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Meet & Greets, Autographs, Photos, Souvenirs
Kids' Night Is A Huge Success At PPMS

What started out as Boy Scout Night and expanded to Kids Night became a huge success at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway Saturday. After the evening's heat races, all drivers brought their cars out to the front straight and parents were invited to bring their kids down to meet the drivers, get their autographs on t shirts, checkered flags, posters or their arms, and take pictures of them. In some cases the drivers handed out small souvenirs or candy and allowed their followers to climb into the race cars.

The evening made clear that there is a solid core of young fans attending these races. Each driver has his own following, many wearing t shirts with pictures of the drivers and their cars. And even though the massive Meet & Greet took an hour on a hot, humid night, the drivers took the time to answer questions, often kneeling down to talk to the kids on their own eye level.

Most impressive was the number of young girls wanting autographs from PPMS' rising crop of young female stars.

Kassidy Kamicker (photo, left), Karlee Kovacs (below) and Zoey Knight (bottom) were in the most demand, but the other girl drivers also drew their share of followers.

The Meet & Greet was sort of a celebration for the track's resurgence. After struggling for several years, this year attendance is up, car counts are up and improvements have been made to the facility. There's talk of redoing the fence around the top of the track for 2025. Weather this year has not been kind, raining out several Saturday nights and battering the press box and signs with gale force winds, but the season points races are tight and the races themselves have been exciting.

 

Saturday night the grounds crew was struggling with adverse conditions. Several days of high heat and no rain left the track hard and dry. PPMS had brought in a special grader from Lehrnerville earlier in the week to work on the surface, but Saturday night was still extremely dusty. The water truck was sent back out several times to try to damp down the track but it was a losing battle.

In the Limited Late Models, Kamicher, of Aliquippa, the season points leader entering the evening, won her heat in impressive fashion but wore down in the Feature and faded slowly back to seventh. Daryl Charlier started second, grabbed the lead on the first turn, and led the whole way. The rest of the top five were Cole Petrelle, Brandon Burgoon, Ben Policz and Tom Klein. Burgoon turned in the race's most impressive climb, starting 10th and finishing 3rd.

Kamicher narrowly held onto her season points lead, with Klein and Petrelle only six and seven points behind.

Christian Schneider started fifth in the Pro Stock Feature but kept inching up and took over the lead on the next to the last lap, hanging on for the win. Behind him were Brett McDonald, Chris Schneider, A.J. Poljack and Nick Kocuba. Dale Tuche had entered the evening in first place in season points but didn't finish the feature so Poljack and Kocuba moved ahead of him. Christian Schneider was driving Stephen Shelpman's #17S car for this race.

Stephen Shelpman won the Hobby Stock feature, followed by Logan Koteles, Garrett O'Patchen, Tom Anton and Marc Corio. Koteles entered the evening leading the season points race, and his second place finish was enough to keep him in that lead. However, two more Koteleses, Jonathan and Gary, began the evening second and third in points and neither finished the feature, so they'll slide down while Anton and Joey Brown (who finished sixth) move up.

Jacob Chipps won the Four Cylinder Feature to move into first place in season points. He had been second entering the evening. Tyler Hollister had led in points but did not finish the feature. John Gill, Joe Campbell, Ray Seibert and Ben Gariglio rounded out the first five.

Hunter Vohn started on the pole and led the whole way to win the Young Gun (Teenager) Feature over Anthony Uddstrom. Gavin Kokolis, Zoey Knight and Cheyenne Hollister completed the first five.

Racing will continue this Saturday night when the Winged Sprints join the other divisions. The Winged Sprints go over 140 mph and will race in a special team format.

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Estate of Allen R. Lerch aka Allen Lerch aka Allen Rayburn Lerch, late of Moon

Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, deceased.

Notice is hereby given that Grant of Letters on the above estate have

been granted to the undersigned, to whom all persons indebted to said estate are

requested to make immediate payment, and those having claims or demands against the

same, will make them known without delay to:

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Brandon Burgoon Captures Limited Late Model Feature
Leroy Brown Wins Triple Crown Round #1

Leroy Brown of Aliquippa (photo, right) led for the entire race and won the Hobby Stock Feature Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It was a big win, because it was the first round of the Hobby Stock Triple Crown. Even more important, it moved Brown up to fourth place in the season points race, 10 points behind leader Logan Koteles. This is a very controversial situation. Two weeks ago, Brown won the feature race only to be disqualified when the inspection crew found an illegal camber on his car. That gave the win to Koteles. Had Brown kept that win, he would lead the season points race right now. In the feature race, Jonathan Koteles finished second, Stephen Shelpman third, Matt Benard fourth and Tom Anton fifth.

Brandon Burgoon started in fourth place and took until lap seven to take the lead, but then held it the rest of the way to win the Limited Late Model Feature. It was Burgoon's second feature win of the season plus a third place finish, good enough for seventh place in the Limited season points race, 70 points behind leader Zach Gunn. In the feature race, Mike Reft finished second, Ben Policz third, Tim Shaffer fourth and Kassidy Kamacker fifth.

JC Boyer won the Sportsman Feature, with Kole Holden second, Karston King third, Logan Lockhart fourth and Brayden Beatty fifth.

A.J. Poljack captured the Pro Stock Feature, with Dale Tuche second, Nick Kocuba third, Tony Magill fourth and Jackson Billyk fifth.

Anthony Manganello slipped past Hunter Vohn on the final lap to win his second straight Young Guns (Teenage) Feature. Vohn finished second, with Anthony Udderstrom third, Gavin Kokolis fourth and Zoey Knight fifth.

Jacob Phipps took wrested the lead from Tyler Hollister and went on to win the Four Cylinder Feature. Hollister finished second, Cameron Hollister third, Derik Quigley fourth and Tifani McElhose fifth.

There is no racing this week, as the track hosts the Monster Truck Show all weekend. Racing resumes Saturday, June 29 with the Winged Sprints joining the usual six divisions.

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Ben Policz, Logan Koteles Win In Limiteds, Stocks
Christian Schneider Wins LaBoon Memorial

Christian Schneider of Georgetown in Car #56 won the 13th annual Ed Laboon Memorial Race in the Pro Stock Division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night.

Schneider (photo, right) dominated the evening. He won his heat race, finished second in the dash, and led from flag to flag in the 30 lap Feature. In addition to the points, the win earned a $3617 purse.

Schneider started second and moved up to first on the first turn. He stayed there the entire race. His biggest challenge came from lapped cars beginning with lap nine. But he threaded this obstacles course and slowly pulled out to a commanding lead before a wreck on lap 29 forced a restart and rebunched the field. But it didn't matter. Schneider again pulled out to the lead and held it.

He was only eighth in season points entering the evening but vaulted to the front after his spectacular showing.

"We've been struggling with engine problems," he told reporters after the race, "But it held up tonight. Wow. I just love driving race cars."

The yellow flag on lap 29 was a heart stopper. "I thought Oh No, Don't Do This To Me. I've Led This Whole Way And Now I Got These Top Drivers Bunched Up Right Behind Me. But we managed to hang on to the lead."

Schneider also hoped the race would bring some attention to the division. "We've got some of the best drivers in the region in Pro Stocks," he said. "And I don't think we get enough credit. These guys run clean, they've got the skills, the crews keep all these cars in top condition, and it's a really tough division night after night."

Pro Stocks are generally considered the third division down, below Unlimited and Limited Late Models.

The Ed LaBoon Memorial is a tribute to the late Ed Laboon, one of Western Pennsylvania's most famous dirt track personalities. LaBoon was a driver, owner, mechanic, and promoter of dirt track racing in the Pittsburgh region. He died of lung cancer in 2012. The Laboon Memorial was created and is still run by son Vince LaBoon and has bcome one of the season's most important races.

But it was only one race on the card Saturday night.

Ben Policz started third and took until lap seven to ease into the lead but then held it the rest of the way to win the 20 lap Limited Late Model Feature. Zach Gunn placed second with Brandon Burgoon third. Policz (photo, left) also won his heat race.

Logan Koteles won his third straight Hobby Stock Feature but he started back in sixth and had to work his way up until he finally grabbed the lead on lap four. Jonathan Koteles finished second with Leroy Brown third.

Down in the Four Cylinder ("Sport Coupe") Division, John Gill started fourth and didn't take the lead until lap six. But he hung on to win, with Cameron Hollister second and Bill Tennant third.

A. J. Manganello won the Young Guns (Teenage) Division, with Gavin Kokolis second and Sadie Snatchko third.

Another full card will run this Saturday at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Hobby Stocks will run the first of three Triple Crown races. The Limited Late Models, Pro Stocks, Sportsmen, Four Cylinders and Young Guns will also race.

Gates open at 5 pm, with hot laps beginning at 6 pm and racing at 7 pm.

Pittsburgh Motor Speedway is located on Noblestown Road a few miles past Robinson Town Center on Steubenville Pike. Once you turn off Steubenville Pike, turn left on Noblestown Road and follow it down the hill. The entrance to the track is straight ahead of you as Noblestown Road curves to the left. The left turn will take you around to the Pit entrance.

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Rain Finally Backs Off

Speedway Honors '23 Champions As

Gallagher, Burgoon, Koteles Win Features

Weather has certainly not been kind to Pittsburgh Motor Speedway in May of 2024. Every Saturday on schedule the rains and storms have moved in to force cancellations. But finally on June 1 the skies cleared and Champions Night came off as planned.

The winners of the 2023 regular season points champion- ships were recognized in a special ceremony at the start line.

They included Cole Petrelle in the Limited Late Models, A. J. Poljack in Pro Stocks, Stephen Shelpman in Hobby Stocks, Susie Rudolph in Four Cylinders ("Sports Coupes"), and Gavin Kokolis in Young Guns.

Petrelle won his division only after fighting off three time winner Brandon Burgoon. It was Shelpman's fifth Hobby Stocks title. Susie Rudolph was the second in her family to win in Four Cylinders, as her father had done it before. And in Young Guns (Teenagers) Sadie Snatchko actually tied with Kokolis in feature wins but Kokolis totaled a few more points.

In addition to the trophy presentations, the track held nine heat races in six divisions and six feature races.

After all the rainouts, Saturday was a beautiful evening with a strong crowd turnout.

Brandon Burgoon won the Limited Late Model Feature, pulling away to almost a third of a lap lead. Brian Huchko was second, Jake Gunn third, Colby Beighey fourth and Daryl Charlier fifth.

Burgoon started fourth but moved up to second by lap four. He passed Gunn for the lead at the end of lap five and held it the rest of the way.

Gunn continued to challenge for the lead but on lap nine a fire erupted in his engine compartment and he had to drop out.

Chelsie Gallagher of Ellwood City won the Sportsmen Feature, her first at PPMS since 2021. She started first and was never challenged, slowly widening the lead to half a lap. Kole Holden was second, Jacob Jordan third, Karston King fourth and Lucas Canon fifth.

In the Pro Stocks Feature Christian Schneider started first and led all the way to the finish line. Nick Kocuba was second, Dale Tuche third, Daryl Charlier fourth and Jackson Billyk fifth.

The Hobby Stock Feature was controversial. Leroy Brown dominated the race and seemed to win but during the post race inspection he was found to have an illegal camber and was disqualified. That gave the win to Logan Koteles. His brother Jonathan finished second, with Joe Brown Junior third, his father Joe Brown Senior fourth and Gary Koteles fifth.

Tyler Hollister won the Four Cylinder ("Sport Coupe") Feature. John Gill was second, Matt Knight third, Cameron Hollister fourth and Jacob Chipps fifth.

Rounding out the evening, Gavin Kokolis captured the Young Gun Feature, with Anthony Mangenello second, Anthony Uddstrome third, Hunter Vohn fourth and Zoey Knight fifth. Sadie Snatchko would almost certainly have challenged for the lead but went out on lap three after a wreck on turn four. This was the best race of the evening with four lead changes, numerous restarts and a two lap battle for the checkered flag between Kokolis and Manganello which Kokolis won right at the end.

This Saturday PPMS will host the annual Ed Laboon Memorial for the Pro Stocks. But all the usual divisions will compete. Heat races begin at 7 pm.

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Fans Persevere Despite Dust, Delays
PPMS '24 Opener A Huge Success

Owner Blair Hess and his Pittsburgh Motor Speedway team really rolled the dice on their March 16 opener. Western Pennsylvania racetracks open May 1, or perhaps the last week of April. Earlier than that and the risk of snow, ice, hail, cold, wind, and public attention on basketball tournaments is just too great. The finely tuned racing motors don't run well cold, and even if PPMS lucked out and got one nice day, they'd need a whole week to get the track in good condition.

Not only did they want to open six weeks earlier than usual, but they proposed offering large purses to bring in the top Unlimiteds ("Super Lates"), Winged Sprints ("the fastest cars on dirt"), and the very best of the rapidly growing Sport Compact (Four Cylinder) Division. To afford those three big purses, a strong fan turnout was necessary, and to expect enough fans to turn out in 35 degree weather was to be wildly optimistic.

Drivers build new cars or refurbish old ones all Winter, and they might not even have their 2024 cars ready by mid March.

But PPMS pushed ahead, promoting the Saturday event heavily and signing new marketing partners.

Against all odds, their gamble paid off. They got a warm dry week to work on the track, and a warm sunny day for the races. Even as late as 10 a.m. Saturday it looked iffy. It was 35 degrees, racing teams were having trouble with engines not starting, and the stands were empty. But as the sun rose in the cloudless sky, temperatures soared into the 50s, engines roared to life, and the fans arrived en mass. By noon there were 112 cars in the pits, two thousand fans in the stands, and time trials were underway. For hard core racing fans, the day was an extravaganza. They got to see the time trials, 13 heat races, five consolation races and three Features. Every race was competitive. There was Green Beer and Green Jello Shots for St. Patrick's Day.

Drivers agreed the track was in great condition except for the back straight, which was a little dicey ("corduroy" as some of them put it).

The heats and consolation races were hotly contested but the three Features were the day's big attractions.

In the Unlimiteds ("Super Lates"), which was what most fans came to see, there were four restarts including one large multicar tangle on the fourth lap. The lead changed hands five times. Michael Norris of Sarver finally won it, as Max Blair, Drake Troutman, Tony Mussolino and Dylan Yoder finished 2-5 in order.

Tim Shaffer won the Winged Sprint Feature. Although he started second, he grabbed the lead early and kept it the rest of the way. Danny Sams was second, followrd by Sye Lynch, Dale Blaney and A. J. Flick.

Having won several major races here last Fall, Matt Urey (#501 in photo below) was the local favorite in the Four Cylinder ("Sport Compact") Division. These are entry level vehicles, designed to let beginners get started in dirt track racing. Urey's vehicle, called the FrankenHonda, has a Fort Escort front and Honda middle and rear. Urey was running his state of the art Honda Civic Type R 2.4L 315 Crate model which many auto enthusiasts believe is the greatest four cylinder engine ever made.

However, he did not have a good day. He led in the Feature all the way but with four laps to go the Franken Honda began sputtering and Urey was forced out with engine problems.

Andrew Hoffner took over the lead and won the Sport Compact Feature. Chris Anderson was second, Sam Regltz third, Robbie Carroll fourth, and Shawn Williamson fifth.

The day had its glitches. The staff was not prepared to handle the crush. Lines for the ticket booth stretched all the way across the parking lot. The line to get into the pits extended back to the highway and around the bend, which made some drivers late to time trials. The concession stands ran out of supplies and had to call for more. Time trials took longer than expected and set the rest of the day back further than expected. By mid afternoon clouds of dust obscured the views of both fans and drivers.

However, these can be corrected. The big lesson learned is that races CAN be held in mid March and drivers and fans WILL turn out.

PPMS resumes racing this Saturday. Gates open at 2 pm, time trials begin at 3 and racing starts at 4.

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Cordice, Benitez, Jackson Lead
Raiders Pick Up #6 Over Playoff Bound Avella

When you're struggling through a rebuilding season you need every win you can get. Cornell picked up a big one Friday night over playoff bound Avella 63-53. The Eagles are enjoying one of their better seasons in recent years and have already clinched a berth in the upcoming WPIAL playoffs. This is a very experienced and battle hardened aerie of Eagles which already beat Cornell out at their home nest.

But the Raiders turned in probably their best game of the year. They grabbed an early 21-11 lead and hung on for a 32-23 halftime edge. A strong third quarter saw Cornell outscore Avella 14-5 and lead 46-28. The Eagled rallied in the fourth, outscoring Cornell 25-17, but it was too late.

Julian Cordice led scoring with 27. Eduardo Benitez (photo, left) added 15 and C. J. Jackson 13.

Cornell closes out the section schedule with games at Western Beaver Tuesday and home against Carlynton Friday. The season finale is an exhibition at Freedom on MONDAY night February 12th.

With the shortest and least experienced lineup in rhe WPIAL, it's been a long hard year for the Raiders, but they've improved steadily under first year coach Brian Bethel. They've won six compared to last year's two and could steal one or two more.

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Benitez Leads Cornell With 9
Section Leading Union Rolls, 70-20

Powerful Union, leading the section and ranked #4 in the WPIAL, rolled over struggling Cornell 70-20 Tuesday night at the Raiders home gym.

The Scotties, 6-1 in section play after an upset loss to Carlynton a month ago, won the game in the first quarter. They led 21-5.

They outscored the Raiders 26-6 in the second, for a 47-11 halftime lead.

Substituting freely, Union continued to roll 13-7 in the third for a 60-18 edge.

They finished 10-2 in the fourth even while playing basically their JV team.

Taller at every position and playing experienced seniors against Cornell's mostly sophomores and freshmem, the Scotties had an answer for everything Cornell tried to do.

Freshman point guard Eduardo Benitez (photo, left) led all Raiders with nine points.

Cornell gets probably its final chances for wins now in a two game stretch. The Raiders play Avella at home Friday and Western Beaver away Tuesday. Cornell lost a close game AT Avella a month ago and picked up its only win in the section against Western Beaver at home.

 

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Rochester Barely Wins Each Quarter
Raiders Close But Still No Victory, 56-47

Cornell played Rochester close Friday night but couldn't win.

The Rams edged the Raiders 16-14 in the first quarter. They probably won the game in the second when they outscored Cornell 20-14 for a 36-28 halftime lead.

Cornell fell only one point short, 12-11, in the third, and battled Rochester even 8-8 in the fourth.

But the final result, 56-47, was still a loss, and kept Cornell in fifth place in the section.

Julian Cordice once again led all scorers with 18. No other Cornell player was in double figures.

Rochester now stands 9-5 overall and is second in the section.

The Raiders next host Union Tuesday night. The Scotties are in first place in the section and ranked #4 in the WPIAL. In the first half of the section schedule they defeated Cornell at Union.

 

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Cordice, Lee in Double Figures
Riverside Deals Cornell Another Loss 63-39

Cornell lost another game Tuesday night, 63-39. This one was to Riverside, a 3A school in suburban Ellwood City.

Julian Cordice again led Cornell in scoring with 14. This time he had help from Larry Lee (photo, left), who had 10.

Riverside jumped out to a 15-8 lead after one quarter, but in the second quarter Cornell was only outscored by one, 17-16. This sent the teams to halftime with Riverside up 32-24.

But a 20-7 third quarter run put the game out of reach at 52-31. With mostly reserves in, Riverside outscored the Raiders 11-8 in the fourth.

Cornell now returns to section play Friday night at Rochester, then home against Union next Tuesday. Both teams defeated Cornell in the first half of section play.

 

 

 

Cordice Leads With 20
Cornell Grabs #5 49-26 Over Environmental Charter

Now between the first and second halves of the section season, Cornell is playing two exhibition games. The Raiders won the first of those Friday night, 49-26 over Environmental Charter Academy of Pittsburgh.

The first quarter was a struggle and ended in a 5-5 tie. In the se3cond quarter Cornell outscored Environmental 17-11 to take a 22-16 lead to the locker room.

Cornell again struggled in the third, but managed to outscore the academy 9-4 for a 31-20 edge.

As Environmental, which had almost no bench, tired in the fourth, the Raiders turned it on 18-6 to run up the final 49-26 win.

Julian Cordice once again led Cornell scoring with 20. But once again no other Raider was in double figures.

That's C. J. Jackson in the photo at right.

Environmental Charter Academy is a school whose entire curriculum is based on science and the environment. The usual courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics plus courses in Ecology, Environmental Science, Engineering, Genetics, Anatomny & Physiology and Astronomy give students the background to conduct experiments and field trips in environmental issues. Labs include a heavy dose of water, air and soil testing, raising plants under various conditions and stresses, and studying immediate effects of climate change. But the school also includes a strong arts program, with courses in drawing, painting, ceramics and film making. It began as an elementary school and has added a grsde each year. It only recently became a full K-12 school with a thousand students total and 300 in the high school. Its athletic program is just now developing with teams in volleyball, basketball and track and field.

Cornell next plays at Riverside Tuesday night, then begins the second half of section play at Rochester Friday.

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Cordice, Jackson Lead Scoring
Cornell Loses To Carlynton 58-40

Cornell lost to Carlynton Tuesday night to complete the first half of section play. The loss left the Raiders in fifth place.

Julian Cordice led Cordice with 20 points. C. J. Jackson (#3 in photo, right) was aecond with 11. But the rest of the Cornell roster combined added only nine points.

Cornell stayed close in the first quarter, 19-14. But Carlynton, the preseason favorite to win the section, out scored the Raiders in the second, 13-3 for a 32-17 edge at halftime. Cornell played well in the third, scoring 17 to Carlynton's 15 and cutting rhe lead to 47-34. But then the Cougars went on an 11-6 run to clinch the win.

Cornell takes a break from section play with a home game against Environmental Charter Friday night and a trip to Riverside Tuesday. Then the second round of section play begins with a home game next Friday against Rochester. Cornell is 4-9 in a difficult rebuilding season.

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Cordice Scores 38
Cornell Digs Too Deep A Hole, Rally Falls Short

Cornell dug itself into a deep halftime hole, then staged a furious second half rally but fell short in a 69-63 loss at Avella.

Avella dominated the game in the first half. The Eagles led 21-7 after the first quarter and 40-15 at the half.

Cornell coach Brian Bethel must have delivered quite a motivating speech in the dressing room at half time, because the Raiders came out ready for war in the second half.

They outscored Avella 26-21 in the third quarter to trail only 61-41. Then they outscored the Eagles 22-8 in the fourth. But it wasn't enough.

Julian Cordice (shooting in photo at left) led all scorers with 38 points.

As usual, Avella had a height advantage. Wes Burchianti at 6-1 led all rebounders and scored 14 points. Bryce Wright at 6-0 was the Eagles leading scorer with 22 and added eight rebounds.

The win left Avella at 2-1 in the section and 7-7 overall. Cornell drops to 0-3 in the section and 3-8 overall.

Cornell next returns home to play Western Beaver Friday night. The Golden Beavers are 0-2 in the section and 2-12 overall. They lost to Avella 66-62 and Union 56-25.

 

 

 

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Cordice Only Bright Spot With 8
Union Home Streak Rolls On, 56-23

Union has lost three homes game in 70 years and Cornell didn't come close to threatening that streak Friday night, losing 56-23 in a game that was over in the first quarter.

Julian Cordice (#2 in photo at right) led Cornell in scoring with eight. Lucas Stanley, the latest in a long line of Stanley brothers and cousins who have starred for the Scotties, led Union with 19.

The score at the end of the first quarter was 21-7. Union expanded that to 39-14 at the half and 53-22 after the third quarter.

The fourth quarter, with both coaches playing their reserves, probably set a new WPIAL record for futility as Union scored three points and Cornell one.

Next week becomes slightly easier for Cornell, as the Raiders travel to Avella Tuesday night and play Western Beaver at home Friday. If Cornell is to win any games in the section, those are the two teams they will have to beat.

As the season progresses, the offensive movement first year coach Brian Bethel wants is becoming clear. He tells reporters it's a free lance offense, but in fact it's what old school coaches used to call The 1-4 or Flex. He likes Cornell to line up with one point guard, two players just above the hash marks and two on the wings. Tex Winter developed this offense at Kansas and took it to the NBA., where, as an assistant to Phil Jackson, he installed it at the Chicago Bulls. Wtth Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin, the Bulls used the 1-4 to win several NBA championships.

It's a simple offense, relying on quick cuts off screens to free those cutters for open shots. And, in fact, Cornell players are brushing their defenders off on screens and getting open. But the passes are often late, or intercepted, or fumbled, and when the cutters do receive the pass they often miss the shots. The 1-4, cometimes called the Triangle Offense, also invites spontaneous pick and roll moves between any rwo or three players. Once players master it, the 1-4 has the advantage that it frustrates advance scouting. There are no set plays. Within the 1-4 structure, players innovate. So, since even the players don't know in advance what they're going to run, but, as Bethel likes to say, they run what the defense gives them, the defense can't possibly anticipate what's coming next. In a year or so, as Cornell players develop the necessary instincts, this is going to be a fun offense for local fans to watch. But right now, it's a work in progress.

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Andre Taylor Leads With 15 Points
Cornell 8th Graders Lose In Final Seconds

Despite Andre Taylor's 15 points and outstanding floor play, Cornell's 8th graders lost a ragged home game to South Side, 34-32 Thursday afternoon.

Taylor (#2 in the photo at right) was easily the best player on the floor for either team, although big Zyair Dupree had 10 points and 18 rebounds for the Raiders.

It was close throughout. Dupree opened with a rebound and putback and Taylor added a layup to give Cornell a 4-0 lead. They held a two to four point lead as Shawn Fluellen (#21 in photo lower right) hit free throws and a layup and Taylor added a three from up top. But South Side began breaking through for layups and pulled out to a 14-11 halftime lead.

It expanded to 20-11 before Cornell rallied. Two Taylor layups and a free throw, follows by Jakil Turner and Dupree, and free throws by Dupree brought Cornell back to 22-21, and just as the quarter ended two Taylor free throws gave Cornell the lead back 23-22.

The fourth quarter saw the lead seesaw back and forth as Dupree hit a layup, a free throw and a beautiful hook shot. But South Side used layups and free throws to finally pull ahead 30-28. Taylor tied it at 30-30 with a layup, but a South Side layup and free throws pulled the Rams up 34-30. Taylor's layup cut that to 34-32 but time ran out with Cornell unable to score again.

Behind Taylor's 15 and Dupree's 10, Fluellen added five and Jakil Turner two. Justice Jacome played most of the game but did not score. Dupree played almost all of both seventh and eighth grade games in an attempt to give him as much experience as possible.

As the photo at left shows, Taylor has become adept at driving off Dupree's screen for open layups. Thursday, he used this move to score five layups. If his man tried to drop off him to avoid the screen Taylor would pull up and sink the three.

The eighth graders are struggling against a tough schedule because they've had a hard time getting everyone to practice. Illness, academic and discipline issues and transportation problems have hurt. But the talent is there.

Zyair Dupree Scores 16
Cornell 7th Graders Romp Over South Side

Cornell's seventh graders, behind Zyair Dupree's 16 points and 20 rebounds, romped to a 28-9 win over South Side Beaver Thursday afternoon.

Dupree, a 6-3 13 year old, dominated the game although he played cautiously to avoid fouls. He scored most of his points on rebounding teammates' shots and putting them back up, as seen in the photo at right.

The seventh graders are 5-1 against a tough schedule. So far they've played Burgettstown, Brentwood, Keystone Oaks, Northgate and Sto-Rox. They have yet to play Ambridge, Freedom, Fort Cherry, Eden, and return games against Brentwood, Keystone Oaks, Northgate, Sto-Rox and South Side Beaver.

"You're only as good as your competition," Coach Mike Smith tells reporters. "If they're going to get ready for high school, they need to play as tough a schedule as we can put together."

But Cornell faces the additional problem of many Class A schools not fielding seventh grade teams.

"They claim they don't have enough boys," Smith says. "They just combine them into a single team. So we have to schedule 2A, 3A and 4A schools to find seventh grade teams." South Side is a 2A school.

This is ironic since Cornell and Avella are the two smallest public middle schools in the state and both field seventh grade teams.

Smith has been coaching Cornell's middle school teams for a long time in addition to serving as an assistant on the high school level.

 

Behind Dupree, Kamden Schilinski added six points and Justice Jacome, Christian Griffith and Liam Fibeck two each. Nathan McArdle and Camarie Brown (#15 in photo below center) also played but did not sore.

Cornell grabbed an early lead and never looked back. Dupree scored on two follows, Jacome (#11 in photo below left) hit a baseline jumper and Schilinski (#22 in photo below right) a three from above the foul circle and at the end of rhe first quarter it was 9-0.

Dupree scored on two more follows and Griffith (#12 in photos at left and below left) a jumper, but South Side hit a corner three at the buzzer for a 15-3 halftime lead.

In the third quarter follows by Dupree and Fibeck (#34 is hidden but that's him with the ball in the photo at left) and a corner three by Schilinski and a baseline jumper and layup by South Side made it 22-7.

Dupree did all the Cornell scoring in the fourth with a follow and two layups. Two South Side free throws made the final 28-9.

Seventh graders in Pennsylvania only play six minute quarters, which keeps scores down.

Cornell next plays at Ambridge Tuesday before returning home to host Freedom next Thursday. Both games begin at 3:30.

 

Cordice's 17 Only Double Figure Points

Rochester Press Frustrates Cornell 66-33

Rochester unleashed a full court press on Cornell Wednesday night and forced a long list of turnovers which gave the visiting Rams a 66-33 section win.

The game was over after the first quarter, 29-13. Rochester led 50-23 at halftime and 60-32 after three quarters.

Julian Cordice led Cornell scoring with 17 but got no support. Larry Lee (#1 in photo at right) added six, Eduardo Benitez four, C.J. Jackson three and Nick Bennett two.

Rochester shot layups all night. The Rams shot nine in the first quarter, eight in the second, three in the third and one in the fourth. which was 21 for the game. The reason they kept declining is that Rochester kept substituting so in the second half they were basically playing their JV team.

As the panoramic photo above shows, Cornell was surrounded by Rochester defenders as it tried to bring the ball upcourt. Raiders dribbled the ball off their feet, threw it out of bounds, lofted slow cross court passes which were intercepted, and sometimes just had defenders tie them up and wrestle the ball out of their grasp.

On the few occasions Cornell passed the ball ahead of the press, players shot layups. Cordice shot five and Lee three.

The further the season goes and the more teams have each other thoroughly scouted, the more difficult it is for Cornell to get anything done. Teams focus defenses on Cordice, drop a few players back in the lane, and basically dare anyone else to score. Thus far, no one else has shown the ability to consistently hit.

But to be fair, Cornell faces a size disadvantage at every position. It's hard to get a good shot off against a much taller opponent, and it's hard to stop a much taller player from shooting. Rochester's press was effective mostly because Cornell had trouble passing over those outstretched arms.

The going gets tougher for Cornell. The Raiders go to Union Friday (assuming the heavy snow forecast does not force a postponement). Union has the greatest home court edge in Pennsylvania history. Since the gym opened in 1954, the Scotties have lost THREE games there in 70 years, two to the Butler Hennon coached Wampum teams that went on to win state championships, and one to the Bill Sacco coached Cornell team with Kaden Divito, Isaiah Langston and Zaier Harrison that would probably have won a state title had COVID not cancelled the tournament just before the state quarterfinals. This year's Union team is once again favored to win the section and contend for the WPIAL, and after being upset at Carlynton Wednesday night they'll be in a lean and hungry mood when Cornell arrives.

Help Is On The Way.....
Cornell Team Of The Future Taking Shape, 34-30

Cornell's Junior Varsity rolled to a 20 point lead against Rochester Wednesday night and hung on for a 34-30 win. The margin narrowed as Cornell substituted freely in the second half to save starters for the varsity game.

Santana Lee led all scorers with 11 points, followed by Devin Lamb with 10, Terrence Collington with six, Kenny Wade with four and Alex Benitez with three.

As this very difficult rebuilding season nears its halfway point, it is becoming clear Cornell's team of the future is Eduardo Benitez and Santana Lee at guards, Devin Lamb (#10 in photo at left) and Terrence Collington at forwards, and Nick Bennett at center, with Alex Benitez (#12 in photo below center) and Drake Barr backing up at guard, Kenny Wade and Colton Mosuch backing up at forward, and Julian Smith backing up at Center.

This team solves almost all of Cornell's current problems. Lamb is already 6-0 and will be taller. Mother Marcie was tall and excelled in volleyball, softball and basketball. He was a star youth league pitcher, is a good rebounder, defender and passer, and is becoming a scorer. Lee (#14 in photo lower left) and Benitez are silky smooth guards who can get past their men to the basket or pull up and hit threes. Collington is a battler on the boards, a tenacious defender and ie coming on as a shooter. Bennett (#52 in photo lower right) is already rebounding and scoring up on the varsity. He's 6-0 and Smith is 6-3 now and both are still growing. All of these are freshmen and sophomores.

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Raiders Fall to 3-4
With Cordice Out, Bulls Stampede 69-39

With leading scorer Julian Cordice out with a broken nose Cornell could not mount a consistent scoring threat and was no match for Brashear of the City League.

The Bulls opened with a barrage of threes, jumped out to a 27-9 lead and never looked back en route to a 69-39 win at Coraopolis Friday night.

Brashear sank seven threes, all from the sides except one up top, and added a layup, a baseline jumpshot and a dunk while all Cornell could produce was a Larry Lee layup, a rebound and follow by Lee, a follow and free throw by brother Santana, and a jumpshot by Eduardo Benitez (#22 in photo at right preparing to pass to Lee on the pick and roll).

So the game was really over after the first quarter.

With Cornell's defense extended to try and stop all those threes, Brashear in the second quarter slashed behind the Raiders for eight layups, although it did add two more threes.

For Cornell in that second quarter, Terrence Collington twice put back rebounds, Santana Lee added two layups and a free throw, Eduardo Benitez a jumper and Nick Bennett a layup. So Cornell trailed 57-23 at halftime.

In the second half Brashear played its reserves and with a running clock not much scoring was done.

In the third quarter, C. J. Jackson hit a three from up top, Eduardo hit a side three, Kenya Tench (#4 in photo at left) hit a jumper and a free throw, and Cornell trailed 65-32.

In the fourth, Collington and Tench both scored putbacks (that's Tench's in the photo), and Jackson added a three.

Santana Lee led Cornell with eight points. Eduardo Benitez added seven, Jackson and Collington had six each, Larry Lee and Tench five each, and Bennett two.

Once again Cornell struggled with a significant size disadvantage. The Raiders battled on the boards but had numerous shots blocked and often had defensive positions only to see opposing players simply go up and shoot over them. Bigger opponents also have longer arms and make it difficult for Cornell players to dribble through defenses to the basket.

Cordice is being fitted with a protective mask and is expected to return Thursday night at home against Hillel Academy.

Hillel is an Orthodoz Jewish Day School on Beacon Street in Pittsburgh. But it's a respectable opponent, having lost only one game, to Winchester Thurston (which also defeated Cornell). Hillel defeated Propel Montour 52-37, while Cornell defeated that team 56-43.

One frustrating problem Cornell is dealing with this season is the number of opponents who do not field Junior Varsity teams. After two years in which most boys did not play, Cornell must get as many players as possible as much experience as possible. Not being able to play freshmen and sophomores on a JV team prevents that. Brashear did not have a JV team and neither will Hillel. Six of Cornell's nine December opponents have not had JV teams, despite the fact most are larger schools.

Cornell is now 3-4, but as the old satying goes, The Sky Is Always Darkest Just Before The Dawn. The faint rays of hope are beginning to appear for the Raiders. Eduardo Benitez and Santana Lee have quick hands and quick feet and good floor vision. Lee has an explosive first step and the potential to become a great slasher to the basket. Benitez has a beautiful jump shot, is pretty good from the perimeter, and is a slick passer. Lee's shooting form and decision making need a lot of work. Benitez needs work on playing through contact. But the talent is there. Nick Bennett and Terrence Collington (#52 and #20 in the photo below) are already holding their own against older, bigger and more experienced insiders. Two more months of experience and a good off season in the weight room, summer camp and AAU games and they'll be ready.

Julius Smith is still overwhelmed by it all, but he has the size and bulk to become a legitimate presence inside once someone lights a fire inside him. Devon Lamb, already 6-0 and probably going to end up 6-2 or 6-3, needs to bulk up and pay more attention to academics, but he shows flashes of becoming outstanding at the #3 position, capable of going inside and rebounding or taking his man outside and outquicking him. Hurt most by the lack of a JV schedule have been Alex Benitez, Drake Barr and Kenny Wade, who are not yet ready for varsity competition but could show their skills and develop quickly playing against freshmen and sophomores. All these are freshmen and sophomores (and one junior in Lee) who will bring Cornell back to respectability next year.

In the meantime, seniors Cordice, Jackson, Tench, Larry Lee and Geoffrey Collington are playing critical roles in helping Cornell bridge the gap from the disaster of the last two years to a much brighter future. They're planting a tree so someone else can enjoy the fruit and the shade.

"We're OK," Coach Brian Bethel assured reporters after the Brashear loss. "We knew this was going to be a very tough year. We've just got to get that experience and go through that learning process. You just can't be teaching fundamentals at the varsity level and expect to have a lot of success. But as long as the guys stay positive, we'll be OK."

After New Year's Day, Cornell will begin Class A sectional play. The Raiders have played a difficult December schedule of 2A, 3A and 5A opponents and will have less of a height disadvantage in the section. Plus, most of the section teams will field JV teams.

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Dynamos Hold Cordice To 11
6-1 Springdale Hands Cornell Third Loss 74-42

Springdale, considered a major contender for sectional honors up in 2A, picked up its sixth victory against only one loss (to Clairton) at Cornell Tuesday night, 74-42.

As usual, Cornell faced a serious size disadvantage, and fell behind 23-10 in the first quarter.

But somehow the Raiders clawed their way back into it, outscoring Springdale 17-12 in the second quarter to trail only 35-27 at halftime.

Springdale squashed those hopes in the third quarter, exploding with 25 points to build a 60-37 advantage.

And they kept it up, adding 14 in the fourth while holding Cornell to only five.

As usual, Julian Cordice led Cornell with 11 points. But as the season continues and everyone has everyone else scouted, teams have learned to simply double team him and let everyone else shoot. Cornell doesn't have enough consistent shooters to score enough points. And although Cordice is still scoring, his 11 points in two straight games is far below the 30 he was scoring in earlier games.

The Raiders next play Brashear of Pittsburgh Friday night at home.

The Bulls stand 2-3. They beat Keystone Oaks 48-44 and Bishop Canevin 50-48. But they lost to Neshannock 72-32, West Allegheny 61-32, Mcdowell 77-52, and Woodland Hills 81-62.

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C. J. Jackson's Return Not Enough, 62-32
Winchester Thurston Suffocates Cornell

Winchester Thurston totally shut down Cornell's offense Friday night and rolled to a 62-32 win at Coraopolis.

The Raiders couldn't score. They had only nine, 23 and 29 at the quarter breaks and only scored one basket in the fourth quarter.

C. J. Jackson (photo, left) looked more impressive than expected in his debut, but it wasn't enough. Jackson, the quarterback in football, fractured his index finger in a late game and had it in a cast for a month. The cast came off Thursday and the X rays were fine, so the doctor OK'd his return.

Normally a player in his first game plays limited minutes and doesn't score much if at all. But Jackson played most of the game and sank three treys for nine points.

 

But Thurston stifled Julius Cordice (bottom photo). They allowed him only two layups in the first quarter and one in the second. He didn't score in the second half.

Cordice had two men on him most of the time and when he only had one defender that player was very physical, as the photo below shows. He never once all night had an uncontested shot and landed on the floor several times. Cordice did add three free throws.

Cornell only hit five threes. Cordice's three layups were the only ones the entire team scored. Six points came on jump shots and free throws.

But Cornell hung in there for a half. The Raiders led 2-0, 4-2 and 7-6 and only trailed 12-9 after a quarter. They closed it to 13-12 and 17-16 before Thurston pulled out to 23-16 and led 29-23 at halftime. Then they steadily increased their lead through the third and fourth quarters.

Cordice and Jackson tied for leading scorer with nine apiece. Eduardo Benitez added seven, his brother Alex three, and Geoffrey Collington and Nick Bennett two each.

Once again the inexperienced Raiders seemed uncertain on offense. They would hold the ball while considering their next move, and their passes were often slow, allowing the Winston Thurston defendees to intercept them.

Jackson is a valuable addition. He's a scoring threat, a reliable ball handler, a strong screener, and a muscular defender. But he's only 5-7, so he's not much help rebounding and players can shoot or pass over him or block his shots if they're anywhere close.

Eduardo Benitez was a bright spot in the loss. The freshman is a steady ballhandler and hit a three from the sideline and two jump shots from the side of the circle. He moves the ball well on the perimeter, but is having a hard time finding a lane to the basket.

As they will in every game all season, Cornell faced taller defenders at every position. To their credit, the Raiders battled the taller Bears on both boards, but often, even when they came down with the ball, they would either be tied up or have it stolen outright or wrestled away. Winchester Thurston scored on four putbacks as their rebounders went right back up over shorter Raiders.

Cornell's defense continues to struggle. Winchester Thurston shot seven wide open layups and eight wide open threes, four of them by the same player from the same spot at the top of the circle.

Coach Brian Bethel is trying to add to his roster as he loses players to academics and injuries. He's brought up Kenny Wade, Ashton Jones and Terrence Collington. But those players are also inexperienced and short.

Cornell now stands 3-3. The Raiders play Springdale, Brashear and Hillel in December before beginning section play against Rochester in January.

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Injuries, Grades Sideline Four
Shorthanded Cornell Falls To PCA 58-46

Cornell, minus two players sidelined by low grades, one who never dressed due to injury and one who was injured during the game, lost to Pittsburgh Christian Academy Tuesday night 58-46.

It was a game the Raiders would have won had they been at full strength, and a game they still should have won even shorthanded.

Pittsburgh Christian is in only its second year, but has assembled a very respectable team. They don't yet belong to the WPIAL, but would be competitive in Class A were they in it. The school has 170 students, about the same as Cornell.

PCA followed a classic 2023 game plan, one perfectly in line with modern basketball analytics. They only shot two kinds of shots : layups and threes. They only once shot anything inside the three point line unless it was also inside the lane. Because they shot wide open layups and threes, they were rarely fouled in the act of shooting, so free throws accounted for only one of their points.

In all, the River Hawks scored 15 layuips, seven threes and that one short jumpshot. They added two follows and the one free throw.

Early, their threes weren't falling, and Cornell stayed within reach. Julian Cordice hit a layup and a three from up top, Eduardo Benitez added two jumpshots and a layup, and Santana Lee a free throw as Cornell trailed only 16-12 after the first quarter. Christian hit only one three in that quarter.

But in the second they warmed up. Their first three shots were threes, followed by five layups and a follow. All Cornell could produce were layups by Kenya Tench (#4 in photo below) and Lee, free throws by Geoffrey Collington (#15 in photo, left) and Cordice, and a top three by Cordice. So the Raiders trailed 37-23 at half.

Cordice (#2 in photo below), despite being constantly double teamed as seen in the photo, exploded for three layips and a top three in the third quarter. But the only help he got was Collington's follow. So after Cornell narrowed the lead to nine, Christian pulled back out to 15, 49-34, at the end of the third.

Cornell made two more runs in the fourth quarter. Behind a layup and side three by Cordice and a layup by Lee, the Raiders cut it to 10 at 51-41. But Christian got loose for two layups and pulled back out to 55-41. Cordice then hit a running jump shot, a free throw and a layup to cut it to nine, 55-46. But time was running out, and Christian went to a weave. When the Cornell defense broke down and left a man wide open, Christian hit one last side three for the final 58-46 margin.

Cordice led all scorers with 30 but was the only Raider in double figures. Lee added five, Tench and Benitez four each, and Collington three.

The loss was especially bitter because Cornell wasn't even supposed to play this team. The Raiders were scheduled to play Northgate. But Northgate has a new Athletic Director and somehow the previous A.D. had not entered the Cornell game properly. When Cornell AD Bill Sacco called to verify game times, parking and other details, he was told Northgate already had another game scheduled. Unlike other states, schools in Pennsylvania do not sign game contracts with forfeiture and financial penalties. The other Northgate game was a WPIAL section match with StoRox so took precedence. So Sacco had to start calling around. Pittsburgh Christian was the only team with an open date.

 

Cordice, Benitez and Lee held their own out on the perimeter but the loss of two inside big men hurt on defense, rebounding and scoring.

Christian also ran continual cuts, drives and backside passes and most of those lay up shots came on wide open drives to the basket, behind the defense, along the right or left baseline.

Christian also did a great job of reversing the floor and finding the open man on the side or in the corner for a wide open three.

The Riverhawk defense kept the lane clogged and double teamed Cordice, daring Cornell to shoot threes. But except for Cordice, the Raiders really don't have a reliable three point shooter.

Once again, Cornell faced a size disadvantage.

The Raiders did try to run various pick and roll moves, as they try to learn the nuances of Coach Brian Bethel's Free Lance Offense. And they did free up men driving to the basket several times. But the Christian defense was waiting for them in the lane, and did not give up any clear shots.

Cornell's offense continues to stick, as players are thinking instead of reacting. A player will make a pass and then stand there, considering his next move. He'll catch a pass and survey the floor, instead of immediately snapping the ball to the open teammate. These several second pauses gives the defense time to react and cut off any drives to the basket.

The Raiders next play Winchester Thurston at home Friday night. The Pittsburgh private school opened with a 69-36 win over St. Joseph but lost to Avonworth 70-29.

The Bear lineup includes a 6-5 and a 6-4, but then drops down to three 6-1s and a 6-0 reserve, so Cornell will again be outsized.

But C. J. Jackson gets his cast off Thursday and if the X-rays are good, he could join the Cornell lineup as early as Friday. (If the X-rays are not good, he'll need surgery and not be available for the season.) Hopefully, Nick Bennett will also be back, helping the Raiders inside. Bennett is nursing a football injury which flares back up off and on.

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Cordice Has 28
Raiders Roll Over Montour Propel 56-43

Bigger, beefier Montour Propel made the game Friday night into a highly physical contest with lots of knocking and banging.

