26 yarder, then a two yarder, and OLSH was up 14-0.

That wouldn't last long. With 8:29, Clairton's Branden Parsons scored on a two yard run to narrow it to 14-7.

That's where it stayed at the half.

Bradley completed eight for 13 for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

Sacred Heart outgained Clairton 254-112. It was Clairton's lowest offensive output in more than two seasons.

As usual, Bradley and his stable of running backs and receivers get most of the attention, but this game was won on the line. Sacred Heart's offensive line, shown above, kept Clairton defenders from getting to Bradley while he waited for receivers to get in position or handed off to runners. On defense OLSH sacked the Clairton quarterback five times. Until late in the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach, the Chargers had held Clairton to only 81 yards. Clairton statisticians could not remember the last time that had happened.

Sacred Heart's defense made life miserable for Clairton quarterback Brendan Parsons. In addition to the six sacks, the Chargers intercepted two passes, held him to 10 of 22 completions by sticking closely with his receivers, OLSH also forced three fumbles.

The win may have been costly. Key running back and receiver Wigley suffered a dislocated shoulder injury in the third quarter and missed the rest of the game. If he is unavailable in the championship game it will seriously hinder the Sacred Heart offense.

Clairton Coach Wayne Wade was clearly disappointed. "We felt good about our chances," he told reporters afterward. "The score was only 14-7 through the end of the third quarter. We always win games like this. We feel like we own the fourth quarter. But we kept giving it back to Sacred Heart, on fumbles and interceptions. We had the better field position for most of the game and just didn't execute. In the final analysis, we lost the game on the line."

Sacred Heart wanted a rematch with Jeannette, who beat them back in October. Instead, they get one with Rochester, whom they beat earlier.

Rochester Brings Down Jeannette, 27-0

With quarterback Seth Howard watching from the sidelines due to concussion protocol, unbeaten and defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Jeannette went down 27-0 to an aroused Rochester team which had lost to the Jayhawks in the playoffs the last two years.

Replacement quarterback James Sanders did a credible job directing the Jeannette attack, throwing for 102 yards. But the Jayhawks seemed out of sync the whole night, and as the offense sputtered, it carried over to the usually stingy defense.

Rochester, meanwhile, was on a mission. The Ram offensive and defensive lines thoroughly whipped Jeannette and backs Darius Goosby and Noah Whiteleather turned in the finest games of their careers. Goosby ran for 183 yards and scored the game's second touchdown on a 58 yard run. Whiteleather ran for 102 yards and scored the first, third and fourth touchdowns on runs of two, two and three yards.

Rochester will thus play in the WPIAL championship game for the first time since 2010, but had won nine titles prior to that.

It was the first time Jeannette was shut out since 2015 when Clairton did it in the 2015 championship game.

Rochester's defense was ferocious. The Rams held Jeannette to 150 yards total offense. They sacked the quarterback eight times.

The game started like it would be a comedy of errors on a cold rainy night. Goosby fumbled the opening kickoff. Jeannette fumbled it back on the first play. Rochester then committed three straight false starts and were too far in the hole to make the first down so punted. After a sack and two tackles for losses, Jeannette had to punt it back. Rochester went three and out. Jeannette settled down for a 12 play drive before the Rams finally held. Rochester then started grinding out yardage and moved the ball all the way up the field. The Whiteleather two yard run came just before the end of the first quarter.

Jeannette Coach Roy Hall made no excuses. "They just kicked our butts," he told reporters.

OLSH Stampedes Imani, 60-6
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart's second seeded football team had a score to settle with Imani, the team that bounced OLSH out of last year's playoffs. But no one expected the onesided rout that unfolded at Moon's Rip Scherer Field Friday night.

The Chargers beat Imani every way possible. Their defense suffocated the Saints' high powered air attack. On offense Tyler Bradley found receivers downfield and handed off to runners like Austin Wigley who ran through, around and over Imani defenders. Sacred Heart's offensive line opened up holes for runners and protected Bradley while he scanned for receivers. The Charger defensive line then stopped Imani runners cold.

This was an Imani team that came in ranked fourth, just behind Sacred Heart. The Saints had lost to Jeannette and Clairton, but those are the first and third ranked teams in the WPIAL. The game was supposed to be close.

It was never close. It was over minutes in. That was when Wigley powered over with a one yard run. Ryan Gehring's PAT kick made it 7-0. But the drive made it obvious that Sacred Heart was on a mission. The Chargers were just more intense. They were blowing Imani linemen back off their stances and blocking crisply.

After an exchange of possessions, Bradley found Richard Banks for a 34 yard pass. The kick failed and the quarter ended 13-0.

To open the second quarter, Jay Pearson ran a fumble recovery back 43 yards. The PAT pass failed but OLSH led 19-0.

Next up was a seven yard pass from Bradley to Ricco Tate to make it 25-0.

Then, just before halftime, Bradley hit Tate with a 43 yarder. This time Wigley ran it across for the PAT and a 33-0 lead at intermission.

Sacred Heart opened the third quarter with a 29 yard pass from Bradley to Wigley. Gehring made the PAT kick and the Chargers led 40-0.

Then, after another exchange of possessions, Bradley again found Tate, this time for 25 yards. Gehring made the kick for the 47-0 lead.

Imani finally got on the board late in the third with a 20 yard pass from Israel Reed to Rahmon Hart. But the PAT pass fell incomplete so it was 47-6.

There was just enough time left in the quarter for Bradley to find Noah Campalong for a seven yard pass. Gehring's PAT kick made it 54-0.

In the fourth quarter Wigley's 26 yard run closed out scoring. The PAT kick failed so it was 60-6.

Bradley completed 16 of 27 passes for 230 yards. Wigley rushed for 105 yards. Tate caught five passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns.

His performance kept Bradley first among WPIAL quarterbacks in passes completed, passing yardage and touchdowns scored via passing.

Wigley's output kept him among the WPIAL's top 20 runners in rushing yards and TDs scored.

Imani, the third place finisher in the Eastern Conference, reached the playoffs on an at large bid. They close their season 7-4.

The win sends Sacred Heart on to the WPIAL Semifinals for the first time in school history. The Chargers will play Clairton Friday at 7:30 pm at Keystone Oaks. Clairton beat California 27-17 in their quarterfinal. California had won five straight. Clairton is 9-1, having lost only to Jeannette 21-6 on the last night of the regular season. The Bears began the playoffs ranked 3rd.

Clairton is much like Jeannette, which handed Sacred Heart its only loss. The Bears prefer to run the ball and pass only enough to keep the defense honest. Clairton plays a tough, physical defense and goes after opposing quarterbacks by penetrating their lines and sacking or chasing the quarterback so he does not have time to find his receivers. Clairton likes long drives which chew up yardage in small doses but slowly wind down the clock. The Bears typically run twice as many plays as opponents and love slants, traps and keepers.

Sacred Heart began the season dreaming of reaching the WPIAL finals and going on to the state playoffs. But the Chargers now have an extra motivation. If they can beat Clairton, they'll get a rematch with Jeannette in the title game at Heinz Field. Of course, this assumes Jeannette survives its own semi. The Jayhawks were tied with Monessen 8-8 at the half before finally escaping 18-14 on a PAT and a field goal. Jeannette, the defending WPIAL and state champions, plays Rochester Friday. Rochester defeated West Greene 52-14 last week.

Weather could be a factor this weekend. Rain and cold temperatures are possible, which would affect passing. Both semifinals will be played on artificial turf, so the running games of all four teams should be fine.

In their meeting at midseason, Jeannette beat Sacred Heart by breaking into the backfield, sacking Bradley and chasing him out of the pocket so he didn't have time to find his receivers. OLSH will be working in practice this week to stop that. The pressure will be on the Offensive Line, particularly to stop Drake Petrillo. He personally sacked Bradley four times and spent most of the game chasing him. Downfield, Marcus Barnes and Jackson Pruitt shadowed OLSH receivers, intercepting two and running them back for Jayhawk TDs.

Sacred Heart To Face Imani In WPIAL Qtrs
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews At The Cornell "Mud Bowl" Game

#2 Sacred Heart will play #4 Imani Christian at 7:30 Friday night at Moon's Rip Scherer Field in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL football playoffs.

Elsewhere, #3 Clairton plays California at Elizabeth, # 1 Jeannette plays Monessen at Hempfield, and West Greene plays #5 Rochester at Waynesburg.

Jeannette, OLSH, Clairton and West Greene earned the right to host home games. But Jeannette, Clairton and West Greene all play on natural grass fields. All three are in unplayable condition due to recent rains. They play and practice on their fields and have churned them into a muddy soup. So each team elected to move their game to an artificial turf field at a nearby larger school.

Sacred Heart is fortunate to play its home games at Moon's Rip Scherer Field, which is artificial turf.

The Chargers played in the mud at Cornell last Friday night and readily sympathize with those other teams, who have no desire to play a critical playoff game under similar conditions.

The winner of the Sacred Heart-Imani game will play the winner of the Clairton - California game the following Friday. The Jeannette-Monessen winner will play the Rochester-West Greene winner the following Friday. Those winners will advance to the WPIAL championship game at Heinz Field.

The three way tie in the Tri County Conference among West Greene, California and Monessen forced the WPIAL Committee to make a hard choice between playoff guidelines.

Normally, #1 is seeded such that it meets #4 in the semis, while #2 is seeded such that it meets #3 in the semis, assuming all four win their quarterfinal games.

But another guideline states that teams from the same conference should not meet in the first round.

Normally, Sacred Heart would have met California. But that would have paired Imani against Clairton of the same Eastern Conference. To avoid this, the WPIAL reversed the two at large teams and put Imani against the Chargers.

Imani defeated Sacred Heart 20-12 in the 2017 quarterfinals, then went on to win its semifinal and meet Jeannette in the finals. Jeannette won and went on to win the state championship. Imani is located in the eastern part of Pittsburgh, and draws its students primarily from the Wilkinsburg and Westinghouse areas, although as an independent school it can pull from anywhere in the city or eastern suburbs.

Last year's Imani Offensive Coordinator Laroi Johnson is this year's StoRox Head Coach, which is why StoRox ran up such high numbers on offense and produced one of the WPIAL's top three quarterbacks and several of its top receivers and rushers. Without him, Imani does not have quite the potent offense, but they still have several talented players at the skill positions and are still capable of moving the ball and scoring.

Imani (7-3) lost to Jeannette 28-12 and Clairton 45-18 in conference this year, but since the Eastern has proven to be the WPIAL's toughest Class A league the Saints are still a threat to Sacred Heart. The Chargers suffered their only loss of the season to an Eastern team, Jeannette 28-13.

Imani is more like Sacred Heart than it is like Jeannette or Clairton. It runs a more wide open offense than other Eastern Conference teams and tends to break more big plays. The Saints defeated Wright 80-6, Valley 32-25, Greensburg Central Catholic 36-=21, Riverview 54-0, Leechburg 45-10, Bethlehem 26-20 and Chartiers Houston 54-0. Almost all of their scoring has come on passes.

Chargers Splash Past Cornell In Mud Bowl

It was really a shame. Everyone involved deserved better.

There were the #1 and #3 quarterbacks in WPIAL Class A and the #1 and #9 quarterbacks in all WPIAL classes combined, both with talented receivers . There was Cornell holding Senior Night to honor players, band members and cheerleaders in their final night at Frank Letteri Field.

But the cold rain began an hour before game time and steadily increased as the night went on. The field and even the sidelines were a sea of mud and puddles (look behind the runner in the photo at right). Both teams had to curtail their air attacks and stick mainly to the ground, although they did keep trying to throw the occasional pass. The crowd huddled under umbrellas, plastic sheets and blankets. Cheerleaders wore rainsuits. Players trying to make sharp turns slipped in the mud. and the wet ball caused fumbles and interceptions on both sides.

But Sacred Heart was a heavy favorite and in the end that's how it turned out. The Chargers splashed their way to a 27-0 win .

Cornell entered the game 4-4 and was missing three starters due to injuries : Tamir Fischer, Luke Piccolo and Tyler Godfrey.

Fischer and Piccolo were key runners and receivers and Godfrey was a key on both offensive and defensive lines. So a crippled Cornell could have been facing a serious beatdown by powerful Sacred Heart, ranked #3 in the WPIAL and #4 in the state.

But Cornell played even with the Chargers for most of the first quarter, holding off their offense and moving the ball against their defense. With 2:54 Tyler Bradley finally hit Noah Campalong with a 25 yarder for a touchdown. With Ryan Goehring's PAT kick, it was 7-0. And it got worse fast. Cornell fumbled the kickoff. OLSH recovered on the Cornell 15. The avalanche looked about to begin.

Cornell Coach Ed Dawson called time and settled his team. Miraculously, Cornell's defense held and the Raiders took over at their 15 as the quarter ended 7-0.

 

The two played even for most of the second quarter. An interception on the Cornell 30 with 2:50 set Sacred Heart up for a touchdown drive but Cornell recovered a fumble in the end zone at 1:18 to prevent the score. Charger Richard Banks grabbed another interception on the Cornell 20 with 0:37. Cornell was hoping the clock would run out, but with 0:03 Eric Olexa scampered in from the four for the touchdown. So OLSH held a 13-0 halftime lead.

The Chargers didn't waste much time in the third. They took the kickoff and marched downfield in six plays to score. Austin Wigley ran it in from the five. That made it 19-0.

Cornell looked to have scored with 2:02 remaining but a penalty nullified it and the quarter ended 19-0.

Cornell again held off Sacred Heart for much of the fourth until Wigley ran it in from the one with 7:20 to make it 25-0. He also ran the PAT in for 27-0, which was how it ended.

Cornell quarterback Zaire Harrison made two spectacular QB keeper runs, one for 35 and one for 20, to put the Raiders in scoring position.

But another Sacred Heart interception with 2:20 stopped that drive. The player ran it back the length of the field for a TD but a penalty against SH nullified it. There was no further scoring.

Penalties hurt both teams on key drives. At one point, Cornell committed two consecutive 15 yard violations, which pushed the Raiders back to a first and 40 at their own one yard line. But Sacred Heart also shot itself in the foot with holding and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which took it back across midfield and probably prevented more touchdowns.

Wigley led all rushers with 140 yards on 33 carries.

Cornell can take solace in holding Sacred Heart to its lowest winning score of the year. The Chargers have run up scores of 41, 46, 56, 37, 42, 56, 53 and 48 points. But, of course, the rain and mud contributed.

So Cornell finishes its third season back in football 4-5. The Raiders will lose six valuable seniors to graduation but return a talented, experienced bunch of juniors and sophomores and should be a serious contender next year. More worrisome is whether they can keep Coach Ed Dawson, who recreated the school's football program after it had been shut down for four seasons.

Coaching at the smallest public high school in western Pennsylvania fielding a football team, Dawson had this year's team doing fine until injuries hit and the Raiders lost their last three. He was a finalist for the Aliquippa head job and will certainly receive offers from other larger schools. Still, he'll have those talented seniors and juniors next year including one of the WPIAL's top quarterbacks. He could make a serious run and be considered for even better jobs in 2020.

And Cornell has another issue to face : its field. Built in a valley with steep slopes on three sides, Frank Letteri Stadium becomes a quagmire after rain, and rainy Fridays have become a tradition. Cornell had to move one game this year to another school's stadium, and had to play two games at home in basically unplayable conditions.

Whether the answer is artificial turf or a complete excavation and rebuild of the grass field with better drainage underneath, something clearly must be done. Dawson had several days this year when he was unable to practice on the field and had to be content with indoor film sessions, clearly inadequate when a team is fighting for a playoff spot.

Sacred Heart, meanwhile, is 9-1, has won the conference championship, and awaits a #2 or #3 seed in the playoffs. #1 Jeannette defeated #2 Clairton Friday night to remain undefeated and clinch the top seed.

Clairton and Sacred Heart will be either #2 or #3 but it doesn't matter much because #2 and #3 meet in the semifinals with #1 in the opposite bracket. Sacred Heart is guaranteed a home game Friday night, Nov. 2.

As expected, California, Monessen and West Greene all won by wide margins Friday, so they finish in a three way tie in the Tri County Conference. The tie will be broken with a coin flip with the loser guaranteed one of the two playoff at large berths.

Imani Christian will receive the other at large berth. StoRox had hoped Imani and Laurel would be upset and tried to increase its chances by running up a 70-6 margin over Riverview. It didn't happen. Laurel and Imani won 60-0 over Northgate and 54-0 over Chartiers Houston.

However, as the top two seeds, Jeannette and Sacred Heart will draw the two at large teams, so Sacred Heart will play either Imani or one of the Tri County teams. Last year, Sacred Heart beat Springdale in the first round 52-26 but lost to Imani 20-12 in the quarterfinals. This year, the WPIAL has reduced the playoff field so they begin with quarterfinals.

OLSH Juggernaut Rolls Over Union 48-7
All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart, third in the WPIAL and fourth in the state, rolled up a 35-7 half time lead over Union and cruised to a final 48-7 win.

It was Senior Night at Union and the Scotties began the game charged with adrenalin. They scored the first touchdown on a 17 yard pass from Tyler Benedict to Anthony Nealy. Jackson Clark made the PAT kick and the Scotties led 7-0.

Then Sacred Heart tuned in, and Union never again threatened.

Tyler Bradley found Richard Banks for a 47 yard pass. Austin Wigley ran in the PAT to put the Chargers up 8-7. Two possessions later, Bradley hit Ricco Tate on a 44 yarder and Justin Walsh kicked the PAT for a 15-7 first quarter edge.

In the second quarter, Wigley ran one in from the one. The kick failed and OLSH led 21-7.

Bradley hit Noah Campalong with an 18 yard pass and Walsh made the kick for 28-7.

Before the half, Bradley passed 20 yards to Banks and Walsh made the kick for a 35-7 lead at intermission.

Sacred Heart substituted freely in the second half. In the third quarter, Campalong ran it in from the seven yard line but the PAT run failed for the 41-7 lead.

Wigley scored the final TD on a one yard run. Walsh made the PAT kick so OLSH led 48-7 entering the fourth quarter. With mostly reserves playing, there was no further scoring.

Sacred Heart closes out the regular season Friday at Cornell. OLSH is an overwhelming favorite. It is almost certain to receive a #2 or #3 seed in the post season playoffs which begin next week.

Across the county, #1 Jeannette plays #2 Clairton for the championship of the Eastern Conference. If Jeannette wins, the Jayhawks will record their 18th unbeaten season, most in Pennsylvania history, and receive the #1 WPIAL seed. If Clairton wins, the Bears, also unbeaten, will record its 12th unbeaten season, win the conference title, and receive the #1 seed.

If Jeannette wins, it really doesn't matter whether Sacred Heart receives the #2 or #3 seed. In the semifinals, the #1 and #4 seeds play each other, and the #2 and #3 seeds play. So either way, Sacred Heart will play Clairton in the semifinals, unless one or the other is upset in the quarterfinals.

The likely #4 seed is Rochester, which Sacred Heart easily defeated a month ago. #4 and #5 play each other in the quarterfinals, which would likely pit Rochester against #5 Imani. The winner would, presumably, play Jeannette in the semifinals. That would leave Jeannette, Sacred Heart and Clairton paired in the quarterfinals against the three Tri County teams : California, Monessen and West Greene.

In addition to the teams, there's an individual competition going on. Right now Bradley needs 326 yards to become the fifth quarterback in WPIAL history to pass for 8,000 yards. But that's for his career. In just this year, Bradley is second to StoRox quarterback Eric Wilson, who has thrown for 2673 yards and completed 145 of 246 attempts. Just this year, Bradley has completed 156 of 234 for 2574 yards.

However, Bradley is assured at least one playoff game and is favored to reach the finals, which would mean three more games after the one at Cornell. StoRox has only a slim chance of landing an at large bid to the playoffs, so Bradley will easily surpass Wilson for the season.

Ironically, this Friday Bradley will face the other top WPIAL Class A QB in Cornell's Zaire Harrison, a junior who ranks third.

Greensburg Central Catholic Drills Cornell, 50-8

Greensburg Central Catholic scored in every quarter Friday night to defeat Cornell 50-8 and drop the once hopeful Raiders to 4-4 on the season, 3-3 in the conference.

The only Cornell score came in the second quarter when Zaire Harrison hit Kaden Divito with a 20 yard pass in the end zone. Harrison then ran for the PAT. But by then, the score was already 28-8.

GCC scored once in the first quarter on an 11 yard run by Max Pisula and a PAT kick by Nste Ward. The Centurions scored four more times in the second quarter. Prior to Cornell's TD, Pisula had another run in from the 11, Luke Mazowieki returned a punt 45 yards, and Bryce Kurpiel caught a 15 uyard pass from Pisula. Ward made all the PAT kicks.

After the Cornell TD, Pisula found Kurpiel for a 56 yard and a 35-8 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, GCC's Pisula hit Maziewicki with a 47 yarder. A pass from Pisula to Ben LaCarte made it 43-8.

And in the fourth, Pisula lofted a short one yard pass to Jacob Reihart. Ward's PAT kick made the final score 50-8.

Pisula finished with 220 yards passing. He also ran the ball 17 times for another 122 yards, mostly strsight up the middle.

Greensburg Central Catholic is now 6-3 and still in contention for one of the WPIAL's two at large postseason berths. But the odds are slim. The Tri County Conference is almost certain to end in a three way tie between California, Monessen and West Greene, all with only one conference loss. This means whoever loses the three way coin toss is guaranteed one of the at large berths. So StoRox, Laurel, Imani and Greensburg CC will contend for the other one. Imani beat GCC and one of its losses came to 2A Beth Center, so presumably Imani will be the favorite of the four.

Harrison (#7, photo, left) continued his prolific passing output. He ranks third in Class A behind Sacred Heart's Tyler Bradley and StoRox's Eric Wilson. Harrison ranks ninth among all WPIAL quarterbacks.

Divito also continued his late season surge. The junior, who did not play football prior to this season, took the first half of the season to develop as a receiver. He has now become one of Harrison's favorite targets.

Cornell concludes its season Friday at home against Sacred Heart. The Chargers are ranked third in the WPIAL and fifth in the state. They have lost only to #1 Jeannette, which won the 2017 WPIAL and state titles and is considered a major threat to repeat. Sacred Heart has clinched the Big Seven Conference title. Quarterback Tyler Bradley is #1 in the WPIAL so the game will feature two of the top three Class A quarterbacks.

Chargers Get Back On Track, 53-0
All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Sacred Heart bounced back from its loss to Jeannette last week by thrashing Jefferson Morgan 53-0 Friday night.

It was never a game. OLSH quarterback Tyler Bradley completed 14 of 19 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Sacred Heart ran up 426 yards in total offense, while holding Jefferson Morgan to 169.

The Rockets are 2-6, having defeated only Mapletown and Avella. They were never in the game. Sacred Heart scored four touchdowns and two PATs for a 26-0 first quarter lead. Then the Chargers scored three more TDs and two PATs in the second to lead 46-0 at halftime. They added the final TD in the third quarter and played reserves most of the second half.

Austin Wigley started the avalanche with a 20 yard run, and, a few minutes later, added another 24 yard run. On the second one, Ryan Goehring's PAT kick was good.

Bradley found Richard Banks for a 23 yard pass and a 19-0 lead.

Noah Campalong broke loose for a 32 yard run and Goehring added the kick for the 26-0 first quarter edge.

Dom Mazzarese ran it in from the one ysrd line and Goehring added the kick to start the second quarter.

Wigley came back with another TD, this a run from the two yard line.

Bradley hit Sig Saftner on a short one yard pass and Goehring added the kick to close out scoring before the half.

In the third, Bradley found Bobby Brazell with an 11 yard pass and Goehring added the kick.

Unlike the Jeannette game, the OLSH line gave Bradley plenty of time to find receivers.

Thanks to the Jeannette loss, OLSH is in an infair position. They have dropped to third place among WPIAL Class A teams, behind unbeatens Jeannette and Clairton. Barring an upset, Jeannette and Clairton could claim the #1 and #2 seeds in the postseason play offs. Since the computer algorithm factors in margin of victory, it encourages teams to run up onesided scores when possible. So Sacred Heart's best chance of squeezing out that #2 seed is to run up the score the next two weeks over Union and Cornell. Coaches like to encourage their players to display good sportsmanship and not run up scores, so the Charges will be pulled in both directions. Union and Cornell will be away games.

Hodgkiss Hangs Tough But Drops In Semis

Jon Hodgkiss hung in there through three preliminary races but failed to make the cut for the World 100 at Eldora Raceway in Ohio on Saturday.

On another rainy weekend, the Friday night preliminary races had to be postponed until Saturday. 100 racing teams showed up at the track north of Dayton for what is considered rhe national dirt track late model championships.

But only 30 would advance to the actual 100 lap championship race. To get there drivers first had to thread their way through time trials and three preliminaries. In each preliminary, only half or a third of the drivers advanced. Racers don't use the words, but in effect the races represented the octafinals, quarterfinals and semifinals of a tournament in any other sport.

Brandon Sheppard led the time trial qualifiers with a 14.76. Of the 100 entries, Hodgkiss had the 75th fastest time.

The times determined placing in the heat races.

In the first round of eight 10 lap heat races, Hodgkiss placed 10th in his heat, which was won by Sheppard.

In the second round of four 12 lap heats, he again finished 10th in his heat, which was won by Steve Roberts. That put him in the third round of two 25 lap semifinals.

To make the feature, the actual World 100, Hodgkiss had to place 15th or higher in the semi, or "consolation." Based on his time trial and placing in prior heats, he was placed 22 to start. He worked his way up to 19th but could get no higher.

Tim McCreadie of Watertown, New York, in #39, won the World 100. He is a familiar driver and car to Hodgkiss, who battled with him for position early in the feature Pittsburgh 100 and in the prelims at the World 100 (see panorama photo above, where Hodgkiss is alongside McReadie).

Bobby Pierce in Car #32, who won the Pittsburgh 100 last week, finished a distant 14th.

This concludes the 2018 dirt track racing season. Racing will resume at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway and Lernerville in April 2019.

Harrison's 493 Yards WPIAL's All Time 4th Best
Laurel Deals Cornell Heartbreaking 35-34 Loss

Cornell let a desperately needed win slip through its fingers Friday night as Laurel scored with 12 seconds left to upset the Raiders 35-34.

It was a damp chilly evening on the dimly lit Lawrence County field and Cornell had squeezed out a 6-0 halftime lead, then extended that to 12-0 in the third quarter. But the game suddenly turned into a shootout, with the teams combining for 51 points in the fourth quarter.

The first half looked like the game was going to be a defensive struggle possibly decided by mistakes. Laurel took the kickoff, cranked out three first downs to the Cornell 34, and fumbled. Cornell earned three first downs of its own and reached the Laurel 35 before an interception halted the drive. Laurel stalled and punted. Cornell opened up its passing attack, picking up first downs on its own 34, its 45, and the Laurel 43, then hitting Luke Piccolo on the Laurel four yard line. On the next play, Cornell fumbled. Laurel couldn't move and punted. But it was a spectacularly poor punt, and Cornell took over on the Laurel 31. The quarter ended with no score.

Zaire Harrison opened the second quarter by passing 31 yards to Isiah Langston in the end zone. The PAT failed and Cornell led 6-0.

The teams spent the second quarter exchanging possessions, each starting on about their own 35 and stalling about midfield. With 2:08 in the half, Cornell reached the Laurel 15 but four straight passes to the end zone fell incomplete. Laurel took over as the half ended.

Cornell received to begin the second half. The Raiders cranked out three first downs, but an offside penalty set them back to a third and 22. That was when Harrison found Kaden Divito on the Laurel 22 for another first down. On the next play Harrison hit Luke Piccolo in the end zone (see photo above) at 9:28. The PAT failed but Cornell led 12-0.

Laurel then ground out four first downs and Luke McCoy ran it in from the two. The PAT failed and Cornell still led 12-6 at 5:32.

Cornell went three and out and Laurel controlled the ball for the rest of the quarter.

That set up the wild fourth. Laurel started it on the first play with a 31 yard run by Dan Blank. Blank also ran the PAT in and Laurel led 14-12 at 11:50.

Kaden Divito (#10) stepped up here, turning in the finest performance of his career (photos left and bottom) . He caught passes of 30 and 20 yards to give Cornell a first down on the Laurel 22. Harrison hit Langston on the 10, then scored himself on an 11 yard run (photo, left) with 8:29. Harrison hit Savon Wilson for the PAT and Cornell regained the led 20-14. It was short lived. Laurel took the kickoff and started on its own 35.

Rain started falling here, first lightly, then more heavily. On the first play from scrimmage, McCoy ran down the sideline for the touchdown. Johnny Maine kicked the PAT for the 21-20 Laurel lead.

Cornell came back immediately. Harrison found Divito, handed off to Piccolo, hit Divito on the Laurel 20, then hit him in the end zone for a 26-21 lead at 7:38. Laurel started on its 38 but ran it immediately down to the Cornell 10. Blank ran it in on the next play for a 27-26 lead at 5:46.

Cornell fumbled the kickoff and Laurel had a first down on the Cornell 27. But the Raider defense held and Laurel punted. With 3:00 left Cornell took over on its own 24. Harrison was sacked twice in a row, then found Langston on the Laurel 10, and Divito on the three. He hit Divito for the TD and ran in the PAT at 1:14. So Cornell led 34-27.

With 17 seconds to go, McCoy ran it down the sideline to the Cornell 10. Logan Ayres passed to Dylan Aquaro in the end zone for the TD to make it 34-33 and put all the pressure on the point after. Blank ran it in at 11 seconds. Cornell did get the ball on the kickoff and had time for one play but Piccolo slipped in the mud at midfield.

Harrison completed 27 of 45 passes for 493 yards and four touchdowns. The 493 yards are the fourth highest in WPIAL history and give Harrison a season total of 77 of 138 passes for 1614 yards, third best in Class A behind Sacred Heart's Tyler Bradley and StoRox's Eric Wilson.

It was a disastrous loss. Cornell will be a heavy underdog in its last two games on the road against Greensburg Central Catholic and at home against Sacred Heart. It needed this Laurel win to go up 5-2 so even if it lost those games it could finish with a winning 5-4 record. Now, at 4-3, if it loses those two games it will finish 4-5.

If it had finished 5-4 it also held out hopes of an at large bid to the WPIAL playoffs. Now it is out of the running for such a bid.

Laurel, to its credit, saw a weakness in Cornell's usually solid defense and in the fourth quarter began running the ball around the ends and down the sidelines. The Raiders were never able to stop this.

But Greensburg Central Cstholic is not an unwinnable game. The Centurions lost to Jeannette 40-14 Friday night and are only 3-3 in the Eastern Conference and 5-3 overall. The computer favors them mainly because the game is at home and the Eastern is the toughest class A conference in the WPIAL. Their losses to Jeannette, Clairton and Imani are understandable considering those are all ranked among the WPIAL's top six teams. GCC's wins have been over Tuscarawas Central Catholic, Riverview, Leechburg, Springdale snd Mapletown. Cornell has also defeated Riverview.

Hodgkiss Is Only Local Entry In World 100

The top 100 dirt track racers in North America gather at Eldora Racetrack near Rossville, Ohio (near Dayton) this weekend to determine the 2018 national champion.

Only one Western Hills driver will be there. Jon Hodgkiss of Kennedy Township and his crew will pull into Eldora Friday morning and settle in for the weekend. Drivers will compete in time trials and heat races Friday to determine who advances to the Saturday main event, a 100 lapper now in its 40th season.

Half of the Saturday field is expected to consist of Lucas Oil Circuit cars and drivers. They just raced last weekend in Pittsburgh. But another 50 regional and local drivers have qualified and are here to try their luck. Hodgkiss is one of those.

Eldora is widely accepted as the finest dirt track in the world. It draws 40,000 fans to an event. As the map at bottom shows, seating extends around three sides of the track. There are 16 luxury suites on turn 4 (see photo at left).

NASCAR star Tony Stewart owns Eldora and has continually worked to update and improve it. Eldora was first built in the 1950s. But the actual track is the same size as the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Beyond the parking lot Eldora maintains a huge campground. On big race weekends, fans will arrive Friday afternoon and spend the weekend.

You don't even have to go to Eldora to watch the race. Fans can pay for it online and watch it livestreamed on their laptop, tablet or phone. It will also be televised nationally on several cable motorsports channels.

Track conditions at Eldora are iffy on this Thursday. They've already had their share of rain, and everyone is keeping an eye on the hurricane down on the Gulf Coast. It could veer inland and bring heavy rains with it. But so far the forecast is for clear and cold weather through Saturday.

Hodgkiss is guardedly optimistic about his chanccs. Of course, he has to thread his way through time trials and preliminary heats to make it to the feature race.

But he's learned, and he learned again last weekend, that he and his car can run with the nationally ranked teams for at least 40 - 50 laps. What he has not shown is that he and the car can make it through 100 laps. And there's the question of how efficient his pit crew might be during high speed pit stops when they have to change tires or deal with a mechanical problem.

The usual favorites will be at Eldora : Jon Davenport of Georgia, Scott Bloomquist of Tennessee and Bobby Pierce of Illinois, plus another 20 or so Lucas Oil Circuit racing teams.

Hodgkiss normally goes into these races hoping to place in the top 20, but after running 16th for a while last weekend, he's raising his expectations.

The track at Eldora will be in better condition than the one at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, which has been washed by rain after rain. Eldora has also received a lot of rain, but has better drainage and does not have the higher ground around it seeping water down onto the track.

This ends the season for the Hodgkiss Racing Team and the regional and national dirt track racing circuits.

Limited bleacher seats are still available at Eldora at $25 each for Friday and $40 for Saturday. Suites and grandstand seating are sold out.

Hodgkiss Reaches 16th
Bobby Pierce Wins Pittsburgh 100

The power and glory of big time dirt track racing was on full display for three days at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway over the weekend as the Lucas Oil Circuit came to town for the Pittsburgh 100.

All the big names were there : Jon Davenport of Georgia, Josh Richards of West Virginia, Scott Bloomquist of Tennessee, Tim McCreadie of New York, Bobby Pierce of Illinois, and a long list of other drivers and teams from as far away as Texas, California and Florida.

The big $500,000 rigs hauling the $100,000 racecars and their crews pulled into the speedway Thursday for time trials, qualifying heats and autograph sessions. The fans who follow them parked their RVs in the PPMS camping grounds and the smells of barbeque, fried chicken and pulled pork drifted across the racetrack.

Lost in the maze of huge rigs was the little white trailer and blue #69 of Kennedy Township's Jon Hodgkiss. "These guys must think we're pretty cute," Jon's Dad said with a grin as he looked up the row of rigs. "We're like a throwback to the 20th Century."

Lucas Oil Circuit drivers, like their NASCAR counterparts, move from track to track across the country. They were in Georgia last week. They'll be in Ohio next week. The drivers spend Tuesdays and Wednesdays on tracks testing their cars, trying new tactics. Their mechanics, many of whom are mechanical engineers, spend their days tinkering with shocks, gears and timing.

Hodgkiss spends Tuesdays and Wednesdays, plus Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, building or remodelling structures. He owns Hodgkiss Construction Company on Steubenville Pike. Racing to him is a hobby, not a full time job. "You have to decide at the beginning if you want to spend your life on the road or just race on weekends," he explains. "

"I love racing. I absolutely love it. But none of these guys are making a living at it. They all have some other income. One of them owns 350 pieces of real estate and gets his income from rentals. Several of them inherited money. Some of them made their money somehow and invested it and live off the interest. Even though they're some of the best race drivers in the world, they're not making a living off of it. So I decided early on that I would make my money in construction and just race as an expensive hobby."

Hodgkiss has become a very good regional driver. He only competes at tracks within a day's drive of home. Currently, that limits him to PMS, Lehrnerville, Erie and Eldora (Ohio).

Back In The Day, the only difference between regional and national racing teams was that some chose to stay close to home. That's no longer true.

"Big money has destroyed dirt track racing," Dad Hodgkiss tells reporters. "It drove a huge divide between the regional and national guys. 90% of racing is the car. These are incredibly sophisticated machines. The average racing fan has no idea. Every single part on these cars is high tech. But when one guy can buy engines, shocks, steering and everything worth two or three times what the other guy can, then no matter how well that other guy drives, he can't keep up over a 25 lap race."

Dad Hodgkiss drove in the old Pittsburgh Racing Association, so young Jon grew up in the sport. He started driving Limiteds, then moved up to the Unlimited Division.

"Running a construction business involves a lot of stress and pressure," Jon explains. "Every day, all day, every minute. You're under deadlines, the work has to be done just perfect, you deal with weather, employees, suppliers, all kinds of variables. Racing allows me to escape from that pressure. Sure, there's pressure in racing, too, but only what you put on yourself. If I lose a race, well, there are no long range implications. We just go back to work for next week. So it's a very freeing hobby. We keep a very tight eye on money, We only spend what we can afford to. So we're not under any pressure to win a race with a big purse."

Behind him, a mechanic works on the car's tires, cleaning the mud out of the tread so the car gets the best possible grip on the clay track.

"I try to race within myself," Hodgkiss continues. "If the car runs perfect and I make good decisions on the track, well, then I've had a good day."

That's a lot tougher than it sounds. Unlimiteds run at about 125-130 mph. Clay tracks are notoriously rough. Parts can vibrate loose.

"Last week up at Erie," Hodgkiss recalls, "I'm doing fine, challenging for the lead, and all of a sudden the engine starts missing. I don't have the punch I did. Turns out a wire has come loose, not totally loose, but just loose enough that every so many revolutions the spark misses. Well, running this fast with this high octane fuel and these high compression engines, if you're not getting a full explosion in a cylinder every time, your spark plugs foul right away."

Shock absorbers particularly annoy him. "The centrifugal forces here are intense. When we're on the turns, the front right corner drops way down. It's critical that as we come out of those turns, it comes up right away. The better the shock, the faster it comes back up. Today, top Penske shocks run $1700-2000. So if you can't spend that much on shocks, you're going to be at a real disadvantage." Hodgkiss pulls a shock off the car and uses a special device to adjust it, almost microscopically, to exactly what the track conditions require.

He also thinks engine builders have tilted racing against the regional drivers. "Guys used to build their own engines, and some builders specialized in dirt track engines, so guys could buy from them. But now the big engine builders have taken over. They just build for NASCAR, then sell the same engines to us dirt track racers. Escept those NASCAR engines are not suited for dirt tracks.

A NASCAR track is glass smooth. A dirt track is much rougher. "Those NASCAR engines, for all their power, are delicate. They're sophisticated, but their parts are so finely tuned, these dirt tracks beat them up. So you have to keep rebuilding them. They only last about a thousand laps. With testing, qualifying, heats and features, you add up a thousand laps pretty quick. But a rebuild costs about $16,000. Doing that twice a year really stretches the budget for a regional team. What we need is an engine built just for dirt tracks, an engine which is pretty sophisticated but also pretty tough. We could sacrifice a little performance for a little toughness. The big guys have all that national sponsorship money, so they burn through engines and don't worry about it."

Saturday was rainy and the Pittsburgh 100 had to be postponed until Sunday. Hodgkiss, his Dad and his mechanic spent the whole day on the car. He used the Air Density Gauge to calibrate the carbeurator. He and his Dad spent an hour working on an ignition issue. He took the car out for test laps and determined the track was extremely slick due to all the rain, which had saturated the clay. So they adjusted the shocks.

Up and down pit row, all the other crews were doing the same things.

Everyone was loading their rear shocks to force the wheels down for more grip. Regulations require that as the car passes through inspection the rear deck be no more than 39 inches high. But pit crews will lean on the deck just before it passes the measuring point. For a moment it will record 39. Half a lap around the track, it will have risen to 45. The higher deck exerts more downward pressure so creates greater grip and power.

Just a few bays down, the Pierce Racing Team from Illinois was putting the finishing touches on their #32.

Jon motioned to the red and white car. "My goal here is to finish in the top 20. These are the top dirt track race teams in America. Just the fact that we qualified for the Pittsburgh 100 is a big deal. There are a lot of guys with a lot more money than we have who didn't make the race. Yeh, sure, it would be great to win it or make the top 10, but realistically, over 100 laps, they've just got too many advantages. In a 20 lap race, maybe, but over 100 laps, those advantages will rise to the top. However, if I go out there, drive a smart race, and the car performs well, and we work our way up into the top 20, then I can say I'm one of the top 20 dirt track racers in the country even though we're just a regional team and almost all of that top 20 will be full timers. Like I said, you gotta race within yourself. Set your own goals. Take your victories where you can."

Hodgkiss finished a surprising 12th and 7th in two qualifying heats to esrn a 26th starting position in the 100. This meant he had finished ahead of a dozen nationally ranked drivers.

"We can do this," he said elatedly. "We can run with these guys."

He bided his time for several laps, then slipped into 25th. The car was performing well. The track was lightning fast, but water was seeping onto the top of turn 2 and turns 3 and 4 were what the drivers call "squirelly," meaning traction was poor. Hodgkiss, using controls inside the car, adjusted the brakes so the front right brake grabbed tighter, which, if he needed it, would give him more bite.

The pace was intense, possibly a record breaker, thanks to the week of rain. Mike Marlar led early. Beginning Lap 10, Hodgkiss grabbed a line low on turn 1 and slipped into 23rd. He was starting to feel a rush of adrenaline. The car was perfect. He was passing guys ranked nationally. On Lap 14, two cars tangled on turn 3 and Brandon Sheppard took over the lead. Hodgkiss slipped below the tangle into 21st.

He held there until Lap 22, when someone drifted up toward the middle and he darted below them into 20th. This, he thought, could be a magical afternoon. On Lap 30 he caught two cars on turn 2 dueling with each other. They went high and he shot below them into 18th.

He suddenly realized that the car ahead of him was #32, Bobby Pierce. He was one of the favorites, way back here in 17th. Pierce, Hodgkiss assumed, was going to be moving up steadily over the next 70 laps. Could he shadow him into a high finish? He settled in. For 10 laps, there was no movement back where Hodgkiss was, even though, at the front, the leaders traded first place back and forth.

He was amazed at the patience Pierce showed. He seemed content to wait until making his move toward the front. Then, on Lap 41, Pierce went low and moved into 16th. Hodgkiss followed him into 17th. On Lap 43, coming down the back straight, Pierce saw a line through the middle of the track and darted through into 15th, with Hodgkiss right behind him into 16th. They held those positions coming through turns 3 and 4 and down the front straight. Entering Lap 44, Hodgkiss was 16th, ahead of a dozen full time professional drivers and their much more expensive cars.

It was a beautiful October afternoon with the sun dropping in the sky and the crowd cheering loudly. It was the kind of day Hodgkiss lives for.

Then it all came crashing down.

Entering turn 1, Pierce was blocked by two slower cars.

Below them were four cars. Above them was wide open. Hodgkiss expected Pierce to pull high and shoot through but Pierce held his position. Making a split second decision, Hodgkiss pulled high and aimed for the opening.

"I'm thinking, My God, I'm going to pass Bobby Pierce," Hodgkiss said later. "Is this even happening? What a fantasy."

Instead, the front wheels hit the wet spot on upper turn 2 and lost traction. Instinctively, Hodgkiss tapped the brakes. Too late he remembered adjusting the brakes to increase the grab on the front right. As #69 came beyond the water and back onto solid clay, the front right wheel clamped down hard and threw the car head on into the wall at 130 mph. The other cars roared on by. Yellow lights flashed and the race slowed. Hodgkiss' car was done for the day. But Pierce used the caution laps to drop into the pits and change tires on his car to better match track conditions.

"I love this track," Pierce told reporters later (see photo, below). This was his first race here. "It's a momentum kind of track. I know the weather wasn't good this weekend, but I can't wait to get back here next year and run it under better conditions. It has great lines. I thought our tire change was key, plus the track improved as we went on."

Hodgkiss and his party watched the last 56 laps from the lookout stand built into their trailer (photo, left). It turned out to be one of the season's best races, both here at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway and on the National Lucas Oil Circuit. Just as Hodgkiss suspected, Pierce slowly worked his way up through the field over 50 laps until he passed Jimmy Owens on Lap 90 for the lead and hung on to win.

When the track computer completed final calculations, Hodgkiss was 20th. So it was a bittersweet day. He did achieve his top 20 finish, but came away thinking he could have finished so much higher.

Even though PMS is now done, Hodgkiss is not. He and his crew head for Eldora (Ohio) this weekend for the World 100, which is basically the Dirt Track National Championship. Once again, he'll be a part time self financed little guy trying to survive in a world of big money full time professionals. But, as he says with a grin, "I just love racing."

Pittsburgh 100 Top 20: l. Bobby Pierce, Ill. 2. Jimmy Owens, Tenn. 3. Earl Pearson, Fla. 4. Jon Davenport, Ga. 5. Josh Richards, WVa. 6. Tim McReadie New York. 7. Ricky Thornton, Az. 8. Don ONeal, Ind. 9. Dennis Erb, Ill. 10. Darrell Lanigan, Ky. 11. Chub Franke, Pa. 12. Brandon Sheppard, Ill. 13. Mason Zeigler, Pa. 14. Michael Norris, Pa. 15. Scott Bloomquist, Tenn. 16. Mike Marlar, Tenn. 17. Frank Heckenast, Ill. 18. Colton Flinner, Pa. 19. Greg Satterlee, Pa. 20. Jon Hodgkiss, Pa.

Jayhawks Still Rule The Roost, 28-13
All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Undefeated, unchallenged and #2 Sacred Heart had hoped to make a statement Friday night, defeating reigning WPIAL and PIAA champion Jeannette on its home field.

It didn't happen. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong as the host Jayhawks spanked Sacred Heart 28-13 to send its own statement : This team may have suffered some graduation losses but intends to defend its state championship with all the weapons at its disposal. And it has plenty.

Jeannette's two major weapons were a swarming, attacking defense and a tough, gritty ground game.

OLSH quarterback Tyler Bradley came into the game as the WPIAL's top quarterback, the director of Western Pennsylvania's most prolific air attack.

Jeannette shut him down immediately. They did it by using a variety of stunts and blitzes to penetrate the SH offensive line. The photo at right of Bradley setting up to pass was a rarity. On most plays, he didn't have time to look for receivers because he was scrambling for his life.

He was sacked on Sacred Heart's first possession, then sacked five more times, four of them by Drake Petrillo, who the Charger line never could contain. Petrillo spent most of the game in the OLSH backfield. Bradley was intercepted four times, two of which were run back for first half touchdowns by Marcus Barnes and Jackson Pruitt.

Bradley is a gifted quarterback, and he still completed 21 of 44 passes for 291 yards. But that is way below his average and Sacred Heart never did mount a consistent drive.

They also shot themselves in the foot. The Chargers committed five turnovers and more penalties than they had all season. To be fair, though, both were the result of Jeannette's defense. Sacred Heart has not seen the continuing stunts and blitzes Jeannette kept throwing at them, and it kept them off balance, rattled and prone to mistakes.

The crowd was the largest Sacred Heart has ever played before and it may have unnerved them as much as the Jayhawk defense. Neither Bradley nor anyone else on offense seemed comfortable at any point.

One reason Bradley and his talented receiving corps never mounted one of their usual drives was they couldn't get on the field. The Sacred Heart defense played almost the entire game. Jeannette's maddening ground game just kept chewing up yardage in small bites while the clock kept ticking.

Jeannette quarterback Seth Howard showed that he could pass, too. He threw for 198 yards. One of those passes, a three yarder to Zack Berginc, gave the Jayhawks their first touchdown and a 6-0 lead. But for the most part, Jeannette was content to keep the ball on the ground.

Later in the first quarter, Barnes picked off that Bradley pass and took it 58 yards for a 12-0 lead.

Bradley finally found Austin Wigley for a 30 yard pass to cut the gap to 12-6 just before the first quarter ended.

But then, in the second period, Pruitt intercepted that second Bradley pass and ran it back 85 yards for a 20-6 halftime lead.

The Jayhawks needed that. They had just embarassed themelves.

In a classic comedy of errors, they had the ball on the Sacred Heart 20 and, penalty by penalty, managed to push themselves backward all the way to their own 25. The resulting fourth down and 55 might set a WPIAL record.

As the second half opened, Sacred Heart showed signs of life and that botched drive looked like it might come back to haunt Jeannette. Bradley hit Sig Saftner with a 27 yarder to put the Chargers back in the game at 20-13.

The teams then traded possessions back and forth for the rest of the quarter until Sacred Heart mounted what looked like the tying drive. They ended up with a first and goal on the nine and third and goal on the one. That was when Jeannette's defense rose to heroic stature, smothering Sacred Heart on two straight plays.

Howard then passed downfield to Berginc on the 45, then ran it down the sideline himself to make it 28-13.

After the ensuing kickoff, Bradley's first pass was picked off by Shamon Jackson. Another time consuming Jeannette drive finally stalled, and Sacred Heart took over, Saftner put the Chargers in scoring position, but on the next play Jeannette's Justin Cramer recovered a fumble. Howard immediately fired a 78 yard pass to Melik Gordon for a first and 10 on the Sacred Heart 10. But the OLSH defense held. Then they couldn't move the ball. They had to punt to Jeannette, which took over on its own 45. Again Sacred Heart held, and received a punt back on its own 15 with 3:23 left. A penalty put them in a 3rd and 27 situation, and the game ended with no further scoring.

"We've been reading about these guys all year," Petrillo told reporters afterward. "He was the star of the WPIAL and they were racking up all those yards and TDs. But this is our house. Nobody comes into our house and does that on us. It was a pride thing. We talked about it all week."

The game should be valuable experience for Sacred Heart. Barring a major upset, the two are favored to meet again in the WPIAL finals. The Chargers have plenty of film to study. But the loss did drop Sacred Heart to third. Unbeaten Clairton is now second.

Other Locals Also Do Well On Final Weekend
Medved Finishes Season With Victory

It's been a frustrating season for Chuck Medved (car 2M) in the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway's Limited Division. He's done well enough, and finished sixth in season points. But first place has eluded him.

Friday night on the final weekend, he finally won a race. No, it wasn't a big one. It was just a 15 lap prelim to the big Lucas Oil races. But all the local rivals were in it --- Bob Schwartzmiller, Logan Zarin, Paul Jablonski, etc, --- and he had to beat out drivers like Tim Shaffer (in White #45 in photo).

In the world of Late Model dirt track racing, the competition is ruthless and wins are hard to come by. So Medved will take it. He can savor it all Winter while he and his Imperial racing team prepare for next year.

Other Western Hill drivers also found success during the final three day weekend. Bob Schwartzmiller edged out Josh Stoica for a win in the 10 lap Late Model sprint.

Shaffer narrowly edged Medved in another 10 lap sprint. Daryl Charlier of Midway won the 40 lap Bill Hendron Memorial, a sort of companion feature to the Lucal Oil Pittsburgh 100. The Hendron Memorial is for Limited Late Models, a division below the big Unlimiteds.

Rising teenage star Kyle Janus finished second in the final four cylinder race of the year.

Justin Lamb, who won the regular season points title, did not have a good weekend. He finished 2nd in one qualifying heat, 6th in another, and 8th in the Hendren Memorial.

The Pittsburgh Motor Speedway held heats and features in the other divisions Friday night as leadups to the Pittsburgh 100 qualifying heats, time trials and Sunday afternoon main event.

Cornell Swamps Canevin 48-12 For Homecoming

Some guys have all the luck. Friday night was Homecoming at Cornell, so Corey Johns got to step out of the locker room for a few minutes to escort Maya Goins as the two were named King and Queen. Then he got to step onto the football field and lead his Raiders to a solid 40-6 win over Bishop Canevin. It sounds like a fantasy evening.

It wasn't.

It was miserable. After another week of rain, the field was a swamp, with expanses of deep mud, ruts, and in some places ankle deep puddles. The evening was unseasonably warm. As game time approached, a fog drifted in. By the second quarter, a light mist began, and much of the game was played in a drizzle. The dreary weather produced the lowest crowd of the season. By halftime, the starters' uniforms were soaking wet and caked with mud.

But nobody was complaining. The win lifted Cornell to 4-2 and 6-2. All the Raiders have to do now is win Friday at Laurel and they'll clinch a winning Big Seven Conference season and keep their hopes alive for a WPIAL at large berth.

Cornell exploded out of the gate. Canevin's onside kick failed so the Raiders took possession on the 44. On the first play from scrimmage Luke Piccolo ran 56 yards for a touchdown. The PAT failed but Cornell led 6-0. Canevin drove to the Cornell 30 before stalling. On the first play Drew Lopez ran 71 yards for a second TD. So with 8:46 in the first, the Raiders led 12-0.

Canevin took the kick on its own 40 and cranked out four first downs to reach the Cornell 18. But Zaire Harrison intercepted a pass on the two yard line. The Raiders ground out a first down on the 12 but appeared to stall and lined up to punt. Piccolo faked the punt and ran for another first down. Harrison then found Kaden Divito for 17 yards as play entered the second quarter.

Harrison ran it to the Canevin 35, then passed to Jalen Lee for the TD. With 9:34 in the half, Cornell led 18-0.

The teams exchanged possessions until with 1:34 and the ball on the C34, Harrison found Piccolo, who ran it in for the TD. A Brian Sams to Isiah Langston pass made it 26-0 at the half.

Things only got worse for Canevin in the third. The Centurions received and promptly fumbled. Tyler Godfrey recovered for Cornell on its own 47. Passes to Divito, Langston and Divito again moved it to the four, and with 6:41 Harrison hit Divito for the TD. Sams' kick was good, making it 33-0. With 3:14 in the third, Piccolo took a pass in and Sams made the PAT for the final Cornell score.

Coach Ed Dawson sent in the reserves. With 8:54 remaining, Canevin hit a 24 yard pass against Cornell's JVs for the final 40-6 score. Those fans who stayed through the rain got to see some nice runs by junior Savon Wilson, some solid play at quarterback by Jason Keene, and a tackle and a first down by freshman Carmine Delessandro, the smallest varsity player in the WPIAL.

Harrison passed for 254 yards and four TDs. His numbers have dropped afer low output against Rochester and Sto-Rox, but he still ranks third among Class A quarterbacks behind Sacred Heart's Tyler Bradley and Sto-Rox's Eric Wilson. Harrison is 20th among all WPIAL quarterbacks.

Cornell is now tied with Sto-Rox for third in the Big Seven Conference. The WPIAL will take the conference winner (presumably Sacred Heart) and runnerup (presumably Rochester) plus one at large team into the playoffs. Sto-Rox holds the tie breaker over Cornell.

"We have to take care of business," Dawson told his team after the game. "We have to keep winning and hope someone upsets Sto-Rox. We can't worry about what anyone else does. We have to focus on ourselves."

Cornell plays Laurel Friday in suburban New Castle. The Spartans have defeated Canevin, 44-7, California 37-14 and Union 48-13. But they lost to Rochester 26-14, Mohawk 28-12, Clairton 25-12 and Sacred Heart 55-13.

Sacred Heart Will Launch Air Raid On Jeannette Fortress
All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

A high school sporta dynasty takes a long time to build and constant work to maintain. Right now, Jeannette sits atop the Pennsylvania and WPIAL Class A football mountain. They have won more games, more championships and produced more outstanding players than any other school at their level. They rank fifth in the state among schools of all sizes for all time winning percentage and championships. Last year, this run continued, as the Jayhawks added another WPIAL and state title.

In a time when schools everywhere are worrying about declining football participation and many good programs are down to less than 30, or even less than 20, players, Jeannette dresses 50. In a time when attendance is down everywhere else, Jeannette continues to draw 5,000 plus crowds.

Jeannette games are broadcast live on WHJB 107.1 and draw an average 22,000 listeners. The Eastern Conference the Jayhawks play in has won nine of the last 10 WPIAL titles and for the last three years has produced both of the WPIAL finalists. Jeannette has been playing football for 100 years but won its first title in 1932 and has been winning or coming close ever since. The town of 10,000 population would be a good place to film a movie or TV series or write a book about high school football.

Sacred Heart is the exact opposite. OLSH fielded its first team in 2010. It has taken nine hard years to build to this point. Last year the Chargers finally made the WPIAL playoffs but quickly exited in a 20-12 Imani loss.

This year, Sacred Heart is unbeaten, unchallenged and ranked #2. If they could upset Jeannette Friday night, they would achieve a # 1 ranking for the first time and, barring a huge upset, carry a coveted #1 seed into the playoffs.

Sacred Heart seems to hold a winning hand. It has Tyler Bradley, the top quarterback in Class A and one of the top five in all classes combined. It has a talented receiving corps of Andrew Schnarre (448 yards), Richard Banks (420), Ricco Tate (333) and Austin Wigley (316). In just the game against Laurel last week, Bradley completed 24 of 34 passes for 459 yards and seven touchdowns.

But where Sacred Heart has been winning games is on the line. The real stars of the OLSH season are the linemen shown in the first three photos. On offense they keep defenders from getting to Bradley, giving him the time he needs to find downfield receivers. On defense, they stop runners from finding holes like the one seen above. That Laurel runner picked up a few yards, but it doesn't happen very often.

One reason they've been so successful is that they're bigger. And they'll be bigger than Jeannette. The Jeannette line averages 6-0 and runs 195, 210, 205, 230, 193 and 215. Defensive Tackle Zach Crutchman is the 230. He's a 6-3 junior, the Jayhawks' biggest player.

If Sacred Heart's line can continue its success, the Chargers will win.

But that's not guaranteed. Jeannette has been winning with smaller lineups for a century. It uses speed, quickness, strength, smarts, toughness and the kind of pride that comes with growing up with a winning tradition. In last year's championship season, Jeannette was outsized in all but one game and won anyway.

The Jayhawks won't fill the air with passes like Sacred Heart. They run the ball. Imani Sanders, a 5-5 150 junior; Zack Berginc, a 5-5 135 senior; and Marcus Barnes, a 6-3 180 senior, carry it the most. Quarterback Seth Howard can throw. He's done so for 709 yards and 11 touchdowns. But if he's not pitching out or handing off to Sanders, Berginc or Barnes, he usually just tucks it under his arm and runs it up the middle. Sanders leads Jeannette with 379 yards rushed. Howard is second with 311. Barnes is third with 299. Barnes has personally scored seven TDs.

Jeannette does nothing fancy. They're famous for old school, fundamental, grind it out football. One way they win games is by churning out yardage in three and four yard pieces and taking a long time getting from one end of the field to the other. The Jayhawks run a lot of traps, draws and off tackle slants. Opposing offenses end up running only a fifth as many plays as the Jayhawks. If Jeannette can do this against Sacred Heart, Bradley and his crew will not be able to unleash their attack.

McKee Stadium will give Jeannette an advantage. Sacred Heart plays home games before mostly empty Rip Scherer Field. They play away games in the Big Seven Conference, where only Rochester draws decent crowds. Against Jeannette, OLSH will be playing before 7,000 - 8,000 fans, 5,000 in a core grandstand and another 2,000 around the rest of the field. The crowd will be almost all Jeannette fans. The Jayhawks traditionally fill up opposing stadiums, and last year in the WPIAL championship game at Robert Morris filled that facility with their familiar blue and red. This game is at home, and Jeannette fans see Sacred Heart as a legitimate challenger to their football pride. Sacred Heart will probably bring its biggest following of the year, but it will be lost in the Jeannette crowd. For the Chargers to win, they will have to play with that crowd noise against them.

Sacred Heart has already played its toughest opponents in Westinghouse, Sto-Rox, Rochester and Laurel. Jeannette has yet to play arch rivals Greensburg Central Catholic and Clairton in the Eastern Conference.

Sacred Heart's usual strategy of grabbing a quick lead and demoralizing opponents won't work against Jeannette. The Jayhawks have mastered the art of coming from behind, especially in the fourth quarter. Last season, en route to WPIAL and state championships, the Jayhawks came from behind on consecutive weekends against Rochester, Clairton, Imani, Farrell and Homer Center. That string included 14 points in the fourth against Clairton and 10 points in the fourth against Farrell.

Over the years, fourth quarter rallies have been a Jeannette tradition. This may indicate that the Jayhawks are in better condition. But it's also due to familiarity. Jeannette has been in so many big games and so many playoff games that they feel comfortable there. Most teams find it unfamiliar and intimidating and allow themselves to get rattled.

The computer ranks the teams even and gives a slight edge to the home team. But the betting rule says in close games bet on the quarterback. Bradley has thrown for 1780 yards and 24 TDs this year and will surpass 7000 yards for his career Friday night. That should be the difference.

Hodgkiss, Stefanick, Musolino In Pittsburgh 100 Saturday
93X Wins Season Points Title --- Without Lamb

One of the eccentricities of auto racing is that points accrue to the car, not the driver. Fans have always found this odd and confusing. But it served Imperial's Justin Lamb well Saturday night as regular season racing for 2018 wrapped up with twin features in the Rush Limited Late Models.

There were two features because one had been rained out a few weeks prior. But a feature race win earns 25 points, and the other finishers pick up points decreasing by one point per place. So a driver winning both features could grab 50 points.

Lamb has been leading the points race all season, but due to a wedding he could not race Saturday. Since it's the car earning the points, Lamb asked Keith Barbara to drive in his place. Barbara just needed to finish in the top 10 in both races, which would earn 28 points, enough to hold onto first place.

Barbara did better than that. He finished fifth in the qualifying heat, won the first feature, then came back and finished second in the other.

In the first feature, among the other contenders, Daryl Charlier finished 4th, Logan Zarn 6th, Christian Schneider 9th, Bryan Hoffman 12th and Chuck Medved 16th.

Schneider won the second feature, with Barbara a close second. Other Western Hills high finishers were Charlier 3rd, Medved 11th and Ho9ffman 16th.

For a heat and the two features, Barbara earned 48 points, enough to keep Car 93X (phtoto, above) in the lead over Logan Zarn of Moon Township. John Mollick of Toronto was third, Christian Schneider of Pittsburgh (in 1ST out of Imperial, shown here at left) fourth, Josh Stoica of New Cumberland fifth and Chuck Medved of Imperial sixth. Other Western Hills high season points finishers were Daryl Charlier seventh, Jeff Jablonski 10th and Bryan Hoffman of Imperial 23rd.

Attention now shifts to this Saturday's Pittsburgh 100, one of America's top dirt track features

The Western Hills area pins its hopes on John Hodgkiss, who finished ninth in the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway's own regular season points competition in #69, shown at right. This was a very tightly contested division. Hodgkiss trailed first place Alex Ferree of Valencia by only 21 points in regular season points. Other local drivers in this division are Derek Stefanick of Imperial and Tony Musolino of Carnegie.

However, the Pittsburgh 100 is part of the Lucas Oil Unlimited Late Model Dirt Series, which includes the top dirt track cars and drivers in the country and moves from track to track similar to NASCAR. The 100 carries a $20,000 first place purse. So Hodgkiss, Stefanick and Musolino will be joined by a very high powered field. These are $100,000 cars, the closest dirt track racing comes to NASCAR, and in fact many NASCAR drivers came up through this division. This is the 30th year for the 100, and it existed further back than that under various other names. Action really begins Friday night with time trials and heat races. Limited Late Models and Sportsmen will also run their heats, along with features for Hobby Stocks, Young Guns and Four Cylinders.

A single ticket admits the purchaser to both Friday and Saturday races and all related activities.

A live concert and bonfire will follow Friday night racing. Breweries will offer beverages and food. Saturday's activities will begin at 3:30 with various activities and a driver autograph session. Limited and Sportsman divisions will run features as prelims to the Pittsburgh 100. Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Georgia, is the pre-race favorite in the 100, since he leads the national standings.

Among other area drivers, Kyla Janus (photo, left) finished second in the Young Guns Division for the season. Karlee Kovacs was seventh in Hobby Stocks. Brian Huchko was sixth in Elite Modifieds. Danny Rich was sixth, Jeff Broniszewski 10th and Bob Schwartzmiller 34th in Sportsmen.

Bradley, OLSH Warm Up For Jeannette
All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Friday night, October 5th, Tyler Bradley and his Chargers will play the biggest football game in the history of Our Lady Of The Sacred Heart High School. Unbeaten, unchallenged SH, ranked #2 in the WPIAL, plays at #1 Jeannette, also unbeaten, also unchallenged, in a midseason showdown for high school football supremacy. The game is already a "sellout" in the sense they have sold as many tickets as they have seats, but of course additional fans can stand. Every newspaper and TV station in the Pittsburgh area will be there. So will a hundred college scouts, eager to see some of the stars for both teams go against each other. Both teams have already clinched postseason playoff berths, but the winner will earn the #1 seed, which guarantees them the easiest route to the finals.

This will be more than an epic battle. It will be a celebration of high school football, an example of what Friday Night Lights is all about. It will be one of the games the players will talk about when they come back for class reunions 50 years from now,

As a warmup, Sacred Heart buried a pretty good Laurel team 56-13 Saturday afternoon at Rip Scherer Stadium. Laurel is no weakling. It was a Class 2A school last year. It has a strong football tradition.

The Spartans are located on the edge of football hotbed New Castle. They've beaten Canevin 44-7 and California 37-14. And they came into this game convinced they could beat Sacred Heart.

In the first quarter, they did. Quarterback Dom Wade fired a 28 yard pass to Cam Caldararo and Zack Maine made the kick to give Laurel a 7-0 lead. It's the only time this year Sacred Heart has trailed anyone. Bradley found Rico Tate with a 29 yarder late in the first but the kick failed and Laurel led 7-6 going into the second.

But it was just a wakeup call. Bradley went to work. He hit Tate with a 79 yarder, then Andrew Schnarre with a five yarder and a 33 yarder. Two PAT passes to Tate gave the Chargers a 28-7 halftime lead.

Laurel opened the third by narrowing the lead somewhat with a Wade one yard run. But the kick failed and the margin was 28-13.

Then OLSH went back to work. Austin Wigley returned a punt 75 yards and Schnarre kicked the PAT to push the lead to 35-13.

Tate caught a 10 yard pass from Bradley and Schnarre's kick made it 42-13.

Banks ran in a 25 yard pass from Bradley and Schnarre's kick pushed it to 49-13.

And Bradley found Sig Safter for a 32 yard pass. Schnarre's kick made it 56-13.

In all, Bradley completed 24 of 35 passes for 459 yards, the seventh best showing by a quarterback in WPIAL history. He is the top quarterback in Class A and one of the top five among all WPIAL classes. With only 120 yards this Friday, he will reach 7000 total yards for his career.

The Sacred Heart receiving corps all rank highly in the WPIAL. Tate had 174 yards, Wigley 93, Banks 92 and Schnarre 68.

"So many weapons," Laurel Coach Brian Cooper said, shaking his head. "They overwhelm defenses. No matter which two or three you cover, there are still one or two open. High school defenses just don't have that many really fast, quick, strong, tall experienced defenders. These guys would be very competitive in 4A or 5A. I don't know if they'd win it, but they'd make a run at it."

Jeannette plays in the Eastern Conference. The Jayhawks have defeated Brownsville 28-0, Springdale 58-0, Avella 55-7, Imani 28-12, Leechburg 38-0, and East Allegheny 32-12.

The town of 10,000 is in Westmoreland County. It is reached by taking the Parkway East (I-376), then I-76 south, then Route 30 into Jeannette. The school is just a block off Route 30 on Florida Avenue. Given Friday rush hour traffic, the trip out should take about 90 minutes. The return will be much quicker because traffic will be much less.

Rochester Hands Cornell Second Loss, 43-14

Cornell Head Football Coach Ed Dawson may have whiplash before this season is over. His team goes from one extreme to the other week after week.

They've won by scores like 63-0, 21-7, 23-0 and 43-15. They lost by 58-6 at Sto-Rox. And Friday night they lost to Rochester 43-14. What ever happened to a close game decided in the fourth quarter?

To be fair, Sto-Rox and Rochester are among the top teams in the WPIAL and the winner of their game next week will clinch a playoff berth. But they've both lost one sided games to Sacred Heart and Cornell thought it had a reasonable chance going in. It didn't happen. Either time.

Darius Goosby opened scoring for Rochester with a three yard run early in the first quarter. The PAT faild and the Rams led 6-0.

Cornell stalled and when the visitors took over they drove to the Cornell one yard line, where Noah Whiteleather ran it in. Zane Jefferson ran the point for a 14-0 lead, which held until the quarter break.

In the second quarter, Whiteleather ran one in from the five, and Michael Luco passed to Duvall Duke for the PAT and a 22-0 edge.

After Cornell was unable to move the ball, Whiteleather broke loose for a 49 yard run. Jefferson passed to Declan Eaton for the PAT and a 30-0 halftime advantage.

Cornell quarterback Zaire Harrison finally ran one in from the eight in the third but the PAT run was stopped short so the Raiders trailed 30-6. Once again the indomitable Whiteleather picked his way through and around the Raider defenders for a 27 yard run. Tyreek Sherod's kick made it 37-6.

Harrison found Isiah Langston on a 34 yard pass in the fourth.

He hit Luke Piccolo on the PAT pass to bring the score to 37-14.

Late in the quarter, Rochester's Denny Robinson broke loose on a 70 yard run to make it 43-14. The PAT run failed.

The loss eliminated any remaining hopes Cornell might have had for a postseason berth. The WPIAL has redesigned its playoff format and will take only the top two teams from each conference. Sacred Heart has the top spot clinched and Sto-Rox and Rochester are battling for second.

However, Cornell could still salvage a winning record with wins over Bishop Canevin next Friday and Laurel. Canevin would seem a very winnable game. The Centurions have lost to Carlynton 34-7, Laurel 44-7 and Sacred Heart 42-0. They beat Avella 40-18 but Cornell beat that same team 63-0. Canevin also beat Springdale 34-14.

Laurel will be tougher but still winnable. It is dropping down into Class A after last year in AA. The Spartans, located just outside New Castle, have defeated California 37-14 and Canevin 44-7, but lost to Clairton 25-12, Rochester 26-14 and Mohawk 28-12.

Chargers Drown Archrival Canevin 42-0
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

They were warned that the weather might turn hostile by the second half so they better take care of business while conditions allowed.

Sacred Heart took that advice and rolled up 42 points by halftime. Then they just rode out the downpour (photo, bottom) for a 42-0 win over their Catholic rival, Bishop Canevin. The win left OLSH undefeated and ranked #2 in the WPIAL and #3 in the state.

The first five touchdowns came on passes from Tyler Bradley, the top quarterback in Class A and one of the top five among all WPIAL classes. Bradley (#12, below) has plenty of time to find his receivers, thanks to a strong offensive line (photo, right), which holds off opposing defenders.

Bradley's first TD pass was a 21 yarder to Austin Wigley. Andrew Schnarre kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Only minutes later Bradley hit Richard Banks with a 12 yarder. The kick failed and OLSH led 13-0.

Late in the first quarter, Bradley found Banks with a 28 yarder. Schnarre's kick was good for a 20-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Bradley hit Wigley with a 15 yarder and Schnarre added the kick for 27-0.

By midway through the second quarter a light rain had begun. Bradley passed 17 yards to Banks. This time, Bradley handed off to Wigley, who ran in the PAT for 35-0.

Just before halftime, Dom Mazzarese ran the final TD in from the one. Schnarre kicked the PAT for the 42-0 margin.

Bradley completed 17 of 22 for 238 yards. Banks caught five passes for 116 yards and Wigley caught four for 79 yards.

Canevin was never able to mount a sustained drive either on the ground or through the air. Sacred Heart attracts a lot of attention for its prolific offense, but its defense is just as strong.

The Centurions came in 2-2, having defeated Avella 40-18 and Springdale 34-14 but lost to Carlynton 34-7 and Laurel 44-7. They play Union Friday.

OLSH is 5-0, having won 41-6, 46-6, 56-0, 37-8 and 42-0. The Chargers play Laurel at home Friday, then prepare for their big trip to Jeannette. The Eastern Conference team, ranked #1 in the WPIAL and #2 in the state, remained unbeaten 58-0 over Springdale. The other top ranked WPIAL teams are Clairton, Imani and Sto-Rox.

Lamb 7th In Feature But Clings To Points Lead

Justin Lamb finished a disappointing seventh in the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Limited Late Model Feature last Saturday, but that was good enough to keep a grip on his season points lead. With only two racing nights left, Lamb leads Logan Zarin by 110 points, John Mollick by 132 and Christian Schneider by 168. Zarin finished fourth in the Feature so will narrow the lead to about 100 points. But Mollick finished 8th, so will slip a few points further back. Schneider finished 11th. Daryl Charlier, in 7th, finished second, and Chuck Medved, in 6th, finished tenth. Josh Stoica was in 5th, but failed to finish so will drop. Charlier will likely move ahead of Medved into 5th but Medved will hold 6th.

In the Sportsman Division, Danny Rich of Imperial finished second in the Feature. Rich was 8th in points and will move up. Jeff Broniszewski was 9th in points but did not finish and will drop. Bob Betz in the Jailhouse Saloon Car was 15th but finished seventh and will move up.

John Hodgkiss (#69, right) finished ninth in the Feature and remains 9th in points, but is only 21 points behind first in the Unlimited Late Models.

Unlimited drivers are already pointing to the annual Pittsburgh 100, the Saturday, October 6 epic which is the season's grand finale. One admission ticket is good for both Friday evening qualifiers and Saturday's main event. The Pittsburgh 100 is one of America's top four dirt track championship races, and always attracts a large field of out of state drivers.

Karlee Kovacs managed only a seventh place Feature finish in the Hobby Stocks Division. She should hold her 5th place season points position but is running out of time to move up. Dave Sheriff of Imperial finished 8th, so will hold his eighth place in points. Matt Bernard of Oakdale is 6th in the season points race. He finished third in the Hobby Stocks Feature but is too far behind 5th place to move up with only two races left.

Kyle Janus (#88, left) finished third in the Young Guns Feature and looks to have 2nd place in the points standings clinched as long as he shows up and places in the next two Features. He has 984 points, 36 behind first place Frank Magill and 143 ahead of third place Susie Rudolph. Janus is the budding young star of Western Pennsylvania, a 13 year old eighth grader who has a string of wins and second and third places but still has three years to wait until he can get his drivers license. He drives a 1990s sedan with a four cylinder 2.5 liter engine with no modifications. He already has his own cheering section.

Sacred Heart Wins Rochester Showdown, 37-8
All Photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Powerful, versatile Sacred Heart, ranked second in the WPIAL and closing in on top ranked Jeannette, handed fourth ranked Rochester a rare home loss Friday night to take ironclad control of first place in the Big Seven Conference.

The Chargers have already defeated their top two conference challengers. The only obstacle to an undefeated regular season is an October trip to Jeannette of the Eastern Conference.

The Rochester game was never in doubt. Sacred Heart just had too many weapons. Tyler Bradley, one of the WPIAL's top five quarterbacks, is a battle hardened triple threat who can pass, run, hand off, pitch out and read defenses. He has a talented receiver corps, a stable of running backs and an offensive line to protect him.

Rochester's defense is famous for shutting down opposing quarterbacks. Bradley passed for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Rochester is always tough to run against. Andrew Schnarre, Austin Wigley and Richard Banks ran at will up the middle and around the ends

Rochester's Noah Whiteleather has been practically unstoppable this season, averaging over 300 yards a game, including last week's 356 yards. He's been averaging 8.9 yards per carry. Friday night he got 92 yards on 34 carries for a 2.7 average.

Bradley's first TD pass was to Schnarre for 58 yards. Schnarre's PAT made it 7-0.

His second pass was a 53 yarder to Wigley. The PAT failed for 13-0.

Rochester scored its only TD in the second quarter when Whiteleather ran it in from the two. QB Tyrock Sherrod passed to Glen Haskins for the two point PAT and OLSH led by only 13-8. But that was as close as the Rms would get.

Bradley fired a 24 yarder to Justin Walsh and passed to Ricco Tate for the PAT to give the Chargers a 21-8 halftime lead.

The teams played on even terms in the third quarter, punting back and forth with neither mounting a sustained scoring drive.

In the fourth quarter Bradley lofted a 17 yarder to Richard Banks, then hit Tate for the PAT and a 29-8 lead.

The final score came on an interception of a Rochester pass by Walsh and a 46 yard runback. Bradley passed to Tate for the PAT and the 37-8 margin.

Sacred Heart now returns home to Moon's Rip Scherer Field to face Bishop Canevin Friday night and Laurel at noon Saturday, September 29 before heading to Jeannette October 5.

Rochester faces away games at Union and Cornell before returning home October 5th against Sto-Rox. The winner of rhe Rams - Sto Rox game will probably earn the conference's runnerup spot in the WPIAL playoffs while the loser will be a likely at large recipient.

Sto-Rox Bursts Cornell Bubble, 58-6

19 times since 1940 McKees Rocks or Sto-Rox has ended a Coraopolis or Cornell unbeaten streak. Almost all of those times the game was played in November on the next to last Friday of the season (Cory always ended with Moon, Rox with Stowe). Often the game would pivot on a single play such as a dropped pass, interception, fumble, slipped tackle or stray extra point kick. Twice McKees Rocks didn't even win; they just gained a tie. But in the old WPIAL Gardner Points days, a team was ineligible for the playoffs if it suffered one loss or one tie.

The WPIAL Computer, which sets up football schedules, has moved the Sto-Rox vs. Cornell game to mid September. And this Sto-Rox team has already lost twice.

But the result was the same. Cornell saw its unbeaten season come to a miserable ending with a 58-6 loss to the hated Vikings.

This loss stands out from all the others for several reasons.

First, it was the most onesided. Cornell was never in the game, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter and 44-6 at the half.

Second, the game was not completed. A disturbance in the crowd forced officials to remove cheerleaders and players from the field and escort them to safety, then use tasers to quiet things down. Several arrrests were made. Officials then called the game.

Third, Sto-Rox completely stifled Cornell's previously prolific offense. Having run up 63-0, 21-7, 24-0 and 43-15 margins, the Raiders expected a shootout against Sto-Rox quarterback Eric Wilson and his talented receiving corps. It never happened. Luke Piccolo's 81 rushing yards was the only Cornell output. The Raiders offense never scored. The only TD was in the second quarter by the defense when Dionte Spencer fell on a fumble in the Viking end zone.

But Sto-Rox performed as expected. Wilson threw six touchdown passes, completing 16 of 24 overall for 350 yards. Vinny Eggleton scored two TDs on runs of eight and two yards. Wilson's TD passes were for 32 yards to Jaiden Berry, 28 and 38 yards to Ahmad Pack, three yards to Eggleton, and 53 and 24 yards to Marcus Upshaw.

The loss was devastating to Cornell because of the new WPIAL format. This year, only the winner and runnersup from each conference advance to playoffs, plus two at large teams drawn from the entire Class A field. Sacred Heart is heavily favored to win the conference, with Rochester a likely second. That leaves Sto-Rox and Cornell to fight for a possible at large spot. This game makes Sto-Rox a clear favorite for that spot.

Cornell plays at Northgate next Saturday at noon. Sto-Rox has Chartiers Houston on the road Friday night.

Sacred Heart Bids For #2 Ranking, 56-0
All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

#1 Jeannette beat #2 Imani Friday night, opening the door for #3 Sacred Heart to move up. Just to make sure, the Chargers went out in a cold driving rain at Rip Scherer Field and thoroughly destroyed Northgate 56-0.

They didn't waste much time, either, scoring three touchdowns early for a 20-0 lead.

Austin Wigley scored the first two, on one and five yard runs. Andrew Schnarre kicked both extra points.

Quarterback Tyler Bradley passed eight yards to Eric Olexa for the third one, but the kick failed.

In the second quarter Richard Banks ran one in from the 25. Again the kick failed, so OLSH led 26-0.

Northgate was tackled in its own end zone for a safety, giving Sacred Heaet a 28-0 halftime lead.

There were few fans to begin with, and, seeing the game firmly in hand, many headed to their warm, dry cars during the intermission. But the Chargers were just getting warmed up.

Wigley ran a touchdown in from the four and, with Schnarre's kick, it was 35-0.

After several series in which neither team could move the ball, Jay Pearson ran from the 25 and Schnarre kicked to end the third quarter 42-0.

In the fourth, Pearson intercepted a Northgate pass on the SH 15 and ran it back 85 yards. The rain was coming down harder and rather than try the kick, OLSH tried a run for the PAT. But it failed. So the Chargers led 48-0.

Pearson scored the final touchdown on an 18 yard run. Don Mazzareese ran in the PAT for the final 56-0 score.

In the cold, driving rain, the usual Sacred Heart passing attack was shut down. Bradley's passing accounted for only one TD.

Sacred Heart now prepares for its big mid season showdown at fifth ranked Rochester. The Rams are not only undefeated but, like OLSH, have won by onesided margins. Sacred Heart has displayed a more varied and explosive offense and a stifling defense. But Rochester has a 100 year winning tradition and is very difficult to beat at home. The computer rates the game a tossup.

Undefeated Cornell Routs Bentworth 43-15

Hard hitting Cornell stopped Bentworth cold and five different players scored Friday night while the Raiders ran up a 43-0 lead.

Coach Ed Dawson then started substituting freely and the visitors from the Tri County Conference put up 15 points.

The game got off to a wild start. Cornell kicked off and Bentworth ran it back to its own 42. They fumbled on their first play from scrimmage and Cornell took over. On the Raiders' first play QB Zaier Harrison's pass was picked off at the three yard line.

Bentworth then settled down and placed the ball in Shawn Dziak's hands. He kept running up the middle and, three yards at a time, ground out first downs at the 13 and 27. But a pass was intercepted by Harrison and run back to the Bentworth 12 with 7:19 in the first quarter. Keyron Sharp ran it to the five, and Harrison ran it in on a keeper with 6:25. Blaine Sams kicked the PAT and Cornell led 7-0.

Bentworth ran the kick back to its own 46 and the game became a battle between Dziak and Cornell's Corey Johns and Tre Bronaugh. Dziak kept trying to run it up the middle and Johns and Bronaugh kept trying to stop him. Dziak earned one first down at the Cornell 43 but Johns tackled him three straight times and Bentworth punted.

Cornell took over at its own 23. Harrison hit Jalen Lee on a pass to the 44 and Sharp ran it to the 46. A pass to Sams got to the Bentworth 30 and on the next play Harrison hit Savon Wilson in the end zone. Sams made the PAT and Cornell led 14-0 at 2:20.

Bentworth took over on its own 35 and Dziak ground out a first down on the 50. Johns and Bronaugh bottled up Dziak, but on fourth down, the Bearcats faked a punt and Dziak ran it to the Cornell 35. Cornell finally held on its own 26 and took over with 8:24 in the second. Luke Piccolo ran it out to the 48, Sams carried a handoff to the Bentworth 44, and Harrison hit Lee in the end zone at 6:57. Sams' PAT made it 21-0.

At this point Bronaugh went out with a possible concussion and Johns was left to handle Dziak alone. He did, and Bentworth had to punt. The Raiders took over on the Bentworth 40.

Harrison fired a 40 yarder to Isiah Langston with 4:24 to make it 27-0. Bronaugh had been serving as the placekick holder. With him out, Dawson elected to try passing for the PAT. It fell incomplete.

Bentworth ran the kick to its own 48 and tried a pass. Piccolo intercepted and ran it back 55 yards for a TD with 3:21. Sharp caught the PAT pass but a flag nullified it. On the redo, Piccolo caught the pass in the end zone to give Cornell a 35-0 halftime lead.

Dziak ground out a first down with four straight runs up the middle, but then Cornell held and took over on its own 23. An 80 yard pass and run to Piccolo scored but was nullified by a holding penalty to end the half.

Under WPIAL rules, the second half began with a running clock. But Cornell soon made it worse. The Raiders took the kickoff on their own 20 and Harrison ran to the 50, then hit Piccolo with a 45 yard pass for the TD. Sams caught the PAT pass for 43-0 with 9:36.

By now, Cornell was shuttling freshmen and sophomores in, some getting their first game action. Bentworth, still with its starters in, ground out three first downs until they reached the Cornell five.

In another wild sequence, Bentworth fumbled. Cornell's reserves took over on their own five and fumbled in the end zone for a safety to make it 43-2.

Bentworth scored two TDs in the fourth, a 40 yard run by Dziak and a 60 yard pass from Dziak to Dylan Farkas.

Harrison finished with 11 of 13 pass completions for 249 yards, placing him among the top five of WPIAL quarterbacks in all classes for the evening.

Coach Ed Dawson found plenty to be happy about. "Sams seems to have solved our extra point kicking problem," he pointed out. "Last week we struggled. If he can do this the rest of the season, that will be a huge advantage in close games."

Dawson was also pleased with his team's physical play and aggressive tackling. "As long as we continue to play physical and tackle like this, our defense will continue to give our opponents problems. That's the biggest single difference from last year to this.'

Dawson told his players, and reporters, that next week they would focus on fundamentals in preparation for their early season showdown at Sto-Rox. The Vikings crushed Union 60-0 Friday. They have been a traditional spoiler of undefeated Cornell seasons dating back more than 80 years. Cornell's run of 63-0, 21-7, 24-0 and now 43-15 wins gives the Raiders momentum, but a win at Sto-Rox will still be a difficult achievement.

Early season performances point to Sacred Heart and Rochester as the conference's top two teams, so Cornell and Sto-Rox may be battling each other for an at large playoff bid. After a decade of taking the top four teams from each conference, the WPIAL this year will take only the top two plus two overall at large teams.

The sparse crowd Friday night also saw both Bentworth and Cornell bands perform. Cory veterans joined the band to fly the colors. The 28 piece Raider Band displayed impressive choreography and sound for such a small group. Cornell is the smallest public high school in the WPIAL fielding a marching band.

Lamb Finally Wins Feature, Widens Points Lead

Justin Lamb of Findlay Township has clung to first place in the season point standings all Summer by consistently finishing second and third in feature races while his rivals would win one week and finish way back the next. It's been a successful strategy but Lamb was overdue to win one of the features.

Saturday night, as the race season entered September, Lamb finally did. He warmed up by winning his heat race, and drew a third place start in the feature, with Chuck Medved of Imperial fourth. John Mollick, third in season points, led for the first five laps, but Lamb passed him on lap six. By the 12th lap, he was half a lap in front and was never challenged.

The two wins widened Lamb's season lead to more than 150 points. As long as he continues to show up and finish in the top five, he has the points championship clinched. This week (September 8th) the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway offers a twin feature, with back to back 20 lap races in Lamb's Limited Late Model Division. If Lamb's #93 were to break down or be wrecked and he miss the two races, his rivals could narrow rhe gap, but the car is running its best right now so that's not likely to happen.

In the Hobby Stocks Division, Karlee Kovacs in the Jailhouse Saloon Car (#221) finished third in the feature race. Kovacs has slipped in recent weeks and is now back in fifth in the season point standings.

In the Young Guns Division, Kyle Janus of Forest Grove finished fourth in the feature race, good enough to retain his second place in the season points standings. Susie Randolph won the race but is still only third in season points and has to make up 100 points to catch Janus.

The big event of the night was a $7000 purse Betty Kriegisch Memorial Race for the Sportsman Division. The large purse attracted a five state field and no local driver placed in the top 25.

Resurgent Cornell Shocks Union 24-0

After Cornell outscored Avella 63-0 and Riverview 21-7, the Raiders were given a slight chance to upset favored Union. But no one --- except maybe Coach Ed Dawson and his players --- expected what the Raiders pulled off Friday night.

They grabbed a 12-0 halftime lead and went on to bury the Scotties 24-0 on their home field. Cornell totally dominated Union from start to finish and as impressive as the four touchdowns were, even more impressive was the Raider defense.

The Raiders gave Union nothing. Whether the Newcastle school tried to run it around the ends or up the middle or pass it short or long, Blue and Gold defenders were there first and were faster, quicker and more aggressive. Union for the game had -25 yards. The Scotties only got into Cornell's half of the field five times, once reaching the 18, once the 20. They lost the ball four of those times on downs and once on an interception. Corey Johns led the Raider defense with four sacks.

The win was sweet revenge for a heartbreaking home loss last season, in which Cornell led the entire game until Union scored with 2:48 remaining to escape 22-20. Cornell was trying to score when time ran out. The difference from then to now is that Union graduated 10 senior starters and Cornell has almost its whole team back.

Still, Union had defeated AA Shenango 35-20 last week and was considered a contender for the Big Seven Conference title along with Sacred Heart and Rochester. The Scotties were favored.

Quarterback Zaier Harrison threw for three of the touchdowns, hitting Jalen Lee with a 20 yarder in the first quarter and then Luke Piccolo on passes of 37 and 25 yards. Piccolo also added a three yard run on his own. Harrison completed 8 of 11 passes for 146 yards and rushed for 108 yards on 15 carries. Piccolo totaled 79 yards on his three receptions and rushed for 45 more.

Cornell returns home Friday to face Bentworth. For the first time in six years, the Raiders will be favored. Bentworth, a merger of Bentleyville and Ellsworth, plays in the Tri County Conference. The Lions defeated AA Brownsville 41-14 in their opener but lost to Class A West Greene 41-6 last night. Quarterback Shawn Dziak is the key to Bentworth. He both runs and passes and accounts for most of the team's yardage gained.

#3 Sacred Heart Rolls Over Sto-Rox 46-6
By Matt Gauntner et al. All photos by Carolyn McAndrews

Powerful Sacred Heart allowed Sto-Rox one early touchdown, then put the Vikings away 46-6 Friday night at Moon's Rip Scherer Stadium.

On the second play of the game, Sto Rox receiver Ahmad Pack caught a bubble screen pass from quarterback Eric Wilson and took it 80 yards for a score. The kick failed so the Vikings hung onto a 6-0 lead through the quarter.

To open the second quarter, however, Sacred Heart quarterback Tyler Bradley hit Andrew Schnarre with a 28 yarder to tie it at 6-6. The PAT failed. Austin Wigley added to the score on the next series with an eight yard touchdown run. Again the PAT failed and OLSH led 12-6.

Nearing the last minute of the half, Bradley fired a pass to receiver Rico Tate for 26 yards. Tate was hit on the 10 and the ball fell loose, seemingly a dead ball.

But Luke Safter, not hearing a whistle, recovered the ball and and ran it in for the Chargers third touchdown. At the half, the score was Sacred Heart 19, Vikings 6.

Tate added a TD in the third on a short pass from Bradley. Schnarre's kick made it 26-6.

Sto-Rox does not have much depth and began to wear down in the fourth quarter. Sacred Heart took advantage and ran up 20 more points.

Bradley found Richard Banks for a nine yard pass and tried a run for the PAT, which failed. That made it 32-6.

Wigley scored on a one yard run and Schnarre made the kick for 39-6.

Bradley connected with Tate on a 20 yarder for the final score. Schnarre's kick made the final 46-6.

The OLSH defense silenced Sto-Rox to no points and 22 yards in the second half. Safter would finish the game with two interceptions.

Defensive lineman Brock Saftner recorded two sacks and multiple tackles for loss. Wigley also grabbed an interception. OLSH runners took advantage of sensational blocking from tackle Nico Harken. Schnarre finished with 11 catches and 115 yards.

Wigley rushed for 106 yards. Bradley completed 20 of 34 passes for 220 yards. Wilson for Sto-Rox completed 15 of 39 passes for 175 yards.

Schnarre was the game's top receiver with 11 grabs for 114 yards. Tate had four receptions for 69 yards and Banks caught five for 39.

Bradley's 220 yards ranked him seventh in the WPIAL (all classes) for Friday night but combined with last week's 201 against Westinghouse his 421 yard total rank him third for the season.

Sto-Rox is now 0-2, having lost to South Side last week. The Vikings go to Union next.

Sacred Heart hosts Northgate next week, then travels to Rochester in an early season showdown that will probably decide the Big Seven Conference championship. The Chargers are ranked third in the WPIAL (behind Jeannette and Imani) and fifth in the state. But Rochester is ranked fifth in the WPIAL and eighth in the state, and due to the home field advantage, the game is considered a tossup.

Lamb, Zarin Finish 2nd, 3rd In PMS Feature

The season points race at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway looks like it's going down to the wire, with local drivers battling all the way.

Findlay Township's Justin Lamb in #93 finished second in the Limited Late Model 25 lap Feature Saturday night, just ahead of Moon's Logan Zarin in #1Z. . John Mollick of Toronto (Ohio) in #60M finished sixth, and Bryan Hoffman of Imperial in #15H eighth. Christian Schneider, driving #1ST out of Imperial, was way back in 12th.

Nick Dabecco of Bethel Park won the Feature, but he's not one of the top season points contenders.

Currently, Lamb, Zarin, Mollick, Schneider, Daryl Charlier of Midway, Jabo Jablonski of Carnegie and Chuck Medved of Imperial are jammed at the top of the points race. There are five regular season racing Saturday nights left. Postseason championship events are in October.

What really tightened up the points race was the 29th annual Steel City Classic, a 40 lap Feature held on August 11th in honor of famous western Pennsylvania car owner Jook George. The $5000 purse attracted 51 entries from five states and no season contender did well. Mollick was disqualified for an illegal fuel cell. Josh Stoica was DQ'd for having tampered with his engine, which is sealed to prevent tampering. Charlier hit the wall on lap 18 and was towed to the pits. Lamb finished 14th, Zarin 13th, Schneider 8th and Medved 33rd. Lamb's low finish and the absence of Mollick and Charlier allowed Zarin and Schneider to close the gap. So a race that looked like it was pretty well settled with large gaps between each position has now closed up to where any of eight drivers could still win it with a strong September.

Meanwhile, Karlee Kovacs in Cory's Jailhouse Saloonmobile came in fourth in the Hobby Stocks Feature, keeping her fifth in points. In the Sportsman Feature, Danny Rich of Imperial in #2 finished second while Cory's Jeff Broniszewski in #08 was 11th. Kyle Janus of Forest Grove placed third in the Young Guns Feature, and moved up to second in the season points race.

Sacred Heart Thrashes Westinghouse, 41-6

Sacred Heart football fans have waited all Summer for what they hope will be a serious run for a WPIAL championship. Based on the Chargers' showing Saturday afternoon at Moon Stadium, those dreams may come true.

Westinghouse came in loaded. The same size as Moon, Mars and other 5A schools, it has one of the proudest football traditions in the state and has been in the city semifinals the last two years. The Bulldogs return seven senior lettermen, including three linebackers (Eryk Burgess, Dana Morris and Dayon Hayes) who make running the ball up the middle practically impossible.

But Sacred Heart was in control as soon as they received the opening kickoff. Rather than avoid that three headed monster in the middle, Coach Dan Bradley sent backs Austin Wigley and Richard Banks right at it. They ground out short yardage each time and SH drove slowly but steadily downfield. When Westinghouse pulled in their defense to stop those runs, Quarterback Tyler Bradley (photo, right) went to work. Bradley, one of the WPIAL's top QBs, stands 6-3. This allows him to look over the defense, find his receivers, then get the pass off over defenders' outstretched hands. He can also run. On a 4th and one, he kept the ball on a quarterback sneak and made the first down. With 6:00 remaining in the first, Bradley handed to Banks, who powered up the middle once more, this time twisting and falling backward into the end zone for the TD (See third photo, below. Banks is #6, with his back to the camera. In the photo he's about to fall backward for the score.) The PAT failed and SH was up 6-0.

Westinghouse kept losing yardage and punted out of a fourth and 15.

For the rest of the first quarter, each team had two possessions but neither could score.

Finally, with 9:43 left in the second and SH on its own 33, Bradley found Andrew Schnarre at the Westinghouse 20. Schnarre ran it in for 12-0. SH went for two and Schnarre caught the pass to make it 14-0. Clouds were moving in and it began to sprinkle.

Another four possessions went scoreless until at 4:37, Noah Campalone caught a pass at the goal line for 20-0 and the kick was good for 21-0. Westinghouse decided to go with its indestructible running back Eryk Burgess and he did gain 5-7 yards almost every time. But it wasn't enough, as penalties kept pulling Westinghouse back. The halftime score was still 21-0.

Rain began falling as the second half began, but never affected play. The third quarter was another scoreless stretch until 3:54, when Banks took a pitchout and scampered to the one. Bradley then powered his way in, Schnarre made the extra point, and SH led 28-0.

 

Schnarre intercepted yet another pass at 0:59 to end the quarter. But time ran out. In the 4th, at the 11:18 mark, Bradley handed off to Campanole for the run, making it 41-0.

At this point Bradley pulled his varsity and sent in the reserves. Against them, Westinghouse finally scored at 3:09 on a short run, explaining the 41-0 win. Even with the loss, the Dogs are still ranked third in the city. Sacred Heart is ranked third in the WPIAL, behind Jeannette and Imani.

Obviously, Coach Bradley was encouraged. "We did a lot of good things out here today," he told reporters after the game. "But we made some mistakes on key downs. That has to be corrected.

"We showed great intensity at times, but then sometimes we'd lose our focus and just drift. We can't do that against Rochester, Union or Jeanette. You let up for even a few downs, they'll take advantage and we'll find ourselves behind."

"I thought we did a pretty good job running up the middle against those three linebackers. We had some success. But notice there were possessions where we had no success trying the middle. They'e tough."

For the game, Bradley completed 11 of 18 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, plus running the one in himself. This brought his career total to 5,000 yards.

The only disappointing aspect of the game was poor attendance. Except for its roster of less than 30 players, Sacred Heart looks and plays like a 5A team. Such a team normally would draw 2-3 thousand fans or more. But only a couple of hundred were there.

The Chargers play Sto-Rox at Moon this week. They beat the Vikings easily in 2017 but Sto-Rox has a new coach, LaRoi Johnson, from Imani Christian. Sto-Rox went only 3-8 last year but returns eight starters and 6-3 QB Eric Wilson. He threw three TD passes against South Side Saturday but Sto-Rox lost 28-26 when SS scored with 3:00 remaining. Sacred Heart will be heavily favored. Their first real tests will come September 14th at Rochester and October 5th at Jeanette. Those games will show what the Chargers' chances will be in the WPIAL playoffs.

Raiders Turn The Corner, 21-7

Gas up the car and clear your Friday nights. Football fever is back at last in Cory and Neville.

It's been a long hard climb, but the Cornell Raiders finally have a roster of juniors and seniors. Those upperclassmen have speed, size, strength, skills and experience. They may not be quite ready to compete for a championship, but the days of getting beat 72-0 and 48-6 are over.

The Raiders raised some eyebrows last week when they ran over Avella 63-0. But Avella has struggled the last several years, although they beat Mapletown 14-12 last night.

Riverview would be a much better indicator. The Oakmont-Verona school returns 10 senior starters including powerful running back Devin Blinz. They compete in the rugged Eastern Conference and expect a playoff season.

When Cornell restarted football after a four year absence, Coach Ed Dawson had a core of freshmen with a few sophomores. Last year he had sophomores with a few juniors.

Teams like Riverview, loaded with juniors and seniors, pounded Cornell week after week. And Riverview clearly expected to continue that trend.

Cornell shattered that delusion immediately. In their first 10 plays, the Raiders completed six passes for 50 yards and rushed four times for 20 more. Zaeir Harrison (#7, photo at left) then fired a 30 yarder to Luke Piccolo (#6 photo bottom) in the end zone for 7-0.

Then Cornell's defense stepped up. In their first 10 plays from scrimmage Riverview gained nine yards rushing and none passing. Backs were swarmed every time they touched the ball. For the game, Riverview finished with -15 yrds rushing. Passing was even worse. Cornell picked off four passes, batted down three more, and covered the receivers so that the others fell incomplete.

Senior Jalen Lee (#19, photo above) looks to be Harrison's prime target this year. He hauled in one and then raced 40 yards to the Riverview 10, setting up a pass to Jamal Bigstaff at the goal line. That made it 14-0.

Dawson played his reserves the entire fourth quarter. They scored the final TD on a 50 yard pass from Blaine Sams to Savon Wilson.

Riverview scored its only TD late in the game against the reserves.

It was the first time since restoring football that Cornell has dominated a good team. The Raiders played with a burning intensity, as if they were taking out two years of frustration on this one opponent. Tre Bronaugh was particularly ferocious, having to be restrained by both coaches and team mates several times to keep his adrenalin under control. Bronaugh plays like a heat seeking missile whose target is the opposing quarterback. He kept breaking through into the Riverview backfield to make the quarterback's life miserable.

The only shadow on the performance was Tymir Fisher going down with an injury. The photo at right shows Fisher (#4) intercepting a pass but coming down with his leg twisted and crumpling to the field. Indications were a probable Lateral Collateral Ligament injury. Fisher was taken to the hospital. It could be a strain or a partial or complete tear. He could be out anywhere from one game to the entire season.

Dawson was elated as he spoke to reporters afterward. "I was most pleased at our physical play. I've been harping on our lack of physical play for two years, and now we're finally getting physical. Part of that is we're now the same size, age and strength as our opponents. I was also pleased that we're tackling correctly. For two years we've been slipping tackles, letting runners somehow slide through or pull away. Not tonight. And, of course, on offense, we caught passes. For two years we've dropped passes and now we're holding on to them. Again, that's maturity."

But Dawson said the next week will be spent working on fundamentals. "We should have beaten Union last year but made too many mistakes and gave it away. (Union won 22-20 on a TD with 2:48 left. Cornell was close to scoring the winning TD but ran out of time.) Tonight, even though overall we looked good, we were a little slow reacting at times and were overthinking at times. We also have a little too much mouth. A few of our players need to keep their mouths shut and just play. Anything needs said, I'm the coach, I'll say it. The last thing we need is to lose a player because the official ejects him for mouthing off."

The Union game is away. Union is just outside of Newcastle in Lawrence County.

As Dawson left the game, he was headed to the hospital to sit with Fisher. "We can't afford to lose Tymir. He helps us on both offense and defense."

Cornell, Sacred Heart Open '18 FB This Weekend

Cornell and Sacred Heart open their 2018 football seasons this weekend with Riverview of the Eastern Conference and Westinghouse of the City League. Neither game counts, since Cornell and Sacred Heart play in the Class A Big Seven Conference.

But Cornell has the bigger challenge. The Raiders are still climbing the steep slope from no program at all back to football respectability. Cory, which is the smallest public high school in Western Pennsylvania, totally dropped football for four years due to lack of boys trying out. Under Ed Dawson (photo, right), Cornell restarted the program two years ago. The first year back, with mostly freshmen, the Raiders did not win a game. Last year, with mostly sophomores, they did much better but still only won once. Now they're mostly juniors. Dawson has some legitimate talent. Zaier Harrison finishd last season as one of the WPIAL's top 20 quarterbacks. Jalen Lee is an outstanding wide receiver. Corey Johns, Demarkus Dixon and Karon Hardaway Wilson anchor the line. But two other receivers, Justin Walsh and Eric Olexa, transferred to cross town rival Sacred Heart. Losing them was heartbreaking.

Lack of depth will be a problem. Dawson has only 14 returning players and only one sophomore veteran. So everybody has to play both ways. The Riverview game is part of the West Allegheny Preview. It is set for 7 pm. Riverview is the former Oakmont-Verona. The Eastern Conference school went 2-7 last year in the Class A Eastern Conference.

They have a new coach and 10 starters returning, but all 10 are seniors. Favored Riverview is built around three year starting running back Devin Blinz.

Sacred Heart hosts Westinghouse at Moon HS Stadium at 3 pm Saturday. It will be a stiff test. The Dogs have reached City League semis the last two seasons, losing 23-20 and 21-14. They return seven starters, led by 6-2, 250 lb running back Dayon Hayes. The game may be decided at quarterback. SH has one of the best in Tyler Bradley. Westinghouse must find a new one. The Dogs have three formidable linebackers in Eryk Burgess, Dana Morris and Hayes. They stifle running attacks, so SH will need to pass. Receivers Richard Banks and Andrew Schnarre will need to start the season at their best.

SH fans have high hopes for this year. The Chargers have made the play offs two straight years, winning seven and nine games. They return 15 starters and have good depth behind them. The computer favors the Dogs but an old football adage says always go with the best quarterback.

Lamb Third But Edges Mollick, Retains Lead

Justin Lamb only finished third --- again --- but rival John Mollick came in behind him in fourth so Lamb still holds the Limited Late Model season points lead at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Lamb (in car 93X, shown at right) has 936 points to Mollick's 898. In fourth place is Christian Schneider, driving #1ST out of Imperial (photo below). Schneider has 779. Schneider actually lost ground Saturday. He won his heat race while Lamb finshed only 3rd. But then Schneider came in a distant 16th in the feature.

Other locals in the Limited Division are Chuck Medved at 12th and Jeff Jablonski at 13th.

Jon Hodgkiss of Kennedy remains ninth in the Unlimited Late Model Division, but that's misleading. The Unlimiteds have had fewer race nights so Hodgkiss has had fewer chances to move up. The Unlimiteds, the closest dirt track racing has to NASCAR's professional level, have their own circuit, and move among several tracks. Because one of their cars is worth about $100,000, they need larger purses, and no one track can afford those large purses every single week.

Karlee Kovacs, driving the Jailhouse Saloon Car, had a disappointing night. She only finished 12th in the feature. That not only kept her in third in the Hobby Stocks Division, but widened the gap between her and second place. Kovacs has 813 points, 28 points behind second. But she's only 14 points ahead of fourth.

Jeff Broniszewski (of Coraopolis) finished only 7th in the Sportsman feature, which dropped him to 9th in the season point standings. He has 426 points, 11 behind 8th place, and only five ahead of 10th place Danny Rich (of Imperial).

Kyle Janas was really hurt when he had car trouble and could not start in the Young Guns feature. Susie Rudolph won the race. Janas is second in the points race at 805, 28 behind Frank Magill at 833. Rudolph is way behind at 654. in third.

Moon Girls Volleyball Boosters hereby gives notice that articles of incorporation for a nonprofit will be filed with the Department of State of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on or before August 15, 2018, under the provisions of the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law of 1988, approved December 21, 1988, P.L. 1444, No. 177, effective October 1, 1989, as amended. The purpose for which the corporation is to be organized is for supporting the Moon girls volleyball program. Lisa Sims is the Treasurer on record. This notice shall serve as fulfillment of the legal requirement that the public be duly notified of such incorporation.

Lamb's Two Third Places Preserve Points Lead

Justin Lamb (93x, right) doesn't have to win every race to hold onto his Limited Late Model season points lead at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. He just has to keep finishing better than his opponents. And he did that Saturday night.

PMS made up for rainouts back in May by offering one of the features Saturday in addition to the regular feature. So Lamb had two chances. He finished third in both. John Mollick, of Toronto, Ohio, who is second in the points race, won the first race to temporarily jump in the standings to a point almost tied with Lamb. But then Mollick only finished 11th in the regularly scheduled feature. Logan Zarin, who is in third, only finished ninth and seventh Saturday, so actually lost ground. Lamb thus remains in the lead.

Chuck Medved, who was 8th entering the night's racing, finished only 10th and 18th. So he'll slide slightly in the rankings.

Meanwhile, in the Sportsmen Division, which also ran two features, Bob Betz in the Coraopolis Jailhouse Saloon Car (photo, left) finished third and sixth. He entered the night 15th, so should rise considerably. Danny Rich, who ranked fifth, and Jeff Broniszewski, who ranked eighth, did not finish high in either feature.

Karlee Kovacs placed second in the Hobby Division, slightly ahead of third place Casey Grumling. That will tighten the standings considerably, since she was third and he was second.

Kyle Janus came in second in the Young Guns feature, but managed to beat Frank Magill, who leads Janus in the season point standings by 10 points but finished only third here. Susie Rudolph won the feature, so is coming up rapidly in points, but still trails second by 180.

Sprints, Wings Draw Fans To Speedway

The largest crowd of the season showed up at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night to see the Sprint Cars (right) and Winged Sprints (below left).

The Sprints are the 2018 version of what back in the 20th Century were called Midgets. A Sprint car can be bought or built for around $40,000. The engine produces 300+ horsepower, capable of about 100 mph. It's a "hobby" division, for drivers and teams who want to be in racing but do not have the money to spend on late models or winged sprints.

The cars at PMS Saturday were part of a travelling circuit organized by Tony Stewart, the NASCAR driver and owner of Eldoro Racetrack in Ohio. They use a Crate engine, similar to the Limited Late Models. It's made by Genersl Motors and designed not to be modified after purchase. This, supposedly, keeps costs down for everyone.

The Sprints ran two heats and a feature and the crowds loved them. This is rhe first year for this division, which has only 16 cars.

The major attraction of the evening was the Winged Sprint Division. A local driver, Tim Schafer (left), was part of the travelling circuit in this group. Born and raised in the Aliquippa-Hopewell-Moon-Cory area, he currently lives in Hopewell Township. He's the only area driver currently running a Sprint car. Russell Musta of Coraopolis was once a contender in this category, but that was back in the 1950s. Musta, however, drove a basic Sprint car, then called a Midget, without the wing.

A typical Winged Sprint engine costs about $45,000 and a total car costs about $65,000. The engine puts out 800+horsepower and the car hits speeds of 150 mph.

Schafer, in his black and orange #49, gave Stewart quite an evening. He started third in his heat, passed Stewart for second on the first lap, and held that spot until Stewart cut under him on the first and second turns on lap four. Stewart went on to win the heat. In the feature, Schafer and Stewart dueled almost the entire 25 lap race for 5th and 6th. Schafer finally took 8th. Stewart had to enter the pits and return, finishing 12th. Ben

The Sprints will be back at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway this Saturday, July 28th. But they run there infrequently. They run every Friday night at Lehrnerville Speedway, near Butler. That track draws bigger crowds so offers bigger purses and can attract Unlimited Late Models and Sprints. But PMS paid a $5,000 purse to the winner last Saturday night.

To make room for the Sprints and Wings, PMS did not run Four Cylinder, Hobby Stocks, Young Gun, Sportsmen or Unlimited Divisions Saturday. But the Limited Late Models did run.

In the first heat, Christian Schneider in 1st (shown in photo, right) won, with Chuck Medved in 2M finishing 9th. Justin Lamb in 93X (photo below left) finished second in his heat, which was won by Mike Reft.

In the 25 lap feature, Schneider placed second behind Ben Policz. Lamb was third and Medved 14th. It was a steep climb for Lamb, who started 8th in the 18 car field and slowly worked his way up, not reaching third until the final lap.

Lamb currently leads the Limited Late Model Season Point Standings. Schneider's strong performance jumped him from sixth to third. Jeff Jablonski of Carnegie is fourth. Medved is ninth.

Jon Hodgkiss of Kennedy is still 9th in Unlimited Late Models. Karlee Kovacs is still third in Hobby Stocks. Kyle Janus is atill third in Young Guns.

This week, the Four Cylinders, Young Guns. Hobby Stocks and Sportsmen will be back in action, as well as the Limited Late Models.

The most exciting season points race looks to be developing in the Limited Division, as Lamb tries to hold off Schneider for the title. Both cars are from Imperial, although Schneider lives a few miles south in Washington County.

Another reason their race will be the most exciting is that their division runs every week. Some of the others are skipped during weeks when special categories are hosted, and the Unlimiteds are run only about once a month.

The third member of the Imperial Racing Clan is Medved, who is only 160 points behind Lamb and 100 behind Schneider. Medved is overdue for a few first place finishes, which would catapult him right into the thick of the points race.

Fall Ball To Be Held; Search On For More Fields, Indoor Facility
Season Ends In Defeat For Cory 12-U

The All Star Tournament season for Cornell's 12 & Under Little League baseball team is perfectly captured in the photo at right. The famous Basepath Bandit, Walter Clarit, is put out at third base. That hadn't happened all year. Clarit had been able to steal not only second and third base but even home pretty much whenever he tried. But New Brighton put him out and went on to defeat Cornell.

That was in the Friday night game. Saturday morning, Prospect also defeated the Raiders to eliminate them from the tournament.

It was a disappointing and frustrating end to a long, hard season. Cornell struggled in the Moon Area Little League back in April and May. Then the Raiders were soundly beaten in the June and July tournament circuit.

It wasn't supposed to be this kind of year. Back in early April, Cornell Head Coach Greg Woodard was excited because he finally had legitimate talent and experience among his 11 and 12 year olds.

It turned out he was right. Cody Chetoka was probably the best catcher in the area. Josh Mosuch was one of the best pitchers. Clarit was the best baserunner and an outstanding shortstop. Mitchell Engle was one of the best first basemen.

Woodard had a solid supporting cast. Dylan Woodard, Aaron Reddix, Noah Slinde, Chris Potter and Jayden Haines were good athletes who rotated among infield, outfield, catching and pitching duties. And, when it came time for All Star tournaments, Woodard brought up Brady Vignoe, Colton Mozuch, Michael Ricketts, Dyllen Chetoka, Tim Waller, the Shaughnessy brothers,and Logan Hunter from the Minors. Every one is a talented player.

But it wasn't enough.

The team's problems began as soon as the players signed up. Practice should have begun immediately. Baseball is a game of specific skills that have to be sharpened by frequent practice. And Cornell couldn't practice. The weather would not give them a break. It kept raining, snowing, sleeting, icing, and even on clear days it was bitter cold as Winter hung on. Their opponents had access to indoor facilities where they could begin practice in late February, as soon as grade achool basketball concluded. Cornell played its opening game in April without a single practice. It showed. They were behind in their fundamentals, in their timing, in batting, pitching, fielding and throwing. They never caught up.

Even as the weather finally cleared in May, Cornell still could not practice because their only facility, Bliwas Field, was used by T Ball, Coach Pitch, and Minor League teams. So Woodard and his assistants found themselves playing game after game without the benefit of practice. Their opponents, meanwhile, had multiple field complexes in which they had a field for daily practices between games. Almost every time Cornell did have an opening for a Bliwas Field practice, it rained. He even conducted a pitching clinic during a two hour rain.

Despite all this, as the losses mounted Cornell would show glimpses of talent in each game. Chetoka would pick off baserunners with his powerful and accurate arm. Mosuch would strike out batter after batter. Clarit would steal base after base. Even when throws were errant, Engel would stretch to field them and put runners out at first.

But in every game, Cornell errors would allow opposing runs to score. And batters were repeatedly called for strikeouts without swinging. They didn't have enough batting cage practices to learn to read the ball adequately.

Sometimes it seemed like the rules themselves conspired against Cornell. To protect the arms of young pitchers, and to make sure all players receive a well rounded experience, Little League rules limit pitchers to so many pitches and require players rotate positions. It is a reasonable set of rules. But in Cornell's case, it hurt. Behind Mosuch, no other pitcher was as good. No one else could play Catcher like Chetoka, First Base like Engel or Shortstop like Clarit. To develop that kind of depth requires lots of practice. And that was what Cornell lacked.

The New Brighton Tournament went exactly like the whole season has gone. Mosuch struck out batters. Chetoka was great behind the plate. But Cornell bats remained silent, and errors in the field allowed easy outs to become singles and doubles. Innings that should have ended on easy outs were allowed to continue and more runs sored.

This was the first Summer Cornell has sponsored a team on the All Star Circuit. Despite the losses, it was a valuable experience. Cornell coaches, players and fans learned that it was not just a matter of Moon being a larger league with more numbers to draw from. Towns the same size as Coraopolis or even smaller beat the Raiders by larger scores than their losses in the Moon League. So everyone now realizes that the problem is in Coraopolis, not in who they play. Basically, Little League has gone Big Time and Cornell has been left behind. It must catch up.

The Cornell Youth Baseball League is making moves to do that. It is now signing players up for its first ever Fall Ball League. Boys who are not playing football, and girls not playing volleyball, can now play one baseball game a week against an outside opponent and have two baseball practices a week from September 1 - October 20th.

The hunt is on for an open space or spaces inside Coraopolis which can be turned into baseball fields. And the hunt is on for a building or buildings inside Coraopolis that can be used for rainy day or off season indoor baseball practices. Even during basketball season, Woodard and other coaches may conduct Sunday afternoon baseball sessions just to keep skills sharp.

Woodard will lose Slinde, Reddix, Haynes, and Chetoka, who "age up" to Pony League next year. He also loses Darien Petersen, who was injured in March and never played this year. But he retains a core of excellent players to build on with his Fall Ball and Offseason programs.

The Cornell Youth Baseball League has also vowed to aggressively recruit additional players, if not for the Fall season, then at least for next Spring. There are 20 more boys and an undetermined number of girls in the community in each of the age groups (7-8, 9-10, 11-12) who are participating in football/volleyball and basketball but not in baseball. That would allow two more teams at each level and increase the talent pool so Cornell could field an All-Star team of 12 and Unders who were all 12, an All Star team of 11 and Unders who were all 11, and so on down. This Summer, Woodard found himself playing 10, 11 and 12 year olds against opponents of all 12 year olds. Given the opportunities in baseball and softball, and eventual college baseball and softball scholarships, those boys and girls should be playing.

Scout Camp : The Boyhood Tradition Continues

For 100 years, boys from Coraopolis, Moon and other Western Hills communities have spent a week or two every Summer at Scout Camp. In a changing world, this is one tradition that has survived pretty much intact. And this week, 36 boys from Troop 198 are at Heritage Reservation in the Laurel Highlands continuing it.

Heritage might be a Scout camp on steroids. It's 10 times bigger than some of the older camps and offers so many activities no one boy can sample them all even if he comes six years. The camp houses 1200 boys a week through June, July and August. It's a sleek, modern, sophisticated operation, far beyond what anyone at Hubbard, Semiconon or Tionesta ever dreamed possible.

But seen through the eyes of a typical 11-17 year old Scout, the daily routine is the same as his father and grandfather enjoyed. Campers still sleep in tents, fix their own meals, and exist pretty much without cell phones, TVs, computers or video games. (The camp office does have all the modern technologies.) Scouts still spend their days swimming, canoeing, earning ranks and merit badges, and engaging in archery, rifle range, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits.

"This is all about the boys," Scoutmaster Bryan Mann says. "We want them to look back on this 50 years from now and tell their grandkids, 'that was one of the highlights of my growing up.' We want to open doors for them. They may get interested in archery or canoeing or riflery here and continue with it their entire lives."

Troop 198 reserves the same campsite every year. It's high on a hill but centrally located. Down the hill in one direction is the waterfront. Down the hill in the opposite direction is the archery range. In between are the fishing center, rifle range, climbing center, and various other skill areas. The campsite itself is divided into four areas. As seen in the photo at left, each area has five tents and a kitchen area covered by a large tarp. Nine boys make up a patrol. Each patrol is self governing, with its own patrol leader and other officers. They plan their meals, their work details and their activities. Whatever meals they're going to fix, they send someone to the central commisary for raw ingredients while others fetch water or set up the kitchen. Afterward, they rotate dishwashing and cleanup jobs. Each patrol reports to two adults. It takes eight men to administer a week in camp. Mann is assisted by three other full timers : Ken Halliday, Bill Griesacker and Michael Werkmeister. Others come for half a week.

The last half of the week, they included Mark Brositz, Steve Frank, Chad Johns and Tim Speerhas.

These men have been doing this for a while. And one of the reasons they have such a smooth functioning troop is because the boys themselves are veterans. Derek Mann (the SM's son), Chris Wolfe and Phillip Smonko are in their sixth year at Heritage with 198. Mason Obenreider and Shay Freund are in their fifth year. There's another cluster of four year veterans and a bunch of three year vets. Three other long time 198 members are now on the Camp Heritage staff : Cameron Balkovec, Tom Rash and London Rickerd.

It helps to have this experience when unique events occur, such as storms or wildlife incidents. They've enjoyed fine weather this week, sunny days with no storms. There has been a Black Bear sow with two cubs snooping around the camp, but they haven't yet visited 198. Still, if anything does happen, they've got the leadership to deal with it.

Back in the 20th Century, most troops spent two weeks at Camp, and in the middle weekend special expeditions or field trips were held.

Now, boys' schedules include band camps, sports camps, family vacations and enrichment classes, so most troops only come for one week.

The camp schedule itself has become crowded. Boys move from activity to activity all day and into the evening. At left, for example, Vincent Colangelo (green hoodie) and Michael Rosenblatt spend a few minutes after lunch on their Environmental Science homework. They're trying to finish the E.S. merit badge this week. Colangelo is also working on Cooking and Communication. Rosenblatt is also working on Swimming and Game Design. All of these will ultimately lead to their Eagle awards, the highest rank Scouting offers.

The day the Record had a reporter and photographer there, several boys were not even in camp. They were off on adventures. Five were on an all day canoe trip. Five were on a hike. One was on his own in a wilderness survival overnight.

It is Summer, however, and everybody spends time at the waterfront. A beach, docks and an inflatable island allow for swimming. Boys can go canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, powerboating, sailing or whitewater rafting. At right, an instructor holds class for three beginning canoeists.

Earlier in the week, Troop 198 boys caught Bass, Bluegill, Crappie and Catfish in the lake. One of the Bass was a 17 incher.

Wednesday night all campers gathered at the waterfront for an Order of the Arrow ceremony which recognized outstanding campers and adult leaders. 198 had four boys and one adult recognized. O.A. is a Scout honorary society.

Cooking is always a big deal at Scout camp. The boys have to prepare their own meals, and they take turns doing the actual cooking, so it's critical that every single boy become proficient at basic skills immediately. The older members of each patrol hover around the fire, mentoring the younger members and stepping in when possible. "It's a matter of self interest," Mann chuckles. "The older boys don't want burned Toast or salty Cheeseburgers or watery Soup."

Increasingly complex cooking tests are also required for Second Class, First Class and the Cooking Merit Badge, which is required for the higher ranks of Star, Life and Eagle. As seen at left, boys learn to cook over grills. But they also learn to cook over lightweight backpacking stoves and open wood fires. ("Coat the bottoms of pots and pans with soap before setting them on the fires so afterward they're easy to clean.") They learn to use Dutch Ovens, cast iron skillets, reflector ovens and domes. They learn to fix simple items like Omelettes, Pancakes and French Toast. Hamburger can be used in Tacos, Burritos and Burgers. Companies like Alpine Air and Mountain House offer freeze dried meals for hikers and backpackers. Eventually boys are fixing Beef Stroganoff, Shepherd's Pie and Enchilada Casserole. But they also learn to work in Salads, Fruits and Berries with every meal. Eventually, they learn to bake breads, muffins, rolls, pies and cobblers.

"One reason I like camping is the food," one admits. "It's a lot of work, but we eat pretty good."