That was OK with Cornell. The football players on the roster loved it. By the third quarter they had knocked and banged their way to a solid lead, and hung on for a 56-43 victory which upped their record to 3-1.

Propel's style succeeded for a while. The Legends grabbed an early lead and held it until halftime.

But Cornell went to work in the third quarter. Santana Lee's layup gave the Raiders their first lead at 28-27, and a Nick Bennett (#52 in bottom photo) followup a few seconds later made it 30-27. Propel cut it back to 30-29 with a layup but Bennett's follow and layups by Kenya Tench (#4 obscured in the photo below) and Julian Cordice made it 36-29. Cornell never lost the lead but Propel kept it within 3-5 for the rest of the third.

Another Bennett (#52) follow and a layup by Eduardo Benitez (#22) kept the Raiders up 40-36 as the fourth quarter opened.

Layups by Geoffrey Collington (#15) and Benitez held the lead at 44-38. Cordice's layup and and Bennett's free throw pushed it to 47-40. Lee hit a jumper, Cordice two free throws and Bennett a layup to pretty well put it out of reach at 53-41. Cordice finished the scoring with free throws as Propel had to foul in the last few minutes.

Cordice led all scorers with 28. Bennett had 11, Santana Lee had 8, and several players had four or less.

It was another game in which Cornell overcame a size disadvantage with quickness and a willingness to go to war on the boards. Several Raiders seem to have a knack of anticipating where the ball is coming off, and the quick feet and hands to get in position to grab it. They sometimes lose it after they grab it, but that's being worked on. As Coach Brian Bethel says "we're a work in progress."

The defense continues to improve. Cornell used its full court press sparingly but it gave the Raiders several steals and layups.

In the halfcourt, Cornell came up with several steals and deflections and gave up very few drives to the basket. They forced Propel to shoot mostly perimeter shots and long twos, which the Legends weren't hitting. Against Sewickley Cornell gave up 16 layups. Against Propel the Raiders gave up six.

But ballhandling continues to be a problem. With a few exceptions, Cornell insists on telegraphing its passes, throwing slow passes, and often throwing them either to the defense or out of bounds. This is slowly improving as the football players round into basketball shape and get their instincts down. But the schedule gets tougher fast. Games are coming against 2A Winchester Thurston, 2A Springdale, 5A Brashear, 3A Riverside and 3A Freedom and the section grind begins January 3.

The receivers don't have their timing down, either. Against Propel, nine pinpoint passes were made to teammates cutting to the basket for wide open layups but fumbled out of bounds. Those were 18 potential points thrown away.

Still, Cornell has already surpassed last season, during which the Raiders won only two games playing almost the identical schedule.

"We're coming along," Assistant Coach Mike Smith told reporters after the game. "We need our rebounders to be aggressive, establish position, maintain a high level of intensity and once they get the ball make sure the defense doesn't tie them up or steal it, and then get the ball out to teammates. They're doing the first several things, and now we need to work on the last few. We can't afford to go to all the trouble to get in position and bring the ball down, then get tied up for jump balls, or have the ball knocked loose, or walk with the ball. But we're coming along. I was really happy with Nick (Bennett), Geoffrey (Collington) and Julian (Smith) tonight. Propel had some size out there but we went right at them. Those followups by Nick, where he got the rebound and took it right back up for the score, were critical. We need those all season."

Cornell may be the smallest team in Class A, or possibly the entire WPIAL. After the 6-0 Cordice and Bennett, the most frequently used players are 5-11, 5-11, 5-8, 5-7 and 5-7.

Cornell was to play Northgate away Tuesday night but due to a problem at Northgate that game has been cancelled. Instead, Bethel made several quick phone calls and scheduled Pittsburgh Christian Academy for a home game Tuesday. Pittsburgh Christian Academy has an enrollment of 170 and is located in West Mifflin. In its upper four grades Cornell also enrolls about 170.

There was no Junior Varsity game against Montour Propel, which does not have a JV team.

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Raiders Unveil Full Court Press
Cordice-Led Cornell Surprises Perry 51-38

Behind Julian Cordice's 22 points, Cornell surprised 3A Perry 51-38 to improve its season record to 2-1.

It was an ugly game. Basketball purists in the sparse crowd spent most of the evening cringing. The first half was particularly awful, with Perry taking a 14-11 lead to the locker room. Nobody could hit. Most of the points were free throws.

Fortunately, things improved. Cordice (#2 in bottom right photo) opened the third quarter with a layup and free throw to tie it at 14. A Perry layup and free throw pulled the Commodores up 17-14, but a Cordice corner three and free throw gave Cornell its first lead at 18-17. Two quick steals resulting in a free throw, a follow and a layup pulled Perry back up 22-18. But Cordice hit a running layup down the lane and hit a free throw to narrow it to 22-21. Santana Lee (#14 in second and fourth photos) hit two free throws, then two more, to put the Raiders ahead for good 25-23. A Cordice corner three and free throw pushed it to 29-25 and the run was on. Geoffrey Collington (#15 in photo below) scored two layups. Santana Lee added a layup and two free throws and brother Larry Lee hit a layup and free throw and suddenly Cornell was up 40-31 at the end of the quarter.

In the fourth quarter Collington scored three layups, Julian Smith (#55) followed up a rebound, Larry Lee a free throw and Cordice a baseline jumper to keep Cornell comfortably ahead 51-38.

But the game was not as smooth as it sounds. Between these shots the officials were kept busy with fouls, tieups, out of bounds, over and backs, and unsportsmanlike calls. They averaged one whistle every 10 seconds. Sometimes they even made a call while play was stopped for a prior call. The game was not over until 9:30 pm.

Through it all, however, Cornell improved significantly over the previous game, especially on defense.

Even in the halfcourt, Raiders tightened down and came up with steals and tieups.

But they also unveiled their new full court press, an inline press Assistant Coach Michael Smith acquired from West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins. It's a bit unusual, and Perry appeared bewildered by it. It can't be used consistently, because it has a few obvious flaws offenses can exploit, but alternated with a 2-2-1 or 1-2-1-1 it can cause havoc. In the second half against Perry it was certainly effective.

Like almost every team Cornell will face this year, Perry had a size advantage, as the photos show. But the Raiders went to war on the boards and by the end of the third quarter they began to dominate. Cordice, Collington, the Lee brothers, Nick Bennett, and Smith played football and it shows in their willingness to mix it up in the lane.

Raider shooting still needs work. Several players do not have proper form, and although several are able to evade their defenders and get to the basket they then miss the layups either under contact or even unopposed. But their scoring against Perry was more evenly distributed.

Cordice led as usual with 22, but Santana Lee had 11, Collington 10, Larry Lee five, Smith two and Colton Mosuch one.

Santana Lee is a particular problem for defenses because with his quickness and agility he draws fouls like flies. Whoever coaches assign to guard him is almost sure to get in early foul trouble.

But this group seems to have a serious problem with passing. Their passes are slow, they telegraph where the passes are going, and they're not accurate. This allows defenses to pick off a number of passes and then score at the other end. Perry only scored 38 points and 14 of them came off steals and runouts.

However, as Coach Brian Bethel keeps telling reporters, "This is a work in progress. We're trying to make up for players going two years and not playing. Everyone has to be patient through December and hopefully we'll be ready for Class A teams when we get to section play."

Against Sewickley, Cornell looked significantly better than it had in preseason scrimmages. Against Perry it looked significantly better than it had against Sewickley.

And C. J. Jackson, out with a fractured index finger, is due back in mid December. He should make a major difference.

Cornell plays AT Montour Propel tonight (Friday).

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Sewickley Size, Press Prevail In Home Opener
Cordice's 31 Not Enough As Cornell Falls 68-53

Julian Cordice (#2 below) sank seven three pointers en route to a 31 point night, but it wasn't enough as Cornell lost its home opener 68-53 to 2A Sewickley Academy.

The young and undersized Raiders hurt themselves with errors and hurried, ill advised shots, but their biggest problem was on defense. Sewickley made 16 uncontested layups.

"We're definitely a work in progress," first year Coach Brian Bethel admitted afterward. "We have a lot of work to do in every category, but we need the most work on defense."

Cornell did give the sparse crowd lots of reasons for hope, however.

Freshman point guard Eduardo Benitez (#22, left) will be good this year and outstanding for the next three. He's fast, quick, athletic, already has good instincts, and can shoot threes or beat his man on the dribble and get to the basket.

Lee brothers Larry and Santana (#14 in bottom photo), while undersized, are clever ballhandlers and seem able to penetrate and then kick the ball out to open shooters.

Cordice certainly gives Bethel some firepower to build around. Senior guard C. J. Jackson is out with a broken index finger from football season. He's expected back in another week. Jackson can handle the ball and score and will pull defenses to him, easing the prsssure on others. He and Cordice together could provide a powerful 1-2 scoring threat.

"If C. J. recovers from that injury, we keep everybody else healthy, and we develop some chemistry, then by the time we drop back to our Class A schedule in January we could be a pretty decent team," Assistant Coach Michael Smith believes.

One problem is that many of these players did not play the last two seasons. So they've forgotten much of what they learned on middle school teams, and have not been working on fundamentals.

Another problem is that Bethel believes in a free lance offense instead of set plays. Once learned, this makes a defense's job much more difficult, because it can't scout the plays ahead of time. However, a free lance offense requires a lot of on court decision making, and with these players having not played the last two years their decision making needs work.

For instance, Tuesday night, Cornell players did not run very many pick and roll moves, and when they did, often the screener did not set the screen tight and ballhandler did not come off the screen correctly. This can be cleared up but will take time.

The Raiders hung in there during the first quarter. A Benitez three from up top, and a Lee tip in, layup and two free throws kept it close at 13-9. In the second, a running jump shot by Benitez, and layups by Cordice and Lee gave Cornell a 15-13 lead. But Sewickley began hitting threes, and the Panthers pulled out to a 30-19 halftime edge.

Cornell's offense became much too concentrated. Only five players scored : Cordice 31, Larry Lee 10, Eduardo Benitez five, Santana Lee three and Nick Bennett two. In the second quarter, Cordice and Larry Lee scored four points each for all Cornell's points. In the third, Cordice scored 11 and Larry Lee one for all Cornell's points. In the fourth quarter Cordice scored 16 and Nick Bennett and Lee a layup each. Sewickley began shading defenders off Cornell's other players and overplaying Cordice and Lee. Notice in the photo below two defenders are guarding Lee. He was quick and clever enough to get by them on this possession, but couldn't do it consistently.

Currently, for varsity games Cornell dresses Cordice, the Lee brothers, Nick Bennett, Eduardo Benitez, Alex Benitez, Kenya Tench, Josh Mosuch, Julian Smith, Devin Lamb,. Colton Mosuch, Drake Barr and Geoffrey Collington. One of these freshman will go back to full time JV duty as soon as Jackson takes off his cast.

The defensive breakdown Bethel was most concerned about was the Sewickley runouts after Cornell would miss a shot.

"We have to have one man back to cover those fast breaks," he said. "Sewickley shot 16 uncontested layups. That's 32 points we handed them and we only lost by 15."

Cornell also needs to crank up its own fast break. Raider guards usually walked the ball up the floor Tuesday, but with their speed and quickness they could increase the tempo. This would overcome the height disadvantage Cornell will face every night.

Cornell really hurt itself with some poor passes, all of which were intercepted by Sewickley playera and fired downcourt for layups.

After the last two disastrous seasons, fans have drifted away and this game showed they haven't started coming back even for a new coach. A scattering of Sewickley fans plus the usual Cornell parents, girlfriends, cheerleaders and a few die hard basketball lovers were the only ones there. It will take several victories in a row to reignite the fan base.

But Bethel remained optimistic. "I was really heartened when they didn't quit once they got down. If you hadn't looked at the scoreboard you would have assumed it was a one point game. We really maintained our intensity. If we can keep that attitude, down the road by mid January we'll be a team to contend with in our Section."

The Raiders play 3A Oliver Traditional Academy from the Pittsburgh City League at home Thursday and then Class A Montour Propel away Friday night. All varsity games begin at 7 pm.

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41-28 Lead Blown When Starters Pulled
Sewickley Press Beats Cornell JVs 51-50 in OT

Cornell's Junior Varsity let a 41-28 lead slip away and lost their 23-24 home opener to Sewickley 51-50 in overtine.

Cornell had led the entire game, including a 25-21 edge at halftime. But the Raiders are still shorthanded and use top JV players to back up the varsity. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, those players were pulled to head for the locker room and join the varsity in pregame preparations.

Sensing that the JV second team was not quite as skilled, Sewickley went to a pressing defense. Cornell could not handle it. After each steal, Sewickley would fire the ball downcourt for layups. After six steals and layups, plus two free throws, that 41-28 lead shrank to 44-42. A baseline jumpshot tied it at 44-44 with 28 seconds to go. Cornell worked for an open shot, but with time winding down, with an open man across the lane, a Cornell player shot an ill advised hook shot, which missed.

In the overtime, Sewickley pulled ahead 46-44 on another layup, but two layups by Santana Lee and one by Culton Mozuch put Cornell back on top 50-46 at 1:14. A three pointer from the side brought Sewickley to 50-49 with 48 seconds left, and a steal and a layup gave the Panthers the 51-50 win with six seconds left.

However, the JV starting lineup was impressive. Devin Lamb, brothers Alex and Eduardo Benitez, Culton Mozuch and Julian Smith controlled the game over taller mostly sophomore 2A Sewickley. The Raiders matched the Panthers' physicality under the boards and alternated threes and layups against various Sewickley defenses. Cornell will apparently go with a three guard lineup most of the time and their guards are all fast, quick, good ballhanders who can score from outside or beat their men off the dribble and get to the basket.

Mozuch, Nick Bennett and Smith will face taller and older inside players all season but seem able to hold their own in the lane.

Cornell under Head Coach Brian Bethel is not running set plays, but a free lance offense. This requires players to make a lot of decisions on the floor, and developing these instincts will take time.

The Jayvees will face 3A Perry Thursday night at home and Class A Montour Propel Friday away. Their games begin at 6 pm.

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Dawson Looks Back Over Season
13 Raiders Honored As Conference All Stars

Cornell Football Coach Ed Dawson (bottom photo) held out his hands. "I'm missing a football," he announced. "They were all here just a few minutes ago. One of you guys has a football sitting in his locker, or under a chair, or under a coat. I need that football."

It was a bittersweet Thursday in the Cornell locker room. The Raiders were checking in their equipment and wrapping up the 2023 season. It was also a proud day. After going 8-2 and making the playoffs, Cornell had 13 players honored as Black Hills Conference All Stars.

Mikey Keyes (#17, right) at Wide Receiver and Khylil Johnson (#20, below) at Running Back made the First Team Offensive Unit.

Julian Cordice at Defensive Back made the First Team Defensive Unit.

Quarterback C. J. Jackson, Wide Receivers Drevon Newton and Cordice, Running Back Walter Claritt and Offensive Linemen Jamarcus Pierce and Nick Bennett all made the Second Team Offensive Unit.

Defensive Linemen Jayron Smith and Newton and Linebackers Ashton Jones and Kenya Tench made the Second Team Defensive Unit.

Offensive Lineman Phil Bsrker and Linebacker Santana Lee earned Honorable Mention.

Dawson is receiving high praise and being suggested for Coach Of The Year honors for somehow directing Cornell to eight wins and a playoff run when no one expected the Raiders to win more than five, if that. But he dismisses such talk.

"This wasn't that big of a surprise. People just weren't paying attention. I knew if we could just avoid too many injuries we could have a special season. We had the best off season, especially in the weight room, that we've had in 10 years. The players all held each other accountable."

"We had Drevon and Mikey at Wide Receiver and I thought Khylil was ready to help us at running back. So I felt good about this team way back in August."

He was surprised, however. Ashton Jones came on much better than expected at Linebacker. Dawson's own son, Isaiah, surprised him. Isaiah, a sophomore, broke his femur, tore his right shoulder lebrum, then tore his left shoulder lebrum.

"I told him maybe it was time to accept the fact football might not be for him. But he insisted he was coming back, and he did. He came to practice as soon as he got out of surgery, and he dressed for our last three games. He's my hero. That showed a lot of guts."

Julian Cordice surprised him. "I knew he'd be a good Defensive Back. But he also became a good Running Back. He really helped us on offense."

Dawson knew he had a potentially good runner in Johnson, but Khylil came on much faster and better than he expected. "I thought by his junior year he could be really good. But by October he just exploded. Now, with two years left, he can become something very special."

The kicking game continues to frustrate Dawson. For 10 years it has been Cornell's achilles heel. Every year the Raiders lose key games due to kicking. Last year they lost to OLSH and missed the playoffs on missed extra points. This year they lost in the playoff to Rochester on two missed extra point kicks.

"People must think we don't work on kicking," Dawson said with a touch of irritation. "But you reporters see us working on it every day. And we make those kicks in practice. Then in games we get hurt, or tired, or the defense breaks through, or it's raining, or something. This weighs on my mind all the time.

"The thing is, most schools have soccer teams. They pull kickers from their soccer team. But we don't have soccer. A lot of our opponents have kickers who only kick. Ours play other positions. C.J. kicks and plays Qb. He gets worn down by the fourth quarter and his kicks get tough."

Finding a Special Teams Coach to come to a 1A school would be tough, but even if Dawson could find one, he couldn't allot more thsn 30 minutes a day to kicking, and Cornell does that now.

As each player brought Dawson his equipment, the Coach asked about offseason plans. Was he going to play basketball? Run track? Seniors talked to Dawson about college plans.

Over the last 10 years, most Cornell players have gone on to Division III or II colleges, such as Marietta, Lake Erie, W & J, one of the state colleges, Geneva, I.U.P., or one of the Historically Black Colleges.

His own son E. J. is at Marietta College, where he's been starting on the JV team as a freshman.

Dawson looked out over the field. "If I could change one thing about this job it would be that field," he admitted. "I don't want artificial turf. But I wish we had the money to dig down, lay proper drainage, then relay the whole field." Cornell misses valuable practice days because the field is a swamp, and sometimes games have had to be relocated to opponents' fields or to a neutral site because Cornell's field is unplayable. Any time Coraopolis receives two days of rain, the field becomes a spongy soggy wetland.

Quarterback C. J. Jackson graduates so that job will be open. Walter Claritt seems the heir apparent. But Dawson warns about looking ahead.

"Walter will be a leading candidate. But he's so valuable as a running back, putting him at quarterback would actually be a disadvantage. And once we start practicing next year, there will probably be others who try to beat Walter out."

Several players asked about the weight room schedule.

"We'll take a couple of weeks off and let everybody heal up from the season," he told them. "Then we'll get back at it. I'll let you know."

Someone asked Dawson when he'll start preparing for next season. He just laughed.

"We lost to Rochester Friday night. Saturday morning I started thinking about next year. Head football coaches don't get any off seasons. It's a seven day a week 52 week a year job. That makes it demanding but it also makes it fun. If you like football, you get to live it."

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Once Proud Program Fallen On Hard Times
Brian Bethel Reboots Cornell Basketball

Brian Bethel has met a lot of challenges in his basketball career but he's just taken on the biggest one.

Bethel has been hired to rebuild Cornell's high school basketball program from the ruins.

Coraopolis, Neville Island and Cornell have a century long basketball tradition. All three have won section and WPIAL championships and made serious runs at the PIAA State Championship. Just a few years ago, Cornell had the PIAA's Outstanding Player and was the favorite to win the state championship when COVID cancelled the tournament.

Then Bill Sacco retired as coach and the bottom fell out. For two years Cornell struggled to win a game.

Bethel declines to talk about what caused the collapse. But suddenly Cornell athletes were not playing basketball. Under promise of anonymity, several players offered rheir opinions.

"They hired an assistant from one of those big 5A Catholic schools," one said. "They'd been really successful. But they ran a set system, and they would recruit the players they needed to make that system work. He tried to install that system here, but we're a small public school, we don't have the players to fit that system, and here he couldn't go out and recruit them. So nothing worked."

Another player said there was a huge disconnect. "He wasn't a teacher here. He never saw us until after school was over for the day. So he didn't really know us. He didn't even know our names. We were used to getting a lot of personal attention from Coach Sacco and Coach Dawson and he wasn't giving us any of that. We never really felt like he cared about us. So then when we couldn't run his system like he wanted, he got really mad and said some pretty harsh things. We've all been playing sports since about 4th grade and we're used to demanding coaches, but mixed in with the criticism they'd also tell us when we did something right. All of a sudden this guy was just all negative, negative, negative. Well, sports is supposed to be fun, you know. Yeh, we have to work hard, but mixed in with all the blood, sweat and tears we're supposed to enjoy it. And basketball just wasn't fun any more. And we weren't just losing. We were losing by really embarassing scores. It was a bad experience. So one by one, over time, a lot of us just quit."

So Bethel faces a severe shortage of players. He laughed at the old coaching cliche that "It doesn't matter about Xs and Os until you've got the right Jimmys and Joes," but he knows his first job is to recruit Cornell's own hallways and persuade those players to come back out.

"Those players are here," he insists. "I know who they are. Now I've got to convince them to play."

Bethel knows who they are because he's been coaching in Cornell's grade school and middle school system for years. He's coached youth teams to championships.

Bethel played his own basketball at Eau Claire High School in South Carolina under one of the state's most respected coaches, then played at Allen University, one of the nation's Historically Black Universities.

"If I can recruit the talent," he says, "What I'd like to run is a fast breaking, full court pressing, motion offense system. I really like the 2-2-1 press and a freelance, sort of pro style offense."

First, he needs a point guard. He played point guard, so he knows how to coach one.

That need was dealt a serious blow when Cornell's starting point guard transferred to Moon over the Summer. "That really hurt. He would have helped us."

But he's really excited about another one. Eduardo Benitez, a 5-9 freshman, has come up through Cornell's grade school and middle school system. "He had a really solid Summer League against junior and senior guards from big schools. He won't be intimidated and he's a quick learner. After four years of big time youth league competition, he has good instincts." Benitez (photo, right) is a good ballhandler, good defender and good shot.

Bethel is counting on two 6-3 forwards : Julian Cordice and Kenya Tench. Both are strong and physical.

He's still talking to several other potential players. "I'd love to get Walter Clarit and maybe even C.J. Jackson back out. They're not big but they're fast, quick and smart and neither one is afraid of a little physical contact."

This second week of November Bethel is working with an incomplete squad. He gave the football players a week off to rest up from their long hard season, which ended in the WPIAL playoffs.

"We don't have a true big man," he admits. "We'll be undersized. But a running pressing style can make up for that. And two 6-3 guys isn't bad for a Class A team."

Bethel expects to have depth, but it will be young. Cornell will have a roster heavy with freshmen and sophomores. How fast they come on may determine what kind of season the Raiders have.

The section will include Union, Carlynton, Rochester, Avella and Western Beaver. Old rivals like Nazareth Prep have moved up to Class 2A, and one time nemesis Vincentian closed. Union will again be the favorite to win the section.

Cornell will see its first outside competition next week with a scrimmage against Class A rival Bentworth from Washington County.

Bethel's coaching staff includes Mike Smith, Brandon Battles and Grant Nicholson.

The players seem to respond well to Bethel and his staff. Their coaching was positive and encouraging as the team worked on fast break drills, perimeter shooting drills and concluded with a full court scrimmage.

"We have to have everyone rebounding," he told them. "We don't have a big man, so we all have to help out. On every play, you need to be going for the ball."

He paced the sidelines and endlines continually, calling encouragement and advice. Then he called the team together for a final talk.

"If you know of anyone who could help us, talk to them," he told the players. "We're a small school. We can't afford to have good athletes not playing. We need their help. Get them here."

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Khylil Johnson stars in losing effort
Extra Points End Cornell Season 20-19

For the last decade the kicking game has cursed Cornell. No matter who the kicker, the holder or the snapper, poor punts and missed or blocked field goals and extra points have cost the Raiders games and seasons. Just last year missed extra points cost Cornell its rivalry game with Sacred Heart and a trip to the playoffs.

Friday night at Moon Stadium the curse rose up again, this time costing Cornell a playoff victory over Rochester and a trip to the WPIAL quarter finals.

It was a beautiful night for football but neither team played well and the officials were erratic, too. The large crowd, bundled up in parkas, hoods, long underwear and blankets, watched fumbles, interceptions, penalties and missed assignments. (Moon blocked off the north stands so these photos make it look like no one was there. But the crowd was behind the photographer in the south stands.)

There were curious calls. One pass interference call occurred when the pass landed out of bounds and no contact occurred. Several late hits and highly obvious holdings were ignored. But the teams fumbled the ball back and forth often enough that no matter who lost they couldn't blame the officiating.

Rochester has long been known for its running attack, and the Rams kept the ball on the ground Friday night. There's nothing fancy about their offense --- just well executed blocks that open holes for their runners. Cornell did a pretty good job of containing that attack, just not quite good enough.

Rochester's leading rusher, Amari Curry, was held to only 65 yards on 15 carries. Jason Clinton had 46 yards on nine carries, while Dom Guido finished with 28 yards on 10 carries.

The Rams elected to receive to open the game, and used a series of short runs to crank out four first downs. They had penetrated to Cornell's 26 when they finally decided to try their first pass. Cornell's Damian Blackwell picked it off.

The Raiders ran four plays, picking up two first downs, when Rochester's Clayton Potts intercepted a pass and ran it back 36 yards. Felipe Castilho made the P.A.T. kick for a 7-0 lead with 1:59 in the first quarter.

After the ensuing kickoff, Khylil Johnson (#20 in bottom photo) broke loose for an 80 yard touchdown run, but it was called back by a penalty. Cornell then launched a 12 play drive of six first downs concluding in C.J. Jackson (#5 in photo below) scoring from the one on a quarterback keeper. But the P.A.T. kick missed, so Cornell still trailed 7-6 with 7:14 til halftime.

Rochester took the kickoff on its own 40 and began a long drive of five first downs to the Cornell five, from where Guido ran it in. The P.A.T. kick failed, leaving Rochester up 13-6.

Cornell was unable to move the ball as the half expired.

But the Raiders received to open the third quarter, and began a long drive of five first downs to the Rochester 11.

Johnson ran it in from there, and with the successful kick the score was tied at 13-13.

Rochester had shut down Cornell's passing attack by not giving Jackson enough time, but he finally unleashed a 40 yarder to Johnson (top photo) on the Rochester three. But two plays later a fumble prevented a touchdown. A score there would have won the game for Cornell.

That began a wild and messy fourth quarter, in which the teams took turns fumbling the ball back and forth to each other, punts went straight up in the air and quarterbacks were sacked. The game was played in the middle of the field. Then, finally, Jackson fired a 37 yarder to the four with three seconds left. Coach Ed Dawson called for a spike to stop the clock while he sent the field goal unit in. But the official did not stop the clock and time expired . Dawson protested to no avail, and the game went to overtime.

Under WPIAL rules, in overtime, each team gets a first down on the 10 yard line. Rochester won the coin toss and elected to go second. On Cornell's first play, Johnson powered 10 yards down the left sideline for the TD. But the P.A.T. was blocked by Potts. So Cornell led 19-13.

On Rochester's third play, Guido muscled in for the TD from the four. Castilho, a Portugese foreign exchange student, kicked the P.A.T. for the 20-19 victory.

Spesaking through a translator, Castilho told reporters afterward, "I love this. I love American football. I love being a kicker."

It was a frustrating night for the Raiders, who outscored their final two regular-season opponents, 79-9. Johnson was limited to 87 yards on 15 carries. Quarterback C.J. Jackson passed for 112 yards but was rarely able to find his two star receivers, Drevon Newton and Mikey Keys, because Ram defenders were constantly rushing him in the backfield. Rochester was taller and heavier at every position and Cornell's line could not keep them out.

Their height caused the 5-7 Jackson major problems in finding his receivers and getting his passes off (see second photo above; Jackson is #5).

So Cornell finishes 8-3. Most predictions, including those of the Litkenhous Computer, picked the Raiders to go 5-5 and miss the playoffs in a rebuilding year. But several players came on much faster than expected, especially Johnson, Keyes, Blackwell, Walter Clarit and Jackson.

Cornell loses Jackson and Newton to graduation so will once again be looking for a quarterback and another wide receiver. But Johnson and Keyes have emerged as legitimate stars and Clarit, although undersized, is strong on both offense and defense. He can serve as a running back and will be a likely replacement for Jackson at quarterback.

Line Coach Kenny Rainey became a powerful asset and if Dawson can retain him, Cornell should again enjoy a strong line on both offense and defense. Although they had problems with the taller, heavier, more experienced Rochester line, they have done well all season against everybody else.

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Raiders Finish "Rebuilding" Regular Season 8-2
Playoff Bound Cornell Rolls Over OLSH 40-9

Cornell wrapped up an unexpected season Friday night with a 40-9 win over Our Lady Of The Sacred Heart.

Cornell took charge of the game early and it was never in doubt.

C. J. Jackson (photo, right) scored the first touchdown on a one yard quarterback keeper play and added the P.A.T. kick for a quick 7-0 first quarter lead.

In the second quarter, Jackson blocked a punt and ran it back 65 yards. The PAT kick failed but Cornell led 13-0.

Then Philip Barker intercepted a Brandon Brazell pass and returned it 45 yards. The PAT pass failed but Cornell led 19-0.

Sacred Heart threatened to score in the final minute but Cornell's defense held and the Chargers settled for a field goal and a 19-3 halftime deficit.

The Chargers did score to open the third quarter to narrow the score to 19-9 when the P.A.T. failed.

But Cornell came right back. Khylil Johnson scored on a 70 yard run and Jackson added the P.A.T. for a 26-9 lead.

In the fourth, Walter Clarit grabbed a Sacred Heart fumble and ran it back 10 yards. Jackson's P.A.T. kick made it 33-9.

Paris Green finished the scoring with a 10 yard run. Jackson's P.A.T. kick set the final score at 40-9.

Although Jackson and Johnson combined for almost 200 yards of offense it was Cornell's defense which made the difference. The Raiders forced four turnovers and continually stopped the OLSH offense from gaining a first down.

Cornell scored directly on one fumble recovery and one interception, and the defense continually placed the offense in position to score other points.

Raider defenders intercepted three Brazell passes.

The OLSH defense was never able to stop Johnson (photo, left), who rushed for 120 yards, although he credited his teammates for his productive evening.

"Our offensive line kept opening holes," he told reporters afterward. "Especially on that long touchdown run, they were great."

The win left Cornell 8-2 and headed for rhe WPIAL playoffs with the #7 seed.. No one except the Cornell coaches and players dreamed of such a year. The Raiders had lost heavily to graduation, started mostly juniors and sophomores, and were predicted to maybe win five games. No one expected a playoff season.

Head Coach Ed Dawson has had Cornell in the playoffs several times but this may be his finest achievement. Line Coach Kenny Rainey also did a tremendous job with a young group on both offense and defense.

The loss concluded a frustrating season for OLSH, which expected to challenge for the Black Hills Conference championship but was riddled with injuries from the beginning. The Chargers finished only 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the conference, one of their worst years in the modern era. The Catholic academy never did have its entire starting lineup available.

The top seeds in the playoffs are South Side, Fort Cherry, Bishop Canevin and Clairton.

Cornell received a very good first round draw. They play #10 Rochester Friday night at 7 pm at Moon High School Stadium.

However, the diagram at right shows the draw getting worse fast. If Cornell wins, they advance to play Fort Cherry. And if Cornell were to win that game, they would probably play Bishop Canevin in the semifinals. Cornell lost to Fort Cherry 42-13 and Canevin 21-13.

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Regular Season Finale Friday vs. OLSH
Cornell Rolls To Seventh Win, 39-0

Cornell shrugged off two straight losses to beat Chartiers Houston 39-0 Friday night and make a berth in the upcoming WPIAL playoffs likely (but not guaranteed).

The million dollar Chartiers Houston stadium is beautiful but it was a cold, rainy night and the crowd was bundled up in parkas and huddling under tarps and umbrellas.

The game was never in doubt. Cornell gained 246 yards rushing to Ch-H's 50. Cornell's defense held Ch-H to an average of 1.2 yards per play.

Khylil Johnson (#20 at right), C. J. Jackson (#05 below) and Walter Clarit (#07 bottom) took turns grinding out major yardage. Johnson scored two TDs, as Jackson, Mikey Keyes (#17 below right), Julian Cordice and Paris Green added one each.

Johnson scored his first TD by running back a punt 63 yards with 5:40 in the first quarter. Jackson kicked the P.A.T. (photo below) to make it 7-0.

A few minutes later, Jackson ran it in from the six and kicked the P.A.T. for a 14-0 lead with 1:40 in the first.

The teams traded possessions in the second quarter until Jackson hit Keyes with a 20 yard pass in the end zone and kicked the P.A.T. to make it 21-0 with 5:59 til halftime.

The second half began with a serious injury to Chartiers Houston runner Zeke Watkins.

He was hit returning the opening kickoff and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Later in the quarter, Johnson ran 37 yards to make it 27-0 with 4:00. The PAT missed.

In the fourth, Cordice scored with 4:30 left to make it 33-0 (photo, bottom right).

Just 25 seconds later, Green intercepted a Ch-H pass and ran it back 23 yards for the final 39-0 score.

Clarit played probably his finest game as a Raider. He has become a powerful runner, rugged and hard to bring down. But more important, he has become a tremendous defensive force. He frustrated Ch-H with quarterback sacks, blocked punts, tackles for loss and forced fumbles.

And Johnson, only a sophomore, has become a dangerous threat, capable of powering up the middle or sprinting around either end. Once in the open field he is very difficult to catch. Having to key on him prevents defenses from focusing on Jackson, Clarit or Cordice.

Cornell Coach Ed Dawson held a few starters out for the entire game and tried to substitute freely, especially in the second half, to keep players healthy for the Sacred Heart game and the playoffs.

With Bishop Canevin's Friday night victory over Sacred Heart, the four Black Hills Conference representatives to the playoffs will apparently be Fort Cherry, Canevin, Cornell and Burgettstown. But an OLSH upset of Cornell would complicate the situation. Last year, a loss to OLSH kept Cornell out of the playoffs. This year, if Fort Cherry defeats Burgettstown Friday night, as it is overwhelmingly favored to do, Cornell could lose and still qualify, because it beat Burgettstown and Burgettstown beat OLSH. But if Bugettstown upset Fort Cherry and Cornell lost to OLSH, that would leave Burgettstown with only two losses, while Cornell had three, so the Raiders would be tied with OLSH and OLSH would receive the bid due to its win over Cornell.

The other importance of Cornell winning this Friday is seeding. The #4 seeds in each conference will face a #1 seed from another conference. Avoiding South Side or Clairton is important. If Cornell defeats OLSH the Raiders will receive a #3 seed and avoid them.

Computer rankings as of Saturday were 1. Fort Cherry, 2. South Side, 3. Bishop Canevin, 4. Clairton, 5. Cornell, 6. Union, 7. California, 8. West Greene, 9. Jeannette, 10. Rochester

Fort Cherry has the shiny #1 ranking and unbeaten record, but South Side is considered the wild card in the playoffs. The rural Beaver County school runs the Wing-T offense, which no one has seen since the 1950s and few coaches know how to defend. South Side is enjoying its best season ever and just won the Big Seven Conference title with a win over Union.

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Raiders Play Chartiers Houston Friday
Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry Beat Cornell 42-13

Top ranked and unbeaten Fort Cherry handed Cornell its second loss 42-13 Friday night to clinch the Black Hills Conference championship and the #1 seed in the upcoming WPIAL Tournament.

Fort Cherry, a consolidation of the old McDonald, Cecil and Midway high schools, is enjoying its finest season in school history behind the play of quarterback Matt Sieg. A 6-2 sophomore, Seig (#3 in photo, right) has drawn the attention of D-1 scouts from across the country. He's the finest quarterback at any Class A school in Pennsylvania, the finest QB at any WPIAL school regardless of class, and has already received offers from Penn State, Pitt and Nebraska.

Fort Cherry, one of the largest Class A schools in the state, enrolls 398. Cornell, the second smallest public high school still fielding an 11 man football teams and marching band, enrolls 165. (Avella is the smallest at 152). Fort Cherry was larger at every position, looking like a 2A or 3A team.

Fort Cherry occupies a beautiful hilltop campus just outside the old mining town of McDonald. The stadium is one of the classiest in the WPIAL. Current coach Tanner Garry is the third Garry to fill that role. The stadium is named after his grandfather, Jim Garry, who coached there for 43 years. Son Tim Garry followed and grand son Tanner succeeded him. The program had fallen on hard times and went 0-10 five years ago. Now that it's 8-0 and ranked #1 in the state, the fans have turned out, filling the stands and lining the fences around the end zones. College scouts, radio announcers and newspaper photographers and reporters fill the multi story press box and spill out into the nearby seats. Games at Fort Cherry now look like what games at the old hilltop Coraopolis High School Stadium used to look like.

Cornell did a credible job of handling everyone else. It was Sieg the Raiders couldn't stop. He was a one man offensive juggernaut, gaining 188 yards and scoring or setting up all of its 42 points.

Cornell looked impressive in the first quarter. It kicked off and stopped the Ranger drive. On the second play from scrimmage Khylil Johnson sprinted 63 yards for a TD. With C. J. Jackson's PAT kick, Cornell led 7-0.

Cornell recovered two Fort Cherry fumbles to stop drives, but couldn't make any progress on offense against the bigger Ranger defenders. The first quarter ended with Cornell still up 7-0.

To this point Cornell's defenders had pretty well shut down Fort Cherry's passing attack. So in the second quarter Tanner told Sieg to just run it. Using mostly a keeper play up the middle or sprints around either end, Sieg made Cornell's defense look like Swiss Cheese. He's extremely fast, powerful and hard to bring down. His gains set up a 40 yard run by Ethan Faletto for a TD with 10:58. Sieg than ran 27 yards for a TD with 8:31, three yards for a TD with 7:35, and four yards for a TD with 0:36. Nik Massey's PAT kicks after each TD made it 28-7 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Sieg passed 27 yards to Evan Rogers and in the fourth Sieg ran 88 yards to make it 42-7.

Cornell finally got back on the board with another Khylil Johnson run, this one for 35 yards. The PAT kick failed so the final score was 42-13.

Sieg eventually completed 4 of 6 passes for 89 yards and one TD. He also played defensive back and intercepted a Cornell pass. With two more regular season games left, he will almost certainly become the second player in WPIAL history to run for a thousand yards and pass for another thousand in two consecutive seasons. He has 2931 yards rushing in two years. So far this year he has 949 rushing and 947 passing. He ran a 4.4 40 at Penn State in summer camp.

Johnson (#20 at left) led Cornell rushing with 95 yards.

Despite two straight losses, Cornell is in good shape. The Raiders finish with an away game this Friday against Chartiers Houston and a home game next Friday against Sacred Heart. They'll be favored in both games, but need only one for their seventh win and a playoff berth.

Coach Ed Dawson was optimistic. "Sieg is great, but we didn't execute well. If we clean up the little things, we can still achieve our goals for this year."

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Raiders Travel To Fort Cherry This Friday
Bishop Canevin Ends Cornell Streak, 21-13

Bishop Canevin, which has spent almost the whole season ranked #1 in the WPIAL and the State, ended Cornell's unexpected six game win streak Friday night 21-13.

But the Raiders did not go quietly. They scored first, came back to tighten the game again, and threatened to score in the fourth quarter. They just couldn't stop Canevin's high powered offense or overcome the solid Canevin defense.

Neither team could score in the first quarter. The Raiders opened matters in the second as C. J. Jackson fired a 23 yard pass to Mikey Keys. Kenny Wade's PAT kick made it 7-0.

Canevin came back on Kole Olszewski's 17 yard pass to Jason Cross. Ryan McFetridge's PAT kick tied the game at 7-7.

Olszewski found Cross again on a 13 yarder and the kick by McFetridge put Canevin up 14-7 at the half.

In the third quarter Jackson found Julian Cordice on a 20 yard pass to bring the Raiders to within one, 14-13. But Wade missed the kick that would have tied it.

The teams battled back and forth through the rest of the 3rd and much of the 4th quarters.

Finally, Olszewski hit Jayden Lindsey with a 29 yarder and McFetridge's kick made it 21-13.

The two lines battled to a stalemate. Neither team could get anything done up the middle. Most of the yardage and all the scoring by both sides came on passes.

Cornell travels to new #1 Fort Cherry this Friday, where they will again be a heavy underdog. Quarterback Matt Seig has been sensational all year and has every D-1 powerhouse program in the country after him.

But if the Raiders can win next week against winless Chartiers Houston they will have the seven wins needed for a postseason playoff berth.

The Raiders will conclude the regular season against back yard rival Sacred Heart. A win in that game would leave Cornell 8-2 in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.

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Burgettstown Led Entire Game
Cornell Scores Late To Steal Sixth Win 14-13

Cornell was in serious trouble. If the Raiders were to stay undefeated and protect their #2 ranking, they needed a miracle. Actually, they needed a couple of them.

They got them.

Cornell was locked in a tight defensive struggle with Burgettstown. Both offenses had been running up scores in the 30s and 40s and fans expected a high scoring game. Instead, both defenses shut down the opposing offenses, and at halftime the score was 0-0.

Burgettstown broke the drought in the third quarter with a 19 yard TD pass from Brodie Kuzior to Zach Schrockman and although the Blue Devils missed the PAT their 6-0 lead held up for the rest of the quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, C. J. Jackson (#5 in photo below) scored on a one yard keeper play to tie the game at 6-6 but the PAT kick was blocked.

With time running out, Burgettstown scored what looked like the game winning TD when Kuzior ran it in from the 18. Colton County's PAT kick gave the visitors a 13-6 lead and fans began packing up to head for the parking lot while Blue Devil cheerleaders and fans began the celebration.

But Cornell wasn't done. The Raiders took the kickoff and ground out three plays to get to the 15.

Jackson fired the pass to Khylil Jackson (#20 in photo above) to make it 13-12. Jackson then passed to Julian Cordice for the two point conversion and the unbelievable 14-13 win.

In the long history of Coraopolis, Neville and Cornell football this was one of the most dramatic wins. And it was critical for what is becoming a fantasy Cornell year. The #2 Raiders are now 6-0 with a Charters Houston win likely, which would give them seven wins and a playoff berth.

The going gets tough now, with next week's home game against #1 Bishop Canevin and a trip to Fort Cherry a week later. Cornell won't be favored in either. Then they travel to Chartiers Houston before finishing the regular season at home against Sacred Heart.

Johnson's 108 yards led Cornell in both rushing and passing.

Cornell's skill position players are, deservedly, receiving credit for much of this team's unexpected success. But the line and Jackson have been keys. Despite being under sized at 5-7, Jackson has proven a much better than expected quarterback. He's not great at anything but he's good at everything. He can run, hand off, pitch out, pass short, medium or long, read the defenses, block and provide that intangible spark called leadership. He's a good game manager and does not make mistakes. His size will cause college scouts to overlook him, but as a Class A high school QB he has been superb.

The line has also performed well above expectations. With no D-1 prospects, this has become one of the best offensive and defensive lines Cornell has had. There's no WPIAL Line Coach Of The Year Award but if there were Coach Kenny Rainey would be a prime contender.

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Khylil Johnson Scores 3 TDs
#2 Cornell Flattens Carlynton 47-7 To Go 5-0

Khylil Johnson exploded for three touchdowns as Cornell rolled over Carlynton 47-7 Friday night to push its season record to 5-0 and set up a showdown with Burgettstown this week.

No one expected this. Carlynton is a much bigger school which recently dropped down from 2A. The Cougars opened this season with a 46-6 win over Carrick and have played a 2A warmup schedule against Riverview and Ellwood City. With its #2 ranking, Cornell was favored, but the game was expected to be close.

It was never close.

Cornell led 34-0 at halftime and substituted freely in the second half. Carlynton scored its only TD late in the 4th quarter with Cornell reserves in on defense.

Julian Cordice started the scoring with an eight yard run in the first quarter. The PAT kick failed but Cornell kept the 6-0 lead until the second quarter.

Then Johnson broke through on a one yard run and Kenny Wade kicked the PAT to make it 13-0.

A few possessions later, Walter Clarit ran it in from the four and Wade's kick pushed the lead to 20-0.

Damian Blackwell intercepted a Carlynton pass on the Cornell 45 and ran it back 55 yards for the TD that made it 26-0.

Then, with the bands lining up for the halftime show, Mikey Keys hauled in a 32 yard C. J. Jackson pass and Johnson ran the PAT in for a 34-0 lead.

Cornell Coach Ed Dawson began subbing in the third quarter so scoring slowed down. But Johnson caught a four yard pass from Jackson and Wade kicked the PAT to make it 41-0.

In the fourth quarter, Johnson ran it in from the one yard line for the final 47th point.

Carlynton finally scored with Cornell's reserves in for the 47-7 score.

The win sets up a showdown with Burgettstown Friday night at Frank Letteri Stadium which if the weather holds should draw the biggest crowd of the season.

Burgettstown can also put up points. The Blue Devils rolled over Bethlehem 34-0 and Chartiers Houston 40-0. They lost to #1 Bishop Canevin 35-0, but Canevin has beaten 2A Keystone Oaks 21-7 and Greensburg Central Catholic 26-6, is top ranked in both the WPIAL and the State and is favored to win the WPIAL and State titles in November.

Burgettstown has an outstanding quarterback in Brodie Kuzior, who both runs and passes. He has several good receivers and two good running backs. Burgettstown has one of the bigger, tougher and more experienced lines Cornell will face this season, and that line has proven very good at opening holes for Kuzior and his backs.

However, Cornell's line has also developed into a powerful force both on offense and defense. Jackson has surpassed all expectations in running and passing and backing him up is Cordice. Cornell has developed an elite receiver corps and now Wade is beginning to hit PAT kicks. Clarit is a quick, fast, shifty, clever running back. So Cornell at midseason is a legitimate contender. Back in August, Burgettstown was rated a strong favorite in this game but now the Litkenhouse computer rates it as a tossup.

IF Cornell could pull out a win Friday night and go 6-0, it would set the Raiders up as a likely postseason qualifier. They have a game left with Chartiers Houston in which they'll be favored. That would give them the magic seventh win. From then on, they would be playing for postseason draw.