There are usually projects around camp to occupy any free time. Before Troop 198 moved in, a storm had blown down a tree just behind their site. They attacked it with saws and axes, removing the branches and then cutting them and the trunk into smaller pieces. They hauled them to the patrol fire sites. Younger boys were assigned the job of stripping off the leaves. "We can't put leaves in the fire. It would create smoke."

Scouts are instructed in the use of saws, axes and knives, with emphasis on safety. They don't use chain saws, only hand saws, again for safety reasons. In a case where a chain saw was needed, like if a large tree was down across a trail or a campsite, one of the adult leaders would use it.

Often Scouts are so old school they find themselves on the cutting edge of a revival movement. Archery is a good example. Scouts have always loved archery. Camps long ago abandoned the simple bows for modern compound bows. There are varying ability levels and an Archery merit badge. For about 30 years, Scouts were almost the only people learning to use a bow and arrow. Suddenly, it's experiencing a huge revival. Schools are starting archery teams and states are sponsoring high school archery tournaments. Archery clubs are springing up and archery ranges, like golf driving ranges and baseball batting cages, are opening.

At Heritage, an offshoot of the archery range is the tomahawk throwing range. Boys can learn to throw a tomahawk and then practice it every day until they become good at it. This is not as silly as it sounds. Throwing a tomahawk requires intense eye hand coordination, body control, dexterity and aim. All these skills transfer to archery. A tomahawk is much heavier than an arrow. If a boy can handle a tomahawk, he can handle an arrow. So throwing a tomahawk is a great way to improve one's archery skills.

Similarly, around the hill at the rifle range, boys now can not only learn to shoot a rifle, but also a pistol or a black powder musket like men used back in colonial times. They all develop the same set of skills.

In a sense, this is a very historic year at Heritage. This is the last year for Scout troops that are exclusively male. Beginning January 1, 2019, girls will be welcomed into troops nationwide. That's a little misleading, since girls can already join Cub and Venture units, so girls have already been coming to Heritage in those age brackets. But their numbers will increase significantly once they can join the Scout units. Discussions are already under way about exactly how to accommodate girls. One idea is to set up separate patrols just for the girls. But if a troop only has four or five girls, that won't be enough for a separate patrol. Shower and rest room facilities will have to be rethought. Troops bringing girls would ideally add women to their adult leadership. But it's been hard enough to find male leaders willing to give up whole weeks of their Summer plus weekends during the year. Finding women leaders might be even harder. America is the last major nation to maintain separate Girl and Boy Scouts so merging the two seems long overdue. But they're not actually merging. The Girl Scouts will continue. They've just changed emphasis. Rather than running Summer camps and strong outdoor programs, they're shifting to indoor, urban interests like computer programming and entrepreneurship. Parents wanting daughters to have outdoor experiences filed legal action in several states to force Boy Scout units to admit girls.

But adding girls is not likely to change much. At first, the ones coming in will be mainly 11 year olds coming up from Cub Scouts, and they'll be pursuing the same basic skills as any Scout rising through the Tenderfoot - Second Class - First Class ranks.

Heritage will still be filled with 11, 12 and 13 year olds swimming, canoeing, hiking, camping and doing all the same things Scouts have always done.

Mail call will still be a favorite time of day. At left two of 198's boys open mail from home. Even though they've only been away for four days, it's nice to hear from Mom and Dad. There are no phone booths in camp, and cell phone reception is spotty, so talking or texting is not usually an option.

For the remainder of this week, the boys face a busy schedule. Astronomy classes meet at 2 pm to study sky charts and the science of telescopes, then at dark to use telescopes to study the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, the Moons of Jupiter, Saturn, its rings, and the far away constellations. High in the Laurel Highlands, far from pollution or lights, the planets are much clearer. 12 of 198's members were enrolled in the Nature Study classes, which were focused on Mammals. They had Deer, Raccoon, Possum, Fox, Coyote and of course Bear to study. The Environmental Science classes were focusing on Insects, Birds and Reptiles. And the Kayaking students were focusing on Water Rescue Techniques.

It was, after all, another year at Camp. The tradition continues.

Cory 12-U Draws New Brighton, Prospect

The Coraopolis 12 & under team has drawn New Brighton and Prospect for its first two opponents in the New Brighton Tournament this weekend. The New Brighton game will be at 8 pm Friday evening, and the Prospect game at 10 am Saturday morning. Cory will then play a third opponent to be determined by the results of the first two games. If the Raiders win at least two of those first three games, they will move onto the elimination rounds Sunday.

Josh Mosuch is expected to be the starting pitcher, with Cody Chetoka at Catcher. Coach Greg Woodard did admit he was undecided whether to start Mosuch or hold him back for later in the game. Tournament rules allow any one pitcher to only pitch two innings per game. But Woodard said he was leaning heavily toward starting him.

New Brighton competes in the Beaver County League, Prospect in the Butler County League. Both are winnable games for Cornell, IF they can eliminate their errors and summon the courage to swing the bat. At the Oakmont Verona tournament they lost because they committed too many errors and watched strikes go by without swinging.

Cornell will be without starting first baseman Mitchell Engle, who is on family vacation. Cornell's 12 and under team will have one tournament remaining after this weekend. Its players will then either move on to football conditioning, or take a few weeks off before Fall Baseball League, which begins the day after Labor Day.

Mechanical Issues Plague Local Drivers

Local drivers struggled with mechanical issues in Saturday night's racing at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. A rule of auto racing is that the car is 80% of the race. No matter how good the driver is, if the car is misfunctioning he can't win.

Kyle Janus (photo, right) of Forest Grove warned reporters beforehand that a collision last week had taken out the power steering and his team had not had time to repair or replace it. "Hopefully, it won't matter," he said. Unfortunately, it did. While he wrestled with the wheel, the car was a bit slower reacting, especially in finding the "lines" at the bottom or top of the track or finding the opening to dart between cars.

As a result, Janus was close but couldn't quite pull off a win in the Young Guns Division, restricted to teenagers. He placed second to Susie Randolph, one of three girls successfully racing at the track this year. Janus, who at age 13 must be considered one of the coolest kids in his middle school, edged out Frank Magill, the driver he trails in the season points race. The win should narrow Magill's lead to eight points.

In one of the season's wilder races, Joe Anthony (driving the Jailhouse Saloon Car for Karlee Kovacs) finished second by 12 inches to Tyler Fox. The two had battled for second and third for 10 laps behind Stephan Shelpman. But Shelpman spun out just before the finish line and Fox and Anthony roared across. It was an incredible comeback for Anthony, who had lost a wheel and had to be towed into the pits in the earlier heat race.

Andy Garlinger in #R88 of Hopedale returned to his winning ways with a first in the Four Cylinder Division.

Justin Lamb in #93X finished fourth in the Limiteds. as Daryl Charlier won. Chuck Medved (#2M) and Christian Schneider (1ST) placed 9th and 10th. Jeff Jablonski (#3) and Bryan Hoffman (15H) finished 14th and 15th. That's Hoffman, of Imperial, holding off Medved at right but Medved passed him right after this photo was taken. Below, left, is Jablonski, of Carnegie. He started 12th in the feature, but crashed into the fence on the 13th lap and was out for the night.

Their placing should move Medved and Schneider up on Jablonski in the season point standings. Entering the race, Jablinski was 4th, Schneider 7th and Medved 9th.

The Limited Late Models must use a crated engine specially made by General Motors for dirt track racing. A Limited Late Model car is worth about $50,000.

The most frustrated driver of the evening was Tony Mussolino of Stowe Township, driving #36 (below). Mussolini was on his third engine in five races. The other two blew and they acquired this one used. Mussolino had come from 14th to 7th place in the Unlimited Late Model Feature, which was the night's highlighted race, the Red Miley Rumble. Then the engine overheated, forcing Mussolini into the pits.

"We keep trying secondhand engines," he told reporters, his car still steaming and covered with oil, the hood off and mechanics hovering. "A new one's awfully expensive, but we're not having much luck with these."

This is the fourth conseutive race Mussolino has had an engine overheat at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Jon Hodgkiss of Kennedy Township also had trouble, finishing eighth. Bob Stefanic of Imperial finished 10th.

The Red Miley Rumble, an Unlimited race with a large purse, annually attracts drivers from Delaware, Virginia, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It honors Red Miley, a race promoter from Carnegie whose family atill owns and runs the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. The race Saturday opened with each driver and his car individually introduced and a fireworks display.

It's an impressive spectacle, but it brings in a high powered field from six states, which makes it hard for locals to compete. The best times coming around the half mile track were 19 seconds, blazing fast considering the four sharp turns.

Drivers competed in two heats to qualify for the feature. Hodgkiss placed 7th in one, Mussolino 7th in the other.

Cornell Youth Baseball Association
Fall Registration
The Cornell Little League will offer a Fall Season for 2018. The games will begin the day after Labor Day and continue for six weeks through mid October.
All Players Are Guaranteed To Be Placed On A Team, To Receive Personal Attention At Every Practice, And To Play In Every Game
T-Ball (ages 4-5-6) Coach Pitch League (7-8) Minor League (9-10) Major League (11-12)
Registration will begin July 5th and continue until August 14
Players need not live in Coraopolis or on Neville Island
Fees will be $50 for one player and $10 for each brother or sister
High School and College Softball Coaches Agree That The Best Preparation For Softball is Little League Baseball.
Medical Statistics Show That Baseball Has The Lowest Injury Rate, Especially The Lowest Concussion and ACL Rates, Of All Youth Sports Including Soccer, Football and Basketball
All Practices and Games Will Be Held At Bliwas Field In Coraopolis At 6 PM Or On Saturdays
Lamb Leads Season Points; 4 Locals In Top 10

Justin Lamb in car 93X leads the Limited Late Model point standings at the Greater Pittsburgh Speedway as drivers begin the second half of the season.

Four Western Hills drivers are in the top 10. Jeff Jablonski of Carnegie is fourth, Christian Schneider driving for Ken Maneicki of Imperial is seventh, and Chuck Medved of Imperial is ninth.

Tony White, driving the Coraopolis Jailhouse Saloon car, is 28th.

Lamb has not won often, but has consistently placed second and third, while other drivers finish first once and then fade to lower finishes for several weeks.

Last week was typical. Colby Begley of Fombell, W.Va., won the Late Model feature. Mollick finished second. But Lamb finished third and Jablonski seventh.

In the Sportsman ("Pro Stocks") Division, Danny Rich of Imperial in #67X is third and Jeff Broniszewski of Coraopolis in #8 seventh in points. Bob Betz is 13th.

Broniszewski two weeks ago won the feature and last week placed second. Last week he also won his heat race, followed by Rich in second and Bertz in sixth. So Broniszewski is coming on strong after a slow start. But he's 100 points behind first place Greg Beach of Chicora. Rich is only 14 points back.

The photo at left shows all three local drivers : Broniszewski in #08, Rich in #67 and Betz in Coraopolis Saloon #81.

Jon Hodgkiss of Kennedy Township is 10th among Unlimited Late Model drivers. But he's only 16 points out of first place, currently held by Jared Miley of Pittsburgh. The Unlimiteds, the closest division dirt track racing has to NASCAR, is the most competitive, and has 15 drivers bunched together at the top with only 21 points separating them.

Kyle Janus of Forest Grove is second in the Young Guns Division, the teenage category. Janus is 10 points behind Frank Magill of Jefferson Hills.

Karlee Kovacs of Carnegie, driving Coraopolis Saloon Car #221K, is fourth in Hobby Stocks. She lost ground last week, placing only fifth in her heat and then fifth again in the feature.

Lightning McQueen Places Second At PPMS

Be careful what you ask for.

That was the lesson Andy Garlinger (#R88) learned Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Garlinger, from Hopedale (a village along routes 22 & 30), has won eight feature races this year in the Four Cylinder division. "We got tired of finishing second and third last year, so we installed a new engine during the Winter." He's dominated the local Four Cylinder division so badly the track has begun starting him last in every race. It hasn't mattered. By the end of the first lap, he's usually passed everyone and is back in first.

So Garlinger invited a friend from West Virginia, Bill Tennant of Colliers, and one fron out along Route 66 to come race at PPMS. He wanted some competition.

He got it. His West Virginia buddy in #2 won the heat race while Garlinger had to be pushed back to the pits by a tow truck.

Then in the feature all Garlinger could do was move from last up to third. He spent most of the race trying to cut below or above Lightning McQueen. He never made it and finished third, his lowest placing of the year.

Tennant won the feature. The car is painted a bright blue and gold, with the WV Country Roads logo.

Wait a minute. Lightning McQueen? As in THE Lightning McQueen, of Cars fame? Yep. That's the one. Red #95. Actually, the driver inside is April Tennant, also of Colliers, W.Va. McQueen, in his first appearance at PPMS, finished second in both the heat and the feature.

Fans are hoping the Tennants and McQueen become weekly competitors at the Speedway. The Four Cylinder division needs a good rivalry and this three way one looks like it could become a classic.

Vintage Racecars Big Hit At Greater Pitt

Matt Miley only brings in the Vintage racers once or twice a year at the Greater Pittsburgh Speedway. That may be a mistake. Judging from the crowd reaction Saturday, the cars are tremendously popular with fans. And the cars may offer a solution to the rising cost of dirt track racing.

A typical Unlimited Late Model car costs about $100,000, a Limited car about $50,000 and a Sportsman (high amateur) car about $30,000. This effectively prices the sport out of reach for the gas station owners, back yard mechanics and hobbyists who were its foundation.

A Vintage car costs far less. Paul Bacchus, who owns the 1936 Plymouth Coupe #7 (photo, right), estimates he has about $10,000 invested. "It's all basic equipment," he explains. "Basic engine, basic suspension, basic tires, basic transmission. There's nothing fancy about these cars. Yes, the equipment is modern. There's nothing on here they would have had in the 20th Century. But it'a all standard. We don't have that high tech stuff they put on Late Models, or the NASCAR or Indy machines."

Frank Senica drives the 1934 Ford #17 seen below at right. "We bought it already made for $5000. I'd guess we've put about $3000 in it since.

Senica is 75. He drove the original old coupes back in the 1960s and 70s, then retired from racing for 40 years. "Lately, I just got the urge to get back in it. We sure couldn't afford those Late Models, but we could do this. I love it. The only thing about it is you have to be willing to travel. There's no one track that specializes in Vintage cars. So we have a circuit of tracks. We go to each one once or twice a year. So every Saturday we drive several hours to get to that week's track. We go to Ohio, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, western New York and southern Ontario. I don't make the Ontario tracks. That's just too far."

The Vintage Dirt Racing Association has 40 cars. But only about half show up on a typical Saturday. The northern drivers rarely make it all the way to the southernmost tracks, and the southern drivers rarely make all the northern or westernmost tracks.

That causes a problem. The VDRA has two divisions, the classic coupes shown here and the "Mud Busses," 1960s cars that were the first to start using fabricated body parts. They should race separately, but when too few cars show up, tracks run them together. It's not a fair race. The old coupes are heavier and can't keep up with the fiberglass Mud Busses. So whichever coupe places highest is declared the "winner" of the coupe division. Last Saturday, for example, Bacchus finished fourth in the heat and fifth in the Feature so "won" the coupe division. Senica finished sixth in the heat and seventh in the feature so was "second" in the coupe division.

"We need about 20 more cars so we have 60 total. So on a given night 30 might show up and we could have 15 in each division, enough for their own heats and features."

Bacchus notes that driving the vintage coupes is "a lot more work than driving one of those Late Models. They're so high tech, it makes is easier on the driver. In these, especially on the turns or maneuvering through a crowd, you really have to work. But on the other hand, if you like to drive, these are a lot more fun. Sometimes in those big Late Models you're just along for the ride."

PMS Pit Steward Smokey Shempp, who's been administrating races at Greater Pitt and Lehrnerville for 40 years, finds the appeal of the vintage cars amusing. "This is all a facade," he smiles. "People think they're seeing old 1930s and 1940s coupes racing. But underneath, these are modern cars. As racing evolved, those old coupes got to the point where they just could not compete. At these speeds they would have fallen apart. And if they had hit the wall or another car the driver would have been seriously injured or killed. So what you're watching out here now are nostalgic, but they're just mounting the body of an old coupe onto a modern chassis, suspension, engine, steering and transmission, and installing a modern roll cage inside of it."

Perhaps. But the fans still love them, and they're more affordable. So it's possible they're going to be seen more often on area dirt tracks.

Errors Sabotage Cornell 10-U Rally, 5-4

Cornell's 10 and Under Little League All Star team did a lot of things well in the Freedom Tournament Saturday and Saturday.

The Raiders drew Etna, Western Beaver and Beaver Falls for their three preliminary games. If they could go 2-1, they would advance to the semifinals.

Their pitching, which has been a problem back in April and May, was solid. Coach Kenny Wade rotated four pitchers and Dyllen Chetoka, Logan Hunter, Michael Ricketts and Kenny Wade (the coach's son), all looked good. They struck out 16 and forced eight ground outs and four flyouts.

There were impressive fielding plays, including numerous putouts at the various bases and home plate. Cornell's own batting and baserunning was exciting.

A good crowd made the 45 minute drive to the seven field Freedom Little League Complex and they had plenty to cheer about. But there were lots of groans, too, as the Raiders shot themselves in the foot over and over with errors.

Their worst showing was a 27 error disaster Saturday against Etna. The Eagles scored 19 runs and every one of them was due to a Cornell error. Several times, there were multiple errors on the same play, allowing what should have been a simple fly or ground out to become a double or triple. For example, Chetoka started on the mound. In two innings he struck out five and forced a ground out. But behind him, dropped flies and missed grounders allowed batters to get on base, and then overthrows to basemen allowed them to steal all the way around to home.

Coach Wade kept exhorting players to lower their gloves all the way to the ground so the ball would not slip under to the outfield, and to run to flies and extend their arms for the easy out.

He also spent the weekend exhorting them to swing the bat. Cornell players watched pitch after pitch fly straight through the strike zone without swinging at it. 23 times in two days at Freedom Cornell players were called for a third strike without swinging.

Little League Baseball, even at this 9-10 year old "Minor League" level, has evolved. It is much more intense than it once was. Stealing and defending against stealing is now a vital part of every game. Not only do players steal second and third, but they'll steal home and sometimes even from home to first after third strikes. Being able to fire quickly to any base, catch the ball and accurately put the runner out is essential. No player can afford to glance away from the play even for a second at any time. And every player has to have his or her fundamentals down solid or an opponent will quickly take advantage,

Despite all this, after a loss to Etna and a win over Western Beaver, Cornell found itself in a tight Sunday morning struggle with Beaver Falls for the chance to advance to the lower bracket semifinals. The Tigers had scored two runs in the bottom of the first, but Chetoka had stolen second, third and home in the top of the second to make it 2-1. Wade then struck out two and forced a groundout to retire Beaver Falls, and Chetoka had come on in the third and shut down three in a row. Four walks in the top of the fourth brought Devin Lamb home to tie it at 2-2. The bases were still loaded but three straight called strikeouts ended that rally without bats being swung. In the bottom of the fourth, twice Tigers stole second, third and home to put Falls up 4-2 before Chetoka struck out two and forced a fly out. Three straight Cornell batters watched third strikes go by in the top of the fifth. Logan Hunter took the mound in the bottom of the fifth. He walked one. Then two straight fielders' choices allowed the runner to round the bases and reach home for a 5-1 lead before Hunter struck one out to end it. In the top of the sixth (and final) inning, Kevin Shaughnessy walked and Devin Lamb singled. Hunter sacrificed to advance them to second and third. Kenny Wade's single brought them home to narrow it to 5-4 and Wade was still on base. But a nonswinging strikeout and a groundout ended the inning and Cornell's season.

The Summer tournament season has revealed a critical need for better facilities in Coraopolis. Every league they play has multiple fields and indoor locations for rainy day and Winter workouts.

Cornell's teams have struggled all season from a lack of practice. They played their first games without a single practice because of late Winter weather, and have been trying unsuccessfully to catch up ever since. Cornell's players also need off season work on fundamentals. The creation of a Fall Ball season for boys not playing football and girls not playing volleyball will help that somewhat. But Cornell clearly needs to find an indoor facility so they can work on batting skills, fielding skills and throwing and catching skills during the Winter months. Whether that's a gym, an abandoned warehouse, or a dome like Robert Morris erected on Neville Island, somewhere in town some such space has to be found. And they need at least one more field, so eight teams are not sharing the same field.

Local baseball missed a golden opportunity when the former Montour Junction site was acquired by an organization for a Soccer complex. That was the last remaining large open land in the borough and the owners have refused to include even a single baseball field in the layout. Baseball fans find that irritating because there are over 150 boys and girls playing baseball and softball in Cory and there is no Soccer league or even a soccer team.

Some have suggested the former Fire Station on State Avenue, the National Guard Armory gym on 5th Avenue, or one of the abandoned buildings in town might be temporarily used until a better location can be either found or built.

There is also a continuing controversy about whether to spread the players at each level around or place all the best ones on the same team. In 2018 they were spread, and none of the Cornell teams were competitive. There is some support for fielding a 12 and under, 11 and under, 10 and under and nine and under team for 2019. Boys and girls at each age level could try out for the team a year up, but if they weren't chosen, they would play at their own level and focus on developing their skills.

"When I was growing up in Pittsburgh," Coach Wade recalls, "That's the way it was. No one had a problem with it. The players all understood that some kids developed earlier than others, so if they didn't make the cut for the older team, they just played at their own age level and tried out again the next year."

Of course, if Cornell adds enough players, it would like to go back to having its own four team league in 2019.

Vintage Cars Will Race At PMS Saturday

Saturday night will be Nostalgia Time at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. The Vintage Coupes from the 1950s and 1960s will race, bringing back memories of Herb Scott, Joe Mihalic, Dick & Gus Linder, Norm Benning and the other drivers who ran these cars several nights a week in the old Pittsburgh Racing Association at Heidelberg, South Park, Clairton, Butler and Jeanette.

Of course, what you'll be seeing is partially an illusion. These really are old coupe bodies. But the engines and components are modern, high tech parts Scott, Mihalic and the others never dreamed would be possible.

These cars and drivers belong to the Pennsylvania Vintage Dirt Racing Association, which was founded in 2011 to restore and preserve the era of classic stock cars. They race 12 times a year at tracks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Canada, roughly every other weekend for five months.

What you'll see Saturday night is not a classic car show or a simulated demonstration. This is serious racing. They keep season points and award the winners purses. This is just as competitive a division as the Unlimited Late Models, Limiteds or Sportsmen.

The Pittsburgh Motor Speedway has always sold pit passes for fans who want to go down and get close to the cars and drivers. Most fans pass up this chance and just sit up in the stands. But old timers may want to buy those pit passes this week and come early so they can get a close look at these treasures, taking photos and talking to the drivers and teams. This is a rare opportunity.

The Vintage Dirt Racing Association is thriving. It now includes more than 40 drivers and cars from five states.

The cars run steel V-8, V-6 or Straight Six engines, with no limits on cubic inch displacement or carburators on Sixes. V-8s may have either a single 4 barrel or two barrel carburetor and if the V-8 is 396 cu. in. or larger it may have only a rwo barrel carburetor.

These cars and drivers have already been racing for two months so they have points and wins behind them. Drivers who have been winning will be placed at the back of the lineup at each heat and feature, just as they were back in the 50s. If they continue to win, they may actually be moved 50 feet behind the lineup for an additional handicap. This was not done in the 50s. But the goal is to keep the races and the season point competition competitive.

There are no wings or spoilers allowed.

Roll bars, modern racing seats and other safety precautions are mandated, so in many ways they are far safer to drive than the cars back in the 50s. Top drivers Dick Linder and Ed Fiola both died in racing accidents.

Interest is reviving in these old vintage cars because the cost of not just NASCAR but even local dirt track racing has skyrocketed. To compete now in the Unlimited Late Models can require $100,000. Even in the Limiteds ("Crates") costs average $50,000. A Sportsman car can cost $30,000.

But fully equipped vintage racecars that have a record of bringing home trophies can be bought for $10 - $12,000.

Since the speeds aren't quite as high (they're comparable to the RUSH Limiteds), these engines don't need rebuilt as often, saving a huge cost.

Driving is different. These are slightly more compact cars, so they're easier to control than one of the big Unlimiteds or even Limiteds with their bigger bodies. These are also more basic engines, so they're not quite as temperamental.

Crowd response to the Vintage cars has been enthusiastic. Younger fans see them as a link back to the founding days of the sport, and older fans bring their grandkids to show them how racing used to be.

Broniszewski Wins Sportsman Feature At PMS

Jeff Broniszewski of Coraopolis in Car # 8 won the Sportsman (now called "Pro Stocks") Feature on Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It was his first feature win of the season.

Broniszewski held off Greg Beach and Dave McManus for the win on a hot, steamy evening. He started 7th, moved up steadily, spent three laps in 2nd, and finally took the lead on lap 10.

He entered the race ranked only 13th in the season point standings. The win should catapult him into the top 10 as racing approaches the season midpoint.

The Sportsman Division is the highest amateur division in dirt track racing. The cars average about $40-50,000 to build and reach speeds of about 100 mph. They use a General Motors "Crate" engine which is sealed at the factory and is inspected immediately after each race to make sure they have not been tampered with. This prevents teams from adding high cost components, so keeps the costs down for everyone. The engine is a small block Chevy V-8 305 cu. in. displacement version, which is prohibited for street use and made specifically for racetrack use. A typical GM Crate 604 engine costs about $6700.

Justin Lamb of Imperial in Car #93X placed second in the Limited Late Model feature after starting on the pole and leading for half the race. He was edged out by Mike Reft, but, more importantly, finished ahead of Daryl Charlier in #12C, who was third. Charlier has won several features this year and leads the season point race. Lamb has been consistently close to the top and the points race is tight. Jabo Jablonski of Carnegie finished 10th, Chuck Medved of Imperial 13th, Bryan Hoffman of Imperial 15th, and Christian Schneider (driving for the Meneicki team) 19th. Tony White of Coraopolis, in the Jailhouse Saloon Car, finished 22.

These cars cruise at about 100 mph. A typical team will invest $45,000 in the car to start and spend more money to keep it running. Limiteds run V8 engines, built by General Motors for racing use and sealed with special devices. An inspector at the pits can check the seals to make sure the engine has not been modified. These engines weigh 2600-2800 pounds with a 386 cubic inch displacement limit.

The big race of the night, and the biggest race of the season so far, was the Herb Scott Memorial. This annual event honors Herb Scott (photo, top right), the greatest dirt track driver in Pennsylvania history. Scott raced in the PRA, an association with tracks at Heidelberg and four other locations. It was a northeastern version of NASCAR. Scott won 500 feature races and 10 season point championships. Scott's pink #1 coupe (shown) is probably the most famous race car in state history.

The Herb Scott Memorial is a key event for Unlimited racing teams. This is the closest dirt track racing gets to NASCAR, with $100,000 cars and high powered engines. PMS offers a large prize for winners and top 10 placers and the race draws the best drivers from six states. Saturday night, Jon Hodgkiss (right) of Kennedy Township in Car #69 placed ninth, impressive considering the strength of the field. Chris Schneider of Imperial finished 13th.

In Hobby Stocks, no local driver placed. Karlee Kovacs in Coraopolis' Jail House Saloon Car #221K was not able to finish the feature race.

In the Four Cylinder Division, Andy Garlinger of #R88 won again. He has won every feature or heat race this sesason by a wide margin. Track officials have placed him at the rear of the field but after only a few laps he works his way to the lead. When he pulls onto tthe scales after a race his car, especially the engine, is gone over thoroughly but inspectors have not found anything suspicious.

Kyle Janus did not have a good evening. The best he could do was a fourth place in the Young Guns feature.

This Saturday night (July 7), the Speedway will offers its usual card of Late Models, Limiteds, Sportsmen, Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders and Young Guns, PLUS a special appearance by Vintage Coupes. These are the style of racecars old timers remember watching at Heidelberg, when Herb Scott, Joe Mihalic, Buddy O'Connor, Dick Linder, Norm Benning and other famous drivers competed in the PRA under Commissioner Ed Witzberger. They were remodeled 1930s and 1940s coupes.

A Wakeup Call For Cornell Little League

One of the advantages of sports teams playing games at other places is that they get to visit other facilities and see how their opponents train and play.

Neither Coraopolis nor Cornell Little Leagues have often fielded travelling all star teams that play in tournaments at a lot of other places. From 1948 until 2000, Coraopolis had its own league except at the end of the year when it sent its all star team to the Little League playoffs, usually at North Allegheny. Lately, as Cornell was reduced to one or two teams, they played either in the Sto-Rox or Moon Leagues. But Cornell's Little League is undergoing a sort of renaissance, and this year is sending two all star teams (11-12 and 9-10) on the road to play in tournaments.

What they're seeing is more than eye opening. The phrase Mind Boggling might be more accurate.

They're learning that while Coraopolis has been standing still or even taking a few steps back, other similarly sized towns have been upgrading their facilities and programs.

This is not a matter of small town vs. much larger towns or large school districts. These are towns and schools the same size of Coraopolis, with the same number of players. Their small leagues field either one, two, three or at the most five teams.

But their facilities are in a separate world.

One of the facilities Cornell's 12 & Under team played on Saturday, Burrell, is shown at left. The complex includes four full sized fields and a T-Ball / Coach Pitch field, which is slightly smaller. At the lower left in the photo are dressing rooms, rest rooms, a concession stand and equipment storage building. In the center is a set of six batting/pitching cages.

At right here is Crafton's complex. Again, note the four Minor League and Little League fields plus a smaller T Ball / Coach Pitch field at the top.

And those are modest facilities. The new standard is a cloverleaf, as shown top right. The complex includes four fields, a central concession stand, announcing and filming tower, batting/pitching cages and equipment storage sheds. One of the fields is smaller, for T-Ball and Coach Pitch games. More and more leagues are building these, so they can hold practices and games for T-Ball, Coach Pitch, Minor League and Little League teams all week from April 1 through November 1. Almost all these cloverleaf complexes include artificial fields, so rain is not a problem. This is a standardized design, with dugouts, cages, the tower, everything preset. The company might adapt it to local conditions, but it looks pretty much the same in every community.

Another reason weather is not a problem is because leagues have acquired abandoned schools, barns, warehouses or other buildings, stripped out the insides, and rebuilt them as indoor practice facilities and playing fields.

It's true the ceilings are a bit low, but most kids either hit grounders or low fly balls. Very few hit high enough arcs to strike ceilings. The indoor "fields" have synthetic surfaces. Little Leagues are using these facilities for Winter fundamental workouts. They can begin Spring practices March 1. If cold or rain is a problem in April or May, they just move games indoors.

Then, in addition to Spring seasons, the Summer All Star season, and Fall season, Little Leagues somehow squeeze a week or two in to send their players off to baseball camps, usually at major colleges. Or, at the least, they run their own six day camps.

So Little League Baseball has become a year round sport. And, as already mentioned, this is not limited to large wealthy communities like North Allegheny, Fox Chapel or Peters Township. It's becoming the norm in the small valley towns up and down the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. The two photos below show Freedom boys practicing indoors and in netted batting cages.

These are the teams Cornell teams are losing to. Cornell has Bliwas Field. Period. It has no batting/pitching cages, no indoor facility, no other fields. Its kids do not go to weeklong Summer camps.

Leagues Cornell plays against are gaining competitive advantages in six ways.

l. They have enough fields that every team, from five year olds to 12 year olds, can practice or play every day, not twice a week.

2. They have indoor facilities and synthetic outdoor fields so weather does not interrupt them. Cornell teams in 2018 had NO preseason practices because of lingering snow, ice, rain and deep cold. They began their first games having never had a full practice session, and never did catch up to the teams they faced all season.

3. They have specialized devices like batting/pitching cages, electronic tracking devices and computerized statistics. Cornell has none of these.

4. They aggressively recruit their communities. Last week, even while the Spring season has just completed and the Summer All-Star season is in progress, there were signs everywhere urging parents to sign their kids up for Fall Ball: yard signs, signs on utility poles, signs in store windows, and signs at school. Little League officials recruit in the schools. Towns the same size as Coraopolis or even smaller field 3-5 teams per level. The Cornell League has traditionally fielded one team per level and this year has finally worked up to two teams per level. When those towns select their all star teams, their numbers advantage shows. They're picking the best of 50 kids while Cornell is picking the best of 20 kids.

5. Their coaches complete Little League courses in coaching techniques and attend offseason coaches workshops. They're volunteers, but they've been specifically trained and update their training every year. Cornell has coaches who played baseball, often very well at a high level. They know the game. But Little League rules make it a totally different sport. T Ball and Coach Pitch have positions like Center which do not exist in official baseball. Strategies, tactics and practice drills are different, and 21st Century coaching methods more sophisticated. The official LL coaching handbook even cautions that T Ball is totally different than real baseball.

6. Summer camps expose kids to six days of nine hours a day baseball instruction : 9-noon batting, 1-5 fielding and 7-9 pitching. The camps are staffed by top college and high school coaches. One coach told us he believes his kids advance one entire season in one week of camp. In the last 10 years, no Cornell Little League player has attended a full week Summer camp. Some leagues organize their own week long camps but Cornell has not been doing this.

All of this might make it seem like Cornell cannot possibly compete. This is not true. What has happened is that the town has stood still for three decades while its rivals have surged ahead. But Coraopolis and Neville Island have assets. There are empty spaces large enough to build fields, maybe not a fancy cloverleaf, but usable. There are empty buildings with spaces large enough to be converted to practice space, maybe not a full sized field, but certainly enough for batting and pitching cages, fielding drills and conditioning. There are enough businesses and prosperous alumni who could donate the funds needed. All Coraopolis kids can walk to Bliwas field and Neville kids are a bike ride away. Most important, the community has one asset no amount of money can buy : athletes.

As one Lawrence County coach says, "Cory has always had athletes. They always will. Over the years, their programs in various sports have risen and fallen depending on whether they recruited them to play and then developed them, or not."

The Kiwanis Club founded Cory's Little League in 1948. Kiwanians raised money, coached the teams, built and maintained the field, and administered the league as their most important community service project. For most of the 20th century, Cory had 12 teams in two divisions. Teams were named for major league teams (Pirates, Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers, etc.) and the divisions were, of course, the American and National. Players came from Cory, Neville, Groveton, Mooncrest, Charlton Heights, Moon, Robinson and Crescent. There were more boys wanting to play than spaces; every March there were tryouts, and some were cut. They went home, practiced in their driveways, backyards and vacant lots, and tried out again the next year. There was no T Ball, Coach Pitch or Minor League. A few gifted 10 year olds could make teams as reserves, then work their way up to starting spots the following year, but average boys usually were not drafted until they were 11.

Gradually, Kiwanians grew older. The organization failed to recruit new, young, members. Finally, as most of them reached their 60s, 70s and 80s, they gave up sponsorship of Little League and the town took it over.

One stroke of good fortune occurred in 1999. Ronnie Bliwas, who had excelled in the Coraopolis Little League and on the high school team, then gone on to play at the University of Arizona, had pursued his business career in Chicago. He had done a huge favor for an associate. In repayment, the associate came to Coraopolis and financed a complete reconstruction of the facility, which was renamed Bliwas Field.

By then, Moon and Robinson had their own Little Leagues, which removed some players, and Cory was losing population, so its pool of boys steadily dwindled. From 12 teams, the League reduced to eight, six, four and finally had too few to maintain its own schedule. It had to join an outside league. For a while Cory's three, then two, and finally one, team competed in the Greater Pittsburgh League, playing McKees Rocks, Stowe, Avalon, Crafton, Bellevue and Carnegie. Parents complained about the travel, so for the last several years Cory teams have competed in the Moon League. They were competitive in the GPL, playing in the championship game several times. But they have not been competitive in the Moon League, finishing among the bottom teams in each level.

However, a few years ago new management took over the league. Under Marcy Lamb, Greg Woodard, Matt Hauser and Kenny Wade, it has rebuilt its finances and its player base. Two years ago it doubled the number of players. This year it increased by another 37, enough to field two teams at each level. It has refurbished Ronnie Bliwas Field, and Coraopolis Borough Council is adding new roofs on the dugouts, restrooms and concession stand. For the first time, Cory will operate a Fall League. So, just as the town is seeing a renaissance, so is its Little League.

 

And, as always, it has athletes. In Josh Mozuch and Walter Clarit Cornell has two of the best young pitchers in the county. Cody Chetoka is an outstanding catcher, with a rifle arm that can pick off runners on any base. Mozuch on the mound and Chetoka behind the plate is a very good combination. Mitch Engel is excellent at first base. Clarit is also the best base stealer in the area as well as a fine shortstop. Dylan Woodard, Michael Ricketts, Colton Mozuch, Dyllen Chetoka and Brady Vignoe are other rising stars.

So with all this talent, why can't Cornell beat anybody? Numbers. Little League rules are so concerned with making sure as many kids as possible get to participate, and so concerned about protecting young arms and other joints, they penalize small towns without numbers. Pitchers and catchers can only deliver or receive so many throws per game and then have to wait two games before doing it again. Players are required to rotate positions. So Woodard cannot just sit Engel at first base, or Clarit at short. He has to have two more second basemen, two more shortstops, five more pitchers and catchers. He has to find nine outfielders with the speed and quickness to run down deep flies or line drives, because he can't just leave three good ones out there for an entire game. So he has to develop every player for at least three positions.

And that's where lack of fields, of batting and pitching cages, of indoor facilities, comes in. The only way to develop a players at three positions is repetition. Each player must repeat the basic motions over and over until it becomes instinct. That takes time. Practice time. It cannot be done only getting to use a field two days a week because eight other teams are using it the other days. It cannot be done when no practice time at all is available the entire month of March and half of April due to weather.

Furthermore, Cornell's player pool has to be expanded. Cornell currently is only using one of its three potential player populations. Since 1978, girls have been welcome in Little League. There are some outstanding girls playing right now in Allegheny County. One pitcher in a recent tournament Cornell was in was a magician on the pitcher's mound. No one could hit her. Cornell has two such girls coming up in Samantha Melius and McKenna Griffith (right). They don't pitch, but Melius is going to be a star shortstop and Griffith at third or second base or in the outfield. However, there are 50 other such girls in school at the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grades and they need to be recruited. By the time they're in high school, they may be playing softball, but the best preparation for softball is youth baseball and they can help Cornell for four or five years until, at age 13, they graduate to softball.

The other pool is minority athletes. Cornell Little League has a handful of minority players, and they've been outstanding. But there are many more in grades 3-6, and they should be playing. Especially since neurologists and pediatricians recommend boys do not begin playing football until age 13, baseball offers a great sports experience which develops qualities that can later transfer over to football or basketball. Almost all of Cory and Neville's greatest athletes have played three sports.

But to handle a larger number of players, Cornell is back to needing more fields and indoor facilities. It has seen what its rivals have. Now the push is on to develop something here.

Saturday A Washout For Cory 12U LL Team

Somehow Cornell squeezed in two baseball games among the intermittent rains Saturday but the day was a total washout anyway.

The 12 & Under All Star team representing the Cornell Little League lost both games, to Riverview and Burrell, and exited the Riverview Tournament.

The teams dodged raindrops all day. A downpour interrupted games at noon and forced a rain delay. By 1 pm the rain stopped but the field was a lake. Those teams moved to a different field for their last two innings while a grounds crew went to work with blowers, shop vacs and tools to remove the water, dry the infield, rake it and reline it in time for the Cornell - Riverview game. Originally scheduled for 2 pm, it began at 3. Black clouds surrounded the hilltop field, but directly overhead was sunshine, and miraculously the game was completed. Only a few minutes later, a downpour commenced.

Cornell was scheduled to play Burrell at 5 pm. The teams moved to a different field but a 3 pm game between Saxonburg and Karns City was in a rain delay with only five innings complete. After 30 minutes of heavy downpour, that field was a lake so that game was declared over with a 7-6 score.

Cornell and Burrell travelled 30 minutes to a different field, which was high and dry and in full sunshine. So at 6 pm they finally got their game under way.

Three times a rain delay sent teams to their dugout, but each time after five minutes or so it backed off and the game continued.

Perhaps the rain diverted everyone's attention, or the fact they were there for nine hours exhausted them. Whatever the problem, Cornell did not play well. These are all star teams. There are no weaknesses. They take advantage of any errors. These teams also consist of nine 12 year olds. Cornell has three 12 year olds, three 11 year olds and three 10 year olds. The age and experience difference was clearly evident.

But despite the losses, Cornell played well for stretches.

In the Riverview game, Walter Clarit struck out one and forced a ground out. But a single, two walks and a double brought in three runs before Clarit forced a fly out to end the first. He came back in the second to strike out one and force two groundouts.

The problem was Cornell couldn't score. In the first, Clarit walked, then stole second and third. Dyllen Chetoka walked and brother Cody singled to load the bases. But Clarit was put out on a questionable call stealing home, and two strikeouts ended the rally. In the second, two strikeouts and a groundout shut the Raiders down quickly.

In the third, Clarit forced a popup. But he then walked two. A double and two steals home made it 0-6. Noah Slinde replaced Clarit on the mound, and although he struck out one, he was unable to stop the onslaught. Two singles and a double pushed the score to 0-9. Again, three straight groundouts retired Cornell. In the fourth four singles and a double made it 0-12 and the game was called on the mercy rule.

Against Burrell, again Cornell bats were unproductive. Two groundouts and a popup ended the first. Burrell stacked five singles and two walks for an 0-5 lead. A strikeout, groundout and putout retired Cornell quickly. Two walks and four singles pushed the Burrell lead to 0-8.

Cornell scored its only run of the tournament in the third. Dyllen Chetoka walked and stole second and third. Brother Cody sacrificed him in to make it 1-8. But a groundout and putout stopped any hopes of a rally. Then two singles and a home run lifted Burrell to 1-12. Two strikeouts and a groundout retired Cornell in the top of rhe fourth and again the mercy rule ended the game.

Cornell's 12 and under team will now take a few days off, then begin practicing for the New Brighton Tournament. Brady Vignoe, Colton Mozuch, Michael Ricketts and Dyllen Chetoka will drop down and join the 10 and under team in its tournament next week at Freedom.

They'll rejoin the 12 and under team for the New Brighton Tournament.

Four spectacular bad calls marred the Burrell game but did not decide the outcome. Three were calls out of players stealing bases, when they were clearly in contact with the base well ahead of the ball's arrival in the defender's glove. (For one, see top photo.) The other was a Burrell fielder catching the ball in the grass, then stepping into the basepath to block the path of a Cornell runner advancing from first to second.

Coach Greg Woodard was understandably disappointed. "We should have won both these games today and moved into the semifinals," he said. "We were a step slow both games in fielding and seemed tentative at the plate.

Several Cornell batters admitted they felt pressured and intimidated. It's the first actual tournament they've played in, since Cornell did not run a travelling team the last several years. High expectations and the bigger, more impressive facilities, the long trip and the number of parents and fans who followed them, combined to add a stress they weren't used to. Their coaches kept telling them to just relax and swing, but of their six strikeouts, four were on called strikes on the third pitch when the batter failed to swing. Players also admitted they were thinking instead of just reacting when fielding, which accounted for them being a step slow on fielding grounders and fly balls. "Hopefully we got these feelings out of our system," Woodard said. "We need to go down to New Brighton and just play. We're better than we showed here."

Powerful East Butler Pounds Cornell 12-0

Powerful East Butler pounded Cornell 12-0 Thursday at Verona in the Riverview 12 and Under Class C Little League Tournament. Coach David Cunningham has been bringing this East Butler team along since age 5 in T Ball. They play Fall Ball, work indoors all Winter, and begin practice for the Spring Season March 1. It showed. They were a smooth, cohesive unit. They made no mistakes and batted aggressively.

Despite the one sided score, Cornell looked pretty good. Josh Mozuch started on the mound and lasted three innings. In the first inning, he had trouble with the pitching mound. A Little League mound is supposed to drop one inch per 12 inches. Verona's mound extends 15 inches in front of rhe rubber, then drops straight down. Coming off the field after the first inning, Mozuch said "it was like stepping off a cliff." Mozuch has a long stride, and the drop threw off his pitching motion. Both teams had to contend with the mound, but not all pitchers have long strides. While Mozuch struggled with the mound, East Butler grabbed an early lead. Three singles, three walks and a triple put the Eagles up 6-0. In its turn at bat, Cornell could manage only a Cody Chetoka single.

A fly out and two ground outs retired the side.

After the first inning, the umpire came out and supervised some quick shovelling and raking of the mound to try and ease that dropoff. It helped some, and Mozuch settled down to his usual rhytmn. He struck out one and forced a groundout and flyout to end the second inning, then forced three straight groundouts to end the third.

But Cornell couldn't score. In the second, Dylan Woodard was walked and Noah Sinde sacrificed to send him to third. Colton Mozuch walked, but was put out trying to steal second. A strikeout ended the inning.

In the third, Aaron Reddix singled, Dyllen Chetoka walked and Cody Chetoka singled. But Reddix was put out trying to slide into home, and two strikeouts ended the inning.

Mozuch had used up his allowable pitches, so Walter Clarit went to the mound to begin the fourth inning. He did not have a good night. Two walks and five singles brought in six more runs to make it 12-0.

Cornell batters struck out twice and grounded out once to end the fourth. The Little League Mercy Rule ended the game after that fourth.

Cornell isn't done. They play two games on Saturday, at 2 and 4. If they win those two they can still make the elimination rounds on Sunday.

One of those Saturday games is a postponement from Wednesday when it was rained out.

East Butler, meanwhile, looks like the clear favorite to win the tournament.

Fans going to the games Saturday should leave Cory by 12:30. Take the Ohio River Boulevard to the North Side, and Route 28 through Millvale, Etna and Sharpsburg. Cross the Highland Park Bridge, turn left, and drive up the Allegheny River to Verona. Turn right on South Avenue, a steep brick street. The field is two blocks past the old Verona High School, now Verner Elementary School. If you're entering it into your GPS, it would be "Cribbs field, 744 2nd St, Verona, PA 15147." That is for the 2:00 game. The 4:00 game is at Creekside Field, in Oakmont, GPS "Creekside field, 3rd and Archie St, Oakmont PA 15139."

Local Drag Racers Strike Out At NHRA Reunion

Local drag racers who made it to 2018 Reunion exited early from the competition. By Thursday night of the three day Holley National Hot Rod Association Reunion Championships, they had all been eliminated.

But just being at Beech Bend Raceway Park is quite an experience. It's one of the top motor sports centers in the country. You drive in through groves of Beech trees. The drag strip sits in a large bend in the Barren River. Grassy meadows dotted with shade trees surround the half mile strip. On this particular weekend, those meadows are crammed with 3000 custom built street rods, here for their own championships. Along the river stretches the 500 site Beech Bend Campground, crammed this week with auto enthusiasts. Up on the hill is Beech Bend Park, an amusement park celebrating its 150th anniversary. In between the sounds of squeeling tires and roaring engines can be heard screams from the roller coasters and other thrill rides.

Alongside the drag strip is a half mile paved oval track, although it's too small for NASCAR so only locals race there. Through the trees, canoeists and fishermen can be seen paddling or just floating with the current. Back through that alley of Beeches and then left across the river are the Corvette Factory, Corvette Museum and Motorsports Park, home to a three mile long Le Mans style racetrack full of twists and turns. They race Corvettes there, yes, but also motorcycles, go karts, sports cars and roadsters. Bowling Green hosts several huge classic car shows, car cruises and car auctions every year. You can grab a snack or a meal at the Corvette Grille, a 1950s diner full of automotive memorabilia.

And there's more. Just up the road is Mammoth Cave National Park, home to the largest cave system in the world. In the area are three other major caves, one of which you ride through in a boat. The Green, Nolin and Barren Rivers are great for canoeing and fishing. Nashville is only 60 minutes away, with its Opryland and other country music attractions. Bowling Green has more restaurants per capita than any place in America, a heritage left by 20th Century hero Duncsan Hines, who promoted local restaurants and popularized the concept of the restaurant review in newpapers, magazines and books. Bowling Green is famous for Barbeque and Catfish, but also boasts Japanese, Bosnian, Indian and other ethnic cuisine. Holley Performance Parts is here, which is why the Reunion is here. There's even a minor league baseball team named --- what else ? --- the Hot Rods.

So Beech Bend and the area can support at least a week's visit. A motor sports loving husband can lose himself in the American Car Culture while his wife and kids spend their time in other pursuits.

Which brings us back to the dragstrip. This is one of the nation's best. It has large, covered chairback seating on both sides. By using the half mile oval as a staging track, they bring pairs of cars through every few seconds and really keep the action moving.

Not every NHRA category races here. Even with their hyper efficiency and running from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., it's all they can do to squeeze all these cars through qualifying rounds, then elimination rounds in only three days.

This was a very nostalgic week. Many of the older generation of famous drsg racers were here, some competing, but most just signing autographs and posing for photos. There was a heavy 1940s-50s-60s flavor to the cars.

The most popular category with the fans was the oddly named Funny Cars. There's nothing humorous about them. They have carbon fiber bodies that resemble production cars from back in the day. They run in the 3.8 second range and can hit 260 mph. They're powered by supercharged fuel injected 500 inch engines. They don't use transmissions but rather a series of clutches.

The Top Fuel cars also had a large following. They're the 25 ft. long very narrow slingshots, with 10,000 horsepower 500 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi engines. Other categories were the Pro, Modifieds, Hot Rods, and Gas.

The Western Hills has not had a national drag racing champion since Domenic Santucci of Coraopolis won it in 1969. He died in 2002 at 62. Tom Myl, also of Cory, drove a Plymouth Barracuda for Pete Myl Chrysler Dealership and won the national title in 1967. He still lives in Moon Township.

Kyle Janus Wins Feature At Speedway

Kyle Janus of Forest Grove won the Feature Race in the Young Guns Division Saturday night before a light crowd at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Driving his familiar #88, Janus started on the pole but was passed by Susie Rudolph of Steubenville on the first lap. He held onto second, however, and kept pressing Rudolph (#55) until he retook the lead on lap four. Frank Magill (#05) passed Rudolph with two laps left, as seen in the photo at right. She ran out of gas shortly thereafter and drifted into the pits.

Janus has now won two Features and finished third once in three Saturday nights of racing at the Speedway.

The Young Guns is the Speedway's division for beginning drivers. The cars are as close to street stock as you'll find on any racetrack in 2018. Only four cylinder 2.5 liter engines with no modifications are allowed. The cars must be 1993 models or later. Body panels must be stock and unmodified. The major change is a four post, box type 1 3/4 diameter roll cage. Winners receive trophies only.

In the Hobby Stocks, Karlee Kovacs in Cory's Jailhouse Saloon Car #221 finished second. It was a wild race with plenty of position changes. Kovacs started fourth. On lap four, Casey Grumling, in third place, hit the wall along the front stretch and blew out a tire. That allowed Kovacs to move up to third. Drivers behind her spun out on laps five and nine and Adam Ferree, who had started second and stayed there, had his engine die on lap 10 and drag him back to fifth before it coughed back to life and let him claw back to third. That let Kovacs ease into second and stay there.

Hobby Stocks are 1970-1990 passenger cars with engines of 265-318 cubic inch displacement. Motors must be stock and the same one that came in that make and model of car.

In the evening's most important race, the Limited Late Models, Justin Lamb Findlay Township in 93X finished third. He started fifth. On the third lap he moved up to third. On the ninth lap, Lamb took second. But on lap 15 Daryl Charlier retook second, forcing Lamb back to third, where he finished. Lamb is the defending 2017 season champion, but it's been Charlier so far this year who has been stringing together a series of first places.

Christian Schneider in 1ST, Ken Meneicke's car, came in fourth. Jeff Jablonski in 3J was eighth. Chuck Medved of Imperial finished 14th in 2M.

The Winged Sprint Cars filled out the rest of the evening. But once again there were no Western Hills drivers in the field.

The usual racecars will not be in action this weekend. A travelling Monster Truck Show has rented the Speedway for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

No Western Hills Street Rods Place At NHRA Nationals

No one from the Western Hills placed in the top 10 at the National Hot Rod Association Street Rod Championships held over the weekend at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Ky. The closest placers were from Beaver Falls (Wampum) and Bethel Park.

Technically referred to as the Street Rod Reunion, the event took place Thursday, Friday and Saturday in muggy heat and humidity. It is sponsored by Holley Performance Products, a Bowling Green company which began making carbuerators and now also makes other items. Beech Bend Raceway Park is near the Tennessee state line just 40 minutes north of Nashville. It's a six hour drive from Coraopolis on I-70, I-71 and I-65.

3000 automotive works of art were parked on the rolling hills under huge shade trees in the bend of the Barren River.

This is the sixth time the championships have been held here.

In the background, engines screamed from the NHRA Drag Racing Championships, which were held at the same time (See separate article).

Winners were 1920s '23 Model T Bucket, 1930s '34 Ford Pickup, 1940s '46 Ford Coupe, 1950s '55 Chevy 210 2 Door Post, 1960s '67 Pontiac GTO, 1970s '72 Chevy C-10, Grand Champion 1st '72 Chevy C-10, 2nd '55 Chevy 210 2 Door Post, 3rd '67 Pontiac GTO.

It took a Coraopolis Record reporter and photographer most of a day to see all the cars and take the photos you see here. There were also Greyhound buses, milk trucks, panel trucks, and tractors.

Participants also visited the adjacent Beech Bend Amusement Park, the Corvette factory, Corvette Museum, and Motor Sports Park, a 3.15 mile Le Mans style racetrack. Many of them camped at the Beech Bend Camp Ground adjacent to the Street Rod show area.

Locals were philosophical. "It's inspiring just to be here around all these top cars," said Paul Hawley of Moon Township, enjoying a cold beer in the shade behind his 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe. "I learn something every time I come to one of these. You have to realize coming in that unless you've got a lot of money and specialists in body work, paint, engines and upholstery, you're going to be in over your head. Working on your car in your garage in your spare time just takes you so far. But you don't have to win to enjoy the experience. If you love classic cars, seeing the best in the nation, probably the best in the world, is just a thrill."

Tommy Melton of Robinson, posing for photos next to his 1957 Chevy BelAir, agreed. "I can pretty well keep up with these guys as far as the other categories. But I can't even come close to their paint jobs. And that's OK. They call this a reunion and it is. I've made friends at this event in past years and I only see them once a year here. It's really a three day social gathering."

It appears to be a very friendly, laid back bunch. Until judging time. One by one, on a tight schedule, each owner drives his car from its parking space down to the judging tent. And everything turns deadly serious. The tension hangs thick in the air as the judges peer into engine compartments and interiors and eye the paint jobs from various angles.

Classic car judging is a mysterious art. And the judges prefer to remain anonymous, lest competitors use their words to prepare for next time. But the judges are happy to talk about what they look for.

"It's like judging music," one volunteers. "You know the song, and the musician has to follow it. So you're looking for how he maneuvers within the song, how he adds flourishes without departing from the notes. With cars, if it's, say, a '66 Mustang, they can't radically change the basic car. So how do they add touches within that framework? They can vary the paint, the upholstery, add a few touches to the engine compartment, dress up the wheel wells, whatever."

This gets especially tricky when judging cars across decades. How can a judge pick the best 1950s car when they range from '51 Fords to "59 Impalas to '55 Tbirds?

"You look for which car best expresses the idea it represents. A '57 Bel Air is an idea, an essence. Which of these '57 Bel Airs best expresses that essence? Now, of all these different cars, which one best expresses the essence of its model and year?"

One local that doesn't even go to shows is Chuck Smith of Cable Way in Coraopolis. His Chuck Wagon is one of the Western Hills' most beautiful. It's a 1932 Ford Pickup Truck. He found it in a barn near Leetsdale in pretty bad shape and spent 10 years lovingly restoring it. But "restore" is not an adequate word. Smith has added air conditioning and numerous other modern amenities.

"We had to order the leather from Australia," he said, shaking his head. "Modern American leather is made from cows who rub up against barbed wire fences and scar their hides. When you stretch the leather tight to fit the seats, those scars expand and really mar the appearance."

He doesn't enter the car in shows or drive it in parades. "I didn't buy it to compete or show," he says. "I bought it for me to enjoy. I just like driving it."

The engine compartment and rear bed are meticulously detailed but he installed a lid cover for the bed to protect it. The truck was originally bought and used on a farm by Meadville, then stored in a Meadville barn for 10 years. It was bought and moved to Leetsdale by an owner who planned to restore it but never got around to it. Smith knew as soon as he saw it that he wanted it.

Beaver Falls 28th Car Show Area's Best

Beaver Falls once again last Saturday showed that it annually hosts Western Pennsylvania's finest classic car show. The show lasts from noon til dark. It stretched for two miles on both sides of Beaver Falls' downtown business district. It contained 2500 cars from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s : trucks, military vehicles, European vehicles, stock vehicles looking show room perfect, highly custom rebuilt vehicles, vehicles carefully polished for show and vehicles carefully tuned for speed or quick acceleration. It had entire collections of Corvettes, Thunderbirds and Mustangs. The event was covered by six newspapers, five radio stations, two TV stations and four food trucks. It attracted five thousand fans. For the winning entries, it was their last local show before heading for the Holley NHRA Nationals in Bowling Green, Ky., next weekend.

Lamb Again Loses Lead On Late Restart

The Imperial Gang once again dominated the Limited Late Model racing at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, but once again fell short of a Feature victory. Justin Lamb, in Car 93X (right), and Christian Schneider, driving Ken Maneicki's Car 1ST (below left) since Maneicki has been sidelined with an arthritic elbow, both won their heat races. Chuck Medved, in 2M, placed seventh in his heat (that's Chuck below right, checking a reading before climbing into the cockpit). But all three, for the second staight week, were frustrated in the Feature. They started out looking good but couldn't hold on. Medved started sixth and moved up as high as fourth before drifting back to seventh. Schneider started fifth and moved up to second but was passed and finished third. Lamb, however, esperienced the ultimate frustration. Starting fourth, he moved up to second on the opening lap, held on for six laps and on the seventh lap took the lead. He held it for six laps. But again a caution lap and restart bunched the cars back up, and Lamb was outmaneuvered. He finished second. It was the second straight week this has happened.

Bryan Hoffman of Imperial (15H) finished eighth and Jeff Jablonski of Carnegie (3J)was ninth. Garrett Krummert won the Limited Feature.

In the Sportsmen Division (which for some reason this year is being called "Pro Stocks," even though it's supposed to be the High Amateur category) yet another Imperial driver, Danny Rich in 67X, finished third in his heat but could not break into the top three in the Feature. He spent the beginning of the race in fourth, was passed, and spent the last two thirds of it in fifth trying to regain fourth. Several local drivers from Coraopolis, Moon and Robinson were missing, presumably racing at another track. Dave McManus won.

Joe Anthony, driving the 211K Jailhouse Saloon car out of Coraopolis for Karlee Kovacs, who took the night off, finished fourth in both his heat and the Feature. He had spent much of the Feature in second and third, but the trunk came loose and was flapping along, creating considerable drag on the car. Last week, Kovacs had been doing well before she blew an outside rear tire. If they could ever avoid bad luck, the 221K team looks like a serious contender. Steven Shelpman won.

Kyle Janus of Robinson Township, in 88, didn't have a good evening, either. He finished third in both his heat and the Feature and was never really close to challenging for second or first. Frank Magill won.

Brian Huchko of Coraopolis in 60 placed fourth in the Elite Modified Feature. Ty Rhoades won.

For many fans, the highlight of the evening was the Sprint Cars. They're not at the track every week, but are always popular. Longtime Western Hills racing fans will remember these as Midgets back in the 20th Century. Even back then, they were running at over 100 mph. Today, they're even faster. So fast, in fact, that they've all mounted wings atop their car bodies to keep them from lifting off. Their fuel injected V-8 engines generate 950 horsepower and can reach speeds well over 160 mph on straights. Old timers can look at these pictures and imagine the cars with the wings off. The actual bodies are exactly the same as were running as Midgets back in 1950 and 1960, although of course engine technology is better.

Unfortunately, there are no Sprint Car owners or drivers in the Western Hills. They're popular in northern Pennsylvania and out in Ohio. Long ago, Russell Musta of Coraopolis was a highly successful Midget driver but no one has risen to take his place.

The Sprints return to Pittsburgh Motor Speedway this Saturday and will return several times throughout the Summer.

Tim Shaffer of Pittsburgh won the Sprint Feature last Saturday.

Cornell TeeBallers Finish Under The Lights

When you're four and five years old and learning to play baseball for the first time, each game is full of wonders.

Actually hitting the ball when you swing the bat. The first time you ever actually catch a high fly ball to center field. Chasing down a grounder, fielding it, and throwing it to first base in time to put the runner out. The idea that you personally were responsible for scoring a run, that you got on base and made it all the way around to home plate.

Baseball is the first team sport four and five year olds get to play and every game is an adventure.

But Cornell's TeeBallers got an extra thrill to wrap up their first season. They got to play under the big lights at Ronnie Bliwas Stadium. TBall games are usually played at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. To play a game anytime in the evening is special. But to wait and begin it late so the game is played with darkness falling and the high lights shining down ranks right up there with Fourth of July fireworks and a trip to Kennywood Park.

T Ball is a different world anyway, even for adults. There is no pitcher. Players place the ball on a three foot high tee, sort of like a golfer. The better players can hit the ball pretty well off that tee, spraying grounders around the infield and occasionally lofting a high fly ball to the near outfield.

These are Kindergarten and First Grade students just now getting control over their eye hand coordination.

So throwing the ball with any accuracy from third base over to first, or from center field to second, is a high risk move. Basemen usually have to chase the ball down, which adds to the excitement.

Since no TBaller gets the ball to the outfield, both teams placed seven players around the basepath and two to the left and right of the unused pitchers mound. Any grounder was swarmed by four or five fielders.

TBall teams only play four innings, which is fortunate, because if they went the full six like 11-12 year olds do, there's no telling what the final scores would be. As it is, almoat every team scores in double figures every game, and typical final scores are 18-15, 15-14 and 16-13.

Cornell fields two TBall teams in the Moon Area Little League. All season they've played stronger teams, as, with a larger population, Moon selects better athletes, even at the four and five year old level. So this final game, Cornell's two teams just played each other. Parents pretty well filled the wooden beachers. It was a huge and successful season wrapup.

Ross Toyota Rally Ends Deramo Streak, 16-14

A Kenny Ross Toyota rally in the top of the sixth inning ended Deramo's three game winning streak 16-14 Monday in a Coach Pitch League game at Ronnie Bliwas Field.

The Beverages hit well enough --- although they did strand several on base --- but they committed fielding errors that allowed Toyota to get runs across. These are seven and eight year olds still learning the game, and their split second decision making is often shaky.

For instance, on several occasions a player would field a hit in the infield or near outfield and would try to outrun the runner to base or home rather than firing the ball to the baseman or catcher for the easy out.

Once, in that fatal sixth inning, on what would have been an inning ending out, a player tagged the runner coming home but still had the ball in the free hand rather than the gloved hand (with which he tagged the runner) so the run scored.

Still, there were bright spots. The team has come a long way.

Samantha Melius (left and second photo below) is eight and a rising star, although her coaches worry that next year she may elect to play softball instead of baseball. Monday night she produced four singles and a double, personally added three RBIs, and directly contributed to five put outs. She is the team's best at the tricky Center position, which exists only in Minion League baseball. While a coach does the actual pitching, an infielder lines up next to him. Once the ball is pitched, the coach steps back and is out of the play. Most seven and eight year olds hit infield grounders or flies. A good Center can field those and fire them to first base for the out, or, in some cases, fire them home to cut off a run. Playing this position requires lightning quick reflexes, the ability to field the ball, an understanding of baseball strategy, the ability to make quick decisions while spinning in action, and the ability to throw it accurately to either first, one of the other bases, or home. Most seven or eight year olds possess two or three of these skill sets but not all five. Melius has all five. (The black and green pullover in the photos is a safety vest worn by whoever plays Center to provide added protection.) Watching her wheeling and dealing in the center of the infield is like a red light flashing Shortstop! Shortstop! The convoluted rules of Minion League do not allow her to play Center all the time. She must rotate to other positions. Monday she did her turn at Catcher, for which her skill set is spectacularly unsuited. But she plays Center often and has become quite valuable there.

And Melius is not the only Deramo player coming on fast as the season moves to a close. Of the nine players on the roster, six are very dangerous hitters, good for a single every time up, a double at least once a game, and a triple occasionally. Fielding is still an issue, but it's improving. Players caught six flies for outs Monday, scored a double play, and fielded nine grounders for outs.

The team closes out the regular season Saturday at Bliwas Field against the Trains. This is a very good 7-8 year old team. Local baseball fans should turn out to see them.

These photos will hold their resolution when enlarged; they are best printed at a commercial outlet like FedEx which has high quality paper.
Only First Places Were Lamb, Janus
Local Drivers Endure Frustrating Night At Speedway

Like any sport, there's a lot of frustration in dirt track racing. Locals felt plenty of it Saturday night at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Before the racing began, they all felt confident with new cars, new engines, or new tires, suspensions or carbeurators. When the evening was over, it hadn't helped much. of Only two of them had actually taken first places or even finished in the top three.

Most frustrated was Robinson Township's Bob Schwartzmiller in the Sportsman Division. This was the biggest night of the year for the division. Every first weekend of June, the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway hosts the Ed Laboon Memorial Race, one of the biggest races of the season for Sportsmen. It carries a $2000 purse for the winner, large for what is the highest amateur division. Schwartzmiller won the race one time and has finished second and third others. Last year, his engine gave out in his qualifying heat, and he and his crew worked feverishly to get it running again for the Consolation. He placed second in the Consy, qualifying him for a 23rd place start in the feature. He steadily moved up but ran out of laps and finihed 6th. He has already announced this is his last season in Sportsmen. Next year he'll race exclusively in the Late Model division. The car is up for sale. So he badly wanted to finish strong, hopefully with a victory but at least with a top three finish.

Since Pittsburgh Motor Speedway has been rained out the last several weekends, Schwartzmiller has been racing down in Virginia and Maryland and at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Brookville, Pa. He blew an engine two weeks ago so his crew has spent the last week installing a new one. He was hoping it would give him the power he needed to keep up with the 51 drivers from five states who came to the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway just for the Laboon Memorial.

It didn't happen. Maybe the absence of his good luck charm, daughter Rachel, now a Duquesne student, hurt. She was attending a Kenny Chesney concert.

Maybe the large field of better financed rivals was too much. But he needed to finish at least third in his heat to qualify for the feature and could only reach 5th. Then, in the Consy, he finihed a disappointing 10th. There will be other big races this season for Sportsmen, but they're at other tracks. Schwartzmiller probably won't haul the car those long distances to northern Pennsylvania, out in Ohio, or back in eastern Pennsylvania. So he'll bid farewell to the division feeling unfulfilled.

Coraopolis driver Jeff Broniszewski did no better. He didn't make the feature, either, and finished 11th in the Consolation.

Across the whole five hour evening card of 13 races, only two locals won.

Justin Lamb placed second in the Limited Late Model ("Rush" or "Crate" Division) Feature, losing out to Daryl Charlier of Midway by only a few seconds.

Ken Maniecki of Imperial (blue car above) placed 5th in that race. He was 7th at the start and moved steadily up until on the 11th lap he took the lead. But he only held it for one lap before a third turn wreck brought the yellow flag. That bunched up the cars. On the first turn he was outmaneuvered and fell to third. His engine seemed to struggle and he drifted back to ninth, until it regained full output and he climbed back to 5th.

Meniecki's Imperial neighbor Chuck Medved started 14th and could only climb as high as 11th, ultimately finishing 16th.

Tony White, driving the #27 Tootsiemobile (photo below), started 16th and stayed in that area for the entire 25 laps, finishing 18th. Jabo Jablonski of Carnegie was 13th in #3J.

Down in the Hobby Stock Division, Karlee Kovacs drove the Jailhouse Saloon Car to 8th.

That's Karlee in the photo (face partially obscured) above high fiving a friend over receiving a front row start in the Feature after a strong qualifying heat. Kovacs was optimistic earlier in the evening because they had installed a new engine in her car, hopefully to give her more power. But so far this season the Hobby Stock field is much larger and stronger that the last several years, and even with the new engine she still couldn't keep up. She drifted slowly from second back to 3rd, then 4th, and finally 8th.

Kovacs, a Technology Education major at California State University, is now planning to earn her Masters in either Mechanical or Electrical Engineering. So far this season she's one of only two woman driving at the Speedway. Kayla McManus is the other.

Casey Grumling finished second and Dave Sheriff of Imperial third.

Bob Betz in the Jailhouse Saloon's other car (#81) also began the evening very optiimistic. His pit crew has installed a new $9000 engine, a new carb with bigger jets to service that bigger engine and new hard tires. They also lowered the car . The prior owner had troubles with the engine and just wanted rid of it, so he sold it at half price. Betz and his crew tore it down and rebuilt it. He did place among the top 16 in times during "hot laps," the timed laps run before the evening's races begin, so everything was looking good. But he failed to qualify for the Feature.

Kyle Janus of Cory in #88 won the Young Guns Feature. Because most of the evening was devoted to qualifying heats and a long feature up in the Sportsman Division, the Young Guns did not run prelims, only the one feature.

Engel Lets Finale Slip Away To Blumling, 8-6

Cody Chetoka pitched a magnificent four innings and left Cornell with a 6-3 lead. But a disastrous fifth inning let Blumling score five runs and win 8-6 in the Wednesday evening regular season finale for the Moon Little League.

Chetoka (below left) has developed into an outstanding 11-12 pitcher. He struck out six, forced five fly outs and a ground out, and walked only two.

Blumling, the league's regular season champion, grabbed an early 2-0 lead with two singles and a double while Chetoka settled in. But then he ended the top of the first with three up and three down.

Engel exploded for five runs in the bottom of the second. Josh Mozuch and Chetoka lofted consecutive singles to center field, Noah Slinde walked to load the bases, and Jayden Haines walked to bring in Mozuch. Aaron Reddix doubled in Chetoka and Slinde. Walter Clarit sacrificed home Haines. Dylan Woodard singled and Reddix stole home to make it 5-2.

Blumling opened the third with a single, two stolen bases and a single to cut it to 5-3. It stayed there until the Engel fourth, when Slinde walked. Hained walked to move him to second. Slinde then stole third (below right) and home to make it 6-3.

But Chetoka had used up his allowable pitch count. In the fifth, Blumling got three walks, a single, two doubles and a steal home to go ahead 8-6. Walter Clarit came on in the sixth to shut down Blumling with two strikeouts and a ground out. But Blumling's final pitcher used a blazing fast ball to silence Engel batters.

Despite the loss, Engel Coach Greg Woodard was upbeat afterward. This is a very young team playing in a very tough league, and many of them have come on strong in May.

Mozuch, Chetoka and Clarit have become dependable on the mound. Chetoka is an outstanding catcher with a rifle throw out to the bases. Clarit is the best base stealer in the league. Mitchell Engel is an outstanding first baseman (as seen in the center pictures in the two three-photo strips). Reddix, Mozuch and Woodard are dangerous every time they step to the plate.

The Moon League now begins its postseason tournament. Once Cornell completes that, they prepare for their first travelling tournament, a June 19-23 Class C event at Oakmont with eight teams. Every team is guaranteed three games. Cornell, a Class C team as defined by the Little League, has been playing in the Class A Moon League all Spring, which has resulted in losses, but should pay dividends as the Raiders step down to playing teams at their own level. Woodard will also have more practice time now that other teams (T Ball, Coach Pitch and Minor League) conclude their seasons and the field becomes available. Weather has also stabilized. Cornell had no preseason practices because of rain and cold.

Wesbanco Wins Again Over Gilligan, 8-5

2018 has been a hard year for Cory's two minor league baseball teams. They've got some real talent, but they're young and they've been playing in one of the toughest leagues in Little League District 4. Wins have been hard to come by, pitchers have been shelled by older and bigger batters, and batters have faced much more experienced pitchers.

Thursday night was a welcome break from the grind of Moon Area Little League games. The two Cory teams got to play each other for the second time this year. Everybody showed up enthusiastic and relaxed. The Spirit of Baseball dropped by for a visit, seen in the photo at right with Cornell Youth Baseball League Commissioner Marci Lamb. Even the weather cooperated, serving up a sunny, pleasant evening with no rain.

The game was an even battle that went right down to the final pitch of the sixth inning. Wesbanco had defeated Gilligan two weeks ago 4-0 and won this one 8-5.

Kenny Wade unloaded a home run in the bottom of the 5th inning for the best hit of the game. There were lots of singles and doubles and base stealing.

But the night belonged to the pitchers. Pitching has been a struggle for Cornell teams all season, with players pitching for the first time and struggling to find the strike zone.

But a month of hard experience is beginning to pay off. Colton Mozuch and Devin Lamb (bottom left) both fired strike after strike. A few were hit but both pitchers rang up frequent strike outs. In the sixth inning, for example, Lamb struck out three straight batters on 12 throws and Mozuch struck out two and forced a groundout to end the game.

The teams now return to their schedule in the Moon Area Little League. Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., classifies leagues. Moon is a Class A league. Cornell is Class C. There are other Class C leagues in the area, but none close enough to allow nightly travel. They are in places like McKees Rocks, Avalon, Bellevue, New Brighton, Crafton, Carnegie. Hopewell and Oakdale. Cornell teams used to compete in the McKees Rocks league and contended for the championship every year, but parents objected to the travel. (Little League teams do not own buses; parents have to drive players to games.) Cornell switched to the Moon League for its proximity: Moon Park and Baker Field are both much closer to Coraopolis than McKees Rocks, Stowe Township, Crafton or Carnegie.

For most of the 20th Century, Coraopolis had enough players to field enough teams to run a 12 team league within the town. Slowly, those numbers declined until the town had eight teams, then six, then only four. Finally in the 21st Century, numbers dipped so low Coraopolis could field only one team at each level so had to join an outside league. But numbers are now rebounding. This year Coraopolis has two teams at every level except the 11-12 year old category. Next year, they plan on a major recruiting effort to draw enough players to field four teams at each level and go back to having their own league with all games at Bliwas Field.

As part of this effort, Cornell is hoping to run a Fall League this year for players who do not play football and want to keep active until basketball.

Hoffman Heat Stifles West Greene 5-0

Hayden Hoffman pitched perhaps the finest game of his career Wednesday afternoon to give Cornell a 5-0 win over West Greene in the WPIAL playoffs at Peterswood Field in Washington County.

Hoffman's fast ball was blazing. He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced and all of them went down swinging. In the third, fourth and fifth innings he struck out two each and forced two grounders and a fly out. He finally allowed a single in the sixth inning --- it ruined his no hitter --- but then struck out three straight. In the seventh inning he struck out one and forced a fly out but reached his legal pitch limit and had to be replaced. Stefan Blackstone came in and forced the ground out which ended the game.

Scouts up in the press box were busy scribbling notes. Pioneer Coach Shawn Lohr just shook his head. "We knew they had two outstanding pitchers but I never expected this. We had no answer. I even sent in pinch hitters and they struck out, too. He's special."

Cornell Coach Brian Mihalyi echoed those thoughts. "He was phenomenal. He wasn't just fast. He was placing his pitches perfectly. He raised his game to a whole new level."

It was a good thing. Although West Greene had to keep changing pitchers, they held Cornell batters at bay for three innings. They weren't striking out due to speed. But West Greene's pitchers were alternating high and low throws to force Raiders into groundouts and fly outs.

The closest Cornell came to scoring was an attempt by Dae Collins to steal home in the third inning. But the ball got there in time and he was put out.

Finally, in the fourth, Cornell broke the scoreless deadlock. Hoffman slid into first ahead of the throw. A Cody Maxwell single and Kaden Divito double left the Raiders up 1-0.

In the fifth, Hunter Smith walked, Blaine Sams and Hoffman singled to load the bases, and Blackstone singled home Smith. Cornell thus ended the inning up 2-0.

The Raiders finally broke it open in the sixth. Maxwell walked, Divito singled, and Tony Piccolo (photo left) doubled to bring them in and make it 4-0. Taylor Godfrey then singled home Piccolo for 5-0.

It was a rare tournament win for the community. When Harry Houtz was coaching baseball at Coraopolis before World War II, the Blue Devils were a major WPIAL contender every season. Since then, tournament appearances have been rare for Neville, Coraopolis and Cornell. If this team could win next Monday and reach rhe WPIAL semifinals it would become the greatest baseball team in Cornell history, which goes back to 1972. Already, this was the first ever playoff win for Cornell.

But that will be a major challenge. Cory's opponent in the quarterfinals is #1 ranked Vincentian. The Royals feature a formidable batting crew, of which five are hitting above .400 and one, Kyler Fedko, is batting .520.

"I feel pretty good about our pitching," Mihalyi told reporters. "We'll work on careful placement of our pitches. And we'll need a good day at the plate."

Cornell Names Summer Travel LL Roster

Cornell Little League Coach Greg Woodard this week announced his roster for the Summer 2018 travelling team and confirmed three tourneys the boys will play in.

Woodard is calling up Colton Mozuch, Dyllen Chetoka, Logan Hunter, Michael Ricketts, and Brady Vignoe from the minor leagues. They are 10 years old. The tournaments Cornell will play in limit players to ages 10, 11 and 12. Nine year olds are not accepted.

The three tournaments scheduled so far are at Oakmont, New Brighton and Cornell.

Woodard also announced that this year the Cornell Youth Baseball Association will add a "Fall Ball" schedule so boys not playing football and wishing to continue working on their baseball skills will have that opportunity. Details are still being worked out.

In Tuesday night action, two spectacular home plate steals scored two runs but were not enough as Complete Family Vision Care defeated Engel for the second time.

Both steals came in the first inning. Leadoff batter Walter Clarit, also known as The Basepath Bandit, singled, stole second and third, then slid into home.

Only a minute later, Jayden Haines singled to get on, then followed Clarit in stealing second, third and home.

That's Haines at left beginning his slide as the catcher reaches up for the ball. He caught it, but Haines slid under the tag.

The only other Engel score came in the third when Josh Mozuch doubled Mitchell Engel in. For the rest of the evening, Engel batters could not get much done against Family Vision pitching.

Woodard continued his practice of pitching one player per inning. He led off with Clarit (photo, above) in the first, then in order sent Haines, Chris Potter, Mozuch, Noah Slinde and Engel to the mound. Slinde in particular has made huge strides. A month ago, he had never pitched in his life. On Tuesday, he only walked one batter and forced two popups. He did allow five singles, but Woodard saw that as proof Slinde was throwing strikes.

The coach spent half of each inning Tuesday working on pitching skills. He kept calling on pitchers to drop their raised front leg to bring the ball down as it crosses the plate, avoiding high throws above the strike zone.

Troop 310 Unleashes Convocation Of Eagles

The rank of Eagle is the highest honor a Boy Scout can achieve. Only four per cent of all Scouts have reached it. The rank is so respected that colleges award scholarships for it, the military skips recipients past certain basic training requirements, and companies grant holders preference when hiring. The rank requires several years of work. A Scout must earn 21 merit badges, demonstrate outdoor skills, citizenship skills and academic skills, pass through several phases of leadership training, complete a major community service project, appear before a Board of Review, and demonstrate character both within the troop and within the larger community.

The rank is equivalent to being named All-State in a sport or earning admission to the National Honor Society in school.

It is such a big deal that many long time troops post photos, names and years of all their Eagles on a Wall Of Fame in some prominent place.

For a troop to produce an Eagle a year over a long time period is considered impressive. For a troop to produce half a dozen Eagles in a single year is considered spectacular.

Troop 310 of the Sharon Presbyterian Church in Moon Township is about to crown 11 Eagles in a single three month period. No troop in the Western Hills has ever produced such a cluster of Eagles at one time.

The ceremony will probably be held in July. It will recognize two sets of brothers: Isiah, Isaac and Josiah Brazen and Ben and Jonathan McAdams. It will also recognize Sam Fichtl, Aaron Tedeschi, Ethan Radeschi, Mitchell Mccoy and Alex Hoff. Travis Heyer has just received his.

Scoutmaster Brian Tedeschi is justly proud of this group. "They've come up through the ranks together," he says. "They've been the core of our troop for several years now. They've left quite a legacy for new members coming into our troop to live up to."

Community projects the boys have completed have been varied.

Radeschi worked on beehives at the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden. McCoy is refurbishing beds and landscaping at McCormick Elementary School. Hoff is building raised garden beds at Valley Care Adult Day Care so the older members, who have trouble kneeling, can easily access the soil and plants. Tedeschi worked on the Coraopolis Train Station Rehabilitation.

In the photo at left, that's McCoy at left and Hoff right conferring with Max Lovett (rear left) and Chris Anderson (rear right) during Monday's troop meeting.

Troop 310, which has existed since 1959, will see a dip in numbers and leadership as the 11 new Eagles head off to college.

"It runs in cycles," Tedeschi shrugs. "We get a really good group coming in, they spend six years coming through, then they leave and we have to start over."

He isn't planning to take the whole troop to camp this Summer. Several of his boys may instead go with a neighboring troop to Heritage, the Scout Reservation in the Nemacolin Highlands east of Uniontown.

Engels Outstanding Despite 9-4 Loss

Engels played what most fans considered their best game of the season Saturday at Baker Field even though they lost 9-4 to Blumley & Guskey LLP.

B & G currently sits atop the Moon Area Baseball League standings and is one of the top 10 Little League teams in District Four, which includes all Allegheny County teams. It's a roster full of experienced and talented hitters, fielders and pitchers.

Despite this imposing rep, Engels got off to an immediate start. Mitchell Engel stole 2nd and 3rd and Cody Chetoka doubled him home for a 1-0 lead. But Blumley came back in the bottom of the first to tie it at 1-1.

Three strikeouts ended the Engel second quickly. Then, to begin the bottom half, Dylan Woodard was struck in the head by a thrown ball. He spent the inning in the dugout with an icepack while the team played with a two man outfield. Meanwhile, a string of walks put Blumley up 6-1.

Walter Clarit doubled to open the top of the third inning, and Mitchell Engel doubled to drive him home. Chetoka sacrificed Engel home to make it 6-3.

Blumley pushed it out to 9-3 in the bottom of the third on a series of walks and aingles.

Then Coach Greg Woodard brought his ace, Josh Mozuch, to the mound. Mozuch stopped Blumley immediately on three popups.

The fourth was a wash. Three straight Engel strikeouts ended the top. Then Mozuch pitched two popups and a strikeout to end the bottom.

Chetoka, Woodard and Mozuch were walked to load the bases in the top of the fifth. Then, with Noah Slinde batting, a ball got away from the Blumley catcher and skittered down the first base line. As seen in the photo above, Slinde backed away from the plate as Chetoka slid safely home. That made it 9-4.

In the bottom of the fifth, Mozuch forced a popup, a groundout, and a strikeout. What Engel needed was a five run rally in the top of the sixth. They didn't get it. A flyout, a strikeout and a putout at second ended the inning and the game.

Fans loved the number of deep outfield hits Engel batters produced, the number of deep hits Engel fielders took away from Blumely with one arm catches, and the outstanding pitching by Mozuch.

Woodard gathered his team in the dugout and told them how proud he was of their much improved hitting, fielding and pitching. "The scoreboard doesn't always tell the whole story," he said. "We played a good game here. I'm extremely proud of every one of you."

Cornell Draws West Greene In WPIAL

Eighth ranked Cornell drew unranked West Greene in the first round of the WPIAL baseball playoffs. The two will play Wednesday, May 16 at 4 pm at Peterswood Park Field in Peters Township.

The draw is ideal for Cornell. The Raiders finished third in Section 3A with an 8-4 record, 9-4 overall. Quigley won Section 3A with Western Beaver second. West Greene finished fourth in Section 2A with a 6-6 record, 7-10 overall. Greensberg Central Catholic won Section 2A, with Jeannette and Monessen tied for second. West Greene lost by scores like 14-1, 10-0 (twice), 20-2 and 11-1.

Not only is West Greene an ideal first round opponent, but the second round is not until Monday, May 21. This means if Cornell defeats West Greene, it can use the same pitcher(s) against Vincentian.

However, that's where the good news ends. Vincentian is ranked #1 in the WPIAL. The Royals finished 12-4 overall and 9-1 in Section 1A. Their only loss in Class A came at Union, 9-8. Their other three losses came at the hands of larger schools. They won by scores like 15-0, 20-2, 18-1, 18-3, 14-3 and 32-2. They won the Vero Beach (Fla.) Tournament over schools from several states. The Royals are led by Kyler Fedko, who Cornell fans will recall as the basketball star who led Vincentian to two sectional wins over the Raiders, then knocked them out of the playoffs. In baseball, Fedko bats .520, best in the WPIAL.

Cornell's section 1A rivals are spaced one to a bracket. Quigley has a bye and will play the winner of the Jeannette-Leechburg winner. Western Beaver plays Monessen, with the winner meeting Union. Rochester plays Eden Christian, with the winner meeting Greensberg Central.

Rains Wash Out High Starts For Imperial Trio

Three Imperial drivers were poised for high starts in their feature races but were rained out on opening night of the 2018 season at Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.

Heat races had already been completed in each division, which is how entries in the features were determined.

Nick Kocuba was slated to start first in the Sportsman Feature with Danny Rich (Imperial) 12th and Bob Schwartzmiller of Robinson 13th.

Chuck Medved (car and pit crew photo, right) would have started 5th in the Late Model Feature. Justin Lamb of Imperial was placed 9th.

Dave Sheriff would have started first in the Hobby Stocks Feature, with Karlee Kovacs 5th in her Coraopolis Jailhouse Saloon car (photo left).

Opening night at a dirt track is a kind of extended family reunion, with drivers, pit crew and families who haven't seen each other since last Fall arriving early and catching up on news. There's also business to conduct. Drivers and crews have to fill out 2018 season paperwork, which will be kept on file. New drivers and crews have to be acquainted with rules and procedures, and experienced drivers and crews have to be updated on any changes. In the photo bottom right, Pit Steward Smoky Schempp (now in his 40th year) handles that duty. Racetrack owner Matt Miley, in blue below left, meets with Dispatcher Bob Neill (with headset), now in his 30th year at PMSS.

The only feature completed was in the Modifed Sportsman Division. It was completed first to guarantee it finished ahead of the rain. This is not a division that races every week at PMSS. These are faster and more expensive cars with their own association, and they rotate around a series of seven tracks in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Since the drivers travel much longer distances --- many come from New York, Ohio and Maryland, as well as Erie, Franklin, and other northern and north central Pennsylvania towns --- and each race counts toward their season championship, their feature needed to be completed if possible.

A Modified Sportsman car uses a sealed GM engine, Holley carbuerator, 110" wheelbase, 1 3/4" rollcage, steel body, fiberglass roof and a very aerodynamic shape (photo, right). They'll be back at PMSS several times this Summer. Because of their speed and power, they're a fan favorite.

Fielding Errors, Silent Bats Betray Engel Pitchers

He spends time every practice on pitching. He conducted a pitching clinic Friday evening. And before Saturday's game with Family Vision Center, Coach Greg Woodard was out in the bullpen (see photo, right), instructing boys exactly how to hold the ball for variou pitches (curve, changeup, etc.). And he's finally succeeding in developing a deep, skilled pitching stable.

Saturday afternoon at Baker Field Woodard sent Cody Chetoka. Walter Clarit, Josh Mozuch and Noah Slinde to the mound. They gave him exactly what he wanted : pitch after pitch right down the middle.

"You want your pitchers to do three things," Woodard preaches. "Strike people out, or force them to hit easy infield grounders or easy fly outs. These aren't neighborhood pickup teams we're playing here. These are well coached teams with players who play year round on travelling teams, Fall ball teams and then work on their games during the Winter in batting cages. If you throw these guys good pitches, they're going to hit them. The trick is to control how and where they hit them, so your fielders can make plays."

Saturday, Engel pitchers forced batter after batter to hit easy infield grounders and popup flies. And Engel fielders let the grounders through to the outfield and let popups fall to the ground.

"We just can't have this," Woodard told reporters. "Pitching is the hard part. Catching a high fly ball is easy. Picking up a grounder and throwing it to first base is easy. We have to make the easy plays to back up our pitchers."

The game opened impressively. Jayden Haines singled. then stole second and third. Mitch Engle singled him in. Chetoka sacrificed to bring in Engle. So Engle took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the first.

In the bottom of the inning Family Vision batters hit three grounders which were either missed or bobbled for singles, and three deep flies to the outfield which were dropped for doubles.

Two strikeouts and an out sliding home ended the Engel top of the second quickly.

In the bottom frame, five walks, two singles and four steals put Family Vision up 10-2.

Two flyouts and a groundout ended the Engel third. Three walks, three singles and a double padded the Family Vision lead to 15-2.

In the fourth , Chetoka singled and Dylan Woodard singled him in for the 15-3 final score.

Fielding wasn't the only Engel problem. Little League games are notoriously high scoring. Engel has to score. In the Family Vision game, Engel batters consistently hit directly into the gloves of pitchers, infielders and outfielders. Some of that is just bad luck, of course. In another game, those same hits might score runs. But batting isn't just a matter of hitting a ball. It's a matter of hitting it to a chosen place, such as between players.

The game was not without its bright spots. There were several long balls, which just happened to be caught. There was a spectacular throw in from the outfield to put a runner out trying to score. There were several nice infield plays and over a dozen blazing strikes thrown. It's the first week of May. There's plenty of time to put all these pieces together.

Pitching Clinic Proceeds Despite Intermittent Rain

Black clouds filled the sky and a chill breeze blew across Ronnie Bliwas Field Friday evening, but the Coraopolis Little League Pitching Clinic proceeded on schedule. Pelting rain periodically drove the players and coaches back to the dugout, where Greg Woodard spoke to them until they could return to the field.

Woodard is President of the Coraopolis Youth Baseball Association and Head Coach of its 11-12 year old team. He played in the Coraopolis Little League back when it was sponsored by the Kiwanis and had 12 teams competing five evenings a week and all day Saturday May through August. He is determined to bring the league back to its former status, maybe not with 12 teams, but as a small town league on a solid basis.

"We're here to have fun," he tells the 16 boys aged 9-12 from three teams taking refuge from the rain. "We're here to make memories we can treasure for the rest of our lives, to develop deep friendships that will last into adulthood, to develop a deep understanding and love for baseball, and to do something exciting instead of sitting home watching TV." This is pretty philosophical talk for a bunch of grade school kids, but Woodard's love for baseball and kids is apparent, and they give him their rapt attention, no easy feat as any teacher can testify.

"We don't cut anyone," Woodard tells reporters, "We develop each kid to his maximum potential. It's tough. It takes lots of individual attention, lots of time, lots of patience, lots of hard work. Baseball is not easy."

The rain lets up, and through the lingering sprinkles, Woodard leads his troop back to the outfield. He lines them up and has everyone drop to one knee. They begin pitching to each other, slowly backing up a step every five throws.

Then he begins working on stance. As shown below, he works on lining the body up property. Woodard raises a leg hip high; knee pointing out. .

He works on windup, on follow through. He focuses on footwork, on turning the foot as the windup begins.

"Don't worry about speed," he cautions rhem. "Worry about accuracy." He talks about bringing the front leg down to lend force to the throw, about aiming for the catcher's mitt, or the catcher's hat, and not looking to either side.

These are mostly kids who have never pitched before this year. A few have a year's experience. But they all have trouble consistently finding the strike zone. Cornell teams this year are losing because their pitchers walk batter after batter until they walk more runs home than their own batters can score runs.

The problem began back in March and April when the late Winter did not allow practices. Many leagues have old barns, gyms, or warehouses they use for offseason practices but Cornell does not.

Pitching is a precise art which requires a lot of work. So Cornell pitchers are behind.

But Woodard and the other Cornell coaches are not discouraged.

"This is not the season. We're playing in one of the strongest leagues in western Pennsylvania, but these games don't count. All these games are just practice. At the end of this round robin schedule, all our teams go into a postseason tournament. That's when we'll find out what progress we've made. And then we pick an all star team and spend late June and July competing in tournaments."

Woodard sits on a bucket behind home plate and, one by one, has each boy pitch to him. The others are still in the outfield working on basic drills. Some of them, such as Josh Mosuch (photo at left) send five strikes across the plate. Others struggle. Woodard patiently keeps reviewing the basics. "Turn your foot," he instructs one. "Don't bring your leg down so soon," he tells another." Follow through," he reminds a third.

The next day (Saturday) every team will be in action. Woodard's 11 and 12 year old team plays a 2 pm game at Moon's Baker Field.

During their final rain break, Woodard explained to the boys about the tryouts for the travelling team and how they should all try out. They seemed really enthusiastic as they raced to their parents' waiting cars in the rain.

"I just love baseball," Woodard admitted as he locked up. "There's no other sport like it."

Westbanco Grabs 4-0 Win Before Rain Falls

Westbanco defeated Gilligan 4-0 in a rain shortened Minor League game at Bliwas Field Thursday night.

Pitching for both teams was razor sharp, a welcome relief from recent games in which neither stable of pitchers could find the strike zone consistently.

Michael Ricketts opened on the mound for Gilligan and struck out two in the top of the first. He forced a popup for the third out.

Colton Mozuch pitched for Wesbanco . and struck out three with one walk and a single.

In the second inning Ricketts walked four, including a run, then struck out three. That gave Wesbanco a 1-0 lead. In the bottom frame, Mozuch walked one and hit one, then struck out three.

Ricketts had used up his 35 pitches, so Dyllen Chetoka took the mound for Gilligan in the third. He didn't have his usual stuff, hitting one batter and walking two. That brought Kenny Wade to the mound. With the bases loaded, he struck out two, but then walked three before ending the inning on a third strikeout. That made it 4-0.

Pitching wasn't the only bright spot. Dyllen Chetoka played the Catcher position very well, including a powerful arm picking off runners on second and third. It must run in the family. Up in the 11-12 year old division, older brother Cody is doing the same thing.

Julian Smith added base running to his growing set of skills (see photo, below center). He stole second and third. He also stole home but the umpire had called a dead ball and made him go back to third.

Smith, who plays center field, has also learned to come in when there's a runner on first, so he can back up whoever is playing second. With Chetoka firing passes from home to second to pick off baserunners Smith twice fielded the ball when the second baseman missed it.

Wesbanco's McKenna Griffith (photo, left) has developd into a reliable fielder and second or third baseman.

Roy Hollingsworth rejoined the Wesbanco lineup after missing two games. He was walked once and struck out once.

Both teams displayed quickness in fielding grounders and firing passes to first (photos below left and right). It's getting harder for runners to beat those passes. They're having to leave the batting box quickly and sprint full steam all the way.

Wesbanco next plays Ebner at 4 pm Saturday at Bliwas. Gilligan plays Carpenter at 4 pm Saturday at Baker. Ebner had earlier defeated Gilligan 17-3.

Both Wesbanco and Gilligan will have players participating in the Pitching Clinic Friday night at Bliwas.

Cornell Splits DH With Western Beaver

Cornell split a doubleheader with Western Beaver Wednesday afternoon, 14-18 and 17-7, to keep their flickering chances for a WPIAL Tournament berth alive.

Actually, Cornell should have won both games. And they would have except for one disastrous inning in the first game.

Th final score of that one was 18-14 but in the fifth inning Cornell committed a cluster of costly errors which allowed several runs in and walked home several more. Without those miscues, the Raiders would have won 14-10 or close to it.

Cornell Coach Jeff Stuart certainly did his share of juggling. He moved Adrianna Mull to first base and put Vanessa Garcia at third. He sent freshman Jaeda Evans in to pinch run several times, usually for pitcher Kiara Clarit (photo at right).

As usual, Clarit and Myka Smith handled pitching duties. They're both very good when on their game but both ocasionally have innings in which they can't find the strike zone. The first game Wednesday included one of those innings.

Stuart and his assistant coaches continue to struggle with decision making. Players will field the ball and then either throw it to the wrong base or hold it for a few seconds while deciding where to throw it.

Even the players expressed their frustration over the first game. "We should have won that one," they told each other. "We're better than that team."

They certainly were in the second game, which ended 16-6. Cornell was hitting precisely, finding the strike zone consistently, fielding flies and grounders perfectly and making the right decisions.

Hailey Leitner has proven to be an outstanding Catcher. She's quick, smart and has a good arm. When Cornell is playing well, much of what happens revolves around Leitner. Most high school Catchers repeatedly misplay bunts, but Leitner plays them quickly and with precision.

The split hurts Cornell. They badly needed both wins. Had they won two, they would now be 4-4 in Section 1, in fourth place and only half a game behind Quigley. Since the first four teams go to the playoffs, this would have put Cornell in a very strong position. But, with the first game loss, the Raiders are now 3-5 and in fifth place. Western Beaver is now 4-4 and in that fourth place spot. So now Cornell is on the bubble. Their remaining section games are with bottom dwelling Aliquippa and Rochester, which Cornell beat 19-6 and 12-2 earlier. But then Cornell faces a massive challenge in a doubleheader with first place Union. They must win one of those games with Union. Western Beaver, meanwhile, also has a game with Aliquippa, plus one with Union and makeups with Quigley and Rochester. If Cornell loses both games to Union, the best they can finish is 5-7, while even if Western Beaver loses to Union they would finish 7-5 with wins over Aliquippa and Rochester. Cornell therefore needs to win its games and hope either Rochester or Aliquippa upsets Western Beaver.

Gilligan Minor League Team "A Work In Progress"

Gilligan Coach Kenny Wade just smiled after the game. His Minor Leaguers had dropped another one, this time 15-5 to Moon Golf Club.

"We're a work in progress," Wade, who is also a minister, told reporters. "We're playing against teams with players who played a year of T Ball, a year of Intermediate, and a year of Coach Pitch. So this is their fourth season. I have kids on this team who never played before this year, and I have other kids who only played one year. So we have to be patient here. What we do is pay no attention to the scoreboard, but instead in each game look for signs of progress, at individual kids who make major steps. If you use that perspective, tonight was a really good game."

Two huge steps forward were made by Julian Smith and Devin Lamb. Lamb (photo, right) pitched his first game ever. He was a little shaky, and allowed several walks, but finally found the strike zone and struck out two and forced a long popup. He pitched his full allotment (Little League rules allow 35 pitches), then went back to First Base, where he is most comfortable.

"That gives us one more pitcher to put in the rotation," Wade said. "This is really big for us."

The other huge step forward was Julian Smith (photo, below).

Smith, playing in only his fourth game --- ever --- chased down a long hit to the left field fence and fielded it for the final out in a key inning when Moon Golf Club had the bases loaded.

"He has so much talent," Wade said. "He just needs to figure out how to play the game and realize he can do all these things. So he now realizes he can pitch and field. Next he needs to realize he can hit the ball. The kid improves every single game. If he keeps this up, we won't be saying, wow, next year he'll really be able to help whatever team he's on. No. We'll be saying, he's going to help this team this year."

Wade has others coming on. Dyllen Chetoka hit a blazing double and eventually came in to score a run. Logan Shaughnessy came in from his usual position at left field and pitched after Lamb used up his quota.

The Coraopolis Little League is hosting a pitching clinic Friday night specifically to address the major problem their pitchers at both the Major and Minor League levels face : the inability to consistently find the strike zone. Pitchers on both levels give up entirely too many walks. There are occasional fielding errors and some batters with low averages, but if Cornell could solve the pitching problem its teams would be winning games they're now losing.

Western Beaver Surprises Cornell, 13-2

Cornell and Western Beaver were tied for second place in Section 3 and Tuesday afternoon's showdown at the Maple Street field was expected to be a tossup and a tight game. Pitching ace Hayden Hoffman was slated to start and was expected to control the visiting hitters while Cornell was expected to hit well against Western Beaver pitching.

No one expected the 13-2 pounding the Golden Beavers laid on Cornell's Raiders.

Maybe the first pitch was an omen. It hit the umpire and sent him to the ground. It took 10 minutes and attention by the Cornell trainer for him to recover enough to continue.

Things got worse fast. The first batter was walked. After a ground out, the third batter homered over the right centerfield fence. The ball landed in the softball field at the bottom of the hill. Two more walks and a single loaded the bases and a double brought them all home for a 5-0 Western Beaver lead before a strikeout mercifully ended the top of the inning.

Cornell's bats were silent in rhe bottom frame. Hoffman singled but two ground outs and a strikeout ended it.

Western Beaver added to their lead in the top of the second. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases and a bomb to left center brought in two of them. The other was tagged out at third. That made it 7-0. Three Cornell batters struck out in the bottom of the second.

Stefan Blackstone took the mound in the third. After a walk and double to deep right, he struck out three straight. But Cornell batters produced a ground out, a fly out and a strikeout.

Hunter Smith took over pitching duties to start the fourth. It didn't help. Two singles, a stolen base and a sacrifice ground out put runners on second and third. A balk call brought one home for 8-0. A walk and hit batter loaded the bases and a single brought two more home for 10-0. Again the Beavers loaded the bases and a walk forced one home for an 11-0 lead. At this point Tony Piccolo (photo, left) took over the pitching. A single forced home another runner to make it 12-0. Finally, a double play shut down Western Beaver.

Cornell did manage to score two in the fourth. Blaine Sams, Hoffman and Blackstone all singled to score one run. Then Cody Maxwell singled to bring in another. But two fly outs and a ground out ended the inning.

In the fifth, Western Beaver had a hit batter, then a triple, to add the final run for the 13-2 score. Neither team scored from then on.

The loss is a disaster for Cornell's hopes of making the postseason WPIAL Tournament. The Raiders now drop to fourth in Section 3, behind Quigley, Western Beaver and Rochester.

Cornell plays a doubleheader Wednesday at Clairton, then faces Avella and a return match at Western Beaver.

Chetoka Displays Rifle Arm At Catcher
Engel Bats Awakening, Pitching Stable Deepens

Coaching this Engel Little League team is like Christmas morning for Greg Woodard. People keep handing him new presents to unwrap and they're all delightful surprises.

The team keeps losing. Tuesday night they lost to Ruzzo's Razors 18-9. But the players are young so he takes a long view of that. "Just ignore the numbers on the scoreboard," he tells reporters. "They don't tell the story of this team. Watch what's unfolding on the field."

What's unfolding is talents he didn't know players had. And once they reveal them, the players keep consistently using them. Walter Clarit, the Basepath Bandit shown in the photo at right, continues to steal at will even though every coach in the league has him scouted and has everyone determined to stop him.

"That kid in the red helmet will try to steal," the Ruzzo's Razors coach warned his players. "Be ready. He IS NOT going to steal tonight!" Ha. Clarit stole eight bases including twice stealing home.

But Tuesday's biggest new discovery is the rifle arm of Cody Chetoka. Operating from Catcher, Chetoka time after time fired a scorching pass to second or third base to pick off a Razor runner, as seen in the photo at left. That particular runner, with the dumbfounded look on his face, was so incensed he complained all the way back to the dugout. "Sit down and be quiet," his coach told him. "The kid made an incredible throw. You were out."

Woodard was excited. "I can't play Cody back there a whole game. The rules mandate I rotate him to the outfield, and I have to use him pitching sometimes. But I'm going to have him behind the plate as much as I can."

Woodard's routine of pitching one player each inning is also beginning to pay off. Some of those players are still a bit raw, but they're finding the strike zone. "Let them hit it," Woodard tells them. "We'll learn to field it. Just don't throw walks."

Tuesday night he ran through Chetoka, Clarit, Mitchell Engel, Jayden Haines and Noah Slinde. Engel did so well Woodard let him pitch both the third and fourth. The notion of throwing strikes and letting batters hit away is dangerous. It may have cost Woodard the win Tuesday night because the Razors had some heavy hitters and they unleashed doubles, triples and home runs. But Woodard's "long view" is that, ignoring the occasional home run, those hits will force his players to learn to field and get the ball to first.

And, in fact, for half the game Engel stayed with the Razors. Down 0-4, in the bottom of the first Engel came back to tie at 4-4. Ruzzo's went up 8-4 in the top of the second but Engel came back to 8-6 in the bottom. In the third Mitchell held the Razors to a single, two strikeouts and a putout at third. It was the fourth inning that beat Engel. Three walks, a single, a sacrifice deep fly and a triple put the Razors up 13-6. In the fifth they unleashed two doubles and a triple for the 18-9 edge. But Woodard was unfazed. "We used Jayden and Noah," he explained. "They need the experience. So we gave up some hits. But look at the experience of Jayden and Noah facing some of the best hitters in the league. Down the road, this kind of experience will hasten their development."

Meanwhile, Engel hitters have found their range. They consistently sent balls into the deep outfield. Some of them were caught for outs, but over time those will drop. And in the fifth Chetoka sent one over the right field fence. Dylan Woodard, Haines and Engel are now consistently hitting long balls.

Cornell Girls Let One Slip Away, 12-11

Cornell's softball team let a win slip through their fingers Monday afternoon at their Maple Street field.

They lost to Avella 12-11 after leading 9-5. The Avella runs came on walks and fielding errors. In the disastrous fifth and sixth innings, Cornell committed five errors and two different pitchers could not find the strike zone.

In the fifth, Avella came back from 9-5 to tie at 9-9. In the sixth, the visitors stacked two walks, two singles, one hit batter, and then a double to go up 12-9. In between those, Cornell players dropped flies, overthrew bases, and let grounders get through to the outfield.

But there were also some spectacular plays. Hailey Leitner, at catcher, fielded a bunt and fired to first base for the out (photo at right). Leitner also fielded a rifle throw in from shortstop to put out a runner at home. There were Avella runners put out stealing bases (photo, below) and difficult flies and grounders fielded precisely.

In the seventh inning, Cornell regained its form. Myka Smith forced two ground outs and a strikeout to shut down Avella. Then Leitner singled and stole second and Cymoni Harrison singled to send her to third. Kiara Clarit singled in Leitner. Smith sacrificed in Harrison to make it 12-11 with only one out. But the rally died with a strikeout and ground out.

It was the first win of the season for Avella, which came in 0-8 overall and 0-6 in Section 2.

Cornell now stands 2-5 overall and 2-4 in Section 1.

The Raiders have winnable games coming up against Western Beaver and Aliquippa in the section. They also have nonsection games with Sto-Rox (0-8) and Carlynton (2-5).

But the schedule includes games with Sewickley, Serra Catholic and Shenango, all playoff bound teams that will be challenges.

"It's frustrating," both Cornell coaches admitted after the game. "We have two outs on a team and an easy fly or grounder, we make an error, and then they keep the inning alive and score more runs."

Deramo Grabs Lead, But Can't Hang On

Coraopolis Little League President Greg Woodard keeps emphasizing that "these regular season games don't matter. Everyone qualifies for the tournament. The key is how you do in the tournament. So all these games are just practice. What's important is how much you improve from each game to the next."

There may not be a tournament at the Coach Pitch level, but Deramo parents and fans should have been happy Monday night, because their team showed great improvement in both fielding and hitting.

So much so that they almost won their Monday night against The Hangar until it slipped away in a five run sixth inning.

Two Deramo players couldn't play so the coaches borrowed two from the other Cory Coach Pitch entry, the Trains, a move which is allowed by league rules.

Down 0-2 after one, Deramo's Beverages held Hangar to only one run in the second. More important was how they shut them down. They put one runner out at third, caught a high fly, and put a runner out at second.

Then in the bottom of the second, three singles loaded the bases. A double and four more singles brought in five runs and Deramo headed into the third inning ahead 5-3.

Two grounders and a strikeout shut out Hangar. Then Deramo really went to work. Five singles, two doubles and six stolen bases sent the Beverages up 10-3.

In the fourth inning, Deramo had to rotate positions as required by Little League rules. This allowed Hangar to stack six singles and four stolen bases for five runs but the Beverages still led 10-8. In the bottom of the fourth they used four singles and two sacrifices to bring in one run and lead 11-8.

Five singles and a double put Hangar back up 13-11 in the fifth. Two strikeouts and a ground out shut down Deramo.

The top of the sixth was what killed the Beverages. Six singles and a double pushed the Hangar lead out to 18-11. But Deramo did not go quietly. In their last time at bat, the Beverages used six singles and seven stolen bases to narrow it to 18-14. But two strikeouts and a ground out ended the rally.

What was encouraging was the number of high flies caught, the number of grounders fielded and fired in time to first, and the number of relays to basemen to put out runners trying to steal bases. The hitting is also becoming much more consistent. Three different players got a hit and reached base every one of the four times they came to bat.

Engel Slides Almost Upset Ashbery, l 3-11

Engel Remodeling and Ashbery staged a great Little League baseball game at Baker Field Saturday afternoon. It lasted almost three hours and the outcome was in doubt the whole way. In the end, Ashbery pulled it out 13-11 but Engel was threatening right down to the final pitch.

Players were bundled up in turtlenecks and hoodies and parents and fans were watching with the heat on in their cars, which at Baker can be pulled right up to the outfield fence.

Engel took the lead early. Cody Chetoka singled, Aaron Reddix walked, and Dylan Woodard singled Chitoka in for 1-0.

Josh Mozuch started on the mound but Ashbery scored a run to tie it at 1-1 to end the first.

Engel could not score in the top of the second, and Ashbery used singles and walks to run up a 6-1 advantage in the bottom. But things got more interesting in the third. Chitoka and Reddix singled and Chitoka stole his way to third and home. Walter Clarit doubled to deep right, Mozuch singled him home and Clarit stole home.

Mitchell Engel doubled Mozuch home to make it 6-5. Clarit took over pitching duties and shut down Ashbery.

Two strikeouts and a ground out ended the Engel fourth. Dylan Woodard took the mound and Ashbery added three runs for a 9-5 edge.

Clarit was walked to open the fifth, then stole his way around the bases and stole home to make it 9-6. At this point, Chris Potter took the mound. Ashbery added four more runs to go up 13-6.

Clarit singled to open the sixth. Chris Potter walked and Chetoka singled in Clarit for 13-7. Reddix singled in Chetoka. Woodard walked and Clarit was hit in the batter's box so went to first. Mozuch singled in two runs and with Engle batting Clarit stole home to make it 13-11. But a fly and ground out shut down the rally and ended the game.

So Walter Clarit stole nine bases and accounted for three runs. His speed and instincts have become major weapons. That's him in the red helmet stealing home in the photo above. Clarit has such an explosive first step and can anticipate a pitcher's throw so accurately that he leads off a base almost halfway down the basepath. He is still able to beat a pitcher's throw back to the base when needed, but all he needs is a slight catcher's bobble and he's gone to the next base, or even to home plate.

Players, Fans Freeze As Gilligans Lose 18-1

On the last weekend in April, it was so cold it was comical. By the end of the game, players had donned hoodies, sweaters, parkas and gloves. Fans and even coaches were wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags. Coffee and hot coffee were the drinks of choice. But on this 38 degree evening, minor league baseball went on at Ronnie Bliwas Field, this one between Gilligans and Three Minute Fitness.

The Minutes won, 18-1. They scored most of their runs on walks, as no Gilligan pitcher could consistently find the strike zone. Coach Kenny Wade started with Logan Shaughnessy (photo below left) and went through Kenny Wade Jr., and Christian McGrevey. He was out of options, having used his other pitchers Thursday night. Little League rules require that pitchers sit out three days after a game on the mound.

Wade continued to have problems with players reluctant to swing the bat. His players consistently watched strikes go by with the bat still on their shoulders. He and his assistant coaches stop each boy before he goes to the plate and remind him to swing at every good pitch, then stop him on the way back to the dugout and inquire as to why he didn't swing.

"Can you not see the ball? Are you afraid of getting hit? Are you afraid if you swing and miss we'll make fun of you?" There are no answers.

With so many walks being issued, there was plenty of base stealing going on. In fact, that became the evening's biggest entertainment. Players were constantly sliding into second and third base, and sometimes home,

The only run Gilligan scored came when First Baseman Devin Lamb stole home, after stealing second and then third. Lamb is one of the few players who does swing the bat, almost always hitting either a grounder that makes it through to the outfield, or a deep fly. He's fast, and usually beats the throw to first.

With pitchers on both teams having a hard time finding the strike zone, balls are all over the place : up in the batting cage, down in the dirt, and off to either side. Catchers have a hard time catching these balls, and every time they miss, a baserunner takes off for the next base.

Rain Halts Cornell - Quigley Showdown

Cornell and Quigley were in the 8th inning of a classic showdown Friday afternoon when a downpour reduced the infield to soup, forcing officials to suspend the gme.

The game will resume with the score 6-6, but as the teams left the field Friday no date had been set. Both have a list of postponements to work through as weather has played havoc with everyone's spring sports schedules.

The crowd of enthusiastic fans, which overflowed the bleachers and sat in folding chairs or stood, enjoyed a fine high school matchup. The skies alternated sunshine and rain, as black clouds rolled past. Thunder and rainbows took turns. At one point the crowd oohed at a rare triple rainbow.

Quigley wasted no time. A double, bunt and sacrifice fly to deep center brought in one run. Cornell matched that in the bottom of the second as Stefan Blackstone hit one over the center right fence. Hayden Hoffman pitched for the Raiders (photo bottom right), and after the first inning, shut down Quigley with two strikeouts and a ground out in the second and a strikeout, fly out and ground out in the third.

In the bottom of the third, Kaden Divito walked, Tony Piccolo singled, and Blaine Sams sacrificed to bring in Divito for a 2-1 lead. Hoffman was walked, and Blackstone singled to bring in Piccolo and Hoffman for 4-1.

But the Raiders gave their lead away in the 5th with errors. A walk and a steal put a runner on second and a double brought him in. A single scored that runner to tie it at 4-4. A single and walk loaded the bases, and a walk and a single brought two of those in for a 6-4 Quigley lead.

Blackstone took the mound in the sixth inning and under light rain forced two fly outs and a strikeout. In the bottom of the sixth, Brandon Wood and Divito singled. Smith was batting as Wood stole third and then home to cut the lead to 6-5. Smith then singled and Divito stole home to tie it at 6-6.

With rain pelting down and thunder rumbling, Blackstone struck out three Quigley batters .

The suspended game leaves the section standings in a jumble. Quigley, Rochester and Cornell are the top three teams. Quigley is still undefeated, having beaten Cornell and Rochester earlier at Quigley. Rochester has had fewer games postponed, and has six wins, but the Rams have three losses. Cornell only has two losses (the other to Rochester) but has had more games postponed and has only four wins. Western Beaver is considered a contender and is tied with Cornell with four wins. The Golden Beavers have already beaten Rochester and have two games remaining against Cornell and Rochester.

Teams no longer have to win their sections to advance to the postseason. The top four teams go. But the section finish determines seeding. Given the rules on pitchers having to sit out after each day on the mound, it becomes critically important to get a good seed so a team does not have to face two top opponents early. A good seed allows teams to hold their top pitchers for the biggest games.

Cornell's field continues to be a problem. The Quigley game was not suspended due to weather. The skies cleared after the last downpour and the sun was shining when the officials called the game. But the infield, which was barely playable when the game began, became muck after the rain. The Cornell field suffers from a combination of factors. It sits between two large hills, with all the water draining down onto the field. It is underlain by a layer of clay, which does not permit water to drain. And much of the surrounding surface is paved, for roads and parking lots, which does not allow rain to sink in but sends it directly to the field.

North Star Outslugs Trains, 26-16

The Coraopolis Trains matched North Star Chevrolet hit by hit for several innings but eventually fell behind and lost 21-16 in a Minion (7 -8 year old) League game Friday night at Ronnie Bliwas Field.

The team calls itself the Trains because it is sponsored by the Coraopolis Train Station Project. The league they play is is "Coach Pitch," a step up from T Ball in that the ball is being pitched by a real person, but not yet by an opposing player. Because coaches pitch all soft strikes, and most players at that level have not yet developed their fielding skills, most Minion League games are high scoring.

This one was certainly no exception. North Star opened with eight straight singles for a 5-0 lead. And the Trains came right back at them. Connor Fath doubled, Justis Maul singled, Trevon Battles doubled, Eli Crain bunted, and Christian Griffith, Connor Roland and Ben McArdle hit consecutive singles to narrow the lead to 5-4.

North Star used six singles and a double to push that out to 10-4. But not for long. Maul, Crain, Bradley Barrett, Griffith, Roland and McArdle singled in the bottom of the 2nd to close to 10-8.

The third saw North Star unload four singles, a double and a triple to go up 15-8. And at this point the Trains began to fade.

Battles opened with a double. Barrett singled to bring him home.

Roland, McArdle and Fath singled to bring Barrett home for 15-10. But a ground out, strikeout and fly out ended the inning.

North Star added six in the fourth to lead 21-10. By this point the skies turned threatening. Black clouds were moving in, temperatures cooled and a powerful wind blew hats off players, the ball in odd directions and even some of the smaller players off their feet. Coaches and players put on fleece jackets and turtlenecks.

With all of this going on, the Trains did not score in the fourth. But they came back with their best fielding effort of the game to shut out North Star in the fifth with two ground ball throws to first and a put out at second.

In the bottom of the fifth, Fath, Battles, Crain, Barrett, Roland, McArdle all singled, Fath twice, to make it 21-15.

But North Star pushed it out to 26-15 in the sixth and all the Trains could muster in their final time at bat was one run.

The game ended on a violent collision at first base as Connor Fath hit an infield grounder and tried to beat the throw. The first baseman had left the base to catch the ball and was racing to get back and tag Fath out. They both reached the base at the same time and collided at full speed. Both boys went down. The official ruled Fath out, which ended the game, but both boys had to be helped up and Fath had to be helped to the car.

Cornell Scores Two More, But Quigley Wins Again

Over at Quigley, the Spartans beat Cornell 12-7. Thursday afternoon at their Maple Street field, Cornell scored two more runs, but Quigley won again 12-9. And to make it even more frustrating, most of Quigley's runs were unearned. They came in the first four innings, when thanks to walks and fielding errors the Spartans went up 12-0. From then on, Cornell kept chipping away at the lead but ran out of innings.

Cymoni Harrison (photo bottom center playing shortstop) opened the comeback with a single in the third. Myka Smith then walked, and Vanessa Garcia (photo below sliding into third) blasted a double to bring home Harrison and send Smith to third. Unfortunately, three straight strikeouts ended that.

But the Raiders picked up where they left off in the fourth. A single and two walks loaded the bases and Myka Smith singled to drive in two, then stole second. Garcia and Lacy Kavas connected to make it 12-6 before a strikeout ended the inning.

In the fifth, Amirah Bethel singled, Kendra Wade (photo at right putting out the runner at first)sacrificed to send her to second, Hailey Leitner (photo bottom right) singled to put runners on first and third, and Kiara Clarit singled to bring home Bethel. Quigley walked Harrison. Smith singled to bring home Clarit and make it 12-8.

In the sixth Kavas was walked and Bourne and Bethel singled to load the bases. Unfortunately, Lexi Borne was put out trying to steal home and Wade ground out. So they went to the seventh inning still 12-8.

Leitner and Harrison opened with consecutibe doubles and Smith sacrificed to bring in Leitner. That made it 12-9. But they could get no closer.

Cornell coaches admitted later they might have waited too long to send Smith (photo below left) to the mound. She slammed the door on Quigley but it was too late. Smith's line ran two popups and a strikeout, two groundouts and a strikeout, and two popups and a strikeout. In between she walked only three.

The loss dropped Cornell to 2-4 in the section going into Saturday's game at undefeated Union. Union has pounded Quigley 15-0 and Sewickley 14-2. The computer ranks Union #1 in the WPIAL with Quigley #5.

With their underhanded throws girls do not have the same pitching limits as boys, so Clarit and Smith will see pitching action again on Saturday.

Culpepper Outlasts Gilligan, 15-9

Dyllen Chitokah (photo right) turned in three strong innings on the mound, striking out six batters in the first two. But dropped flies and missed grounders let Continuum Construction run up 15 points and Gilligan lost its second game of the season 15-9.

Chitokah got off to a rough start, hitting the first batter. After he stole second, then third, a double brought him in for a 1-0 lead. But Chitokah then struck out three straight. The second was similar. He walked one, who stole second, and gave up a double, which made it 2-0. But he then struck out three straight. He hit another batter in the third, and walked two, but it was fielding errors by his teammates which really hurt. Easy grounders were allowed through to the outfield and easy flies were dropped. That made it 7-0 entering the fourth.

But then came the nightly Curse Of The Little League. After three innings, coaches must change pitchers and rotate positions. The idea is to protect young arms and guarantee all players learn to play all positions. But with limited practice time, what it really does is produce chaos in the last four innings. Not even Moon's teams, with rosters full of kids who practice and play year round, are immune to the problem.

Two walks and a double by Kenny Wade brought two in for Gilligan.

Mike Ricketts rotated to the mound. Four singles and a double brought in three runs to make it 12-2. But then it was the bottom of the fourth. Eight walks brought in five runs for 12-7 before three strikeouts ended the inning.

In the top of the fifth, two walks, a single and a double pushed Continuum's lead to 15-7.

But in the bottom five walks brought in two more for 15-9.

Another Little League rule states that on a school night an inning cannot begin after 8:00. So they could not begin the sixth inning.

Overall, coach Kenny Wade was pleased. "Our pitching was a lot better," he told reporters. "We've got to improve our fielding. but our biggest problem is our batting. We're letting too many balls go past without swinging."

Pitching Woes Plague Engels, 15-4

The first week of the season has exposed a full scale pitching crisis among Cornell's top three teams, and, as the highest of them, the 11-12 year old Engels Little League entry is hurt the worst.

Little League rules designed to protect young arms limit a pitcher to only 36 pitches at a time and then require him to sit out three days until he can pitch again. Theoretically, a really good pitcher could strike out each batter with three pitches, meaning he could use only nine pitches an inning and last four innings. If batters popped up or grounded out, fewer pitches would be needed. A really efficient pitcher could last a whole game.

In reality, however, that is wishful thinking. Very few 11-12 year old pitchers are that efficient. They throw balls. Players hit foul balls. A few walks, and a few hits, can push an inning out to 15-20 pitches. The average Little League pitcher uses up his pitch quota in two innings. A good one uses his up someime in the third. So a coach needs three pitchers to get through a typical game. Then he needs three more for the next game. But a Little League roster only includes nine players So to have a contender, a coach needs a roster in which every player can also pitch.

But pitching is a very precise, complex and difficult skill. Juat like hitting a golf ball, kicking a football, or shooting a basketball, not every player can do it. A town the size of Coraopolis is lucky to produce one or two good pitchers in each age group. Finding nine pitchers among 20 11-12 year olds each year is statistically impossible.