Bishop Canevin and Fort Cherry appear formidable and will be heavily favored. Sacred Heart has suffered injuries which leave it not as strong as expected but the annual rivalry game will still be tough. Over in the other conferences, Clairton, Rochester and South Side look to be locks for postseason berths.

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Policz, Charlier, Shelpman, Snatchko Win In Other Divisions
Urey & Outsiders Dominate Sport Compact Shootout

The question going into Saturday night at Pittshurgh Motor Speedway was whether local drivers Kyle Janas, Susie Rudolph, Tyler Hollister and Eric Reynolds could hold off Matt Urey and a dozen visiting drivers from outside this area.

The answer came loud and clear : NO. They didn't come close. Urey won the Sport Compact Shootout, the season's premier event for Four Cylinder teams. Other drivers from northern and central Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia swept the top nine positions. The highest any local driver finished was Reynolds, from Sewickley, in the crowd favorite Love Bug. He came in 10th. Hollister, of Midway, was 15th. Rudolph, of Steubenville, only lasted two laps. Janas, from Forest Grove just outside Coraopolis, hit the wall on lap seven, blowing a tire and allowing Urey to take over first place.

The evening looked favorable at first. Janas won one of the two preliminary heats, and Hollister, Rudolph and Reynolds were running well, so even though Urey (photo, right) won the other heat, locals fans were optimistic.

But once the feature started, it was obvious Urey and several others had more powerful engines, especially when it came to accelerating out of turns and maneuvering through traffic. Urey was running his state of the art Honda Civic Type R 2.4L 315 Crate model which many auto enthusiasts believe is the greatest four cylinder engine ever made. Other visiting drivers had that same engine or a version of it. If local drivers are going to match Urey, they'll have to win the lottery or find a big time sponsor. A new 2.41 315 costs $6750. They can be found used for $4000 - 5000, but that's still pretty steep for a division where regular season first place money rarely exceeds $500. Ohio and northern Pennsylvania tracks draw larger crowds, so pay higher purses, which allows their drivers to spend more on their cars.

Ben Policz won the Limited Late Model feature, his 24th all time at PPMS. Tony Mussolino led for eight laps, with Policz challenging. One miscue on lap four sent Policz into a spin, but he recovered and after working his way back up he finally took over first place on lap eight. Brandon Burgoon had been dueling with Mussolini and Policz for the lead but a three car collision on the front stretch on lap seven ended his night.

By not finishing Burgoon lost his season points lead. Cole Petrelle, who finished seventh Saturday, moved back into first place, six points ahead of Burgoon. Kassidy Kamacher of Aliquippa is third.

Daryl Charlier pulled out to a wide lead to win the Pro Stock Feature. Brent McDonald and A.J. Poljack were second and third. Poljack leads the season points race by 33 points.

In the most exciting finish of the evening, Stephen Shelpman won the Hobby Stocks Feature to tighten his grip on the season points race in that division. Logan Koteles finished a very close second, so remains in second in points, nine behind Shelpman. Jonathan Koteles led for the first several laps but Logan took the lead and Shelpmnan (#17P) and Jonathan (#2K) battled for second for four laps, with Shelpman finally passing him, as seen in the photo at right. Shelpman and Logan then battled for the lead the rest of the way, with Shelpman edging ahead of Logan on the final straight for the win.

Sadie Snatchko won the Young Guns (Teenage) Feature. Gavin Kokolis leads in season points, with Snatchko second and Zoey Knight third.

The final regular season racing night will be this Saturday.

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C. J. Jackson Passes 10/12 For 161 Yards
#3 Cornell Routs Avella 41-0 To Go 4-0

Cornell celebrated its new #3 ranking by routing Avella 41-0 Friday night to go up 4-0 on the season.

The Raiders' swarming defense (photo, right) shut down Avella's offense while Cornell quarterback C.J. Jackson passed for 161 yards (completing 10 of 12) and two touchdowns and ran one in himself from the five yard line. Jackson handed off, pitched out (see below), passed short, medium and long (see third photo down), ran, and played one of his best all round games. Once ahead, Coach Ed Dawson substituted freely. Had starters played the entire game Jackson's statistics would have been much higher.

But Cornell's line also deserves much of the credit. When on defense they stopped Avella runners cold while on offense they opened up holes for Raider runners.

Cornell scored on its first possession. It took over on its own 25, ran to the Avella 40, passed to Mikey Keyes on the five, and Jackson passed to Julian Cordice in the end zone. Jackson passed to Khylil Johnson for the P.A.T. and Cornell led 8-0.

Avella took the kickoff but couldn't move against Cornell's line and punted. Johnson ran 15 yards to the Cornell 45 and Junior Ashton Jones ran to the Avella eight. A pass to Keyes in the end zone pushed it to 14-0 with 4:00 left in the first quarter.

Avella gave up on running and went to the air. The Eagles carved out two first downs but stalled and punted. Johnson ran to the Avella 42, Jackson passed to Cordice on the 22, and then to Keyes in the end zone. Freshman Kenny Wade kicked the P.A.T (see bottom photo) for the 21-0 lead with 2:37 til halftime.

But Cornell wasn't done. An interception gained the ball back. Jackson passed to Johnson on the Avella 30, then to senior Larry Lee for the TD. Wade's PAT made it 28-0 as teams went to halftime.

Lee, a 5-8 130 lb senior, had a fantasy evening. He was crowned Homecoming King at halftime, coming out from the locker room in his football uniform to accept the honor.

Cornell struck early in the third quarter. The Raiders took the kickoff on their own 40, ran six yards, a facemask penalty against Avella put it on the Avella 40, and Cordice passed to Keyes for the TD to make it 34-0.

Avella couldn't move and had to punt. Cornell took over on its own 44, five runs put it on the Avella 5, and Jackson ran it in on a keeper play. Wade's kick made it 41-0 with 5:11 in the third.

Avella had come into this game after two straight wins, 14-7 over Mapletown and 22-15 over Bentworth. The Eagles fully expected to beat Cornell, and down 41-0 became frustrated. As Dawson sent in rhe reserves, the game deteriorated into a mess for the last quarter and a half. There were unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, facemask violations, an Avella assistant coach ejected, interceptions, fumbles and other miscues. 5-7 130 lb junior Zane Livingston made one of the interceptions and Wade recovered a fumble.

A decent but less than capacity crowd turned out on a beautiful September night.

Despite its 4-0 record and #3 ranking, the Raiders still face a difficult road. They must win next Friday night at Carlynton, then return home to face Burgettstown. To get to seven wins and a playoff berth, they have to beat Carlynton and Chartiers Houston, then upset one of Burgettstown, Fort Cherry, Sacred Heart or Bishop Canevin.

Avoiding injuries will be key. Talented senior receiver Drevon Newton spent the Avella game on the sidelines with a high ankle sprain. He's 50-50 for the Carlynton game but will be essential a week later for Burgettstown. Last year October injuries derailed Cornell's chances for a playoff berth. Like all Class A teams, the Raiders don't have the depth to recover from injuries to starters.

Line Coach Kenny Rainey told reporters after the Avella game he was satisfied so far but had work to do. "Little details," he said. "We have a lot of little details to take care of, a lot of cleaning up to do. For one thing, we have to avoid false starts, offsides, delay and other penalties. Those 5, 10, 15 yard flags could kill us against top teams. We must not beat ourselves."

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Sport Compact Shootout At PPMS
Can Local Trio Stop Matt Urey & His FrankenHonda?

There'll be a shootout at the racetrack corral Saturday which will pit three top local gunslingers against a hot newcomer from up north.

The event is the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway's Sport Compact Shootout, the biggest race of the year for Four Cylinder drivers in Southwest Pennsylvania.

The three locals are Susie Rudolph, Kyle Janas and Tyler Hollister. They've led the PPMS point race all year. Janas has won six features. They're all good drivers with good cars and good crews.

But they face a massive challenger in Oil City's Matt Urey. Urey is a star at Tri Cities and Lehrnerville Raceways. He drives a 2003 Honda Civic with a Ford Escort front end. After a wreck, he couldn't find another 2003 Civic, so he and his crew did the complex body work to fit the Escort bumper, grille, hood, fenders and even radiator onto the front of his Honda Civic.

The grill still displays the famous blue Ford oval (photo, left). Fans in the stands and rivals in the pits kept asking each other what kind of Escort that was, that they'd never seen an Escort with quite those body lines.

Then a month ago at Lehrnerville Urey blew the engine. So he installed a Honda Civic Type R 2.4L 315 Crate engine (photo above), which sells new for $6750. It's an engine not made for street use, since it needs high octane fuel and requires a lot of maintenance. But what it does exceedingly well is accelerate like a drag racer. This gives the driver a huge advantage coming out of starts, restarts, and into and out of the tight bends of quarter and half mile racetracks. It also allows a driver to spot an opening and quickly increase speed to dart into and through it.

Urey (photo, right) used these advantages to full effect when he came down to a recent PPMS Saturday. He won his heat and then the feature by simply pulling away from Janas and Rudolph on restarts and turns. They hung close but could never catch him.

As fans and other drivers found out what contraption they were seeing, they began calling it a FrankenHonda, since it was cobbled together with parts from various sources.

Urey is a consistent winner on the TriCities half mile and the Lehrnerville quarter mile, and won the Tri Cities 2023 Sport Compact points race. But he really likes PPMS.

"The track surface here is a lot smoother so the track is a lot faster," he told reporters. "I also like the wide straights and wide turns. You don't get hemmed in as much by slower cars."

One factor which remains to be seen is durability. An issue with small engines is over heating. PPMS is actually 5/8 of a mile, so is slightly bigger than the half miles at Tri Cities, Latrobe and Eriez (which is only 3/8 of a mile). A 20 lap race at PPMS is thus 12 miles. Whether these Honda Type R 2.41 315 hp Crate Engines can maintain high speeds and repeated bursts of acceleration for 12 miles in hot, humid weather without overheating is not certain. Urey is hoping for a cool September evening with no humidity so he doesn't have to find out. Rudolph, Rudolph and Hollister would love heat and humidity.

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Koteles Wins In Pro Stocks
Shelpman Wins Langer Memorial Race

Stephen Shelpman of Pleasant Hills (photo, right) won Saturday night's Josh Langer Memorial and with it the 2023 Triple Crown of the Hobby Stocks Division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Logan Koteles led the race early, but Shelpman passed him on lap three and fought off Koteles and Matt Benard for the rest of the race. They remained on his bumper, and several times one or the other nosed alongside, only for Shelpman to ease ahead again.

It was Shelpman's seventh feature win of the season and 39th overall in Hobby Stocks.

Behind the front three, there was a 20 lap battle royale for fourth place. Garrett O'Patchen won it, barely, over Adam Ferree, Tyler Fox, Mrc Corio and Jonathan Koteles.

Shelpman hangs onto the season points lead by seven over Logan Koteles.

Up in the Pro Stocks, Cody Koteles (photo, left, in 1K) won the feature when a two car spinout on lap four took out his main challenger, Nick Kocuba. Koteles had to fight off Josh Seippel and A. J. Poljack but held the lead the rest of the way. It was Koteles' third feature win of the season, his fifth overall in Pro Stocks, and his 15 in all divisions over several years.

Tommy Schirnhofer took the Limited Late Model Feature in a close race over Tony Musolino. Cole Petrelle was third. Brandon Burgoon still holds the season points lead by a single point over Petrelle.

Kyle Janas was leading the Sport Compact (Four Cylinder) Feature on lap six but engine trouble forced him to the pits. Joe Jacobs won the race. Susie Rudolph still leads the season points race by six points over Tyler Hollister and nine over Janas.

Gavin Kokolis won the Young Guns (Teenager) Feature with Sadie Snatchko second and A. J. Manganello third. It was Kokolis' fifth feature win of the season.

Chris Schneider defeated Tony White in the Dash race for Unlimited Late Models.

Only two regular season nights remain, with the annual Pittsburgher for Unlimited Late Models ("Super Lates") wrapping up the calendar September 30 and October 1 if needed. This Saturday will be the Sport Compact Shoot Out for Four Cylinders, with Vintage cars making their annual visit.

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Raiders Now 3-0 After Three Major Upsets
"Rebuilding" Cornell Stuns Union 30-14

Cornell isn't "young" and "rebuilding" any more.

Friday night the Raiders took down Union, ranked #4 in one poll, #1 in another, and #1 by the Litkenhous computer, 30-14. The Scotties came in undefeated.

The win left Cornell 3-0 and suddenly Coach Ed Dawson has a legitimate contender on his hands. This was a key win. The Raiders need sevcn wins to make the playoffs. They'll be underdogs to Bishop Canevin, Sacred Heart, Fort Cherry and Burgettstown late in the season. They'll be favored in games against Avella, Chartiers Houston and Carlynton. So with this win, Cornell should run up six wins if they avoid injuries and take care of business. That means they only need one upset against the four favorites to get to seven wins and move on to the post season.

Against Union, Cornell looked impressive early and late but the Scotties, who defeated Bishop Canevin 20-6 last year to win the WPIAL title, and opened this season with two impressive wins, fought back.

Cornell went up 12-0 in the first eight minutes. Union then ground out a touchdown to score just before the first quarter ended to cut it to 12-7. A five yard pass with just seven seconds left in the half sent the Scotties to the locker room with a 14-12 lead.

But Cornell scored three touchdowns in the second half. In all, Raiders ran for 282 yards and passed for 130 for a total of 412.

Cornell's defense forced five Union fumbles and a miraculous strip. In the second quarter, a Union runner had come 49 yards on a pass play but on the Cornell two a defender stripped the ball from the runner before he could cross the goal line. Cornell recovered.

"They were the better team tonight," Union Coach Kim Niedbala said. "They outmuscled us. Their line beat us on both offense and defense. We let them jar the ball loose time after time. And their skill position kids outplayed us. Cornell wanted this game more than we did. They came in hungry."

Cornell plays Avella at home at Frank Letteri Stadium this Friday. This is one of Avella's better teams. The Eagles have beaten Bentworth 22-15 and Mapletown 14-7. So they're dangerous. But Cornell is on a roll and should be ranked by midweek. They have the edge at the skill positions and on the line. For the first time this season they'll be favored.

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Janas Wins Seventh In Sport Compacts
Burgoon Wins Sixth To Grab Points Lead

Brandon Burgoon (photo, right) won his sixth feature of the year in Limited Late Models to finally move into first place in the season points race at Pittsburgh Motor Speed way with only three weeks to go.

Burgoon, of McDonald, has been chasing Cole Petrelle of Follansbee, W.Va. for three months, both on the track and in points. He began the evening in second, one point behind.

He and Petrelle both won their qualifying heats, setting up a duel in the feature. But Burgoon put this one away early.

In the random draw for position he drew sixth and Petrelle fifth. By the second lap Burgoon had already moved to second behind Daryl Charlier. On lap three he passed Charlier for the lead and kept it the rest of the way.

"I was actually surprised to see the white flag," he told reporters afterward. "I thought I was only about halfway there. But suddenly I was on the last lap."

Burgoon now leads Petrelle by five points. Frank Magill, Kassidy Kamacher and Tom Klein round out the top five.

There are three Saturday nights of regular season racing left before PPMS winds up with the Pittsburgher, the Lucas Oil National Circuit race which will attract Unlimited Late Model racing teams from all over the country.

 

Saturday night was a classic September racing evening. It had been dry all week so after an hour or so of spraying and rolling the track was smooth and fast. One of the year's best crowds turned out, many to see the Winged Sprints in their final local appearance of 2023.

Jordan Ryan won the Winged Sprint Feature but it was a struggle. Dan Kuriger and Lee Jacobs led early while Ryan, Darrin Gallagher, Lee Jacobs and A. J. Flick all battled for second through seventh place. Ryan finally took command of second, and on Lap 11 moved into first. He stayed there for the rest of the race. It was a major win for Ryan, who is only 20th in season points. Flick leads in season points for the Sprints, who race at various tracks across Western Pennsylvania and Eaatern Ohio.

Kyle Janas (photo, left) won his seventh feature race of the year to pull to within nine points of Susie Rudolph in the Sport Compact (Four Cylinder) Division. Janas, from Forest Grove just outside Coraopolis, talked later about how much fun he has racing, especially his rivalries with Rudolph and Tyler Hollister. "We get into it once in a while, but on the whole we really respect each other. It's a fun division."

A. J. Mangenello (photo, right) won his first ever Feature in the Young Guns (Teenage) Division. Manganello, who also won his heat race, has been laboring along in eighth place in the season points standings. He led the feature most of the way, but had to fend off repeated challenges by Gavin Kokolis of Oakdale. He was helped when Zoey Knight and Cheyenne Hollister tangled on the front straight on lap three, sending Knight to the pits with a flat tire and Hollister to the back. Kokolis leads in season points, with Knight second, Sadie Snatchko third and Hollister fourth.

Christian Schneider won the Pro Stocks Feature. He led the entire way but it was a messy race, with three cautions and restarts. Schneider has now won 28 features in five different divisions over seven years at PPMS.

Ben Easler won the Sportsmen Feature, his first win of either a heat or feature at PPMS.

Racing will resume this Saturday night with the Josh Langer Hobby Stock Invitational. This is the third and final leg of the Hobby Stocks Triple Crown. The previous two legs have drawn a large field of cars and this one is expected to do the same.

   

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Second Straight Upset
"Who ARE These Guys?" Cornell 20-6

Ed Dawson's Cornell Raiders scored their second straight upset Friday night, surprising Monessen 20-6. Cornell, which was supposed to be in a major rebuilding season with numerous young players, is now 2-0 with two big wins under its belt.

"Who ARE these guys?" asked one college scout in the stands to watch explosive Monessen runners Daevon Burke and Tyvaun Kershaw but came away talking about Cornell. Burke and Kershaw looked impressive the week before against 2A Washington, but Cornell shut them down. The scout left with pages of notes on several Raiders. "They've got talent on both their line and their skill positions."

Monessen has nine starters on offense and eight on defense back from last year, with a 42 man roster, more typical of a good 2A team than 1A, and is considered a strong contender in the always tough Tri County Conference. They were still fuming after a loss to Cornell last year at home and arrived at Frank Letteri Stadium with a chip on their shoulder.

But the game was really never in doubt.

Khylil Johnson opened scoring on an 18 yard pass from C. J. Jackson in the first quarter. The P.A.T. kick failed, but Cornell held the 6-0 lead into the second quarter. Johnson led all rushers with 80 yards.

Kershaw's only score came in the second quarter on a three yard run to tie at 6-6. The Greyhounds tried to go ahead with a run for the P.A.T. but it faied.

Before halftime Jackson found Drevon Newton (#4 in photo above) with a 20 yard pass. Jackson then made the kick to put the Raiders up 13-6.

The teams kept trading possessions in the third quarter but neither could score. Then, in the fourth, Julian Cordice ran it in from the five and Jackson's kick made it 20-6.

It was a beautiful September night for football, and after a frustrating opening night, all Cornell's systems were good. The field crew had the playing surface in good shape, and after a whole day's work earlier in the week the clock and scoreboard were functioning fine.

Monessen coaches were impressed by both the Cornell offensive line and the Raider defense. "We were not able to get to Jackson, and they shut down our passing attack and both Burke and Kershaw. We have a lot of work to do."

Jackson (photo, left, passing off balance and under pressure) has exceeded expectations at quarterback. He passed for 95 yards. Cornell's skill players have become a dangerous strike force, and the line has held on both sides of the ball.

But the going gets tougher. Union, this week's opponent, is 2-0, ranked fourth in the WPIAL, and just waxed 2A backyard rival Ellwood City 34-21. Braylon Thomas is their horse, accounting for 179 yards Friday night. Union will be favored, but Cornell is used to being an underdog,.

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Urey Crashes Party In Four Cylinders   Burgoon Wins In Limited Lates To Trail By Only One
Koteles Closes Season Points Gap To Three

There were so many story lines at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night it was hard to keep up with them all. But the three most dramatic were the Logan Koteles win in Hobby Stocks, which brought him to within three points of season leader Stephen Shelpman, the Brandon Burgoon win in Limited Lates to close that gap to only one, and the invasion of Matt Urey of Oil City, who crashed the party in Four Cylinders with a high powered Honda "hot hatch" Civic which was too much for local drivers.

While Shelpman and Matt Benard have been dueling, Koteles has now won two straight features.

Shelpman (in #17) led for 15 laps but Koteles (in #64) slipped by him on lap 15 and held the lead for the final five laps. The photo at right shows Koteles coming out of turn four preparing to go low and pass Shelpman as they come down the front straight. The cars are bunched after a restart at the beginning of the lap.

Meanwhile, down in Four Cylinders, Susie Rudolph has led in season points all season with Tim Hollister and Kyle Janas in hot pursuit.

Janas, 18, has won six features but missed two Saturdays with engine problems, allowing Rudolph (photo, left) to earn enough points to maintain a slight lead.

Rudolph, 21, is from Steubenville and is a nursing student at Franciscan College. She's a junior, so in two years will graduate and become a nurse.

"I'm hoping to keep racing," she insists. "I may have to miss some when I get assigned Saturday shifts, but I'll run as often as I can. I really enjoy it."

She started out on quarter miles, with Cadiz as her home track. The first time she tried PPMS it really intimidated her.

"I saw how wide this track was and I felt lost. The first time I came around the bend and looked down that front straight I thought, "I can't even see the next turn. This thing never ends."

She used to travel to several tracks but nursing classes are demanding so now she only runs at PPMS. "It's close --- only half an hour up Route 22 -- and I've come to really like the big track."

Rudolph saw friendly rival Kyle Janas doing so well on the high line she tried to emulate him. "The first two times I went up there I flipped. So now there's a fear factor. I stay down low or sometimes take a middle line."

She was really looking forward to the night's racing since bigger purses had attracted top out of state drivers and she wanted to see how she, Janas and Hollister did against them.

But the evening didn't turn out well. Matt Urey (#501 at right) showed up with a 2003 Honda Civic powered by a Honda Civic Type R 2.4L 315 hp engine and Ford Escort front end and blew away the field, and Eddie Lombardo was close behind. Janas and Rudolph stayed pretty close for a while but the two visitors just had too much power on turns and pulling away during starts and restarts. They finished first and second with Janas third.

Hollister came in sixth. Rudolph was lucky to finish at all. Entering the front straight on the 12th lap someone nicked her right rear corner and sent her spinning out of control all the way down the straight. She managed to miss other cars and the big tires lining the track but ended up at the back of the field and could only work her way up to 11th by race's end. Janas and Hollister now trail her by only 15 points.

Up in Limited Late Models, Brandon Burgoon (5X in photo at left) won to pull to within one point of season leader Cole Petrelle. Philip Bubeck led for the first nine laps, but after a restart rebunched the field, Burgoon took the lead on lap 10 and held off Petrelle the rest of the way. It was Burgoon's fourth feature win of the season.

A. J. Poljack passed Mike Harris on lap eight for the lead and went on to win the Pro Stock feature and keep his season points lead. Nick Kocuba in second is 25 points behind.

Down in the Teenage ("Young Guns") Division, Sadie Snatchko grabbed the lead on lap four and went on to win the feature. Gavin Kokolis still leads in season points but Snatchko is now in third only 29 points back. Zoey Knight is still in second, 23 points back.

The Winged Sprints are back this Saturday (Sept. 2) along with all the regular divisions.

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Heavily Favored 3A Seton LaSalle Upset
Dravon Newton Leads Cornell To 20-19 Shocker

Wide receiver Dravon Newton (#4 at left) began his senior season with the finest game of his career, scoring 14 of Cornell's 20 points while leading the Raiders to a stunning upset of AAA Seton Lasalle.

Newton intercepted a SLS pass and ran it back 60 yards for his first TD in the first quarter. In the second he caught a pass from senior Julian Cordice and ran 25 yards, then caught the PAT pass to put Cornell up 14-0.

Junior Mikey Keyes (#17 in photo three frames down) scored the other Cornell TD in the third quarter on a pass from senior C.J. Jackson from the 50.

But the game was a mess. "We've talked to the players about how, like war, sometimes a football game collapses into total chaos and you just have to fight through it," Cornell Coach Ed Dawson told reporters afterward. "I'm so proud of them because tonight was certainly chaos and they sure did fight through it."

For starters, the field was a spongy, muddy quagmire. It was hard to find solid footing and the ball was always wet. Then, no one could figure out how to turn on either the scoreboard or the game clock, so officials had to keep time with a stopwatch and notify the coaches once a minute. Neither could anyone turn on the press box lights or the field lights. They finally solved that problem so the game could begin.

The Cornell Band did not show up, so the Seton LaSalle Band had to play both the national anthem and put on the halftime show.

Both teams also suffered from a bad case of first game jitters. Fumbles, interceptions, missed assignments and stupid penalties (too many men on the field, false starts, offsides, face masks, etc.) kept either team from mounting sustained drives.

It was obvious from the start that Seton LaSalle was far superior in terms of numbers, height and weight. From down on the field it looked like a mismatch, like a game between a small college and a high school, or between a high school and a middle school. The visitors from Mt. Lebanon were bigger at every position, but especially on the line. And every two plays they would run in another five linemen, obviously intending to wear Cornell down.

It didn't work. Line Coach Kenny Rainey said during early practices that he wanted to instill an Attitude in his linemen and he seems to have succeeded. On the third player rotation a Cornell lineman looked up at the opposing lineman. "You guys must think you're going to tire us out," he informed him. "Give it up. As soon as this ball is snapped, I'm putting you on your butt and going after your quarterback." And he did.

SLS's game plan was obviously to run up the middle and just overpower Cornell's line. But the Raider defenders held, play after play, and on the few occasions a SLS runner broke through, a Cornell linebacker stopped him from getting very far. Eventually, SLS had to abandon the strategy and go to the air.

But then they found themselves playing Cornell's game. The Raiders displayed a talented receiver corps and they double as defenders against the pass. Time after time they batted down passes.

Cornell kicked off to start the game and SLS began on its 46. They slowly ground out enough yardage to get to the Cornell 30 but the Raiders held and SLS had to punt. Cornell took over on its own 12 but two Walter Clarit runs moved the ball to the SLS 35 before the drive stalled. SLS took over, but four plays later, Newton intercepted the pass and ran it in to put Cornell up 6-0 with 3:03 left in the quarter.

After the kickoff, SLS began on its own 35 but Clarit broke into the backfield for a sack and 15 yard loss. That forced SLS to punt, but Cornell fumbled the reception and SLS took over on the Cornell 30. They ground out two first downs and got to the 10, where a Keyes tackle halted the drive. Then a rash of fumbles began. Cornell took over on its own 10 and fumbled.

SLS took over and lost yardage on four straight plays. Cornell took over on its own 25 and fumbled. SLS took over on the Cornell 35 and fumbled. Cornell took over on its 46 and Khylil Johnson (#20 in photo two frames down) ran to the SLS 25. That set up Newton's catch and second TD with 4:30 left til halftime. Dravon caught the PAT pass for 14-0.

The big lead was short lived. SLS ran the kickoff back for a TD and kicked the PAT to trail only 14-7.

Cornell took the kickoff on the 50. A pass to Keyes gave the Raiders a first down on the SLS 20 and Clarit's run gave them another on the seven, but a fumble ended the drive. SLS picked up one first down on the 17, but had to punt. Johnson on a screen pass moved the ball back down to the SLS 37 but another Cornell fumble ended the drive and the half.

Cornell received to start the second half but neither team could maintain a drive and they kept punting back and forth. Finally Keyes caught the pass and scored the TD to put Cornell up 20-7 just as the third quarter ended.

The fourth quarter lasted 40 minutes with penalties, time outs and injuries. SLS scored with 8:02 but missed the PAT to make it 20-13. Cornell took over on its own 35 and SLS promptly intercepted a pass. Three plays later they scored to cut it to 20-19 with 3:50 left, and went for two on the PAT to try for the lead. But Cornell intercepted the pass on the play that probably decided the game.

Trying to run out the clock, Cornell ground out three first downs, but with 2:00 left was forced to punt. SLS took over on its own 14. They did crank out three first downs and reached the Cornell 30 but time ran out.

Cornell finished the game with mostly reserves on the field. Clarit, Newton, Johnson and several others were nursing bruises, cramps and strains on the sidelines.

The win gave Cornell hope. Back in Class A, only Sacred Heart, Bishop Canevin, Union and Fort Cherry will have the size of Seton LaSalle but they don't have the depth so can't keep running fresh players in and out. Cornell clearly has real talent at the skill positions, and if he can stay healthy Clarit is a threat both as a runner on offense and a disrupter on defense.

But the game also exposed weaknesses which could prove fatal. Cornell still does not have a reliable kicker. Its missed PATs have cost it games the last several seasons and kept it out of the playoffs last year. Two PAT attempts failed against SLS.

Those fumbles are also a concern. Five fumbles would normally result in a loss. Cornell escaped this time but ball security will be a priority in practice this week.

The Raiders also have a major crisis in reserves not yet knowing the playbook. Forced to use those backup players, Cornell saw a rash of missed assignments and routes. Had SLS not committed its own share of errors, those miscues would have cost Cornell this game. As the season moves forward, other teams will eliminate those early mistakes. Cornell will have to do likewise.

Cornell faces Monessen this Friday at home. Last year Cornell upset Monessen in the season opener and the Greyhounds have not forgotten. They lost their opener 49-20 to a very strong Washington team which is considered a serious contender in AA. But the game was tied before Monessen gave it away with two fumbles and an interception. The Greyhounds also tried a fake punt from their own four yard line which didn't work, setting up an easy Washington TD. Monessen has Daevon Burke, a very dangerous runner, particularly on punt and kickoff runbacks. He ran one back 87 yards against Washington. Tyvaun Kershaw, the other dangerous Monessen runner, scored on a 66 yard run Friday. Kershaw added a TD in the fourth quarter for 105 total yards.

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Koteles Steals Stocks Thriller On Final Turn
Janas Wins Sixth As Lukon, Shaffer Split 20s

Kyle Janas took a few minutes to talk to reporters, then went out and won his sixth feature race of the year in the Four Cylinder Division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

It was a dry, dusty night with a fast track and the crowd was treated to several exciting battles. Kyle Lukon and Tim Shaffer each won one of the 20 lap Limited Late Model Features. Logan Koteles came from behind on the final turn to steal the Hobby Stocks Feature. Cody Koteles won the Pro Stock Feature, and Sadie Snatchko won the Teenage Division Feature.

Janas just graduated from high school in June, but has temporarily postponed college or technical school since he received a good job offer. "I decided to work for a year or two and then decide what to do. Just work during the day and work on the car or race at night."

Early in the sesson he raced at other tracks, but lately he's just running at PPMS.

"I really enjoy the Four Cylinder Division but next year I'll probably move up to Hobby Stocks. I've already got a car I've been getting ready but I'll wait til next year."

Out on the track, as usual, he, Tyler Hollister (in #69 at left) and Susie Rudolph battled it out for the win. At one point both Hollister and Rudolph were forced into the pits but during a lengthy pause and restart their crews got the cars going again and they caught up to finish second and third. Rudolph, Hollister and Janas rank first, second and third in season points.

"I wish we had more cars in Four Cylinders," Janas told reporters. "But our purses are so low, drivers can earn four and five times as much at other tracks. Here, even if I win a race, what I win barely covers gas to get here and race."

He also thinks some drivers are intimidated by the big 5/8 mile track. "They came up racing on those little quarter mile tracks, and some of the tracks are even a little less than a quarter. PPMS is even more than half a mile. The wide track, long turns and high speeds here take some getting used to if you learned to race on smaller tracks. I love it, but lots of drivers don't. To overcome their reluctance we need bigger purses."

He gets a big grin and says, "I keep telling Smokey (the PPMS Pit Steward) he should let us run in the Hobby Stock heats. Our cars hit speeds of 100, so we could hang with them. But of course those cars weigh 700 pounds more than ours, so if we had contact, we'd be in trouble."

"And," he acknowledges, "In Hobby Stocks, they really go after each other. There are good drivers, good cars and good pit crews. There are some pretty intense rivalries up there. Here in Four Cylinders, Susie and Tyler and I have sort of a rivalry, but up there they've got a couple dozen. Next year I think it'd be fun to be part of that. "

The big event of the night was a Limited Late Model Doubleheader. They ran three heat races to determine the starting lineup in the first feature. Then the finish in the first one determined the lineup for the second. Features in the other divisions were run in between to allow cars to cool and crews to make adjustments before the second feature.

Ben Policz, Tommy Schirnhofer and Philip Bubeck won the three heats. The first feature had two restarts, which rebunched the field. Policz led early, and he held off Reft for 10 laps until Reft's steering rack went out, ending his race. Lukon then moved up and battled with Policz. With three laps to go they lapped slower cars and Policz got hung up behind one of them, allowing Lukon to pass and grab the lead.

The second Limited feature saw Lukon and Cole Petrelle duel with Tim Shaffer through 20 laps and two restarts. Petrelle actually grabbed the lead for two laps but Shaffer recaptured it and hung on to win.

Petrelle still leads the season points race, with Brandon Burgoon just four points behind. Frank Magill, Kassidy Kamacker and Tom Klein round out the top five.

In the Pro Stock Feature, Nick Kocuba, A. J. Poljack and Cody Koteles fought all the way from pole to checkered flag. Kocuba hung on the whole way, with Poljack and Koteles fighting for second. Then, on the final lap, Koteles slipped inside of Kocuba as they came out of turn #4. The two raced side by side coming down the front straight, with Koteles winning by a few feet.

Poljack still leads in season points, with Dale Tuche second and Kocuba third. Emmie Laboon and Koteles round out the top five.

As Janas pointed out in his earlier interview, rivalries in the Hobby Stocks Division are intense. Once again, in the Feature, Stephen Shelpman and Matt Benard, each having won one of the qualifying heats, ran first and second for much of the race. On this night they were joined at the front by Logan and Jonathan Koteles. The Koteles brothers fought it out for third place during the early laps. After a seventh lap caution and restart, Logan moved into second place and began pressuring Shelpman. Shelpman hung on but on the final lap, on turns #3 and #4, Koteles slipped in below him and ran side by side until he pulled ahead by just enough to win the race.

It was the second thrilling finish of the night and drew a standing round of applause from the crowd, many of whom had been cheering for Koteles (photo, left) as the underdog.

Shelpman still leads in season poins, but the win moved Logan Koteles to within five points and a clear second place. Garrett O'Patchen is third, Karlee Kovacs fourth and Benard fifth.

The final feature of the night was in the Teenage "Young Guns" Division. On a lap five restart Sadie Snatchko grabbed the lead and held it the rest of the way. Gavin Kokolis, A. J. Manganello and Zoey Knight followed in order.

Kokolis leads in season points, with Knight second and Snatchko third.

Another full card of races is scheduled for this Saturday (August 26), plus the annual kids' bicycle races will be included.

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Missed Assignments and Reserves Concern Staff
Cornell Air Attack, Line, Kicking Look Good

In a 10 a.m. Saturday scrimmage against 2A Riverside (three miles outside of Ellwood City), Cornell's passing attack, interior line and point after kicking looked good.

It was a beautiful, cool, crisp morning and several Cornell parents made the hour drive to watch their sons play. What they saw was a very physical Riverside team, especially on the line.

And Cornell matched their physicality. "That's why I scheduled this team," Cornell Coach Ed Dawson said. "I wanted to challenge our players, to see how they responded.." How they responded was that Riverside gained very little up the middle, while Cornell runners did.

And what Riverside gained passing was misleading. Scrimmage rules prohibit tacklers from hitting a quarterback. All they can do is tag him. But the quarterback can complete the play. Cornell defenders spent much of the game in the Riverside backfield and in a regular game would have repeatedly sacked the quarterback for losses.

Another bright spot was the kicking of points after touchdowns. After both its TDs Cornell put the ball between the uprights. Last year, especially in October games, that had become a real problem.

Dawson was not so pleased, however, with numerous missed assignments, on both offense and defense. And he was especially displeased with his JV players, several of whom still do not know the playbook.

"How can I put those guys in if I know they can't run our plays?" he asked reporters afterward.

Cornell now returns home for a final week of practice before the season opener next Friday night at the Maple Street Stadium against 3A Seton LaSalle. Seton LaSalle is another big, physical team. Riverside could not match Cornell at the skill positions, but Seton LaSalle will have much a much better quarter back and a much better receiver corps.

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Third Member Of Wide Receiver Corps
Sophomore Khylil Johnson Plans To Step Up

He's only a sophomore but Khylil Johnson plans to make his presence known this year on both sides of the ball on Cornell's football team.

Johnson saw game action last season while only a freshman. He scored three touchdowns and accounted for several other pass receptions and yards gained.

But he was overshadowed by Raequan Troutmnan and several other seniors.

He's spent a lot of time and effort this Summer making sure he makes more of an impact this time.

Just being a year older will help. He comes back 5-9 and 180 lb. But he played in a 7-on-7 league at Urban Impact, a youth program in Pittsburgh.

"I feel it really helped me," he explains. "I improved my hands and became a lot more versatile."

He also spent as many days as possible in the weight room. "I can tell I'm a lot stronger now."

Khylil was also unhappy with his foot quickness and speed last season. So he spent time this Summer on the famous ladder drill, a century old football drill that builds quick feet.

'I can tell my reactions are quicker. When I catch a pass I can spin and head downfield much faster"

As Cornell prepares for its Saturday scrimmage against Riverside and next Friday's opener against Seton LaSalle, Coach Ed Dawson has been working hard on defense.

In the Raider defense, Johnson is a cornerback. That's him disrupting a pass reception in the photo at left.

He has definite goals this season. "I want everyone to say I'm a great team player. I want a lot of carries or pass receptions and I want several hundred yards rushing."

Khylil likes Cornell's chances to make the playoffs this year. "We're taking better care of our bodies so we can suffer fewer injuries. It was injuries that killed us last year. We lift, use ice after each practice, and make sure to get enough sleep."

He thinks the receiver corps is more well rounded. "I'm the shortest one and even I'm taller. But the others are all tall. All our hands are a lot better. We dropped passes last year that we'll catch this year. And we're all a lot faster. I think teams are going to have a hard time guarding our receivers, and as they pull their defenses back, that will open up our running game."

He sees Bishop Canevin and Fort Cherry as Cornell's big challenges. "We really have to bring our A game for those guys."

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Cornell Wide Receiver
Mikey Keyes Hoping Summer Efforts Pay Off

6-1 175 lb junior wide receiver Mikey Keys is hoping his hard Summer of work will pay off.

Keys wasn't happy last year with either his own success or that of the team. Cornell, hit by key injuries in mid season, fell one win short of the playoffs. And Keyes was not satisfied with his personal performance.

He didn't see much playing time as a freshman, but was a backup at both wide receiver and offensive linebacker last year.

He saw a little playing time on offense but Raequan Troutman, Dravon Newton and Khylil Johnson gained the yards and scored the points. He got most of his minutes on defense but wasn't happy with how he played.

"It was all new. I was just uncertain. I didn't have the confidence. For one thing, I didn't have the strength. And I wasn't fast enough."

Keyes worked on all these in the Summer. He spent a lot of time in the weight room.

"I'm stronger now. A whole lot stronger."

He played in a 7-on-7 league, and spent hours catching passes thrown by C. J. Jackson

"I'm a better receiver, especially on the longer passes."

Keyes feels he's also smarter. "My football IQ has really gone up. All that 7-on-7 play, all those passes caught, some film watched. I just think I understand the game better."

But that's not all. "I think my hands are better. I caught so many passes this Summer I learned how to catch them. I have better instincts now about how to lead the ball on long passes, how to judge where it's coming down, how to bring it in."

He feels "super confident" now on defense. "I know that offensive linebacker position. I have a lot left to learn. But I know it much, much better than last year."

He's also feeling pretty good about the season as a whole.

"I think our odds are pretty good. We have a much more well rounded team. We can run or pass. We can take whatever the defense gives us. And our defense should be better. Last year, we really had a hard time stopping teams. This year we're both faster and quicker."

Keyes hopes to ultimately go to college and major in physical therapy.

"I got interested in it just trying to take care of my own body after I would get bruised or exhausted in football. So I think it would be really satisfying to help other athletes take care of themselves. Plus the more I learn about it, the more I just think our bodies are so incredible. They're so complex, and they can do much, but they're also so delicate and can get injured so easily."

But physical therapy has another appeal.

"It would let me stay close, stay involved, with football. I love football. I want to take it as far as I can. But when I reach the point, whenever that is, when I can't play it any longer, I could still work with football players."

 

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"I Think We're About Ready"
Cornell Offensive Line Rounding Into Shape

A football team, whether in high school, college or the NFL, is only as good as its offensive line. There is a long list of great quarterbacks and running backs who have had mediocre seasons because their offensive line couldn't protect them or open holes for them.

Kenny Rainey (photo, right) played Center for Aliquippa and Pitt. During his time at Aliquippa the Quips won the WPIAL title and lost in the state finals. During his time at Pitt the Panthers made it to two bowl games. Head Coach Ed Dawson hired Rainey for one job : Build A Strong Line. On both sides of the ball, but particularly on Offense. As Cornell reaches the 10th day of preseason practice, Rainey paused to talk to reporters about his progress. And it turns out he feels pretty good.

"I think we're about ready," he said after another 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. practice (with time out for lunch).

If the season opener were tonight, Rainey sees an interior line as in the photo below.

From left, that's Phillip Barker (5-11 250 lb senior), Nick Bennett (6-0 250 lb sophomore), Logan Farbacher (5-10, 240 lb junior), Geoffrey Collington (5-11 240 lb senior), and Jamarcus Pierce (5-8 225 lb junior).

The other coach in the photo, at right, is Courtney Alston, who played Defensive Tackle at Aliquippa and went to Slippery Rock but an injury ended his career.

Rainey's most surprising idea is moving Jamarcus Pierce from Center to Guard. For two years, Pierce has been a solid Center, guaranteeing Cornell a safe snap every play. That is a valuable asset.

But Rainey sees Pierce with other talents. "With his experience and instincts, he can be our leader. He can look out over the defense and call out last minute adjustments. If we have him at Center, he has his head down and is concentrating on the cadence and the snap, and we lose that contribution."

Of course, that means Rainey has to train someone else at Center, like Farbacher. Rainey spent 10 years (including 7th & 8th grade) playing Center at two outstanding programs, so he's highly qualified to train a person there. He's been working Farbacher there for most of the snaps this week. This is really a high risk gamble. For two years Cornell lost games because it could not reliably snap the ball to the quarterback. Fumbles and failed plays were a constant. Then Pierce arrived and all that stopped. To move him risks going back to those days. This scrimmage and three nonconference games will be a test. If the unreliable snaps return, Rainey may have to return Pierce to Center. But if Farbacher proves adequate, it could be a brilliant move.

Tuesday Rainey was intense, pushing his linemen. "This is a physical sport, especially on the line," he exhorted his players.

"Don't plant your feet. Keep your feet moving. Quick feet are a lineman's greatest asset."

"You can't start strong, then relax. The moment you relax the opponent can move you."

"Don't lunge. They'll let your momentum carry you while they go around you."

"Once you make contact, that's when the block starts."

He showed them how to move opposing hands off them and out of their way.

"But stay low. Always stay low."

Rainey sees good numbers. "We have two or three players fighting for a position at every spot. That kind of competition is really helping us develop faster. And if we have any injuries we have players to step up."

The linemen spent much of Tuesday on contact drills. There were sessions on the blocking sled, 1-on-1 drills, and 1-on-3 drills.

As Dawson kept reminding them, "You gotta have heart to play this game. It's no place for the fainthearted."

As players took each other to the ground, he'd applaud.

"You make each other better. Steel sharpens steel. What you want is to go into battle knowing you've got 10 team mates who also have heart and will lay it on the line for you." But he and Rainey agreed the team was looking good. "We're green. Even some of our seniors were backups last year. But everyone has a good attitude. They're learning fast and really coming on."

Cornell has three more all day practices before a Saturday morning scrimmage at Riverside at 10 a.m. Riverside is just outside of Ellwood City. It's a 2A school so Cornell will have its hands full, but Dawson wants to find out any flaws he has in time to work on them.

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One Of The Keys To Cornell's Football Season
The Basepath Bandit's Still Running

Long ago and far away, 11 year old Walter Clarit became so famous stealing bases other area coaches nicknamed him The Basepath Bandit. Clarit became something of a local legend in Little League. If he could just get on first, he was almost guaranteed to steal at least second and third and often stole home. And on several occasions, when the catcher let the pitch get past him, Clarit would even steal first. In one game he scored three runs without ever getting a hit (see him stealing home in the third photo).

Those days are long gone but things haven't changed much. Clarit still plays baseball. Cornell doesn't field a Summer team, so he plays catcher for a Sto-Rox team. And, yes, he still steals bases. Every Spring, he plays for Cornell's high school team.

But come August, he turns his attention to football.

As he enters his junior year, Clarit is a battle hardened 5-8 185 linebacker and running back. He starred in junior high, played some as a freshman on the high school team, and played quite a bit last year. So he's ready. Or as ready as he can be.

"I love playing baseball, but playing it all Spring and Summer does keep me out of the weight room and keeps me from working on football skills," he admits.

Clarit has tremendous speed, quickness and agility but at only 5-8 could use a bit more strength, which only months in the weight roomn could develop.

Since he doesn't have the strength to overpower tacklers, Clarit's only chance is to outrun them. And he does a good job of that. His first step is explosive, whether coming at the beginning of a play or in mid run changing directions to avoid the defense.

As a linebacker, he has the lateral quickness to get to a runner. Whether a 5-8 junior can bring down a 6-2 senior remains to be seen.

Clarit proved last year he can pick up yardage on handoffs, pitchouts or short passes. He can spot holes and gaps and respond quickly. Sometimes his lack of size is almost an advantage, in that opposing defenders cannot always find him behind taller linemen.

"We have to take care of business this year," he vowed after a long day of practicing in the rain and mud. "We let a few games get away from us last year that we should have won. We did have several key injuries by midseason, but we needed for the next man to step up and for all of us to play through and we didn't always do that."

He's hopeful this season will be different. "Our defense should be better. Our offensive line should be better. We have a lot of young players but they're learning fast."

Like most of his teammates he considers Canevin the biggest challenge on the 2023 schedule.

His handoffs, pitchouts and passes will be coming from C. J. Jackson, who is also battle hardened after filling in for E. J. Dawson, who struggled with an injured knee all year. Clarit feels comfortsble with Jackson.

He's also comfortable with Cornell's offense. The Raiders have been running basically the same plays for several years.

"I've always had plenty of energy. I've got to use my energy to pick the team up when the game's not going well. I don't tend to get worn down or discouraged."

Cornell scrimmages Riverside (in suburban Ellwood City) this Saturday at 10 a.m., then opens the season at home against Seton Lasalle and Monessen the following two Friday nights.

This week is "Camp Cornell," during which the team begins practice every day at 9 a.m. and continues all day until 6 pm, with a break for lunch.

Clarit had just come off the practice field. It had rained off and on all day, sometimes heavily. The practice field was a quagmire of puddles and mud and the players were all soaking wet and covered with mud. Walter was pressing an ice pack to various sore spots. He was ready for a hot shower, a hot meal and 12 hours sleep.

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"Playing Center Is A Matter Of Attitude"
Jamarcus Pierce Is Cornell's Mighty Mite

Cornell had been struggling to find a reliable Center for several seasons when Jamarcus Pierce showed up for practice as a 5-5 170 lb freshman. He had played youth football in grades 6-7-8 but had played center, guard, tackle, linebacker, and cornerback.

"He was obviously too small," Coach Ed Dawson recalls. "But then we kept running drills and he kept showing up better than anyone. So I thought, 'Well, we'll give it a try."

Jamarcus has been starting at Center ever since. As an undersized freshman, he faced much taller, heavier and stronger seniors in every game. It didn't matter.

"Playing Center is matter of attitude," he told reporters before practice Thursday. "I'd look across the line at those taller, heavier, stronger, older, more experienced opponents and think,'You are not knocking me off my feet. You are not getting past me. I will do whatever it takes, use whatever trick I can come up with, but you are not going to beat me."

Suddenly, the fumbled snaps, thrown over the quarterback's head, bouncing off his shoestrings, off to one side or the other, stopped. So did defenders pouring over the Center position to flatten the quarterback. After struggling with those issues for two seasons, Cornell didn't have to worry about them anymore.

Pierce had found his niche. And he took it seriously. He spends every spare minute in the weight room, year round. He has an older brother who lifts weights, and he advises him. And Jamarcus has a unique way to practice snaps. He snaps to the goal post. He bounces the snap off the cross bar. From the goal line, the 10 yard line, the 15, the 20, the 25, the 30. He hits five snaps off the bar, then moves out five yards. It might seem ridiculous to center the ball to a cross bar high overhead. But the angle to a quarterback standing just behind you, or to a crossbar 10-15--20-25 yards away, is about the same.

Any lineman, but especially a Center, has to have a very strong core, meaning Abs. They have to have a strong "six pack," as kids call them. But they also have to havc strong Quads, Hamstrings, Shoulders and Upper Chest. A charging defensive lineman will try to shove the Center off balance and to the side, or, failing that, run right over him, knocking him to the ground as they go after the Quarterback. A typical interior lineman in 2023 stands 6-2 and weighs 250 lbs.

And there stood 5-5 170 pound Jamarcus in their way.

It sounds like an unfair matchup. But he figured out pretty quickly that he had some advantages of his own. One was his size. Football coaches are always ordering players to get low, get low, that the player with the lowest stance had a huge advantage. At 5-5, Jamarcus was automatically the lowest guy on the line and when he crouched down he was even lower. Once he snapped the ball, exploding up off his stance afforded him a certain leverage over the guy towering above him. And he didn't have to stop opponents for the entire play. He just had to delay them while the Quarterback either passed the ball, pitched it out or ran with it. So he survived his freshman year.

He came back in 10th grade 5-7 and 200, a lot smarter and, after an offseason in the weight room, a lot stronger. As preseason practices begin this week, he's 5-8 and 225. After yet another offseason in the weight room, he's as strong as anyone he's likely to face. And, despite the 225 pounds, "I'm as quick and fast as I ever was."

Coach Dawson, who played linebacker on an Aliquippa state championship team, knows what a valuable asset Jamarcus has become. He jokes with him, at left, while his Center goes through conditioning drills.

"We have more linemen this year than we ever have," Jamarcus says. "The competition for starting roles will make everybody better and give us depth in case anyone gets injured." And he's razor focused. "The only team I'm thinking about is Riverside next week. One game at a time. We can't afford to get ahead of ourselves."

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Purchased From Miley Motorsports
Blair Cress Settles In As New PPMS Owner

Blair Cress (photo, right) has a new hobby. And it's quite a hobby. He suddenly finds himself the owner of one of the region's most historic and widely known racetracks.

He smiles and shakes his head when asked about his decision to buy a racetrack after a lifetime of zero back ground in oval track racing, although he did spend 20 years in motocross before injuries sidelined him. .

"I wasn't looking to buy a racetrack," he admits. "I was looking to buy a piece of land for my landscaping business. We're located in Crafton and we needed room to expand, for storage and maybe to plant various trees and plants to use in our work. I went online and found these 221 acres of gently rolling, partly wooded land. Oh, and by the way, there was a racetrack on part of the land."

Cress graduated from Penn State trained as an arborist and landscaper. He founded 20/20 Landscaping and Tree Services and has grown it into one of Pittsburgh's leading companies in that field. He offers landscape design and construction, tree removal or trimming, retaining wall construction or replacement, snow removal, or any other service related to landscaping.

So he came out to inspect the land. As part of his visit, just out of curiosity, he and his wife and two daughters spent a night at the track. And found that they absolutely loved it.

Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway opened in 1978 after Ed Witzberger retired and sold Heidelberg Race Way. Heidelberg buildings, press box, lights, fencing and bleachers were dismantled and reassembled at PPMS by Nick Garin. Most dirt tracks are a quarter of a mile. PPMS is a big half mile. After Garin, and then widow Emma died, six members of the Miley family formed Miley Motorsports and bought the track in 1988. They've run it for 35 years. But Red Miley, and in December of 2022 brother Matt, have died.

So the Mileys put the property up for sale. Ben and Ty Miley will remain as consultants for the rest of the current season. Neither side is revealing the price, but local real estate agents estimate that based on its potential for housing development, a site that size would probably bring from $1.9 - 2.7 million. However, several previous sales have fallen through, so the Mileys may have settled for a lower price, since they paid much less for the property many decades ago.

Blair is still weighing his options. That extra land gives him plenty of flexibility.

For now, he's letting the racetrack staff run the track just as they have for three decades while he introduces himelf to the drivers (photo, above), fans, media (photo, right) and supporters. He doesn't plan any major changes for now.

But he's already begun making minor changes. "What we can do while we're in the middle of a season," as he puts it. Flowers and shrubs have been planted. Racecars and their drivers are positioned at the entrance where fans can inspect the cars, meet the drivers, take photos, and in some cases even climb inside and sit in the driver's seats. A new off track Winner's Circle has been built so the next race can be lined up while winners of the previous race can be honored without slowing down the schedule. Aging planks in the old bleachers have been replaced. And every Saturday night, Cress has been down in the pits, talkiing to as many people as possible, gathering ideas for off season improvements.

"Outer track fences, lighting and regrading the pits are probably high priorities," he says.

But the physical facility isn't his biggest priority. There has been a renewed push to upgrade advertising, marketing and community relationships. "I've been checking around. We have people living within a few miles who don't even know this track is here. As soon as we get beyond hearing distance, people are oblivious to our existence. We have to involve ourselves in nearby communities." Drivers and cars are now much more active at local events. "And we need to work on our social media presence."

He hears lots of other ideas. Everybody has their favorite improvement they think will bring out more fans.

Many fans want to bring back the Unlimited Late Models, the high powered cars just a notch short of NASCAR. (PPMS hosts those cars once a year, at the end of the season, in the Pittsburgh 75.) But longtime race people warn against running Unlimiteds too often.

"You've got to stay in the black," they caution. "Those Unlimiteds (which hard core racers and fan refer to as Super Lates) are $100,000 cars, so to bring them in you need large purses. If the crowds aren't big enough you can't support those high purses. So you're losing money."

They list two Western Pennsylvania tracks this year which have already closed because they went bankrupt trying to run the Unlimiteds.

"I'd suggest a more conservative strategy," says one old hand. "Bring the Supers in once a month. You could find corporate sponsors for big purses once a month. You'd get your crowds, and if everything else about the track looks fine, they'll come back for the regular races."

The same analysis holds true for the ideas of putting the Sprints, Winged Sprints or other high dollar divisions on the weekly card, which some fans are always requesting.

As one former driver explains, "We have really strong divisions here in Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders and Teenagers, and we might be able to grow our Pro Stock (Sportsmen) Division. We can grow our attendance with just those if we take care of marketing, advertising and social media. Then we can bring in the Sprints, Winged Sprints or the others four or five times a year."

Fans up in the stands have their own ideas. Many think the racing is fine but would suggest chairback seats. "I know hundreds, maybe a thousand, older fans who used to be hard core --- never missed a night --- but just can't come any more because they can't sit on these bleachers for five hours. Chairbacks, or maybe those bench seats with backs, would bring 'em back. That's why all the high schools have put 'em in for football and basketball games. They want those older fans."

Of course, that would be a major investment.

One veteran driver who now owns a racing team believes Cress will surprise people. "I researched him. He's a good businessman, intelligent, creative, with people skills. He's going to get lots of advice. If he listens to the right people he'll do fine."

Cress may be thnking way ahead of any of them. He sees the racetrack, with its huge level grassy field now used for parking, as a facility suitable for any number of things : Truck Pulls, Rodeos, Circuses, some sort of Halloween event, Car Shows, Concerts, maybe a Fair or Carnival.

Saturday night Cress looked around. PPMS hosted its 34th annual Jook George Steel City Classic with 42 of the top Limited Late Models in five states plus Ontario and the year's largest crowd. The 50 lap race was exciting, as were the heats and features in the Teenage and Hobby Stocks divisions. Close finishes, intense rivalries, raw emotions, wrecks requiring tow trucks and ambulances, a collection of young, talented, dynamic drivers who relate well to fans, all look like a formula for success.

Cress may have accidentally found something really big.

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Former Backup Now Key To Cornell Season
Jackson Taking It Day By Day, Ignoring Pressure

C. J. Jackson spent a year as the backup to Cornell quarterback E. J. Dawson, and had the whole off season to think about how everyone is looking at him to be the key to Cornell's 2023 football hopes.

But he insists he isn't feeling any pressure. "I spent the whole off season getting into the frame of mind that I'm taking this one day at a time. I'm not worrying about a game until it starts. I'm just worrying about getting better today."

He spent the offseason in the weight room. "I learned last year that I need to be stronger. I think I'm a lot stronger now than the end of last season."

He also worked on passing to various receivers. "I couldn't get together with Dravon (senior wide receiver Dravon Newton). But I worked out with others. I think I've increased my distance, speed of release, ball speed, and accuracy."

Jackson feels lucky to have a third year veteran, Jamarcus Pierce, snapping the ball. "I don't have to worry about that. He's a really good, consistent and reliable center. So I can focus on reading the defenses, checking around to make sure everyone's lined up right, calling plays and if necessary call an audible."

He has great confidence in his receiver corps. "They've all got speed, height, athleticism and experience. If I can get the ball out there, they'll catch it."

He also has faith in the senior class. "We have good leadership," he says. "Last year not making the playoffs was tough. We'd been there before so not getting back was real disappointing.

 

"This is our last chance, so we want to make sure we make it again. We know it's up to us to lead the younger guys. I know we're not favored to make it, so we'll just have to surprise some people."

Last year Bishop Canevin caught Cornell with several key injuries and poured it on 63-0. "So we sort of owe them one. I'm hoping we're all healthy for them this year. We're taking it one game at a time, but we're also keeping them in the backs of our minds."

Jackson sees himself as flexible. "I can pass, hand off, run or pitchout, whatever we need. I'm not outstanding in any of those but I'm pretty good at all of them. So we can take what the defense gives us."

He also handled the point after touchdown duties last year after several years of Cornell struggling in that specialty. Unless someone unexpectedly blossoms, he'll probably be asked to kick the PATs again.

As required by PIAA and WPIAL regulations, Cornell spent much practice time this first week on conditioning, stretching, heat acclimation drills and sprints (photo, right). But Jackson and his receiving corps did spend some time the first two days on 20 yard passing drills. He showed accuracy and good ball speed at that distance. They won't work on long passing until next week.

Cornell has been blessed with good quarterbacks for the last decade in Zaire Harrison, Sincere Kimbrough and E. J. Dawson. So Jackson has big shoes to fill.

But he doesn't have to be outstanding. He just has to be good. If he can reach that level, it will go a long way to returning Cornell to the playoffs.

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Will Be Key To Cornell Air Attack
Drevon Newton Ready For Senior Season

Drevon Newton, a 6-1 195 lb senior wide receiver and defensive end, paused for a few minutes in the cool Cornell locker room befoee heading out into the hot sun for practice.

"I have to step up," he said. "I'm a senior now. I have to play a leadership role if we're to have a successful season. I have to help teach our younger guys about work ethic and taking it seriously."

Newton was a major contributor last year, but defenses keyed on Raequel Troutman, so their second or third best defenders were on Newton. With Troutman gone, their very best defenders will be assigned to shut Newton down.

He has assets. He's fast, and at 6-1 with long arms he's a definite threat in Class I-A. His coaches agree. "Devon can be as good as he wants to be," one says.

He worked hard during the offseason on footwork and agility. "Looking back over last year," he recalls, "I don't think my footwork was as good as it needed to be. It's already a lot better, and I'll be working hard these next three weeks to improve it even more."

C. J. Jackson will almost certainly be the quarterback trying to get the ball to Newton.

"C.J. got a lot of experience last year filling in for E. J. Dawson, who was hurt a lot. So he's pretty battle hardened. But I know I have to help him. If the ball's a little overthrown it'll be up to me to make that extra effort, go a little higher or run a little faster and further to catch it. I'm determined one of my strengths this year is going to be not giving up on a play. Whatever it takes, over and over."

Newton expects Bishop Canevin, Sacred Heart, Fort Cherry and Burgettstown to be the biggest challenges on Cornell's schedule.

"But we play them every year. They're no taller or faster or strongee than we are. There's no reason we can't stay with themn."

Newton knows the coaches will be urging him to explode downfield faster, run patterns more precisely, and give 110% on every single play.

"That's part of being a senior," he shrugged. "Responsibility. Coach Dawson is always talking to us about improving our games every single day and helping the guys around us improve their games every single day. Responsibility. Leadership. I'm ready."

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Graduation Hurt But Key Players Return
Cornell Welcomes 32 To '23 Football Camp

Cornell High School Coach Ed Dawson welcomed 32 boys to the opening day of 2023 Football Camp at Frank Letteri Stadium.

It's Dawson's eighth season as Cornell's head coach after he recreated the program in 2016. For four years prior to that, Cornell had too few boys to field a team.

20 is generally considered the minimum number of boys a school needs for a varsity. In Class A, anything over 30 is considered solid. So number wise Cornell is fine. And the Raiders don't just have numbers. Dawson returns several key players on both offense and defense. Unfortunately, he also lost several key players, including his own son, E.J., who played quarterback and running back on offense and was a linebacker and captain of the defense, and Raequan Troutman, the spectacular running back and wide receiver. Drevon Newton, a 6-1 195 lb senior, is being counted on to replace Troutman

Cornell will have some experience and size on the always important offensive line. Jamarcus Pierce will be in his third season at center, which will help immeasurably.

But there are some holes to fill on that line. Filling them will be a major priority during these August practices.

Cornell has had one serious hole in recent years : its kicking game. The Raiders gone whole seasons without a reliable kicker. Not of kickoffs, punts, extra points or field goals. Last year C. J. Jackson was asked to try that role, and he did better than most had for several years. If he could continue to improve his kicking, it would help tremendously.

Jackson (photo, left) is also the heir apparent at quarterback. He proved last year in a backup role that he can read defenses, manage the game, run and pass. But now, as THE quarterback, he must improve his passing accuracy and significantly increase the percentage of completions. He must put the ball in the hands of Newton and other receivers. Incompletes and interceptions could kill this team, which has little margin for error.

This could be the year 5-7, 180 lb junior Walter Clarit makes a big step forward at running back. Clarit has been playing since grade school and has good instincts. He's fast and quick and sees the field well. But Clarit must shoulder much more of the burden while being targeted by opposing defenses.

Cornell will open with a scrimmage against Riverside on the road. It then faces Seton LaSalle (H), Monessen (H), Union (A), Avella (H), Carlynton (A), Burgettstown (H), Bishop Canevin (H), Fort Cherry (A), Chartiers Houston (A) and Sacred Heart (H). All games are on Friday. Monessen, Union and Seton LaSalle are nonconference games. Of those ten games, Cornell will have to win seven to make the WPIAL playoffs. It will not be favored against Seton LaSalle, Union, Burgettstown, Canevin or Sacred Heart. So it must win the other five plus upset two of the favorites.

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Stephen Shelpman Has Roller Coaster Night
Michael Norris Wins 34th Jook George Memorial

Michael Norris of Sarver in Butler County came from behind to win the 50 Lap Jook George Steel City Classic at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

The memorial race honors driver and owner William Thomas Jook George, who won championships and is in the Dirt Track Hall Of Fame.

It was a classic racing night, warm but not hot, with a bright Moon overhead and the largest crowd of the season cheering enthusiastically. A fireworks display preceded the feature, and fans waved light sticks handed out by track staff. The track itself was in its best condition of the year.

Norris, 31, whose home track is Lernerville, mostly drives an Unlimited Late Model ("Super Late"). He's a third generation driver who loves stepping down to the Limited Lates and coming to PPMS with its larger half mile oval. "The track tonight was really smooth," he told reporters after stepping out of his car.

His win, however, was anything but smooth. The classic drew 42 of the best cars and drivers from five states plus Ontario. Four heats and a dash were used to narrow down to 26 cars in the feature. It was started Le Mans style, cars parked on the side of the track (top photo). Norris started fourth and patiently waited in the early laps. Ben Policz, Zach Gunn and Colton Flinner battled for the lead but Norris finally grabbed first on Lap 17.

Daryl Charlier moved up to challenge on Lap 20 and he and Norris were in a real duel for 10 laps but Charlier had to drop out with overheating issues.

Policz, Brandon Burgoon and Kyle Lukon moved up to challenge and they and Norris fought it out for the remaining 20 laps. There were four restarts, which kept bunching the field back up. One restart was to let an ambulance cross the track to reach a fan in the stands.

Burgoon, Lukon, Jeremy Wonderling and Policz rounded out the top five. Burgoon now leads the season points race, slightly ahead of Cole Petrelle, Frank Magill and Kassidy Kamacher.

Gunn, Burgoon, Mike Wonderling and Norris won the qualifying heats, and Mike Wonderling won the Dash.

Down in the Hobby Stocks Division, Stephen Shelpman had a roller coaster evening of highs and lows. Shelpman, currently the season points leader, came from behind on the final lap to nip Adam Ferree for the win in their qualifying heat.

The photo above shows Shelpman (#17p) catching Ferree (#29) coming down the final stretch. He would barely pull ahead of Ferree as they passed under the flag.

Matt Benard and Logan Koteles, two of Shelpman's main rivals in the season points race, finished 1-2 in the other Hobby Stocks qualifying heat, setting up an intense battle in the feature.

Benard grabbed the lead early, but by Lap 3 Shelpman had worked his way up through the field into second place and was challenging for the lead. A caution rebunched the field. Curiously, Benard used his option and took the outside position, giving Shelpman the inside spot, a decision that had many in the pits and the audience shaking their heads. Sure enough, on the restart, Shelpman was pulling ahead when suddenly, coming out of turn 2, he spun out. The car wasn't badly damaged, but he was forced to go to the rear of the field. The race resumed, and Shelpman slowly worked his way back up through the field to again challenge for the lead. But another wreck paused the race and scrambled the order again. So for a third time he worked his way back up through the field but ran out of tine. Koteles won the race, with Benard second and Shelpman third.

Shelpman still leads the season points race, followed by Logan Koteles and 0'Patchen only seven and 12 points back. Karlee Kovacs is in fourth.

In the Teenage Division, newcomer Jacob Chipps (photo, right) of New Cumberland, W.Va., in only his seventh race ever, won the Feature. Kiersten Chernik and Sadie Snatchko rounded out the top three.

Gavin Kokolis now leads the season points race, with Zoey Knight, Paige Jones and Snatchko close behind.

This Saturday night will be a regular card, with the Four Cylinders and Pro Stocks ("Sportsmen") joining the Limited Lates, Hobby Stocks and Teenagers ("Young Guns") in heat races and features.

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Shelpman Wins First Leg Of Stocks Triple Crown
Janas Keeps Winning But Can't Catch Rudolph

You'll have to pardon Kyle Janas for getting a little frustrated. The Forest Grove driver keeps winning feature races at an unprecedented rate but still ranks only third in the Four Cylinder Division at Greater Pittsburgh Speed Way. Ahead of him all season have been Susie Rudolph from Steubenville and Tyler Hollister from McDonald.

Saturday night Janas won another Feature, his fifth of 2023. Yet he stands 26 points behind Rudolph and five points behind Hollister. What they're doing, of course, is making every race --- heat and feature --- and finishing among the top three every time. Janas has missed two features and a few times placed far back. He has trailed Rudolph by more than 60 points but with his run of feature wins has narrowed that to only 26.

This time, Janas started in fourth, but grabbed the lead on a restart and held it the rest of the way. Rudolph once again finished third.

Janas was a long time fixture down in the Young Guns (teenage) Division and this is his first year in the Four Cylinders. "We've put lot of time and effort into this car all Winter and it's been running really well," he told reporters. But Janas has also matured as a driver. He's learned to use the highline, up along the outer wall, to his advantage, and he's learned to wait back in the pack and spot his openings. He's got two months left. A few more feature wins could close that 26 point gap.

Meanwhile, down in that Young Guns Division, Abby Gindlesperger moved into the lead on lap four and went on to win the feature. Sumara Weaver was second and Gavin Kokolis third. Kokolis leads in season points with Zoey Knight 14 points behind in second.

The big event of the night was the first leg of the Hobby Stock Division Stephen Johnson Triple Crown. Stephen Shelpman from Pleasant Hills came from a seventh place starting position to win, but he had to work for it. Adam Ferree from Jefferson Hills led on the first lap. Shelpman worked his way up and took over the lead on lap five. Matt Benard was right behind for five laps but a collision with the wall ended his night. Cole Cochran spun out and there was plenty of bumping and banging as drivers jockeyed for position. Ferree hung on for second and Jonathan Koteles was third. Shelpman leads in season points but is only 10 ahead of Garrett O'Patchin. Logan Koteles, Karlee Kovacs and Benard round out the top five. In the photo at left, Shelpman in 17P is preparing to pass Jonathan Koteles in 2K.

Brandon Burgoon of Mcdonald won the Limited Late Model Feature, with Ben Policz second and Cole Petrelle third. The win narrowed Petrelle's season lead over Burgoon to only eight points. Frank Magill is third.

Kole Holden of Tiona won the Sportsman Feature over Chelsie Kriegisch of Ellwood City.

This Saturday Limited Lates will run in the 34th Annual 50 Lap Steel City Classic,

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Scout Night and Autograph Night
2023's Biggest Crowd Fills Speedway

Pittsburgh Motor Speedway enjoyed 2023's biggest crowd Saturday night as it hosted Scout Night and Autograph Night. The crowd included young boys in uniform and families with children even younger than Scouts. It turned out to be a beautiful evening after a passing rainstorm thoroughly drenched the track and stands at 5 pm. The sun dried out the stands and after warmup laps the track settled into a very fast condition. All Scouts who showed up in uniform were admitted free.

Kids, parents and Scoutmasters were invited down to the track to collect autographs, talk to the drivers, ask a thousand questions, pose for photos, climb on the cars and sit in them. That's Brian Huchko in the third photo below posing with seven newfound fans and his car, Late Model #60.

And that's Danny Melaney at right posing with the helmet he won. It's Brian Huchko's helmet from 2022. A brand new helmet like this costs at least $250 and can cost up to $500, so that's quite a prize for Danny to take home. Visible on it are autographs from drivers and track owners and officials.

Once the actual racing began, Kyle Jansas continued his stampede in the Four Cylinder Division by winning both the Heat and the Feature. In the Feature Janas never led until the final straightaway. Eric Reynolds led at first and John Gill eventually passed him and held the lead until Janas' burst on the final lap. It was Janas fourth feature win of the year and his third straight.

Susie Rudolph still leads in Four Cylinder srason points, with Tyler Hollister and Jansas in hot pursuit. Reynolds is further back in fourth.

Travis Clark won his first Teenage ("Young Guns") Feature of the year, holding off Kiersten Chernik and Evan Strouse. Chernik led for the first four laps but couldn't hold it.

Gavin Kokolis leads in season points but Zoey Knight is only 10 points behind. Paige Jones and Sadie Snatchko are third and fourth.

Logan Koteles worked his way past Marc Corio, LeRoy Brown and Stephen Shelpman to move into the lead on lap five and hold it for the feature win in Hobby Stocks. It was Logan's second feature win of 2023 and solidified his grip on first place in the Stocks season points race. Garrett O'Patchen is in second, with Shelpman third and Karlee Kovacs fourth.

Cody Koteles snuck past five rivals to steal the feature win in the mislabelled Penn Ohio Pro Stocks (they're neither Pro not Stock). Mike Harris, Nick Kocuba, Brett McDonald and Jordan Perkins all led at some point but Koteles snuck past Perkins on the final lap for the win.

A.J. Poljack leads in season points in Pro Stocks. Dale Tuche is second, Kocuba third, Emmie Laboon fourth and Tony Magill fifth. Koteles is back in sixth.

Kyle Lukon drew the pole position and led the entire way to win the Limited Late Model feature. He held off Zach Gunn and Ben Policz early and Cole Petrelle most of the race to claim the win. But Brandon Burgoon came up late to finish second, Garrett Paugh third, Tommy Schirnhofer fourth and Jake Gunn fifth. Petrelle retains the season points lead, followed by Burgoon, Frank Magill, Kassidy Kamacher and Tom Klein.

In the Sportsmen Modifieds (Sportsmen built so that the driver sits in the center, like an Indy car), Kole Holden won the feature over Chelsie Kriegisch.

This week the Speedway hosts the Herb Scott Memorial to honor Scott, the Wexford driver who won consistently for 30 years and is considered the greatest race car driver in Western Pennsylvania history. As usual, the card will include Limited Late Models, Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders ans Teenagers (Young Guns).

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Poljak, Burgoon, Perigo Win Sportsmen, Lates, Sprints
Janas, Shelpman, Kokolis Win Two Straight

For the second week in a row, Kyle Janas, Stephen Shelpman and Gavin Kokolis won their feature races in the Four Cylinder, Hobby Stock and Young Gun Divisions at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

In the higher division features, Al Poljak won in Sportsmen, Brandon Burgoon in Limited Late Models, and Carmen Perigo in Sprints. Kole Holden won the feature in Modifieds, a division the track only hosts about once a month.

Janas had an easy time of it. He started on the pole and led the entire race. There were no yellow flags and no stoppages. But season points leader Susie Rudolph finished third, so Jansas was only able to cut into her lead, not catch her. Levi Maskal of West Sunbury was second.

Shelpman (in 17P, photo right) had a more difficult race, but only for the first half. He started back in sixth and had to wait til Tom Anton, Leroy Brown, Koteles brothers Jonathan and Logan and Garrett O'Patchen took turns battling for the lead. Shelpman was finally able to wrest it from O'Patchen for his fourth feature win this season. Once he led, he steadily pulled away. O'Patchen finished second and Logan Koteles third. But 0'Patchen leads in season points, with Logan Koteles second and Shelpman third.

Carmen Perigo won the Sprint feature over Ricky Lewis and Isaac Chapple.

In Young Guns action, Kokolis started fourth and took six laps working his way up to the lead, passing Kiersten Chernik for it. Chernik had taken the lead from Sadie Snatchko on lap three. Zoey Knight had started fifth and never was able to fight through traffic for the lead. Gavin Kokolis leads in season points, with Knight second and Paige Jones third.

Up in the Limited Late Models, Brandon Burgoon (in 5X, photo left) started on the pole and led the entire way, but he kept extending his lead and yellow flags and stoppages kept pulling him back to the field. Early on, the real race was behind Burgoon for second place, among Tom Klein, Cole Petrelle and Zach Gunn. But none of them ended up finishing well. Tim Shaffer took second, Jake Gunn third and Tony Mussolino fourth. Petrelle leads the season points race, with Burgoon second and Frank Magill third.

Al Poljak grabbed the lead in the Sportsmen Division and held it, but he had to hold off Dale Tuche early and Jason Fosnaught late. Fosnaught ended up second with Nick Kocuba third. Poljak leads in season points, with Kocuba second and Tuche third.

In the Modified Division (these are basically Sportsmen cars rebuilt with the driver seated in the center, like an Indy style car), Kole Holden won with Chelsie Kriegisch second and Jacob Jordan third. Those three also lead the season point standings in that order.

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Schirnhofer, Schneider, Shelpman Win Features
Cory's Kyle Janas Gets His Groove Back

Kyle Janas, the Coraopolis (Forest Grove) resident who spent several years down in the Young Guns Division, is back in business. He won the Four Cylinder Feature Race Saturday night at the Greater Pittsburgh Speedway. It's his second feature win of the season and he also won a heat a few weeks back.

Janas was once a contender down in the Teenage Division in every feature race with his orange and black #88, but disappeared for the last two seasons. Suddenly the number and paint scheme are back, but in a Four Cylinder model. And Janas, much taller and with a devilish grin (photo at left), looks to be a serious rival to the "Open 4" hierarchy of Susie Rudolph, Tyler Hollister, Matt Knight and Eric Reynolds.

Boosted by his feature win, and by that earlier heat and feature, Janas is currently third in the Four Cylinder season points race, 36 points behind Rudolph and 13 behind Hollister. "We've put a lot of work in this car," he explained. "And it's running really well. When I started racing I was told to take the high line. It's scary up there but it works. That wall comes up faster than you think."

Tommy Schirnhofer drew the pole starting position and led the whole way to win the Limited Late Model Feature, but it wasn't easy. Behind him was a continuing battle for second finally won by Brandon Burgoon over John Mollick, Ben Policz and Frank Magill. "That's a strong field," Schirnhofer said later. "A top five field at any track." Cole Petrelle leads in season points.

Schirnhofer was a dominant driver at the Speedway but then began racing elsewhere, and this was his first time back since 2015. Even after that long absence, it was his 23rd feature win here, placing him 4th all time.

Chris Schneider (#55, in photo at right) won the Pro Stock ("Sportsmen") Feature in the night's most exciting race. He started fourth and had to get past Nick Kocuba, Al Poljack and Cody Koteles to finally take the lead. But Poljack still leads in season points, with Kocuba second 12 behind. Schneider is way down in 13th.

Stephen Shelpman (seen in photo at left in black #17P preparing to cut below and pass Jonathan Koteles in #2K) won the Hobby Stocks Feature. He drew the post position at start and led the entire way. There was one caution and restart but Shelpman widened his lead afterward. Logan Koteles was second and Matt Benard third. Garrett O'Patchen still leads the season points race, with Logan Koteles only five behind and Shelpman in third 11 back.

Gavin Kokolis of Oakdale won the Teenage ("Young Guns") Division Feature with Kiersten Chernik second and Sumara Weaver third. The win moved Kokolis into first place in season points, with Zoey Knight four behind and Paige Jones in third, 15 back.

There will be no racing at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway this Saturday as the track has been rented to an outside organization for an independent event. Racing will resume Saturday, July 1 with the Sprints joining the usual divisions.

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Policz Wins Limited Late Model Feature
Tim Bish of Ringgold Wins 12th Laboon Memorial

Tim Bish of Ringgold won the 12th annual Ed LaBoon Memorial Race at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night. Bish (photo, right) took home the trophy, in the form of a giant belt buckle like wrestlers win, plus $4000.

It was another hot, dry, dusty night but the crowd was the smallest of the season, quite disappointing considering the big LaBoon feature.

Bish thought the track suited his driving style. After a weeklong drought, "It was dry and slick. I had been having some luck using the bottom line, especially in the corners, so there toward the end, coming off that last restart, I chose the inside position, and went back to the bottom, and it paid off."

But it was a tough race. After qualifying heats and a dash, 28 cars started the race, including many experienced drivers from six states who were former Laboon winners. They included Chris Schneider, who had won the LaBoon three times and has won a long list of other races here and elsewhere. They also included rising star Cody Koteles, who recorded the fastest qualifying time.

"This is the best win of my career," Bish said. "I knew both the Chrisses were right behind me and I kept expecting them to come up and challenge, so I knew I had to keep moving." The two Chrisses he referred to were Chris and Christian Schneider. Chris (in car #55) grabbed the early lead with Christian Schneider (in #W5) a close second. They kept those positions through several cautions and restarts. It was on the lap nine restart that Bish saw the opening along the bottom line and used it to dart past both Chrisses for the lead. Noah Brunnel (#18) followed him and grabbed second. Jordan Perkins (#13) would get past the Chrisses late for third place.

Ironically, Emmie LaBoon, the only LaBoon in the race, had car trouble at the very start and had to drop out.

The Laboon Memorial is one of the season's biggest races for the Pro Stocks, which are what most tracks call Sportsmen. They're a middle division, between Street ("Hobby") Stocks and Limited Late Models.

Bish entered the weekend ranked third among Penn Ohio Pro Stock (Sportsmen) drivers, just behind Cody Koteles. Penn Ohio drivers race at various tracks in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

 

 

Ben Policz won his first Limited Late Model Feature of the season. It was pretty much a runaway. Policz moved into first plaace on the second lap and held it the rest of the way, at one point pulling out to a 100 yard gap back to Cole Petrelle in second place. Brandon Burgoon finished third.

But it was an unexpected performance. "The track tonight was dry slick," Policz explained to reporters after the race. "We always suck on dry slick. In tonight's warmup laps and early heats, sure enough, we were no good. But my crew chief suggested some things to try --- basically we figured we had nothing to lose so we may as well throw the kitchen sink at the track and see if anything worked --- and suddenly we were doing fine. So all credit goes to him."

It has been a frustrating season for Policz. "We've blown an engine, been involved in some wrecks, and then up at Latrobe thought we had won and got disqualified due to the same tires that we'd been running on all season with no problem. So we really needed this win. I needed it, and my pit crew needed it."

The win rocketed Policz upward from his 14 place spot in the season points standings. Petrelle will retain the lead, especially since second place Frank Magill got into a disagreement with first another driver and then Pit officials and was disqualified.

Garrett 0'Patchen in Street ("Hobby") Stocks, Tyler Hollister in Four Cylinders, and Evan Strouse in the Teenage Division all picked up their first feature wins. Strouse and Zoey Knight battled back and forth with Strouse finally retaking the lead and grabbing a slim victory.

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Perkins, Snyder, Kotelis, Gordon Chief Rivals
Schneider One Of Favorites In '23 LaBoon

Chris Schneider is considered a strong favorite to repeat in the LaBoon Memorial Race for Pro Stocks Saturday at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Schneider, shown at right as he talked to reporters after winning the '22 LaBoon race, will have to battle a 40 car field. Jordan Perkins, who just won a Pro Stock feature at PPMS two weeks ago, is considered a major contender, as are Christian Snyder, Cody Kotelis, Andrew Gordeon and (if he shows up) Tyler Dietz. The winner Saturday will take home $4000. A typical Pro Stock regular season purse is $2500.

The LaBoon Memorial is run in honor of long time race driver and mechanic Ed LaBoon. Promoted year round by son Vince LaBoon, the race has grown to be one of the biggest of the year for Pro Stock (formerly Sportsmen) drivers. The 5/8 mile circumference, 90 feet straights and extra width of the Greater Pittsburgh Speedway track allows for higher speed racing. It also allows drivers to run three or four wide when needed.

"You can run rail to rail here," several drivers agreed on a Wednesday night online discussion of the race. "There are 4-5 lines available rather than just the one on the smaller tracks. And slower driver can't block you like they can on the 3/8 and 1/4 mile tracks. PPMS is the second best track for dirt track racing behind only Eldoro out in Ohio."

Limited Late Models, Street Stocks, Four Cylinder and Teenage drivers will also compete Saturday night.

Mollick, Charlier, Koteles Win
Knight Captures 5th Feature; Her First In 2023

Zoey Knight, the irrepressible 8th grader two years shy of her driver's license, captured her fifth feature race at the Pittsburgh Speedway Saturday night.

Knight, who also cheerleads and plays Softball at Plum Borough Middle School, won four features last season but had a rough start to 2023. She had to pull out of the first feature with electrical problems and could only finish second last week. But she and her car were razorsharp Saturday.

To calls of "Way to drive, young lady," and "That's what you looked like last year," Knight climbed out of her 78Z Dodge Neon to accept her trophy, which was a third as big as she is.

"I've got a great team behind me," she said, "They not only keep the car running but also put up with me." She explained that she can be a little hyper just before each week's feature.

Knight grabbed the lead early and kept it all the way, but had to fight off repeated challenges by Gavin Kokolis and Paige Jones, who finished second and third. The win pulled Zoey into a tie with Kokolis in what looks like a heated season points race.

The race was interrupted only once, by a spectacular rollover on the second lap.

John Mollick, Daryl Charlier and Cody Koteles won the other major features on another beautiful but hot, dry and dusty evening with another large crowd present.

Mollick, seen talking to reporters in the photo at right, started back in ninth place in the Limited Late Model Feature. He was working his way toward the front when Brian Huchko suffered a bad wreck and the restart bunched the field. After the restart Frank Magill and Cole Petrelle battled for the lead until Mollick slipped past them by going low on turn four. He held the lead the rest of the way, although Kassidy Kamicker came up to challenge late. Petrelle finished second, Kamicker third and Magill fourth. Huchko was found to be OK, although his car suffered serious damage.

It was Mollick's 16 career feature win at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, with the wins spread across three divisions. He ranks among the track's top 50 all time drivers.

"I saw a few spots as we came around the track and I was hoping nobody would fill them, and when they didn't I was able to make my move," he explained as to how he came up from ninth.

Petrelle leads the season points race in Limited Lates with 209, followed by Magill with 192, Kamicker with 183, Tom Klein of Rochester with 182 and Brandon Burgoon of McDonald with 174. Mollick, from Toronto, is sixth.

Charlier (photo, left) took the lead from AJ Poljack on lap five and gradually widened it to win the Pro Stock (original Sportsmen) feature. Cody Koteles rounded out the top three.

But Poljack still leads the season points race with 116, just two ahead of Dale Tuche of Cheswick. Nick Kocuba of Burgettstown, Emmie Laboon of Elizabeth and Tony Magill of Jefferson Hills complete the top five.

 

Tyler Cuneo won a controversial Four Cylinder Feature. He and Matt Knight, racing door to door to the finish line, got tangled up and Cuneo managed to cross the line first. Noah Bubeck and Joe Campbell took second and third.

Susie Rudolph of Steubenville still leads the Four Cylinder season points race with 79. Knight is second at 61 and Kyle Janas of Coraopolis third at 60.

It was a Koteles gang attack in the Street ("Hobby") Stock Division, as Cody (photo, right) won the feature and brothers Logan and Jonathan Koteles finished second and third. Jonathan actually took the lead early, but Cody grabbed it from him. The two traded the lead back and forth for 10 laps until Cody finally went ahead for good. Logan came up to slip into second, with Jonathan holding onto third.

"That was some of the best fun I've ever had, us all three racing door to door for a whole race," Cody told reporters afterward. "Steve Shelpman and Garrett O'Patchen were right behind us, too. There was no room to relax."

He usually races at the top of the track, but "I used the bottom a lot on this one and it worked really well."

Team Koteles worked on the car beginning at 9 a.m. that morning. "We're still testing the car. I learned quite a bit tonight that we can use."

Gary Koteles leads the season points race with 236, followed by O'Patchen at 227, Logan at 222, Shelpman at 221, Karlee Kovacs at 205, and Jonathan at 195.

Racing resumes this Saturday night with a full card plus the 12 annual Ed Laboon Memorial Race for Pro Stocks.

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Shaffer, Shelpman Win In Limiteds, Stocks
Flick Wins Second Straight Sprint Feature

Aj. J. Flick of Apollo (#2, photo right) won his second straight Feature race Thursday night to solidify his lead in the Winged Sprint season point standings.

The unusual Thursday night of racing was held as part of a Western Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speed Week, which brought the top Sprint racing teams to this area with five nights of racing at different tracks and large guaranteed purses.

The Winged Sprints are the fastest cars currently running on dirt tracks in the U.S. Their 410 cc engines produce 800+ horsepower and the cars can hit 150 mph on the front and back straights. A Winged Sprint car can be built for around $65,000, most of which is in the $45,0000 engine. They have their own circuit, which brings them to PPMS twice a month.

Flick leads the season points race with 148. Brandon Mattus of Wampum and Dale Blaney of Hartford (Ohio) are tied for second with 141.

 

Tim Shaffer of Aliquippa won the Limited Late Model Feature, edging Brandon Burgoon of Mcdonald and Kyle Lukon of Burgettstown.

But Burgoon still leads the Limited season points race, three ahead of Cole Petrelle and 18 up on Frank Magill.

Stephen Shelpman (17P in photo at left, moving up on Jonathan Koteles of Stockdale in 2K) won the Stocks Feature. But Gary Koteles retains the season points lead, five ahead of Garrett OPatchen and Matt Benard who are tied for second.

This Saturday will be Champions Night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. The track will honor last year's sesason points winners and off a full night of racing in all the various divisions.

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A. J. Flick, Cipriano Win In Sprints, Sportsmen
Lukon, Perkins, Koteles Win At Speedway

Kyle Lukon, Jordan Perkins, Logan Koteles, Matt Knight and Sadie Snatchko were local drivers who won feature races Saturday at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Of the special guest divisions AJ Flick and Ayden Cipriano took their features.

It was a warm, dry, unusually dusty night at the big half mile oval and a large, enthusiastic crowd turned out to cheer for the Winged Sprints and Sportsmen, always popular divisions that appear here about once a month. Thus far both nights of racing have drawn well, further evidence that people are finally getting past the pandemic.

Lukon, of Burgettstown, races Limiteds and Unlimiteds at various tri state tracks, including Lernerville and Marion Center (near Indiana, Pa.). He runs intermittently at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. But when he shows up, he's always a serious threat in his #184 (photo, right).

Saturday night, Lukon and Cole Petrelle started on the first row and battled back and forth early. Lukon finally took the lead for good but John Mollick of Toronto came up late to steal second. Petrelle finished third..

Lukon doesn't run at PPMS often enough to compete for the season points title, but Petrelle's second place finish moved him into an early season lead over Brandon Burgoon.

Jordan Perkins of Newcastle (#13, photo, left) started fourth in the Pro Stock (the local version of Sportsmen) but passed AJ Poljack of Baldwin for first when Poljack had car trouble on lap two. Perkins had to fight off Jacob and Jackson Billyk of but hung on to win. Perkins' win solidified his lead in the early season points race.

For the last several seasons, the Stocks Division has drawn the most entries and provided the wildest and most hotly contested races. That tradition is continuing in 2023. Stephen Shelpman came from the back of the field to take the lead from Gary Koteles and apparently win the race. But during the post race inspection judges found Shelpman's car to be in violation of track rules, so he was disqualified and Logan Koteles was declared the winner, with Gary Koteles second and Matt Bernard third. That third place was enough to give Benard a slim lead in the early season points race.

AJ Flick of Apollo (#2, photo right) passed Carl Bowser of Freedom on lap four of the Winged Sprints Feature but the two battled back and forth for the rest of the race until Bowser faded and let Brandon Matus of Wampum and Dale Blaney of Hartford (Ohio) take second and third. The Winged Sprints are the fastest gasoline powered cars, hitting 150 mph on straights. (Indy cars are faster but use a methyl alcohol - ethanol blend). In Saturday's feature, the top cars averaged 155 mph.

Matt Knight of Plum won the Four Cylinder Feature, ahead of Eric Reynolds of Sewickley in the fan favorite Volkswagen Beetle ("the Love Bug").

Sadie Snatchko of Oakdale, Zoey Knight of Plum and Sumara Weaver of Daisytown finished 1-2-3 in the Young Guns (Teenage) Feature, a clean sweep for the promising group of young girls.

Ayden Cipriano of Hermitage (#5C in the photo left) started on the pole and led the entire way to capture the Modifed Sportsmen Feature, but had to fight off J.C. Boyer of Burghill (Ohio) repeatedly. Chelsie Kriegisch was third. The Modified Sportsmen are the track's most interesting division, parallel to the "Pro Stocks," which are what used to be called Sportsmen. Custom made affordable cars with tight limits on engines and parts, they're RUSH Racving's attempt to keep racing affordable. The main modification is the driver sits in the center, not the left side, making them more like Indy style cars. They run GM 602 engines, standard suspensions, steel wheels, carburetors, steering, etc. The late Matt Miley hoped to see these affordable cars become a popular division here. But racing teams here have major investments in their left seat "Pro Stock" Sportsmen cars so they can't afford to discard them and build a Modified Sportsmen, even though one brand new can be built for $20,000-25,000. As younger drivers come up from Hobby Stocks the hope is many will choose to build Modified Sportsman due to costs, so over time this division will become the standard "middle" category, between Teenage, Four Cylinder and Hobby Stocks below and Sprints, Limited and Unlimited Late Models above. But so far it's been a slow transition. The Mileys keep bringing the division in as special guests hoping to spur local interest.

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Cars Reminiscent Of 1950s & 1960s
PPMS Will Host Vintage Cars 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 may be 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 at tracks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.

Worth watching will be Jeff Manners from Titusville in a 36 Chevy, and Steve Longo of Bradford in a 34 Ford. They were the two 2022 season points champions.