It is necessary to understand all of this to understand the challenge facing Engel's in Little League competition. Every night it faces teams from larger communities in which as many as 400 hopefuls try out for playing positions. With that many to draw from a coach can find several players who can also pitch reasoably well.

Engels Coach Greg Woodard is not without pitchers. He has Josh Mozuch, Walter Clarit, Dylan Woodard, Mitch Engel and Cody Chitoka. But once he uses three in one game, he only has two left for the next game and if the games come too close together he may have none for the third.

Chitoka opened on the moumd. Engel's Saturday opponent, CAB Printing Solutions, started the game off with a triple, then a single to score one. A sacrifice fly scored a second. A single, two stolen bases and another single brought in a third run. Two walks and a single made it 4-0 before Chitoka struck out one and forced a ground out.

Aaron Reddix singled to open the second inning, then stole second and third. On a wild play, the next batter struck out but the catcher lost the ball and Reddix slid into home to make it 4-1. Bur a strike, a fly out and a ground out ended the inning.

CAB began the second with a single, a walk and a single for 5-1. A double and fielding error made it 7-1. At this point Chitoka had used up his 36 pitches and Josh Mozuch took the mound. Two walks, a single and a double brought it to 10-1.

By this point, CAB had also changed pitchers, and the newcomer walked four. One stole home and two more were put out trying, as the catcher continually lost wild pitches in the dirt. A strikeout finally shut Engels down.

A double and two walks used up Mozuch's 36 pitches, and Dylan Woodard came in, He walked two, gave up a single and allowed two runners to steal home. By this point it was 15-2. Both teams settled down into a more routine game of strikeouts, fly outs and ground outs and the game ended at 15-2.

Engels did a good job of fielding. They just didn't get to do much of it with all the walks and strikeouts.

Kraken Walks Over Wesbanco, 15-4

Coach Matt Houser held an hour long batting practice Saturday morning to sharpen his players' skills before their game against Karlik Eye Surgeons.

"We looked great," he told reporters. "I thought, well, the opponent may score on us, but we're going to score just as many on them. It could be 22-20 or something."

It didn't happen. When the game started, Wesbanco players kept their bats on their shoulders while perfect pitches floated by. In each inning, Wesbanco struck out either two or three times, and almost all the strikes were pitches not swung on. It's especially frustrating since Houser had half these players in Coach Pitch last year (the other half did not play).

"It's like they're intimidated by the real live pitcher instesd of a coach lobbing easy balls to them."

To be sure, hitting isn't his only problem. He still labors under the pitching void that all Cornell teams face. Karlik scored five runs in each of the first three innings. It did so on 19 walks. The worst was the second, in which Westbanco gave up eight walks for five runs. The result was a 16-0 drubbing.

Wesbanco used three pitchers, who now can neither pitch nor catch during Monday's game against Miller at Bliwas Field.

"There's nothing we can do about this pitching situation," Houder said afterward. "We can't develop pitchers in the middle of the season. But we should be able to develop our offense. If the other teams are going to score five runs an inning on us, then we need to score five runs an inning on them. That's going to mean some pretty ridiculous scores, but I don't see where we have any choice. They're giving us some decent pitches. We have to swing at those. And we have to hit them. If we can hit against the pitching machine, we can hit against live pitchers."

Of course, walks weren't the only way Karlik scored. To start the game off, they hit two singles, one of which was put out trying to steal second. After the first walk, Karlik then unloaded an out of the park home run that fell at the other end of the construction zone. It may have been one of the longest home runs ever hit at Devenzio Field by a Minor League batter. That made it 3-0. That was followed by a walk, two stolen bases, and a single to make it 4-0. A strikeout and two walks and already Houser had to change pitchers due to the 36 pitch count.

The second inning was the disastrous eighr walk frame. But the third wasn't much better. Wesbanco gave up seven walks. After the first three, of course, the bases were loaded, so each one thereafter drove in one run. The bottom of the third didn't help Wesbanco, either. Two batters were walked. But two struck out watching and one of the walked players was put out trying to steal third.

The Minor League is designed for 9-10 year olds. One of the characteristics of young athletes is how miuch rhey grow and develop in the course of just 12 months. Half of Wesbanco's lineup did not play at all last year. The other half played in the Coach Pitch League, and looked pretty good. But they are nine years old, meaning they're young for the Minor League, and they're playing against teams with mostly 10 year olds starting and nine year olds on the bench waiting their turns. There's not much difference between a 24 and 25 year old, but there is a huge difference between a nine and 10 year old. So Houser has nine year olds facing 10 year old pitchers, and nine year olds pitching to 10 year old batters. Pitchers not being able to find the strike zone is one problem, and batters not swinging at good pitches is another. Both those can be addressed. But the age gap is a problem fhat will only solve itself with time. Next year, both Cornell's Minor League teams will be on the upper side of the age gap and be a lot more competitive.

The game did have its highlights. McKenna Griffith pulled off a spectacular play at third base to end an inning (see top photo; note ball in upper right corner) and several others snagged deep or high flies which required long sprints and leaping catches.

Julian Smith Debuts On Mound
Gilligan Loses 15-0 But Unveils New Pitcher

The top of the first inning was like an omen for Kenny Wade's Gilligan Minor League team. Devin Lamb started with a single. Michael Ricketts was walked, moving Lamb to second. A Dillon Chitoka single loaded the bases, and power hitter Kenny Wade (the coach's son) was coming to the plate. Coach Wade was feeling pretty good. It looked like Gilligan could play with the opponent, Clearview Federal Credit Union.

Then the bottom fell out. Wade struck out. Christian McGrevey grounded out and Lamb was put out trying to steal home. In 60 seconds the inning was over and that was as close as Gilligan got all night.

In the second, they ground out once and struck out twice. In the third, they flied out once and struck out twice. In the fourth they struck out three times.

There were a few bright spots. Lamb lofted a long bomb that looked for sure to be out of the park before the Clearview center fielder hauled it in at the fence. Several players were impressive in scooping up grounders and relaying them to first base, or in chasing down and fielding high flies. The team is clearly coming along.

But the same problem which haunts all three of Cornell's top teams proved fatal again for Gilligan. They just don't have enough pitchers who can consistently put the ball through the strike zone. As a result, their games deteriorate into one walk after the other.

In this game, the first inning consisted of a walk, a single, a double, a triple, and a single. That was enough for a 4-0 lead.

The second inning consisted of five walks, a triple, a single, a hit batter, and a sacrifice fly. The lead climbed to 9-0.

In the third, Clearview suddenly found irself facing a different situation. Wade had sent a brand new pitcher, Julian Smith, to the mound.

Smith is the tallest player on the Gilligan roster and one of the tallest in the entire league. As a pitcher (photo, right) this gives him long legs and long arms for leverage, plus a sense of looking down at the batter from a higher perspective. It's intimidating.

To be sure, Smith is a raw talent. He didn't play at all last year. This was his first time ever on a mound. He wasn't sure how to go through a pitching motion. Nevertheless, he struck out two and forced a high popup. In between, he allowed a single and two doubles which pushed the lead out to 13-0. But even those hits represented a kind of progress --- Smith was putting the ball right through the strike zone. The long series of wild pitches and walks the team has suffered for two games was over.

Back in the dugout, Smith was despondent. "I was awful," he told Wade. "I gave up four runs. We're losing 13-0."

Wade hugged his new pitcher. "We were losing 9-0 when you went in," he reminded him. "You did great. You struck out the first batter you ever faced. Yeh, you need practice. But don't we all? Don'r you dare get discouraged."

Smith won't be able to pitch the next game due to Little League rules designed to protect young arms, but he has certainly earned himself a place in the Gilligan pitching rotation. If he can give Wade three innings every other game, it would be a huge advantage. Even if opponents can hit his pitches, that will allow Gilligan players to field the ball. That is something they can already do, and they can get better at. That is a much better situation than simply walking one batter after the next.

 

Blackstone, Cornell Stifle Sewickley 2-0

Stefan Blackstone went the distance Friday afternoon, striking out 10, popping up four, walking two, giving up only three hits and thoroughly frustrating Sewickley in a 2-0 Cornell win.

Blackstone (photo, below), a senior who will take the mound for Bethany College next year, showed precise control and confidence and was clearly enjoying himself.

"He started the season a little rusty and was walking a few more," Cornell Coach Brian Mihalyi. "But he's hit his stride now. He's placing the ball precisely where he wants to within the strike zone."

He'a also getting plenty of help. This is an experienced Cornell lineup, most of whom have come up together through the youth baseball ranks. Anything in the air, they catch. Anything on the ground, they scoop up and fire to first. Anyone who tries to steal a base, they quickly put out (photo, bottom).

They're also a threat at the plate. Blaine Sams (photo, below left), Cody Maxwell, Hayden Hoffman and Hunter Smith lead a strong batting corps.

In the third inning, Maxwell singled, Sams singled to move him to second, Blackstone was walked to load the bases, and Hayden sent one to deep center to bring Maxwell in for a 1-0 lead.

In the fifth, Smith singled, Maxwell advanced him to second, and Hoffman brought him home with a double for the 2-0 advantage.

The win left Cornell tied with Western Beaver for second in the section with 4-1 records. Quigley is half a game ahead at 4-0. Rochester is two games back at 3-3. Cornell plays Rochester Monday, hopefully at home.

The condition of Cornell's home field has been the only problem in an otherwise fine season. The Friday game at Sewickley's Nichols Field was supposed to be at Cornell, but the Maple Street field is unplayable. Cornell officials are hoping for a warm, sunny and most of all dry weekend so they can work on the field. The unusually wet, cold Spring has left the field muddy and spongy and not allowed crews to get to it.

Cornell's field is high and nowhere near a stream. But it is still an old fashioned natural field, a rarity today. Most schools have either synthetic surfaces, or have tilled special "field mix" into the infield, planted specially bred grasses in their outfields, and underlain the whole facility with a layer of gravel for quick drainage.

The weather has also forced a ridiculous number of postponed games. Cornell could be playing every day next week in an attempt to catch up on postponements.

Ebner Buries Gilligan In ML Opener, 17-3

All Kenny Wade could do was keep reassuring his players as his Robin Gilligan Construction Company team slipped further behind, eventually losing their opener to Ebner 17-3 on a chilly 40 degree night.

"Don't worry about it," he'd tell them after each inning. "We've had one practice and they're the best team in the league. It's a two month season. We'll get better."

Wade does have some talent and experience. Devin Lamb, Kenny Wade and Christian McGrevey played last year for the Minions, a Coach Pitch team Wade helped coach. Michael Ricketts and Dillon Chetoka played in the Minor League. These players should provide reliable hitting and fielding and Chetoka will be the team's best pitcher. But five others did not play at any level last year. One of them, Logan Shaunessy, has shown potential on the mound, although he nneds more consistency.

But there are serious problems. Half of the players don't know how to bat. Sometimes Wade just buried his head in his hands.

"You do not swing at balls going by over your head," he told players. "You do not swing at balls going by below your knees. You have to wait for good pitches."

And the mechanics were all wrong. "You don't swing the bat in a downward motion," he explained multiple times. "Imagine yourself trying to knock a bunch of glasses off a kitchen table. You swing the bat level so it comes along just above the table all the way across."

Fielding was no better. "Pay attention," he had to remind players over and over. "Your eyes should be on the batter, and then on the ball. Don't be looking over here at the dugout or up in the crowd."

Ebner stole 15 bases, four times stealing all the way from first to third. They seemed to always have a runner on third, so a single or bunt would bring him home. The only base Cornell stole was one by Devin Lamb in the second inning.

Chetoka started the game on the mound. He gave up three singles, a double and a home run in the first and Ebner went up 6-0. But then he settled down in the second and struck out three batters to quickly retire the side. Cornell, meanwhile, had Lamb get on base on a walk and steal second. Ebner walked Ricketts and Chetoka lofted one to deep right to bring in Lamb and Ricketts for a manageable 6-2 deficit.

But then, due to Little League rules about number of pitches and each player playing both infield and outfield, it was time to rotate. The game quickly went downhill. By the bottom of the third it was 12-2. Many of rhe 9-10 year olds were bundled up in turtlenecks or hoodies under their uniforms.

Cornell started to narrow that. In the bottom of rhe third two walks put runners at first and second with no outs. But three straight strikeouts retired the side.

The highlight of the game for Gilligans was a triple by Ricketts in the fifth. Chetoka then sacrificed to bring in Ricketts. But at 17-3, it was too little too late.

"We just need practice," Wade told reporters afterward. "Baseball is a fundamental game. To teach those fundamentals you need lots of drills, lots of repetitions. Because of the weather, we haven't had any practice. At all.

"It's a process," he said with a shrug. "These kids need experience, so this is a season for them to get experience. By mid June we'll look a whole lot better rhan we look right now. At this level, we don't crown a champion anyway. There's no postseason playoff. So we can relax and play and develop."

He also had to hold back a few pitchers so he would have them to pitch in the next game. Chetoka and Shaunessy now cannot pitch for three days. Gilligans walked nine batters in the first three innings. "Then once they get on base, they immediately steal to second or third. We've got to develop some pitchers so we keep these teams off the bases."

Part of the problem is the way Cornell decided to divide its players. It fields two teams instead of just one last year. This is good. It gets kids more experience. But, they chose to divide the talent equally. All that does is keep either team from competing against these orher league teams which practice year round and play in a Fall league.

Many other small districts also field two teams. But they put all the returning players on one team so it can compete successfully, then put all the newcomers on the other team so they spend the entire season working on fundamentals. By the second year, most of the newcomers will be moving up to form a new veteran team.

Errors, Pitching Woes Mar Wesbanco Opener

The weather has prevented Cory's Wesbanco Minor League team from practicing. They've only had one and had to use most of it to hand out uniforms, go over basic information and learn each others' names. This became even worse considering that several players have never played organized baseball before.

Lack of preparation became painfully obvious Wednesday night during the team opener against Joyce of the Moon Area League at Bliwas Field.

Wesbanco opened the game with Colton Mozuch on the mound. Mozuch (photo, below) proved to be a real find. He has good control, good speed and surprising poise considering this was his first ever start. While he figured out the exact parameters of the strike zone, he allowd a single, a walk and two doubles. Then he slammed the door shut with two strikeouts and a popup.

In the second, Mozuch allowed a single and a walk, then mowed down three straight batters on strikeouts. Having found his groove, he showed a blazing fast ball Joyce batters could not solve.

Unfortunately, Coach Matt Houser has not found a catcher. He tried several and they all bobbled the ball on every catch. These errors allowed Joyce runners to steal bases on almost every pitch, This allowed Joyce to grab a 3-0 lead in the first.

Brady Vignoe and Logan Hunter were walked and Mozuch drove them in to cut the gap to 3-2 in the bottom of the first and that score held through the second. Mozuch struck out the first batter in the third, giving him four straight K's. But then Houser's nightmare began.

Little League rules limit a pitcher to a certain number of throws per game. Mozuch reached that limit with that first batter in the third. So Houser had to find another pitcher. He tried four pitchers in five innings and none could find the strike zone. So the game became a long series of walks and stolen bases.

"I agree with the limit of pitches," Houser told reporters later. "We have to protect these kids' arms. But it requires us to develop about six pitchers, and we haven't been able to do that yet."

In the bottom of the third, Mozuch sacrificed to bring home Vignoe and give Wesbanco its third run. Then, in the fourth, Mozuch doubled to drive in Kaden Bauer and Ayden Kindling for five runs. So Mozuch was responsible for all of Westbanco's scoring.

But it wasn't enough. All those walks, steals and bobbles kept mounting until Joyce won 13-5.

Houser's frustration reached its extreme with the bases loaded and a deep double to right center field. All three runners crossed home plate but one of them passed another one between third and home so they came in out of order. This disqualified the runs.

Eventually, the game was called due to a Little League rule prohibiting an inning from beginning past a certain time on a school night. Wesbanco next plays Carpenter at 4:00 Saturday at Devenzio Field.

Despite Low Numbers, Cornell Track Struggles On.....

It's getting kind of lonely on the Cornell Track Team these days. Only four students tried out this year. Nevertheless, they're entering a full schedule of meets and working on their specialties.

Rianna Brown, at right and bottom left, throws the discus and javelin. Ndhama Luster does the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Nathan Wooten, bottom center in blue and gold, runs the 16 meter, 800 meter and 32 meter. And Nysia Miles runs the 100 and 200 meter and enters the triple jump and throws the javelin.

"A dozen girls play softball," Brown explains. "A dozen boys play baseball. And I guess the others wanted to focus on their academics now that football, volleyball, swimming and basketball are over. Plus we had a coaching change in Track, and I think some of the kids who were on the team last year just didn't want to run, jump or throw for a different coach."

The team competed in the Quaker Vallet Invitational Wednesday afternoon. Another of their problems is that most meets include much larger schools. At Quaker Valley they faced rhe host school plus Ambridge, Freedom and Eden Christian. Only Eden Christian is near Cornell's size, and it has almost twice the enrollment.

The Raiders hve already competed at New Brighton and in another Quaker Valley meet. They have meets coming up at Bugettstown, Mars, South Fayette, and the WPIAL.

Along the way they've run, jumped and thrown against students from Moon, Montour, West Allegheny, Carlynton and other much larger schools. Cornell's nunbers are not usually a match for the top entries from those schools.

For example, Wooten's time in the 800 meter was 5:50. Behind him times trailed off to 6:20. But ahead of him were times down to 5:00.

Luster recorded a distance of 16.4 in the long jump (see photo below right). The best distances are typically 19 or 20 feet. His best event is the high jump. At left he can be seen preparing to kick his feet over the bar. He can usully make it to the late rounds of the high jump, but it's hard to beat out all the large school entries.

Brown, Luster and Miles are all seniors. But help is on the way. Cornell's junior high track team, comprising grades 7-9, has more members and is doing well at meets it's been entering at larger schools like Montour, West Allegheny and Burgettstown.

Meanwhile, Brown keeps working on her javelin and discus techniques. "This is my only sport," she smiles. "I have to really budget my time so I can keep up in school plus do all this. But I like the challenge."

Team Sportswear Working On Fundamentals

Tony Murray and Marcus Joranger should be paid $10,000 each for the two month Little League season they coach. They have the toughest job in sports : teaching the game to a bunch of six year olds. Any primary school teacher can empathize. Unfortunately, they're volunteers.

They have nine players on their Intermediate team, sponsored by Team Sportswear. Some played last year as five year olds. Some have had Dads or big brothers work with them in the backyard. Some have never touched a bat or a ball.

Where does a coach start with kids just being introduced to baseball? Tony and Marcus start by forming two lines and having the kids throw and catch the ball. They start close together and gradually step back, and back, until they're far apart. Then they line the kids up and throw them grounders, requiring them to field the ball and throw it to first base. So many details : face the ball, use the gloved hand, keep your eye on the ball, don't be afraid of the ball, catch it in the pocket, bend your knees, and so on.

Batting is anorher matter. At the six year old level, players get so many pitches, and if they still haven't hit it, the official installs the tee and the player gets three swings. The goal is to develop each player so by the end of the season they don't need the tee at all.

Like all local Little League teams, Team Sportswear has been handicapped by the weather. They haven't had nearly the practices they need. Nevertheless, their season begins next week.

Coraopolis fields two teams at the Intermediate level. Each team has nine players. This means every player plays all of every game, although the rules require they rotate among positions so everyone learns different skills.

Coraopolis teams play their home games at Bliwas Field on 4th Avenue and their away games at either Kane, Baker or Divenzio Fields in Moon Township.

Because of the torque pitching places on young elbows, shoulders and rotator cuffs, the players themselves do not pitch at the Intermediate level. Either coaches or pitching machines take care of that duty, or the tees are used.

Intermediate teams do not have postseason tournaments. They play every team in their league home and away, keep standings, and play a season ending all star game.

Engel's Looks Like A Real Contender

It's a cold, overcast evening with a stiff breeze blowing across Bliwas Field from the river. Both players and coaches are bundled up against the lingering Winter weather. But Greg Woodard (photo right) isn't complaining. After several seasons of laying the groundwork he's going to enjoy this year.

The 11-12 year old Engel's team returns 10 veterans. They play in the rugged Moon Area Little League, one of Western Pennsylvania's toughest. But Woodard figures to have a legitimate contender.

He starts with a solid stable of five pitchers : Josh Mozuch, Walter Clarit, Mitch Engel, Cody Chitoka and Dylan Woodard. And each of them can play other positions.

Mozuch and Woodard double as catchers when they're not on the mound.

Engel handles first base. Darien Petersen and Chris Potter hold down second. Chitoka and Noah Slinde play third and Clarit and Jay Robles shortstop. Aaron Reddix steps in at second, catcher and outfield.

Every position needs more than one player because Little League rules require that during each game coaches rotate players into the outfield for several innings. During seasons when a team has a limited number of good athletes or experience this can be a problem, but Woodard feels this year it will work to his advantage.

Chitoka and Mozuch provide the core of Engels offense. The others are all effective batters but Chitoka and Mozuch are threats every time they step to the plate.

More practice time would have been nice. The cold, wet, often snowy weather has prevented many practices, and even when the team has been able to work out, the infield has been too soggy to use.

Woodard hopes to bring in a team from the South Fayette League this weekend for a preseason exhibition game to help whip his team into shape.

"We're beginning to benefit from a really strong organization," he explains. "Our Board and our coaches are better across the board than they've been in at least 10 years, and maybe 20. Marcy Lamb has been absolutely incredible in all the behind the scenes work she's been doing. We now have two T Ball teams, two Intermediate teams, two Coach Pitch teams, and two minor league teams. It's taken several years to build this depth of program, but now that we have it, it feeds us a full roster of good players on the 11-12 year old level."

Woodard wrapped up practice Tuesday by handing out uniforms and holding a parents' meeting. His biggest worry is illness or injury. He has 10 really good players but no depth. Two or three injuries or illnesses could wreck the season quickly. The Little League season is so short that a few losses can put a team too far behind to catch up.

Nevertheless, he's optimistic. "The last several years we've been one of the easy games for the top teams," he recalls. "This year, they are not looking forward to playing us."

Cory Little League Up 34 Players Over 2017

The Coraopolis Little League will open the 2018 season with 34 more players than in 2017, enough to field 10 full teams. Its sponsoring body, the Coraopolis Youth Baseball Association, has added a second practice complex and is in solid financial condition with sponsors for eight of the 10 teams and a balance of $12, 921.

The Association's Board of Directors met Monday night to finalize scheduling and other details a week before the opening ceremonies. The uniforms, which have to be custom ordered each season to fit players and with sponsors' names on the backs, will be handed out this weekend at practices. This year's uniforms cost $3900.

Arrangements have been made for Mayor Shawn Reed and Legislator Anita Kulik to throw out the first pitches. Openers are on April 16-17-18-19 at 6 pm and Saturday, April 21 at 10 am.

The annual Field Cleanup Day is set for this Saturday, April 14, from 2-4 pm. Anyone in the community is welcome to pitch in and help prepare Bliwas Field after a long, hard Winter. The playing surface itself is ready to go but the stands, grounds, dugouts and concession stands need opened up and prepared.

Team sponsors for 2018 are Deramo's, Gilligan's, Engel's Remodelling, Westbanco, Zeke & Son, the Coraopolis Train Station Project, Backburner and Team Sportswear.

Team photos will be taken at the high school baseball field at various times.

The Neville Island fields will be used for practices only. But that will relieve the pressure on Bliwas Field and allow it to be used for two games a night. Up to four teams at a time can practice at the Neville Island facility. Wednesday nights have been reserved for TBall practices.

May 18th Board members and their sons will accept donations from passing motorists on 5th Avenue (in front of Copeland's) and 4th Avenue (in front of the Cash Market). The fund raiser will be held from 4 - 6 pm.

The Memorial Day Parade will be Monday May 28 at 1:30. Board members are still discussing with officials whether players will march or ride on a fire engine.

A June 2 Fun Walk will be held at the Cornell School Track. For $12 a walker will receive a hot dog, soft drink and t shirt. Most walkers are expected to complete four laps but some will do more. Board members discussed a dunking machine to raise extra funds and will look into it further.

September 22 a Vendor Show will be held at the VFW Building on Mulberry Street. Vendors will pay $30 a table. 32 vendors have already signed up.

The season ends for all teams June 16. Since younger teams do not have a playoff, board members are exploring a postseason experience of some sort. Everyone agreed it was early in the Summer for play to end.

A small amount of equipment has been purchased. The Board approved the idea of waiting until the end of the season and trying to find good season ending sales prices.

Moon Captures PIHL Hockey Title 7-4

Moon Area High School's hockey team captured its first PIHL hockey championship with a 7-4 win over Burrell at the Mario Lemieux Sports Center Monday night.

Moon reached the title game with a 7-2 win over Central Valley and a 2-1 squeaker over Connellsville.

It was an unlikely win for the Tigers --- or should we call them the IceCats? --- because they graduated so many seniors last year they almost didn't have enough to field a team this year. Moon declared itself a "coop program" and recruited players from Sacred Heart and Beaver South Side.

Moon took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Alex Angevine. Burell came back in the second period to go ahead 2-1.

Shawn Hytla tied it 2-2 with a goal just before the period ended. Angewine scored to open the third period and Zach Wildasin followed with one less than a minute later. Thst made it 4-2. Hytla and Wildasin would each score once more in the third period.

Shade, Shanksville Bow Out Of State Tournament

Public schools are OUT of the State Class A Tournament. Shade (the school that beat Cornell) and Shanksville both lost Friday night.

Bishop Carroll, from Ebensburg, ousted Shade 68-54 and Kennedy Catholic took out Shanksville 77-53.

Shade, in its first quarterfinal in school history, suddenly lost its shooting eye. Shots the Panthers had hit against Cornell and Vincentian were not going in. It wasn't BC's defense. Shade was getting the shots. But it went only 3 of 20 from beyond the line. Shade also turned it over four of its first five possessions. Still, the Panthers trailed by only four after the first quarter. Then Bishop Carroll went on a 12-0 run and Shade never got back within single digits.

Vincent Fyock, who had hit 31 against Cornell, scored only 14. Brady Fyfe also had 14.

KenCath is now seen as a heavy favorite to win a second straight championship.

Kennedy Catholic, located in Hermitage (near Mercer), will play Bishop Carroll Monday night at Gateway HS in Monroeville at 7:30.

In the other semifinal, the one for Eastern teams, Faith Christian plays Lourdes Regional at Hamburg HS at 7 pm. Lourdes Regional is a Catholic school between Harrisburg and Wilkes Barre. Faith Christian is near Stroudsburg.

It's Bishop Carroll's fourth semifinal in school history.

With no public schools in the semifinals the PIAA expects another Summer of complaints about the dominance of private schools which can recruit players over a larger area.

The championship game will be held at GIANT Center in Hershey at 2:00 pm Thursday, March 23.

Farrell Upsets North Clarion 63-58 In OT

Bishop Carroll Humbles W/Thurston 51-28

Two of the three teams that were supposed to battle for the 2018 Pennsylvania Girls State Championship were upset Wednesday night. And the WPIAL is out.

Farrell shocked North Clarion 63-58 in overtime before a packed house at Slippery Rock's Morrow Field House. The Steelers led the whole game, sometimes by double digits. Finally NC rallied from nine down to actually go ahead by three with 20 seconds left in regulation. But Farrell hit a three at the buzzer to send it into OT. Once there, the Steelers outscored NC 12-7.

All American Tori Obenrader was held to 23 points and 13 rebounds, more than she got against Cornell but still well below her average. Abby Gatesman added 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Farrell had scouted and gathered game film on Cornell's loss to North Clarion Saturday, and it was almost as if the Steelers adopted Cornell Coach Chuck Langston's game plan precisely. Except the Steelers were several inches taller and several pounds beefier at every position. They operated out of a 1-2-2 defense and double teamed Tori Obenrader everywhere she went, overplaying her to her left. On offense, the Steelers continually sent their guards driving to the basket, then dished behind the defense to teammates for open shots.

In the other stunner Bishop Carroll humbled Winchester Thurston 51-28. The WPIAL's last hope was never in the game. No player scored or rebounded in double figures and there was no quarter in which W/Th scored in double figures. BC fronted Aryanna Townsend and boxed her out from the boards.

Farrell plays Juniata Valley Saturday while Bishop Carroll plays Kennedy Catholic. The winners play next Monday for the right to go to Hershey.

The girls championship game will be held at noon next Friday, March 23, at Hershey's GIANT Center.

Gutsy Cornell Battles North Clarion To Wire

It was a setup. As a WPIAL runnerup, Cornell was being fed to the wolves. Literally. The North Clarion Wolves. It was a home game for the She Wolves, in Clarion's Tippin Field House. Cornell had to make the two hour trip by bus on a cold, snowy, icy Saturday. The game was a gift to #1 rated North Clarion and its #1 player, Tori Obenrader. It would be the last chance for home fans to see this gifted player and this team, that has only lost one game in the last two years and won two straight District 9 titles.

Last year, in the second round of the State Tournament, when Cornell had Player Of The Year Daeja Quick, center Jaela Smith and a much higher seed, North Clarion routed them at Slippery Rock. The Alpha Wolf, as they call Obenrader, scored 37 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists. This year, with Quick and Smith gone and Cornell down to only seven players, the fans came to watch their Wolves feast.

Even Cornell fans who braved the weather to make the trip admitted they came only to support the team. "We're gonna get killed," they agreed.

The only people in the gym who thought Cornell had a chance were their players ("The Magnificent Seven") and their coaches.

This year has not been kind to this group of seniors who had to adapt to a new coaching staff, injuries, illnesses, concussions, and various other issues. New Coach Chuck Langston had spent more time trying to find five healthy players than devising strategy and tactics.

But they had a week to prepare, and he finally had seven healthy players.

Holly Leitner opened the game with a layup at 7:30. Obenrader hit a free throw and two layups and Abby Gatesman drained a three for an 8-2 lead at 5:18 as the crowd roared. Langston called time and calmed his girls down and remind them of their game plan. Myka Smith sank two free throws, Cymoni Harrison took a pass off a Nysia Miles steal and laid it in, Patience Gibson put in a follow and Miles hit on a layup. Suddenly Cornell was ahead 10-8 with 2:19. The crowd fell into stunned silence.

The War Was On.

Langston's game plan became evident. Operating out of a 1-2-2 defense, he had two girls on Obenrader everywhere she went, one always over playing her to her left. The lefthanded Obenrader was clearly bothered, and found herself darting along the baseline, wandering the perimeter and cutting across the lane trying to shake free.

On offense, Langston had his two gifted slashers, Miles and Harrison, driving the baseline, risking charges if necessary, to force the defense to collapse to stop them. They could then pass behind the defense to open scorers. If the defense was late collapsing, they could lay it in.

An NC score and free throw made it 13-10 but a Myka Smith three from above the circle tied it at 13-13 at the quarter break.

Obenrader scored on free throws and got loose for a layup and teammates added more free throws for a 20-13 lead at 5:13. Then Miles scored on a layup and Smith on a follow to cut it to 20-17. Gatesman hit a baseline jumper for 22-17 at 3:50, but Smith drained a corner three and Miles laid one in to tie it 22-22 at 3:06. Obenrader's free throws pulled NC ahead 24-22 but a Miles layup tied it 24-24 at 2:46. A Gatesman layup and two Smith free throws kept it tied 26-26 at 2:00. Obenrader and Gatesman scored layups to give NC a 30-26 halftime lead.

Cornell really tightened down on defense to open the third quarter. They allowed no score for four minutes. But North Clarion had also made halftime adjustments, and Cornell was having trouble getting shots off. Finally Smith sank two free throws and Miles scored on a layup and two free throws to put the Raiders ahead 32-30 at 4:17.

It was the first time all season North Clarion had been behind in the second half.

But Cornell's pressure defense had come with a cost. The Raiders had gotten in serious foul trouble.

Langston was shuttling players in and out, but only had seven. Cornell had to loosen up on defense or face the very real possibility they would finish the game playing four on five. The Raiders were also wearing out against the much taller, beefier She Wolves. It had been a knock down, drag out physical battle.

North Clarion called time. "Now," Coach Terry Dreihaup commanded, looking at his other players, "Get the ball to Tori." Then he looked at Obenrader. "It's time," he told her. "Take over. Take it to the hoop. Either lay it in or make them foul you. It's time to put these girls away."

Obenrader scored 11 straight points to finish the quarter, four on layups and three on free throws. The quarter ended with NC up 41-32.

Harrison began the fourth with a layup to cut it to 41-34 at 7:20 but then fouled out at 6:19. Losing her on defense was serious but losing her on ofrense was even worse. Now NC could overplay Miles.

Still the Raiders kept battling. Smith drained a three from the side and Maya Goins hit a layup to cut it to 43-39 at 5:50. Two Gatesman free throws and two Obenrader layups put NC up 49-39 with 4:14. Miles laid one in at 3:51 and Smith drained a three from above the circle at 3:05 to keep it within reach at 49-44.

But Cornell's luck had run out. Foul calls on defense put NC at the line and the She Wolves hit them to go up 54-44 and their coach sent them into a stall to protect it. Smith's final shot could only shave it to 54-46.

As the seconds ticked down with NC in a weave, Langston stepped onto the court and shook Obenrader's hand, wishing her well.

Smith led all scorers with 20. Miles had 12, Harrison four, Goins four, and Holly Leitner, Patience Gibson and Amira Bethel two each.

Obenrader finished with 19, half of what she scored against a supposedly much stronger Cornell team last year. The Alpha Wolf also had nine rebounds, compared to 18 last year, and nine assists, 2/3 of what she had last year. Gatesman added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

North Clarion shot 34 free throws and hit 23. Cornell shot 12 and hit 8. So the difference in free throws was 15 points and NC only won the game by eight. The officiating team was from Clarion's District 9.

"They surprised us and bothered us with their quickness and physicality," Gatesman told reporters afterward. "After Harrison went out Coach put me on Miles. I just tried to keep her from driving to the basket. She might be the quickest player I've guarded this year. It was lucky for us we got to the bonus in the third quarter. We scored most of our second half points on free throws. We practice them a lot and we were able to make them."

Two dozen college scouts were in the stands. They were there to see Obenrader, of course, and her teammate Abby Gatesman. But they were also taking notes on several Cornell players, scribbling furiously as Smith drained those threes and Miles slashed to the basket and either laid it in or dished off to open teammates. Obenrader wants to major in Sports Medicine, which eliminates many colleges.

It was easily the best game Cornell has played all year, surpassing their very good efforts against Sewickley, Winchester Thurston, Quigley and Avella. It was also the best game Langston has coached. The Raiders showed their greatest intensity, their best defense and their best teamwork on offense. It was as if, after all the injuries, illnesses and concussions and having to learn a whole new system on offense and defense, they had finally come to understand their roles. It looked as if they had finally found a team chemistry. If they could start now and prepare for next season, they would be a major contender. Unfortunately, they're mostly seniors. They've run out of year.

Despite all their issues, the team did make it to both the WPIAL and the State Tournament. These seniors will graduate having played in the post season four straight years, a major achievement for the smallest public high school in the western half of the state.

North Clarion is now favored to beat Farrell in the State Tournament's second round at Slippery Rock. If NC beats Farrell it plays the Juniata - Brothers Valley winner in the West semifinal. But trouble looms. In the other semifinal, Kennedy Catholic and Winchester Thurston meet. NC will face the winner in the West finals, with the winner moving on to Hershey for the state championship game. Both Kennedy and Thurston have the tall rugged front lines that can stop NC and Obenrader.

Obenrader is North Clarion's only senior. The others are all sophomores. The She Wolves should be a power for the next two seasons.

Cornell Stumbles In Last 20 Seconds, 67-63

With 1:49 to go, Cornell led 61-59, had the ball, and during a time out Coach Bill Sacco ordered the team into its famous outside weave, which since high schools don't have a shot clock, usually locks down a victory.

Not this time.

Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong and the Raiders were knocked out of the State Tournament 67-63 by Shade High School.

With 0:55 remaining, Shade knocked the ball out of Zaire Harrison's hands, took it down the floor and laid it in to tie it at 61-61. Desmond Ross was fouled at the other end at 0:48 and sank both free throws to give Cornell the lead back 63-61. Then, with 0:20 left, a Shade layup tied it again and a free throw put them ahead 64-63.

Sacco called time and set up a play to free Ross for a jump shot in the lane. The Raiders worked the ball around and found Ross with 0:10. He went up for the five foot jump shot under heavy contact. Nothing was called. The ball rimmed out. Shade rebounded and Nadhama Luster was called for his fifth foul. Sacco protested loudly about how no foul was called on the Ross shot but Luster was called for incidental contact going for the rebound, and the official called a technical.

Shade sank the free throws off both the foul and the technical for the final 67-63 margin.

It had been a frustrating game from the start. Shade outsized Cornell at every position and had unusually long reaches. These long arms forced Raiders to alter their shots, shooting from further out, increasing the arc, and having to twist and maneuver on layups.

It also affected Cornell's passing, and allowed Shade to pick off several, something which rarely happens.

The Pitt-Johnston Gym was filled with Shade fans, who only had to come from five miles away. Cornell, a two hour drive away on a snowy, icy day, had far fewer.

The officials did not let the game flow. They called fouls continually and by the third quarter both teams had players in trouble. The officiating was even throughout the game until the fourth quarter, when it noticeably tilted toward Shade.

But Cornell had an uphill battle way before that. Shade grabbed a 6-0 lead before Kaden Divito finally laid one in at 5:18 for 6-2. Shade came back with two free throws and a layup for 10-2. Divito made it 10-4 with two free throws, then Ross and Divito each sank a layup to cut it to 10-8. Two Shade free throws pulled the Panthers ahead 12-8, but Ross hit a layup off a steal with 0:28 and a corner three at 0:04 to give Cornell a 13-12 lead at the quarter break.

Shade immediately pulled back ahead on a jumper, a layup and two free throws for 18-13 with 6:28. Divito and Shade alternated layups and with 4:37 left the Panthers still led, 2-17. Luster and Divito added two more layups it was 22-21, but a corner three, two free throws and a three from the side put Shade up 30-21 at 2:21.

At this point the Cornell bench was given its first warning for commenting on the fouls called and not called.

Ross hit a side three to cut it to 30-24 at 2:06 but two Shade free throws made it 32-24. Two layups by Luster and one by Ross, then a Shade lay up sent the teams to halftime with the Panthers up 34-29.

Action really got hot in rhe third quarter. Two layups by Shade and one by Luster left Cornell down 38-31 at 7:08. Luster hit a free throw, Ross a layup off a steal, and Harrison a layup to cut it to 38-36 at 5:52. An Isiah Langston layup at 5:33 finally tied it at 38-38, and a Harrison layup at 4:38 put Cornell ahead for the first time. Shade tied it at 40-40 with a layup at 4:24, but Cornell fired the ball downcourt on the inbounds and Harrison laid it in to regain it at 42-40. Two Divito free throws made it 44-40 at 3:19. Layups by Shade and Harrison and three free throws at 1:33 left Cornell clinging to a 46-45 lead at 1:33. Langston's layup and a Shade corner three ended the third quarter 48-48.

Meanwhile, Luster, Divito and Ross were in foul trouble for Cornell and for Shade Mauger picked up his fourth.

Luster scored on a follow to open the 4th, but a Shade three from on top put the Panthers up 51-50. Langston hit a tip in and Shade and Stefan Blackstone scored free throws and with 5:21 it was 54-52. With 5:05 a Shade jump shot tied it 54-54. Ross hit a side three for 57-54. A Shade jumper at 4:33 cut it to 57-56. Ross sank two free throws for 59-56 but another Shade layup made it 59-58. Harrison hit a layup for 61-58 but a free throw inched it closer 61-59 with 2:42.

This was where Sacco called the time out and ordered his team into the weave and everything unravelled as recounted at the top of the article.

Ross, in his final game as a Raider, led with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Divito added 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. Luster and Harrison each had 10 points. Luster also had six rebounds and Harrison had five assists. Langston added six points and eight rebounds.

For Shade, Vincent Fyock, the coach's son, led everyone with 31 points. He scored the Panthers' final seven.

"I knew they weren't going to call that final foul when Ross was mugged on that last shot," Sacco told reporters afferward. "What got me upset was after they let that heavy contact go, then they called the incidental contact on Luster trying for the rebound. We're down by one. If Ross makes the shot or hits the free throws, we go back up by one and the whole strategy of the final seconds changes."

But he shrugged. "It should never have come down to that. We committed too many turnovers and made too many risky passes. We also let them grab too many rebounds. Yeh, I know, they're taller, but we can't use that as an excuse. When you're the shorter team, you have to attack the boards with a sense of desperation. We didn't do that enough."

Shade now advances to play Vincentian Tuesday night. Vincentian will be heavily favored.

Cornell finishes the season 18-8. They did make it back to the State Tournament and with three sophomores and two freshmen seeing heavy action will be poised for another strong season next year. They won more than half their games against 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A schools. And three of their losses came to Vincentian, the team favored to win the state title.

Cornell Girls Face North Clarion, Obenrader

Tori Obenrader is either Pennsylvania's #1 or #2 girls basketball player, depending on which college scout you talk to. She and Winchester Thurston's Aryanna Townsend have dominated the state for three years. Townsend is bigger and stronger inside, but Obenrader is quicker and smoother and has more more moves outside.

Cornell's girls have seen too much of both. They lost to Thurston and Townsend in last year's WPIAL championship game, and again this year in the WPIAL quarterfinals. They lost to North Clarion and Obenrader in last year's State Tournament second round.

Now they'll face Obenrader and North Clarion again --- this time on the Wolves' home turf.

Cornell will open this year's State Tournament in Clarion University's Tippin Gym, five miles from North Clarion High School and two hours from Coraopolis. The Wolves played a Christmas tournament on this floor, played their conference tournament here, and last week won their District 9 Championship game here over A-C Valley. No current Cornell girl has ever played here.

North Clarion has its sights set on the state championship.

Obenrader is the best player --- boy or girl --- to ever come out of north central Pennsylvania. She has scored 2004 points, grabbed 1496 rebounds, and led the Wolves to a 51-1 record over two years --- their only loss coming in that PIAA quarterfinal.

Last year, as a junior, against Cornell Obenrader scored 37 points, 23 rebounds and 14 assists as the Wolves won 68-58. Cornell, with basically the same team as this year minus graduated senior Daeja Quick, tried every possible defense --- one to one, 2-3 and 3-2 zones, box and one, diamond and one, and the silky smooth 5-10 Obenrader eluded all of them. Her quickness put Cornell center Jaelah Smith, 5-8, in early foul trouble.

Against all opponents, Obenrader averages 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. She has basketball genes. Her father, mother and older sister played college ball, and her brother now plays for North Clarion.

But Obenrader isn't all North Clarion has. Her supporting cast includes sophomore Abby Gatesman, averaging 12 points and eight assists; Gabby Schmader, Gabby Carlis and Mackenzie Bauers.

Cornell Coach Chuck Langston, meanwhile, would be happy just to have his whole team on the floor at the same time. Injuries, illnesses and other issues have sidelined various players at various times all year.

He did lose Quick through graduation (she's enjoying a fine season in college this year), but he returned starters Jaelah Smith, Patience Gipson, Nysia Miles, Cymoni Harrison and Myka Smith plus key reserves Hailey Leitner and Maya Goins. Cornell looked like it would have another contender. But from the start, he's been scrambling just to keep the same lineup from one game to the next.

Despite being the smallest public high school in Pennsylvania, Cornell has played a tough nonsection schedule in the belief that it prepared the team for section play. That strategy has worked fine for several seasons. But it assumes the talent is at full strength. Miles missed 10 games with an extended case of the flu. Harrison missed due to Concussion Protocol after crashing to the floor over at Ambridge and being taken to the hospital. There have been knees, ankles and other injuries. With so many illnesses, injuries and miscellaneous problems, Cornell has struggled with the larger schools on its nonsection schedule, and then had trouble inside the section with rivals Quigley, Sewickley and Rochester.

So the Raiders are limping into the State Tournament still not sure who can play.

However, they're also way overdue for a good game with a full roster. Their last one was probably the final regular season upset win over Sewickley. In the WPIAL Tournament against Avella, Cornell was short three players but turned in a great performance and won. Then, againat Winchester Thurston, they were missing Jaelah Smith and got blown out.

Smith should be back in the starting lineup against North Clarion, but she's still two inches shorter than Obenrader.

And Obenrader's great value extends beyond her scoring and rebounding. She forces defenses to double team her. Then she's one of the great passers in the state, and finds whichever teammate the defense leaves open to double on her.

Whoever wins the Cornell - North Clarion game will advance to play the winner of the West Greene - Farrell game. West Greene is favored to win that. North Clarion is a prohibitive favorite over Cornell and would also be a heavy favorite over either West Greene or Farrell.

Cornell fans going to the game should leave at about 3:00. They have an easy drive, up I-79 and east on I-80 to the Clarion exit. The game begins at 5:30. The road into the town of Clarion from the interstate passes right by the college campus, which appears on the right just before downtown. Clarion's gym is not huge, and this will be the last chance for local fans to see Obenrader play near home, since the rest of her State Tournament games will be on the road. Therefore, a capacity crowd is expected and Cornell fans should arrive early to be assured a seat.

Cornell Boys Will Play Shade at Johnstown

Cornell's boys will play Shade High School Friday night at 7:30 in the Pitt Johnstown Center Gym in the first round of the Pennsylvania State Tournament.

Shade won the District 5 championship by defeating Shanksville 62-49. The Panthers are 23-3. This is their first District title since 2013.

Shade is led by Brady Fyfe (#3 at right and below right) and Austin Mauger (#4 right and below, dribbling, guarded by #22). Vincent Fyock is #10, in background below and talking to his father, Wade Fyock, the head coach, bottom left.

Fyfe is a 6-3 jr., Mauger a 6-1 jr., Fryock a 5-10 fr., Noah Pyles a 6-3 jr., and Tyler Valine a 5-9 soph. Fyfe averages 18.9 ppg, Fryock 15.3, Pyles 12.4, Mauger 12.0 and Valine 7.4.

The Panthers alternate man to man and zones. They'll press occasionally but not all the time. Mauger is the most dangerous defender; his rep is that he has the quickest hands of anyone in District 5.

Johnstown Tribune - Democrat photo
Johnstown Tribune Democrat photo

Shade runs a "chaos offense." Coach Fryock just shakes his head. "I have no idea what they're going to do out there. They enjoy themselves."

Shade would seem to be a decent first round draw. They're a young team and lack a true big man. Like Cornell, the Panthers start five players who at bigger schools would all be guards.

But this is a bad draw for two major reasons. The first is the site. Shade is located only a few miles south of the Pitt Johnstown Gym, and has played seven games there this season. They played in a Christmas Tournament there back in December, then played conference and district tournaments there in recent weeks. None of the current Cornell players have ever played there. Furthermore, it's a two hour drive from Coraopolis, and could be longer Friday afternoon during rush hour traffic on the Parkway and east of Pittsburgh. So Shade should have the gym packed with home fans while Cornell has a much smaller crowd.

The second reason it's a bad draw is that if Cornell wins they will play old nemesis Vincentian in the second round. The Royals have already beaten the Raiders three times, twice in the section and once in WPIAL semifinals, by an average of 11 points. As a matter of fact, Cornell has never beaten Vincentian. Why the WPIAL Bracketing Committee insists on repeatedly matching Cornell with Vincentian is a good question.

This year's tournament once again reveals the hypocrisy of the WPIAL and PIAA. Their handbooks claim they set the tournaments up the way they do, and bracket the teams the way they do, to make sure no team gains an unfair advantage, that all sites are neutral. But this year Cornell boys play Shade five miles from Shade High School and two hours from Coraopolis, while the Cornell girls play North Clarion at Clarion, five miles from North Clarion High School and two hours from Coraopolis. Both the Shade and North Clarion teams played holiday, conference and district tournaments on the same floor they now play Cornell on, while these Cornell teams have never played on those floors.

There is nothing neutral about this.

A quick survey of other states immediately shows that every other state that allows runner up teams to advance from their section to their district or their district to the state automatically place them in opposite brackets so they cannot meet a team from their own section or district until the championship game. Yet Cornell faced Vincentian twice in the section, was placed in the same bracket as them in the WPIAL, then placed in their bracket again in the PIAA.

Johnstown Tribune Democrat photo
Johnstown Tribune Democrat photo

However, Cornell Coach Bill Sacco and his staff aren't wasting time on such issues. They're working all week getting back to where they were during the Clairton game, when they upset the Bears with lots of ball movement, floor reversal and slick passing.

"We didn't move the ball nearly as well against Vincentian," Sacco told reporters after the Vincentian loss. "We tried to beat them one-on-one. They had more size than us at every position, and they're just as quick as we are, so that was a recipe for disaster. We've got to whip that ball around and free teammates for good shots, either open looks from outside or assists under the basket. For us to play Shade, we have to recover that smooth offensive flow."

This week has a special sense of urgency for Cornell senior starters Desmond Ross and Nadhama Luster. The next game they lose will be the end of their high school careers. The WPIAL advances section runnersup to the district tournament, and the PIAA advances district runnersup to the state tournament, but from this point on it's one loss and done.

Other District 5 coaches think Cornell's pressure defenses will force Shade into turnovers. The Raiders are a little faster so should score on the fast break. But the home court advantage still makes Shade a six point favorite.

Vincentian Slaps Cornell In Semis, 59-45

Top Ranked Vincentian slapped #5 Cornell down Monday night 59-45 in the WPIAL Semifinals at the Northgate Gym.

The win sends Vincentian on to the WPIAL Championship game Thursday night at Pitt's Petersen Events Center, where they will face Section 1A rival Union for the third time. The two split their home and away games back in the section.

Because the WPIAL has five times more teams than many of Pennsylvania's other 12 regions, it gets to send its semifinalists on to the State Tournament next week. Cornell will be the #3 seed and play a team from Region Five if Vincentian wins the WPIAL. If Vincentian loses Cornell will be the #4 seed and play a team from Region Six. Both those regions are east of Pittsburgh in the center of the state, so the game could be at a gym in Latrobe, Somerset, Greensburg or another site, depending on who comes out of those regions. The PIAA locates games approximately halfway between the two schools.

Monday night's game was more of the same for Cornell. Vincentian beat the Raiders in the section by 10 and 12 points. They're taller and more muscular at every position. The biggest problems they present are 6-6 Angelo Reeves and 6-4 Zack McDonough. The two can pass and shoot over Raiders' raised hands, and can swat passes and shots away.

Vincentian played a pressing man to man defense throughout the game. The Raiders got very few uncontested shots inside and the ones they did get were hurried or distorted. What looks they got from the perimeter had to be altered because of raised hands by the taller Royals.

This was especially true for Desmond Ross and Kaden Divito. "We focused on Dez and Divito," Vincentian Coach Tim Tyree told reporters afterwards. "We know from playing these guys back in the section that those two can beat a team. We were determined they weren't going to beat us. We made a special point of shutting them down."

In the first half, that strategy worked. Reeves scored Vincentian's first three baskets, all layups, and a McDonough three from the side made it 9-0 before Divito finally worked loose for a layup. Ross laid another in but at 2:52 it was 14-4.

Zaire Harrison stepped up at that point. He scored a layup at 2:00, but two McDonough layups ended the quarter 18-6.

Harrison then hit a side three and a layup to pull the Raiders within seven at 18-11 with 6:30. McDonough really went to work then, hitting a side three, layup, a rebound and putback, and another side three for a 28-11 lead at 4:01. Harrison countered with two more layups, Nadhama Luster added a layup and Sharone Bronaugh drained a three from the corner to give Cornell 20. But meanwhile Vincentian was adding up free throws and a follow for a 36-20 halftime edge.

To make matters worse, Bronaugh (#50 in the photo above) went down with 10 seconds before the half with a leg/foot injury. Although only a freshman, the muscular Bronaugh was playing a valuable reserve role battling the Royals on the boards. It was the second time in the quarter he had been knocked to the floor with no foul called.

While Vincentian concentrated on stopping Ross and Divito in the first half, Harrison had been able to work loose for 11 of Cornell's 20 points. Tyree addressed that problem at halftime and somewhat switched his focus in the second half to stopping Harrison. He succeeded, and Zaire did not score from halftime on. But focusing on him let Ross and Luster wheel and deal.

Cornell had been playing mostly a 2-3 zone, but Coach Bill Sacco began using a man to man more in the second half. It slowed the Royals down but could not stop Reeves or McDonaugh from simply flashing to the hashmark, raising a hand, catching a pass over the Raiders, and laying it in. Divito and Luster hit layups and Ross hit a three from the side, two layups and a free throw, but Vincentian still led 47-34 at the quarter break.

Ross scored Cornell's first eight points in the fourth quarter on two layups and four free throws. But at 6:00 Cornell had only cut it to 51-40. Two Luster layups and an Isiah Langston free throw were all Cornell could produce from there on as the Royals added three layups and two free throws for the final 59-45 score.

McDonough led all scorers with 29.

Ross led Cornell with 14. Harrison had 11, Luster 10, Divito four and Langston and Bronaugh three each.

Cornell now stands 18-7 on the season. The Raiders could very well win their first State Tournament game, but if they do they will run into the WPIAL winner in the second round. And whether that's Vincentian or Union, both beat Cornell twice back in the section.

Tyree, in his first season as Vincentian's head coach, seemed glad to have the win behind him. "It's tough to beat a good team three times," he told reporters. "Cornell is quick, they play in your face defense, and they're very dangerous in transition. We felt we had the advantage in matchups with McDonaugh and Reeves with their size, so we went to them, and it made the difference. I also thought our full court man to man, with our size advantage, really bothered Cornell."

Vincentian has lost to only one class A team all year. That was at Union in the section.

"I have no doubt we have the toughest section," Tyree said. "Look at the tournament. We have three of the four teams in semis and both the teams in finals."

Vincentian won the WPIAL title in 2011 and 2013.

Franklin Frustrates Moon, 28-26

Moon's dream of repeating as WPIAL champions came to a frustrating end Friday night at North Hills as the Tigers were unable to score and lost 28-26 to Franklin Regional.

Before a packed house at the spacious North Hills Gym, Moon found itself in a bruising physical battle with the tall and athletic Panthers. It would be somewhat misleading to call it a defensive classic. Moon played an agressive man to man, and Franklin used a 3-2 zone, but both teams also found plenty of good open shots. They just couldn't hit. They missed layups, free throws, jump shots, putbacks and threes. Moon went 8/38 from the floor and 7/16 at the line. Franklin went 12/31 and 3/11.

The final score was the lowest in modern WPIAL history for a boys game in any class.

Moon never led. The Tigers fell behind at the start but kept it close.

Nobody scored for the first three minutes. Then Franklin hit a jump shot from the free throw line at 5:19 and a layup at 4:46 for 4-0. Finally Connor Ryan laid one in at 4:12 to get Moon started. Franklin came back with two layups for 8-2 but Brady Sunday hit a baseline jumper at 2:01 and Jioni Smith scored a layup at 1:52 to cut it to 8-6. A Franklin layup and a spectacular heave from three quarter court at 0:01 put the Pirates up 13-6 at the quarter break.

Moon's main problem in the second quarter was that they were badly outrebounded and never got a second shot. A baseline jumper at 6:46 put Franklin up 15-6. That would be their largest lead of the game. Smith hit a layup at 6:16 and Nate Damico drained a three from the corner at 5:43 to cut it to 15-11. Two Franklin layups and a Smith layup sent Moon to halftime trailing 19-13.

Connor Ryan opened the third quarter by sinking two free throws for 19-15. Franklin scored on a putback, but then Damico hit a layup and free throw for 21-18 at 5:42. Austin Ryan drained a jump shot from the free throw line to bring Moon to within 21-20. A Franklin layup and free throw at 2:40 widened it to 24-20, but a Smith free throw made it 24-21. Franklin hit a layup at 1:23, but a Connor Ryan free throw at 0:41 and layup by Smith at the buzzer left Moon just a basket behind, 26-24, entering the fourth.

Moon fans were optimistic at this point. Franklin's physical play on defense and under the boards had gotten the Panthers into deep foul trouble, and fans were sure at least a few of them would pick up their fifth in the final quarter. It never happened.

It was the strangest fourth quarter seen in the WPIAL for a long time. No one could hit. If either team had just been able to hit a few free throws they could have won easily. Taru Jones finally gave Moon one point on a free throw at 5:12 for 26-25. It remained there until only 22 seconds remained. Then a Franklin free throw put them up 27-25. With 18 seconds left, Jones hit another free throw for 27-26. With 16 seconds left a Franklin free throw made it 28-26.

Both crowds were screaming for the second free throw, because if he made it Franklin would go up three and Moon would need a three. If he missed it Moon would only need a deuce. He missed it, so triumphant screams erupted from the Moon crowd.

Moon brought the ball upcourt, reversed the floor a few times, and could not work free for an open look. At six seconds, Moon had it out of bounds. Smith passed inbounds to star guard Connor Ryan, whose play has sparked the Tigers all season.

He saw a gap in the Franklin defense and headed for the lane.He was hoping to get the shot off but figured if the defense closed the gap he could dish it off at the last second to a teammate for a short jumper. He was in the air for the shot when the Franklin defenders closed that gap at the hash mark and Ryan was knocked to the floor, the ball skittering off the rim.

Much to the consternation of the Moon crowd, there was no call.

The buzzer went off with Ryan laying out of bounds face down under the basket. He stayed there for quite a while. It was a frustrating way to end a season, let alone a whole career, which for many Moon seniors it was.

Smith led Moon in scoring with eight. Connor Ryan was second with five. The rest of the scoring was spread thin, with one or two baskets each.

Thurston Dwarfs Cornell 53-17 In WPIAL

This group of Cornell girls has enjoyed a spectacular four years, but their finale was not at all pleasant. They faced #1 Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL quarter finals and were blown out 53-17.

Last year these two teams met in the WPIAL championship at Pitt's Petersen Events Center and Thurston won by 10. They also met back in December in an exhibition game and Thurston again won by 10. But this time Cornell's 5-8 senior center, Jaelah Smith, was missing. Without her, Thurston simply dwarfed Cornell and nothing the Raiders did worked.

The Bears go 6-2, 6-1, 6-0 across the front and 6-0 and 5-11 at guards. Cornell's tallest player was 5-7.

Cornell not only could not get the ball inside, but they had a hard time getting decent looks from outside. Thurston's long arms pushed Raider shooters well beyond the three point arc, as seen in the photo at right. Notice how far out Myka Smith is forced to shoot to get the ball over #22 Ayanna Townsend's outstretched arm.

The Raiders also could not stop Thurston. The Bears simply passed the ball over Cornell's defenses to Townsend or a teammate under the basket, who laid it in over the defenders' waving arms. Thurston spend the entire game shooting layups.

It was over early. Thurston scored on four layups before Cymoni Harrison hit a three from the top to make it 8-3 with 3:08 in the first quarter. Thurston then added two layups, a Townsend push shot and one free throw for a 15-3 lead after the first quarter.

Cornell did its best. Patience Gipson scored on a layup at 5:55, Harrison rebounded and put it back at 3:51, and Nysia Miles hit a push shot at 3:36 for nine points. But Thurston stacked layups and free throws for a 26-9 halftime lead.

Thurston further complicated Cornell's misery with a relentless defense, especially a 2-2-1 full court press that not only came up with steals but exhausted the benchless Raiders. Cornell only dressed seven.

Hailey Leitner opened the third quarter with a baseline jump shot that gave Cornell 11 points at the 6:58 mark. But Thurston then unleashed an attack of layups, rebound follows and a free throw to lead 39-11 after three.

Trying to guard the taller, more physical Bears also got Cornell in foul trouble by the third quarter. Myka Smith picked up her third at 5:06 and Harrison her third at 2:33. Smith would draw her fourth at 0:35, and foul out wirh 3:30 left in the game.

In the fourth quarter, Thurston continually grabbed third and fourth rebounds over the much shorter Raiders.

Gipson laid one in at 6:52, Miles added a layup at 2:14, and Gipson got a rebound and put it back at 1:50 for 17 points. But Thurston had run up 53 in the meantime, even with a running clock.

The Bears finally put their reserves in late in the fourth, with the score 50-13 and 3:30 to go.

Gipson led Raider scoring with six. Harrison had five, Miles had four, and Leitner two.

Gipson also led Raider rebounders with five.

Thurston is favored to win the WPIAL and given a 50-50 chance to win the state title, mostly because no other team can match their size. #22 Townsend has signed with Xavier (Cincinnati) and her teammates also have offers from various colleges.

Cornell Coach Chuck Langston tried to be upbeat afterward. "We never quit hustling," he told reporters. "The girls didn't get frustrated or demoralized. This is just a very, very good Thurston team and we simply did not have the size to deal with them either on offense or defense. We couldn't get our shots off and we couldn't stop them from shooting right under the basket."

This group of seniors has come up together from middle school and this is the worst loss they've had in their careers.

College scouts were again in the stands, as they've been for Cornell's last several games. They've expressed interest in several Cornell players.