On the more unusual side, Wally Stock of Kecksburg is racing a Nash Metropolitan, and William Styles of Muse is in a Mudd Bus.

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. 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 mostly run small block Chevy or 358 engines. They're divided into two classes, one with two barrel carburators, the other with four barrel carburators.

This is their season opener, but the Vintage Association keeps season point standings over a five month run, so these races matter. Drivers who win will be placed at the back of the lineup at each heat and feature, just as they were back in the 50s. 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. However, the usual card of Limited Late Models, Sportsmen ("Pro Stocks"), Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders and Young Guns (Teenagers) will also be featured, so fans will get a full night of racing.

Matt Miley's Legacy Lives On.....
Enthusiastic Crowd Cheers 2023 Racing Opener

Saturday night was a perfect opening to the '23 dirt track racing season. Two days of sunny weather dried out the clay track. A cloudless sky with a huge orange Moon provided a beautiful backdrop. It was a warm t shirt night. A large enthusiastic crowed showed up to cheer on the six divisions. A promising group of newcomers joined the ranks of experienced drivers, and many of last year's big favorites have moved up to higher divisions.

In many ways, the evening was a tribute to Matt Miley, who created Pittsburgh Motor Speedway 45 years ago and became one of the most successful dirt track promoters in the nation. After Miley died during the off season, many wondered if the track would even open for 2023, and if it did, if the fans and drivers would be there. But it did, they were, and Pit Steward Smokey Schemp administered the 11 heats and six feature races like clockwork, the first heat beginning at 7 pm and the final feature ending at 10 pm.

The evening card included Limited Late Models, Sprints, Sportsmen ("Pro Stocks"), Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders and Young Guns (Teenagers).

The bevy of talented young women, which had attracted national attention last year, were back for another season, although they struggled with car troubles throughout the evening and none of them did well.

The only problem was the failure of the P.A. system and radio broadcast due to a transmitter issue. Officials assured fans they would work all week to correct these by this Saturday.

However, the track does have a new contract with The Cushion, a live streaming company that offers both a season subscription or per night option. Fans could watch races live at home on a computer, tablet or phone. Season subscribers also have access to livestreamed races from other tracks. Interested fans can email contact@ppms.com or call the speedway office at (412) 279-RACE.

Brandon Burgoon of McDonald won the Limited Late Model Feature over Cole Petrelle of Follansbee, W. Va. John Mollick of Toronto, Mike Reft of Pittsburgh and Tommy Schirnhofer of Dormont rounded out the top five. Kassidy Kamacker of Aliquippa finished eighth. Schirnhofer led early, and Mollick led for two laps, but Burgoon took the lead on lap five and held off Petrelle the rest of the way.

However, Mollick came back to win the Sprint Feature (photo, left) over Chad Ruhlman of Bemus Point, New York. Zach Wilson of Belmont, W. Va., Gale Ruth of Pittsburgh and Blaze Meyers of Franklin finished half a lap back. This was quite a race. Ruhlman started on the pole and had won every Sprint feature race here last year. He sped out to an early lead but Mollick caught him on lap two and the two dueled back and forth until lap six, when Mollick finally took the lead for good.

Jordan Perkins of New Castle wrested the lead from Al Poljack on lap three and held off Poljack the rest of rhe way to win the Sportsman ("Pro Stock") Feature. Jason Fosnaught of Tartentum, Dale Tuche of Chenwick, and Nick Kocuba of Burgettstown finished 3-4-5.

Emmie Laboon of Elizabeth, in her Sportsman debut, finished seventh.

Steve Shelpman of Pleasant Hills outlasted Matt Benard of Oakdale in the Hobby Stocks Feature. It was a wild race, with three spinouts, two cautions and drivers continually changing positions. Shelpman started 13th and had to work his way up. Karlee Kovacs struggled with transmission problems and entered the pits on both cautions but was unable to resolve them and get reliable power and finally dropped out halfway through. Gary Koteles of Stockdale and Tyler Fox and Garrett O'Patchen of Pittsburgh completed the top five.

Kyle Janas of Coraopolis (#88, photo right) won both his heat and the Four Cylinder Feature. Eric Reynolds held second for almost the entire race but lost it at the end to Tyler Cuneo. Reynolds was third. Travis Clark and Tony Kloss were 4-5.

Gavin Kokolis of Oakdale and A.J. Manganello pulled ahead of the quartet of girls and went on to finish first and second in the Young Guns Feature. Sadie Snatchko of Oakdale, Zoey Knight of Plum, Sumara Weaver of Daisy Town, and Abby Gindelsperger of Jefferson Hills finished 3-4-5-6.

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Cornell Officially Out Of Playoffs
Failed PATs Doom Raiders, 27-26

Cornell has struggled all season with making the points after touchdowns. Whether trying the kicks, runs or passes, those extra points have proven elusive in every game. Friday night, it cost the Raiders a victory over OLSH. And the 27-26 loss sends Sacred Heart on to the WPIAL Class A playoffs while Cornell sits home.

In the final minute, the Chargers intercepted two Cornell scoring passes in the end zone. The first was an attempt to score a two point conversion and give the Raiders a 28-27 win. Walter Clarit had scored the touchdown, but after missing earlier PATs, Cornell tried for two. Dereon Greer picked off the E.J. Dawson pass.

Having just scored the TD, Cornell kicked off to Sacred Heart. Coach Ed Dawson elected to try an onside kick. It worked, and Cornell recovered. With the final seconds ticking down, Cornell drove for the winning score. The pass that would have given the Raiders the win was intercepted in the end zone by Ziggy McIntosh.

The heartbreaking loss ruined a great comeback by Cornell. Sacred Heart had led 20-7 in the second. Just before halftime, Dawson hit Raequan Troutman to cut it to 20-14. OLSH expanded it to 27-14 in the third quarter. But the Raiders came alive in the fourth. Troutman ran a TD in from the four, but the PAT kick was missed. That made it 27-20. Cornell held Sacred Heart and drove down for Clarit's score.

The loss left Cornell 3-4 in the Black Hills Conference and 4-5 overall.

Riders Cling To Slim Playoff Hope
Troutman Leads Cornell Over Chartiers 52-7

Raequan Troutman ran for four first half touchdowns to lead Cornell to a 52-7 win over Chartiers Houston and draw the Raiders even at 3-3 in the Black Hills Conference and 4-4 overall.

Troutman ran the ball in from the 48, one, 23 and 60 yard lines. He rushed for 151 yards just in the first half.

The win kept alive Cornell's flickering hopes for a postseason slot. The Raiders must upset Sacred Heart this Friday. Burgettstown and Fort Cherry play each other. Currently, the top four teams in the conference are Bishop Canevin, Sacred Heart, Burgettstown and Fort Cherry. Each conference gets four slots in the playoffs. If Cornell were to upset OLSH, the two would be tied with three losses each and since Cornell won the game between them the Raiders would receive the bid.

Chartiers Houston dropped down this year from Class 2A and back in August was considered a major contender. In September Chartiers Houston was ranked fourth in Class A. But Class A has proven to be tougher than Ch-H expected and several losses have left the Washington County school battling to finish with a winning record.

Matt Sieg Scores All Fort Cherry Points
Cornell Slump Continues 27-7 As Playoff Hopes Fade

Matt Sieg scored four touchdowns Friday night as Fort Cherry rolled over Cornell 27-7 and probably clinched the final playoff spot from the Black Hills Conference.

The win dropped Cornell to 2-3 in the conference and 3-4 overall. Fort Cherry is now 3-2 and 5-3.

The only bright spot for Cornell came as E. J. Dawson powered three yards up the middle for his team's only touchdown in the second quarter to cut the Fort Cherry lead to 14-7. But Sieg then returned a punt 77 yards to pull the Rangers back out to 21-7.

Fort Cherry demoralized Cornell early by outgaining the Raiders 132 to minus 14 in the first quarter. Cornell did redeem itself in the second by gaining 73 yards but it wasn't enough to close the gap.

The Raiders play Chartiers Houston this Friday at home.

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Jason Cross Scores 5 TDs
Bishop Canevin Buries Cornell 63-0

Bishop Canevin put Cornell away early en route to a 63-0 win Saturday at Dormont Stadium. It was 14-0 after one quarter and 35-0 at halftime. One player, Jason Cross, accounted for all five first half TDs. Cross, a 6-0 155 lb junior, passed 27 yards to Azjuan Marshall for the first, ran the second in himself from the five, passed 28 yards to Tyjer Clayton for the third, passed 60 yards to Jayden Lindsey for the fourth, and intercepted a Cornell pass and ran it back 79 yards for the fifth. Geno DeFrank kicked all the extra points. In the second half Canevin sent in the reserves. Kole Olzewski passed 61 yards to Xavier Nelson, Jermell Lindsey ran back a punt return 31 yards, Clayton intercepted a pass and ran it back 18 yards, and Olzewski ran one in from the one. DeFrank kicked all the PAT kicks. The win left Cornell 2-2 in the Black Hills Conference, 3-3 overall. After a weekend of upsets, most notably Sacred Heart's loss to Burgettstown, Cornell could still grab a postseason runnerup berth if the Raiders can defeat Fort Cherry this week and Chartiers Houston next week, both games at home.

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Squib Kicks Rattle Raiders
Disaster, 26-6
Cornell Unravels At Burgettstown

Cornell suffered a complete meltdown Friday night and lost a key game to Burgettstown 26-6. The loss put any hopes of a postseason berth in serious jeopardy.

The game was played at Burgettstown's Hill Stadium, one of the WPIAL's classic facilities. It opened in 1920 and was renovated in 2000. Even in this fifth week of the season, the field was in great condition. A solid crowd was on hand on a frosty night. Neighbors on a high hill overlooking the field sat around backyard fire pits in Adirondack chairs enjoying a sort of balcony view while toasting s'mores, hot dogs and baked potatoes. Marching bands from both schools livened up the atmosphere and Burgettstown honored their grade school football teams and cheerleaders before the game. It was a magnificent atmosphere.

Unfortunately for Cornell its marching band, its numbers up, sounding impressive, looking good in its spiffy new uniforms (in the photo above members are bundled up against the cold, but they show off the uniforms when marching at halftime) was the highlight of the evening.

Burgettstown Coach Greg Marshall had no intention of letting Cornell's Raequan Troutman unleash one of his kickoff runbacks. So he used squib kicks to change the tempo of the game. Burgettstown worked on squibs in practice, and when the Blue Devils won the toss, they elected to kick off to start the game. Sure enough, Cornell was caught by surprise by the squib, and Zach Schrockman recovered for Burgettstown on the Cornell 25.

Three plays later Sondre Lunde hit Brodie Kuzior with an 18 yard pass. He fumbled but Schrockman recovered. The PAT kick was wide but Burgettstown led 6-0.

Burgettstown again used the squib kickoff, Cornell again fumbled, and the Blue Devils recovered on the 48. A pass to the 28, three runs, and a Lunde pass to James Leuice put Burgettstown up 12-0 with 7:42 in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter the home team scored again on an 11 yard Kuzior run and Pedro Guimaraes PAT to lead 19-0.

Walter Clarit finally put Cornell on the board with a two yard run with 3:40 til halftime. The PAT pass failed so it was 19-6.

Cornell held and got the ball back but was unable to score before the half.

In the third quarter neither team scored. Two possessions by Burgettstown and one by Cornell used up the entire 12:00.

To open the fourth, Draevon Newton intercepted a Blue Devil pass on the Cornell 32 but the Raiders couldn't score and Burgettstown ran off a sustained drive of five first downs. Caleb Russell ran it in from the five and Guimaraeas kicked the PAT kick for the final 26-6 score.

Except for the squib kicks, Burgettstown didn't do anything fancy. They mostly kept the ball on the ground, letting Kuzior (137 rushing yards) and Russell (80 yards rushing and 50 on pass receptions) provide the offense.

Cornell never could get its offense untracked. Raequan Troutman entered the game ranked 10th in the WPIAL in rushing with 734 yards on 61 attempts for a 12.0 per carry average, and eighth in scoring with 12 TDs and two PATs for 74 points. He provided most of the Raider yardage, but Burgettstown keyed on him and kept him out of the end zone.

Cornell faces a rough October. The Raiders play Bishop Canevin this Friday and Sacred Heart the final Friday. In between, they play Chartiers Houston and Fort Cherry. Canevin and OLSH are heavily favored. Fort Cherry and Chartiers Houston are slightly favored. Those two plus Burgettstown are now above Cornell in the race for a runnerup spot in the WPIAL playoffs. Cornell must win two of those four games and hope for a few upsets.

Cornell was without starting quarterback and defensive linebacker E. J. Dawson, who was on the sidelines in street clothes with a knee injury. Dawson could possibly return for Canevin and the stretch run. C. J. Jackson did a respectable job at quarterback, but Dawson's presence on defense would have made a huge difference. His play and his leadership would have shut down Burgettstown's runs up the middle.

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Sadie Snatchko Finally Wins Feature
Magill, LaBoon, Bubek, Poljak Win Season Titles

Frank Magill, who's been battling brother Tony plus the Koteleses and Matt Benard all year, won the Feature on the final night to clinch the 2022 points championship in the intensely competitive Hobby Stocks Division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Magill (photo, right), who graduated high school three months ago, entered the night with only a two point lead over Logan Koteles, four points ahead of Tony, and 13 up on Gary Koteles. Any one of them could have won the title with a feature win.

But Magill took over the lead on lap four. Logan hung in there, and the two were still battling through the final lap. It was Magill's fifth feature win this year and 16th overall.

Logan finished second in the race and in season points. Steve Shelpman, Benard and Gary rounded out the top five.

"it was a fun season," Magill told reporters afterward. "I knew these guys were going to show up every week so I had to be ready. This old car gave me everything it had. I thought it had one more win in it and tonight it came through."

Down in the Young Guns (teenage) Division, Sadie Snatchko (photo, left) won her first feature on the final night. She and Emmie Laboon fought throughout the race but Snatchko hung onto the lead.

Laboon won the season points title, barely ahead of Zoey Knight. Gavin Kokolis, Abby Gindlesperger and Snatchko rounded out the top five. Amazingly, after a century of male domination, seven of the top 10 Young Gun finishers were girls, and all say they intend to return next year. No other racetrack in the country has such a promising crop of female drivers.

In the Limited Late Models, Michael Norris grabbed the lead from Philip Bubeck early, then held off repeated challenges from Cole Petrelle. After a restart on lap 12, Norris pulled away but Petrelle found himself in a battle for second. On the final lap Zach Gunn nipped Petrelle for it. Tim Shaffer and Brandon Burgoon finished fourth and fifth. But Bubeck won the season points title, followed by Petrelle, Mike Reft, Shaffer, and Kassidy Kamacher. Kamacher had been a close second and closing in on Bubeck until a wreck back in August totaled her car and ended her season. Petrelle and Tony Musolino won the qualifying heats. It was Norris' third feature win this year, and sixth overall.

Tyler Dietz won the Pro Stock Feature. Nick Kocuba had led early, then A. J. Poljack took over. But once Dietz grabbed the lead he kept it. Poljack, Kocuba, Dale Tuche and Jake Billyk rounded out the top five. Poljack, however, won the season points title, ahead of Brian Huchko, Kocuba, Frank Magill and Tanya Charlier.

Kole Holden (photo, right) led the entire race and won the Sportsman Feature. It was Holden's second feature win this year and fifth overall. Jacob Jordan finished second in this feature but won the season points title, followed by Holden, Lucas Canon, Chelsie Kriegisch and Tony Tatgenhorst. These are the cars that most racetrack owners would like to see replace the Pro Stock Division. Notice the center mounted seat, giving the cars an Indy Car or Formula I appearance.

The regular season at PPMS is now over, but racing is not. This weekend sees the Lucas Oil Circuit, dirt track racing's version of NASCAR, come to town. Some local drivers will enter, but most of the field will be national. Rigs will begin arriving Thursday. Winning purses begin at $20,000 and go down from there. There will be all the usual divisions racing, but the major Lucas Oil division is the Unlimited Late Models. These are $100,000 rigs which are practically the same as NASCAR except they're set up for dirt tracks. The weekend will feature full race cards both Friday and Saturday nights, but the big draw is the annual Pittsburgher, a 75 lap, 37 mile showcase run on Saturday.  Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. currently leads the Lucas Oil Unlimited standings. His car is powered by a $45,000 Cornett Racing Engine putting out 900 horsepower. McCreadie just won the Indiana 100.

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Troutman, Johnson, Newton Star
42-0 Cornell Win Sets Up Burgettstown Showdown

Cornell, on the wings of Raequel Troutman, Khylil Johnson and Drevon Newton, rolled to a 42-0 win over Carlynton Friday night to go up 2-0 in the Black Hills Conference, 3-1 on the season, and set up a showdown this week at Burgettstown for a spot in the WPIAL play offs.

Carlynton is three times as large a school and just this year dropped down from 2A, but Cornell put the Cougars away early.

Johnson scored first on a 15 yard run, and Troutman ran in the PAT for an 8-0 lead.

Minutes later, Johnson added a nine yard run and C. J. Jackson kicked the PAT for a 15-0 lead, still in the first quarter.

Early in the second, Troutman fielded a Carlynton punt on the Cornell 45 and ran it all the way back. The PAT kick failed, but Cornell led 21-0.

But later in the second quarter Jackson lofted an 83 yard pass to Newton in the end zone. Jackson then kicked the PAT and Cornell took a 28-0 lead to halftime.

In the third, Troutman intercepted a Carlynton pass on the Cornell 30 and ran it all the way back. Jackson's PAT kick made it 35-0.

Troutman finished the scoring late in the third quarter with a seven yard run. Jackson's PAT kick finalized the score at 42-0 and Cornell Coach Ed Dawson sent in the reserves.

The performances earned Troutman and Jackson mention in the WPIAL's weekly top runners and passers list.

Cornell now heads to Burgettstown's historic stadium for a Friday night showdown that will position the winner for a postseason berth. The Blue Devils, who used to be a rival of Coraopolis back in the mid 20th Century when both were much bigger schools, just last year dropped down from Class 2A. Cornell ruined homecoming for the coal town last year. but with a quirk in the WPIAL schedule has to play them there again this year. Burgettstown has wins over Bethlehem 38-22 and #5 Chartiers Houston 14-8, but lost to #1 Bishop Canevin 38-17 and #3 South Side 38-14 to go 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference.

The computer picks Cornell and Burgettstown to both lose to #2 Sacred Heart and Cornell to lose to Canevin, giving both schools two conference losses. So the two are battling for third place and a runnerup playoff berth.

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Khylil Johnson Adds Two TDs, CJ Jackson Steady At QB
Troutman Emerging As Star, 48-0

Cornell coaches and fans have known for two seasons that Raequan Troutman was an outstanding receiver and open field runner.

Now the rest of the WPIAL is realizing that as well.

Troutman scored five touchdowns Friday night to lead Cornell to a 48-0 rout of Avella in both teams' Black Hills Conference opener.

He scored the first one on a 51 yard run early in the first quarter. He scored the next two in the second quarter on runs of three and 60 yards.

His last two came on runs of four and 45 yards in the third quarter.

This came after Troutman scored three TDs against Union last week and three more against Monessen two weeks ago.

He's been starting for Cornell for four years but has been overshadowed by other receivers and runners as the over achieving Raiders have reached the WPIAL semifinals twice. Now he's clearly the star.

And he's not alone.

Khylil Johnson added two TDs of his own on runs of 17 and 35 yards in the second and fourth quarters.

C. J. Jackson kicked the extra points.

But that wasn't Jackson's main contribution. With E. J. Dawson nursing an injured knee, Jackson, a junior, has also emerged as a reliable replacement at quarterback. He sees the field well, is quick and nimble in the backfield, has a strong arm and good accuracy, and protects the ball under heavy contact.

Cornell will be favored against Carlynton Friday, which would give the Raiders a 2-0 conference record. Sacred Heart and Bishop Canevin continue to look impressive and rank 1-2 in Class A, but Cornell doesn't have to beat either one of them to once again make the playoffs. It can advance as a runnerup if it can handle Carlynton, Fort Cherry, Chartiers Houston and Burgettstown. That would give Cornell a 5-2 conference record and a solid third place even if it lost both late season games to the two Catholic schools. And if Cornell's injured players get healthy, with explosive players like Troutman and Johnson, it could pull off one or two upsets.

 

Kamacher's Car Totaled, Season Likely Over
Gary Koteles Wins Josh Langer Memorial At PPMS

Gary Koteles of Stockdale won the annual Josh Langer Memorial race Saturday night in the Hobby Stock Division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It was a chaotic race with four yellow flag restarts but Koteles grabbed the lead on the first lap and held it the whole way. Every time he began drawing away from the field a caution would bunch the field back up right behind him.

Koteles (in 65K at right) entered the race in fifth place in the season point standings, only 19 points behind leader Frank Magill. But Magill battled Koteles for the lead the whole way and finished a close second so Koteles was not able to cut into the lead. Matt Benard, Jonathan Koteles and Logan Koteles finished third, fourth and fifth in the Langer Memorial.

Koteles and Magill each won their respective heat races.

Tony Magill, Benard and Logan Koteles are second, third and fourth in season points.

Down in the Young Guns Division, PPMS owner Matt Miley ran two features to make up for the feature rained out last week by rain.

Abby Gindlesperger (photo, left) won the postponed feature by edging Emmie LaBoon. Zoey Knight finished seventh, after briefly grabbing the lead on lap two but hitting car trouble on lap three.

But Laboon and Knight came back to finish first and second in the regularly scheduled feature (with Gindlesperger third) so still rank first and second in the season points race.

The season ends October 1 so only two Saturday nights remain for drivers to fight for position.

Matt Knight won both the regular and postponed Four Cylinder features. But he's over 728 points down in season points so even with all those points remained only in 10 place. Craig Rudolph leads the season points race.

Tim Shafer (In #45 photo right) won the Limited Late Model Feature for only his second feature win of the year. He led most of the way but two cautions bunched the field back up and kept things close.

Philip Bubeck leads the Limited Division by 58 points over Tom Klein (in car #77). Shafer is in third.

Kassidy Kamacher had worked her way up to second, just nine points behind Bubeck, but two weeks ago hit the wall and totaled her car. With her season over, Klein and Shafer have been able to move up.

Nick Kocuba of Burgettstown won the Pro Stock feature, with Al Poljack second and Brian Huchko third. Poljack, Hutchko and Kocuba are 1-2-3 in the season points race.

Racing continues this Saturday at 7 pm. The Vintage Cars from back in the 1970s will be racing, along with the usual slate of Limiteds, Pro Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders and Young Guns.

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Injured Starters Watch From Sideline
Union Outguns Troutman, 30-21

With several Cornell starters, most importantly senior quarterback and linebacker E. J. Dawson, injured and watching from the sideline in street clothes, Raequan Troutman tried to carry the Raiders on his talented shoulders.

He came close, but Union had four offensive threats to Cornell's one, and the Scotties upset the Raiders 30-21.

It looked like a typical Friday Night Lights show at the smallest public high school in Pennsylvania still fielding an 11 man football team. Cornell's band, which after several seasons under Director Bill Lamb looks classy and professional, marched down the long driveway, down Maple Street, and into Frank Letteri Stadium, a tradition no otther high school has. They performed both pregame and halftime shows, and were joined by Union's band, which also performed at halftime.

As teams everywhwere do, the Raiders ran out through a corridor of band and cheerleaders.

Troutman, a gifted receiver and runner, announced his presence immediately by taking a handoff and running 64 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play. Backup quarterback C. J. Jackson kicked the PAT and Cornell led 7-0 only 20 seconds in.

But Union took the ensuing kickoff and slowly ground out 70 yards in six minutes, with Mike Gunn running 12 yards for the TD at 5:32. The PAT failed and Cornell hung onto a slim 7-6 lead.

The rest of the first half the teams exchanged possessions back and forth without scoring. Cornell missed a field goal, but stopped two Union scoring drives with timely interceptions.

One incident at the end of the half brought coaches onto the field and enflamed lots of boos and jeers from the crowd. Union fired a long pass from the 46, which its wide receiver caught on the 10, ran three steps, then dropped. A Cornell player fell on the ball. But an official ruled that Union should keep possession with 00:16 left. Fortunately, Cornell's Dravon Newton intercepted the ensuing pass in the end zone, ending the half.

The problem with E. J. Dawson being out was that not only was he Cornell's quarterback, but its defensive captain and star linebacker. With Dawson in, no opponent could run up the middle. With him out, at halftime first year Union Coach Kim Niedbala directed his offense to attack that middle with various plays. Along with a fake punt, that strategy allowed the Scotties to take the third quarter kickoff, grind out five first downs, then let Elijah Booker run in from the 16. QB Brayton Thomas passed to Booker for the PAT and Union led 14-7 at 5:38.

Cornell picked up two first downs but stalled and punted. Union's Thomas promptly ran it 58 yards to score and passed to Cam Taylor for the PAT and a 22-7 lead at 1:21 in the third.

Troutman (#28 in photo, right) opened the fourth quarter with a 56 yard TD run at 11:48. Jackson's pass to Drevon Newton was good to cut the lead to 22-15.

Cornell's kick and fortuitous roll pinned Union at its own 15, but on the first play Thomas ran 85 yards to score and Matt Stanley ran in the PAT for a 30-15 lead at 10:44.

Pressed for time, Cornell went to the air. Passes to Newton and Julian Cordice and runs by Jackson and Walter Clarit helped the Raiders gain six first downs and let Troutman run in the TD from the 29. The PAT pass was overthrown, so the score was 30-21 with 7:24.

Cornell held Union and launched another long drive but the TD pass was intercepted in the end zone, at 3:01 and Union ran out the clock.

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Third Ranked Raiders Look Stronger Than Expected
Cornell "Upsets" Monessen 35-6

No one expected Cornell to beat Monessen except for the Cornell coaches and players. Cornell had knocked the Greyhounds out of the WPIAL playoffs last year 33-0 but even then everyone was saying THIS would be the year for the Mon Valley school. 22 starters returned, the entire offensive and defensive units, while Cornell graduated several key players. This game would be AT Monessen's historic stadium and the Greyhounds would be seeking revenge. So the computer, every Pittsburgh newspaper and the betting line all favored Monessen.

But Cornell grabbed an early 7-6 lead when Monessen missed an extra point. That lead held up through the first and second quarters and most of the third. Cornell added a TD late in the third for a 14-6 lead, then exploded for 21 points in the fourth.

Monessen looked like a senior loaded experienced team. But Cornell looked much better than expected on both offense and defense.

The Raiders now return home for a game with old rival Union, which lost to Canton (O.) 31-18 last week but pounded Ellwood City 20-6 Friday. Cornell will be a slight favorite.

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LaBoon, Knight Finish 1-2 In Teenage Feature
Winged Sprints Dazzle But Girls Keep Winning

On a beautiful but extremely dusty night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, the Winged Sprints (photo above) attracted their usual crowd and turned in their usual spectacular show. As the advertising slogan says, they're "the fastest cars on dirt," cranking out 800+ horsepower with their 410 cc engines and reaching speeds of 150 mph. A car weighs only 1200 pounds --- they've left everything including starters off to get down to that low weight and have to be push started --- and the wings are to create downward air pressure to keep the cars from going airborne on the front and back straights. One of these cars costs around $65,000, including their $45,000 engines. They have their own circuit, which brings them to PPMS twice a month. 22 cars showed up this week.

On this particular night, Dan Kuriger of Rochester won the feature, with Brandon Matus of Wampum second. Lee Jacobs of Holmsville, O., Dale Blaney of Hartford, O., and Brandon Spithaler of Evans City rounded out the top five.

But exciting as Winged Sprints are, attention at PPMS is more and more focused on a bevy of girls as the 2022 season enters its final six weeks.

No dirt track in the country right now has more young girls not only competing but actually winning. Despite the fact that every one of these young ladies could easily win your local Junior Miss or Miss Pennsylvania pageant, in their various divisions they're all doing well.

With Karlee Kovacs of Carnegie recovering from injuries, Kassidy Kamacher of Aliquippa (left) is the reigning queen. Running in the Limited Late Models, the highest division, she consistently finishes in the top five and currently ranks second in season points, just behind Philip Bubeck of Colliers, W.Va.

Kamacher, 19, is a sophomore at the Community College of Beaver County, where she's majoring in accounting. If she doesn't end up as a professional race driver, she sees herself handling the accounting for a race team or a race track, perhaps at the NASCAR level.

"This is what she's always wanted to do," explains mother Melanie Kamacher. "Racing's in our family history. She's been coming to the track since she was a month old." Mom is right there, sitting in a lawn chair next to the car down in the pits. "I don't stress out too bad when she's out there, but I have been adamant about one thing : no matter what it costs, every single safety feature is on her car. And she and I agree she's never getting in a Sprint car."

Kassie's teachers, especially now that she's in college, are amazed. On the first day of school every semester students have to introduce themselves. When she says she's a racecar driver, teachers try to clarify. "You mean, you drive those little Go Karts?" they'll ask. When she says No, she drives cars just one notch below NASCAR and then pulls out her phone and shows them videos of her racing, they shake their heads in disbelief.

Her classmates are a little more understanding. They ask every Monday how she did.

"It's really hard out there. I'm going up against guys 50 years old. That's 30 years of experience. They know tricks and tactics I'm just learning. We're four months into this season and I'm a lot better now than I was back in May. But every race is a learning experience."

Saturday started out well for Kassidy. She placed third in her heat, two notches above Bubeck, who was fifth. But in the Feature, both she and Bubeck were knocked out of the race. So their 1-2 standing remains as it was.

And she's a role model for the dozen younger girls down in the lower divisions.

"If I've been able to encourage other girls to get involved, I feel pretty good about that," she says.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, Zoey Knight (photo, left) is in eighth grade at Plum Middle School. At school she's known as a cheerleader and a very good softball player. "I've been playing softball since I was real little," she grins. "I'm pretty good at it."

But she's also grown up with racing. Although she's still three years short of her driver's license, she's won four Feature races this year, come close in six more, and ranks second in the Teenager ("Young Guns") Division, just behind Emmie LaBoon.

"The kids at school think it's neat that I race," she says.

But in her first season, Zoey admits the learning curve has been steep. "Racing's all about finding lines and openings," she tells reporters. "Things are moving pretty fast out there, and in our division we're not allowed any contact. Do I go high, or try to drop down low? Can I shoot that gap, or should I wait til it becomes bigger?"

Some Young Gun drivers want to move up as soon as possible, hopefully to the Hobby Stocks. But being in eighth grade, Zoey figures she'll bide her time for a few years.

However, she's dead serious about racing. "I'd love a career in racing. If I can't do that, my second choice would be a career in softball."

Knight had a bittersweet evening. She had to drop into the pits during her heat race with mechanical issues. But then she ran a strong Feature and finished second to Laboon. So rheir 1-2 standing remains in place.

Emmie LaBoon (photo, top right), is another girl who grew up in a racing family. She's a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School and, like the other girls, has to explain to her classmates just what it is she does on Saturday nights.

Emmie has won three Feature races and currently leads the Young Guns Division, with Zoey in hot pursuit only eight points behind.

That's LaBoon in the photo at left, in #114.

'What makes this division so difficult is that so many of the drivers are inexperienced," she explains. "So they're trying different things. You never quite know what they're going to do. I like to get out ahead of the crowd, grab the lead early, and avoid all the action."

She was successful in that strategy in both her heat race and the Feature. She grabbed an early lead and kept it all the way to the checkered flag both times.

All of these girls are very attractive, very articulate and outstanding spokesmen for dirt track racing, just what PPMS needs to attract a new generation of fans.

In other action Saturday night, Ben Policz of Rices Landing held off Mike Reft of Pittsburgh for the Feature win in the Limited Late Model Division. Rounding out the top five were Tim Shafer of Aliquippa, Cole Petrelle of Follansbee, W.Va., and Zach Gunn of McDonald.

In the Pro Stocks Division, Chris Schneider of Lower Burrell won the Feature over Christian Schneider of Pittsburgh, with Brian Hutchko of Coraopolis a close third. Cody Koteles of Stockdale and Jordan Perkins of Hermitage filled out the top five.

Down in Hobby Stocks, Gary Koteles of Stockdale won the Feature. Matt Benard of Oakdale was second, followed by Tony Magill of Jefferson Hills, Jonathan Koteles of Stockdale and Garrett O'Patchen of Pittsburgh.

Travers Corbin of Colliers, W.Va. won the Four Cylinder Feature, followed by April Tennant of Colliers and John Gill of Burgettstown. Travis Clark and Hemi Kineston of Pittsburgh were fourth and fifth.

Next week will be the biggest weekend of the regular season for Kamacher and the Limited Late Models. PPMS will host the 16th annual Red Miley Classic. The Limiteds will run three feature races in one evening. Because of this, the other divisions will run no heats, but will run features only. The usual starting time of 7:00 p.m. will be in effect.

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Dawson, Troutman Powerful #1 - 2 Punch
Cornell Hangs Tough At AAA Shadyside

Cornell's Raiders gave their fans more reasons for hope Thursday night with a strong performance at AAA Shady Side Academy.

It was the final scrimmage before the 2022 season begins officially next Friday night at dangerous Monessen.

Shadyside has 400 students and is considered a major contender in the AAA Allegheny Conference. The Bull- dogs were taller and heavier than Cornell. But they had trouble keeping up with the Raiders' speed and quickness on offense.

It was a scrimmage, not a game. No official score was kept. There were no kickoffs or punts. Coaches could stop play and point things out to their players. Both coaches kept running players in and out to see what they could do in various situations.

However, Cornell crossed the goal line more often than Shadyside and made several spectacular runs and pass plays.

Early, most of those were made by Raequan Troutman (photo, right in #4) and EJ Dawson (photo below, in #1), both experienced seniors. Both turned in impressive runs. EJ showed that his passing arm may be greatly underrated and Troutman not only pulled in some awesome catches but ran for significant yards once he caught it.

Opposing defenses are going to have to put their top two players on Dawson and Troutman, leaving several other Cornell players guarded by less talented defenders.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Dawson cautioned. "Our defense made errors tonight we have to correct. It is a mystery to me how after weeks of practice we still have players wondering around out there not knowing what formation we're in. They're in one formation and all the rest of us are in a different formation. But we've got a week left to straighten that out.

"What I did find encouraging was that our players were not intimidated by this AAA team. We went to war, play after play, and did not back down. The errors we made were not in playing passive. We were aggressive the whole game. That was what I wanted. I scheduled this scrimmage to challenge our players and they rose to the challenge. If we can keep working, we're going to be OK."

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QB & Center Positions Solid
Dawson, Pierce Give Cornell Cautious Optimism

Football begins with a Quarterback and a Center. If a team doesn't have an experienced, battle hardened quarterback who can pass, run, hand off and read defenses, it won't be able to score enough to win. And if it doesn't have a Center who can snap the ball on target every time with an opposing defender coming at him, then hold his position and block that defender from getting to the quarterback, the QB won't be able to perform no matter how good he is.

Cornell Coach Ed Dawson knows how lucky he is. He's got both. His own son, E. J.. (photo, right) has been playing quarterback since middle school and was a running back before that. And his Center, Jamarcus Pierce (photo below), held his own last year despite being an undersized freshman. Since Cornell reached the WPIAL semifinals, that meant Pierce played in 12 games, several of them against top 10 opponents.

As a sophomore, Pierce is still undersized. When an opponent tries to overpower him by playing a large defender opposite him, Dawson will move Pierce to another spot on the Offensive Line and replace him at Center with an older, bigger boy. But it doesn't happen often. Pierce has quick hands and quick feet, strength, athleticism and attitude. He can hold his own against opponents 20-30 pounds heavier and six inches taller, as he proved several times last year.

He's also a very good baseball player, which cuts down on his offseason hours in the weight room. So he's not significantly stronger than last year. But that hard earned experience helps compensate.

Most valuable, though, is his dependable snaps. They become even more valuable since Dawson plays back in the Shotgun. So the Center has to snap the ball back several yards. E. J. remembers what it was like having the ball sail over his head, bounce off his ankles or drift to his left or right. At best, he had to reach for the ball or chase it down, which totally ruined the play. At worst, the errant snaps caused fumbles and lost possessions. That all stopped when Pierce took over last August.

"He gives me confidence," E. J. explains. "I no longer worry about the snaps so I can use those few seconds to read the defense, glance around to make sure our guys are lined up right, and maybe call out an audible."

E.J. prefers the Shotgun alignment rather than lining up under Center. "I'm not real tall," he admits. "A lot of the linemen are taller than I am. The Shotgun allows me to stand back a few yards and see over them so I can read the defense."

Perhaps because for his first years in football, down in grade school, he played running back, E. J. likes running over passing. He's a powerful runner, hard to bring down, faster than he looks and elusive despite his size. But he's worked on his passing game, and is a good short and intermediate passer.

Playing for his Dad has been interesting. "We'll watch games on TV and talk about them." Ed was a star on a state championship Aliquipa team, then played at Allegheny College, and has coached at other places before coming to Cornell, so he knows his football.

"I've been around football my whole life," E.J. says, "so I sort of learned about it without even thinking about it. A lot of football is instinct. Things happen so fast you don't have time to think. You just have to react. All those years of growing up with it help me react a lot better."

E.J. is not just the Quarterback. He's also a Linebacker and the Captain of the Cornell Defense. Some scouts think he's a better college prospect on Defense than on Offense, although they see him as a potential running back.

"We lost several guys off our Defense last year," E.J. grants. "But I think a lot of our younger guys got a lot of experience in big games last year, so they should be OK. I think we're going to be pretty hard to move the ball on."

On defense, he's modeled himself after Troy Polamalu. At quarterback, there have been several he's liked and tried to pattern his game after.

As far as the effect of all that experience, "I think I'm a lot better at game preparation and game management. I know what it takes to get ready for an opponent. When we're studying game film, I'm a lot better at knowing what to look for. I know I pay much closer attention to what the coaches are telling us. I know how to focus on a scouting report."

But he also sees himself as a game manager. "I see the game flow better now than I used to. I know where we are on the clock and in down and distance. From the scouting report I have an idea what the opponent is probably going to do."

Except for youth league, very few football coaches ever get the chance to coach their sons. Whether in high school or college, it sets up a unique father son dynamic.

"It's been fun," Father Ed says. "I think what has helped us so much is that E. J. is honestly one of most intelligent kids I've ever been around. I've been around a lot of football players, and I've seen very few as smart as he is. He learns really quickly, remembers what he learns, and then based on that makes really good decisions during a game."

But Dawson admitted he's had to walk a tight line. "I've had to give him space when he needed it. And sometimes I've needed to take my own space when I needed it. As he grew up, we learned how to coexist."

Last season, E. J. missed two games with an injury. "We really missed him," Dawson points out. "Not just the yards he might have earned or tackles he might have made, but his leadership on both Offense and Defense."

All those years together have added up.

"He truly is an extension of me out there on the field. I honestly believe I could hand him a whistle and he could run a practice."

There's another Dawson son now in ninth grade. He's currently playing Wide Receiver. But that's another story.

E.J. and Pierce will face their first real test of the season late Thursday afternoon when they scrimmage at AAA Shadyside.

"We play AT Monessen next Friday," Dawson reminds reporters. "They have EVERY starter on both sides back, and we knocked them out of the playoffs so they'll be looking for revenge. We need to have our weaknesses exposed so we can study the film and work for a week on correcting them."

Shadyside should certainly expose them. The Bulldogs play in the Allegheny Conference and their schedule includes North Catholic, Elizabeth Forward, Apollo, Freeport, East Allegheny, Knoch, Deer Lakes and Valley. They return nine starters on offense and nine on defense. Shadyside is favored to reach the AAA playoffs and have a line of mostly 5-11, 6-0 and 6-1 players.

However, Dawson likes scheduling a tough scrimmage rather than playing an actual game during what the WPIAL calls "zero week."

"We can learn more from a scrimmage," he explains. "We can run more players in and outy, try different stuff, set up exactly the situations we want. And we can test ourselves against bigger schools like this."

For those making the trip, Shadyside Academy is in Fox Chapel. Due to rush hour traffic along the river, it will take about an hour from Coraopolis.

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Spectacular Accident At Pittsburgh Motor Speedway
"Pink Panther" Totaled As Kovacs Injured

In a spectacular accident on the back straight, the famous and beloved "Pink Panther" racecar was totaled and driver Karlee Kovacs injured Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Kovacs, who began racing as a high school girl and now, as a college graduate, is considered the Queen of a new generation of women drivers, walked away with only a concussion, cuts on her leg and injured tendons in her wrist.

But her car, which rolled five tines, is beyond repair, and in all likelihood Kovacs' season is over. She had already planned to move to NASCAR for 2023, hopefully with a base in North Carolina, so it could also mean an end to her local racing career.

"It was scary," Kovacs (photo, left) posted on her Facebook page. "I only remember the first roll. After that it was all a blur. I'm sore, but after watching the Go Pro footage, I'm grateful to have gotten off with only minor injuries."

Kovacs told her tribe of loyal fans she hopes to return, but it's already late August, the season only lasts until October 1, and race teams usually work all Winter to get a car ready. A few race teams have offered to let her use a spare car but until she fully recovers from her concussion and injuries no decision will be made.

The accident came on the 11th lap of the White Memorial, one of the year's top races in the Stocks Division. Adam Ferree of Jefferson Hills went on to win the race, with Tony Magill, Logan Koteles, Matt Benard and Ben Anton rounding out the top five. Brothers Frank and Tony Magill are tied for first place in the Stocks season points race.

Cole Petrelle of Follansbee (W.Va.) won the Limited Late Model Feature, ahead of Tim Shaffer, Kassidy Kamicker and Dave Goble of Aliquippa, and Philip Bubeck of Colliers (W.Va.). Bubeck currently leads in season points with Kassidy Kamicker second. Goble, Shaffer and Tom Klein complete the top five.

Nick Kocuba of Burgettstown won the Pro Stock (Sportsmen) Feature over Al Poljack of Baldwin, Brian Hutchko of Coraopolis, Daryl Charlier of Midway and Jacob Billyk of New Castle. Poljack currently leads the season point standings, with Hutchko only nine points behind.

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Dawson, Troutman, Dennis, Caldwell Are Keys
Reloading Cornell Could Threaten Again

Ed Dawson is building a reputation as a miracle worker. Coaching at the smallest Pennsylvania public high school fielding an 11 man football team, he has led the Raiders to the WPIAL semifinals twice in three years with two totally different lineups. Cornell's only recent losses have been to Catholic academies which stock their rosters by recruiting large areas. The word on Dawson is that when rebuilding he's dangerous and with the talent he's difficult to beat.

Dawson lost several outstanding players to graduation but returns enough starters that the Raiders are considered very dangerous indeed.

He starts with the four shown here : Guard Eric Dennis (at left), Running Back Raequan Troutman, Quarterback E. J. Dawson (the coach's son), and Wideout Kevin Caldwell. Around these building blocks are Running Back Walter Clarit, Wideout Drevon Newton and Backup Wideout Julian Cordyce.

When Dawson first began building this program he had a roster of only 18 players. He's slowly built it until now he has 38. "In Class A," he says, "we can compete with 38."

Cornell looks solid on offense. The linemen are all back. Dawson has been playing either Quarterback or Fullback for three years. Troutman has served as either Running Back or Wide Receiver for three years. Everyone else is in either their second or third year.

Dawson, a former star lineman on a championship team at Aliquippa, prefers a strong running game behind a strong line. Son E.J. is not a great passer but is good enough, and makes up for it by being a powerful, physical hard to bring down runner. He can also lead interference for other running backs, like Troutman or Clarit.

The two big question marks for Cornell are Special Teams and Defense.

M.J. Smith, who handled kicking, punting, field goal and extra point duties for two seasons, has moved on to I.U.P. and his replacement is unproven.

The Defense is also uncertain. E.J. will captain the D and several players have experience but there are significant holes to fill. Cornell may find itself in several shootouts, with its offense forced to outscore opponents. Last year, the Defense would shut down opponents and the offense needed score only a few times to win, such as the 14-7 upset at Rochester.

Dennis will be a key up on the line and E.J. at Linebacker should help stop runs up the middle. But in last week's scrimmage against Riverside the offense ran opposite from Dennis and E.J. for key gains. Dawson's emphasis this week is plugging those gaps by toughening up those defenders.

"Defensive line is an attitude," he kept telling players on Monday. "It's hard work. That's why most kids can't do it and very few want to do it. You've got to bring your best effort every single play."

The WPIAL dealt Cornell a whole new deck of cards this year, moving them from their long time home in the Big Seven Conference to the Black Hills Conference. That means instead of its traditional rivalries with Rochester, Northgate, Shenango, etc., Cornell will now play Avella, Carlynton, Chartiers Houston, etc.

The 2022 schedule includes a scrimmage with Shadyside this Thursday, then.....

Sept. 2-at Monessen-*
Sept. 9-Union-*
Sept. 16-at Avella.
Sept. 23-Carlynton.
Sept. 30-at Burgettstown
Oct. 7-at Bishop Canevin
Oct. 14-Fort Cherry
Oct. 21-Chartiers-Houston.
Oct. 28-at O.L. Sacred Heart.

Monessen and Union are nonconference games.

Monessen will be an interesting matchup for a season opener. Last year, Cornell knocked the Greyhounds out of the playoffs, but Monessen had a lineup of all juniors and sophomores. This year, they're all back --- everyone --- and with Cornell coming to Monesssen the Greyhounds are spoiling for revenge.

Bishop Canevin and Sacred Heart are ranked #1 and #2 in the WPIAL and Cornell has to go to both. Sacred Heart beat Cornell in the regular season finale last year 13-12 and Canevin knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs in the semifinals 24-7.

Carlynton and Chartiers Houston are dropping down from Class 2A so should be a challenge. Cornell does get them both at home.

Cornell beat Burgettstown last year but must visit the Blue Devils again this year. Burgettstown dropped down from Class 2A last year.

Fort Cherry was forced to forfeit to Cornell last season due to COVID and the loss prevented them from earning a playoff spot. They'll have revenge on their minds but at least Cornell gets them at home.

The schedule doesn't do Cornell any favors. The Raiders have to travel to Bishop Canevin, Sacred Heart and Burgettstown for the second straight time. These are the three most highly ranked teams on the Cornell schedule and it's not clear why the usual home and away alternation does not apply. But on the other hand, Fort Cherry is slated to come to Cornell for the second year in a row, even though they couldn't make it last year due to a COVID forfeit.

Due to a wave of Class 2A teams dropping down to Class A over the last two years, the WPIAL reshuffled Class A into four conferences. Each conference will send its top four teams to the playoffs for a 16 team field.

This means Cornell could finish fourth in the Black Hills conference and still make the playoffs, although if the Raiders did they would receive a bottom seed and play a #1 seed first game. So Cornell will be trying to win over Avella, Carlynton and Fort Cherry and upset two of Chartiers Houston, Burgettstown, Bishop Canevin or Sacred Heart. Wins over nonconference Monessen and Union would enhance Cornell's chances for a higher seed.

In preseason rankings, the computer picks Canevin #1, Sacred Heart #2, and Chartiers Houston #5 in the WPIAL. It ranks Canevin, OLSH, Chartiers Houston and Burgett-stown 1-4 in the Black Hills Conference, with Cornell #5. So the four teams favored over Cornell are stacked right in a row in the last five weeks of the season.

Robin Gilligan

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Gindlesperger Wins Teenage Feature
Hutchko Wins Pro Stock Feature At PPMS

Brian Hutchko of Mcdonald started on the pole and led the whole way to win the Pro Stock Feature Saturday at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Hutchko (#60 in photo at right) was in second place in the season points race behind Al Poljack and has now closed to within two points in the tight competition of what used to be called Sportsmen. Pro Stock cars average 100 mph.

A bad storm moved through the raceway just as fans and racing teams were arriving, dumping a large amount of rain. But it moved on quickly, leaving the skies clear. The track and pits held standing water for a while and races were moved back from 7:00 to 8:00 while everything dried out.

Abby Gindlesperger (photo, left) won her first ever feature race in the Teenage ("Young Guns") Division, ending Zoey Knight's string of three straight victories. Gindlesperger took the lead from Emmie Laboon on the third lap and held it the rest of the way. Knight finished a disappointing fifth, so lost several points in the season points race. Laboon remains in first place. What is most interesting, however is that four of the top five finishers in the Feature were girls and in season points six of the top nine are girls. Gindlesperger's feature win was testimony to her courage and perseverance, as back at the beginning of this season, in her first ever race, she was struck side ways on the back straight and rolled completely over.

Logan Koteles outfought Kayla McManus for the win in Hobby Stocks. Tony Magill, Frank Magill and Matt Benard rounded out the top five. Frank Magill currently leads in season points, with brother Tony and Benard right behind him.

Joe Martin of Punxsutawney won the Limited Late Model Feature, with Tim Shaffer of Aliquippa, Philip Bubeck of Colliers, W.Va., Brady Wonderling of Wellsville, New York and Brandon Burgoon of Washington, Pa. rounding out the top five. Bubeck contnues to lead the season points standings.

Jacob Jordan (#28, photo, right) led the whole way to win the Modifieds Feature. These are the cars with the driver sitting in the center, Indianapolis style. They run at about 110 mph. He was followed across the line by Kole Holden, Ayden Cipriano, Cole Edwards and Lucas Canon. Jordan is currently fourth in points.

The big attraction of the night was the Boss Sprints, the cars averaging 150 mph on big tracks like the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Ricky Lewis from Ventura, California set a new track record for fastest lap, screaming around the half mile in 17.669 seconds. Parker Frederickson of Kokomo, Indiana won the Sprint Feature, followed by Isaac Chappie from Willow Branch, Indiana, Carmen Perigo of Stoytown, Pa., Lewis and Dustin Smith of Philadelphia.

Down in Four Cylinders, Susie Rudolph of Steubenville won the Feature, with her father Craig Rudolph second.

This Saturday night will be Boy Scout Night, with all uniformed Boy Scouts getting in free. It will also be Autograph Night, with drivers coming to the front straight to sign autographs for 20 minutes.

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Policz Edges Charlier In Limiteds
Zoey Knight Emerging As Racetrack Star

Her t shirt says "Move Over Boys...Let This GIRL Show You How."

She's not kidding.

Zoey Knight, a lively Plum Borough teenager who's a cheerleader and pitcher back at school, won her third straight feature race at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night. She's competing against older, more experienced and better financed rivals and she's now only nine points out of first place in the season points race in the Young Gun (Teenage) Division.

Knight (photo, right), driving the only Dodge Neon known to be racing in western Pennsylvania, started way back in sixth, but passed four cars in two laps and then stole the lead going into the third lap. She held it the rest of the way.

"I have to thank my Aunt for letting us use her racecar," she told reporters afterward. "My Dad and Uncle do the mechanical work." The car had been sitting for six years before Zoey reactivated it.

Gavin Kokolis of Oakdale battled Knight all the way and finished second. Emmy Laboon from Elizabeth, the current points leader, came in third.

Up in the Limited Late Model Division, Ben Policz and Daryl Charlier battled the whole way before Policz (photo left) finally grabbed the lead on lap 20 and kept it the rest of the way. The race was stopped four times.

The two were 10th and 11th in season points standings going into the race so both will move up. Last week's top points leaders were Philip Bubeck, who finished 15th, and Kassidy Kamicker, who finished 8th, so there will be a lot of shuffling in this week's standings.

The race was billed as "topless" because the racing teams could remove their roofs if they wished. The roll bars and safety supports remained in place. Policz's car at left can be seen with its roof off. won the qualifying heats.

Frank Magill of Jefferson Hills tightened his grip on the season points lead in Hobby Stocks by winning another feature. Magill started back in 5th, but swung out and slid up to move into 2nd on the very first lap. Gary Koteles would lead for 17 laps, despite constant pressure from Magill. The older Magill finally got past Koteles on the 17th and then held first place til the finish. Matt Benard finished 3rd, Logan Koteles 4th and Tony Magill 5th. Jake Gunn and Cole Petrelle won the first two heats

A father daughter combination started first and second in Four Cylinders. Susie Rudolph was on the pole and her Dad Craig was right next to her in second. Susie grabbed an early lead and was pulling away, but yellow stopped the race and undid her strategy. When racing resumed Derek Quigley wrested the lead away from Susie and kept it the rest of the way.

This Saturday night the Sprints, the fastest cars running on dirt in North America, will return, along with all the usual divisions.

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Girls Rising In Numbers, Success
Speedway Becoming Friendly Family Feud

The Pittsburgh Motor Speedway is becoming a friendly family feud every Saturday night as sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, fathers and cousins battle each other for trophies in three divisions.

Fans and announcers struggle to keep names straight as Magills, Koteleses, Tennants, Billyks, Rudolphs and Antons take turns winning heats and features and passing each other in season points standings.

Nowhere are these battles closer or more exciting than in the Hobby Stocks Division, where the Magill and Koteles clans battle it out. Frank Magill graduated high school a month ago and brother Tony's a sophomore. They entered Saturday night with Tony the points leader, just two points ahead of Frank (in #05, photo at right). But Frank captured the Feature Saturday to also grab the season points lead. And that Feature win came over resistance from the whole Koteles team.

Cody Koteles grabbed the early lead with Logan Koteles in fifth. Two early multi car crashes involving Gary and Jonathan Koteles closed the field back up and forced Cody into the pits. Frank then took the lead, and fought off Logan, Tony and Danny Rich the rest of the way. Rich, Logan, Tyler Fox, and Tony rounded out the top five. Logan, Jonathan and Gary Koteles are in a three way tie for fourth place in season points standings. Ben and Tom Anton finished sixth and ninth.

Up in the Limited Late Model Division, where cubic displacement and other factors are tightly controlled, Tim Shaffer (photo, left) won his first feature of the season. Ben Scott of Delaware led early, with Dan Lepro wresting it away. Shaffer moved into the lead on Lap 11 and held it the rest of the way. Mike Reft, Lepro, Cole Petrelle and Philip Bubeck rounded out the top five.

Travis Corbin led the Four Cylinder Feature from start to finish. Derek Quigley, Andy Garlinger and Craig Rudolph were close behind. Corbin was only in sixth place in season points, 301 points behind Rudolph, so Rudolph will retain his lead for another weak. He's 62 up on Susie Rudolph and 190 up on Quigley.

The best race of the night from a technical standpoint was the Pro Stock (Sportsmen) Feature. Brian Hutchko of Coraopolis led early, although he and Al Poljack battled side by side for several laps. Poljack (photo in #36 at right) finally passed him on Lap 9 and held the lead for the rest of the race. Hutchko, Nick Kocuba, Mike Harris and Jackson Billyk rounded out the top five. The win let Poljack hang on to a slender two point lead in season points. Hutchko is second, just two behind, with Heath Close (552) Kocuba ( and Tanya Charlier.

It's in the Teenage Division ("Young Guns") where girls have completely taken over. Six of the top nine drivers are girls. Emmerson Laboon began the night in first place but only had a 15 point lead. Zoey Knight pulled off her first feature win, followed by Laboon, Sumara Weaver 4th and Abby Gindlesperger 5th. Other women who began in Young Guns are now racing in higher divisions : Susie Rudolph and April Tennant in Four Cylinders, Karlee Kovacs in Hobby Stocks, Tanya Charlier in Pro Stocks, and Kassidy Kamacker and Kayla McManus in Limited Late Models. Kamicker is 2nd in season points in Limiteds and Charlier is 5th in Pro Stocks.

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Nick Kocuba Captures Pro Stock Feature
Michael Norris Wins Herb Scott Memorial

Michael Norris of Sarver won the 10th annual Herb Scott Memorial Race Saturday night at the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway with an average speed of 123.3 mph.

Daryl Charlier of Midway and Mike Reft of Pittsburgh came in second and third. The field of Limited Late Models was broken into three qualifying heats to select the 26 car Feature field and starting order. Kyle Lukon led early but Norris passed him on lap 12. Charlier made several attempts to pass, both high and low, pulling even several times, but Norris hung on. Lukon finished fifth.

The event honors the late Herb Scott of Wexford. Scott won 12 Pittsburgh Racing Association season titles in 15 years and is generally recognized as the greatest dirt track driver in western Pennsylvania history.

Nick Kocuba (photo, right), Al Poljack and Charlier finished 1-2-3 in the Pro Stock (Sportsmen) Feature. It's Kocuba's first win of the season. Charlier drove Brian Huchko's 60H while Huchko was on vacation.

Gary Koteles won the Hobby Stock Feature, leading Cody Koteles and Frank Magill.

Cameron Hollister edged Emmersen Laboon down in the Teenage ("Young Guns") Feature.

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Coteles Wins First Race In "Pro Stocks"
Kuriger, Norris, MaGill Win At Speedway

On a hot, dusty Saturday night, with the track blazing fast and a good crowd watching, Rochester's Dan Kuriger took the lead on Lap 13 and went on to win the Winged Sprint Feature at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It was Kuriger's first feature win of the season.

Behind him were Carl Bowser, Sean Rayhall, Brandon Matus and George Hobaugh.

Earlier, Hobaugh and Jeremy Weaver won Winged Sprint heat races.

The Winged Sprints are the fastest cars currently running on dirt tracks in the U.S. Their 410 cc engines produce 800+ horsepower and can hit 150 mph on the front and back straights. A Winged Sprint car can be built for around $65,000, most of which is in the $45,0000 engine. They have their own circuit, which brings them to PPMS twice a month.

Michael Norris took the lead on Lap 17 and hung on to win his first Limited Late Model Feature. Ben Policz looked to have the race won after moving into first and slowly pushing it out to a half lap lead. But a yellow flag bunched the drivers back up and gave Norris the chance to sneak ahead on a low inside cut. Policz finished second with Tim Shaffer third, Phil Bubeck fourth and Tony Musolino fifth.

 

The Limited Late Models now look to the annual Herb Scott Memorial Race on July 2. Scott, the most successful dirt track driver in western Pennsylvania history, did most of his racing at the old Heidelberg, South Park and Clairton tracks, although he also ran at Latrobe, Jeanette and others. Scott operated out of a gas station and service bay in Wexford and won season points championships in the old Pittsburgh Racing Association.

Frank Magill led from start to finish, surviving three restarts, to win the Hobby Stocks Feature. MaGill held off challenges by his brother Tony plus Gary Koteles and Matt Benard. He was helped when Koteles was forced into the Pits on lap 11 with engine trouble. Benard, Logan Koteles, Tyler Fox and brother Tony followed MaGill at the finish.

Danny Rich of Imperial returned to action after winning the 2019 Sportsman ("Pro Stocks") season points title but racing intermittently the last two years. Rich finished sixth driving Karlee Kovac's Pink Panther #221K. He also finished third in a heat.

Benard and Koteles won the Hobby Stock heat races.

 

 

Cody Koteles won the Sportsman (Pro Stocks) Feature, his first in the division after winning consistently down in Hobby Stocks last year. He led the race throughout but had to fight off Brian Huchko, Frank Magill and Al Poljack, who took turns challenging for the lead. Poljack finished second, followed by Huchko, Heath Close and Magill.

Koteles also won the heat race.

PPMS ran a makeup Sportsman Feature, which was rained out May 21. Poljack won it, followed by Huchko, Koteles, Close and Magill.

 

 

 

 

Bill Tennant of Colliers, W.Va. won the Four Cylinder regular Feature, with Travis Corbin second, Bill's wife April third, Susie Rudolph fourth and Craig Rudolph fifth.

The track also offered a makeup Feature for Four Cylinders which was rained out May 21. Susie won that, followed by Craig.

Tyler Hollister won the Young Guns (Teenage) Feature, followed by Zoey Knight, Sumara Weaver, Gavin Kokolis and Emmerson Laboon.

 

There is no racing this week at PPMS. The track has been rented for the entire weekend to a group staging a three day truck show. Racing will resume the week of July 2 with a full card plus the annual Herb Scott Memorial.

 

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Chad Rulman Wins In Sprint Cars
Bubeck Wins Late Model Feature At PPMS

Philip Bubeck of Colliers (W.Va) won the Limited Late Model Feature at Greater Pittsburgh Speedway Saturday.

The night was beautiful but the track was dusty before it turned blazing fast about halfway through the race card. Another good crowd was treated to several close exciting races and some spectacular accidents, two of which were complete rollovers.

It was a busy four hours. Not only did seven divisions run heats and features, but in a special intermission ceremony owner Matt Miley presented trophies to the 2021 season points winners in each division.

Bubeck led most of the way in the Limited Late Models, but had to contend with car trouble, Daryl Charlier, Tim Shaffer and Mike Reft. Charlier was the most serious challenger until engine trouble forced him into the pits on lap 18. Shaffer finished second, with Reft third, Colby Beighey fourth, Dave Gobel fifth and Cole Petrelle sixth.

The win vaulted Bubeck into first place in season points at 452, two ahead of Cole Petrelle's 450. Kassidy Kamacker is third at 427, followed by Reft (373), Tom Klein (352), Gobel (351), Shaffer (298) and Charlier (241).

Chad Ruhlman won the Sprint Car Feature over Blaze Meyers, Brian Hartzell, Nolan Groves and Brian Cressley.

He started fourth but had taken the lead by the second lap and held off Meyers and Hartzell the rest of the way. That's Hartzell's #69 at left, in the pits being tuned up before the race.

"The track was immaculate tonight," Ruhlman told reporters afterward. "You could go high, low or middle with good traction. We should really give a lot of credit to the track crew here who maintain it in such good condition."

That's also the order in the season points race. Ruhlman leads with 72, with Meyers at 70, Hartzell at 69, Groves at 68 and Cressley at 67.

Justin Shea won the Modified Sportsmen Feature, edging Chelsie Kriegisch (#10 in photo at right), and others in a tense battle. Kriegisch, Kole Holden and Ayden Cirpiano started 1-2-3 and fought each other the whole way. Shea hit the wall and lost ground but came back to challenge Holden for the lead. They were still battling but on the final lap Holden's engine died and he limped into the pits. Behind Shea were Kriegisch, Cipriano, Tony Tatgenhorst and Jacob Jordan. Tatgenhorst leads in season points, followed by Kriegisch and Shea (200 each) Jordan (195) and Lucas Canon (192). The Modified Sportsmen are the track's most interesting division, parallel to the "Pro Stocks," which are what used to be called Sportsmen. They're RUSH Racing's attempt to keep racing affordable. They're custom made affordable cars with tight limits on engines and parts. The main modification is the driver sits in the center, not the left side, making them more like Indy style cars. They run GM 602 engines, standardized suspensions, steel wheels, carburetors, steering, etc. But racing teams in the Pittsburgh area have major investments in their left seat "Pro Stock" Sportsmen cars so they can't afford to discard them and build a Modified Sportsmen, even though one brand new can be built for $20,000-25,000. As younger drivers come up from Hobby Stocks they will probably choose to build Modified Sportsman due to costs, so over time this division will probably become the standard "middle" category, a bridge between Teenage, Four Cylinder and Hobby Stocks below and Sprints, Limited and Unlimited Late Models above. But it will take several years.

Cody Koteles won the Hobby Stocks Feature after a rash of spinouts, wall scrapings, false restarts, and bumpings. Koteles took the lead on lap nine but had to fight off his own father, Gary Koteles (#65k, photo at left) and Frank Magill the rest of the way. It was Cody's second major feature win this season. "It's neat to beat my Dad," he told reporters. "There's a lot of tough competition out there. I hope to move up to Sportsmen, and I feel these races are really preparing me." The win put Cody in first place in Hobby Stocks season points with 176, followed by father Gary Koteles (171), Adam Ferree and Tony Magill (166 each), and Logan Koteles (165).

Bill Tennant led from pole to checkered flag to win the Four Cylinder Feature, followed by Derek Quigley, Travis Corbin (in 2R, photo below), April Tennant and Craig Rudolph.

Rudolph leads the season points race with 366, followed by Quigley (303), Susie Rudolph (299), Lucas Weaver (194) and John Steele (173).

Travis Clark won the Young Guns (Teenage) Feature, followed by Tyler Hollister, Emmerson Laboon, Sumara Weaver and Zoey Knight.

Clark leads in season points with 412, followed by Laboon (402), Knight (385), Gavin Kokolis (318) and Abby Gindlesperger (303).

In all, six girls are competing in this year's Teenage Division : Laboon, Knight, Gindlesperger, Kiersten Chiernik, Sadie Snatchko and Weaver. That, added to Rudolph and Tennant in Open Fours, Kriegisch in Sportsmen Modifieds, Karlee Kovacs in Hobby Stocks, Tanya Charlier in Pro Stocks, and Kayla McManus and Kamacker in Limited Late Models, gives 13 girls and young women in all competing at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, an all time record.

2021 season points champions honored at intermission Saturday night were Daryl Charlier in Limited Late Models, Nick Kocuba in Pro Stocks, Frank Magill in Hobby Stocks, Bill Tennant in Open Fours, Logan Koteles in Young Guns (Teenagers), Chelsie Kriegisch in Sportsmen Modifieds, Chad Ruhlman in Sprints and Matt Westfall in Winged Sprints.

Action resumes this Saturday night when the Winged Sprints, the fastest cars currently racing on dirt in North America, return. Then local racing teams take a week off on June 25th while the Monster Trucks rent the track for the entire weekend and put on their own show. PPMS will return to action July 2, Fourth of July Weekend, with the Herb Scott Memorial Race.

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Policz Wins In Limited Late Model
Schneider Scores Third Laboon Feature Win

Chris Schneider (#55, right) fought off Jordan Perkins and Christian Schneider for 30 laps to win the 10th annual Ed Laboon Memorial Race for Sportsmen ("Pro Stocks") Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

It was Schneider's third win in the Laboon series, which has become the most prestigious event of the season for Sportsmen and because of its high purse attracts the best racing teams in that division from five states.

Saturday was a beautiful night of racing, with clear skies, mild temperatures and no humidity. The Laboon classic is actually a package of several races, including time trials, four heats, a dash for the fastest cars, two consolation races and the feature. The largest crowd of the season also saw heats and a feature for the Limited Late Models and features for the Hobby Stocks, Four Cylinders and Young Guns (the teenage division).

Because many of the Sportsmen teams do not regularly compete here drivers were assembled for a meeting (photo, below) in the Pits to go over local rules and the evening schedule. But there were no issues. There were not even any wrecks or collisions except for a few wall scrapings and spinouts. That allowed the sizeable crowd to focus on the action, of which there was plenty.

Brian Huchko, Christian Schneider, Jordan Perkins and Chris Schneider won the four Laboon heats. Two Schneiders (who are not related) on the track confused the crowd and made announcing the races difficult. Christian won the time trials with a 21 second lap with Chris only 0.259 behind. Chris came back to win the eight lap dash among the drivers with the top eight times, thus winning the pole position in the feature. Perkins and Christian Schneider were placed second and third and spent the race fighting to see which could catch Chris or claim second. On many laps their battles with each other were more exciting than either of their efforts to overtake Chris only a car length ahead. Every lap or so, one or the other would inch partially alongside Chris, but on the next straight he would pull back away. In the end, Chris led the race from beginning to end, the first time that has ever happened. The finishers 4-8 were from out of the area, but Huchko was ninth, A.J. Poljack was 12th, and Nick Kocuba was 14th. Huchko now leads in season points with 359, followed by Poljack with 356, Heath Close with 346, Nick Kocuba with 336, and Steve D'Apolito with 294.

While Frank finished seventh in his heat, third in the semi and 22nd in the feature up in Sportsmen, down in Hobby Stocks, the Magill family was also enjoying an active evening. Younger brother Tony, age 16 (photo, right), led the division in season points coming in, while Frank, age 18, was fifth, a comparison certain to be the subject of dinner conversation at the Magill home in Jefferson Hills. "Our crew adjusted the car to fit my driving style," Tony told reporters. "Now the steering and suspension suit me a lot better." He was watching the track carefully. "It's been a great week for weather," he noted, "and the Pro Stocks and Limiteds will smooth it down pretty well before we get out there. So it should be fast. What I don't know is whether the best line will be high or low." Asked whether, at 16, he would stay in Hobby Stocks a few more seasons, or, like brother Frank, try to move up to Sportsmen, Tony just shook his head. "I'm watching to see how Frank does. There are some really good drivers, cars and crews up there." In the Hobby Stock feature, it wasn't Tony's night, as he finished sixth. Logan Koteles won it, with Matt Benard 2nd, Frank 3rd, Justin Clark 4th and Jonathan Koteles 5th.

Tony Magill still leads season points with 396, followed by Jonathan Koteles with 391, Benard with 389, Frank Magill with 382, and Logan Koteles with 378.

Up in the Limited Late Models, Cole Petrelle (#84, left) turned in another strong showing. He won his heat and battled Tim Shaffer, Philip Bubeck, Ben Policz and Daryl Charlier throughout the Feature before finishing third. It was a great race. Policz started fifth, Charlier seventh and Petrelle eighth. Policz grabbed third by lap three, moved up to second by lap six and first on lap 12. Charlier and Petrelle moved up right behind him. But Shaffer and Bubeck had started first and second and did nor give up those spots willingly. There was a long series of passings and repassings as the five fought it out at over 100 mph. Policz is a two time season points champion, but this is his first feature win of 2022. His daughter was born last Saturday so he hasn't been racing. "I tried the low line and it worked so I stayed down there," Policz told reporters after the race.

Petrelle now leads the season points race with 375, followed by Bubeck at 371, Kassidy Kamicker at 354, Mike Reft at 295 and Tom Klein at 283.

The evening marked the return of longtime fan favorite Karlee Kovacs in her famous Pink Panther. Kovacs had blown her engine at the end of last season and, with college and job responsibilities was just now getting a new one installed. "As a matter of fact we just finished the job this afternoon," she told reporters. "We haven't even had a test run yet." She'll graduate in December with an engineering degree and hopes to land a mechanic job on a NASCAR pit crew. "I'll move to North Carolina or wherever," she said. Saturday night, however, her new engine wasn't enough. She started seventh and finished fourth in the Hobby Stocks Feature. After eight years at PPMS, Kovacs announced that she would not run a full season this year. "I have school, a few weddings and other commitments," she said. "But we'll be here when we can."

Eric Reynolds of Sewickley, drove Herbie The Love Bug (photo, left) to a feature win in the Four Cylinders. It was not only Reynolds' first feature win, but the first time a VW has won a dirt track feature race anywhere in Pennsylvania. He won it mainly because Herbie was the last car standing. Everyone else either spun out, hit a wall, collided with each other, or suffered engine problems. Craig Rudolph now leads Four Cylinder season points race with 304, followed by Susie Rudolph with 299, Derek Quigley with 238, Lucas Weaver with 194 and Reynolds with 119.

Travis Clark won the Young Guns (teenage) Division, with Gavin Kokolis second and Emmerson Laboon third. Clark now leads Young Guns season points with 343, followed by Laboon with 336, Zoey Knight with 321, and Kiersten Chernik and Kokolis with 261 each.

Pittsburgh Motor Speedway will host a full card of races Saturday night, with Young Guns, Four Cylinders, Sprints, Hobby Stocks, Sportsmen and Limited Late Models all in action. Plus, this week Track Owner Matt Miley will recognize drivers who won season points totals in 2021.

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Hobaugh Leads Winged Sprints
Cole Petrelle Wins First PPMS Feature

Cole Petrelle of Follansbee (W. Va.) won his first Limited Late Model Feature at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night.

It was a beautiful Spring evening and the largest crowd of the season came to watch a full card of races in six divisions.

Many of the fans had come to watch the Winged Sprints (photo, right), the fastest cars currently racing on dirt in the U.S. Back in the 20th Century, these were called Midgets, and many of them today are merely old Midget cars with wings and modern safety features added. A Winged Sprint car can be built for around $65,000. The $45,0000 engine produces 800+ horsepower and can hit 150 mph on straightaways, although racetrack curves require them to slow down to about 125 mph. Drivers from as far away as New York, Maryland and Delaware competed in the Winged Sprints Saturday night. The Winged Sprints compete on a circuit and return to Pittsburgh Motor Speedway about once a month. They have their own fan base, which follows them around from track to track. The cars are so lightweight they don't even have starters. Each time they stop they have to be pushed by a truck to start them. The wings create a downward pressure that keeps the cars from lifting off at such high speeds.

George Hobaugh of Chicora won the Winged Sprint Feature race, outrunning Sye Lynch of Apollo, Carl Bowser of Freeport and Brandon Matus of Wampum. Earlier in the evening, Lynch won a preliminary 15 lapper with Hobaugh second. Hobaugh, Lynch, Bowser and Matus now stand 1-2-3-4 in season points.

Up in the Limited Late Models, Petrelle fought off Tim Shaffer and Dave Goble of Aliquipa, Philip Bubeck of Colliers W. Va. and Bryan Hoffman of Imperial. There were numerous spinouts, collisions, cautions and restarts, which kept tightening the race back up as Petrelle kept trying to pull away. The track was particularly fast after a week of rain then a day of sun and breeze. Mike Reft now leads the season points race with 295, followed by Petrelle with 292, Bubeck with 291 and Kassidy Kamacker with 279.

Another first time winner was Jordan Perkins of Newcastle, who won the Sportsman ("Pro Stocks") Feature over Brian Hutchko of McDonald. Cody Koteles of Stockdale, Al Poljak of Baldwin, and Steve D'APolito of Youngstown rounded out the top five. Hutchko now leads the season points race with 282, followed by Poljak with 279, Heath Close with 269, Nick Kocuba with 260 and D'Apolito with 217. The feature win moved Perkins up from 11th to 8th. He now has 142 points. Sportsmen are the focus next Saturday in the 30 lap Ed Laboon Memorial Race. It carries a $5,000 purse. Last year 46 cars from five states entered the Laboon Memorial heats, with the top 25 advancing to the feature.

The Hobby Stocks, for the second straight year the most competitive of PMS' six divisions, held two features, since their May 21 feature had been rained out. Stephen Shelpman of Pleasant Hills won the first one, with Logan Koteles of Stockdale second, Matt Benard of Oakdale third, Tony Magill of Jefferson Hills fourth and Marc Corio of South Fayette fifth.

Frank Magill won the second Hobby Stocks Feature, with Jonathan Koteles second, Benard third, Tony Magill fourth and Justin Clark fifth. Shelpman and Logan Koteles could not get their cars working in time so did not start the second feature.

Season points leaders are now T. Magill at 321, J. Koteles at 315, Benard at 310, G. Koteles at 307, F. Magill at 304 and Shelpman at 297.

Down in the Four Cylinders, Matt Knight of Plum won the Feature with Lucas Weaver of California (Pa.) second and Craig and Susie Rudolph of Steubenville third and fourth.

Travis Clark of Pittsburgh won the Teenage Division, with Gavin Kokolzs of Oakdale second, Zoey Knight of Plum third and Abby Gindlesperger of Pittsburgh fourth.

This Thursday, June 2, Pittsburgh Motor Speedway will host a special Thursday Night Thunder, an evening of racing featuring Sprint Cars. PPMS is part of a five night Thunder Over Western Pennsylvania, in which the Rush Sprint Car Circuit is staging five race nights at five different tracks.

Fans who would prefer to watch the races from their vehicles can buy a parking spot along the First Turn Terrace. Many fans arrive at 5, unload their grill, and tailgate before the first race.

Weather and Rising Costs Thin Crowd, Field
Lukon, Hutchko, Koteles Win At Speedway

Saturday saw several problems plaguing Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, but none of them stopped an exciting evening of races.

Black skies and forecasts of storms discouraged all but the hard core fans from coming out. Early forecasts called for storms to hit at 6, and were gradually revised to 7, 8, 9 and 10. Evil looking clouds kept passing over, lightning appeared in the distance, and raindrops fell briefly three times, but no storm or sustained rain ever developed. The weather also caused several racing teams to stay home.

Even worse, skyrocketing fuel costs and a shortage of high tech racing tires due to supply chain issues are causing racing teams to limit their racing nights. So the field of cars was smaller than usual.

However, the races themselves were filled with drama as drivers tried out new cars, fought for early season points, and resumed old rivalries.

The most spectacular was the Late Model Feature, which saw Kyle Lukon (photo above, being interviewed just after the race) grab an early lead and hold it through cautions and restarts. A spectacular crash right in front of the audience on the front stretch saw Zach Gunn's car flip and roll several times, landing on its roof. Gunn climbed out of the car and walked away but it took two tow trucks to haul the battered #17G back to the pits. Lukon battled Mike Reft, Cole Petrelle and Philip Bubeck all the way and they finished in that order. Lukon finished second to Daryl Charlier in the season opener so now leads the early points race. Reft and Bubeck finished third and fourth in that opener and now trail Lukon by a few points. "Cole Petrelle loaned me tires to run tonight," Lukon explained afterward. "And my Dad, who's 66, worked on the car all day.

"Without those guys I wouldn't be here. We help each other, then go out and run against each other. And not many guys 66 are still working on cars. It's amazing."

Brian Huchko (photo, 60H above) led every lap to win the Sportsmen ("Pro Stock") Feature. Steve D'Apollo was second and A. J. Poljack third. Nick Kocuba started in second and battled Huchko for a while but went out with water pump problems on lap 10. "At Lehrnerville last night, the car was handling kind of funny, but this is my home track so I wanted to test things out here. It was kind of quirky early, but it settled down after a few laps and did fine," Huchko told reporters afterward.

The focus of the evening was on the Hobby Stock Feature, which as usual drew the largest field. Cody Koteles (photo, right) started 11th but kept working his way up until by lap six he was second. He took the lead on lap eight and kept it the rest of the way. His father Gary finished second, with Tony Magill third.

April Tennant debuted a new car and won the Four Cylinder Feature. Husband Bill placed second, with Derek Quigley third.

Travis Clark won the Teenage ("Young Guns") Feature, with Emmerson Laboon second and Kiersten Chernik third.

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Charlier Wins In Late Models; Girls Are Rising Force; Teams Tinker With New Cars, Engines
Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Opens For 2022
Daryl Charlier opened 2022 just as he closed 2021, by winning the Limited Late Model Feature at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night. Charlier, the 2021 Limited Late Model season points champion at PMS, unveiled a sleek new white #3RK car (photo, right), replacing the black #114 he had last year. Unfortunately for PMS fans, Charlier announced this would be one of his rare appearances locally this year. He's moving up to the more powerful and prestigious Unlimited Late Model class, which some tracks refer to as "Super Lates." An Unlimited car costs about $100,000 and runs about 125 mph. Charlier will be racing mostly at Port Royal (near Harrisburg), Raceway 7 (at Conneaut, Ohio), Erie, and Eldora (Dayton, Ohio), tracks which offer the higher purses the more expensive cars require. He'll return to PMS for the four major Limited races. The race was Deja Vou for fans, as Charlier finished just ahead of Kyle Lukon, Mike Reft, Philip Bubeck and Philip Gunn.

Saturday night was a typical dirt track opening night. Unlike pavement, dirt is "alive," in the sense that the track changes with temperature, rain, time of day, and use. A track will not only change from day to day, but will change over the course of an evening. After five months of Winter, the PMS track would be totally different from 2021. Plus, many racing teams build or buy new cars, engines, transmissions, suspension or steering over the Winter. So they arrived around 5 pm and spent two hours testing their cars out on the track, then tinkering with every detail. The track Saturday night was as dusty as anyone could remember. Efforts to thoroughly wet it down delayed the first race and still did not solve the problem. A cloud of dust hung over the track all evening.

PMS is celebrating its 44th season with a unique achievement : It is the only auto racing track in the U.S. with girls or women in every division and one division more than half girls. Several years ago they showed up in the lower divisions. Year by year, they've worked their way up until now Kassidy Kamicker and Kayla McManus are in the top 10 of the Limited Late Model Division. Chelsie Kriegisch of Ellwood City placed sixth in the Rush Sportsmen, while Tanya Charlier was ninth in the PMS Sportsmen. Sadie Snatchko and Kiersten Chernick, both of Oakdale, finished third and fourth in Young Guns (the teenage division), with Zoey Knight of Plum sixth. Susie Rudolph of Steubenville was second in Four Cylinders. Karlee Kovacs of Carnegie did not have her Pink Panther (221K) ready for Saturday but will be in action this week in Hobby Stocks. "It's amazing," she said. "When I started I was in high school and I was the first girl ever. Ever. No one thought I could do it. Now there's this whole crowd of us and every one is doing well."

Justin Shea, Tony Tatgenhorst and Benjamin Easter placed 1-2-3 in the Rush Sportsmen Modifieds. These are the cars, one of which is shown at right, that Rush Racing Series executives would like to see replace the Penn Ohio "Pro Stock" Sportsmen currently supported at PMS. Notice the center seat, rather than the usual left side. These are almost like mini versions of Indianapolis style racecars. The idea is that by standardizing parts (engine, tires, transmission, suspension, etc.), the ever increasing cost of racing can be controlled. These are powerful racing cars. But the problem is locals have already invested in their traditional "Pro Stock" Sportsmen, with the driver seated on the left side, and can't afford to just walk away from that investment and buy or build a second car. So PMS owner Matt Miley continues to host both the Penn Ohio "Pro Stock" Sportsmen, and these center seat cars, which Rush calls Sportsmen Modifieds.

The actual "Pro Stock" Feature was won by Chris Schneider in a new car he unveiled for the first time. "This was its trial run," he said in an interview after the race. Trial run indeed. The car was so powerful he ran off and left the field, finishing half a lap ahead of Al Poljack. Steve D'Apolito of Youngstown was second. Jeff Broniszewski of Coraopolis was sixth.

Matt Bennard of Oakdale celebrated his graduation from high school by winning the Hobby Stock Feature. Although he was a consistent high finisher, this is Bennard's first ever feature win at PMS. He outlasted Gary and Cody Koteles and Tony Magill in a wild race that saw 13 yellows due to spinouts, tangles, and drivers hitting the wall in corners #1 and #4.

Another first time winner was Lucas Weaver in the Four Cylinders. He barely edged Susie and Craig Rudolph.

Emmerson Laboon won the Young Guns (teenage) Feature. Travis Clark of Pittsburgh was second, but three Oakdale drivers followed in third, fourth and fifth place : Sadie Snatchko, Kiersten Chernick and Gavin Kokolis.

The Pittsburgh Motor Speedway will run again this Saturday, with all the usual divisions plus the Wingless Sprints. Gates open at 5 pm, test laps begin at 6 and the first race begins at 7. The racetrack is 13 miles from Coraopolis, out Steubenville Pike a few miles past Robinson Town Center. Take the Noblestown Road exit off Steubenville Pike, then turn left. There's a full concession stand and Ed's Pub for adult beverages. Many fans rent parking space along a bank overlooking turns #1 and 2, bring their grills for tailgating, and enjoy the races from their vehicles.

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3:00 Stretch Before And After Halftime Fatal For Raiders
Bishop Canevin Ends Cornell Season, 24-7

Bishop Canevin broke Cornell's heart Friday night at Montour Stadium, defeating the Raiders 24-7, ending their dream season, and preventing them from reaching the WPIAL championship game at Heinz Field.

Bishop Canevin and Cornell both came into the game with highly rated defenses. BC's was ranked first in Class A and second in the WPIAL, giving up only an average of 6.1 points per game for the whole season. Cornell had won most of its games with its defense, holding opponents to one or two TDs, giving up an average of 12.5 points per game. So most experts and the Litkenhouse computer algorithm predicted a defensive battle.

And that's how it started. The teams kept punting the ball back and forth through the first quarter, neither able to earn a first down. The flowchart read "+1, N (incomplete pass), sack, punt, -4, -1, +5, punt, -1, N, +6, punt and so on. Finally, Raequel Troutman broke loose for a 39 yard run to the BC 36, and Cornell came alive. E.J. Dawson ran for five, Troutman for three, Dawson for three, and Sincere Kimbrough passed to Dawson on the nine. A few plays later, Kimbrough found Micah Dickerson in the end zone, MJ Smith kicked the PAT, and the Raiders led 7-0 with 1:45 left.

Cornell seemed to be gaining momentum when it recovered a BC fumble on the BC 39 at 0:38. But as the quarter ended, BC intercepted a Cornell pass on the BC 33. At that point, BC Coach Rich Johnson replaced quarterback Jason Cross with freshman Cole Olszewski.

With Olszewski at the controls, BC ground out three first downs to the Cornell 17. Lesae Lacks then caught an Olshewsky pass on the 10 and ran it in. The PAT tied it 7-7 at 4:43.

Cornell took over on its own 45 and looked like the Raiders were going to crank out another score before halftime. Troutman ran for seven, Kimbrough ran for 17 to the BC 31, Troutman ran for 14 yards to the 17, and Kimbrough hit Dawson with a pass for a first down on the three.

And that was where Cornell lost the game. For the next three minutes, on both sides of halftime, the Raiders collapsed. First, they failed to score on three plays from the three. On fourth down, they tried a field goal, which was blocked by Cross as the half ended. To open the second half, Cornell received. But the Raiders went three and out and punted. Olszewski immediately passed to Lacks for the TD and with the PAT the Crusaders led 14-7. BC kicked off and Cornell fumbled. BC recovered on the Cornell 44, and launched an eight play drive. Jaiden Torres ran in from the two and the PAT made it 21-7.

That effectively ended the game. All season, Cornell has played well by grabbing an early lead. The Raiders are good at grinding out yardage slowly and keeping the ball away from opposing offenses. The Raiders are not designed to come from two scores behind with a passing attack. Now down 21-7, they were forced to take to the air and BC was able to get into the backfield to bother Kimbrough, and cover his receivers downfield.

Bishop Canevin concluded scoring with a Gene DeFrank field goal with 2:33 left.

Kimbrough finished 5-of-13 passing for 62 yards with an interception. Troutman rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries.

Olzewski completed 9 of 13 passes for 150 yards. Lacks had three receptions for 83 yards.

Nevertheless, it was a great season for Cornell. The Raiders were picked to finish fifth in the Big Seven Conference and instead won it. They made their way into the top five rankings by October and earned a #2 seed in the WPIAL playoffs. Running backs Tim Henderson, Troutman and Dawson had spectacular seasons. Quarterback Kimbrough developed into one of Class A's best. Freshman Walter Clarit seems ahead of schedule and should be a strong player next year.

Dawson, the coach's son, greatly expanded his repertoire. Last season he was the quarterback. This year, he proved to be much better as the kind of running back once called a fullback. He has also become one of the Big Seven's outstanding blocking backs, and a formidable linebacker on defense. As captain of the defense, he has become a strong leader.

Coach Ed Dawson has already been nominated for Coach Of The Year honors for the second time in three years. What Dawson has accomplished is unreal. Taking over a school which had gone four years with no football program at all, he has coached the Raiders to the WPIAL semifinals two of the last three years. Cornell is one of the three smallest public high schools in Pennsylvania still fielding an 11 man football team (most schools in Pennsylvania the same size as Cornell now compete in a six man league). And Dawson has to contend with other schools recruiting his players. This season, former Cornell players were playing for three nearby schools, all of those also in the playoffs.

Although Neville Island and Coraopolis High Schools won championships, since their merger into Cornell the Raiders have never reached the championship game. This group of players had hoped to become the first Cornell team to play at Heinz Field.

Cornell was not at full strength against Bishop Canevin. Henderson, Troutman and Dawson have all been nursing injuries for several weeks.

Bishop Canevin returns to the championship game for the first time since 1990. The Crusaders struggled through lean seasons the past several years before assembling this group of players.

In the other semifinal, Sacred Heart beat Rochester after losing to the Rams back during the regular season.

So two Catholic schools will meet for the championship, a fact certain to fuel arguments about separating "nonboundary schools," (private, religious and charter schools) from "boundary schools" (public school teams limited to players living within set districts).

Playing their last game for Cornell were Henderson, Wilson, Kimbrough, Smith, Jerome Brown, Dickerson, Craig Pulford, Carmine Dellasandro, Jason Keene and Shaun Godrey.

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Bishop Canevin Next In WPIAL Semifinals
Dawson's "D" Stops Leechburg 46-18

"I love Defense," Cornell Coach Ed Dawson told reporters at midfield after the game. "We've built this program on Defense. And the kids have bought into it. They really take pride in their Defense. When we prepare for an opponent, we spend most of our time working on how we can stop their offense."

That emphasis played huge dividends Friday night in the WPIAL quarterfinals when Cornell faced the most explosive offense in the WPIAL in Leechburg. On a crisp November night in North Allegheny's beautiful and spacious stadium, the Raiders shut down the Blue Devils 46-18. Leechburg threatened on several occasions, but each time Cornell held, either with a goal line stand, a fumble recovery or an interception.

Leechburg, enjoying its greatest season in school history, had gone ten games without a fumble or an interception. They fumbled three times and had two interceptions against Cornell. "Those were no accidents," Leechburg Coach Randy Walters said afterward. "Cornell players really hit, and their defensive backs are so fast and quick. They jarred those fumbles loose and came out of nowhere to make those catches."

Leechburg quarterback Tom Burke completed the season having passed for 2213 yards, third best in history for a quarterback from any Allegheny Valley school of any size. And despite Cornell's swarming defense, he still completed 17 for 269 in this game. But it wasn't nearly enough.

Cornell grabbed control immediately. Leechburg kicked off, and on the first play from scrimmage Raequel Troutman (#28, right) sprinted from the Cornell 35 to the Leechburg 18. On the next play he ran to the four, and Tim Henderson then scored the TD. The PAT kick was wide, but Cornell led 6-0.

Leechburg came right back. They started on their own 30 and ran to the 50 and the Cornell 35, then passed for a first down on the seven. But Cornell held, and the Blue Devils were forced to settle for a Jake Shuffert field goal. So with 6:24 in the first it was 6-3.

The next time Leechburg got the ball, it drove to a first down on the Cornell two. Braylan Lovelace was just crossing the goal line for a TD when he fumbled and Sincere Kimbrough (#5, left) recovered for a touchback and a first down on the 20 with 1:20. Troutman ran it out to the 31, to the 35, to the 50, and as the second quarter began, to the Leechburg 44. Henderson ran it to the 28, and Troutman ran in the TD. The PAT kick was wide but Cornell led 12-3.

Leechburg went 3-and-out, punted, and Cornell started on its own 25. Henderson gained six but went out with a twisted ankle. Troutman ran to the Leechburg 43 and also went out with an injury. E. J. Dawson and Walter Clarit took over running duties until Henderson returned to score on a 39 yard run with 2:28 til haltime. The PAT run failed, but the Raiders led 18-3.

Leechburg drove to the Cornell 35 but a quarterback sack by Dawson with 0:22 ended that threat.

Leechburg received to begin the third quarter, but went 3-and-out and punted. Henderson ran the punt back to the Leechburg 16. Troutman ran to the nine and Dawson scored the TD at 8:03. This time M.J. Smith kicked the PAT and Cornell led 25-3.

Leechburg finally scored on the next possession.

The Blue Devils began on their own 32, ran to the 41, passed to the Cornell 48, to the 40, and from Burke to Logan Kline in the end zone. The PAT kick made it 25-10 at 6:02.

But not for long. Henderson ran the kickoff back 80 yards for 31-10 at 5:48.

Now down 21 late in the third, Leechburg had no choice but to take to the air. Taking over on his own 26, Burke passed to the 38, to the 49, to the Cornell 46, to the 36, to the 23, and to the 10 before a fumble was recovered by Cornell at 2:15.

Troutman ran it out to the 20 and then the 37 before the Raiders stalled and punted. Now in the fourth quarter, on their own 20, the Wildcats again took to the air. But Cornell's Jerome Brown intercepted one and ran it in. With Smith's PAT kick, the score was then 38-10 at 11:00.

Leechburg took over on its 36 and Burke passed to the 46, to the Cornell 24, and to Lovelace in the end zone. The Blue Devils ran the PAT for 38-18 at 9:49.

Cornell earned two first downs, then Troutman scored the final TD on a 56 yard run at 7:15. Clarit ran in the PAT for the 46-18 score.

Lovelace completed a spectacular season with 1506 yards gained rushing, but Cornell held him to only 27, his all time lowest.

Troutman carried for 255 yards, making him the leading rusher in the WPIAL for this quarterfinal weekend.