Langston now has to look to the future. "We lose all these seniors," he said, somewhat wistfully. "Next year we'll be young. But we do have a good bunch coming up out of middle school. We have a few girls back, and they'll have to provide our leadership and shoulder the scoring load. We need a good off season and then a good December against nonsection opponents. But by the time we get into section play next year, we might be ready. Maybe not to win the section, but at least to compete for one of the runnerup slots."

Cornell Surprises Clairton In OT, 71-66

Desmond Ross scored 20 points, 12 rebounds and five assists to lead Cornell to a 71-66 upset of #3 Clairton and send the Raiders on to the WPIAL semifinals.

Waiting for them there will be #1 Vincentian, the section rival who has already beaten the Raiders twice during the regular season.

But, since the WPIAL has five times as many teams as some other PIAA regions, a setup far out of balance, the PIAA compensates by bringing all four WPIAL semifinal teams on to the State Tournament. So Cornell's motivation in the Vincentian game, besides finally getting a win over the Royals, is the chance tio play in Pitt's Petersen Events Center in the WPIAL championship. If they lose again to Vincentian, they just have an extra week to prepare for Farrell, Kennedy Christian, Clarion or whoever their first State Tournament opponent will be.

But first they had to get past Clairton, a formidable foe taller and more physical at every position. It was an odd environment at Peters Township high school gym. As punishment for a riot during the Clairton-Monessen game which required police departments from five towns and townships to quell and sent numerous people to the hospital, the WPIAL ruled that no Clairton fans would be admitted except player parents and school administrators. So tickets were sold only in Coraopolis, not at Clairton or at the game site. Police were out in force at Peters. The stands were oddly unbalanced, with one side packed with enthusiastic Cornell fans, and the other side almost empty except for a small pocket of parents. To make sure no one else was there, the WPIAL moved the first game of the usual doubleheader. The player introductions also included a lecture about fan behavior and proper decorum.

Once the game began, it looked like the predictions would be correct.

A follow, layup, free throws and corner three gave Clairton nine quick points while a Zaire Harrison layup was all Cornell could muster. A thundering block of a Nadhama Luster layup (see photo, bottom), two walking violations and Clairton domination of the boards put Cornell in a 9-2 hole at the 5:42 mark. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco called time out to calm his players down.

Just after the time out, Ross drove in and was fouled. He sank both. A Clairton free throw maintained a 10-4 lead at 4:07. Again Ross drove in and again he was fouled. Two more free throws, a Kaden Divito layup, and two more Ross free throws tied it at 10-10. A Clairton jump shot at 0:05 ended the quarter with the Bears up 12-10.

Cornell probably won the game in the second quarter. It was as good an 8:00 as the Raiders have played all season. Clairton opened with a follow at 6:30 for 14-10. Stephan Blackstone hit a layup, Isiah Langston scored two free throws, and Divito sank a corner three for Cornell's first lead of 17-16 at 5:37. Clairton retook it with a rebound, 18-17, but Zaire Harrison scored on a layup and free throw to put Cornell back on top 20-18 at 4:30. Ross drained a corner three to push it to 23-18 at 3:52. A Bear layup and follow and two free throws kept them in it, but four free throws by Langston and Ross, a layup by Divito off a Luster steal and assist, and a Langston layup at 0:17 sent Cornell to halftime leading 31-24.

Cornell opened up the third with more of the same.

Luster drained a three from on top, Harrison and Luster hit free throws, and Ross hit a layup and free throw while holding Clairton to one free throw for a 39-25 lead with 5:12.

Clairton hit a corner three and layup, free throws and another layup while all Cornell could muster was a Blackstone layup and with 3:50 it was 41- 33. Luster and Harrison sank two free throws each, while Clairton was adding up a side three, follow, and corner three before Harrison laid one in at the buzzer and Cornell led 47-41 at the quarter break.

The game was extremely physical and by this point players on both sides were in foul trouble, causing coaches to go to their benches throughout the final quarter. Sacco ordered Cornell into its trademark weave offense to protect that lead.

Clairton stacked free throws and two follows while Ross hit two free throws and Harrison hit a layup when the Bears tried to overplay the weave and left the middle wide open. So Cornell led 51-47 at 4:06. Again Clairton tried to double team Divito on the weave (see photo below) and he fired the pass to Harrison for an open layup. That made it 53-47 with 4:01.

At this point the officials called time out. Inexplicably, they directed the scorekeeper to add two points to the Clairton total, making it 53-49. The Cornell coaching staff protested to no avail.

Harrison sank a free throw but Clairton hit a jump shot and follow to cut it to 54-53 at 2:40. Luster laid one in at 2:08 for 56-53. A Clairton free throw cut it to 56-54. Two Luster free throws made it 58-54 at 1:26.

The crowd by this point was on its feet and the army of police were eying the situation apprehensively. But there was never a problem.

Clairton scored a layup at 1:15 fror 58-56. Divito stole the ball off the press at 0:35 and fired it to Ross, who was fouled. He hit the free throw for 59-56. But Clairton hit a free throw at 0:22 for 59-57, then stole the inbounds pass, worked the ball around, and laid it in at 0:07 to tie at 59-59 and send the game to overtime.

Had those two phantom points not been added at 4:01, Cornell would have won in regulation 59-57.

Luster opened the OT with two free throws and Divito added a layup for a 63-59 lead with 3:10. Clairton hit a side three at 2:07, then stole the ball and fired it downcourt for a layup to go ahead 64-63 with 1:29. Divito drained a corner three at 1:12 to regain the lead for Cornell 66-64. A Clairton follow tied it at 66-66 at 0:58. Ross was fouled on a drive and sank the free throw at 0:48 to lift Cornell to 67-66. Luster rebounded and put it back in at 0:26 for 69-66, and Ross added a free throw at 0:19 for the final 71-66 score.

Helping Ross in scoring were Harrison with 15 points, Luster 14, Divito 12 and Langston six. Additional rebounds were Harrison and Langston with seven each and Luster with six.

Sacco was beaming afterward. "This was one of our best games of the season," he said. "This was a total team effort. Everyone contributed."

Magnificent Seven "Step Up" For Cornell

When three girls failed to show up, Cornell was down to only seven. The Raiders became decided underdogs to the Avella Eagles in the first round of the WPIAL Tournament. Avella was hot, having won seven of its last eight. With two stations broadcasting the game, a large crowd in the spacious West Allegheny Gym and numerous college scouts taking notes, rhe pressure was on.

As Coach Chuck Langston told them before the game, "Those of you still here really need to step up."

Wow, did they. The Magnificent Seven carved a spot for themselves in Cornell basketball lore by squeezing out an unlikely 44-40 victory and a berth in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

It was a battle the whole way and different players stepped up at different times. Jaelah Smith started Cornell off with a jump shot (see photo right) with only a few seconds gone, but Avella came back with two jumpers, a layup and foul line push shot. Myka Smith took over for a while, with a layup and two corner threes. Along with a Jaelah free throw, Cornell led 11-8 entering the second quarter.

Cymoni Harrison scored on a layup and side three and Maya Goins hit a push shot to give Cornell 18 at the half, but Avella used a follow, layup, side three and two free throws to stay right with them 18-17. Harrison insists she's not comfortable at point guard but she certainly looked like one in this game. In the first half she did a good job but in the second half she was outstanding. Hailey Leitner opened with a tipin at 7:00 and a free throw at 5:38 for a 21-17 lead. Avella hit a layup to stay close at 21-19.

Jaelah hit a layup at 5:14 for 23-19 but an Eagle push shot made it 23-21 at 5:01. Harrison hit a free throw but so did Avella. Leitner then scored on a layup for 26-22 with 3:22 but an Avella layup and free throw kept it tight at 26-25 with 2:21. Harrison then stepped up. In 1:40 she scored a follow, a layup, a baseline push shot and free throw while Avella could manage only a layup. So Cornell clung to a 33-27 lead entering the fourth quarter.

By this point, Cornell had gotten into foul trouble and its players were tiring. Someone else needed to step up.

That was when Patience Gipson took over. She scored on three follows and a layup for eight points in six minutes and eight of Cornell's last 11 points. That's Patience calling for the ball from Leitner in the photo at left, and going up for her layup shot under heavy contact in the photo above left.

Harrison scored Cornell's other fourth quarter points on a layup and free throw. Cornell pulled out 39-28 at 5:56 after those Gipson follows. The Harrison points made it 42-34 at 4:03. But Avella wasn't done. They went to a full court press, which bothered the Raiders considerably. Avella scored on three straight steals and layups to pull back to 42-38 with 1:54.

Harrison led Cornell in scoring with 16. Gipson and Myka Smith added eight each, as Leitner and Jaelah Smith had five each .

Jaelah led rebounders with 11. Myka had nine and Harrison eight.

Leitner led the team with three steals, two of which resulted in layups downcourt.

Coach Langston was doubly proud of his girls after the game. He was proud of their win against the odds, but he was more proud when college scouts dropped by to let him and several of his girls know they were interested.

Cornell now advances to the quarterfinals where they will play Winchester Thurston. Thurston is ranked and seeded #1 in the WPIAL. They stand 6-2, 6-0, 6-0, 5-11, 5-10 while Jaelah Smith is Cornell's tallest player at 5-8. Still, Cornell always plays Thurston tough. The Raiders lost to the Bears 52-41 in last year's WPIAL title game, and by only 41-31 back in December. In both games, Cornell's pressing defenses have given Thurston trouble. Cornell has never enjoyed a good shooting night against Thurston despite getting open for good shots.

But win or lose against Thurston, this Cornell team will be remembered for this unlikely win over Avella. It was their best game of the year.

Cornell Survives W-Th In Overtime, 44-41

#6 Cornell used intense defense and careful ballhandling to survive a much taller and determined #11 Winchester Thurston in overtime Friday 44-41.

The game, played at Northgate, was tense throughout. Thurston was taller at every position but particularly inside. And they weren't just taller. They also had long arms. They were able to keep Cornell from getting inside, from getting rebounds, and even from getting clear threes over those outstretched hands.

Cornell did grab an early lead on a Desmond Ross three from the side and a free throw by Nadhama Luster. That made it 4-2 at 6:11 in the first. The Raiders then relied on their pressing defense to score on layups. Isiah Langston, Zaire Harrison, Luster and Kaden Divito all scored on layups off steals to build a 14-4 lead with 2:25. But that would be their biggest lead of the game. Thurston had already eaten away at it with a free throw and a corner three to come within 14-8 at the quarter break.

Luster hit a three from on top at 7:15 and Ross added a layup off an assist by Harrison for 19-8 with 6:01.

Then Thurston used a corner three, a layup and a three from the side to cut it to 19-16 before Divito hit two free throws at 0:25 for a 21-16 halftime edge.

Cornell could not pull away in the third quarter. A Harrison layup kept the Raiders ahead but free throws and a three from the side pulled the Bears within rwo at 23-21. Ross and Luater hit two free throw each, but a layup and corner three put Thurston ahead 28-27 for the first time. Ross hit a shot under heavy contact and Harrison added two free throws to put Cornell back ahead 31-28 entering the fourth.

The teams traded layups to open the fourth. Langston hit one on an assist by Divito, Luster hit one off a steal at 4:04 and Ross laid one in at 2:20. But Thurston countered with two layups and a jumper to stay even 37-34 at 1:24. Divito's free throw at 1:07 made it 38-34 but a Thurston layup again cut it to 38-36 at 0:54. Ross hit a free throw for 39-36, but a Bear three from on top tied it at 39-39 with 0:16. Ross got off a shot and Divito tried a tipin in the final seconds but they rimmed out, sending it to OT.

Luster opened the overtime with two free throws for 41-39. Divito then hauled in a rebound off a Thurston miss, and Cornell brought it up and held it. Steps were called on Ross at 2:32, but Langston stole it back at 2:23 before Thurston could score.

Luster sank two more free throws at 2:01 for 43-39. Thurston scored on a layup at 1:18 to pull it back to 43-41. Langston drained a free throw at 0:25 for the 44-41 margin. Ross stole the ball at 0:20 but prolonged the agony by missing two free throws. However, Harrison grabbed the rebound and Cornell ran out the clock with its trademark outside weave.

Luster led all scorers with 14. Ross added 12, Harrison eight, and Divito and Langston five each. Ross led Cornell rebounders with seven. Luster added six and four other players had four each. However, Cornell only totalled 26 rebounds to Thurston's 37. Cornell stole the ball seven times and scored every time. The Raiders also totaled eight assists. Luater was the only one consiatently hitting free throws, going seven for 10.

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco shook his head afterward. "We practiced fine all week," he moaned. "Then we came out here and played one of our worst games of the season. We almost lost this one at the free throw line."

To be fair, though, this was a tough challenge. Cornell basically plays five guards. They're very good guards, but the Raiders just do not have any size underneath and any team that does gives it trouble. This was also a very physical game. Any Cornell player driving into Thurston's defense received plenty of contact and little of it was called. Divito, Luster and Harrison spent a lot of time picking themselves up off the floor.

Cornell now advances to play #3 Clairton in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Sacred Heart Teams Receive Byes in WPIAL

As first place finishers in their sections, Sacred Heart's boys and girls received byes past the first round in the upcoming WPIAL Tournament.

The girls will play the Brentwood - Fort Cherry winner Thursday, Feb. 21. The computer favors them in that game. But if they win, they'll advance to play the winner of the Chartiers Houston - Leechburg - Frazier bracket. Chartiers Houston won last year's WPIAL

Sacred Heart's boys receive the section winner's first round bye. Then they play the California - Springdale winner on Friday, Feb. 23. If they win, they advance to meet the Jeannette - Shenango - Frazier winner.

Both Sacred Heart's boys and girls are considered co-favorites to win the WPIAL title and make a serious run at the PIAA state championship. In girls Chartiers Houston and West Greene are considered the other threats. In boys, Sewickley and Jeannette are considered the chief contenders.

Cornell Teams Receive Favorable 1st Round Draws

Cornell's boys and girls basketball teams both received surprisingly good first round draws in the upcoming WPIAL Tournament beginning Friday. The draw was announced Tuesday night at WPIAL offices in Greentree.

The boys play Winchester Thurston Friday night at Northgate at 8 pm. If the Raiders win, they will advance to the quarterfinals, where they play Clairton next Thursday. The semifinals will be Monday, February 26, and the championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center at 7 pm Thursday March 1.

Winchester Thurston finished 8-11. They were 4-6 in Section 3A, in 4th place behind Andrew Street, Eden and Imani. The computer lists Cornell as favored by 10. Clairton is another matter. The Bears finished 8-2 in Section 2, second to 10-0 Monessen. They're ranked third in the WPIAL and the computer favors them by six over Cornell.

The Cornell girls play Avella Saturday at noon at West Allegheny. The Eagles finished 13-8 overall and 6-4 in Section 2A, behind West Greene. Cornell is ranked a slight favorite. But the winner advances to meet #1 Winchester Thurston in the quarters.

Carlynton Girls Finish Year With Cornell Win

Carlynton's girls didn't make the WPIAL Tournament this year, so the Cougars took out their frustrations on Cornell Monday night 54-39. It was a makeup game replacing an earlier game which was iced out.

Carlynton used a big third quarter to insure the win. They held a thin 11-9 lead after the first period and held on 20-15 at the half. But in the third they outscored the Raiders 20-7 for a 40-23 lead. Cornell came back in the fourth, 17-14 but it was way too late.

Senior Center Jaelah Smith led Cornell scoring with 10.

It was another game in which the Raiders showed almost no scoring punch. They held Carlynton to only 11 and nine points in those first two quarters, a fine defensive effort, but Cornell could only score nine, six and seven points in three quarters. They're not hitting from outside and don't have anyone who can slash to the basket or pull up for the 15 foot jump shot. 70% of Cornell's offense comes from either layups off steals or the fast break, or putbacks by Patience Gipson or Jaelah Smith. Once an opponent gets its defense set up, Cornell is stifled. This is especially frustrating because Nysia Miles and Cymoni Harrison are two of the best defensive and ballhandling guards in the WPIAL. But they have not developed into scorers.

Cornell will learn about its draw tonight when the WPIAL announces its tournament pairings. Cornell knows it will play a first round game against one of the other sectional runnersup, but doesn't know who, when or where the game will be played.

CYBA Planning Major Rebuilding Effort

The public's eyes right now are on basketball and the Olympics and some are still getting over the Super Bowl. But in a back room of the Methodist Church, the directors of the Cornell Youth Baseball Association held their first meeting of 2018 to plan what they hope is a major rebuilding season.

Usually, when sports teams say "rebuilding" they mean replacing players who have moved on. But the CYBA has a much bigger vision. They hope to build the league back to a position of strength it hasn't had for a while.

They know they can't recapture those days when Coraopolis had its own full Little League with 12 teams, packed bleachers, announcers and doubleheaders every night all Summer. The town back then had 18,000 people and 12 factories. Now it has 6,000 people, the mills are gone and Coraopolis has to join a neighboring league just to compete. (For several seasons Cory competed in the Robinson County League. For the last several they've competed in the Moon League.)

But they at least want to field teams that seriously compete for first place.

And they want to provide Coraopolis and Neville Island kids with a first class experience.

"We've got work to do on Ronnie Bliwas Field," explains Director of Development Marcy Lamb. "It's in bad need of repainting, and that announcer's tower behind home plate has to be torn down. The concession stand, rest rooms and dugouts need new roofs. The infield needs new fill and the pitcher's mound needs rebuilt. The picnic tables need replaced. This field is a real treasure for the community but it has several years of maintenance backed up. This is the year we have to do it."

The Coraopolis Borough mows the grass and provides the electricity but otherwise responsibility for the facility lies with the CYBA. Back when the factories each sponsored a team and poured money into the league, that was not a problem. But lately funds have been short and maintenance has been postponed.

Professional estimates set the cost of paint at $1200 and the fill for the field at $2300. A new picnic table costs at least $200 and they need several. The cost of dismantling the announcer's tower and replacing the roofs is unknown. The league is also in bad need of a new pitching machine, which costs at least $1000.

So while other members focus on schedules, team rosters, equipment and rules, Lamb, Randy Cosgrove and Lori Engel have launched a comprehensive fund raising campaign.

They've sent out a letter to every business in town, asking for donations at one of five levels. They're contacting former Little League players, many of them now living out of town. Lamb and Cosgrove will follow up the lettes with personal visits.

Ideally, local businesses would sponsor a team. So far, Gilligan Construction and Deramo Beverages have agreed to become team sponsors and will have their names across the team jerseys plus a large banner with their names on it attached to the fence during games. The team will also be referred to by their names in all media reporting.

Team sponsorship costs $500 and is tax deductible. Other donation levels are $400, $300, $200, and $100. Signs will be hung at Bliwas Field with the names of all donors prominently displayed. The top three levels also receive a personalized plaque they can hang at their place of business.

Officers for the 2018 season include President Greg Woodard (photo, top), Vice President Mike Smith (back to camera, photo, top), Treasurer Lori Engel, Concessions Supervisor and Director of Development Marcy Lamb, Secretary Micah Slinde, Field & Maintenance Director Mike Engel, and Commissioner Randy Cosgrove.

Little League has expanded since the old days. The CYBA now fields teams at the TBall, Coach/Machine Pitch, Minor League, Little League and Pony League levels, plus a girls softball team. Depending on registration, the league will add an Intermediate team between TBall and Coach/Machine Pitch, or a second Coach/Machine Pitch team. Last year, enough players came out to allow four TBall teams, and many of those are filtering up to either Intermediate or Coach/Machine Pitch levels.

Woodard cautioned coaches and parents that Little League has rewritten its bat regulations. Before buying any new bats, parents and coaches are asked to check with him to make sure they understand the new specs.

March 17th is the deadline for parents to sign players up. Uniforms will be ordered March 21. The CYBA's annual Spaghetti Dinner will be April 15th. The league will again contract with a photographer to take team and individual photos. The usual insurance coverage will be offered. Parents are reminded that signing a player up includes granting permission for area media to photograph or mention them by name in publications.

All parents will pay a $15 volunteer fee. If they volunteer as a coach, cook, concession worker, scorekeeper, scoreboard operator or field maintenance worker the $15 is refunded. The league needs three coaches per team and scorers, scoreboard operators and concession workers at all games. Anyone with questions can phone Greg Woodard at 412-377-4082.

#2 Vincentian Grinds Down #6 Cornell 67-55

For Cornell to conclude its regular season with an upset of #2 Vincentian, it needed a good shooting night, a good rebounding night, and to get to the free throw line.

It didn't get any of those. And it wasn't able to stop Vincentian from grinding out a 67-55 win.

The rangy Royals kept Cornell outside for most of the night. And their perimeter shots weren't falling.

For the first 4:00, neither were Vincentian's. Four minutes in, Desmond Ross (photo below) stole the ball twice in a row and laid it in both times for a 4-2 Cornell lead. Three minutes later Nadhama Luster (photo below right handing off to Blackstone) would score on another layup. But the Royals scored on a layup, a three from the side, a follow and two free throws for a 13-6 lead at the break.

Vincentian gave Cornell all the wide open outside shots it wanted. None would fall.

It got worse in the second quarter. Two Royal follows, three layups, a corner three, a baseline jumper and three free throws gave Vincentian 30 points. Meanwhile, the only outside shot Cornell could muster was a corner three by Stefan Blackstone. Everything else came from inside off steals and fast breaks. Zaire Harrison (photo right) scored on a follow and free throw, a layup and free throw, and Desmond Ross laid one in. At the half, Vincentian led 30-17.

The Royals opened the third with a three for 33-17. Finally, Cornell began hitting, but from then on, Vincentian just had to match them shot for shot. Cornell got very few second chances against the taller visitors.

A Harrison free throw, Kaden Divito layup and corner three, Isiah Langston jumper, and Luster layup could just keep Cornell even at 38-27 by the 3:11 mark. Two Ross threes from the side were nullified by two Vincentian threes. Luster scored off a steal and Divito hit a J from the top but at the quarter break it was still 47-37. A hard played quarter had shaved just three points off the lead.

A Luster layup and Divito score off a Vincentian goal tend (center photo below) cut it to 49-41 at 6:03. Vincentian pulled back out to 53-41 at 4:45. Cornell's last rally came on a Divito layup, Ross layup and free throw, and another Ross layup at 3:27. The score was then 55-48. Cornell kept battling, on a Langston tipin, Luster free throw, Ross layup and Langston jumper from the side. But Vincentian kept taking the ball inside and either scoring or getting free throws, which they made.

Ross led all scorers with 19, but Vincentian more than balanced him out with Angelo Reeves' 18, Zach McDonaugh's 16 and Kyler Fedko's 15. For Cornell, Divito added 11 and Luster nine. Rebounding was a disaster. Cornell only grabbed 17 total, half their average. Langston led the Raiders with six.

The game exposed Cornell's great weakness. The Raiders are basically an all guard team. They have great guards, but against a team with a legitimate center and power forward, especially a team that uses those players in a double post offense, Cornell has no answers. When the Raiders aren't hitting from the perimeter, they can't get rebounds against taller teams. And the WPIAL teams ranked above Cornell all have taller lineups.

The WPIAL announces its tournament draw Tuesday night in Greentree. Cornell will play in the octafinals, probably Friday night, against a runnerup from another section

Cornell Girls Rout Jefferson Morgan 63-29

Cornell's girls finished their regular season with a 63-29 rout of nonsection opponent Jefferson Morgan Thursday night.

It was never in doubt. Cornell grabbed a 17-4 first quarter lead and was up 41-12 at the half. Entering the fourth quarter it was 54-20.

Patience Gipson led all scorers with 17.

Cornell's game with Shenango Wednesday night could not be held due to icy roads. No schools were in session that day, and almost all the games in the WPIAL that night were either cancelled or postponed. Whether Cornell can reschedule the game had not yet been determined by Thursday.

The Raiders now await the announcement of the WPIAL Tournament pairings. Since they're going as a section runnerup, they'll be playing in the octafinals against a runnerup from another section. That could pit them against Avella, Geibel, Aquinas or St. Joe's. Last year, as section champion, Cornell received a bye past the octas, then beat Geibel in the quarters and St. Joe's in the semis.

If they win their first game, they'll advance to the quarterfinals, where they'll meet one of the other section champions. That could pit them against Winchester Thurston, the team they met in last year's WPIAL championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center, or West Greene, from down along the West Virginia line. Currently, W-T and West Greene are ranked #1 and #2 by the computer.

Sacred Heart Wraps Up Section Title, 63-18

Sacrd Heart overwhelmed Shenango 63-18 Thursday night to clinch first place in Section 2A-1 and gather momentum for their WPIAL Playoff run.

Shenango was never in the game. The Wildcats from Lawrence County simply could not cope with Sacred Heart's size, speed and quickness.

The Chargers scored their points on layups and follows. The layups came either off the fast break, or steals off the press. Any shots that a SH player missed were rebounded and put back in by Kennedy Mickle, Ashley Norling or Megan Daniel.

An avalanche of layups by Mickle and Norling and follows by Daniel gave Sacred Heart an 18-2 first quarter lead.

In the second quarter Maddy Hoff, Joselyn Nagy and Hailey Hamilton joined the fun and pushed it out to 38-9 by halftime.

Sacred Heart's defense suffocated Shenango. The entire Wildcat offense in the first half consisted of three layups and a three. Other than those layups, they were reduced to firing perimeter shots over outstretched hands. They never got a clear view of the rim and weren't getting any rebounds.

Shenango scored one free throw in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Mickle, Nagy, Norlinger and Daniel were scoring on layups and Hamilton drained a corner three at 2:37 for a 54-10 edge.

Shenango managed two layups and three free throws in the fourth. SH's Norlinger added a layup and Hoff a three from the side, with the rest coming on free throws.

Sacred Heart forced 19 turnovers while committing only six themselves.

Mickle led all scorers with 15. Nagy and Norlinger each scored 14. Hoff and Hamilton had seven apiece.

Nagy led rebounders with seven. Norlinger and Mickle added six each.

Norlinger claimed four steals. Daniel had three. Norlinger also added three assists.

Elsewhere in the section, archrival Chartiers Houton won 55-15 over Fort Cherry.

The teams now head into what should the wildest WPIAL Tournament in years. From every section powerful high scoring teams have size, speed, quickness, strong defenses and pinpoint shooting.

Serra Catholic, Greensberg Central Catholic and California all look capable of a serious title run, but the computer services rank Vincentian the #1 seed. The Royals finished their section with a perfect record and for the entire season lost only to Philadelphia West Catholic. Vincentian had won five WPIAL titles in a row before Chartiers Houston upset them in the finals last year after eliminating Sacred Heart in the semifinals.

"We still need to work on our defenses," Sacred Heart Coach Don Eckerle told reporters after the Shenango win. "Several of these teams we're going to face in the WPIAL have as much size as we do, and are just as fast and quick. In a tournament as well balanced as this is going to be, I expect defenses to decide the games. Our defense will have to be razor sharp every time, every possession."

Last year, Eckerle noted that his team had been outphysicaled in the tournament and promised that this year they would be more aggressive. In that semifinal loss, Norling also got in early foul trouble and was a nonfactor. Hopefully, that won't happen two years in a row.

But Sacred Heart does have a battle hardened group of seniors who have been through WPIAL tournament wars before and know what to expect. The pressure, far flung travel, unfamiliar gyms, large crowds, adverse calls and odd times should not distract them.

Depth, however, could be an issue. Vincentian, Serra and California go about eight players deep. Sacred Heart cannot afford to get one of its starters in foul trouble, or have an injury, or have an off night.

Cornell Boys Escape Holy Family, 60-59

Cornell found itself in perhaps its toughest game of the season Tuesday night but hung on for a narrow 60-59 win at Holy Family.

The Saints, with a roster stocked with recruits from inner city Pittsburgh, jumped out to a 15-4 first quarter lead. Cornell spent the entire second period battling back and finally built a 32-25 halftime edge.

But it wouldn't last. Despite a Kaden Divito layup and Nadhama Luster steal and jumper, Holy Family used two layups, a three and a free throw to cut it to 36-35. Zaire Harrison's free throws and layup pulled it back out to 39-35, but a HF three from on top, layup and jumper put the Saints up 42-39 at the end of the third quarter.

As Cornell Coach Bill Sacco phrased it, "Somebody needed to step up."

Up stepped Desmond Ross. The senior (#4 in the photos) scored 10 points in six minutes to spark the Raiders.

He began with two free throws to cut it to 42-41 but a HF layup made it 44-41. Ross hit two straight threes from the side to put Cornell up 47-44. A free throw cut it to 47-45. Harrison went down hard on a rebound and had to be replaced by Stephan Blackstone. Blackstone sank Harrison's free throw for 48-45 and Kaden Divito sank a corner three to raise it to 51-45 with 4:20. Free throws cut it to 51-47 but a Ross driving layup pushed it back out to 53-47. A layup again cut it to 53-49, but two Luster free throws made it 55-49 with 2:16. A HF jumper and two layups tied it at 55-55 with 1:13.

Harrison by now was back in. He scored on a follow, was fouled in the process, and hit the free throw to put the Raiders up 58-55 with 0:32. A HF layup made it 58-57. Harrison was fouled shooting. He missed the free throw but got his own rebound and put it in for 60-57 at 0:11. A HF layup at 0:05 left the final 60-59.

Ross led all scorers with 24. Harrison added 12, Luster 10 and Divito nine. For Holy Family, Will Taylor had 19 and Trey Harvey 16.

Isiah Langston grabbed 13 rebounds. Divito added seven and Harrison six.

In a sense, the game came down to each defense trying to shut down the opponent's top scorer. Taylor is averaging 30 and had 35 against Union. Cornell held him to 19. In the two teams' earlier game, Ross had 23. Holy Family clearly keyed their defense to stop him. They couldn't. He had 24.

Holy Family isn't the best team in Section IA. Vincentian and Union are better. But HF beat Union and almost beat Vincentian and Cornell at home. The Emsworth gym is an extremely difficult place to play. The court is smaller, so teams' passing, cutting and shooting are condensed. Front row fans sit with their feet on the playing surface, which further narrows an already undersized court. There is no scoreboard. In its place is a TV sized LED screen, with numbers not visible from either bench. The numbers are small so players on the court can't read them at a quick glance. So no one knows what the score is or how much time is left.

The win sets up Cornell's grand finale Friday night against Vincentian. A Cornell win cannot change the Section 1A standings; Vincentian has it won. But a win would improve Cornell's seed in the upcoming WPIAL Tournament.

The current WPIAL rankings are #1. Vincentian, 2. Monessen. 3. Union. 4. Imani. 5. Clairton. 6. Cornell. This means three of the top six teams are in Section 1A.

Cornell Girls Bid Farewell With Victory, 41-39

Cornell's girls, who have struggled all year with injuries and illnesses, finally had just enough players at just enough strength to celebrate their Senior Night with an exciting 41-39 upset win over Sewickley.

It was the last section 1A game for both teams and was preceded by the usual center court ceremonies with parents, administrators and bouquets. This is the core of girls who have reached four straight WPIAL playoffs and last year got to the second round of the PIAA State Tournament. Due to various problems, mostly knees, muscles and flu, they have suffered through a disappointing senior season.

But Monday night they found enough grit to play their trademark defense and contain big Samantha Smith, who singlehandedly beat them over at Sewickley in their first meeting with 29. This time she only had 14. That defense bothered Sewickley throughout the game at every position and resulted in many turnovers and empty possessions.

Cornell countered with a Smith of their own --- Senior Center Jaelah (#14 in the photo at right and in the photo below right). Jaleah finished with seven rebounds, seven points, five blocks and three steals.

Cymoni Harrison (#24 in the photo above) turned in a courageous performance. Not feeling particularly well and having to leave the game several times, she nevertheless finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals and annoyed Sewickley ballhandlers and shooters all night.

Nysia Miles (#4 at left and above) led Cornell with 12 points on driving, twisting layups under contact.

The game was close throughout. Sewickley's size slowed Cornell's offense and forced it to work the ball patiently for decent shots. Cornell jammed the middle and dared Sewickley to shoot from outside, and they weren't hitting.

No one scored for three minutes, until Holly Leitner opened with a three from the corner. Patience Gipson's free throws kept Cornell up 5-2, but two layups gave Sewickley a 6-4 lead. Jaelah Smith hit a three from the corner at 2:29 and a push shot at 1:27 to get it back 9-6. Gipson's layup and a layup and free throw by Sewickley left it at 11-9 to end the quarter.

Sewickley tied at 11-11. Harrison's three from the top at 4:54 pulled Cornell ahead 14-11, but a follow and a layup returned it to Sewickley. Harrison hit a free throw at 1:39 to tie at 15-15 but two more layups sent Sewickey to halftime up 19-15.

It got worse in the third as a follow and two free throws put Sewickley up 23-16 at 3:10. But Myka Smith hit a corner three and Harrison scored a layup and free throw at 2:29 to cut it to 23-22. Both teams finished out the quarter hitting free throws as no one could get off an uncontested shot. They entered the fourth tied 26-26.

A corner three put Sewickley up 29-26. And this was where senior point guard Nysia Miles took over the game. She stole the ball off the press and laid it in at 6:30 to cut it to 29-28. She stole it again and found Harrison for a layup and free throw to put Cornell up 31-29. A Jaelah Smith follow at 3:16 made it 33-29. Still, Sewickley wasn't done. A side three at 2:50 cut it to 33-32. Miles hit layup for 35-32 but three free throws and a follow gave Sewickley the lead back at 37-35 at 2:00.

Harrison stole the ball at 1:44, which led to a Miles three from the top and a 38-37 lead at 0:40. The crowd by this point was on their feet. Two Sewickley free throws gave them the lead one last time at 39-38. Miles hit a layup at 0:28 for a 40-39 edge, then tied the inbounds receiver up for a jump ball at 0:09. Cornell had the possession arrow. Harrison drove for a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw at 0:03 for the 41-39 finale.

The win let Cornell finish the section with a 5-5 record and the final slot in the playoffs. Quigley finished first 10-0, Sewickley second at 7-3, and Rochester third at 6-4. Cornell lost three games by one basket and had to play two other games with only five girls, everyone else being hurt or sick. By the fourth quarter they were exhausted and lost.

The Raiders are still missing Maya Goins, who's been rehabbing a knee. And although Nysia Miles is back, she missed eight games with severe flu and is not at full strength. Coach Charles Langston is hoping to have both ready for the playoffs, giving them one more week.

Cornell does have two more games to help boost its seeding. It plays Shenango at home Wednesday night and Jefferson Morgan on the road Thursday. They won't be favored in either, but if they could pull off a pair of upsets, it would give them momentum entering the tournament and get them seeded away from #1 Winchester Thurston.

"I hate that these girls have had to deal with so much adversity their last season together," Langston told reporters Monday. "They're a special group that have really had a great four years. I'm hoping everyone gets healthy and can make a strong tournament showing."

Cornell Trounces Beaver Christian, 73-38

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco wanted an extra game because he doesn't think teams this late in the season learn anything from scrimmaging themselves. So he called around and set up Friday's game with Beaver County Christian.

Whether Cornell learned anything or not from their 73-38 trouncing of the non WPIAL school is questionable.

Cornell led 34-8 after the first quarter and 51-13 at halftime. They pulled out to 68-26 in the third and, with the JV team in, let Christian have a respectable 12-5 run in the fourth.

Desmond Ross led all scorers with 18 points.

Cornell might have learned more from taking a bus to Newcastle and watching Union shock Vincentian 83-72. The game rocked back and forth. Union led 17-12 after the first but Vincentian fought back in a 12-11 second to trail 28-24 at halftime. Union put the game away in the third quarter by raining threes from everywhere. Nate Meeks, Trey Charles and Evan Pinkerton, who have given Cornell such fits, were all hitting. By the time it was over, Union had outscored Vincentian 30-18 in the quarter, for a 58-42 edge. Zach McDonough tried to bring Vincentian back in the fourth, scoring 12 of his 24 points, and the Royals did outscore the Scotties 30-25, but it was way too little way too late.

Vincentian still leads the section by a game, but has to come to Coraopolis Friday in the season finale. If Cornell can win, it will drop the Royals into a tie with Union and leave Cornell in third. But first Cornell has to survive Tuesday night's battle at Holy Family, right across the river in Emsworth. Holy Family has the WPIAL's worst gym and is very dangerous, having just upset Union there last week. Will Taylor has developed into one of the WPIAL's best players, having scored 35 against Union. If Cornell loses both at Holy Family and back home against Vincentian, they would drop to fourth and Holy Family would take third and reach the WPIAL Tournament for the first time in school history.

Cornell Girls Rise To Best Effort But Fall At Quigley

Cornell's girls are finally beginning to look like the team everyone expected. They declared war against host Quigley Thursday night and pushed the Spartans into overtime before losing by one three pointer, 46-43.

After winning easily at Cornell 59-32, the section leading Spartans were heavily favored at home. But the teams were tied 11-11 after one and Quigley led by a mere 20-18 at halftime. Cornell outscored the hosts 8-7 in the third to trail only 27-26, and did it again in the fourth, outscoring Quigley 8-7 to tie the game at 34-34 and force the overtime. Quigley led 12-9 in the overtime for the 46-43 final margin.

Cornell lost the game because the Raiders were unable to stop Taylor Kirschner. She's been the Spartan star rebounder and scorer all year and led everyone with 31 Thursday night.

Patience Gipson (scoring in the photo at left) led Cornell with 12.

Cornell only has one section game left, at home against Sewickley next week. They have two nonsection games, at home against Shenango and at Jefferson Morgan. The Raiders have a runnerup berth in the WPIAL clinched, but cannot win the Section. Unbeaten Quigley has first plaee clinched, with Sewickley and Rochester in second and third. If Cornell could beat Sewickley and Quigley wins as expected at Rochester, it could tighten the standings but not change them.

Currently, Winchester Thurston is ranked #1 in the WPIAL, followed by West Greene, Quigley, Aquinas and St. Joseph's. But Thurston, Aquinas and St. Joe's are in the same section. As a third runnerup Cornell will draw the highest runnerup in one of the other sections, meaning it is guaranteed to see either Avella or Aquinas in the first round and, if it wins, probably Thurston in the second round.

Last year, as a section champion, Cornell got a bye past the first round. The Raiders then defeated Geibel at Canon McMillan in the quarterfinals and St. Joe's (of Natrona) at Fox Chapel in the semifinals before losing to Thurston in the championship game at Pitt's Petersen Arena.

These computer pairings can be altered to achieve a public-private school balance in the brackets.

#6 Cornell Cruises Past 2A Fort Cherry 52-40

Cornell cruised past 2A Fort Cherry 52-40 Wednesday night, enjoying a few nonsectional games before returning to war next week to finish out the regular season. The win left them 15-5 on the season.

The Raiders led the whole way but never could quite put Fort Cherry away. They led 7-4 after one and 22-20 at halftime. They won it with a 19-6 third quarter, giving them a 39-26 lead. But Fort Cherry came back with a 14-11 fourth period to shave the margin to just 12.

Fort Cherry made it their business to contain Desmond Ross, Kaden Divito and Nadhama Luster. But that left Zaire Harrison open inside, and he led all scorers with 15.

Cornell has added a game to the schedule. The Raiders host Beaver County Christian Academy Friday. The game fulfills Coach Bill Sacco's belief in playing as many games as the WPIAL allows.

"At this point in the season, you don't gain anything by practicing against yourself," he explains. "You need to play a real game against an opponent that doesn't know your every move and you don't know theirs."

With a loss to Vincentian and two losses to Union, Cornell has dropped out of the WPIAL's top five. The Raiders rank sixth, behind Vincentian, Monessen, Union, Imani and Clairton.

Cornell has clinched a postseason berth as a section runnerup, but Friday night's big Vincentian - Union matchup and Raider games next week against Holy Family and Vincentian will determine seedings for all of Section IA's teams.

It's going to be a tough grind no matter where Cornell draws. Imani knocked the Raiders out last year and has almost the whole team back. Vincentian has 6-2 Zach McDonough, averaging 29.7 points in the section. Monessen and Clairton are both senior loaded and Union has beaten Cornell twice by safe margins. The Raiders should get by their first round draw but that second round will be a challenge.

WPIAL Releases 2018 Football Schedules

The WPIAL has announced high school football schedules for 2018. They did not do local teams any favors, either in who they play or when they play them.

The dates are August 31, September 7, 14, 21 and 28, and October 5, 12, 19 and 26.

Cornell opens at Union, then plays Bentworth home, Sto-Rox away, North Gate away, Rochester home, Canevin home, Laurel away, Greensburg Central Catholic away and Sacred Heart at home. Bentworth played in 2A in 2017. Greensburg Central Catholic and Canevin played in the 1A Eastern Conference.

Sacred Heart opens at home against Sto-Rox, then plays NorthGate at home, Rochester away, Canevin away, Laurel at home, Jeanette away, Jefferson Morgan at home, Union away, and Cornell away.

Up in 2A, Carlynton opens with Fort Cherry, then plays Apollo Ridge, South Side Beaver, Serra Catholic, Riverside, Burgettstown, Brentwood, South Allegheny and Seton Lasalle.

Montour, in 4A, opens with Newcastle, then plays Laurel Highlands, Aliquippa, Blackhawk, Knoch, Highlands, Ambridge, Beaver and South Fayette.

Moon, in 5A, opens with Mars, then plays Pine Richland, Baldwin, Chartiers Valley, Bethel Park, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair, Woodland Hills and West Allegheny.

And West Allegheny, in Bob Palko's final season as head coach, opens with Chartiers Valley, then plays Bethel Park, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair, Woodland Hills, Baldwin, Hampton, North Allegheny and Moon.

Specific details about the playoffs are still being worked out. The WPIAL will announce those details sometime in the Spring.

Cornell Vents Frustration On Quigley 79-32

Cornell, frustrated after two losses to a Union team they still think they should have beaten, unleashed their wrath on Quigley Tuesday night 79-32.

It was never a game. Cornell grabbed a 19-10 first quarter lead and pulled out to 36-18 at the half. In the third quarter the Raiders outscored the Spartans 26-6 for a 62-24 advantage. Even with the reserves in, they held a 17-8 gap in the final quarter.

Desmond Ross led Cornell scoring with 18. That's Nadhama Luster wheeling to pass in the photo at right.

Cornell plays Fort Cherry tonight, then takes a break to prepare for the final week of the regular season. Next week will be a difficult one, too. Tuesday night the Raiders travel to resurgent Holy Family's 1930s relic gym in Emsworth. It's a tough place to play. There's no clock. At every dead ball the timekeeper at the scorer's table notifies each coach and the officials of the time. The scoreboard faces away from the benches, so someone has to keep stepping out onto the floor to relay the score to the coaches. There are two rows of seats along each side, with people in the front rows having their feet inbounds and players having to dodge them.

Union found it especially difficult Tuesday night, losing 80-76. Union led 17-12 after one and 29-26 at the half. The Scotties thought they iced it with a 23-18 third, putting them up 52-44. Then HF's Will Taylor went to work, scoring half his 35 points in a 27-19 fourth, tying the game. In the overtime Holy Family outscored Union 9-5. Union's Nate Meeks and Trey Charles, who beat Cornell, scored 21 and 19.

Union now has two losses and has to play Vincentian a second time Friday and at Rochester Tuesday. Cornell gets Vincentian, unbeaten in the section and #1 in the WPIAL, at home next Friday. If Cornell can win two next week and Vincentian or Rochester beats Union, it will give Cornell second place in the section and a draw that, while not ideal like the section champion gets, would still be favorable.

Another 4th Quarter Collapse Beats Cornell

These fourth quarter collapses are destroying Cornell's girls' season.

Once again, Monday night, Cornell completely died in the fourth quarter and lost 53-34 to Rochester.

It's bizarre. There is no obvious explanation. Cornell is a senior team hardened by three years of WPIAL Tournament experience. Last year, Cornell reached the second round of the State Tournament before losing.

The Raiders played Rochester evenly in the first quarter, trailing 8-6 at the end. By halftime, Rochester had pulled out to a 23-16 lead. The two traded baskets back and forth in the third, until Cornell caught fire. In a furious 13-6 rally, the Raiders tied the game at 34-34 entering the fourth. They had momentum. They were hitting from outside and working the ball inside. They were playing aggressive defense and shutting Rochester down.

And then they died.

Cornell did not score a point in the fourth quarter. Nothing. No layups, jump shots, free throws, not one shot. Meanwhile, Rochester ran off 19 points, for the 53-34 final.

The only Raider in double figures was Patience Gipson (shooting, left) with 13.

It left Cornell 4-4, a game behind Rochester at 5-3. The Raiders have a postseason berth clinched, and if they could put four quarters together could make another serious run. But a fourth quarter collapse will mean a quick exit.

Union Ends Cornell Title Dreams, 70-61

A slow start doomed Cornell Friday night to a 70-61 loss to Union and ended any chance for the Raiders to win the Section 1A championship.

Host Union ran out to a 24-16 first quarter lead. Cornell never could catch up. They outscored the Scotties 20-17 in the second to narrow the lead to 41-36 at halftime. But even though the two battled on even terms through the third and fourth quarters, Cornell could never quite tie it.

Much of that was due to Union senior Trey Charles, who scored from everywhere to end up with 27. In the first game, which Union won 61-55 in Coraopolis, it was Nate Meeks bombing away with six threes that did the damage. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco made sure that didn't happen again and Cornell did a good job shutting Meeks down. But Charles rose to fill the same role. Every time Cornell got within five points, Charles would score one or two to widen the margin again.

Kaden Divito led Cornell with 21 points. Nadhama Luster added 20.

The loss almost certainly locks Cornell into third place even if they upset #1 Vincentian in Coraopolis the final game of the regular season. The unbeaten Royals from McKnight Road are alone atop the standings. They still have to play at at Union and at Cornell but even if they lose both, Cornell now has three losses. Union is second with the loss to Vincentian and if they upset Vincentian at home Union would tie for first. If Cornell beats Vincentian that would give Union the championship. If Vincentian wins at Union, that leaves Union in second with two losses and Cornell third with three. If Vincentian wins at Cornell that would drive the Raiders down to four losses but still leave them in third.

Cornell Girls Clinch Postseason Berth 50-23

Cornell stormed to a 50-23 win over Andrew Street Thursday night before a nearly empty gym, cinching its ninth straight appearance in the WPIAL playoffs.

The Pittsburgh city school from near Kennywood Park was no match for the host Raiders. Cornell leapt to a 19-10 first quarter lead and pulled away for a 30-19 halftime edge. Andrew Street then collapsed, scroring only one free throw in the third and two layups in the fourth.

That's senior center Jaelah Smith scoring on a reverse lefthanded layup in the photo at right.

Myka Smith and Cymoni Harrison led scoring with 11 each.

In other games Thursday night, Quigley buried Union 63-16 and Sewickley edged Rochester 39-36. Unbeaten Quigley leads the section 7-0, with Sewickley second at 5-2 (both losses having come from Quigley). Cornell and Rochester are tied for third at 4-3.

The two meet at Rochester Monday night. A Cornell win would give the Raiders undisputed claim to third place. Rochester upset Cornell in Coraopolis earlier by one point, but senior point guard Nysia Miles missed thst game due to illness. With her back, hopefully the Raiders could avenge that loss. Cornell also gets another shot at Sewickley at home and has yet to travel to Quigley.

Raiders Win 66-37, Set Up Union Showdown

Cornell rolled over Holy Family Academy Wednesday night 66-37 to move to 6-2 in the Section and set up a Friday night battle with Union for second place.

The Raiders settled the Wednesday affair early, grabbing a 23-7 first quarter lead and extending it to 40-18 at halftime. After three it was 53-27.

Desmond Ross led all scorers with 23. Kaden Divito added 20.

Back in the section opener, Cornell suffered its worst shooting slump of the year while Union hit its highest percentage in several years, especially from three point range. Nate Meeks alone hit six long bombs. The result was a rare home loss, 61-55, putting Cornell at a severe disadvantage in the section race. The Raiders also lost at Vincentian to drop to 6-2.

Union has lost only at Vincentian, #1 in the WPIAL, undefeated and leading the section. But Union and Cornell each get one more shot at the Royals, Union at Newcastle and Cornell in Coraopolis the last night of the regular season. Both teams led during their games at Vincentian before getting into foul trouble. Cornell, for example, only lost by 10, 56-46, an easy margin to reverse at home. So things are a long way from settled. It wouldn't be the first time a Coraopolis or Cornell team has fallen behind with two losses early in the section race, then come back to win it.

Elsewhere in the WPIAL in Class A, Monessen, Clairton, Imani and Eden are leading their sections and looking like serious postseason contenders. Imani, the team which bounced Cornell from the WPIAL quarterfinals last year, returns four of five starters from that team, but so does Cornell. If Cornell can squeeze by Union, it gets a relaxed week next week, playing Quigley at home and then a road game at Fort Cherry.

Cornell Boys Sweep Western, 74-32

Kaden Divito (driving, right) and Desmond Ross between the two of them outscored Western Beaver 52-32 as Cornell beat the Beavers for the second time this year 74-32.

The game was never in doubt. Cornell led 19-12 after one and 37-24 at halftime. It was 55-30 after three.

Divito and Ross each had 26. They scored every way possible, on threes, jumpers, free throws, putbacks and layups.

Western Beaver was never able to deal with Cornell's pressure defenses and fast breaking offense.

The win sets up two key games this week. Tonight, Cornell hosts surprising Holy Family. The Emsworth academy has restocked its roster with several inner city players and is much better than last year, its first in the WPIAL. Holy Family is fourth in the section at 4-3 and is hoping to grab a postseason berth.

Cornell is now third in the section at 5-2, a game behind Union, which stands 6-1. If Cornell beats Holy Family it will close in on Union at 6-2, and can move into second by beating Union Friday night at Newcastle. Vincentian leads the section, but Cornell gets rhe Royals in Coraopolis the last game of the season. Union also gets one more shot at Vincentian.

Cornell does not have to win the section to advance to the playoffs. It can go as a runner up. But the winner gets a first round bye and then a favorable draw against runnersup from other sections. Runnersup have to play in the 16 team first round, then, if they win, face a section champion in the quarterfinals. Those are likely to be Eden, Imani, Clairton or Monessen.

Cornell Girls Blast Union 46-23

Cornell's embattled girls basketball team took out its frustrations on Union Monday night 46-23. The Raiders grabbed control immediately 15-5 and expanded it to 23-9 at halftime. At the end of the third quarter it led 36-15.

Scoring was spread out among everyone on the team as Coach Charles Langston substituted freely throughout. Hailey Leitner led with nine.

With point guard Nysia Miles having missed several games, Cornell has fallen out of contention for the section championship it won last year. Quigley stands alone in first place at 6-0. Sewickley and Rochester are tied for second at 4-2. Cornell is currently fourth at 3-3.

The top four teams go to the WPIAL playoffs, so Cornell is still in a good position for one of those slots. But section placing determines tournament seeding. If Cornell finishes fourth it will have to play in the Octafinals (round of 16) against a second place finisher from another section, then, if it wins, play a section champion. That would probably mean if Cornell won its octas matchup it would face Winchester Thurston or West Greene in the quarterfinals (round of eight).

To avoid that, Cornell needs to at least claw its way up to third place. To do that, the Raiders need to hand Rochester its third loss. Rochester won by one point in its first meeting with Cornell. If Cornell and Rochester tied for third place. Cornell has played a much tougher nonsection schedule and the computer algorithm would give the Raiders the higher rank.

Both Cornell and Rochester get one more shot at Sewickley. If they can win, it could cast the section into a three way tie for second place. In that case, Cornell's tougher schedule would again give it the higher rank.

Cornell Boys "Steal One Back" At Rochester

Cornell squeezed out a badly needed 44-37 road win at Rochester Friday night to keep alive its faint hopes for a Section 1A championship.

And it was a lot harder than the score suggests. Cornell held a slim 11-10 lead after the first quarter but Rochester went on a 12-2 run and led 22-13 at the half. Coach Bill Sacco straightened that out at halftime and Cornell exploded for a 17-5 third quarter and a 39-27 advantage. Rochester put up 10 in the fourth but it was too little too late.

Nadhama Luster led Cornell with 10. Elijah Goosby and Caleb Collins each had 11 for Rochester.

The secret to competing in the WPIAL is to win all your home games and steal a few from other contenders on the road. After Union upset Cornell at Coraopolis, the Raiders needed this one.

The section double round robin now enters the second half, although that's misleading since snow, ice and cold forced postponements over the last few weeks.

Undefeated Vincentian stands atop the section at 7-0. Union is second at 5-1, having lost at home to Vincentian. Cornell is third at 4-2. Cornell faces a busy week, with home games against Western Beaver and Holy Family, then a critical road game at Union.

Presumably Cornell will win the two home games although Holy Family has restocked its roster with several inner city recruits and is much better than last year. The Emsworth school has size and bulk inside, which is Cornell's biggest weakness.

But the big game is the one at Union. To have any chance at the section title, Cornell must win that one to avenge that earlier loss, inflict that second loss on Union, and avoid a third loss on its own record. The home loss to Union came during a deep Raider shooting slump, and the Scotties had their most spectacular shooting night of the year. Hopefully those two phenomena won't repeat at Newcastle.

Cornell will get Vincentian at home in February. It has to win that game and hope someone else finds a way to upset the Royals.

The Raiders can go to the playoffs as a runnerup, but would like the first round bye and favorable draw the winner gets. Last year Cornell ran up against Imani (from downtown Pittsburgh) and made an early exit.

Sewickley Pounds Cornell Girls, 50-32

Cornell's girls basketball slump deepened Monday night as they lost to Sewickley 50-32. Sorely missing point guard Nysia Miles, who has missed several games due to illness, Cornell lost the game in the first quarter as they fell behind 14-3. From then on the Raiders played their cross river rivals even but could never narrow rhe gap.

They also lost the game because of their inability to stop Sewickley's Samantha Smith, who scored 26.

The teams each scored 11 points in the second quarter but that left Sewickley up 25-14 at halftime. Sewickley then outscored Cornell in the third, 12-7 to hold a 37-21 lead. They outscored Cornell in the fourth 13-11 for the final edge. Myka Smith led Cornell with 11.

Quigley now leads the section with a 5-0 record. Sewickley is second at 4-1 (its only loss coming to Quigley). Rochester is third at 3-2. Cornell is fourth at 2-3. The Raiders can no longer hope to repeat as section champs, but they can still make the playoffs if they can get Miles healthy again and beat Union, Andrew Street and Rochester the second time around. Without Miles they only lost to Rochester by one point.

WPIAL Shuffles 2018 Football Conferences

The WPIAL has announced conference lineups for the 2018 football season. Some schools have moved up to higher enrollment classes, while others have moved down.

Cornell's 1A Conference adds Bishop Canevin and Laurel. It loses Western Beaver, Summit Academy and Shenango. So Cornell's conference schedule will now include Canevin, Laurel, Union, Sacred Heart, Rochester, Sto-Rox and Northgate. Western Beaver is merging with Lincoln Park with the joint team moving to 2A. Summit Academy and Shenango are also going to 2A.

Moon's 5A conference adds Peters Township. It loses Hampton, Fox Chapel and North Hills. So Moon's conference will now include Baldwin, Bethel Park, Chartiers Valley, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair, West Allegheny and Woodland Hills. Hampton, Fox Chapel and North Hills are moving to a new Northern Conference along with Armstrong, Kiski, Mars, Penn Hills and Shaler.

Montour's 4A conference loses Indiana, which has been complaining loudly about having to travel 100 miles for games from its location to the northeast of Pittsburgh. It adds Beaver, which moves up from 3A. Montour's schedule now includes Ambridge, Blackhawk, Beaver, Highlands, Knoch, New Castle and South Fayette.

Carlynton saw the biggest change. In 2A, the Cougars add Burgettstown, Fort Cherry, Seton LaSalle and South Side Beaver. They lose Avonworth, East Allegheny and Brentwood.

The WPIAL has struggled with conference alignments since rhe PIAA went to six enrollment classes. Many teams lost historic rivalries and have had to travel long distances. This realignment is an attempt to correct some of those problems. Because many schools are suffering declining enrollments, Class 6A has dropped to only one conference with nine teams. Class 1A still has three conferences. 2A is the largest division with four conferences. 3A and 4A have two and 5A has three.

Quigley Empire Strikes Back, 59-32

What a difference a year makes. Last season, Cornell drew the largest crowd in Coraopolis history for a girls basketball game and defeated Quigley in an epic battle for the Section championship. Thursday night, before a handful of fans, Quigley ran over Cornell 59-32 to grab a commanding lead in the Section.

Cornell opened up as if they were going to repeat last year's performance. The Raiders led 13-10 after a quarter. They were playing tight defense, moving the ball and hitting their shots.

But in the second quarter Halley Dutarosky and Taylor Kirschner took over. They moved around, through and over Cornell's defense, scoring from inside and out. By halftime, Quigley was up 24-15.

Cornell never really came back. After three it was 43-27. Quigley ended up with twice as many rebounds as the Raiders. Dutarosky led all scoring with 21. Kirschner had 18. So between the two of them they had 39 to Cornell's 32.

Cymoni Harrison led Cornell in scoring with nine.

The loss was Cornell's second at home in the Section and guarantees they won't be repeating as champions. But they can still earn one of the runnerup slots in the WPIAL tournament, which they've qualified for eight straight years.

Daeja Quick Enjoying Spectacular Freshman Year

Absolutely no one is surprised she's doing well. Daeja Quick led Cornell HS to its most successful year in school history, winning the Section championship, reaching not only the WPIAL title game in Pitt's Petersen Events Center but beyond that to the second round of the PIAA State Tournament. She was chosen WPIAL Player Of The Year and recruited by several colleges.

She chose the University of the District Of Columbia because she's majoring in Business Management and living in the nation's capital seemed like a good place to establish a fine network for use after graduation.

But no one expected Quick to explode onto the scene like she has. She's leading the Firebirds in scoring with a 15.7 ppg average. She leads the fast break and slashes to the basket through opposing defenses. She's been named East Coast Conference Rookie Of The Week three times.

Back in December she was actually averaging 20 points a game, but since entering conference play she's had to deal with being double teamed everywhere she goes. So she's been finding the open teammate and averaging 7.3 assists in the last six games.

Quick came off the bench in her first two games but quickly earned a starting role and has started the last 13 games.

The Firebirds are suffering through a losing season but nine of their 12 players are freshmen or sophomores as new coach John Nakpodia rebuilds the roster.

Cornell Boys Annihilate Mapletown 91-27

Unlike many schools, Cornell does not take a long road trip to an exotic location. The closest they come is the trek south to Mapletown, in Greene County along the state line near Morgantown, W.Va. It's such a drive that Coach Bill Sacco, who doubles as Athletic Director, hires a Greyhound Bus style motor coach.

"I'm too old to make that two hour trip in a school bus," he smiles. The chartered bus had a bathroom onboard, TV screens and other amenities. Mapletown is one of those Norman Rockwell villages trapped in the 1950s. It has covered bridges, farmhouses with wrap around porches, and a century old high school. If you take I-79 below Waynesburg and turn off you drive on a winding two lane road for 20 miles through a state game preserve filled with pheasants, deer and black bear. It truly seems like a set for a Walt Disney movie.

Tuesday night, the drive down was the highlight of the trip. The actual game was a non event. Cornell led 35-11 after the first quarter. It was 57-16 at halftime and 74-23 after the third. The 91-27 final was one of the most onesided wins in Cornell boys basketball history.

Nadhama Luster and Kaden Divito led all scorers with 17 each. Stats were a bit misleading because Sacco started sending in his freshmen early and played them more than half the game.

Cornell's pressing defenses, fast break, passing and cutting, and shooting were all razor sharp. They better be. This is the last exhibition game the Raiders play. From here on, they face the Section 1A grind, and they're a game behind.

Cornell is 9-3 overall but only 3-1 in the Section because of that upset home loss to Union. The Raiders face Holy Family at home tomorrow (Friday) and Vincentian at the McKnight Road crackerbox gym next Tuesday.

As usual, Vincentian is in first place with a 4-0 record. Cornell and Holy Family are tied for second at 3-1. Union is third but only because the Scotties had a game postponed due to weather and have a 2-1 record. The loss was at home to Vincentian.

Cornell has yet to go to Union. Holy Family has their best team since joining Section 1A. They stand 6-3 overall and could actually make the playoffs, which would be a first.

Cornell Girls Lose Heartbreaker To Rochester

Cornell's girls lost a heartbreaking game to Rochester 42-41 Monday night. It was a home loss which seriously endangers the Raiders' chances of defending their Section championship.

The Ewes won the game in the second quarter. Cornell led throughout the first period and held on 12-10 entering the second. But in the second Rochester outscored Cornell 11-6 to take a 21-18 lead into the halftime locker room.

The teams battled on even terms in the third, but Rochester hung on for a 33-29 edge entering the fourth. Cornell outscored the Ewes 12-9 in the fourth but came up one point short.

Neither team shot well and there were a lot of rebounds. Rochester found a way to outrebound Cornell despite the efforts of Jaelah Smith and Patience Gipson.

Gipson led all scorers with 11. She was the only Raider in double figures.

Overall Cornell has not been doing well, but the girls had won their first three Section games. This home loss looms large, however, with arch rival Quigley coming in tonight (Thursday). Cornell has only defeated Quigley once in history, a home win last year. Quigley, as usual, is favored to win the Section. Cornell doesn't have to win the Section to get to the WPIAL playoffs, but the winner receives the valuable first round bye and a favorable draw in the second round.