"We have a lot to be proud of," Coach Dawson told reporters at midfield after the game, "But I'm most proud of our resilience. These guys had a hard year last year during COVID. They learned how to suffer adversity and fight back. All this year, teams have come at us, and we've struck back. Tonight, this was a really tough opponent. We knew they were capable of scoring at any time. No lead was safe.

"But each time Leechburg scored, our guys came right back at them with a score to keep that winning margin."

Despite the win, Dawson wasn't totally happy. "We made mistakes," he said. "We have work to do. I'm thankful we have another week to play, one more week to work on those mistakes. That's all we can do, keep working. That's what football is, just a continuous process of trying to get better."

The win sends Cornell on to the semifinals against Bishop Canevin. The Crusaders have ranked second or third in the WPIAL all year. They've defeated Frazier 21-0, Carlynton 50-0, Northgate 27-8, Springdale 13-10, Greensburg Central Catholic 20-14, Jeannette 35-0, Imani 43-0, Riverview 69-0, Burgettstown 49-6 and Shenango 42-14. They've held five opponents scoreless, three to one score, and two to two scores. Their only loss was to #1 Clairton 28-18.

Canevin has a quarterback in Jason Cross who can both pass and run, two reliable receivers, and three solid runners. The Crusaders have a strong line that can give the QB time to find receivers, or open holes for runners. Xavier Nelson is their Big Play runner, who against Shenango ran the opening kickoff back 80 yards to score. Lesae Lacks is their leading receiver and a dangerous defensive back, who intercepted a Shenango pass and ran it back 80 yards to score. Lacks covers the opponent's top wide receiver, but against Cornell, with multiple receivers, it's not clear who that is.

It's hard to predict whether the game will be a tight defensive struggle or a high scoring shootout. Both teams have stifled opponents all year and take great pride in their defense, but both teams can run up 30 or 40 points. Canevin has run up a few scores (50, 69, 49) higher than any Cornell scores, but Canevin has played a weaker schedule. Cornell's Big Seven Conference has three of the four WPIAL semifinalists, and Cornell beat Rochester and should have beaten OLSH.

The Big Seven has historically dominated Class A, winning 12 titles in 15 years. Clairton has recently interrupted this dominance, but it may be shifting back.

One advantage Cornell may have is in The Big Play. Both Henderson and Troutman are capable of exploding for a punt or kickoff runback or a long run from scrimmage at any time. E.J. Dawson (#3 above) is a powerful runner, a classic fullback, but also a valuable blocking back, as seen in this photo clearing the way for Henderson (#8 above).

The late season emergence of Clarit as a runner helps Cornell spread defenses thin and allows Coach Dawson to give his other runners a few plays off.

Another advantage Cornell may have is in the defensive tandem of E.J. Dawson and Micah Dickerson. Both are big, strong, fast, quick, experienced, smart tacklers. To run it up the middle Canevin will have to clear both of them out of the way.

The game may come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes.

The game is at Montour Stadium at 7 pm.

The winner advances to the WPIAL Championship game at Heinz Field Thanksgiving Friday afternoon.

This is the second time in three years Dawson has coached one of Pennsylvania's smallest public schools to the WPIAL semifinals, and he's done it with entirely different lineups. Two years ago, Cornell was the smallest Pennsylvania public school fielding an 11 man football team. This year, Avella and Mapletown have dropped below Cornell in enrollment, making the Raiders one of the three smallest.

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Leechburg Next Opponent In WPIAL Quarterfinals
Cornell Wears Down Monessen 33-0

On a bitter cold night at West Allegheny Stadium, Cornell broke a tight game open in the second quarter with three touchdowns and cruised to a 33-0 win over the Monessen Greyhounds.

It was not as easy as the final score suggests. Monessen is in a rebuilding year and started a very young and undersized lineup. But they tackled and blocked ferociously. Hit after hit could be heard way up in the crowded stadium. (These photos are taken looking the other way, at the mostly empty bleachers. None of the photos show the large stadium and press box behind the photographer.) And Monessen had practically no bench, so Cornell, running players in and out, wore the Greyhounds down.

"These guys'll be back," Cornell Coach Ed Dawson agreed. "By this time next year, as these guys get a little bigger and stronger and are joined by a few reserves, they're gonna be hard to handle."

In the first quarter, when Monessen's players were fresh, the game was scoreless. Cornell kept the ball in Monessen's end of the field, but could not score.

Monessen won the coin toss and elected to kick. Cornell ran it back to the Monessen 46 but were stopped three straight downs and had to punt. The Greyhounds took over on their own five, went three and out, and punted back. Cornell ran it back to the 21, ran a screen pass to Tim Henderson on the two, and on the next play fumbled it into the end zone. Monessen fell on it for a touchback so got a first down out at the 20. They couldn't move and punted. Cornell took over on the 43 but still couldn't advance and punted. Monessen took over on the 13, stalled, and punted. Cornell had a first down on the 29. Henderson ran for a TD but a holding penalty brought it back. So the first quarter ended in a stalemate.

Finally, to open the second, E.J. Dawson passed 30 yards to Sincere Kimbrough in the end zone and after M.J. Smith kicked the PAT Cornell led 7-0.

Again the teams traded punts back and forth until Shamar Wilson caught a pass in the end zone to put Cornell up 13-0 at 4:10 til halftime. The PAT kick was blocked.

Monessen took the kickoff but on the first play from scrimmage Wilson intercepted a Greyhound pass and ran it back to the Monessen 17. From there the Raiders ground out two first downs. Then Henderson ran in the TD with 1:19. The PAT kick was wide, so Cornell led 19-0.

Monessen received to begin the third quarter and looked like they'd made several adjustments to their offense at halftime. They started with a first down on their own 20 and ground out three first downs to midfield. But then Micah Dickerson recovered a Greyhound fumble on the Monessen 48. Henderson took a four yard pass and ran 20 yards to the 24. Raquel Troutman ran it to the nine, and a horsecollar penalty put it on the four. Dawson ran it up the middle for the TD and Smith's PAT made it 26-0 with 3:31 left in the third.

The final score came in the fourth quarter by Raequan Troutman. MJ Smith kicked the PAT.

Across the WPIAL playoffs, Rochester beat Mapletown 35-0, Bishop Canevin beat Burgettstown 49-6, Shenango upset Carmichaels 31-13, Springdale upset West Greene 28-0, Leechburg beat California 28-7 and Sacred Heart upset Greensburg Central Catholic 28-8. So next week, in the quarterfinals, Cornell will meet Leechburg, Bishop Canevin meets Shenango, Rochester meets Springdale and Sacred Heart meets Clairton.

For the complete Class A Playoff ladder, scroll down to the post below.

Leechburg will present Cornell with one of its stiffest challenges this season. This is the greatest team in Leechburg history. Although they lost to Clairton and Bishop Canevin, the Blue Devils have crushed AA Summit 43-8, Jefferson Morgan 68-16, Riverview 71-8, Imani 66-6, Brentwood 50-20, Springdale 41-22 and Jeannette 53-7, then won a close one over Greensburg Central Catholic 31-27.

Quarterback Thomas Burke is a good short and medium distance passer and has several reliable receivers. Running back Braylan Lovelace is both fast and strong and can either outrun tacklers or run over them. Leechburg has one of the best lines in Class A. It both protects Burke while he scans for receivers or opens holes for Lovelace up the middle.

Leechburg's secret weapon is Jake Shuffert, a field goal kicker who is guaranteed up to 36 yards out. In Leechburg's win over California he kicked two. He makes the Blue Devils particularly dangerous because if they get to the opponent's red zone, they're going to score one way or another. The line protects Shuffert, who has never had a field goal blocked.

This is a senior loaded Leechburg team with just a few juniors mixed in. They've got speed, quickness and size, but what makes them difficult to beat is that they don't make mistakes. They lead Class A in (l) fewest fumbles, (2) fewest interceptions, (3) fewest yards penalized, (4) fewest incomplete passes, and (4) fewest dropped passes once contact with the ball has been made.

Leechburg also controls the ball. The main reason opponents scored so few points is that they couldn't get their hands on the ball. Leechburg averages twice as many minutes per game in possession as opponents and runs twice as many plays per game.

Cornell will be favored but not by much. It entered the playoffs as the #2 seed compared to Leechburg at #7. Cornell has more scoring threats in Tim Henderson, Shamar Wilson, Raequan Troutman, E.J. Dawson and Sincere Kimbrough. But it also makes more errors, including fumbles, dropped passes, penalties, missed assignments and interceptions.

Both teams are used to grabbing early leads and do not do well once behind. Cornell has lost two of its four close games. Leechburg fell behind against Clairton and Bishop Canevin and wilted.

As the host school which cannot use its own field because it does not meet WPIAL standards, Cornell will play the game at North Allegheny.

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Open Against Monessen Friday Night
Cornell Receives "Ideal" WPIAL Draw

Cornell received the best draw possible in the WPIAL football playoffs which begin Friday night against Monessen at West Allegheny. The Greyhounds are 4-6 out of the Tri County Conference. Monessen is a proud football town along the Monongahela River and has produced good teams off and on for 100 years. But this isn't one of them.

If Cornell wins, it will play the Leechburg - California winner. Both have two losses, same as Cornell. This is Leechburg's best team in 40 years. But neither team has the speed or athleticism Cornell enjoys. Both are solid, well coached, veteran teams but both are beatable.

If Cornell makes it that far, it will presumably play Bishop Canevin in the semifinals, with the winner advancing to Heinz Field. Canevin must get past Burgettstown, Carmichaels and Shenango, but will be favored to do so. The Crusaders have one of their greatest teams in school history. They have a strong line, defense and kicking game. But Cornell has better skill position players and is a better big play team. If Tim Henderson or Raequan Troutman can run back a kickoff or punt or Sincere Kimbrough can connect on several deep passes, the Raiders could pull off the upset.

Cornell drew opposite Clairton, Rochester, West Greene, OLSH and Greensburg Central Catholic. The only way it can meet one of them is if it makes it to Heinz Field.

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Sloppy Game But Both Qualify For Playoffs
OLSH Goal Line Stand Stops Cornell 13-12

It was a game fitting for a Halloween weekend. On a cold, rainy and misty night at Moon's Rip Scherer Field, the gremlins and ghosts came out to haunt both Cornell and Sacred Heart. Neither team played well. It was a night of fumbles, interceptions, missed assignments, bad timing, poor officiating, shanked punts, injuries, missed kicks, foolish penalties and petulant behavior.

Cornell has been outstanding while going undefeated in Class A, winning the Big Seven Conference and positioning itself to receive a #1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs. It seemed like the Raiders had saved all their mistakes for this one night. Sacred Heart, a preseason favorite to win the conference, had somehow allowed itself to be beaten three times, but looked worse during this win than during any of those losses.

Not many fans watched the debacle. It began raining across the Western Hills at 5:30 pm, so most fans decided to stay home. The ones who showed up were mostly parents of the Sacred Heart students who were honored before the game and at halftime during Senior Night ceremonies. The rain backed off as the game began, but off and on it would begin sprinkling again.

Both teams botched scoring opportunities, but Cornell could have won easily had the Raiders simply kicked two extra points. They missed both. Which let the game come down to the last 60 seconds, during which Cornell had a first down on the OLSH five. The Raiders had no time outs, but Sacred Heart offsides allowed Cornell six plays. The Raiders tried repeatedly to bulldoze up the middle, but the Chargers stacked the box and stopped every try. Finally, with five seconds and one play left, Coach Ed Dawson called for a field goal. That's it in the photo at right. It was blocked as the buzzer sounded.

The sloppy play started early. Sacred Heart received the opening kickoff and had a first down on its own 35. An incomplete pass, a two yard loss and a short run later, OLSH tried to punt. It shanked out of bounds to the right, giving Cornell great field position on the Sacred Heart 40.

But the Raiders lost a yard, had two no gainers, and punted. OLSH took over on its own 20, but again couldn't move and punted. This time, the Cornell receiver fumbled and the Chargers recovered on the Cornell 42. They did grind out a first down on the 27, but a backfield tackle resulted in a nine yard loss to the 36. OLSH battled back to the 18, but fell one yard short and Cornell took over on downs. An incomplete pass, a loss of six, and a fumble, even though Cornell fell on it, forced a punt. This one went almost straight up in the air and came down on the Cornell 37. From there, Nehemiah Azeem passed into the end zone. Raider Drevon Newton intercepted it, which gave Cornell a first down on the 20. But yet again the Raiders couldn't move and punted as the first quarter came to an end.

This frustration continued through most of the second quarter. Finally, Sacred Heart launched a sustained drive from its own 34. B.J. Vaughn broke loose for runs of nine, 18 and six yards. The Chargers ground out four first downs, and Azeem ran it in from the two yard line to put OLSH up 7-0 with 2:01 til halftime.

Cornell received to begin the third quarter but miscues, penalties and drops marred play as the teams punted back and forth.

Finally, late in the quarter, the Raiders seemed to shake off the Halloween spell and get their act together. They scored twice in 90 seconds.

First, they launched a 60 yard drive from their own 40. E.J. Dawson ran it to the OLSH 34, and Sincere Kimbrough (#5 above) found Tim Henderson in the end zone with 3:05 left.

The gremlins reappeared briefly. Cornell had trouble handling the kicking tee and bungled the PAT. So Sacred Heart still led, 7-6.

But two plays later Julian Cordice intercepted an Azeem pass to give the Raiders the ball back. Dawson ran it to the five, then ran it in. That's Dawson, #3, just about to burst into the end zone in the photo below. He's just in front of and below Sacred Heart's #67.

However, Cornell went for two on the PAT and failed. So the Raiders led, but only 12-7 with 1:45 in the third.

After an exchange of punts in the fourth quarter, Cornell had a first down on the 50 but fumbled. Sacred Heart recovered on the Cornell 45 and launched a long drive which resulted in Azeem passed into the end zone (photo, above) which put the Chargers up 13-12 with 6:50. But they missed the PAT.

Cornell took the kickoff and began driving from their own 35. With E.J. Dawson running up the middle and Raquel Troutman catching passes the Raiders looked like they might pull it off. But Coach Dawson was out of timeouts. Two key penalties on Sacred Heart helped, but the Charger defense rose to one of its finest moments of the season to stop E. J. Dawson from getting over the goal line.

A key factor in this game was Cornell's center snaps. The Raiders have had a consistency at Center they lacked last year.

But Sacred Heart gave their Center trouble. Their interior linemen were much bigger than he was and overpowered him play after play. They anticipated the snaps so eagerly that often they seemed close to being called for neutral zone infraction, although it was never called. However, the result was that the Center was rattled, and his snaps were too high, too low, off to one side or the other, or too quick. So Kimbrough was constantly having to reach for the ball, which resulted in several fumbles but more often disrupted the timing of the plays. Over the entire game, these situations kept Cornell from maintaining drives.

For Sacred Heart, the win, ragged as it was, might have been an indication they have moved past their locker room discord and begun playing as the team preseason forecasts predicted.

Cornell's coaches just hoped it was a bad game they got out of their system. "Better now than next week in the playoffs," was their consensus.

Coach Ed Dawson was in a sour mood. "We played bad. We had some adversity early and we let it throw us off our game," he fumed. "I can handle mistakes. But players can't let one mistake carry over into the next play or the next several plays. You gotta stay focused. Keep your mouth shut and just concentrate on doing your job. Don't lose your composure."

With the loss, Cornell lost the chance for a first round bye and to host a game. The Raiders will now play Monessen at West Allegheny Friday night. "We obviously have a lot of work to do," Dawson said. "Tonight, we didn't look like a playoff ready team."

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Raiders Win Big Seven Conference Championship
Cornell Wins Forfeit Over Fort Cherry, 1-0

Fort Cherry has forfeited its game against Cornell scheduled for tonight.

Fort Cherry Athletic Director Tom Scarpone informed Cornell Athletic Director Bill Sacco that 20 Fort Cherry players have been exposed to COVID-19 and will be quarantined.

The game cannot be rescheduled because next week is the final week of the regular season and Cornell plays Sacred Heart. The following week the WPIAL playoffs begin. Football teams can only play once a week.

The WPIAL could rule the game a no contest, meaning it would not appear on either school's record as either a win or a loss. But that would not matter. Cornell has a two game lead in the conference standings and even if Sacred Heart wins next Friday's game the Raiders would still lead by one game. The only way Cornell could have lost the conference title would have been to lose both to Fort Cherry and Sacred Heart. Then, the Raiders would have finished in a three way tie with Sacred Heart and Rochester. However, Fort Cherry needed to win against Cornell and Burgettstown to qualify for the playoffs, unless somebody else forfeits.

The conference championship is the first outright title in school history. Cornell, now 7-0 in Class A, has been co-champions several times, most recently in 2019 when the Raiders shared the title with Sto-Rox.

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Cornell Pulls Off Greatest Win In Dawson Tenure
Henderson, Defense Shock Rochester 14-7

The photo at left says it all.

Rochester, preseason #1, currently either #1 or #2 depending on which poll you read, on a mission to get back to the WPIAL title game, with the #1 or #2 line in the WPIAL, an enthusiastic homecoming crowd warmed up with the Queen candidates riding Mustang convertibles in a pregame parade, ready to show upstart Cornell who was King of the Hill in the Big Seven Conference.

Cornell entered the game undefeated in Class A, but had benefitted from an early schedule of all the bottom and middle teams in the conference. The top three teams --- Rochester, Fort Cherry and OLSH --- were all stacked at the very end of the season. Every football predictor and conputer program picked Rochester, several by three touchdowns.

"What we need," said Cornell Trainer Jamie Peters just before kickoff, "is to hit them early, gain some momentum, get a shot of adrenalin, let our guys know we can play with this team."

Enter Tim Henderson, Cornell's great senior runner. Henderson took the kickoff on the Cornell 20, started to his right, spun past one tackler, faked another, drifted to the middle, evaded another, kept moving to the left, used a sudden burst of speed to escape two more as Raider blockers took out Rochester defenders, and headed up the sideline. The safeties saw him breaking into the open and raced across field to head him off. As the Cornell fans and band came to their feet, Henderson shifted into high gear. It was a footrace. Henderson does not lose footraces. The photo at left shows him crossing the goal line

CJ Jackson's PAT made it 7-0 only 15 seconds in.

"We need a perfect game," Coach Ed Dawson told them. "No fumbles. No interceptions. No missed assignments." And he got it.

But it was still a war, and it was fought mostly in the trenches. Rochester has a formidable offensive and defensive line : big, strong, fast, quick, experienced, smart and well coached. Their offense mainly consists of runs straight up the middle, with the line creating openings. Yet Cornell somehow fought them on even terms. The teams exchanged possessions through the rest of the first quarter and halfway into the second.

Finally, quarterback J.D. Azulay broke loose for a 57 yard TD run, and with Sal Laure's PAT kick the Rams tied the game at 7-7.

Rochester kept driving deep into Cornell territory, but the Raiders found ways to stop them. On what looked like a sure TD drive, Eric Dennis recovered a fumble.

On another deep penetration, Shamar Wilson intercepted a pass on the Cornell 24.

Rochester's defense entered the game ranked #1 in the WPIAL, allowing only 7.7 points per game. Cornell kept trying to run up the middle with absolutely no success. A dozen outstanding punts kept pinning Rochester deep in its own territory, but they would slowly grind out first downs until they were in Cornell's red zone. Somehow, the Raider defense kept stopping them.

Spectacular 20 yard runs by Raequan Troutman (left) and E.J. Dawson helped Cornell keep the ball and maintain good field position. Finally, with only 12 seconds remaining in the third, Henderson took a pitchout from quarterback Sincere Kimbrough (photo below) and scampered 53 yards for the winning TD. MJ Smith's PAT made it 14-7.

Cornell's defense spent the entire 4th quarter under siege. Rochester drove to the Cornell 18 but E.J. Dawson recovered a fumble at 7:48. The Raiders could not move the ball. Several spectacular Kimbrough passes (photo, above) were erased by penalties. A great punt pushed the Rams back into their own territory, but they ground out another long drive before the Raiders held. The Raiders took over on their own six with 3:47 left but again could not move the ball and had to punt at 2:36. Rochester took over on their own 45 and started one last drive as the crowd came to its feet. Runs up the middle gained two and seven yards, but two passes fell incomplete and Cornell took possession with 1:07. Kimbrough was able to take a knee on three plays to run out the clock as celebration broke out on the sidelines.

One factor that played a huge role in the second half was that somehow Cornell defenders found ways to break through that line and pressure Azulay. They were never really able to sack him, but they kept him on the run, and several times he was forced to throw the ball out of bounds since he didn't have time to find receivers downfield.

Coach Dawson was beaming afterward. "People talk about the weapons we have on offense, but our defense is what wins for us. And they won it tonight. This was a tremendous challenge for them. And Rochester did push us around a bit. But each time, we found ways to stop them. Like the old cliche, "bend but not break." I think the key is, usually, when Rochester pounds opposing lines for a while, they give up. Our guys tonight kept lining up every play and fighting back. You could see their guys in the second half looking at each other asking 'Who Are These Guys? Why Are They Still Coming At Us Like This?"

He also talked about Henderson. "Tim is such a special kid. He should be getting a lot more college offers than he is. They're missing out on a great prospect. Maybe if we keep winning he'll get more attention."

Rochester coaches admitted Henderson's opening TD hurt. "Our guys were all pumped up and that was like a needle in our balloon. We just deflated when he ran right through us like that."

But they were also impressed with Kimbrough. "That kid was throwing passes 60 yards in the air. And that one he threw in the fourth quarter he threw with our tacklers in his face. He was back on his rear foot and it still went 60 yards." Kimbrough (#5 below, at right, and above right) entered the game ranked among the WPIAL's best passers. He has completed 23 of 57 passes for 617 yards and eight TDs.

Henderson (#8 in the photos) averaged 22.2 yards per carry. Rochester's Sal Laure carried 21 times for 117 yards for an average of 5.57.

Cornell now stands 5-0 in the Big Seven Conference, 6-0 in Class A, and 6-1 on the season (after a season opening 14-7 loss to AA Mohawk). The Raiders rank #2 in Class A behind Clairton. They play Fort Cherry at home this Friday. The Rangers lost to Rochester 35-0 and OLHS 27-6 but have beaten everyone else.

With OLSH's 14-7 upset loss to Shenango Friday night, Cornell is now guaranteed to be co-conference champs. If Cornell wins just one of its remaining two games, it will stand alone as Big Seven Conference champion.

That one win would be critical for two reasons.

First, in school history, Cornell has never won a sole conference championship. They have been conference co champions several times, most recently in 2019 when they shared the title with Sto-Rox. The old Coraopolis and Neville High Schools won numerous Big Ten and Ohio Valley Conference championships, but since the merger Cornell has never done so.

Second, standing alone as conference champions would give Cornell a #1 seed in the playoffs. They'd be seeded away from the other conference champions : Clairton and West Greene, and the runnersup : Bishop Canevin and Carmichaels. They couldn't meet a team from their own conference until the semifinals. So they would likely open against Leechburg, Springdale, Monessen, Mapletown, Greensburg Central Catholic or California, depending on the results of the next two weekends.

As usual, the Big Seven Conference is the strongest of the Class A conferences. Rochester, OLSH and Cornell have ranked in the top five for much of the season, along with Clairton and Bishop Canevin. Fort Cherry and Shenango have ranked in the second five for much of the season.

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Showdown At Rochester Friday
34-14 Win Clinches Playoff Berth For Cornell

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Burgettstown fans gathered for a Homecoming celebration they also hoped would produce a much needed win. Unfortunately for them, Raequan Troutman personally ruined their homecoming and any fantasies they had of a WPIAL post season playoff berth.

The Cornell junior ran the opening kickoff back 72 yards, then, in the third quarter, ran the opening punt back 60 yards. That jump started the Raiders to a 34-14 win that left them 5-0 in Class A, 4-0 in the Big Seven Conference and 5-1 overall. Amazingly, it also clinched a postseason playoff berth for Cornell and made them the first Class A team to do so.

It wasn't supposed to be this easy.

A win over Burgettstown was supposed to guarantee Cornell a winning record and thus make them eligible for a playoff berth, but normally they would have needed one more win to clinch one. However, in this wild and crazy and COVID scrambled season, with all the upsets and forfeits, all the contenders except Cornell and Clairton have losses. So the Raiders find themselves sitting atop the conference, ranked fifth in the WPIAL, and playing for the best possible seed, not just to get into the playoffs.

Back in Burgettstown Saturday afternoon, after MJ Smith's PAT kick put Cornell up 7-0, the teams traded punts four times. Then Sincere Kimbrough passed to Tim Henderson with a 40 yard pass in the end zone for a 13-0 lead with 9:45 left in the first quarter.

The score stayed there until 5:21 until halftime, when Caleb Russell's five yard run and the John Martine PAT kick cut it to 13-7.

Burgettstown took the kickoff in the third but went three and out, setting up Troutman's 60 yard punt runback. Smith's PAT kick made it 20-7.

Again, the Blue Devils went three and out, but their punt shanked out of bounds and Cornell had a first and 10 on the BTown 40. A 27 yard Troutman run produced another first down on the 10, from where Kimbrough hit Shamar Wilson in the end zone. Smith's PAT kick made it 27-7 with 6:17 left in the third.

Again Cornell's defense held Burgettstown to three and out, and the Raiders took over on their own 40. Troutman injured his right leg on a run, and Cornell somehow managed to earn two penalties on one play, costing them 30 yards. But Kimbrough and Wilson earned those yards back on running plays and as the quarter ended Cornell had a first down on the 30, then another on the 20. Kimbrough ran it in and Smith kicked the PAT for a 34-7 lead with 11:14 left in the game.

Cornell Coach Ed Dawson began subbing, and Burgettstown cranked out five first downs on an eight minute, 15 play drive from its own 30 to the Cornell 14. Jackson LaRocka passed to A. J. Kuzior for the TD and Martine kicked the PAT for the final 34-14 score.

Cornell now faces three huge games : AT Rochester this Friday, Fort Cherry at home, and AT Sacred Heart. Rochester, experienced and talented, is on a mission, and, especially since the game's at home, will be favored. But Cornell has a lot of weapons : Kimbrough, Troutman, Dawson, Henderson, Wilson, Smith, Clarit, a reliable center in Jamarcus Pierce, and an improving offensive and defensive line.

But Rochester will be the biggest and most physical team Cornell has faced. On their lines they do not start anyone under 200 pounds. The core includes senior left tackle Robert Perlick (6-foot-4, 260 pounds), junior left guard Dylan Yunt (6-1, 200), junior center Adam Schurr (5-10, 210), sophomore right guard Michael Norman (5-10, 205) and senior right tackle Daunte Welling (6-3, 260). Then the Rams add two pivotal tight ends in senior Noah Haskins and junior Ryan Clark. This seven man lineup functions very smoothly together. But they're not just big and experienced. They're quick, fast, strong and smart. They don't fall for fakes and traps and they play as a unit, not as individuals. They explode off the ball extremely fast and have their footwork down. Except for Clairton's famous "Wall," Rochester has the best line in Class A. Longtime Rochester Coach Gene Matsook does not have the offensive weapons Cornell does. The Rams are not a big play team. Instead, they play old school, grind it out, fundamental, physical football.

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Rams Take Out COVID Frustrations On OLSH
Angry Rochester Pounds Sacred Heart 34-7

Rochester is one of the WPIAL's proudest football programs and they had had enough. Two weeks ago they were missing six starters due to COVID and lost a game to Union they should have won easily. Last week they had their game with Burgettstown cancelled due to COVID. The Rams had been the preseason #1 favorite for the WPIAL championship and now they had dropped to fourth place. They were in second place in their own Big Seven Conference. They were in a lean and hungry mood, ready to take out their frustrations on whoever they played next.

As luck would have it, that happened to be OLSH, undefeated, tied for first in the conference and ranked second in the WPIAL. OLSH was celebrating its homecoming at Moon's Rip Scherer Stadium and was favored by seven.

Not very likely. On the first possession, Rochester drove 51 yards in 10 plays. Sal Laure ran it in on an off tackle slant to put the Rams up 6-0 with 6:33. Then their defense held Sacred Heart and forced a punt. Two plays later, Laure took a pass from QB J. D. Azulay and ran 46 yards for a 12-0 lead with 4:04.

Sacred Heart managed one first down before being stopped again. A 45 yard Ram drive took eight plays and ended with Laure running it in from the four. Brother Antonio Laure ran the PAT to make it 20-0 with 8:25 left in the half.

Then it got worse fast. In the third quarter Azulay intercepted a Nehemiah Azeem pass and ran it back 78 yards for a 26-0 lead.

Sacred Heart finally scored on a 52 yard Azeem to Dereon Greer pass.

The teams exchanged punts, and then Rochester again launched a drive to the OLSH three, where Laure again ran it in. Azulay passed to Jerome Mullins for the PAT for 34-7.

Despite its one loss, Rochester is in a strong position for the October stretch run. It hosts Fort Cherry this week, then gets conference leader Cornell at home. The Rams travel to Shenango and end the regular season at home against Northgate. If the Rams can win the other three and beat Cornell, they will end up in a three way tie for first. But since they will have beaten OLSH and Cornell, they would be the conference champion and receive one of the top three seeds in the WPIAL playoffs.

Sacred Heart has to regroup. Their line was manhandled by Rochester even though position by position the Chargers are bigger and stronger. OLSH faces Union and Northgate away and Shenango and Cornell at home.

After #1 Clairton beat #3 Bishop Canevin Friday night, the computer rankings shuffled. Rochester is now #2, OLSH #3 and Canevin #4.

The Record needs a correspondent to take photos and keep game notes and send them in after each OLSH game. It can be a student, parent or fan. Anyone interested should email us at CoraopolisRecord@aol.com.

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Raiders 3-0 in Conference, 4-0 in "A"
Troutman, Dawson Lead Cornell Rally, 34-22

Cornell was in trouble. The Raiders trailed 22-13 in the fourth quarter. An undefeated Class A season and a Big Seven Conference first place was in jeapordy. Their leading rusher, Tim Henderson, was injured. They needed a hero or two.

They got them. Up stepped E.J. Dawson and Raequan Troutman to lead a furious 21 point rally and give Cornell a 34-22 win on a crisp Fall night at Frank Letteri Stadium.

Until then, Union, which already holds a major win over Rochester, was in charge. Tyler Staub returned a punt for the first Scottie TD with 1:21 in the first quarter. Cornell struck back immediately. After the kickoff, on their first play from scrimmage, Sincere Kimbrough fired a 14 yard pass to Dawson (#3 below) in the end zone and MJ Smith made the PAT kick to put the Raiders up 7-6.

But Union shut Cornell down for the rest of the second quarter. Then the Scotties took the second half kickoff and drove 65 yards in eight plays, sending Mike Gunn into the end zone on a one yard run. Staub hit Grayson Blakley on a pass for a two point PAT and Union led 14-7 with 8:20 remaining.

Troutman (#28 above) answered with a 50 yard touchdown run at 6:40, but the PAT failed and Cornell still trailed 14-13.

Union increased the lead to 22-13 with 2:01 in the third, as Staub found Braylon Thomas in the end zone. Staub ran in the PAT.

So the stage was set for that Cornell rally. Troutman scored on a 15 yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. The PAT failed but Cornell was within 22-19.

The Raiders kicked off and held Union, forcing the Scotties to punt it back. Troutman hauled it in on the 45 and ran it down to the one. On the next play Dawson broke into the end zone. Troutman ran the PAT in and Cornell led 27-22 with 9:23 left.

Cornell kicked off again and again the defense held. Cornell took the punt and drove to the 16, from where Troutman ran it in. Smith's kick made it 34-22 with 4:10.

Troutman led everyone with 184 yards and three TDs on 14 carries.

"Raequan is special," Cornell Coach Ed Dawson said. "He plays running back, receiver and defense. He always seems to step up just when we need him."

The win was Cornell's fourth in a row and left the Raiders 4-0 in Class A and 3-0 in the Big Seven Conference. Their only loss was in the season opener to Mohawk, a 2A team which is now in first place in the Midwest Conference at 3-0. After Rochester's win over Sacred Heart Saturday, those two are tied for second place with one loss each. Cornell is all alone in first place, and lurking at #6 in the WPIAL rankings.

But the road gets considerably tougher for Cornell in October. They face three of their next four games on the road. Next Friday night they travel to Burgettstown. Then they go to Rochester before returning to Frank Letteri Stadium for a Homecoming game against Fort Cherry. The season finale is against local rival Sacred Heart at Moon's Rip Scherer Field.

Cornell is battling for a postseason berth. It must win one more game to give it at least a 5-4 record. That would make it eligible for a berth, but would not guarantee one. A win over Fort Cherry would leave Cornell at least 6-3 and guarantee a berth, but they would receive a low seed and draw either #1 Clairton or #3 Bishop Canevin in the first round. To avoid that, Cornell would need an upset win over either Rochester or OLSH.

COVID could play a wild card role in this race. Already, the WPIAL has seen five or six games a week forfeited due to COVID, including a Burgettstown forfeit to Rochester. Rochester lost to Union when Rochester had six starters sidelined by COVID. Several teams have played but been shorthanded due to quarantines to some of their players. Cornell's E.J. Dawson and Tim Henderson are already nursing nagging injuries. For the Raiders to make an October run, those two have to return to full strength and everybody else has to avoid both injuries and COVID.

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Huchko Wins 5th Feature as Season Ends

Brian Huchko grabbed the lead on the second turn of the very first lap and held it the rest of the way to win the final Sportsman Feature of the 2021 season Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It was Huchko's fifth feature win of the year and his third in the last five weeks. Nick Kocuba won the Season Points Race in the Sportsmen.

Frank Magill (in photo at right) won his seventh Stocks Division Feature after Karlee Kovacs and Jacob Wiser had led earlier. Magill also won the Stocks Season Points race. This was the most competitive, high powered and exciting Stocks Division in the last 20 years. Magill and several other drivers have already indicated their desire to move up to Late Models next season if they can find the sponsorship.

Bill Kessler finished the season in fine form by winning his first Limited Late Model Feature, battling Kyle Lukon almost the entire race. Daryl Charlier won the Limited Late Model Season Points Race.

Hemi Kineston won the Four Cylinder Feature as Bill Tennant captured the Season Points Championship.

The regular season now over, Pittsburgh Motor Speedway will host a full grand finale of racing this weekend, with Four Cylinders, Sportsmen, Stocks and Limiteds running Friday night and the annual Lucas Oil Pittsburgher 100 for Unlimited Late Models Saturday night. The 100 carries a $20,000 first place purse and attracts a national field. It's part of the Lucas Oil National Circuit, and is the closest dirt track racing comes to NASCAR. In fact, many of NASCAR's drivers moved up from this circuit. Pictured left is Jimmy Owens, four time winner of Lucas Oil Unlimited Late Model Season Points Championships, including last year's.

The big $500,000 rigs towing the $100,000 cars inside their luxurious trailers will pull into the Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Thursday so drivers can spend two days getting familiar with the track and adjusting their shocks, tires, and steering. Gates open at 3 pm so fans wanting time to walk through the pits, inspect these big time racing machines and their drivers close up, and perhaps take some pictures, can do so.

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Sacred Heart Wins 27-6, Braces For Rochester

Sacred Heart again broke open a close game in the fourth quarter Friday night in dispatching Fort Cherry 27-6 to go to 2-0 in the Big Seven Conference and 4-0 on the season. The Chargers are now tied with surprising Cornell for the conference lead and face preseason conference favorite Rochester at home this Friday.

But for the second straight week, this win didn't come easy. Neither team could score in the first half. Finally, in the third quarter, Stephen Greer ran from the nine and Bill Fryer kicked the PAT to put the Chargers up 7-0.

To open the fourth, Fort Cherry's Maddox Truschel scored on a 34 yard run and although the extra point kick missed, the OLSH lead was only 7-6 with 10:00 left. Then, once again, the Chargers exploded.

Nehemiah Azeem ran one in from the seven and Fryer kicked the Pat for 14-6 with 8:00. Azeem passed 12 yards to Ziggy McIntosh and Fryer made the kick for 21-6 with 6:00. Then, Brandon Brazell ran it in from the 25, and although the PAT kick failed, the score was 27-6.

OLSH is now ranked second in the WPIAL, behind Clairton and slightly ahead of Bishop Canevin.

In the conference, Rochester, Union, Northgate and Fort Cherry are all a game back with one loss.

The Chargers are 4-0 but only 2-0 in Class A because their first two games were with AA teams.

The Record needs a correspondent to take photos and keep game notes and send them in after each OLSH game. It can be a student, parent or fan. Anyone interested should email us at CoraopolisRecord@aol.com.

Kevin Edwards

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Kimbrough, Henderson, Troutman, Smith Star
Raiders Roll 34-16, Now 3-0 In "A"

Sincere Kimbrough (#8, bottom photo), Raequan Troutman (#28 in photo, right) and Tim Henderson led Cornell to a 34-16 win over Shenango Friday night to leave the Raiders 3-0 in the 2021 Class A race.

M.J. Smith (#23 in photo, below) also played a big part with four points after touchdowns. Last year Cornell struggled with PATs, but Smith has grown into a dependable kicker in this role.

The Raiders struck twice in the first quarter and Shenango never really threatened.

After receiving the kickoff and fumbling on its first play, Cornell held the Wildcats and forced a punt. The Raiders took over on their own 20 but Kimbrough fired an 80 yard pass to Henderson at the 7:08 mark. Smith's PAT made it 7-0.

The teams exchanged possessions in midfield until Kimbrough found Henderson with another 53 yard pass with 30 seconds left in the first. Smith's PAT made it 14-0.

Cornell seemingly went to sleep to open the second quarter. A Shenango punt put the Raiders on their own 15.

A backfield miscommunication led to a Safety, so Shenango trailed 14-2 with 10:00.

Cornell kicked off and Shenango launched its only sustained drive of the game. The Wildcats marched from their own 46 to the Cornell five and Hunter Lively ran it in. Trevor Valenti kicked the PAT to make it 14-9 with 8:00.

Then the Raiders woke up. Taking over on their own 25, Kimbrough fired a 65 yarder to Henderson on the Shenango 12. Cornell ground out a first down on the two, and Kimbrough ran it in. Smith's PAT made it 21-9 with 6:00. The teams exchanged punts for the rest of the first half.

After several more punts to open the third quarter, Troutman ran 78 yards to make it 27-9 with 7:00. Shenango used six minutes on a 45 yard drive to the Cornell 22. The Raider defense stopped them there, and on the first play Kimbrough fired a 46 yarder to Devon Newton on the Shenango 33. Kimbrough then passed 25 yards to Troutman for the TD, and with the PAT Cornell went up 34-9 with 10:00 left in the game.

Both coaches began subbing, and Shenango launched a three minute 56 yard drive which ended with Sam Myers scoring on a seven yard run and Valenti kicking the PAT for 34-16 with 6:00 remaining.

In the closing minutes a spectacular sack by Cornell's E. J. Dawson and an interception by Smith kept Shenango from scoring again.

Kimbrough finished with 266 yards passing and three TDs, placing him fourth in the entire WPIAL for the evening and first among Class A QBs.

The win left the Raiders 3-0 in Class A, 2-0 in the Big Seven Conference, and 3-1 overall after that opening loss to AA Mohawk.

Union was upset by Northgate 22-16, and Fort Cherry lost to OLSH 27-6. Burgettstown forfeited to Rochester due to players sidelined by COVID. So all of a sudden Cornell and OLSH find themselves tied for the conference lead at 2-0. Northgate, Union, Fort Cherry and Rochester are a game back at 1-1 each, with Burgettstown and Shenango two games back.

Cornell hosts Union this Friday night at Frank Letteri Stadium, then travels to Burgettstown next Friday.

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Coteles Edges Benard In Photo Finish

Cody Koteles edged Matt Benard (photo, right) by perhaps two or three inches in a thrilling finish Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. The Stocks Feature saw Koteles thread his way through three lapped cars and shoot ahead just as the two crossed the finish line. Koteles is second in season points with Benard third. It was Koteles' fourth feature win this year.

Garret Paugh won the Limited Late Model Feature. Joe Martin had led the entire way until Paugh cut under him at the white flag and held on for the final lap. Season points leader Nick Kocuba won the Sportsman Feature for his 19th career win. Brian Huchko was second. Bill Tennant won his 10th Four Cylinder Feature of the year.

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Kimbrough Leads Cornell Over Northgate 42-18

With E.J. Dawson injured, Sincere Kimbrough took over at quarterback and led Cornell to a 42-18 rout of Northgate Friday night at Frank Letteri Stadium.

The game was never really in doubt, and Kimbrough had plenty of help.

The senior transfer student who Coach Ed Dawson has described as "probably the best all round athlete on our roster" opened scoring with a six yard run early in the first quarter. The PAT failed.

Delvin Mitchell scored for Northgate on a 66 yard run to tie it at 6-6 but their PAT failed.

M.J. Smith put Cornell ahead for good, 9-6, with a 15 yard field goal.

Kimbrough then added a 24 yard run late in the first to put Cornell up 15-6.

Tim Henderson intercepted a Northgate pass in the second quarter and ran it back an electrifying 90 yards. Smith kicked the PAT for a 22-6 halftime lead.

Lewis Clark caught a four yard pass for a Northgate TD early in the third quarter, but Henderson scored for Cornell on a 35 yard Kimbrough pass to make it 28-12.

Raequan Troutman added a 30 yard run in the fourth and Smith added the PAT to put the game out of reach 35-12. Both coaches began subbing and although each team would score once more the outcome was clear.

Cornell ran up 326 yards in total offense compared to Northgate's 249. Kimbrough passed for 185 yards compared to Northgate's 129, and the Raiders ran for 141 compared to Northgate's 120.

Cornell converted three of nine third down plays, compared to five of 14 by Northgate. Each team fumbled once and intercepted two of the other's passes.

The win left Cornell 2-1 on the season, 2-0 in WPIAL Class A, and 1-0 in Big Seven Conference play.

The Raiders play their first road game this Friday night at Shenango, a preseason favorite and top five pick, but a team that has lost to AA Laurel 21-13 and AA Neshannock 42-8, and last Friday was upset by Big Seven rival Fort Cherry 35-7.

This leaves a cloudy picture. Fort Cherry has beaten Class A Carmichaels and Avella but lost to AA Chartiers Houston. Carmichaels and Avella are weak Class A teams and Chartiers Houston is a strong AA team, having won 44-15 and 29-0 in addition to its win over Fort Cherry. So it's not clear how strong Fort Cherry is, which means it's hard to know what to think of Shenango's loss to them.

But the Big Seven Conference race is equally cloudy. Union's shocking 16-0 upset of #1 ranked Rochester leaves the race wide open. Sacred Heart is now 3-0 and moves into first place in the conference and second in the WPIAL. Shenango will be a slight favorite this week, but if Cornell can pull off the win, then return home and handle Union the following Friday, it will be 3-0 in the conference entering its rugged October run of Burgettstown, Rochester and Sacred Heart. Cornell does not have to win the conference to make the playoffs, but it does have to finish with a winning record.

Robin Gilligan

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4th Quarter Explosion Gives OLSH 33-13 Win
When Burgettstown dropped from 2A down to 1A two years ago Blue Devil fans expected to dominate their new Big Seven Conference just as they had their old one in the higher enrollment class, when they made five straight playoffs. It hasn't worked out that way. Last year Burgettstown didn't make the playoffs. This year isn't looking too good, either. Sacred Heart has handed them key losses both years.

Friday night, the Chargers broke a tight game open in the fourth quarter to win 33-13 at Hill Memorial Stadium.

Earlier, Burgettstown's Jackson LaRocka had scored on runs of six and 10 yards. Chargers BJ Vaughn and Steve Greer scored rushing TDs to give OLSH a 14-13 edge. Then Neimiah Azeem threw for two touchdowns and Greer ran 49 yards for a third one to keep Sacred Heart unbeaten at 3-0.

Azeem completed nine of 18 passes for 102 yards. Greer carried eight times for 176 yards and the two TDs. Ziggy McIntosh added four catches for 44.

OLSH plays Fort Cherry this Friday at home. With Union's stunning 16-0 upset of WPIAL #1 Rochester and Fort Cherry's 35-7 upset of Shenango, the Big Seven Conference race is suddenly wide open.

The Record needs a correspondent to take photos and keep game notes and send them in after each OLSH game. It can be a student, parent or fan. Anyone interested should email us at CoraopolisRecord@aol.com.

Bids Requested For Line Relocations

Friends of Pittsburgh Professional Soccer is soliciting bids for relocation of existing public utility services associated with PennDot State Route 51 05A road improvement project, located in the Borough of Coraopolis in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

The work includes Waterline Relocation (relocation of 725 linear feet of 6" D1 pipeline, valves and appurtenances). It will include tie ins and traffic control.

The work also includes Sewerline Relocation (relocation of approximately 235 linear feet of 15" SDR 35 PVC). It will include two precast manholes, bypass pumping, tie ins and traffic control.

Stephen Shelpman Wins Stocks Invitational

Stephen Shelpman continued a late season run by winning the Stocks Division Invitational Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Shelpman won the Stocks Feature last week, and has placed second once and third twice in the last five weeks. These high finishes have helped him close in on third in the season points race with two weeks to go. Kyle Lukon took the Late Model Feature and Brian Huchko (photo, right) won the Sportsmen Feature.

The Stocks Feature was relatively clean, with only one restart on lap nine, until Matt Benard spun out at the finish line, causing a six car collision. Shelpman won the pole based on his time trial performance and led the race the entire way. But he had to fight off Frank Magill and Cody Koteles every lap.

The Late Model Feature started with a six car pileup on the final turn of lap one, and had a second restart on lap six. Zach Gunn and Cole Petrelle led early but once Lukon worked his way to the front he kept the lead the rest of the way.

It was Huchko's fourth Sportsman win of the year and second in the last three weeks. He led almost the entire way despite two restarts.

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Cornell Rolls 52-8 As Clarit, Kimbrough Emerge

Cornell rolled to a 52-8 win over Jefferson Morgan Friday night on a muddy field as freshman Walter Clarit and senior Sincere Kimbrough emerged as major contributors.