Cornell Boys Destroy Quigley, 78-43

Friday night belonged to Desmond Ross as Cornell ran section rival Quigley off its own floor 78-43. Ross, #4 in photos at right and below, turned in a triple double, with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. He's shown looking to feed the post, drawing two defenders before firing the assist to Isiah Langston (#3), and splitting two Quigley rebounders to get the ball.

Cornell grabbed control early. Layups by Nadhma Luster and Langston, a corner three, jumper in the lane and layup by Kaden Divito, and two layups and a free throw by Ross put the Raiders up 18-7 with 2:04 in the first quarter. A Ross baseline jumper, Luster layup and Divito corner three made it 25-15 at the quarter break. By halftime the spread was 50-21. Coach Bill Sacco substituted freely in the second half and finished with five freshmen on the floor.

Divito led all scorers with 22. Luster had 17. The biggest worry of the night was an ankle sprain by Zaier Harrison while scoring a layup at 4:42 in the third. He sat out the rest of the game with ice on it.

Cornell plays at Mapletown Monday night.

Andrew Street Completely Collapses, 51-9

Cornell's girls basically ran their fast break drill and practiced their plays Thursday night at Andrew Street. The host team, for whatever reason, was never a factor on the floor.

What word is appropriate for a 51-9 win? Perhaps the best description is to say Cornell suffocated Andrew Street. The hosts couldn't find breathing room against Cornell's pressing defenses and run run run offense.

The Raiders had 15 points before Andrew Street had one. At halftime it was 22-4. Midway through the second half Cornell led 39-6.

The reality was even worse than the score suggests. Cornell Coach Chris Langston substituted freely from the beginning, so Andrew Street was basically playing Cornell's B Team. And those nine points were from free throws.

And worst of all, the game was at Andrew Street, near Kennywood Park. In a few weeks the two play again at Cornell.

Despite playing only about half the game, Cymoni Harrison (dribbling at right) led scoring with 19. Jaelah Smith had 16. Keeley Brockington led Andrew Street with four.

It was a valuable road win for Cornell in the section. Rochester, Quigley, Sewickley and Cornell are ranked #3, #4, #5 and #6 in the WPIAL. This means four of the top six teams in the entire region are crammed into one section. West Greene (Washington County) and Winchester Thurston (Pittsburgh) are #1 and #2.

And now Cornell faces Rochester, Quigley and Sewickley all in a row, beginning with Rochester at home Monday and Quigley at home Thursday.

Those are must win games for Cornell because they will still have to travel to each team's gym, where victories will be much harder to achieve. Last year Cornell won the section on the way to the WPIAL championship game and two games into the State Tournament. This year, Cornell does not have to win the section but would like to for the first round tournament bye the winner receives. But of those four teams only three will advance to the postseason, so going unbeaten at home and stealing a win or two on the road is critical.

Cornell Boys Open 2018 By Routing Mohawk

Outside it was snowing and single digit cold, but Cornell's boys heated the gym up in a hurry Wednesday night with a 76-52 rout of 3A Mohawk.

The Warriors, who play in rugged Section 3-1 with Aliquippa, Lincoln Park and Ellwood City, could not deal with Cornell's pressing defenses and fast breaks off steals and rebounds.

The Raiders grabbed an early 22-15 lead and expanded it to 44-30 at halftime. It was 67-42 entering the fourth quarter and Coach Bill Sacco sent in the freshmen. They were outscored 10-9 in the final period.

Desmond Ross and Kaden Divito (shooting, right) led Cornell in scoring with 17 each, although they only played three quarters.

The win kept Cornell ranked third in the WPIAL. Union (Newcastle) is still #1 and Vincentian (North Hills) #2, meaning the top three teams are all in Cornell's section. Clairton is fourth and Eden Christian fifth.

Cornell's schedule for the next few nights is iffy. The Raiders are slated to go to Quigley (Baden) Friday and Mapletown Monday. But games all over the WPIAL are being cancelled if they're nonsectional or postponed if they're sectional due to the bitter cold and snow and ice. And Cornell has already called off school Friday.

Sacco wouldn't mind cancelling or postponing a game or two. It would give him time to get his inside backup, Kingwalden, back from a November stress fracture. Stefan Blackstone has been serving as the sixth man but he's more of a perimeter backup.

Weary Cornell Beats Brashear Second Time, 47-40

It was a game nobody wanted. The coaches said they would play in the Moon Tournament only if promised they were in opposite brackets so they could meet only in the championship game, since they had played in a hard fought regular season game just last week. Then they were pitted against each other in the first round. Cornell's players had just lost a heart breaker to Union the night before. They just wanted to sleep til noon and slowly recover over the holiday break. The fans clearly didn't care about it, since only a dozen or so showed up.

And Cornell clearly didn't have its legs. The Raiders were a step slow, had a hard time elevating for rebounds, and their shots were falling off the front of the rims.

Brashear, meanwhile, was rested and focused, intent on avenging their narrow loss to Cornell in the championship game of the Carlynton Tipoff Tournament.

Nevertheless, the Raiders somehow hung on for a 47-40 win that was in doubt until the final 25 seconds.

Brashear led the first quarter and until 4:04 of the second. They were picking off Cornell passes, mostly because tired Raiders weren't stepping to meet the ball, then firing downcourt for layups.

A Zaier Harrison layup, a Kaden Divito corner three, and a Nadhama Luster layup at the buzzer kept Cornell alive 9-13.

In the second, two Stefan Blackstone threes, one from the corner and one from the right flat, allowed Cornell to hang on until Luster took over. He soared high for a layup at 4:04 to put the Raiders ahead for the first time 18-17, then added two more (see photo below right) for a 22-17 halftime lead.

Harrison free throws and Desmond Ross layups pushed the lead out to 28-20 at 6:30 in the third, then Luster added a layup, Harrison a baseline J, and Sharone Bronaugh a free throw. But Brashear rallied with two threes from the flat, two layups and several free throws to cut it to 33-31 entering the fourth.

Cornell really faced a gut check in rhe fourth quarter. The Raiders were obviously tiring, and Sacco was substituting continually to keep fresh legs on rhe floor. Divito meanwhile was in deep foul trouble. Brashear used two layups to regain the lead at 35-33 only a minute in. Sacco called time. Somehow, Cornell summoned enough energy.

Isiah Langston hit a jumper in the lane to tie it and at 4:48 hit one from the baseline under contact, then added a free throw to put the Raiders back on top 38-35. Divito hit two free throws and Luster drained a three from on top at 3:59 for 43-35. Still, Brashear wasn't through. Two quick layups and a free throw narrowed it to 43-40 with 1:50 as Divito fouled out. But Sacco called for Cornell's trademark ball control weave, and the Bulls had to foul to get the ball back. Ross, Harrison and Blackstone drained free throws for the final margin.

Luster led all scorers with 14. Harrison, Divito and Blackstone had seven each. Desmond Ross led rebounders with seven. Luster, Harrison and Langston had six each. Langston blocked three Bull shots and Harrison contributed five assists.

Sacco was relieved afterward. "It's hard to beat a good team twice in two weeks," he told reporters. "But I'm glad we got this one. Now the kids can break for Christmas on a win, rather than have to mull over that Union loss until we get back together."

He agreed Cornell had been struggling. "Playing two days in a row is tough enough, but when the second game is at noon, you only have 15 hours to rest. Blackstone, Lopez and Bronaugh have been giving us a little more depth lately, and we really needed their minutes today." He's hoping to get Kingwalden back in January. Kingwalden has been out since November with a stress fracture.

Cornell will resume play on Thursday, December 28, in the Moon Tournament.

That's Desmond Ross at top right lofting a jumper from the lane, and Stefan Blackstone above left wheeling for the basket.

Union Deals Cornell Costly Home Loss 61-55

Union dealt Cornell a devastating home loss Friday night to seriously endanger the Raiders' hopes of winning the Section 1 championship.

The team from Newcastle did it with deadly shooting overall, especially by Nate Meeks, who personally beat Cornell with six threes.

"We kept leaving him open," Cornell Coach Bill Sacco. "I kept telling them never to let him even see the basket, and then we'd go out there and give him a few inches. All he needs is a few inches. He's an incredible shot." (He's #30 in two photos helow.)

Cornell entered the game ranked #1 in the WPIAL. But #2 is Vincentian and #4 is Union. So three of the top four WPIAL teams are in Section 1. There hasn't been anything like it since mid 20th century when Aliquippa, Farrell, Sharon, Beaver Falls and Newcastle were all jammed into the same section, all were ranked in the top 10, and only the winner could advance to the postseason.

"The secret to this is not to lose at home," Sacco explains. "You assume the top three are all going undefeated at home. So it comes down to which one can steal one from one of the other top two at their place, then avoid getting upset by, say, Rochester. Well, now, we're the one who lost at home. So we have the very difficult task of going on the road and either stealing one at Union or at Vincentian, then making sure we don't get upset by anyone. This adds a lot of drama to the season we were hoping to avoid."

Cornell was also hurt by the fact that it's in a serious two game shooting slump. None of its starters are hitting as well as usual, and Nadhama Luster is far below his average.

But the game was a nail biter from start to finish. Cornell led throughout the first quarter by from five to eight points, mostly on two threes by Kaden Divito and one by Desmond Ross. In the second quarter, both teams played intense defense, pressing and trapping, and 10 of Cornell's points came on runout layups off steals. The Raiders led 30-26 at the half. But Union closed the half with a three and opened the third quarter with another, cutting the lead to 30-29. Luster pushed it to 33-29 with a layup and free throw, but yet another Union three from the flat cut it back to 33-32. Cornell went to work. A Divito three from on top, and an Isiah Langston layup made it 38-32. A bizarre double technical resulted in six consecutive free throws but the score still stood at 39-34. A Ross follow, Zaier Harrison jumper, Ross three from on top, and Harrison layup and free throw left Cornell ahead 49-43 at the quarter break. But in the fourth, Union buried five threes and three free throws. Meanwhile, Cornell couldn't hit. Layups, follows, jumpers threes and free throws would dip deep into the basket, then somehow spiral out. Union went ahead 50-49 for the first time. Harrison put Cornell back on top 51-50. Ross and Harrison layups and two Harrison free throws were all the Raiders could produce. A key official's call with 1:54 was a turning point. Harrison had tied it at 55-55. Cornell was pressing. They came up with possession but the official ruled over and back. Union had been in possession. It was not over and back. Given the ball, the Scotties passed it to Meeks in the corner, who hit another three for 58-55. Divito's trey from the top rimmed out at 0:17. Cornell then had to foul to get the ball back, and Union sank free throws for the final 61-55 margin. Meeks finished with 22. Ross led Cornell with 19. Divito had 13 and Harrison 12. Langston led rebounders with 12. Ross had eight. Ross blocked five shots, and Divito had seven steals. "It was a great game to watch," shrugged Sacco.

Union Knocks Cornell JV From Unbeaten Ranks

Cornell's Junior Varsity Boys Basketball Team fell from the undefeated list Friday night with a hard fought 63-58 home loss to Union (Newcaatle).

These were two very good JV teams, who each played extremely well. But in the final analysis, Cornell lost it because Union enjoyed a spectacular shooting night, especially from outside the three point line, and Cornell could not hit free throws.

Union led most of the way, but often only by one or two points. When the Scotties would pull away, Cornell would close in back in. The Raiders grabbed leads early as Sharone Bronaugh (#50 jumping in the photo at right) hit a layup at 1:30 in the first quarter for 6-5 and Drew Lopez (splitting the defenders at right below) hit one at the buzzer for 10-9.

Union opened the second with a corner three to go up 12-10. Lopez hit a layup to tie it at 12-12 at 4:24, and Hashone Carry (#55 dribbling in the middle photo below) laid another one in at 3:48 to tie it one last time 14-14. Then three treys, one at the buzzer, helped Union build a 27-18 half time edge.

But Cornell kept battling. Layups by Bronaugh, Lopez and Kasi Carter (#32 shooting at left below) and a follow by Antonio Battaglini cut it to 29-26. Then a flurry of Union outside shots and mid range jumpers pulled the Scotties back out to 41-30 entering the fourth.

It took forever to play, thanks to numerous fouls, time outs and dead balls as both teams pressed and played aggressive half court defense. Early, Union was beating the press and getting open layups, which they used to build 47-31 and 51-35 leads. For a while, Bronaugh was doing the scoring for the Raiders. But Union began to tire, and Cornell launched its final rally at 4:05. Lopez kicked it off with a three and some free throws.

Layups by Carry and Robinson (#14 at left), rebound follows by Bronaugh and corner threes by Battaglini and Carry and suddenly Cornell was within reach at 61-58.

But only 26 seconds remained. Cornell called time as Carry's three went through and set up their press. They stole the ball once and launched the three that would have tied it. But it missed and went out of bounds.

They were called for a foul on the press, and two late free throws gave Union the 63-58 win.

Cornell missed enough free throws to win the game by a comfortable margin.

Lopez led scoring with 18. Bronaugh had 15, Battaglini nine and Carry eight.

Bronaugh led rebounding with 14, but that was inflated because Cornell kept missing so many shots.

Cornell starts five freshmen on its JV team and all its reserves are freshmen. Union starts three juniors and two sophomores and has two juniors and three sophomores coming off the bench.

So the Cornell Junior Varsity breaks for Christmas 3-1. They do not play in a holiday tournament. Their next game will be at home against Mohawk January 3.

Lopez and Bronaugh are getting increasing minutes as varsity reserves.

Cornell Girls Open Section Play With 60-18 Win

After a grinding December schedule of 5A, 4A and 3A opponents Cornell girls finally got to play somebody their own size : Class A Union. The result was a 60-18 rout that let everyone know the Raiders still intend to compete for the section title or at least a playoff berth.

Cornell exploded out of the gate. Cymoni Harrison sank a three from the corner and a two from the baseline, Myka Smith hit a three from the side, Nysia Miles scored two layups, Patience Gipson made two free throws, and Smith put back a rebound and with 4:51 in the first quarter Cornell led 16-0. Union finally scored but it was 20-4 at the quarter. The 2nd and 3rd quarters were a dazzling display of a Jaelah Smith hook, Harrison rebounds and putbacks and layups, Miles racing in for layups off steals and fast breaks, and several players hitting from the corner and the top of the key. Coach Charles Langston played reserves much of the game.

At halftime it was 31-11 and at the third quarter break 52-13.

Miles led all scorers with 18. Harrison had 15, Jaelah Smith 11, Myka Smith 7 and Patience Gipson 5. Maya Goins led rebounding with 10. Gipson had 8, Harrison 6 and Jaelah Smith 5.

Cornell Crushes Western Beaver 70-33

After their usual slow first quarter, Cornell rolled over Western Beaver 70-33 Tuesday night to remain undefeated on the season and in Section 1.

The host Golden Beavers were taller and heavier and had an Elvis look a like (#3 in both photos). This allowed them to keep the score tied at 5-5 and 7-7.

Then the three headed monster woke up. Nadhama Luster tapped in a follow, hit a free throw and scored on a layup off a Kaden Divito steal and assist. Divito stole another and laid it in. Zaier Harrison (#24 in photo below) hit a jumper from the flat and two layups off assists by Desmond Ross. Ross then laid one in off an assist from Divito and added a free throw, and suddenly it was 23-9 and the rout was on.

Two Luster layups and a layup and free throw by Harrison produced a 30-12 halftime score.

Coming out in the third, Ross hit a layup and Divito drained a three from above the circle and at 35-12 the game was over. Coach Bill Sacco used the rest of the second half to give his reserves, including the Jayvees, valuable playing time.

The bright spot of the evening was the extensive minutes turned in by Stefan Blackstone (driving in photo at right).

Blackstone came in when Isiah Langston picked up his second foul early in the first quarter. But he performed so well Sacco just left him in for the entire quarter and for long stretches from then on

"This really helps," Sacco told reporters later. "He gives us an experienced older player in that sixth man slot. He lets us give up a few fouls without being hurt, which in turn allows us to play defense more aggressively."

Luster led all scorers with 19. Divito had 16 and Harrison 15. Ross and Langston led rebounders with 10 each, with Luster adding seven despite being the smallest man on the floor. Divito contributed 10 assists and six steals while Langston blocked four shots.

The win sets up an early showdown with fourth ranked Union Friday in Cory. Union beat Quigley 77-39 Tuesday.

Cornell JV Outlasts Western Beaver, 42-36

Tuesday night's game at Western Beaver was a recipe for disaster for the Cornell Junior Varsity.

Road games in the WPIAL are always risky. Quirky officiating calls, odd gymnasiums and unfamiliar rims make life difficult. But Western Beaver added to those issues. The rural school along the Ohio state line started two tall, muscular juniors in 6-5 Jordan Kelleher and 6-4 Levi Hall. The Raiders are slender freshmen nowhere near that tall.

And sure enough, the Beavers grabbed a 4-0 lead and expanded it to 11-5 before Cornell went to work. Two quick threes tied it at 11 and another three by Antonio Battaglini (photo, right) put the Raiders up 14-11 with 4:40 til halftime. Drew Lopez laid one in for 16-12 and a baseline jumper by Tyler Robinson (below) held it at 18-14 with 1:03.

Battaglini and Lopez opened the third with consecutive layups to build a 22-14 edge. Battaglini's layup held it at 14-16 but a Western corner jump shot and on the next possession a follow cut it to 24-20. Two Lopez base line running jumpers kept the lead at 28-24. But a Western outside three cut it to 28-27 to close the quarter.

Western opened the 4th by retaking the lead briefly 29-28 on a layup. Cornell regained it 30-29 on a layup and then, next time down, a follow by Kasi Carter for 32-29. A steal and layup by Lopez pushed it to 34-29, and after a Western follow, Lopez laid another in for 36-31. Western, controlling the boards, scored on two more follows, but Tyler Robinson stepped up. He hit two free throws, a three from out on the left flat, then another free throw for the final 42-36 win.

In the final analysis, in a bruising physical game, Cornell outquicked the older, taller, broader Beavers underneath and outran them down the floor. The Raider defense continually came up with steals, firing the ball downcourt to breaking guards for layups. Lopez got all his points on fast breaks.

Lopez led all scorers with 11. Battaglini added nine and Kasi Carter and Tyler Robinson eight each.

The Jayvees got their reward later as they got into the varsity game in the fourth quarter for several minutes.

"They're coming along," Cornell Coach Bill Sacco told reporters later. "But they better be, because we're going to need several of them down the stretch to help us add depth on the varsity." With Stefan Blackstone now back and seeing significant minutes, that need seems less critical. But Lopez has already seen minutes in key games and Battaglini seems sure to do so more and more as the season continues.

So the Junior Varsity now stands undefeated on the season and 2-0 in the section. But both streaks will be in jeopardy Friday night when powerful Union comes to Coraopolis. They also bring an older, taller, beefier JV, but their players are quick and fast, so it won't be as easy to steal the ball and beat the defense downcourt for uncontested layups.

Cornell 7th & 8th Drop Doubleheader To Brentwood

Cornell's Middle School basketball teams dropped two close games to 3A Brentwood Monday night but should have won both.

In the B game, Cornell fell behind 18-12 at halftime and 28-19 after the third quarter. They then waged a furious rally, led by diminutive guard Carmine D'Alesandro (#2 shooting at right). His layups at 2:48 and 2:09 cut it to 35-30. Hunter Wegley's free throws at 1:39 made it 35-32, a D'Alesandro free throw at 1:17 narrowed it to 35-32 and another layup by D'Alesandro at 0:58 tied it at 35-35. But the visitors hit a layup and three free throws to pull out to 40. Ziggy Macintosh's free throw at 0:08 made the final 40-36. Macintosh led scoring with 17. D'Alesandro had 11.

The eighth grade game was even more frustrating. Cornell led 18-16 at half, 24-20 after three and 26-23 at 3:30. Brent- wood went up for the first time 27-26 with a layup at 2:16 and padded it with another layup at 2:01. Micah Dickerson pulled them back to one on a layup at 1:40, and held it at 31-30 with another layup at 1:13. Carmine D'Alesandro stole the ball at midcourt with 0:50 but the Raiders missed a shot and two follows. Brentwood went down and scored on a layup and free throw for the final 34-32 win. "We don't have a single shooter on this team," Coach Mike Smith said, "We get off more shots, and good shots, but can't hit."

Fourth Quarter Collapse Disaster For Girls 70-38

A game that seemed within reach with a fourth quarter rally suddenly went up in smoke for Cornell as Avonworth's girls went on a 24-0 run.

The 70-38 score sounds like a complete disaster. It was a disaster, but for three quarters Cornell just needed a good run.

At the end of the first quarter they trailed by only three, 11-8. Halftime was a still manageable 33-19 deficit. Cornell's pressure defenses allows it to score 10-12 points in quick bursts. And, in fact, the Raiders did come back and outscore Avonworth in the the third quarter. But then came that explosion in the fourth, when the Antelopes somehow ran off 24 points unanswered and a total 26-4 imbalance.

None of Cornell's senior starters got much done. Patience Gipson led the Raider scoring with 11. Hayden Robinson led Avonworth with 13.

Cornell's next opponent, Midland Lincoln Park, also lost, 50-37, to Jim Thorpe (in eastern Pennsylvania) 50-37.

Raiders Slam Rochester 45-30 In Section Opener

Cornell's three headed monster is now four headed. And it was too much for Rochester's Rams as Cornell won its section opener 45-30 Friday night.

It was Rochester Coach Brad Verrico who last year gave Cornell the nick name "three headed monster" after they drubbed his team. He was referring to Nadhama Luster (below), Kaden Divito (right) and Zaier Harrison. That trio is back and still have Isiah Langston underneath to keep defenses from pulling out to overplay them. But now Cornell has added Desmond Ross.

Rochester focused on shutting down Harrison and Langston inside. They succeeded. So Divito scored 13, Ross 12 and Luster 11 to lead Cornell. The best Rochester could do was nine points by Elijah Goosby.

Early on, Cornell kept trying to go inside, and with Rochester gumming up the lane and baseline, the Rams grabbed a 10-7 lead. But during the quarter break Cornell Coach Bill Sacco told his perimeter shooters to open fire. By halftime Cornell had gone on a 17-4 run and was in charge 24-14. The Raiders outscored Rochester 12-6 in the third quarter.

Vincentian won 97-78 at Holy Family and Western Beaver beat Quigley 59-38, so those three share an early 1-0 lead in the section. Union, also expected to be a strong contender, has not played a section game yet.

Cornell next plays at Western Beaver Tuesday night, then returns home next Friday for a key game with Union.

As of today, Cornell is ranked #1 in the WPIAL. But Vincentian is #2 and Union #3, so the top three teams in the WPIAL are squeezed into Section 1.

Cornell's schedule is backloaded this season. The Raiders get all of its top section rivals at home during the first half of the schedule. Then the Raiders have to go to Rochester, Vincentian and Union during the final half. But the Raiders needed that break. Their sixth man is recovering from a stress fracture and their seventh and eighth reserves are academically ineligible. Sacco is hoping all three get back in action before those three critical road games. Drew Lopez is coming on strong as a backup guard, but he's only a freshman and isn't ready to face the hostile crowds and gyms, especially the one at Vincentian.

Playing on the road in the WPIAL requires at least three reserves because visiting teams are guaranteed to pick up fouls on their starters. The WPIAL does not assign officials. Home teams hire their own officials.

Cornell's lack of depth has made its 4-0 record after three early road games impressive. But those were nonsection games.

"I've got to get in better shape," Desmond Ross told reporters. "Last year we had reserves so the starters kept coming out. This year we're pretty much playing straight through. It starts to get to you in the fourth quarter in a close game. We all play year round, so we're in good shape, but this lack of reserves requires us to be in even better shape."

Unlike the old days, Cornell doesn't have to win the section to get to the postseason tournament. The top four teams go. But its section standing determines its tournament seeding. The top team draws that coveted bye and will then face a runnerup in the quarterfinals. Last year, Cornell made the tournament, but as only the fourth seed was quickly bounced from the tournament by powerful Imani Christian.

Cornell Shots Fall, And So Does Brashear 49-18

Against Seton Lasalle, Shaler and Winchester Thurston, Cornell's pesky defense kept stealing the ball and the Raiders kept storming down court for layups, only to have them repeatedly rim out. Thursday night on the road at Brashear, those same shots fell. The result was not only a Cornell win, but a one sided win at that.

Suddenly Cornell's season looks a lot brighter. Brashear, in Beechview, is the largest high school in Pittsburgh with 1500 students. They compete in the 4A city league and made the playoffs last year, losing to Allderdice. The Cows (really?) start a 5-10, 5-9, 5-8 front line, have been hardened by games with North Hills, Fox Chapel, Bethlehem Center and Woodland Hills, and have been scoring in the 30s. Cornell was not favored.

But Nysia Miles (photo above) finally got her game together and led all scorers with 16. The senior point guard has been struggling to replace graduated Daeja Quick as the scoring guard while also serving as the point guard and feeding everyone else. It's a delicate balance, and she seems to now have found it.

Senior center Jaelah Smith (left, wheeling into the lane) turned in her best game of the year. Cy'moni Harrison was back in the lineup after missing a game recovering from a concussion suffered against Shaler.

The Raiders opened up a 15-9 first quarter lead, but won the game with an 18-0 second quarter run. That seemed to demoralize the Cows.

Cornell doesn't have much time to relax. They play Midland Lincoln Park next. The 5A Leopards have upset Winchester Thurston and are playing this week in the Disney Classic in Orlando. But those earlier Cornell losses are looking better. Shaler Thursday night rolled over 5A Moon 41-15 and Seton Lasalle won 64-49 at 3A Steel Valley. Last year's Raiders also began 1-2 and ended up the winningest team in school history.

Ross Leads Cornell Over Northgate 60-32

Desmond Ross scored 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead the Cornell Raiders over Northgate Tuesday night 60-32. The game against the AA Flames at their Bellevue hilltop gym was never in doubt. Cornell grabbed a 24-2 lead early, pushed it to 38-9 at the half, and 48-23 at the end of three.

Other Cornell scorers were Kaden Divito with 18, Nadhama Luster 12, Isiah Langston nine and Zaier Harrison five. Northgate scorers were Ryan Whetsell with nine and Patrick Wemette and Malcolm Randall with eight each. Other Cornell rebounders were Luster with seven, Langston with six and Harrison with four.

It was a night to practice the offense and the stats showed it. Ross, Luster and Divito each contributrd five assists, while Harrison added four. That's Harrison at right scoring on a layup after a pass from Ross, #4, in the background. It was also a night to tune up the Raiders' pressing, trapping defense. Harrison totaled eight steals. Divito added seven, Luster five.

The win left fourth ranked Cornell 3-0. The Raiders open Section 1 play Friday night with a home game against Rochester. Last year the two split, each winning at home, but both were close and hard fought. Coach Bill Sacco was clearly satisfied with the Northgate win but is concerned about his team's lack of depth. Rochester thus far has defeated Western Beaver 56-44 and Oak Glen (W. Va.) 55-53, but lost to Carlynton 44-42.

Cornell Much Improved But Still Loses, 41-31

Cornell looked much improved Monday night but still lost at home to top ranked Winchester Thurston, 41-31.

The visiting Bears were just too tall for Cornell, whose tallest player is center Jaelah Smith (shown at right shooting).

Smith played an outstanding game despite picking up her second foul at the 5:03 mark in the first quarter. That put her on the bench for a while, and when she returned she was instructed by the coaches not to contest opponents' shots. That allowed her to remain in the game, and she led her team with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Maya Goins (driving, below) started in place of the injured Cy'moni Harrison and played her best game ever in a Cornell uniform. She only scored four points, but her baseline drives drew the defense in and let her dish passes to open teammates. She played aggressive defense and helped Cornell steal the ball repeatedly. She battled relentlessly for rebounds against the taller, stronger Bears, and even though she didn't get very many, once her opponent brought the ball down Goins would tie them up for jump balls. Her ballhandling helped free Nysia Miles and let Miles operate at point guard as the defense had to keep an eye on Goins.

The other bright spot in the evening was Patience Gipson, shown below ripping away a rebound and spinning to look for the open teammate. Gipson also had only four points but battled for rebounds and played intense defense.

All of this sounds like the game was much closer than 10 points and, in fact, it was. The Raiders grabbed a 4-0 lead on Gipson's layup and Goins' set shot. Thurston finally caught up and slipped ahead 7-4 on a layup at the buzzer to end the first quarter.

Cornell's pressure defense bothered Thurston. The home team continually stole the ball or tied up the Bears for jump balls. But Cornell couldn't score. Their layups and jumpers were blocked time after time, and they weren't hitting from outside.

In the second, a Goins jumper cut the gap to 7-6 but a Thurston follow and two layups pushed it to 13-6 with 4:51. Jaelah's jumper made it 13-8 and a Goins follow kept it at five at 15-10. A Thurston free throw at the buzzer gave them a 17-10 halftime lead. But that free throw was on Jaelah's third foul, further hampering her activity.

Thuston opened the third with a layup and free throw for 20-10. From that point on, Cornell battled oin even terms but could never cut into the margin except for a few times when they narrowed it to eight.

Nysia Miles tried her best to drive and slash to the basket but, her shots distorted by the taller defenders, she couldn't get any of them to fall. A dozen of her layups rimmed out. Had just five of them dropped in, it would have been a different game.

Jaelah Smith led all scorers with 11. Miles had seven, Myka Smith five and Goins and Gipson four each.

Cornell's coaches were understandably disappointed. "If you had told me this morning we would hold Thurston to 41 points, I would have thought sure we would win," Head Coach Charles Langston told reporters. "This is our home floor. We shoot really well in here every day in practice. I would have expected us to score 50 or 60. But we couldn't hit anything. I know Thurston was taller and many of our shots were blocked or badly distorted or hurried. But we had other shots which were open. We missed layups and short jumpers. We didn't even shoot free throws very well. We missed enough free throws to win the game."

Assistant Mark Bolla was concerned about Nysia Miles. "Nysia's trying to shoulder the burden of being both our point guard and our leading scorer. But that's not working. We may have to move her to #2 guard to free her up for better shots, We might move Myka out to the point. If we had Myka driving, and then dishing off to Nysia, that would give Nysia the advantage of coming in from the side rather than her having to drive down from the top."

With Cy'moni Harrison out indefinitely, Cornell's bench is even shorter. Lexie Bourne is now the sixth girl, with Amirah Bethel seventh. The lack of depth prevents the Raiders from pressing as much as they'd like.

Coming up next are Brashear on the road, Avonworth at home, and Lincoln Park away. Those are all bigger schools and none will be easy. Langston planned an intensive film session Wednesday. "We've got some good film from this game we can learn a lot from," he said.

Cornell Survives Slow Start To Edge Brashear 65-56

Playing before an almost empty gym on a cold and snowy night, Cornell and Brashear put on a great early season basketball game for the Carylton Tournament championship.

After trailing for almost the entire first half, Cornell switched defenses in the third quarter, came back and somehow won over the taller and beefier Bulls from the Pittsburgh City League.

But the first half didn't look promising. Brashear opened with a pressing defense and fast breaking offense and soared ahead 10-2. Zaire Harrison's layup and Desmond Ross' jump shot (see photo, right) pulled the Raiders back to 10-6. A Kaden Divito jumper, Z three and Luster layup ended the quarter with Cornell down 13-12.

The second quarter seesawed. An Isiah Langston corner three and Divito layup put Cornell up 22-16. But then Brashear stole the ball several times off its 2-1-2 press and scored on layups. Layups by Ross and Z kept Cornell within reach at 30-26 at the half.

Two quick layups by Luster and one by Divito gave Cornell a 32-30 lead it would never again relinquish. Luster's corner three and free throw pushed it to 35-32. A Ross three and flurry of Luster scores --- he hit two layups and a follow --- made it 45-36, and Divito and Z layups off steals gave Cornell a 47-41 lead entering rhe fourth quarter.

Still Brashear wasn't done. Free throws, a jumper and two layups brought them back to 49-48 with 5:32 left.

Then Cornell unleashed a flurry. Z free throws, layups by Luster, Ross and Langston, and a 15 ft. jumper by Divito gave the Raiders a 60-49 lead with 2:40 to go. Brashear went back to its 2-1-2 press to gain possessions and score layups, but Cornell countered with its patented outside weave to use time and draw fouls and free throws.

Luster finished with 18, followed by Divito with 17, Harrison with 13 and Ross with 11. Divito and Luster were named to the All Tournament Team and Luster was named Tournament Most Valuable Player. The team posed with its tournament championship trophy at midcourt. This is the second straight time Cornell has won this tournament, over much larger schools.

"I thought our going to the zone stopped Brashear's momentum and stopped their driving the lane," Cornell Coach Bill Sacco told reporters. "I also thought for some reason it energized our kids. Luster really helped us on the boards, which was special since he was the smallest man on the floor." That's Luster at left driving.

The Raiders play at Northgate Tuesday night.

Harrison Hospitalized
Cornell Girls Drop Two At Ambridge

It was not a good opening weekend for the Cornell girls. They scheduled a tough December and knew they'd lose some games, but they didn't expect to be 0-2.

Playing in the Ambridge Tournament, the Raiderettes lost to Seton Lasalle Friday night and Shaler Saturday. Both schools, much larger and from higher classes, were taller than Cornell and had more depth. But that's not what beat them. Turns out, they miss the graduated Daeja Quick and Bella Langston more than expected. They haven't quite figured out what to do on offense yet. Nysia Miles, last year's point guard, apparently will have to shoulder more scoring this season, but to do that might need to move over to #2 guard. That would bring Cy'moni Harrison or Myka Smith up to the point.

And senior center Jaelah Smith picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter of each game. Without her in the middle, Cornell breaks down on both offense and defense. Smith is not usually foul prone, so hopefully will stay on the court more in future games.

Miles had a great tournament and made the All Tournament Team.

In both games, Cornell had plenty of good shots, including a dozen layups, which they missed. Their press bothered both teams and gained them the ball back, setting up layups, which they couldn't hit. Shaler jumped out to a 15-4 first quarter lead, then held it 23-10, 34-21 and 44-33.

That's Patience Gipson above, #42, battling the taller Shaler Huskies for a rebound. At left, #4 is Nysia Miles releasing one of her layups while sending a Shaler defender to the floor. This one went in, but she only made three.

Myka Smith led all scorers with 11. Miles had seven and Jaelah Smith six.

Cy'moni Harrison received a smashing elbow to the face in the fourth quarter trying to rebound under the Shaler basket. She was disoriented, and was taken to Sewickley Valley Hospital for Concussion Protocol tests. Results were not available as this article was posted.

Unfortunately, there will be little time for Cornell to recover. Cornell hosts the #1 ranked team in the WPIAL, Winchester Thurston, Monday night. Last season Thurston defeated Cornell in the WPIAL championship game, 52-41. Nyanna Townsend, Thurston's 6-2 All State center, is back for her senior year along with two 6-0 teammates.

Coach Charles Langsford was understandably disappointed. "We didn't play with confidence," he told reporters afterward. "We've looked much better in practice. We've made shots for the last month that we missed this weekend, and many of those shots were wide open. We also played a bit slow, a bit tentative, like we were trying to think our way through rather than just react to what the defense gives us."

Cornell Boys Beat Hopewell After Shaky Start

Cornell won its opener 64-42 over AAA Hopewell in the first round of the Carlynton Tipoff Tournament Friday night.

But the win came after a rocky start. The first quarter was "one of the worst we've played in a long time," Cornell Coach Bill Sacco told reporters afterward.

The Raiders were each trying to beat Hopewell 1-on-1. There was no passing, screening or cutting without the ball going on. Cornell's suffocating defense was shutting down the Vikings, but poor shot choice was resulting in lots of misses. The result was a ragged quarter. Hopewell grabbed a 9-5 lead and expanded it to 11-7. Sacco had had enough. The quarter break huddle was not pleasant.

Back to their usual crisp passing, sharp cutting and rapid ball movement, the Raiders started finding open shots. Zaire Harrison's layup off the fast break cut it to 11-9. Desmond Ross tied it with one fast break layup, then seconds later put Cornell ahead 13-11 with another.

For good measure, he drained a three from the flat for a 16-11 lead. Kaden Divito hit a fast break layup to push it to 18-11. Isiah Langston put in a followup, and Zaire Harrison hit two free throws and a jumper from the top of rhe key for 24-14. Ndhama Luster added a layup and free throw for the 27-14 halftime lead.

The third quarter was pretty much a rout. Harrison started it with a three and Divito sank one from the deep corner and one from the center circle. Everything else was a layup or putback with a few free throws. By the end of the third quarter, Sacco had begun substituting and the score was 47-27.

He put the starters back in briefly in the fourth quarter to practice their plays, especially an outside weave which used up time and kept the score reasonable. But Cornell finished with the JV team in.

Zaire Harrison led all scorers with 19. Divito added 16 and Ross had 15.

"It's good to get back to playing with these guys," Ross told reporters back in the dressing room. He spent the last two seasons at Sacred Heart. "I grew up with them and I love being on this team."

It was a rough game. Divito landed hard several times after being swatted to the ground trying a layup shot. But he popped back up immediately.

Cornell's lack of depth was noticeable.

With his sixth man on crutches and two others academically ineligible, Sacco is testing his bench. He sent Drew Lopez in early in the third quarter and seems to be gaining confidence in him. Lopez is a perimeter player but does have good ballhandling skills and is a decent defender.

"I don't know what that first quarter was," Sacco groused afterward. "It sure wasn't basketball. Everybody trying to play the other team 1-on-5. Once we got that confusion straightened out we looked pretty good. This is a AAA school, so a win like this is always good. But we have a long way to go if we're going to make a tournament run."

Cornell plays the Carlynton - Brashear winner at 7 pm Saturday night.

Cornell Middle School Splits With Fort Cherry

Cornell Middle School's boys basketball teams split a pair with Fort Cherry Thursday night in the Raider season openers.

WPIAL rules allow a school to declare either a 7th Grade team or a "B" team composed of both 7th and 8th graders. Only four boys from this year's 7th Grade tried out, so the school has opted to compete as a "B" team.

True 7th graders on the roster are Anderson Bando, Hunter Wrigley, Connor Hays and T.J. Lee. Brought down from the 8th grade are Carmine D'Alesandro, Tristan Carlisle, Vincente Navarro, Dion McIntosh, Shawn Godfrey and Trey Battle. Fort Cherry also played a mix of 7th and 8th graders.

Cornell proved to be fast and quick and frustrated Fort Cherry on offense, stealing the ball repeatedly and rebounding misses and beating the visitors down the floor. But Cornell has no shooters. The Raiders hit only seven of 45 shots for 15%. They missed layups, short jumpers and free throws. Fort Cherry was no better, hitting only three of 30 shots for 10%.

Lack of gym time is a problem for most middle school teams at small schools. With boys and girls high school varsities, JV teams, middle schiool and grade school teams sharing one gym, practice time is limited. In Coraopolis, for example, gyms at the old high school, junior high, YMCA and Neville high school are gone. The entire school district is down to a single gym. And this lack of time is showing up in poor shooting.

So Cornell won the game on defense. They led 4-0 after the first quarter, 7-4 at halftime, 13-7 entering the fourth quarter and won 20-9. McIntosh led all scorers with six. D'Alesandro added four and Carlisle 3. Shawn Godfrey (shooting in the photo at left) led rebounders with 8.

The eighth grade lost a game they should have won. Fort Cherry is a AA school with a much taller lineup. They defeated Cornell by 30 points last year, and looked like they were going to do it again, jumping out to a 13-4 lead with 0:46 left in the first quarter. But the Raiders battled back to tie it at 15-15 on Jason Keene's fast break layup with 0:27 left in the half.

The two battled back and forth throughout the third quarter. Keene put Cornell ahead for the first time 19-17 with a layup at 4:59. Fort Cherry went back up 21-19, but Patrick Scott's layup at 3:43 tied it again at 21-21. (That's Scott in the photo, right, hooking a pass to Micah Dickerson). Mike Smith drained a three from the corner to give Cornell a 24-21 edge. Although Fort Cherry hit a layup and free throw to go back up 25-24 to end the quarter, Cornell looked to have the momentum.

Then Cornell decided to abandon its inside game and rely on threes and free throws in the fourth quarter. Carmine D'Alesandro and Keene did hit threes from the deep corners, and Mike Smith and Carmine scored on free throws. But it wasn't enough. Dickerson's layup was the only shot in the lane the Raiders made in the quarter. They continued missing threes and the taller Fort Cherry rebounders controlled the boards. Slowly, the visitors pulled way for a 42-34 win.

Keene led all scorers with 11. Dickerson added 10 and Scott six.

Both teams next play Eden Christian on the road. Eden Christian is in the North Hills, near West View.

Cornell Tunes Up Against Winchester Thurston

Cornell's boys used their final preseason scrimmage to fine tune details before heading to Carlynton Friday for their opener against Hopewell.

The WPIAL regulates preseason scrimmages tightly. A team can only schedule two. The typical format includes six 10:00 quarters. Four match varsities. The other two match JVs. Certified officials are used, so the scrimmages are also a warmup for them. No running score is allowed. Each quarter the score begins again at 0. The public may attend but no admission is charged. Tuesday, only the east bleaches were pulled out, and a good crowd showed up.

After their playoff run last year, Cornell worked all Summer, at camps, in the weight room and on the courts in Coraopolis. The results showed on Tuesday.

Ndahma Luster, the senior point guard, is much stronger, has added a few moves, and although last year he was lightning quick, he seems to be a step quicker now. That's him in the photo at left, having drawn three Thurston defenders, and about to dish the ball out to Desmond Ross (out of the picture). That's also Luster above, posting up on the block. Very few point guards go down to the post, but Luster can sky with the best of them, and his doing so befuddles the defense. If his usual defender tries to follow him, he's out of place down low. If the defense switches, Luster can outquick most big men. His strength allows him to hold his position when bulkier opponents try to shove him out. In the photo above, you can see Luster bracing his feet and pushing back against the subtle shove by the defender.

Zaire Harrison and Kaden Divito aren't wide eyed freshmen anymore. They're hardened veterans. They move with more confidence and have more instinct for the ball, especially on defense. They also have better judgement as to when to drive, when to pull up and shoot, and when to dish off.

The panoramic shot above shows the Cornell starters. In white jerseys, from left, are Divito, Harrison, Isiah Langston (in yellow sleeves), Ross and Luster.

From last year's lineup, the best off season improvement has been by Isiah Langston. He has a variety of new moves, is much smoother, and makes much better decisions. He's moving much better without the ball and has vastly improved on defense. Langston was good last year. This season he's going to be dangerous, a legitimate threat every time down the floor.

And then there's Desmond Ross, the transfer who played with this group in grade school and middle school but then enrolled at Sacred Heart for two seasons. He returns to fill the gap left by graduated Antonio Gary. Gary was an undersized but very effective center last year, using his strength and cunning to neutralize opposing big men. But for all his value, Gary operated mostly on the block, in the lane and along the inner baseline. Ross is taller, quicker and much more versatile. He can hit consistently from either corner, roam the perimeter and handle the ball in give and go matchups. If defenders give him space, Ross can drain the three, but if they move out and play him tight, he has a good first step and can drive the baseline.

Last year, Cornell produced another outstanding eighth grade team. Up from that team are several promising JV players. One of them, Drew Lopez, shown in the photo above, will almost certainly see varsity time. Lopez is a smooth ballhandler, a good shot, and a sticky defender. He's still adjusting to the higher speed of the high school game, and faces a size disadvantage, but with one player injured and two out for academics Lopez will help temporarily solve the depth problem.

Against Thurston, Cornell showed a consistently aggressive defense. At times, it overwhelmed the visitors. In the second and fourth quarters, Cornell outscored Thurston 10-3 and 19-2. As Sacco tried different combinations and defenses, Cornell outscored Thurston by 16-10 and 20-13 in the other two varsity quarters.

The JV team played the same aggressive defense but at times had trouble scoring. They're obviously still thinking their way through Sacco's sets and movements. But they still outscored Thurston 10-0 and 12-2.

Thurston was taller at every position. Three of the five starters and the top two reserves are back from last year, when they compiled a winning record and advanced to the playoffs as a section runnerup. But their section champion was Imani Christian, which beat Cornell in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Thurston lost in the playoffs to Union, which split its two games with Cornell. This Thurston team is picked to battle Imani and St. Joe's for the section championship, so was a good indicator of where Cornell stands entering the season.

Charles Langston Takes Over As Cornell Girls Coach

For the last several years, Cornell has been a rising WPIAL Girls Basketball powerhouse. Last year, they reached the championship game at Pitt's Palumbo Center before losing to Winchester Thurston. As the runnerup, Cornell advanced to the PIAA playoffs, where they defeated Farrell before losing to North Clarion.

Coach Shawn Urbano and his entire staff then resigned and took over the program at Canon McMillan. Bella Langston and WPIAL Player of the Year Daeja Quick graduated. Langston is now at Penn State, Quick at the University of the District of Columbia, an NCAA Division II program.

Hired to keep the program at that high level is Charles Langston (photo, left). Langston is a Coraopolis resident and the father of Bella. He played his college ball at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, which competes in the Pennsylvania State Conference as an NCAA Division II member. He's been coaching in the Cornell system for a long time---as a matter of fact he coached these same girls when they were in grade school. During the day, Langston is a counselor at Cornell. Interestingly, he majored in Creative Writing and earned a Masters Degree in Writing and Rhetoric.

"I keep trying to write a novel," he smiles. "But I'm not very far along. I've written a little poetry. Now that I'm a varsity coach, I don't have time. Maybe next Summer I can get back to it."

The writing gene runs in the family, though. Daughter Bella is majoring in Journalism at Penn State and is already writing for the campus daily newspaper.

To help him keep Cornell on a successful level, Langston hired Mark Bolla (photo, below). Bolla played at Langley HS in Pittsburgh, then coached for 42 years, first in a few elementary schools, then at Canevin, then back at Langley. His full time job is as a counselor at Summit Academy.

"I'm lucky to have him," Langston tells reporters. "He complements me perfectly. He and I have different strengths, so together we can offer the girls a complete package. Plus the more I know about him, the more impressed I am."

As a third member of their staff, the two have Mason DePetro, a former Cornell player who is attending Penn State at Beaver County. Mason is officially an intern, but she's a full scale on the floor coach. She also helps fill in on some of the drills when a girl is absent. Mason is in the blue shirt with red tinted hair in the photo three frames down.

The coaching staff faces an interesting season. On the positive side, they have seven seniors and a few juniors and sophomores who gained great esperience last year in the WPIAL and PIAA Tournaments.

On the negative side, they lost their leading rebounder in Bella and one of the greatest athletes ever to play at Cornell in Daeja. Quick averaged 27 points a game and Bella averaged in double figures in both points and rebounds. So Cornell has to somehow make up over 30 points a game and 10-12 rebounds a game.

However, Bella tore her ACL in February and missed the last games of the section plus the entire tournament. Jaela Smith and Patience Gipson had to step up and take over the rebounding and scoring load, and the other girls had to pitch in with a few additional points and rebounds each. Somehow, they did. They beat powerful Quigley for the section title and reached the PIAA quarterfinals without Bella. So they've already learned how to play without her.

The loss of Quick is another matter. But Langston has a very analytical approach to that problem.

"Daeja was a gifted athlete, there's no doubt of that," he admits. "But it's also possible to rely too much on a talent like that and become out of balance. There were times last year when the girls would stand around and let Daeja do it all. Our solution to replacing Daeja is to bring all the girls into the offense, develop all their talents, so we give the defense so many more problems to solve it can't solve them all."

That begins with Nysia Miles. Daeja was so dominating people thought of her as Cornell's point guard. But she was never a point guard. She was a shooting guard. Nysia was the point guard. And Nysia's back. Nysia is as good a point guard as any in the WPIAL.

And it builds around Jaela Smith(shooting in photo, left, and pivoting with the ball in the photo below). The slender left handed senior has been battle hardened against the top rebounders in the WPIAL. She's proven she can hold her own against taller, heavier girls. Smith is smooth, quick, smart, with good instincts, good hands, good ballhandling skills and a deft shooting touch. Under Langston's prodding she is expanding her game, adding shots and moves. In a recent practice, she drove down the side of the lane with her left hand, suddenly pivoted into the lane, shifted the ball into her right hand, dribbled it once and went up and shot it right handed. It dropped through. "If she can do that in a game, she'll be impossible to stop," Langston promises.

Cy'moni Harrison and Myka Smith join with Miles to give Cornell the best guard trio in the WPIAL. They can all handle the ball and shoot. No team will be able to trap or double on any of them, or drop any of their defenders down to help on Jaela Smith, or the one they leave unguarded will score.

And meanwhile, roaming the baseline, is Patience Gipson. Gipson came on late last season, when Bella was lost. She's a consistent rebounder and while she's not a shooting threat from outside, she can score from anywhere inside.

Coming off the bench Langston has Maya Goins, Amirah Bethel and Alexis Bourne. Goins is a solid athlete who lost most of last year rehabbing a torn ACL. Bethel played two years ago but sat out last year. Bourne played key minutes in reserve on the tournament run.

Under Urbano Cornell played sort of a motion offense, but he kept Miles, Quick and Harrison mostly high and on the perimeter and Langston, Smith and Gipson mostly in the lane and along the baseline. Langston and Bolla are teaching more of a college style positionless offense.

"I don't have anyone 6-2," he says. "We're all guards." Accordingly, he and Bolla are spending practice time teaching the girls how to pin or seal defenders, about passing angles, about how to take what the defense gives.

"I had girls afraid to shoot, afraid I'd take them out if they missed," he explains. "I need them to relax and shoot. With Jaelah and Patience in there, if they miss, we'll get the rebound and pass it back out to them. but the defense has to know they'll shoot, so it can't drop off them and clog the lane or double on someone else."

Langston and Bolla want the girls moving, moving, moving. "We can't let the defense relax. There has to be constant pressure. Any time a defender pauses to take a breath, we should be cutting to the open spot."

Cornell won't go through December undefeated. It's a difficult schedule, designed to toughen the team for the rugged Section wars. Seton Lasalle, Ambridge, Knoch, Brashear, Winchester Thurston, Lincoln Park, Moon and Avonworth will be a grind. "They'll expose our weaknesses, that's for sure."

Cornell Boys Cautiously Optimistic

Last year everyone who watched Cornell talked about its potential, with a core of great freshmen, a talented junior point guard and a mix of really good juniors and sophomores.

Despite their youth, Coach Bill Sacco's Raiders made it to the playoffs, then routed Geibel Catholic in the octafinals before losing to Imani Christian's 1-2-1-1 press in the quarters. Everyone talked about how "Next year this team is really going to be something."

Next year is here.

The team enjoyed a great Summer of camps and games and the ones who didn't play football worked on their games in September and October. Preseason practices in November have gone well, as did the scrimmage last week against AA Shenango.

Finally, it's time to raise the curtain on the 2017-2018 season. Friday night in the Carlynton Tournament, Cornell plays AAA Hopewell.

Sacco will start Ndhama Luster at point, Zaire Harrison and Isiah Langston at the wings, and Kaden Divito and Desmond Ross at forwards. In the photo at right, that's Ross going up for the shot and Divito at far left.

It won't be an easy December. Cornell faces a mix of 3A, 4A and 5A opponents. One player is on crutches and two academically ineligible, seriously cutting into the depth chart. There are new faces to work into the lineup. And this year the Raiders won't surprise anyone. Every team will be trying to knock them off.

The Section won't be easy, either. Rochester and Union will be tough again and Vincentian Academy, able to recruit over the entire North Hills, will be formidable again.

But Sacco has been coaching 50 years, coming to Cornell after stints at Moon and Ambridge. He can match Xs and Os with anyone as long as he has the pieces.

This year, he has them.

Luster is an experienced point guard, a slick ballhandler, clever passer, good shot and adept at driving to the basket. Going airborne in the lane, he has outstanding body control and if he draws the defense, he's very good at dishing the ball to Divito or Harrison.

Those two complete what opposing coaches call Cornell's Three Headed Monster. By last February, scouting reports on Cornell read as follows: Luster, Divito and Harrison present a Three Headed Monster. You've got those three guys roaming the perimeter and slashing to the basket, and no matter who you key on, it's awfully hard to shut down all three. Most teams have either one or two really good defenders.

When you get down to your third best defender, he's going to have a hard time with a really good opponent. And that's what Cornell does to you. They take up your two top defenders and then exploit your third best."

And after experience in last year's playoffs and all Summer, this warning will be even more true. Divito, Harrison or Luster can each easily score 20 points. In Monday's practice, Divito hit five straight shots from the perimeter.

Harrison is a particularly versatile athlete. He's the starting quarterback for the football team, and although Cornell suffered a losing season, he ranked among the WPIAL's top 20 and first among sophomores. Divito and Luster worked out with the football team even though they did not actually play. So the three are well conditioned, rugged and can match opponents under the boards if anyone wants to get physical. That's Divito blocking a shot at right.

The defense can't afford to trap or double because of Langston. He usually only scores and rebounds in single digits, but is quite capable of stepping up when needed or when his defender gives him a little daylight.

The fifth cog in the wheel is Ross. Although he's from Cory and grew up with the rest, he transferred to Sacred Heart for his sophomore and junior years. He came back to Cornell for his senior year. He replaces graduated Antonio Gary, but is taller, quicker and more of a scoring threat.

Victory At Last, 22-6

On a cold, damp Halloween Friday at Frank Letteri Stadium, Cornell's Raiders rose from the dead to shock Northgate 22-6 and end the longest losing streak in school and town history.

Ir was sweet revenge. Last year Northgate had administered the worst defeat in Cornell and Coraopolis history, 76-0.

The win fulfilled a prophecy quarterback Zaier Harrison had made back in August, before the season began. "We thought Northgate rubbed it in last year," he told reporters. "We were mostly freshmen and they were mostly seniors and they kept their starters in the whole way. We've thought about that game and talked about it the whole off season. If we don't win any other game this year, I'll promise you we're going to beat Northgate."

The year hasn't turned out the way Cornell hoped. They thought surely they would win four or five and maybe grab an at large playoff berth.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. With a mostly sophomore lineup sprinkled with a few seniors and juniors, Cornell could not compete with mostly senior lineups. Northgate, meanwhile, had upset fourth ranked Sacred Heart and playoff bound Sto-Rox and had hopes of again making the playoffs.

But Harrison and senior running back Keyshawn Sheppard were ready. Harrison completed 12 of 23 passes for 144 yards and added 57 yards rushing. Sheppard carried 24 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

Cornell never trailed. In the first quarter, Harrison found Amaiis Peters for an eight yard pass, then ran the PAT in himself for an 8-0 lead.

Northgate came back in the second on a 41 yard pass from Christian Davin but the PAT pass failed and the Raiders held on at 8-6.

Then Harrison hit Sheppard with an 11 yard pass for the TD and Peters in the end zone for the PAT and a 16-6 halftime lead. Sheppard scored the final TD on a six yard run. The pass failed and the Raiders led 22-6 entering the fourth quarter. That score held.

Cornell entered the game 0-17 over two seasons since reestablishing football after four years of no team.

Harrison's stats (144 passing, 201 total) left him 17th among WPIAL quarterbacks, third in class A and first among sophomores. Of the 16 QBs ahead of him, 13 graduate.

It's been a rough uphill battle for Cornell, but the tide now turns. The Big Seven Conference has been dominated by juniors last year and seniors this year. Graduation will decimate those teams. Cornell's battle hardened sophomores now rise to 11th grade, with a sprinkling of juniors rising to 12th grade. The Raiders return a gifted QB and talented receiver corps. They will have a prolific offense. IF the defense matures, the Raiders will join Sacred Heart as a major 2018 contender.

Cornell Losing Streak Continues, 48-0

Cornell lost again Friday night at Sto-Rox in a 48-0 debacle that was over at halftime.

The Vikings led 42-0 by that point. They only scored one second half TD but Cornell was never able to sustain a drive.

Sto-Rox entered the game only 2-4, having upset Summit and Western Beaver. But the Vikings exposed a weakness that has plagued Cornell all year. The Raider coaches have tried to disguise the problem with clever play calling and strategic defensive alignments, but Sto-Rox had them well scouted and went for the jugular early.

The weakness is speed. Cornell doesn't have it. Not on offense or defense or the line or the secondary. On defense, even when they break into the opposing backfield, they can't chase down the QB or the ball carriers. If a runner turns the corner and heads upfield, Cornell can't catch him. Wide receivers beat defenders to the ball and then outrun them with it.

On offense, Cornell receivers have a hard time getting open and when they do catch passes they can't outrun the defense. Runners may break through the line but are quickly caught. If they turn the corner and head upfield, they're quickly caught. If defenders break into Cornell's backfield neither QB Zaier Harrison nor any of the running backs can evade them.

Much of this is age. The difference between a 15 and 17 or 18 year old player is significant. Cornell's young players are facing faster seniors. But there is such a thing as a very fast freshman or sophomore. The Raiders don't have any of those.

For all of its game plan, Sto-Rox still wasn't able to totally shut down Harrison. The sophomore completed 14 of 30 passes (his worst game of the year) for 94 yards. Cornell in total only gained 99 yards. The other five came on five different runs of one yard each.

Despite missing all of the Western Beaver game, half the Shenango game with an ankle injury and having a sub 100 effort at Sto-Rox, Harrison still ranks in the top 20 among WPIAL quarterbacks, third in Class A and first among sophomores.

Sto-Rox scoring was evenly distributed. The Vikings scored twice in the first quarter and four times in the second. QB Deion Liddell completed seven of eight passes for 114 yards and two TDs. Ahmad Pack scored on a 10 yard run. Sedric Riddick caught a 13 yard pass from Liddell. Davonte Williams scored on a one yard run. Riddick caught a 35 yard pass from Liddell. Tawain Larue ran it in from the 15. Riddick caught an 11 yard pass from Eric Wilson. And Jaldon Berry ran it in from the seven.

Sto-Rox is struggling with low numbers and inexperience and with a finale at 4th ranked Sacred Heart this weekend is not favored to pick up a fourth win. Cornell closes out the year at home vs. Northgate. The Flames handed Cornell its worst loss in school history last year, 76-0.

Friday The 13th Disaster, 47-16

Cornell's beleagured Raiders approached the Shenango game optimistic. They had begun to jell and played Sacred Heart and Union tough. This was a winnable game.

But Disaster struck Friday night at the Lawrence County stadium. First, Cornell lost two starters, Justin Walsh and Stefan Blackstone, before the game ever began. Then star quarterback and defensive captain Zaier Harrison went down with an injury.

The result was a 47-16 avalanche at the hands of a 2-4 team that Cornell on paper was probably better than. It was a dramatic reminder of exactly how difficult it is for the smallest public high school in Western Pa. to field a football team and just how slim is the margin for error.

Shenango didn't take long to crank up its offense. The Wildcats received, went 3 and out, Cornell went 3 and out, and Harrison punted. Young ran it back 43 yards at the 7:53 mark. Cornell took the kickoff, went 4 and out, and Shenango took over on the Cornell 40. After a long grinding drive, Carlton Sluder powered in from the three and with the kick it was 14-0.

In the 2nd quarter, the teams exchanged 3 and outs until Maxwell Reamer hit Young on a 52 yard pass. The kick made it 21-0.

Finally, Cornell kicked its own offense into gear. Alternating passes and runs, the Raiders reached the Shenango 15. A high snap forced Harrison to chase the ball down at the 30. But Cornell came back to the three yard line and on the next play Harrison ran it in. He also ran the PAT to make it 21-8 with 5:08.

With 2:15 Reamer unleashed a 70 yard pass to Young. The successful PAT made it 28-8.

With 0:19 remaining, Harrison found Amaiis Peters in the end zone for a 25 yard pass. Again, Harrison ran the PAT for a halftime score of 28-16.

Still, At this point Cornell felt optimistic. The Raiders were scoring two on every PAT to Shenango's one. Keyshawn Sheppard, Amaiis Peters and Eric Olexa were running well and Harrison was finding holes in the Shenango secondary. If Cornell could score twice in the second half, they could pull ahead 32-28. It would all come down to defense. All Cornell had to do was shut Shenango down. Based on the defense shutting down Sacred Heart and Rochester the previous two weeks in the second half, that seemed a reasonable goal.

Cornell received to start the third quarter and, sure enough, they passed and ran to a first down on the Shenango 30. It was looking good. Then, running to the 25, Harrison went down with an ankle injury.

Harrison (left and above) is the key to Cornell. He's not only a dual threat quarterback, but from his position in the secondary directs the defense. With him out, things unravelled quickly. QB replacement Blaine Sams actually did a respectable job, completing a few passes and running well enough to keep the defense honest. But Harrison has developed into the finest sophomore quarterback in the WPIAL, and that's hard to replace.

So Cornell failed to score on that drive. Shenango ground out a long series and at 6:03 scored on an 18 yard run by Young.

Still, Cornell kept battling. Sams took them all rhe way down the field but what would have been a TD pass was intercepted on the five. On the very next play, Young ran it 95 yards up the sideline. With the kick, at 4:53 it was 40-16.

The final Shenango TD came just a minute into the 4th. Brayden Smiley ran it in from the 24.

Cornell was unable to get anything further done on offense. Three Raider passes were intercepted and the Wildcats spent most of the 4th quarter grinding out short ysrdage on the ground.

Young finished with a Shenango High School record five TDs. Reamer completed 5 of eight passes for 157 yards.

Playing only half the game, Harrison completed 11 of 23 passes for 156 yards. His statistics now place him 18th among WPIAL quarterbacks, third among Class A quarterbacks, and first among sophomores.

How serious the ankle injury is will not be known until Monday. Cornell has two games remaining, at Sto-Rox this Friday and next Friday at home against Northgate. Both teams are suffering losing seasons, but Sto-Rox has a 36-18 upset win over Western Beaver and Northgate upset Sacred Heart 29-28. With his numbers declining, Cornell Coach Ed Dawson's options are shrinking. At one point at Shenango, he turned and looked up the sideline. "Do I have anyone who's not injured that I can put in?" he pleaded.

Cornell had its cheerleaders, marching band (below) and an enthusiastic throng of fans make the hour drive to Shenango.

Cornell Targets Shenango For First Win

Cornell's Raiders proved to their fans and themselves that they've arrived as a football team by playing Union down to the final second last Friday night before losing a 22-20 heartbreaker.

Now they need to win a game.

And time is running out. There are only three games left in the 2017 season : Shenango, Sto-Rox and Northgate.

Shenango is first up. The Wildcats are suffering through a disappointing 2-4 year, having defeated Sto-Rox and Northgate but losing to Rochester, Western Beaver, Summit and Fort Cherry. They're scoring points but have not been able to stop opponents from scoring.

This was supposed to be a big season for Shenango. They had been to three straight WPIAL playoffs, winning their first games each year. And they're loaded with experienced seniors.

On offense, the Wildcats have quarterback Max Reamer 6-3, 195), and two star running backs : Josh Young, 6-1 165) and Brayden Smiley (5-10, 185). A senior line is led by Dakota Peters. They clear the holes and lanes and the backs grind out the yardage on the ground. Shenango is not a passing team unless the opponent brings up the defense to stop the runs.

On defense, Shenango linemen Ty Smith, Andrew Sietam and Peters control the middle while Reamer, Young and Smiley lead the secondary.

Cornell figures to test that defense. Quarterback Zaire Harrison's statistics have been impressive, especially as his receiving corps has learned to hang onto the passes he throws. He's got receivers Eric Olexa, Stefan Blackstone, Justin Walsh and Tamir Fisher.

Harrison can also run the ball or hand off or pitchout to Keyshawn Sheppard, Walsh or Olexa.

The Raiders have been losing but not because of their offense, which is averaging three touchdowns a game. Their problem is their defense was allowing seven, then six, touchdowns a game until recently, when they've shut opponents down to four and then three TDs a game.

To their credit, Cornell's players have kept their chins up and continued to work hard each week. It's easy for losing teams to become demoralized and play halfheartedly. But the Raiders have continued to fight.

Thursday, being the day before a game, was a light no pads practice. It began with the players running a passing game in which various combinations of players streamed into the end zone and battled to see who could get open and catch the pass. All players, including linemen, were involved. Above is Harrison (#7) going up for a catch. To the left is Corey Johns (#99), 5-7 225 junior.

The rest of Thursday's practice consisted of going over offensive plays, defensive alignments and special teams kickoffs and punts.

At right, Offensive Coordinator Shelton Colbert runs his offense through their plays. Harrison (#7) has just handed off to running back Keyshawn Sheppard (#8) who is preparing to dart through a hole off tackle.

Despite its losing record, Cornell has evolved a potent passing attack. It forces teams to pull their defenses back to cover Harrison's stable of receivers. The Raiders need to develop a running game to take advantage of those spread defenses. Shenango's defense is not particularly fast or quick. The Wildcats do not recover well. If Cornell could send those receivers downfield and instead of passing hand off to a running back, the holes will be there. If opponents respected its running attack, Cornell could also line up in a running formation and slip a receiver or two down the side.

Game time at Shenango is 7 pm. To get there from Cory, take I-79 north to Exit 99, then take State Route 422 West to Shenango, which is just outside Newcastle. Driving time is normally about an hour, but allow a little more due to rush hour traffic on I-79 and 422.

HEARTBREAK, 22-20

Cornell has turned the corner. No one is talking anymore about this being a "very good JV team," or "trying really hard but just too young." The Raiders have grown up into a varsity. They're playing with the big boys now. They're playing them even and they're scaring them.

Cornell outplayed Union Friday night. They outplayed them in the air and on the ground, on offense and defense. They led at halftime, at the end of the 3rd quarter and with 2:50 left in the game. The only time they didn't lead was at the end, and they were one completed pass away from doing that.

Union scored with 2:48 left to go ahead and then held off a furious final Cornell drive to escape 22-20.

Statistically, Cornell lost the game on points after touchdowns. On its first two TDs, Cornell failed to score the extra points. The Raiders don't have a kicker. They tried one run and one pass. Neither scored. Had they scored either time the game would have gone into overtime. With Zaire Harrison, Eric Olexa, Tamir Fisher and Jalen Lee all constant scoring threats, Cornell would have had at least a 50-50 chance to win it in OT. But they never got there.

Make no mistake. This is a very good, very underrated Union team. They now stand 6-1, ranked 7th, and play Sacred Heart and Rochester the next two weekends. The Scotties have already clinched a playoff berth, and could easily win the conference. And they brought their A game to Cornell.

"We didn't take these guys lightly, I can assure you of that," Union Coach Stacy Robinson told reporters after the game. "We watched plenty of film. They've been battling hard every game. They're the best 0-6 team in Pennsylvania. They've got athletes. They always have athletes. They've had athletes since I was playing against them back in the 1980s. Yeh, sure, their athletes are young. But man are these guys going to be tough next year. They're way overdue to upset somebody and we didn't want it to be us. So coming in here we knew we better be ready. We were definitely not looking ahead."

The game began as a defensive struggle. Neither team could get much done. Finally, with 3:44 left in the first quarter, Union quarterback Evan Pinkerton connected on a 16 yard pass to Michael Flowers in the end zone. Pinkerton ran in rhe Point After Touchdown and the Scotties led 8-0.

But not for long. Cornell took the kickoff and began a long drive. Harrison scored on a 13 yard run to make it 8-6. The PAT run failed.

Again, neither offense could get much done for most of the second quarter. Then Cornell launched a long drive and Harrison scored on a five yard run. The pass for the PAT failed, but Cornell led 12-8.

This was where Cornell has traditionally worn down in the third quarter and the opponent has slowly pulled away. No more. Cornell's defense shut Union down for the entire period.

But on the third play of the fourth quarter Flowers scored on a two yard run to give Union a 14-12 lead. They tried a pass for the PAT but it failed.

Again, both defenses held, until with 5:45 left Harrison found Olexa in the end zone. This time, Harrison ran the PAT in and Cornell led 20-14.

Cornell's home crowd, which has not witnessed a victory in seven years, was on its feet.

Cornell made a huge gamble at this point. The Raiders tried an onside kick, reasoning that Union would never expect it and if Cornell could gain possession, they could run out the clock.

But Union gained possession. On the 48. Seven plays later, Flowers ran it in from the five on an off tackle slant to tie the game at 20-20. Union called time. Robinson chose to pass it. QB Evan Pinkerton hit Jayson Pasquarello for the two points to give Union the 22-20 lead with 2:48 left.

Still it wasn't over. Cornell took the kickoff and started driving. They reached the Union 23 with 30 seconds left. On third down, Pinkerton broke through the Cornell line and sacked Harrison. Which left fourth down for the game. Cornell sent Olexa, Fisher and Lee downfield, but Harrison's pass fell incomplete.

Harrison was magnificent in defeat. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 181 yards and one TD, plus 80 yards rushing and two more TDs.

"The kid's going to be a star," Robinson said later. "He can pass and run. He sees the field. He has quick hands and feet. He reads defenses well. For the next two seasons, Harrison is going to give a lot of defensive coordinators a lot of sleepless nights."

Union's Flowers led all rushers with 83.

Cornell travels to Shenango next Friday.

Racetrack Finishes With "Pittsburgh 100"
The local 2017 dirt track racing season ends Saturday as the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway holds its 29th annual Pittsburgh 100. Time trials and qualifying heats will be held tonight (Friday) with the three features tomorrow. Starting time for the first feature will be 7 pm. The feature in the Unlimited Late Models, the professional division, carries a $20,000 purse. Jon Hodgkiss of Kennedy Towmnship won the regular season points race in this division and will be favored tomorrow, but 100 laps puts a lot of pressure on cars and drivers and the regular season winner rarely wins the 100. In the Limited Late Models, the "Crates," Justin Lamb of Findlay Township was the regular season points champion.
Could Cornell Steal Its First Win Against Union?

Four games remain in the 2017 Cornell football season and Coach Ed Dawson's Raiders are still hoping to get a few wins. The sophomore and freshmen loaded team, basically a "very very good JV team," has played better in each game this year and is beginning to look like a varsity. It played its two best games the last two weeks against Rochester and Sacred Heart, the two best teams in the conference. This week's opponent, Union, is at best the fourth best team in the league, so Cornell is hopeful of pulling off an epic win.

But it won't be easy. Union Area High School, in Newcastle, is one of the largest schools in WPIAL Class A and has 40 players compared to Cornell's 17. It was a preseason top 10 team which suffered a disappointing 30-6 loss to Western Beaver but is still 5-1 and hanging onto a #10 ranking. The Scotties have a solid line, led by senior three year starter Reno Million (6-1, 200, Tackle). He opens holes for runners on offense and breaks through into opponents' backfields on defense. Like Cornell, Union's linemen play offense, defense and special teams, but unlike Cornell, Union's linemen are all seniors.

The Union offense is led by senior quarterback Evan Pinkerton (5-8, 150). He is not a great downfield passer but is pretty good in the short field. His primary option is handing off or pitching out to senior running back Tre' Charles (5-10, 180). Charles is most of Union's offense. He doesn't break too many long runs but consistently grinds out four and five yards per play. Charles is hard to bring down and will lunge forward for extra yards even when tackled.

On defense, Pinkerton directs teammates from his defensive back position. Charles plays safety. Union is not particularly quick or fast on defense, but with all seniors is smart and experienced.

They've seen pretty much every formation and play and know how to adjust.

This could be a trap game for Union. They play #5 Sacred Heart, #3 Rochester and arch rival Shenango on the next three weekends. It will be hard not to be looking ahead.

Union's special teams could be a weakness Cornell could exploit. Union does not have a strong kicker and is not particularly successful at returning punts and kickoffs or defending against opponents returning punts and kickoffs.

Union does not have depth or a core of good receivers.

Their main advantage is that they are older, taller, heavier and stronger than Cornell and have all been starting for three years.

However, Cornell quarterback Zaire Harrison has become the best sophomore in the WPIAL and gives the Raiders a potent weapon. Cornell receivers are catching more and more of his passes, which will spread the Union defense and open holes and lanes for runners. Cornell does not have a single runner to equal Charles, but has an array of runners that can come at Union from different angles.

The game will probably be decided on the line. Cornell must avoid bad center snaps and keep Million out of its backfield, especially away from Harrison.

Cornell Narrows The Gap, 48-18

Normally, a 48-18 loss to a crosstown rival wouldn't be much to take pride in.

But when you're restarting a football program from scratch and playing mostly sophomores and freshmen against one of the WPIAL's top varsities, you take your victories where you can find them.

Cornell lost by 30 points to Sacred Heart Saturday night at Moon Stadium. But it was the Raiders' best effort in two years, with plenty to take pride in. Last year OLSH won 46-0.

This Our Lady Of The Sacred Heart team is a major contender. They're definitely the second best team in the conference and their showdown with Rochester next week should decide the championship. The Chargers return plenty of starters from last season's playoff team, among them quarterback Tyler Bradley, who threw for 2040 yards and 20 TDs in 2016. The senior loaded line is experienced and has size and strength. As of today (Sunday) the computer services have OLSH ranked fifth in the WPIAL, behind Clairton, Jeanette, Rochester and Imani Christian.

Undaunted by all this, Cornell sophomore quarterback Zaire Harrison fired a 17 yard pass to Tamir Fisher for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead. The extra point runner was tackled short.

It was the first time in two seasons Cornell has led in a game. And the Raiders were not willing to relinquish that lead without a fight.

Sacred Heart came back to score on a 60 yard Richard Banks run, but the kick was wide. So the first quarter ended 6-6.

Cornell battled OLSH on even terms for the entire second quarter and went to halftime still tied 6-6. This is a potent Charger offense, and holding them to six points for a half was the best defensive effort by the Raiders in two years.

Due to injuries and other issues, however, Cornell is down to only 17 players. With the same players having to play on offense, defense and special teams, and Sacred Heart able to substitute, the Raiders began to wear down in the third quarter. The Chargers slowly took control of the game.

Banks scored his second TD on an 18 yard run and added the PAT for a 13-6 lead. Jack Graff intercepted a Harrison pass and ran it back 25 yards, then ran the PAT in for 20-6. Bradley passed 25 yards to Sig Saffner, although the PAT pass was overthrown. Graff ran one in from the one. Andrew Schwarre picked off another Harrison pass and ran it back 25 yards. And, finally, Bradley hit Banks on a 25 yarder.

Still, Cornell wasn't done. Harrison hit Jalen Lee with a beautiful 48 yard pass. Minutes later he found Eric Olexa for a 26 yarder. Three TDs are the most Cornell has scored in one game since the program was restarted last year.

For the night, Harrison completed 20 of 32 passes for 196 yards.

For Sacred Heart, Bradley completed 13 of 21 passes for 208 yards.

Cornell's Jalen Lee caught seven passes for 106 yards. Teammate Eric Olexa caught six passes for 59 yards.

Sacred Heart's Banks led all rushers with 110 yards. Banks also led OLSH receivers with four for 51 yards.

The Cornell coaching staff was philosophical. "Progress. We're making progress. Game by game. It's a slow uphill process. But we need to win one of these. The kids are working hard, but they need to see some reward for all their time and effort."

Cornell did solve its center snap issue, at least for this one game. Its receivers are doing a much better job of holding onto the ball, and penalties are way down. If the Raiders can score three TDs a game, they can be competitive. Their next priority seems to be defense. They're going to have to find a way to hold opposing offenses to three TDs instead of six or seven.

While OLSH prepares for its showndown with Rochester, Cornell prepares for its home game against Union. The Newcastle team is 5-1 after losing to Western Beaver 30-6. But they have yet to play OLSH, Rochester or Shenango.

Cornell Turns Attention To Sacred Heart

Winless Cornell this week focuses its attention on Saturday's game with Our Lady Of The Sacred Heart.

At the midpoint of the season, Cornell is still struggling with bad center snaps, most of them over the head of the quarterback. If Cornell lined up its quarterback with his hands under center, and the center kept his hands on rhe ball while he lifted it off the ground and handed it to the waiting fingers of the quarterback, the problem might be manageable. But Cornell has its center five yards back in the pro set offense currently so popular. That means the center snap is actually a pass made to an unseen player, as the center has to keep his eyes forward to see the oncoming defensive center.

In practice this week the Cornell quarterback repeatedly has to reach way over his head and sometimes the ball is too high to reach even with a jump. Over and over. With several different players doing the snapping.

These problems used to be worked out with seemingly endless drills at the Junior High and Junior Varsity (sophomore) levels. But during the four years when it dropped football, Cornell had no Junior High (grades 7-8-9) or Middle School (grades 6-7-8) teams. So this year's varsity players never played in those grades. And no one can center the ball.

The center snap problem masks improvement in other areas. Cornell receivers are holding onto the ball much better and players are tackling much better. Cornell's running backs are cranking out yardage much better. But none of those things can happen if the quarterback has to chase down the ball after the center snaps it over his head.

A football play depends on precise timing and deception. As the ball is snapped, various blockers, runners and receivers begin their assigned routes. The opposing defense is not standing still. Linebackers, corner backs and safeties are moving to cover all those receivers and runners. There's only a window of a second or two for the quarterback to hand off, pitch out or pass, and for runners to dart through holes or receivers to find gaps in the defense. If the quarterback has to bobble the ball or chase it down, by the time he regains control, the defense has filled those holes, covered those runners and found those receivers. The deception occurs as players conceal the ball during handoffs. A play unfolds quickly, and it can be hard to keep track of where the ball is. But if the ball is high in the air or bouncing along the ground, everyone in the stadium can see where it is.

Cornell only has two days of practice remaining to straighten out the center snap problem before the Sacred Heart game.

Sacred Heart, meanwhile, has also suffered through a frustrating season, although at a much higher level. After seven seasons of football, last year the Chargers made the playoffs for the first time. With many of those players back, OLSH was highly ranked in the preseason and considered a lock for the playoffs this year and a strong challenger for the Big Seven Conference championship.

Instead, the Chargers lost their first two games, 28-21 to Beaver South Side and 29-28 to Northgate on a last second field goal. They've come back to beat Carmichaels 34-13, Western Beaver 41-6, and Summit 26-18. But they have yet to play Rochester, Union and Shenango, all fighting for those playoff spots. Currently, OLSH is ranked 10th in the WPIAL.

Junior quarterback Tyler Bradley threw for 2040 yards and 20 TDs last year. But he had four outstanding senior receivers. This year, with a new receiver corps, his numbers are way down. Senior Khali Reeves missed his junior season with a torn ACL but has done well in the first five games. Running backs are junior Austin Wigley and senior Jack Graff. Wigley gained 624 yards last year. Five returning starters anchor the line : Andy Aubrey, Biagio Shipman, Dominic Cook, Connor White and Jacen Young.

#3 Rochester Rolls Over Cornell, 49-12

Cornell's Raiders played their best game of the season, displayed a strong pass attack, significantly cut down their errors, and scored two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough. #3 Rochester rolled to a 49-12 win to remain undefeated and keep their hopes of a WPIAL title alive.

Rochester won this one the same way they've won all their others this year and last : They unleashed a voracious ground game and scored almost all their points by halftime, then coasted in the second half.

Ram quarterback Mahlik Strozier, who last year was a wide receiver, didn't even attempt a pass until the fourth quarter. He tried three, all incomplete.

Instead, Rochester ran the ball relentlessly. They rushed for 417 yards in the hands of five carriers. Senior running back Caleb Collins carried 19 times for 152 yards. Senior QB Strozier carried nine times for 143 yards. Darius Goosby carried seven times for 72 yards. Dahrell Duke carried seven times for 41 yards. And Zane Jeffers carried seven times for nine yards.

Those were also the guys scoring the TDs. Strozier scored four, Collins two and Jeffers one. They were on runs of 48, 30, 18, 15, 14, three and one.

Cornell's stats look drastically different. Rochester's defensive line absolutely slammed the door shut on any running attack. Raider ground stats are comical. Zaire Harrison carried once for four yards. Tymir Fisher carried seven times for a total of seven yards. No one else gained a single yard, as Cornell finished the game with a grand total of 11 yards rushing.

Part of the reason Cornell had such low offensive stats was that Rochester controlled the ball for most of the game. The Rams did score a few TDs on long runs, but most of their offense consists of old fashioned power football with short gains of three and four yards. They eat up the clock and rarely have to punt. Rochester ran up twice as many yards as Cornell primarily because Rochester ran twice as many plays.

But there are other ways to move the football. Harrison, a sophomore, completed 13 passes for 213 yards and both TDs. Justin Walsh caught five for 59 yards, Keyshawn Sheppard caught three for 44 yards, Eric Olexa caught three for 70 yards and Tymir Fisher caught two for 40 yards.

In the first quarter, Fisher caught a 15 yarder to cut the Rochester lead to 13-6. Then, in the fourth quarter, Olexa caught a beautiful 61 yarder. On both extra point attempts, Cornell tried passing, but failed.

Despite the final score, Cornell actually played its best game of the season. Last year, a Rochester team of mostly juniors beat Cornell 49-0. This year, against the same Rochester players now seniors, Cornell scored twice. And there were many other ways in which Cornell played its best game.

There were far fewer passes dropped. There were far fewer penalties, and the silly penalties (too many men on the field, illegal formation, illegal procedure, off sides, false start, etc., all caused by a lack of concentration) were almost all gone. Snaps from Center were much better. Passing routes were run more crisply. Had the Raiders played like this in their first three games, they would be 3-1 instead of 0-4.

Make no mistake about it. Rochester is by far the best team Cornell will see this year. The Rams could very easily win the WPIAL and even the PIAA title. Their anemic passing offense may cost them in playof games against Jeanette or Clairton, but this is the best Class A ground offense in Pennsylvania, a five headed monster which presents even the best defenses with too many problems to solve.

Sacred Heart is Cornell's next opponent. OLSH is probably the conference's second best team and their showdown with Rochester should be a great matchup. Cornell could play another good game and still be overmatched. But after that, Cornell faces winnable games against Shenango, Union, Sto-Rox and Northgate. If they play in those games as they played against Rochester, the last half of this season could turn out to be a lot more successful than the first half.

At season's midpoint, Zaire Harrison's passing stats place him third in Class A and among the top 40 quarterbacks including all classes. In Class A, Only Tawan Wesley of Imani Christian and Rob Kennedy of Jeanette rank ahead of him. Of those top 40, 30 are seniors and eight are juniors.

Struggling Cornell Braces For Rochester

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Yes, Cornell is still young, a scattering of seniors and juniors in a heavily sophomore lineup. But the vision for this year was to win the first three games against relatively weak teams in preparation for the fearsome middle four of the schedule, against which Cornell was given little chance. Then, hopefully, the Raiders could come back and steal the last two against Sto-Rox and Northgate.

Instead, the Raiders shot themselves in the foot with silly penalties, bad center snaps, dropped passes and missed assignments. They now stand 0-3. And now come the fearsome four.

First up is Rochester. The Rams are 3-0, with most of the team back from last year. They're ranked third in the WPIAL (behind Clairton and Jeanette) and fifth in Pennsylvania. Rochester is about as formidable a dynasty as is possible in Class A. Coach Gene Matsook has won WPIAL and state titles. The Rams had the state's longest winning streak before losing to Jeanette in last year's playoffs. They've scored 20 or more points in 18 straight games. Rochester returns eight starters from a conference championship team.

Quarterback Ian Kouba graduated, but starting tight ends Elijah Goosby and Declan Eaton are back. So are all three running backs : Caleb Collins (who rushed for 907 yards last year), Noah Whiteleather and Darius Goosby. This is a versatile offense. Collins also caught 21 passes last year and Whiteleather had nine.

Matsook has moved Mahlik Strozier from wide receiver to quarterback, but Rochester hasn't slowed down a bit. The Rams have won 36-7, 28-18 and 48-16. The Coach says his only concern is passing the ball more, as his ground attack is chewing up defenses relentlessly. "For us to win the WPIAL or State we have to have a much stronger air attack."

Rochester brings back seven starters from a defense which held five teams to one TD last year. Rochester has experience at both inside and outside linebacker. Matsook also has two veterans back in the secondary.

Ironically, Rochester is now what Coraopolis used to be : a football town. The younger teams are all strong and keep feeding players up to the high school. Kids grow up dreaming of playing for the varsity and assuming the team will win a WPIAL championship when they get there. Rochester has only slightly more students than Coraopolis but three times more kids out for football.

So how does Cornell recover from those squandered first three games and prepare for a powerhouse like Rochester?

The situation is actually more optimistic than it sounds. Had the Raiders played three outstanding games and simply been run over by far superior teams, there would be no hope. But their problems have all been self inflicted, and all have been correctible errors.

The penalties don't need to happen. Not only do they take away the yards, either five or 10 or 15, but they kill drives. Instead of Cornell facing 3rd and 2, suddenly it faces 3rd and 12 or 3rd and 17. If those penalties were avoided, the Raiders would be scoring touchdowns. And False Start, Off Sides, Delay Of Game and Too Many Men occur before the play begins.

The dropped passes don't need to happen. Cornell is giving up between 100 and 200 yards per game in drops. If they just kept their hands on half of the passes they're dropping, they'd be scoring touchdowns.

The missed blocks don't need to happen. Often a Cornell runner is tackled by the last possible defender and a missed block would have taken out that defender. If Raiders simply made their blocks, Cornell would be scoring touchdowns.

And Cornell really is looking much improved. Last year, against the same teams, they didn't even score in seven of their nine games. This year they're scoring two TDs a game. Last year, Rochester beat Cornell 49-0. If the Raiders held the Rams to half that while scoring twice it would be a moral victory. And it's not like Cornell is underperforming. No one predicted them to win a game.

There's an old cliche in football : "Any team with a good quarterback and two receivers is always a threat in Class A." Cornell has those ingredients, plus running backs Keyshawn Sheppard and Justin Walsh. So if they cut the mistakes, they could make this a lot closer than anyone expects. The Rams certainly won't be focused on Cornell. They'll be looking ahead to Sacred Heart, California, Union and Shenango. Good weather and a sizeable Rochester crowd are expected.

Cornell Fumbles, Fritters Win Away At Summit

It was a beautiful September afternoon for football, and Cornell brought its cheerleaders, band and an enthusiastic crowd to Summit Academy's leafy rural campus in Butler County.

And for a quarter the Raiders played the Knights tough, looking like they were finally going to steal that elusive win.

But then Cornell reverted back to form. They fumbled, dropped passes, missed blocks, let runners slip through tackles, and made numerous bad snaps from the Center position.

When it was over Summit had won 44-6 despite never having dominated on either side of the ball.

It was a bitter disappointment, a golden opportunity squandered. All this week Cornell had looked sharp on practice on both offense and defense. And they started the game that way. Cornell kicked off, held Summit to 3 and out, and took over on the Knight 40. A quick pass and Cornell had a 1-10 on the Summit 15. But the Raiders couldn't score.

They again held Summit to 3 and out and took over on their own 35. A run and a pass and Cornell was back in Summit territory. But the drive fizzled on the 34 with 3:00 left in the first quarter. Summit fired a pass from their own 34 to the Cornell 4, and on the next play Amtonio White ran it in with 2:30. The point after made it 8-0, hardly a problem given Zaire Harrison's arm. Three straight Cornell drops forced a Raider punt, but Summit fumbled. Again Cornell was at the Summit 37 and the drive fizzled. This time, the home team drove 63 yards and scored with 4:52 to go in the second. The PAT failed but a flag gave them another chance, which they made for 18-0.

Again, Harrison took to the air, and several catches put the Raiders on the Summit 5. But an interception and 95 yard Antonio White runback made it 22-0 with 1:00 til halftime.

Cornell received to start the third but fumbled the kickoff. Summit went in for 30-0 just a minute into the quarter.

The nightmare continued. Several nice runs and perfect catches put Cornell back at the Summit 9. This time Summit intercepted the pass IN the end zone to stop the Raiders, then worked the ball back out to the other end before losing it on downs.

Finally, Cornell drove back down to the Summit 10, had one TD nullified by a penalty, and on the next play connected on a Harrison to Justin Walsh pass from the 15 for the score with 0:50 left in the third. The PAT was no good, so the score stood at 30-6. Summit in the fourth scored at 8:31 on a five yard run by Jaylon Katchum and 0:18 on a four yard run by Te Shon Trussinger for the final 44-6 margin.

Harrison completed 18 of 36 passes for 185 yards, but of course had the two interceptions to mar his record.

Interestingly, Summit only outgained Cornell 285-273, as both teams passed and ran the ball from one end of the field to the other throughout the game. But the two interceptions, five fumbles and 18 dropped or overthrown passes kept Cornell from pushing the ball across the goal line despite several promising drives. The "overthrown" passes were actually on target but receivers either slowed down or strayed from their assigned routes

There were also 27 bad snaps from Center. Good as Harrison is, he cannot function effectively at quarterback while center snaps are high, at his shoestrings, or to his left or right. The bad snaps continually throw the play's timing off. And this becomes even worse with Harrison five yards back in a shotgun formation. Were he under Center, a bad snap might be an inch or so off. Five yards back, they are sometimes more than a foot off.

The Cornell mood was bleak afterward. "We didn't get the result we wanted," Coach Ed Dawson said. "We beat ourselves. We need to spend Sunday getting our heads straight. In a football game, you cannot keep putting yourself in a hole and then try to play really well and come back. It doesn't work that way. The other team is already good enough without you continually giving them breaks."

Cornell Wraps Up Summit Preparations

Cornell focused on special teams play and ran back over their offensive playbook Friday in final preparations for their noon Saturday matchup with Summit Academy.

The Knights are favored over Cornell but this was a good week of work for Ed Dawson's Raiders. They're all healthy and have looked better in fundamental drills and offensive and defensive workouts than they have all year. Dawson and his staff re convinced the Raiders can pull an upset if they all bring their "A games."

As practice concluded Friday Angela Mull served a pregame meal, a tradition Dawson started to make sure everyone got a good meal before a game and because of the team building it confers. "You break bread together, it brings you together," he believes. Dawson also had a local minister deliver a team prayer and a guest speaker talk to the team about character and integrity.

A large contingent of Cornell fans is expected to make the 90 minute trek to Butler County for the game. Summit Academy is in Herman.

Oldest Troop and Cabin In Allegheny County
Oakdale Troop 248 Hosts Open House Saturday

Oakdale Boy Scout Troop 248 will be busy Saturday (Sept. 16) as usual, but this time they'll be home, hosting four hours of visitors at their unique headquarters.

From 10 - 2 cars, vans and buses will be pulling up at their parking lot on the edge of town to visit their log cabin.

Since 1934 the cabin has been home to the troop. This week it's being officially recognized as the oldest original log cabin still standing in Allegheny County.

Referred to locally as the Killbuck Lodge, the cabin was originally built as part of the old Robb Homestead Farm in 1790.

Troop 248 was started in 1932. The cabin by then was not in use, as a newer farmhouse had been built. So it was given to the Scouts to use as a meeting place. But it was not in good shape. Under the direction of several adults, the boys dismantled the cabin, carefully numbering the logs. They cleaned them, repaired a few, replaced those that had begun to decay, and reassembled the cabin.

But they made a mistake. Not fully understanding log cabin construction, they didn't notice each log had been cut a certain way, in order to drain off rain water. Without realizing, the boys rebuilt the cabin with the logs upside down. So instead of shedding the water, the logs held it. Over 83 years, this allowed rot and decay to set in. By 2000, it was obvious their beloved cabin was in need of another reconstruction. So Troop 248 and its Oakdale supporters began raising the money. But there was no one left in Oakdale who knew anything about log cabin construction, and no one even knew anyone with those skills. Not Boy Scout Headquarters. Not the Allegheny County Historical Society. Not a Pittsburgh Architect.

In stepped a most unusual ally. A new TV show, Barnwood Builders, had begun. They travelled around the country, dismantling and rebuilding old barns, cabins and houses.

They thought Troop 248's cabin sounded like a fine project for one of their segments.

So the Builders, with their TV crews and supporting cast, arrived and set to work. Because of insurance regulations and Boy Scout safety cautions, the boys were not allowed to actually climb on the cabin structure and help with the dismantling and reassembly. But they performed the support tasks, like cleaning the logs, handing up tools, keeping the Builders well supplied with food and beverages, and running any other errands.

Some of the logs needed repaired. Some needed replaced. The foundation needed updated. Once the cabin had been rebuilt, Scouts did most of the rechinking. They helped with reinsertion of the windows and rehanging of the doors.

All told, the new cabin is as much theirs as it is the Barnwood Builders.

In the process of rebuilding, the cabin received new wiring, plumbing and heating. The windows and doors have been refitted. It really looks like a brand new fishing or hunting cabin up in Cook's Forest. The original stone fireplace and chimney were not dismantled but some repair work was done on the masonry to bring them up to current code and fit the new floor and walls.

A century of plaques, photos, awards and other Scout memorabilia had to be removed from the walls and then rehung after the Scouts moved back in. They include photos of the original cabin being rebuilt back in 1932.

The Builders say the cabin should serve Troop 248 as a meeting place for at least another 100 years.

Anyone who doubts the troop will be around that long is misinformed. The cabin isn't the only historic tradition in Oakdale. Troop 248 is the oldest continuously functioning Boy Scout Troop in Allegheny County.

There have been a few churches which have sponsored troops on and off over the same number of years, but every time a unit goes inactive, it has to restart with a new charter and new number. Troop 248 still has its original charter and number. It has never gone inactive.

The credit for that goes to Scoutmaster Tom Taylor (above in red shirt). He is the 11th generation of his family to live in Oakdale. He grew up in Troop 248, starting as a Webelos Cub Scout in the 1960 and advancing through the ranks to Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster before taking over as Scoutmaster in 1976.

It's a labor of love for Taylor. "Everybody has to make a contribution. This is my contribution. Keeping Troop 248 alive, serving all these boys over all these years, helping the boys serve their community in so many ways with all their projects, I take a measureless pride in this program."

248 right now has 55 members, which is about its average over the last five decades. In a time when troops are folding and enrollments are down, 248 is one of Scouting's most successful units, not just in Pennsylvania, but nationally. And that's no accident.

"Program," says Taylor. "We draw the boys and keep them because we have the program. We do something every weekend. It may be a day hike or a community project, it may be a three day weekend backpacking trip or canoe trip, or it may be a two week expedition to Philmont or some other destination across the country. But we do something. Boys want to be involved. Not once a month. Every weekend. So we give them what they want."

And it's the boys' choice. A committee of boys comes up with the activities. Taylor then figures out how to pull them off.

Some have been troop and community traditions for a century. The photo above shows this year's Halloween Haunted House under construction. The boys charge $5 per person to go through. They then portay the ghosts and other scary figures. "Being a ghost is big honor. Kids grow up here looking ahead to when they can be a ghost. We've had some legendary ghosts. Every ghost tries to be the best ghost we ever had." The Haunted House is one of the troop's major fund raisers.

In the next few weeks, Taylor and his boys will be at Fort Necessity foe a weekend doing an Archeology Dig, up in Butler County for a Fall Camporee, and in Gettysburg for the reenactment of Abraham Lincoln's famous speech plus a reenactment of one of rhe battles. "We'll hike one of the major trails and tour a few of the battllefields in detail. I want the kids to come home with a firm understanding of what happened at Gettysburg." He takes 248 to Gettysburg every third year.

"You can't do the same thing over and over. We want the boys to have different experiences." During the intervening years they may go to a Native American Powow, to Washington D.C., Niagara Falls, or to some other historic or national park site. Every 4th year they go to Philmont, the famous Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Their next Philmont trip is coming up in 2018. Every 4th year they go to the National Jamboree, which this Summer was held in West Virginia.

But some trips occur every year. They are a charter troop at Heritage Reservation, meaning they helped clear and build a campsite there the very first year the camp opened and have been back every year since. Every year rhey take a week long canoeing trip down French Creek.

And every year they hold a "Hook n Cook" weekend. They'll move in to a campsite along French Creek Friday night. All day Saturday, patrols compete with each other to see who can catch the most fish and fix the best fish dinner, as judged by a five man panel of guest judges. "We get fish tacos, fish chowder, fish pie, lots of clever cooking."

248 has won walls full of awards. They've produced 97 Eagles. Mark Radovic became one of the few Boy Scouts anywhere to ever earn every single Merit Badge. He's now an environmental lobbyist in Washington. 248 has won 43 national and world conservation and environmental awards, mostly for stream improvement, animal habitat, tree planting and strip mine rehabilitation projects. Alumni of Troop 248 have gone on to serve as Scoutmasters of other troops across the nation.

248 is also a major factor in the Order Of The Arrow, the Boy Scout honorary society for camping and outdoor excellence. At the 100th O.A. Conference at Michigan State University in 2015, Taylor had the largest group.

Most Boy Scout units are sponsored by churches or schools. Not 248. It is sponsored by the Oakdale VFW Post 171 and the Oakdale Community Center with strong support from the Oakdale Masonic Lodge and local small businesses.

Taylor during the day works at Automatic Systems Technology Company in Saxonburg. They make 85% of the world's MRI equipment and injectors.

He runs his finger down his current 55 boy roster. Most of them are from Oakdale or llve just outside town. But he has boys from Mcdonald, Imperial, Noblestown, North and South Fayette Townships, Bridgeville, Carnegie and all over Collier Township.

"They come for the program," he smiles. "They want to get outside and do stuff. They know if they come here they will. We have kids who grow up waiting to turn 11 so they can join us."

Cornell Takes Advantage Of Extra Day's Practice

One advantage of playing a Saturday game is that it allows an extra day of practice on Friday. Cornell Head Football Coach Ed Dawson (right and below) and his staff are using that extra time to pound away on the fundamentals of running the offense, of interior line play, and of defending against Summit Academy's pro style offense.

Dawson, who knows a thing or two about these phases of the game after playing on an Aliquippa state championship team and then at Allegheny College, is hammering away at them play after play. He kept players late Thursday to squeeze in another dozen repetitions.

Every day this week, it's been a steady drill of "If they do X, you do this, if they do Y, you do this. You have to THINK. Football is a THINKING man's game."

Dawson isn't alone. Offensive Coordinator Shelton Colbert, a product of that same Aliquippa dynasty and James Madison University, has been grilling players on rapid fire responses as to what they do on which play. That's him in the bottom photo, upper right, watching the play unfold.

"We've got get over this notion of being newcomers to football just because we restarted the program last year. This is not last year. We have a whole season, an off season, a year in the weight room, two game condition scrimmages and two games this year behind us. It's time we started playing like a hardened outfit."

Summit Academy is favored Saturday by two touchdowns but Dawson keeps telling his players they can win the game.

"They didn't beat us last year. We beat ourselves," he says.

Summit is a unique opponent. It's a school built in Butler County to serve Pittsburgh and Allegheny County court adjudicated youth. But, because of the nature of the court system, very few boys stay at Summit for a second year. They spend their time there, receive massive doses of counseling and tutoring, get their grades and behavior in order, and return to their home schools, or earn their diplomas and move on to college or vocational or technical schools.

This year, for example, Summit returns only two players from last season's team : 5-9 175 junior linebacker Victor Ocasio, and 6-4 200 junior tight end Brian Colbert. One on offense, one on defense.

Steve Sherer has been coaching Summit Academy for 17 seasons. He mixes man to man and zone defenses and runs a pro set offense out of the shotgun. Often Summit will clear the back field except for the quarterback, sending everyone else downfield as receivers.

These are areas Dawson, Colbert and the other Cornell coaches have been emphasizing all week.

"We have to recognize what the defense is doing and react accordingly. And we have to cover those receivers. Last year every time I looked up there was a ball in the air and one or two men were always wide open. Saturday we have to have men on those receivers."

A lot of this coverage will depend on sophomores Zaier Harrison, 5-9 140, and Eric Olexa, 5-9 150. Harrison is the quarterback on offense but is also the director of the defense. He's the one scanning the field, seeing what the offense is doing, and calling commands to the others.

"Communication," Dawson insists. "Communication is the key. We have to talk on defense."

On offense, Harrison has his own stable of receivers. They include Olexa, junior Justin Walsh, 5-8 150, and senior Stefan Blackstone, 5-6 135.

Senior Keyshawn Sheppard, 5-10 155, doubles as the key running back plus a sometime receiver. Sheppard has made some spectacular plays but is inconsistent. A good game from him Saturday would be a tremendous asset in Cornell's effort to pull the upset.

Cornell's receivers have also dropped several hundred yards worth of passes. If they can hold onto those passes a Cornell win goes from possible to probable.

The High School May Be Struggling But .....

Help Is On The Way

A Hollywood cliche in Western movies back in the mid 20th Century was the wagon train surrounded and under attack by Native Americans when the bugle sounded in the distance and the cavalry came riding over the hill to the rescue.

Hollywood doesn't make those movies any more but there's a similar script playing out in the Cornell Schools in the form of the football program.

Coraopolis, Neville Island and then the merger of Cornell fielded football teams from 1920 until 2011. All three schools enjoyed success. Neville under Coach Vincent Walsh produced five undefeated seasons, seven Ohio Valley Conference championships, and three WPIAL Class B titles. A down year for the Rivermen was to lose two games. Coraopolis played in the higher class A (today the schools they played are in 5A) and seven times made it to November undefeated. After dropping to Class B the Blue Devils continued to win and enjoyed several more unbeaten years. In their last year of football, the Cornell Raiders were 8-0 before losing their last two games to Sto-Rox and Rochester. They still made the play offs but lost in the semifinals.

Then the bottom fell out. Almost all the players on that last Cornell team were seniors. When they graduated, there weren't enough players left to field a team. The Friday Night Lights at Frank Letteri Stadium went dark and stayed dark for four seasons.

What happened? How was this possible in two communities with a long history of winning football and huge crowds on Friday nights?

What happened was the school district neglected its youth program. High school football requires a steady stream of players feeding up from the lower grades. Cut off that flow, wait a few years, and a high school team will collapse. That's exactly what happened.

But while the stadium lights went dark, a group of men remembered how it used to be. They rolled up their sleeves, went to work, and started the long rebuilding process from the foundation up. They went down into the grade school, recruited the players, raised money, and became coaches.

"We gambled that if we started feeding the players to the high school, they'd restart the football program."

They joined the area youth football league and started playing games every Saturday.

Three years ago, they produced an undefeated regular season champion which advanced to the Western Pa. championship game. Those players reached ninth grade last year. And, sure enough, Athletic Director Bill Sacco restarted the football program. They lost every game. But they were freshmen playing against seniors. This year, they're sophomores playing against seniors. Now there are freshmen backing up those sophomores and, in some cases, starting alongside them.

Meanwhile, the Coraopolis Youth Football Program is in full stride. There are 15 coaches directing three teams at different age and grade levels. They have plenty of boys. And they're winning.

Kenny Wade is head coach of the youngest team. He is assisted by Rolo Mull, Bill Wynn and Terrell Wilson. Their players are eight years old and younger, in grades 1-2-3. They're won two and lost two so far. They have 16 players.

League games are played in tripleheaders which usually start at noon. The youngest teams play first. So far, the three Cornell teams have played Avella, Beaver, Midwest (Western Beaver) and Burgettstown. They play Fort Cherry this Saturday (September 16).

The middle team includes players ages 9-10, in grades 4-5. They're undefeated this season and have 30 players. They're coached by Brian Bethel, Andre Taylor, Josh Goehring, Mike Madden, Jamen Burch and Marcus Battle.

The reason they're undefeated is quickly obvious. The older players are big, strong, fast and quick. They're aggressive, with good eye hand coordination and good body control. With a roster of 30 they can specialize on offense and defense and keep fresh athletes on the field.

"That bunch of sophomores Ed Dawson has up at the high school right now looked like this a few years ago. They were a special team when we had them. So is this. There are some really good athletes on this team."

The older team includes players ages 11-12, in grades 6-7. They're 2-2 this year after a tough 6-0 loss to Beaver. They have 12 players and are coached by Chris Jackson, Q. Taylor, Tone Lee, Scott Brough and Greg Woodard. For games, they bring up six players from the unbeaten middle team to add depth.

A few players on the three teams are from Mooncrest, Pleasant View or Groveton, but almost all live in Cory or Neville so will go to Cornell.

Coaching at this level is truly a labor of love. These guys played football and can't stay away from it. They don't get paid and they have to do everything from raise money to take care of equipment to deal with the often humorous antics of eight year olds. It takes patience, kindness and persistence. But most of all it takes vision and determination.

"We're going to make this a football town again. And this time we're going to keep it that way."

Raiders Fine Tune Offense For Summit

On an 80 degree bright sunny afternoon, Wednesday was Offense Day for Cornell's Raiders as they prepare for Saturday's noon matchup at Summit Academy.

Head Coach Ed Dawson always focuses on Defense on Tuesdays and Offense on Wednesdays. This particular Wednesday was devoted to the passing attack, pitchouts, and "taking what rhe defense gives us," as Offensive Coordinator Shelton Colbert kept telling his players.

After several dozen repetitions, the pitchouts were much crisper, as seen in the photo at right. And receivers were finally holding onto the ball on medium and long passes, a key difference because Cornell has probably given up two victories due to dropped passes.

Bad snaps from Center were still an issue, however.

The ball was still reaching the quarterback either too low, wide, or, most often, too high. Even though there were no fumbles, the precise timing of plays is ruined when the quarterback must first reach up, down or out to bring in the ball.

In Cornell's case this is especially troublesome because the Raiders line up in the shotgun, or pro set, formation, with the QB five yards behind Center. A good Center is much more critical in the shotgun than in the old school style of lining up under Center, where the snap only has to come back about 12 inches.

Colbert (in white t shirt explaining a play in photo at righjt) also emphasized reading the defense. He had the team running the same play over and over and reacting differently according to what the defense did.

"It has to be instinct. You don't have time to think out there. Instinct. If they bring the linebacker up, you do this. If they drop the linebacker deep, you do this. You have to read the linebackers."

Colbert kept working on how to execute the play according to whether the defense is in a man-to-man or zone coverage. "Summit will use both. We've got to pay attention. What we do changes when they go zone."

Cornell has shown it has good team speed, especially among the receiving corps. But receivers are often unsure about what to do if they catch the pass. There are numerous moves receivers can use to get open and head upfield.

Summit, composed mainly of seniors with a few juniors, will be bigger and stronger than Cornell at every position. But the Knights, a school for adjudicated youth from various high schools across Pittsbugh and Allegheny County, sees youth come and go every week. So it's hard to keep a stable football roster. Summit may have bigger, stronger players, but they'e not used to playing together as a unit.

One problem Cornell has is that its running game is not powerful enough to force opponents to bring the defensive backs up to help stop it. They can stay back and break up the passing game. If Cornell could get off a few good runs, especially early, against Summit, it would force the Knights to focus their defenses on the runners.

Thursday Dawson and his staff will work on special teams, particularly on punting and kicking and then covering the downfield receivers before they can launch a long run.

Dawson was philosophical as he left the practice field. "Today we looked fine. A few guys dogged it on a few plays, but overall, we looked good. The problem is who shows up on Saturday. Does the guy who came out here today and caught all those passes show up, or does the guy who's too worried about getting tackled and looking to avoid the defender show up? If every player here shows up Saturday ready to play with intensity, we'll be ok."

The Saturday game also gives Dawson an extra practice on Friday to prepare. He has a 10 page scouting report on Summit, which he has used for instructional purposes all week. Today (Thursday) and tomorrow will be used to go over and over that scouting report.

Cornell Coach Dawson Digs In On Fundamentals

 

Cornell Head Coach Ed Dawson is down in the trenches this week, focusing on fundamentals all day every day. He's working on the little things : foot work, coming out of the stance, angles, leverage, proper tackling. He's working especially hard on the linemen and defensive backs.

"We're getting beat on little things," he tells his players over and over. "We're getting outfundamentaled. We've got to tighten up our execution."

Cornell plays Summit Academy at noon Saturday at the Butler campus. Although Summit is favored by two touchdowns, Dawson is convinced his team can upset the Knights.

Zaire Harrison is back at QB after sitting out the Western Beaver game, then fighting off the flu all weekend.

Dawson and his staff worked hard for 30 minutes Tuesday on tackling, especially tackling the runner trying an end sweep.

"I want the first tackler going for the runner's outside leg, his outside hip" he kept repeating. "I want the second tackler going for the inside leg and inside hip. There is no way that runner should be turning the corner on us and heading downfield, no way he should be pivoting out of that tackle."

He also worked on reading the offense, correctly anticipating where the ball is going. "Watch the tight end. If he's over there, what does that tell you? As soon as you see the tight end lining up over there, where should you be moving? What's going to happen?"

Dawson and Line Coach Brian Mackey have been working with interior linemen on avoiding traps, not allowing the offense to take them out of the play.

"We're not out here doing anything tricky," he reminded his players. "We don't line up in one defense and suddenly morph over into some other defense. We're playing basic football. It's all about the execution."

Dawson has a 10 page acouring report on Summit and has gone over it with his players. But in a sense the scouting report is irrelevant.

"We're not to the point yet where we can spend all our time worrying about what the opponent is doing. First we have to take care of US."

While Dawson has been working on the linemen, position coaches have been working on receivers.

"Geez, we drop a lot of passes. If we caught just half those passes we'd be 2-0 right now. We're getting the receivers free downfield and getting the ball to them, and we're just dropping it. It drives me nuts."

Conference standings after three weeks show Union, Rochester, Western Beaver and Shenango at the top. Sacred Heart sits in the middle. Summit, Cornell, Sto-Rox and Northgate are at the bottom.

Rochester is ranked third in the WPIAL and fifth in Pennsylvania. The Rams come to Cornell next week.

Cornell added four new players this week but they won't help at Summit. First they need to complete physical exams. Then they'll need to get in shape and learn the offenses and defenses.

Fans going to the Summit game should allow 90 minutes for the drive due to possible traffic in the North Hills on Saturday morning. The team bus is leaving at 9 a.m. Summit Academy is located in Herman, Pa. in Butler County. Take I-79 across the river, Route 228 into the North Hills, Pa. 8 on to Butler County and T 588 into Herman.You'll be on Dinnerbell Road and Rockdale Road.

Raiders Prepare For Noon Game At Summit

Cornell began Monday practicing for a noon Saturday game at Summit, the private academy for court adjudicated youth.

Although Summit won at Cornell last year, and the computer services favor the Butler County school this week, Cornell coaches feel this is a chance to pull off an upset.

Summit is 0-2, having lost to Western Beaver 27-22 and Rocheter 28-18. The Knights like a pro set offense with one quarterback and two running backs. Their linemen will be older, larger and stronger, but Cornell's line has been a strength of the Raiders in two scrimmages and two games.

"We're not losing because of our line," insists Offensive Coordinator Shelton Colbert (behind the two players at right). "I've been really pleased with our line so far. What we have to work on is our skill players on offense."

He was referring to players dropping passes and not reading holes fast enough and accurately enough.

In two games Cornell receivers are averaging 175 yards per game of dropped passes.

Monday, the Raiders practiced with helmets but no pads. They worked on catching passes and footwork and positioning on the line. Over and over.

Zaire Harrison had to sit out the Western Beaver game due to an officials call in the Mapletown game. "There's no doubt in my mind if Harrison plays we beat Western Beaver," Colbert told reporters. "Eric Oleka did a fine job at QB, but him being at QB meant we didn't have him at receiver or as a runner we could pitch out or hand off to."

Harrison spent the weekend plus Monday recovering from the flu but was expected to be back at practice Tuesday.

Last year, Cornell's first back after four years with no football program, the Raiders couldn't score. This year, despite going against two of the WPIAL's stronger defenses, Cornell has scored two TDs and the extra points in each game. Figure those 175 yards of dropped passes would have meant at least two more TDs in each game, plus Cornell keeping longer drives alive would have given the opponent the ball fewer times.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be full pad practices. Head Coach Ed Dawson especially wanted to work on defense. "Last year Summit killed us on isolation plays," he reminded reporters. "We've got to recognize what Summit is doing and react intelligently." That's Dawson at right in blue and white working with his defensive line. Dawson played on a state championship team at Aliquippa and then at Allegheny College, and has a very clear vision of how he wants his linemen playing.

"Last year we were mostly freshmen," he says. "Young, inexperienced, smaller, OK. This year we're mostly sophomores. Still young, but we have some hard earned experience, an off season, two scrimmages and two games behind us now. It's time to grow up, eliminate the mistakes, line up like we're told to, execute properly, and win some games."

Cornell Falls To Western Beaver 35-16

Undefeated Western Beaver rolled to a 35-0 halftime lead and defeated Cornell 35-16 Friday night in the Raiders' home opener.

In a way, Western Beaver is today where Cornell hopes to be in 2019. Two years ago, the Golden Beavers went 0-9 with a primarily sophomore lineup. Last year, as juniors, they went 4-6. Now those players are seniors and 3-0, having outscored opponents 105-38.

Cornell, with a primarily sophomore lineup, is struggling as expected. The older, bigger and stronger offensive and defensive lines of the Beavers held Cornell's lines at bay while their runners ground out yardage and senior QB Jeddy Young handed off, pitched out and fired passes.

Cornell scored its TDs in the fourth quarter. Tymir Fisher ran 72 yards for one and sophomore QB Eric Olexa passed 67 yards to Keyshawn Sheppard for the other.

Olexa completed 8 of 13 passes for 95 yards. He was filling in for regular QB Zaire Harrison, who was sitting out due to a suspension incurred in the Mapletown game. Cornell is also missing star running back Gerard Rippy, out with a knee injury.

For Western Beaver, two TDs were scored by Raven Chandler and two by Young. Lou Hapach added the final TD.

Despite its 0-2 record, Cornell has shown a lot of bright spots in irs first two games. Both opponents are playoff bound. Dylan Rush, who scorched the Raiders last week at Mapletown, after three games is this week listed as the WPIAL's leading offensive player including all classes. Both opponents are senior dominated. And both opponents have high octane offenses. Yet Cornell's young defense bottled Mapletown up for long stretches, including the whole first quarter, and shut down Western Beaver for the entire second half.

The loss is probably the end of the Western Beaver rivalry. Next season the Golden Beavers are entering a co-op agreement with Lincoln Park (formerly Midland) and moving up to AA.

The Raiders face Summit next in a noon Saturday game.

Dellovade Stars But Pitt Survives In OT

West Allegheny graduate Armand Dellovade long ago established himself as a key player for Youngstown State. But Saturday the junior middle line backer became a star.

Pitt is a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference and a huge opponent for I-AA (now they call it "FCS") Youngstown. But Dellovade racked up nine key tackles including one for loss as his Penguins took Pitt into over time before succumbing 28-21.

Both coaches singled out Dellovade before and after the game. Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi's comments were especially gratifying because Dellovade would have liked to have gone there. But two years ago Pitt (then coached by Paul Chryst) thought he was too small for Division I, and would only extend him a walk on invitation.

"He's their standout," Narduzzi (in white polo shirt in the photo below) admitted Friday. "He runs their show from the middle linebacker spot. I guarantee you we're all aware of him around here. Armand is a real football player. I wish we had him."

Early on Saturday, this looked like empty praise. Youngstown seemed to have no answer for Pitt's runners up the middle and trailed 21-0 at halftime.

Youngstown Coach Bo Belini must have delivered quite a locker room speech between halves.

"Yeh," Dellovade admitted after the game. "He sort of suggested that we were letting them push us around, that we were playing soft, that we needed to get down to business and get more physical. He sort of thought they were insulting our manhood. He said it was time to suck it up."

They sure did. Dellovade and the crew slammed the door shut on Pitt in the second half. The Panthers couldn't score. They had a hard time even getting a first down. And they got absolutely nothing up the middle.

"It got kind of fun out there in the second half," Armand told reporters later. "Once we got more physical and met Pitt head on, we found out we were just as good as they were. And once our offense scored, and we saw we actually had a chance to come back, then we really tightened down."

Youngstown came all the way back and tied it at 21-21, sending the game into OT. Sadly, Pitt lofted a pass for the winning TD and Youngstown couldn't match it. So the heroic effort fell just short.

Dellovade insists he doesn't harbor any resentment against Pitt for not offering him a scholarship. "That coaching staff is gone," he points out. "Narduzzi always speaks well of me. Pitt's just another game. It's a big game, sure, but we have other big games, and they count more, because they're in our conference."

Not just in the conference. Youngstown played for the national title last December. Dellovade led the way into the playoffs and all the way to the finals, with 105 tackles, 70 of them solos, 27 for losses.

"He's a big time talent, there's no question," Belini says. "And he has rwo years to go. By the time he leaves here, he has a chance to be one of our all time greats."

The "book" on Dellovade is that he has outstanding field vision, lateral movement, quick feet, and great instincts for where the ball is going. He can read offenses exceptionally well and has tremendous strength. His performances against such D-1 teams as Pitt and West Virginia show that he could have played at that level. He's also doing well in the classroom. Dellovade was named to the Missouri Valley Conference All Academic Team with a 3.49 Grade Point Average.

"His leadership ability is off the charts," a Youngstown coach told The Record. "He will almost certainly be a team captain before he leaves here. We thought he was a great prospect when we saw him in high school and he has certainly fulfilled our expectations."

Youngstown State is no small time program. Head Coach Bo Pelini was born and raised a few miles away and played for Cardinal Mooney High School and Ohio State. He served as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma and LSU, then as head coach at Nebraska for seven years, before coming home to Youngstown.

The Penguins play in Stambaugh Field, which seats 21,000 and was recently upgraded with cutting edge weight, locker and training rooms and press box. The Penguins have recorded three undefeated seasons and are a Division I-A (FCS) power.

Dellovade, a Business Management major, played for Coach Bob Palko at West Allegheny. He's the son of Peggy and Mike Dellovade of Imperial.

This wasn't his first game against Pitt. He saw action as a reserve two years ago when the Penguins upset the Panthers.

"I didn't expect to get in," he recalls. "Then someone got hurt so there I was. I was all nervous and stuff. It was my first college game, and there we were in this big stadium with this big crowd. This time I felt good. I felt comfortable. I've learned a lot about defense over the last two years. I can read the offenses and the runners. I have a feel for what's happening. It makes a huge difference."

Even though he insists playing Pitt was nothing special, Dellovade admits it was nice having lots of family and friends in the stands watching. Youngstown is only two hours away, but that's still too far for friends and relatives to come very often.

And Pitt isn't the only local opponent on Youngstown's schedule. Next Saturday they play Robert Morris at home. It will be on ESPN3 and 570 WKBN (Youngstown), which carry all their games. The ESPN3 channel is an online streaming service so anyone with a laptop or IPad can tune in.

Flags, Pads, Rush, Drops Undo Cornell 42-14

As Roseanne Rosanadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, "If it ain't one thing, it's another." Cornell ran into a perfect storm of disasters at Mapletown Friday night and lost its season opener 46-14.

Cornell set a new all time WPIAL record for yards penalized with over 300 yards called. For the entire game, there was not a single four down series without at least one penalty flag. Five times there were penalties called on consecutive plays, and three times there were two flags thrown against Cornell on the same play. In the first quarter, Mapletown was called for its own share of penalties, and neither team could get anything done. But as the game wore on, fewer and fewer penalties were called against the home team and more and more against Cornell.

Certainly, many of the penalties were deserved. Calls for too many men on the field, illegal procedure, offsides and holding were obvious.

But there were some odd calls. A Cornell defender went up to try for the interception with his back to the Mapletown receiver and was called for interference. A Cornell player was called for an illegal hit when both he and the opponent were facing each other with their hands raised. And there were inexplicable no calls. Late hits and out of bounds tackles were repeatedly missed. One such no call proved particularly disastrous. A Mapletown player grabbed Cornell QB Zaire Harrison by the shoulder pads and slung him to the ground. Harrison, already frustrated by getting hit after the whistle and out of bounds numerous times, leaped to his feet and asked the official, "Isn't that horse collaring?" The official dropped a flag. "I get penalized for asking a question?" Harrison asked. The official dropped another flag. Two flags means automatic ejection for the game but for the following game, meaning Harrison may miss next Friday's home opener against Western Beaver. Since the flags were for disrespect, not for action during the play, there was some question about a second game suspension, which will need to be clarified this week.

"I know we have young players and they commit stupid mistakes. I also know officials make mistakes, but over a whole game those tend to balance out. It just didn't seem tonight they ever balanced out."

Cornell also struggled the entire game with a wierd problem : knee pads. The team introduced new uniforms. Football uniforms have slots built in for various kinds of pads. The new pants had knee pad slots the right width but only one third the required length. So the pads kept falling out. The trainer used several rolls of tape trying to tape the pads in place but nothing helped. On every down, players were distracted by pads falling out in mid step. Head Coach Ed Dawson just shook his head and wrung his hands in frustration.

And then it got worse. Sophomore Zaire Harrison once again proved that he is a legitimate big time talent. He ran the ball well and when defenders pulled up to stop that he fired pinpoint passes to his receiver corps. But most of those passes were dropped. 185 yards of passes were dropped, many of them after bouncing off the numbers of the receivers, some because the receiver slowed down on the route as they turned for the ball. Harrison also had to contend with frequent snaps from center either over his head or at his shoelaces. Only a few resulted in fumbles, but having to reach up or down for the ball slowed the play down.

All of this set the stage for an incredible performance by Mapletown senior running back Dylan Rush, who was his team's entire offense. He ran for 318 yards, scored six touchdowns and a two point conversion and passed for one conversion. Rush scored on runs of five, 32, 19, 12, 69 and 43 yards.

The amazing thing about this dominance was that Cornell really did a pretty good job of slowing him down. Time after time they would tackle him for no gain or gains of only one or two yards. Seven times they tackled him in the backfield for losses (for one of those see the second photo above). But it didn't matter. Rush just kept coming and coming and after a down or two of no gains he would break through or around end for a significant gain. He was running as hard in the fourth quarter as he had in the first.

Rush's brilliance is that he is extremely strong, extremely quick, and extremely fast. So he can keep powering forward even when a tackler or two is hanging on. He can change direction on a dime, allowing him to sidestep tacklers and dart through openings in the line. And once given a small opening, he can explode downfield in a sprint.

The big question in Mapletown and Greene County is where Rush is going to college.

But through all this adversity, the game was not as onesided as the score suggests. Cornell's defense shut Rush down until 0:45 in the first quarter when he raced in from the five. So Cornell entered the second quarter down only 6-0 and a long run set them up for the go ahead TD. Then a bad snap and fumble gave Rush the ball back, and at the 10:00