The outcome was never in doubt. Cornell scored in every quarter and just had too many weapons. The only downside was that quarterback E.J. Dawson sat out the fourth quarter with a recurrence of a nagging injury.

The game began rather slowly as both teams were a little tentative on the spongy, saturated surface. Cornell took the kickoff, fired a pass to Drevon Newton, and made it to the JM 26 before two incompletes and a fumble ended the drive. JM moved it out to the 43 before stalling. Cornell took over, ran for five and seven yards, then Dawson fired a pass to Tim Henderson on the nine. On the next play Kimbrough ran it in for the touchdown. The PAT failed, so Cornell led 6-0 with 3:31.

Cornell kicked off and JM ran only four plays before a pass was intercepted by Henderson on the JM 46 (photo, right). On consecutive plays, Henderson then ran to the JM 35, ran to the five, Clarit ran to the one, and, on the first play of the second quarter, Dawson scored on a keeper. MJ Smith kicked the PAT and the Raiders led 13-0.

Again, after the kickoff, JM ran two plays before Kimbrough intercepted another pass and Cornell took over on the JM 39. Two runs put it on the JM 22 and Clarit ran 22 yards for the TD with 9:18 til halftime (Clarit is #7 in the photo below just crossing the goal line for his first score as a high school player). The PAT missed and Cornell led 19-0.

After the kickoff, JM turned it over on downs at the Cornell 47. On the first play Henderson ran 53 yards. Smith made the PAT and the Raiders led 26-0 at 6:40.

The end of the half saw a series of holding penalties move the Rockets almost 50 yards, to the Cornell one yard line, over the objections of several Cornell coaches. JM then ran it in with one second to go in the half, and completed the PAT pass after time expired, to make it 26-8.

In the third quarter, Phillip Barker recovered a JM fumble and ran it 30 yards for a TD with 7:15, to make it 32-8. Henderson took a 43 yard pass from Dawson to make it 38-8 with 4:04. Kimbrough ran one in from the eight yard line, and Smith made the PAT, for 45-8 with 1:35 in the third. Raequan Troutman rounded out the scoring with 10:11 left with a 47 yard run. Smith's PAT was good for the 52-8 finale.

Cornell Coach Ed Dawson was especially pleased with Clarit. "We've watched Walter coming up through the grades in all three sports so we knew he was a great athlete. It's been a matter of him adjusting to the speed and physicality of the high school game. Fans see him running the ball, but he's also proving valuable in our defense."

Son E.J.'s injury is worrying. "He's not just our quarterback. He's the key to our defenses. He's our defensive captain. At linebacker he plugs the middle and calls directions and shifts. We can't afford to have him hurt. He has a high pain tolerance and usually plays through injuries. The fact he came to the bench and said he couldn't go tells me he was really struggling. Alot of football injuries nag you all season until you get to the offseason and give them plenty of rest. I hope this isn't one of those."

Cornell opens Big Seven Conference play this Friday at home against Northgate. The computer favors Cornell.

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Charlier Holds Off Challengers In Miley Classic

Daryl Charlier (in #114, at right) held off Zach Morrow, Cole Petrelle and Mike Reft for 40 laps to win the Red Miley Classic for Limited Late Models at the Pittsburgh Speedway Saturday night. Charlier, pulling away in the season points race, averaged 115 mph but was just two seconds ahead of Morrow. It was a wild race, with five restarts due to wrecks, spinouts and wall collisions. Charlier didn't reach the front until lap 19.

Stephen Shelpman won the Stocks Division Feature over Adam Ferree and Jonathan Koteles. Bob Betz, Ben Anton and Frank Magill filled out the top six. This was an even hairier race, with six restarts and Danny Rich in the Pink Panther blowing an engine and spewing oil all over the track. Shelpman finally took the lead on lap 18.

Nick Kocuba edged Brian Hutchko in the Sportsman Feature and Charles Wolbert took the Super Modified Feature.

This week is the Josh Langer Stocks Division Memorial Race, but the other divisions will also be running and the track will host the annual appearance of the Vintage Division, cars reminiscent of the 1950s (but with modern technology to conform to 2021 safety regulations).

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Cornell Defense Holds But Offense Fizzles, 7-14

Cornell suffered a devastating loss Friday night, 14-7 to Mohawk at Frank Letteri Field.

Mohawk is a Class AA school and was favored, but was one of five games Cornell had a definite shot to win. The five wins would have given the Raiders a winning record and made them eligible for the playoffs. Now, Cornell is looking at only four games it has a definite shot to win and will have to upset either Rochester, Sacred Heart, Burgettstown or Shenango for a winning season and possible playoff bid. To clinch a playoff bid it will have to upset two of those.

Coach Ed Dawson's defense held against larger, heavier and more experienced Mohawk, allowing them only two touchdowns and actually holding them scoreless for the final three quarters. On the first play from scrimmage, Warrior quarterback J.C. Voss passed 55 yards to Marc Conti for the first TD. At 7:40, Voss passed seven yards to Boden Leslie to make it 14-0. After that, Cornell shut Mohawk down. The Warriors never got close for the rest of the game.

Tim Henderson (#8 in photo, right) scored Cornell's TD on a 50 yard run with 7:12 in the first quarter. Cornell spent a frustrating three and a half quarters trying to score again. The Raiders had first and 10s on the Mohawk 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24 but could never get to the end zone.

Cornell plays Jefferson Morgan at home Friday night.

Robin Gilligan

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Sto-Rox Opponent Was A "Ghost Team"

Sto-Rox opened the 2021 season Friday night against Bishop Sycamore in Braddock's Wolvarena, part of an event called The WPIAL Against Everyone Else. The Vikings won impressively, thanks to a staunch defense and several big plays. Tre-shaun Barron returned an interception 17 yards for a TD and Sto-Rox kept forcing turnovers en route to a 19-7 victory. Junior Josh Jenkins caught a pair of TD passes from Austin Jones. The first was for 20 yards in the second quarter and the second for nine yards in the third. Jones finished eight for 15 for 121 yards passing.

Overall it was a great win. Bishop Sycamore players were all big, strong and fast. Although they only dressed 32 players, individually the players looked like the kind of athletes one would expect at a 5A school.

Sunday afternoon, some of the Sto-Rox players and fans turned on TV to watch the ESPN high school game of the day. To their amazement, they saw the exact same team lining up in Cincinnati, Ohio, against IMG from Florida. With the exact same players. The same quarterback. The same wide receivers. The same linemen. Less than 48 hours later.

Local viewers weren't the only ones who found this suspicious. As IMG rolled to a lopsided 58-0 win, ESPN announcers began commenting on how the Bishop Sycamore players seemed tired and overmatched. Sports writers across the country began making phone calls and going online to check the team out.

What they found has become a national story. "Bishop Sycamore" may be the greatest scam in high school sports history.

What everyone now knows is that there is no "Bishop Sycamore High School". The Ohio High School Athletic Association has never heard of it. Neither has the Ohio Department of Education. It is not listed as an Ohio charter school.

On various rosters and registration forms, "Bishop Sycamore" lists four addresses. When checked out, none are valid. One is for a church, which says it does not sponsor a school. One is for a fitness center, which says a coach brings about 30 boys in occasionally for workouts.

One is for the Franklin University Library, which says somebody from "Bishop Sycamore" had applied to reserve a room for meetings but the application was denied. One was for an apartment complex where Johnson once lived but was evicted for not paying rent.

Charter schools in Ohio must file paperwork with their local school district periodically to show that they are following state guidelines on curriculum, facilities, teacher qualifications, etc. As a Columbus school, "Bishop Sycamore" would come under the auspices of the Columbus Public Schools. But a representative from the Columbus Public Schools says no paperwork has ever been filed by any school calling itself "Bishop Sycamore."

Investigation of the players listed on the roster in the Friday night Sto-Rox game and the Sunday afternoon IMG game finds that 27 of the 32 graduated from various Ohio high schools from 3-5 years ago. Those players are 21-23 years old. The other five are 17-18 years old. Most of the 27 older players enrolled in junior colleges in the South, Texas or California with the intention of playing football. Some of them did play but were not offered scholarships by four year schools. Others dropped out, either because they did not make their junior college teams, or did not meet academic requirements.

Coach Roy Johnson (photos, above and below) is not certified to teach or coach, but has been trying to create his own team for 10 years. His first attempt was a team called Christians of Faith. When that collapsed he founded Bishop Sycamore. "Bishop Sycamore" has been scheduling games for three years. The team has never won. Most of the losses have been by 10 or more points. Many of have been quite lopsided. Last year "Bishop Sycamore" went 0-6. Johnson says he is just trying to help poor kids earn college scholarships. But Johnson has left a trail of unpaid bills and lawsuits behind, as his team stays in hotels and eats in restaurants and fails to pay.

The team is scheduled to play Duncanville, Ohio this week and Johnson Central in Kentucky next week.

By Monday, WPIAL and PIAA officials had become aware of the situation. But a spokesman at WPIAL offices in Greentree said, at least for now, they would count the win for Sto-Rox and include statistics from the game in season totals. They emphasized that no adult or player from Sto-Rox had done anything wrong. Normally, high schools are required to play other high schools officially certified by their own state associations or other state associations. Games against YMCAs, Boys Clubs or independent teams do not count. Normally, teams file rosters with eligibility information the week prior to the games. But somehow principals, coaches, athletic directors, WPIAL and PIAA officials and the managers of the Wolvarena event let "Bishop Sycamore" slip through. The PIAA had officially certified the game. As annoyed as Sto-Rox, Coursey, the WPIAL and PIAA are about the situation, ESPN is even more annoyed. It is being ridiculed nationally in newspapers and on social media for having been scammed by a bunch of 20 somethings into putting a team on national television that was not a high school, included no D-1 prospects and was not even very good when competing against smaller high schools with players 3-5 years younger.

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Magill Wins Summer Stock Championship

Frank Magill (photo, right) won both his heat race and Stocks Summer Championship Feature Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It was Magill's sixth feature win this season and extended his lead in the season points race.

Magill paused in the pits to talk to reporters and admitted he dreams of moving up to Sprints, Limiteds or Modifieds. But the higher cost of those divisions is a problem. "Right now I'm just enjoying these weekly battles," he said. "You can't relax for a minute out there. It's not just one. There's a bunch of really good drivers in really good cars coming after you." He was referring to Cody Koteles, Matt Benard, Kaylee Kovacs, Danny Rich, Stephen Shelpman, John Cain, Chloie Jones and Kayla McManus, all close behind him in every race. Kovacs is now off to college but grizzled veteran Rich is driving her Pink Panther car and has proven himself a formidable threat in every race for the last three weeks.

A five minute rain squall was just moving through. Magill eyed the track. "It's pretty slick out there tonight." Back in May, his pit crew had trouble with the car. "We had to figure out several adjustments," he explained. "Once we did, it's been fine."

Magill won his heat by a wide margin. In the Feature, he took the lead from Rich on the third lap and kept it the rest of the way. But two restarts kept cutting his lead back and giving Rich, Koteles and Shelpman a chance. The top five behind Magill ended up being Shelpman, Benard, Rich, Koteles and McManus in that order. In the season points race the top six are Magill, Koteles (-26), Benard (-44), Kovacs/Rich (-64), Shelpman (-70) and Cain (-82) within reach.

Meanwhile, up in the Limited Late Model Division, Daryl Charlier won another Feature, leading almost the whole way after grabbing first on lap one. Ben Policz (photo, left) worked his way up to second on lap 15 but never could quite catch Charlier despite four restarts. It was Charlier's 69th win overall (he's also won in Sportsmen and Modifieds).

After Charlier and Policz, Cole Petrelle, Mike Reft, Dan Lepro and Tony White followed in order. Charlier leads the season points race, with Zach Morrow (-73), Philip Bubeck (-111), Zach Gunn (-182) , Policz (-185), Kassidy Kamacker (-198) and Petrelle (-226) trailing.

Policz and Charlier have taken turns winning heats and features all Summer. Fans keep asking Policz if he plans to move up to Unlimiteds, which would put him on the Lucas Oil Circuit, the closest dirt track racing comes to NASCAR. Policz says he has no interest. "This is a very competitive division. It's a lot of fun. But it's a hobby. Up in Unlimited, you have to travel all over the eastern half of the country to the big purse races. The cars are so expensive. And there's pressure. It's like a job. So, No. I'm happy right here." He's also not into the points race. "I've already missed a few weeks, and I'll miss a few more. I've won two season championships, so I don't need another one." No wonder Policz is having fun. A charter bus from Waynesburg pulled in full of his fans, partying and cheering for him all night. Policz and his team struggled with the car back in May. "We had the shocks rebuilt and they came back improperly calibrated. The company took them back and recalibrated them. The car's been fine since," Policz said.

Brian Huchko of McDonald won the Sportsmen Division Feature over Charlier. Charlier had quite an evening, jumping from one car to another in separate divisions. He was in first place but shredded a tire. By the time he got to the pits and his crew changed the tire, he was a lap back. Miraculously, he fought back up to second but couldn't catch Huchko.

Bill Tennant won another Four Cylinder Division Feature over Eric Reynolds in Herbie The Love Bug (photo, right). The Volkswagon Beetle is a crowd favorite but this is the highest it's ever placed.

Kierstan Chernik, another of the growing number of young women driving, won the Young Guns (Teenage) Division Feature over Logan Koteles. It was Chernik's first feature win.

This Saturday all the usual divisions will race, but attention will focus on the annual Red Miley Rumble, a 30 lap Limited Late Model Feature.

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Sacred Heart Holds Off AA Apollo Ridge 28-22

Sacred Heart, ranked third in Class A, stepped up to AA Friday to take on Apollo Ridge, a two hour bus ride from home. On a hot, steamy night, the Chargers scored a 28-22 upset, but just barely. A wild 4th quarter Apollo Ridge rally almost pulled off a miracle, but fell 10 seconds and 20 yards short.

The game was played because both teams had opponents cancel out of their opening games. So they decided to play each other. Since Sacred Heart already had five homes game, they volunteered to make the long drive.

The teams played on even terms for most of the first quarter until B. J. Vaughn intercepted a pass on the 49 yard line (photo, right --- OLSH is in the white jerseys and he's coming down with the ball just above the official) and ran it all the way in for a touchdown. The Billy Fryer PAT made it 7-0 at 4:19.

The teams traded possessions until Apollo Ridge blocked a Sacred Heart punt for a first down on the OLSH nine yard line. It looked like the Vikes would score but two plays later Brady Brazell stripped the runner and recovered the ball to give the Chargers the ball on their 10. A pass to Ziggy Macintosh, a run by Stephen Greer, and a pass to Gunnar Kiefer put OLSH on the AR 48. Dereon Greer caught the next pass on the 20 and ran it in for 13-0. The PAT was blocked. Again the teams exchanged possessions, until Stephen Greer ran one in from the 40 with 7:33 in the second quarter. MacIntosh caught the pass on a slant pattern for two on the PAT for 21-0.

Apollo Ridge got on the board at 5:49 on a 10 yard run by Nick Curci. Jacob Mull kicked the PAT. Then, with 1:48 in the third, Karter Shrock scored on a 19 yard run, and Mull kicked the PAT for 21-14.

Nehemiah Azeem scored on a keeper with 10:51 in the fourth to put the Chargers up 28-14. It looked like OLSH would cruise home, but players on both sides began cramping up from the sauna like conditions with high heat and humidity.

It was when Apollo Ridge's Landon Harmon scored on a one yard run with 10 seconds to go and Shrock passed to Gage Johnston for two points to cut it to 28-22 that things got tight. An onside kick gave A-R possession on the 40. Shrock ran it to the OLSH 20. But the Vikings were out of time outs and the clock expired before they could run another play.

Azeem completed 10 of 16 passes for 171 yards and overall turned in an excellent game. Greer at running back, Fryer on the PATs and the entire defense for three and a half quarters looked impressive. But Coach Dan Bradley was not happy with the last several minutes, when suddenly the Vikings were passing and running at will.

The Chargers play two more Class AA opponents : Riverside next week and Beaver Falls the following Friday. Then they drop down to Class A for their Big Seven Conference schedule.

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Pierce, Henderson Lead Cornell In Scrimmage

Freshman Center Jamarcus Pierce and Senior Running Back Timmy Henderson (photo below) played leading roles as Cornell wound up its preseason preparations with a Thursday evening scrimmage against Ellwood City.

The scrimmage was not a game conditions match. Instead the coaches agreed to use the other common format of 10 possessions for each team.

Cornell won a coin toss and went on offense first.

The biggest question mark was how the undersized Pierce would perform. Facing taller, heavier and experienced seniors at Center and the other interior line positions, could he snap the ball accurately and then come off the ball to protect the quarterback? As the photo at right shows, Pierce turned in a great performance. He's #78, in the middle of the photo with the blue undershirt showing. He has made a perfect snap, as you can see with the ball arriving at exactly the right height for QB E.J. Dawson to pass or hand off. Then you can see Pierce coming out of his stance and blocking the opposing Center.

He did this all evening, without a single bad snap and not a single opposing lineman getting past him into the Cornell backfield. After the problems Cornell had with the center position last season, this was a huge relief to the Cornell coaching staff.

It allowed Dawson to get the ball to Henderson, who dominated the first half. He broke loose for four touchdowns, two from the 50 and two from the 40 yard lines. Ellwood was unable to match his speed.

And he wasn't the only Cornell runner. Junior Raequan Troutman and freshman Walter Clarit peeled off 60 yarders. Troutman has been a reliable runner and receiver for two years and was expected to stand out this season. Clarit first achieved fame as a Little League baseball player (the "Basepath Bandit") in 5th and 6th grades, then focused on football in 7th and 8th grade and excelled there. He was thought to have potential but no one expected him to show it so soon. He gives Cornell yet another dangerous runner to add to a deep and talented ground attack. In two scrimmages Cornell's speed has allowed it to outscore Avella 55-0 and Ellwood City 42-0.

But what impressed Cornell's coaches the most was its defense. Not only was Ellwood unable to score, the Wolverines had trouble getting past the line of scrimmage. Their blockers were bigger and heavier than Cornell but were unable to keep tacklers from reaching the runners.

Quarterback E.J. Dawson contented himself with handing off and passing, but showed solid game management skills.

Best of all, Cornell committed almost no errors. The Raiders were called for three penalties, threw one interception and missed a few assignments. But those were partially due to Dawson's playing his freshmen and sophomores for half the plays to get them as much experience as possible.

The photo at right shows Dawson (# 3) handing off to Troutman (#4).

Scouts in the stands from future opponents found plenty to worry about. "They've got more speed than they've had. I don't think they had this much speed even during that great 2019 seaon," one said. "And they've all got that speed. Defenses are going to have a hard time keying on any one player."

"Their defense worries me," said another. "Their defensive starters all seem to be really quick and they really swarm the runner. It looks to me like they're going to force teams to pass, but down here in Class A very few teams have a strong passing attack."

Coach E.J.Dawson was still very cautious. "We have a lot of work to do," he told reporters afterward. "We've got to read situations faster and better, and we've got to stay focused. Our timing can get a lot sharper. We'll try to have a good week of work next week before our game with Mohawk next Friday."

Mohawk is a huge game. It's another AA school, from the same Midwest Conference as Ellwood City. Mohawk will be favored but it's an upset Cornell could pull off. A loss would not count against Cornell in Class A but a win would enhance the Raiders chances for an at large WPIAL bid.

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Dawson "Cautiously Optimistic" For 2021

Coaching football at the smallest public high school in Pennsylvania fielding a football team is a never ending challenge. Two years ago Coach Ed Dawson's Raiders won the conference title and reached the WPIAL semis as three players earned college scholarships. Last year, under severe COVID restrictions, Cornell dropped to 1-7. What 2020 revealed was that to work his magic at a small school, Dawson needs a strong offseason, lots of time in the weight room, and daily conferencing with players to keep them focused. When he didn't have it, since for much of the year students weren't even in school, things fell apart.

This year, as Pennsylvania gradually moves past COVID, Cornell again had a strong off season. "We had a good year in the weight room," Dawson says. "Everyone was focused."

Junior running back and wide receiver Raequan Troutman agreed. "Last year hurt," he recalled. "I never want to go through that again. We all worked hard all Winter, Spring and Summer to make sure we're better prepared."

Troutman (photo, bottom right) is one of the reasons Dawson is "cautiously optimistic" about 2021. He was a reliable runner and receiver as a freshman and sophomore and is now positioned for a breakout junior year. He scored two 85 yard run TDs in '20 and is both fast and elusive.

Dawson (photo, left) returns a solid core from last year. Starting at quarterback will be his son, E.J. (photo below). Although E.J. is probably a natural fullback and is the leader of the defense, he gained valuable experience at QB last season. "He's pretty efficient," Dawson says of his son. "He's become a good game manager. He doesn't panic. He's really improved on when to throw and where to place the ball. His decision making is speeding up. He's really solid."

Backing up E.J. is Sincere Kimbrough, probably the team's best all round athlete, who plays linebacker, quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Kimbrough has a cannon for an arm and has fired pinpoint 65 yarders in practice. But he's a transfer from Brashear and doesn't know the playbook quite as well as E.J. His athleticism makes him dangerous any time he has the ball in his hands.

Senior running back Timmy Henderson is a reliable threat to pick up several yards on every carry and can break loose for longer runs several times a game.

Micah Dickerson returns for his senior season as both a dangerous running back and the team's punter. He is a reliable runner, but his punting needs improvement. If he can kick further and more accurately place the ball away from the opponent's best runners, he can give Cornell a powerful weapon.

Completing Cornell's receiver corps are veteran Shamar Wilson and sophomore Drevon Newton, who also plays on the offensive line.

Key to this attack, however, is the Center position. Last year this was a major problem. Dawson runs the Shotgun offense, which requires a good passing center. The ball must be delivered on cue, into E.J.'s hands. Last year it often sailed over his head, off to the side, or fell at his feet. Sometimes fumbles resulted. Sometimes he would recover the ball but be tackled for loss. Even when he recovered quickly, the play was blown.

To solve this problem, Jamarcus Pierce will start at Center. Pierce is only a freshman, but has been centering the ball precisely through weeks of practice and one scrimmage. Pierce (photo below) will be undersized and inexperienced, and whether he can block opposing linemen remains to be seen, but if he can deliver the ball precisely, that alone will be a tremendous contribution.

E.J. must have time to pass or hand off. Cornell does have some size on the offensive line. Junior Cagney Smith and senior Jerome Brown anchor that line.

Another major contributor this year should be M.J. Smith, a proven extra point kicker who might also handle other kicking duties.

Last year a young, inexperienced Cornell beat itself in half its games. It ran up 150 yards of penalties a night, and most of them were avoidable mistakes : too many men on the field, delay of game, offsides, late hits, and other errors of immaturity. Cornell also led the Big Seven Conference in fumbles, mostly due to sloppy center snaps, but many due to awkward handoffs. If the Raiders can just eliminate those issues, they will become much more competitive.

The Raiders ran over Avella 50-0 last week in their first preseason scrimmage, but Dawson isn't sure what to make of that. "I don't know how good they are," he cautioned. "And they didn't have a lot of size."

That won't be a problem with this week's scrimmage opponent, Ellwood City. The Wolverines, who compete in AA against teams like Beaver Falls, have plenty of size, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. This will provide a good test for young Pierce at Center, but will also see how good Cornell's O and D lines really are.

On the O-Line will be C.J. Poulford, Smith, Damare Brough, Jaimere Jones, and Eric Dennis. On D-Line will be Poulford, Dickerson, Smith, and Dennis. Dawson and Henderson are linebackers, with Troutman and Wilson back in the secondary. Cornell's defense was strong last year and eight of the 11 starters return.

The Raiders have depth. The roster shows 32 players, which for a Class A school is strong. The best of the class A schools, such as Clairton and Jeannette, have 40, but many struggle with less than 20, and the average is between 22-25. And many of the younger players, even though they're only freshmen, came up through four years in Cornell's solid youth football program.

Rochester looms as the heavy favorite in the Big Seven Conference. The Rams reached the WPIAL semis last year and return most of the team. But Shenango, Burgettstown and Sacred Heart should battle Rochester for the conference's three automatic bids. Cornell will have to upset at least one of those to join that battle. Bishop Canevin has been moved to another conference, and Sto Rox has moved up to Class AA. Cornell's best chances for wins appear to be Northgate, Jefferson Morgan and Union. It needs to upset Fort Cherry and Mohawk to reach five wins and even qualify for an at large bid. But whichever of the four contenders does not win an automatic bid will be the main prospect for that at large bid. So Cornell needs to beat at least one of those to place itself in consideration.

The schedule is favorable. It includes five home games. Four of the first five are home. The easier games come first, giving the Raiders time to score wins, gain experience and build momentum before hitting the brutal stretch of Burgettstown-Rochester-Sacred Heart, all away, in October. The Schedule : Thur, Aug 26 : Ellwood City (Scrimmage) Home. Fri, Sept. 3: Mohawk Home. Fri, Sept 10 : Jefferson Morgan Home. Fri, Sept 17 : Northgate Home. Fri, Sept 24 : Shenango Away. Fri, Oct 1 : Union Home. Sat, Oct 9 : Burgettstown Away. Fri, Oct 15 : Rochester Away. Fri, Oct 22 : Fort Cherry Home. Fri, Oct 29 : Sacred Heart Away.

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Policz Holds Off Charlier In Late Models

Ben Policz held off Daryl Charlier for almost the entire race to win the Limited Late Model Feature at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway on a balmy moonlit Saturday night.

Charlier, seen at right, moved up to second place and tried every strategy to pass Policz, with no success. He tried going both high and low, but Policz countered each time. There were also a battle going on behind the leaders, as Cole Petrelle, Tim Shaffer and Bill Kessler fought for third.

It was Policz's 17th career win, tying him for 8th all time at the track. "It was a great race," he said at trackside later. "Daryl was right there on my fender so I couldn't let up for a second. And we were weaving in and out around the lapped cars, which complicated things. And then when Chris Lander spun out, I didn't know if they were going to pull a yellow or not. But we were able to hang on for the win."

Charlier held his season points lead, however. The win moved Policz up to fifth place but Zach Morrow, Zach Gunn and Philip Bubeck stayed in second, third and fourth. Neither Morrow nor Gunn started the Feature but Bubeck finished only ninth so lost a golden opportunity to close the gap.

Frank Magill won the Stocks Feature in another thriller over Tyler Fox, Stephen Shelpman and Danny Rich. It was was Magill's 5th Feature win this year at the track, after a successful couple of seasons in the Young Guns Division.

"It's fun racing door to door with really good drivers," he told reporters. "We're still working the bugs out of the car, but we've been blessed with really good luck this year."

One driver who hasn't been blessed with good luck is Kayla McManus, seen at left. She finished seventh Saturday, which will help move her up slightly from 15th place. But she admitted to reporters before the race that her #OOK car suffered a bent frame in an accident last year, and they haven't replaced it because they haven't decided whether to move up to Limited Late Models or not. "If we decide to stay in Stocks, we'll take care of it," she said, "But in the meantime, it's hard to compete with these guys when your car's slightly off."

Travis Clark won the Teenage ("Young Guns") Division Feature over Cameron Hollister and Logan Koteles. It was Clark's second straight Feature win, but Koteles (#5, right) remains in first place in the season points race.

Sye Lynch of Apollo won the Winged Sprint Feature in a thrilling last second finish over Wampum's Brandon Matus. Lynch never led in the race until he squeezed past Matus in the last 100 feet coming down the final straight for the checkered flag. Long time fans said it was the best checkered flag dash they'd seen in 20 years. The photo finish was decided by six hundredths of a second.

"This track is really fast," Lynch said later. "You have to go for the lead right away, and if you don't get it, then you have to hang close and wait for an opportunity. Fortunately, I found the opportunity right there at the end. I've wanted to win here for so long but have had to settle for thirds and seconds. My Grandfather won here, my Dad won here, and finally I can say I won here."

Brian Huchko won the Sportsman Feature over Mike Harris and Nick Kocuba. The Super Modified Feature (the cars with the driver sitting in the center like an Indy Car) was won by Justin Shea over Tony Tatgenhorst and JC Boyer.

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Weldon Captures White Memorial At PPMS

Todd Weldon (photo, left) won the W.W. White Memorial Race for Sportsmen Saturday night at Pittsburgh Memorial Speedway after fighting off Nick Kocuba the whole way. Kocuba led early, but Weldon moved into first as lap three began. Kocuba grabbed the lead back briefly on the fourth and 10th laps but Weldon managed to recover it each time. Newcastle's Billyk family filled the rest of the finish, as Jacob Billyk placed third, Jackson Billyk fourth and Jacob Billyk III fifth. Kocuba leads the season points race with 620. Brian Huchko was second with 596 (124) points, Mike Harris 540 (-80), Pete Loria fourth with 401 and Tanya Charlier fifth. It was Weldon's second feature win in three weeks at PPMS.

Bill Tennant won the Four Cylinder Feature, with Lucas Weaver, Derek Quigley, April Tennant and Craig Rudolph filling out the top five. Tennant leads in season points with 688, with Rudolph second at 661, Weaver third at 611, Noah Bubeck fourth at 540 and Eric Reynolds fifth at 528.

Cole Petrelle won the Limited Late Model Feature after first taking the lead on turn two of lap six from Colton Flinner. Daryl Charlier moved up to challenge on lap 18 but Petrelle held him off. Philip Bubeck, Dan Lepro and Tom Klein rounded out the top five. Charlier still leads the season points race with 833. Zach Morrow at 801, Zach Gunn at 741, Bubeck at 736 and Kassidy Kamacher at 655 complete the top five.

Cody Koteles won his third Stocks Feature after taking the lead from Kayla McManus on lap seven. The two battled the rest of the way, often running side by side, but McManus never could quite move in front. The other high finishers were Stephen Shelpman, Frank Magill and Ben Anton. Magill retains the season points lead by a slim 13 points over Koteles, 912-899. Matt Benard at 876, Karlee Kovacs at 856 and John Cain at 849 complete the top five. But Kovacs' season is about over, as she returns to college at California University.

This Saturday, all regular divisions will be back in action, but will be joined by the Winged Sprints. Hopewell Township's Tim Shaffer (photo, right) is a local favorite in this division. A Winged Sprint car can be built for around $65,000. The $45,0000 engine produces 800+ horsepower and can hit 150 mph on straightaways, although racetrack curves require them to slow down to about 125 mph. Drivers from five states will compete Saturday. Winged Sprints are the fastest cars currently racing on dirt tracks in the U.S. They compete on a circuit and return to Pittsburgh Motor Speedway about once a month.

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Norris Takes Televised Jook George Memorial

For the second consecutive year, Michael Norris won the Jook George Memorial Feature Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Norris averaged 105.78 mph to edge Kyle Hardy in a wild 50 lapper with seven restarts.

36 Limited Late Model race teams from seven states showed up for this 32nd annual race, honoring William Thomas "Jook" George, who was a driver and then an owner who raced at PPMS and other area tracks. He won races and season titles in both roles. This year's Memorial offered a total of $21,000 in purses.

Kyle Lukon, Michael Duritsky and Daryl Charlier led or challenged for the lead through the 50 laps, but the late stage came down to a battle for first between Norris and Hardy. "I ran the middle line," Norris said later (photo, right). "I love this big track. It gives us room to maneuver. I wish they ran more big races here so I could come more often." Hardy agreed. "The track was great tonight. I wanted the high line but never could get it."

It was the first Pittsburgh Motor Speedway race to be televised live. The Lernerville TV Network (lernerville.tv), which began last year and has been televising all Lernerville races, did it as an experiment. Production was very professional and well received by viewers. The same company may televise other major races at PPMS this season.

Stephen Shelpman won the Stocks Division Feature after grabbing the lead from Cody Koteles. Shelpman averaged 87.35 mph. Koteles and Shelpman each won their qualifying heats. Shelpman had missed two weeks with a blown engine but his car and its new engine were running fine Saturday. Koteles had been leading but hit the wall and could never regain first place. Frank Magill finished 16th, so Koteles will close the 31 points he trails Magill in the season points race. Shelpman had been in 13th, 157 points back. The win will boost him into the top 10, but he's too far back to come close to the leaders.

PPMS has two other memorial races planned. This Saturday Sportsmen race in the Willie White Memorial. Stocks teams will point to the Josh Langer Memorial September 11.

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Weldon Wins Sportsman Feature At PPMS

Saturday night was Autograph Night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway, and as the aerial drone shot by Steve Skarupa at right shows, quite a few fans came down on the track to get programs, shirts and books signed by their favorite drivers. Those fans saw quite a show, too, as the top three feature races were all close, exciting and suspenseful.

Todd Weldon (photo below) started the Sportsman Feature in third but had moved into the lead by the end of the first lap. Nick Kocuba came up from seventh to grab the lead on lap four and Weldon had to regain it on lap six, holding it the rest of the way. But it wasn't easy. The race was stopped three times for wrecks and spinouts, which kept narrowing Weldon's lead. It was Weldon's first feature win of the year. Brian Huchko finished second, with Kocuba third. The win pulled Weldon up to sixth place in season points, but Kocuba still leads with 553. Mike Harris is second with 540, with Huchko third at 539.

Kyle Lukon won the Limited Late Model Feature after starting sixth. Daryl Charlier grabbed the early lead and by the end of lap two Lukon had moved into second. The race was fairly clean, with only one restart. On that restart Zach Gunn stole the lead temporarily, but Lukon grabbed it on lap seven and kept it the rest of the way. Levi Crowl was second and Gunn third.

Charlier leads the season points race with 737, with Zach Morrow second at 716, Phillip Bubeck third at 663, Gunn fourth at 661 and Ben Policz fifth at 560. Lukon is far back in the standings in 19th with 266. Saturday was his first feature win.

As usual, the Stocks Feature provided the evening's best race. Points leader Frank Magill started in sixth with rival Cody Koteles in ninth. By lap four Magill was in second and Koteles third. After a restart on lap five those two would move into first and second and battle for the lead the rest of the way, with Magill holding off Koteles.

Magill remains in first with 828 season points. Koteles is second at 797, Matt Benard third at 791, Karlee Kovacs fourth at 774 and John Cain fifth at 769.

April Tennant won the Four Cylinder Feature, and Logan Koteles the Young Guns (teenage) Feature.

This Saturday (August 7) is the 32nd annual Steel City Classic for Limited Late Models. The race, which pays $6000 to win, always draws a large field of the top cars and drivers from seven or more states. It will be live streamed. But the evening will also feature races in the other divisions.

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Koteles Wins Second Stocks Feature

Cody Koteles (photo, right) fought through three yellow caution flags and restarts to win the 20 car Stocks Division Feature at PPMS Saturday night. It was Koteles' second Feature win of the year and pulled him into second place in the season points race behind Frank Magill.

Koteles started in fifth, but took the lead on lap six. He and Magill battled the rest of the way, with Magill always on Koteles' bumper or trying to move above or below him, but Koteles held off Magill's every move.

It was payback time for Koteles, who probably would've won the Feature last week but had to pull into the pits with car trouble. He rejoined the race at the end of the field and worked his way back up to fourth but time ran out.

The top five were Koteles, Magill, Kayla McManus, Chloie Jones, and Tony Magill. The season points now stand at Magill 737, Koteles 708, Matt Benard 705, Karlee Kovacs 695 and John Cain 784.

Ben Policz fought off Daryl Charlier to win the 18 car Limited Late Model Feature. Policz started on the pole and led the entire way. Two restarts kept reducing his lead, and Mike Reft challenged during the middle laps until Charlier moved into second and spent the last three laps trying to get past Policz. The top five finishers were Policz, Charlier, Reft, Zach Gunn and Zach Morrow.

The Late Models are warming up for their upcoming 50 lap Steel City Classic on August 7.

Charlier (photo, left) still leads in season points with 660, followed by Morrow at 642, Philip Bubeck at 591, Gunn at 583 and Policz at 491.

Nick Kocuba won the Sportsman Feature, coming up from a sixth place start. He moved up to third on lap nine and second on lap 11, finally taking the lead on lap 12. Other top five finishers were Todd Weldon, Brian Huchko, Pete Loria and Mike Harris. The win gave Kocuba the season points lead with 484, followed by Harris with 481, Huchko with 469, Loria with 336 and Tanya Charlier with 265.

Hemi Kineston led the last three laps to win the Four Cylinder Feature. However, Bill Tennant still leads the season points race with 546.

The focus of the evening was on the Sprint Cars. These do not race every week at PPMS, but owner Matt Miley brings them in about once a month because fans love them, and in the hopes that eventually maybe they can become a regular division at the track. Both BOSS and RUSH cars ran Saturday. Rush Sprints is a division designed to keep prices down so the average person can afford to compete. There are tight limits on engines and parts, and cars are closely inspected at the tracks to make sure they are within these limits. A Rush Sprint can be built for $10,000 - $15,000. RUSH engines produce about 300 horsepower and hit about 100 mph. Boss engines produce 400 horsepower and hit about 110 mph. Sadly no local drivers currently participate. Most of the teams are from Ohio and Indiana. The nearest ones are from Butler, Kittaning and Evans City. Sprinters have no transmissions or starters and are pushed to start.

Saturday, Matt Westfall of Pleasant Hill, Ohio, won the BOSS 25 lap Feature. Chad Ruhlman of Erie won the RUSH Feature.

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Moon's Logan Zarin Returns Home A Winner

Frank Magill, Logan Zarin and Jeff Broniszewski won major Feature races at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night as the season reached its halfway point.

Magill (right, being interviewed) was greatly helped in his Stocks Division win as Cody Koteles had to drop into the pits during a yellow flag. Race rules mandate that anyone stopping by the pits and then reentering the race must line up in last place for the restart. Koteles had originally started far back in the 21 team field but had worked his way up to fourth. It was obvious to everyone in the stands that his car was the hottest on the track and he was going to be in second after another lap. The yellow flag would be a help, as it tightly grouped cars for the restart. A quick move underneath, a favorite Koteles technique, and he'd be challenging Magill for the lead with plenty of time remaining.

Koteles going to the back of the line gave Magill breathing room. As it was, Koteles still almost challenged him. He threaded his way through the field, as seen in the photo at left (Koteles is in #1), until he was once again fourth and within reach of Magill, whose back corner can be seen disappearing out of the photo. That's Adam Ferree in #29 and Chloie Jones in #76. Koteles has just passed Karlee Kovacs in #221K, The Pink Panther.

But time ran out. This photo is on Turn #2 of the final lap. Koteles got past #76 and was working on #29 as they crossed the finish line.

Magill averaged 92.93 mph for the race. Behind him, the other top five finishers were Ferree, Koteles, Jones and Kayla McManus. Three of the top eight finishers were young women.

The win expanded Magill's lead in the season points race. He came into the evening with a 21 point lead over Matt Benard and a 22 point lead over Kovacs and Stephen Shelpman. But Shelpman dropped out after lap #7, Kovacs finished only eighth, and Benard finished sixth.

The Stocks Division has become the most hotly contested of the five local divisions Pittsburgh Motor Speedway runs every week. (Owner Matt Miley hosts Sprints and Super Modifieds ("Modified Sportsmen") frequently and will host a Lucal Oil Unlimited Late Model race in October, but does not offer season point races in those.) 24 cars compete in the Stocks every week and the standings reshuffle after every race.

Meanwhile, Moon Township's Logan Zarin (photo, right) returned to PMS and won the Limited Late Model Feature fairly easily.

Zarin spends most weekends racing Unlimiteds ("Super Late Models") at major tracks such as Erie and Muskingum, which can afford the larger purses those cars require. But at PMS Saturday his famous white 1Z quickly moved up the field (see photo, below) and once he reached the lead he was never challenged. Zarin averaged 115 mph in the Feature race.

The rest of the top five behind him were Daryl Charlier, Zach Morrow, Zach Gunn and Ben Policz.

Zarin doesn't race often enough at PMS to be a contender in the season points race. Entering Saturday's Feature, the leaders were Charlier, Morrow, Philip Bubeck, and Gunn with Policz eighth. The standings will remain pretty much the same except Polizc will move up and Bubeck will move down.

The next time Zarin might appear at PMS will likely be August 7, when the Steel City Classic, a 50 lap Feature with high purses, will be held.

In the lower divisions, Bill Tennant won the Four Cylinder Division even though he was in a different car.

Tennant thus has the unique honor of being both first and 13th in the Four Cylinder Season Standings. This is possible because cars, not drivers, earn points at racetracks. Two different cars with Tennant listed as their driver are scoring points.

Craig Rudolph is 24 points behind Tennant at the top of the standings. Lucas Weaver, Noah Bubeck and Eric Reynolds round out the top five.

The Four Cylinder Division is certainly entertaining. It has Herbie The Love Bug, Lightning McQueen, a panel truck, and an unrecognizable vehicle with the back hatch missing.

Jeff Broniszewski of Coraopolis won the Sportsmen Feature over Todd Weldon, Brian Hutchko, Nick Kocuba and Vince Laboon. Weldon and Hutchko pursued Bronszewski for the entire race but never could quite catch him.

Broniszewski (photo, right) has won 29 victories in the Sportsmen ("Pro Stocks") but talked after the race about he's also blown three engines at PMS.

"This one seems to be holding up," he told reporters afterward. "So we're keeping our fingers crossed. We've put an awful lot of time and effort into this car."

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Koteles, Hutchko Win Stock, Sportsmen Features

Cody Koteles survived a four car battle to win the Stocks Division Feature at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night. It was his first Feature win of the season, and came just after he won his Heat race earlier in the evening. Chloie Jones, Frank Magill and Stephen Shelpman had also led the Feature race for a few laps each until Koteles finally grabbed the lead on Lap 13.

The win pulled Koteles up to sixth place in the season points race with 518. Magill still leads with 545. Matt Benard is second with 524, Karlee Kovacs and Shelpman are tied for third with 523, and John Cain is fourth with 522.

Brian Hutchko (photo, left) won the Sportsmen Feature by a wide seven second margin. The excitement in the race was in second place, where Mike Harris fought off Nick Kocuba for several laps. Hutchko is now in third place in season points with 331. Harris leads with 347. Kocuba is second with 344. Pete Loria at 204 and Chris Schneider at 147 round out the top five.

The big event of the evening was the Herb Scott Memorial for Limited Late Models. Honoring famous Western Pennsylvania driver Herb Scott, this annual classic, now in its ninth year, drew 30 cars from six states. Three massive pileups stopped the race. Jeremy Wonderling took the lead from Mike Norris on lap five and held it the rest of the way. While he has been hugely successful at other tracks across Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, this was Wonderling's first win at PMS. Results of the Scott Memorial left Daryl Charlier leading the Limited Division with 500 points. Zach Morrow is second with 486, Philip Bubeck third with 443, Zach Gunn fourth with 427 and Jake Gunn fifth with 406.

Racing will resume this Saturday at 7 pm. It's $1 Hot Dog night.

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Whitling Wins Speedway's LaBoon Memorial
Bobby Whitling fought off attacks by Chris Schneider, Daryl Charlier and Brian Hutchko to win the 10th annual Ed Laboon Memorial Race for the Sportsmen Division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday. It was a battle all the way among the 26 drivers who started. "Chris left me early and pulled out to that big lead," Whitling recalled, "but after that first restart my car suddenly came to life and we were in it from then on. Daryl came on really strong late but had that bad luck when he hit the wall trying to go high. We put softer tires on and I stayed low. This is my first ever win here. I like this track but it's never been very good to me until now. To win this special race means a lot." Whitling took home a $5017 purse, the second most of any race in the Penn Ohio Sportsmen Series. This week's Sharon Speedway purse of $10,000 for first place is the highest. Schneider, of Lower Burrell, came in second. Hutchko placed third, but was thrilled. "I'm still running my old two barrel and I didn't think I could keep up with these guys with their bigger engines. We just tried to stay off the walls and do a good job late when we had to navigate around lapped cars."

Zach Morrow of Gibsonia won the Limited Late Model Feature with an average speed of 117.29 mph. It was his first Limited Late Model win at PMS but he'd won several features in previous years while racing Sprint Cars. He had come close last week, placing second to Daryl Charlier in the LLM Feature. Joe Martin and Jake Gunn finished second and third, with Charlier fifth. The win should put Morrow first in the season point standings. He was third last week, only four points behind Charlier and Dan Lepro, but Charlier finished fifth and Lepro 16th.

The Limited Late Models will race each Saturday night but their big midyear feature will be the annual Herb Scott Memorial on July 3rd. The 40 lapper pays $4000 to win. It will carry additional points so should go a long way toward clarifying the season points competition.

These are the cars, often nicknamed "Crates," that use a sealed engine crews cannot open and tinker with, and various other standardized parts such as shocks and transmissions. Cars are inspected at the track to make sure rules are being followed. The idea is that it keeps costs down and levels the playing field so wealthier racing teams cannot overwhelm opponents by simply outspending them. Driving skills thus become more important than the cars, which are all approximately identical.

Down in the Stocks Division, Frank Magill won for the second week in a row, holding off Matt Benard (#15 at right) of Oakdale, who finished second, and John Cain of North Versailles, who finished third. Local favorite Karlee Kovacs, in the Jailhouse Saloon Car, endured another frustrating night. Her car simply does not have the power to keep up with Magill, Benard and Cain. She started 10th and steadily worked her way up until she was 5th. But her average speed was 84.71 mph, compared to Magill's 91.80 and the others ahead of her ranging from 88 to 90. Kovacs is using her experience and talent to outperform her car, such as her third place finish last week, but she's going to have a hard time challenging Magill, Benard and Cain on a consistent basis.

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Charlier Captures PMS Late Model Feature

Daryl Charlier (photo, right pulling into Victory Lane just after the race) won the Limited Late Model Feature Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. The veteran driver averaged 107.08 en route to his 68th win and 28th in Limited Late Models. Charlier has also won features in Sportsmen and Modifieds. He won the Sportsmen Feature just Friday night at Lehrnerville.

"I usually like to run high, but tonight I was having a hard time getting a grip up there, so I eased down to the middle and just stayed there," Charlier told reporters after the race. "The car was running beautifully tonight, so thanks to my pit crew."

The race card started late because during warmup laps a car took out two light poles and they had to be replaced.

Zach Morrow, Tommy Schirnhofer, and Zach and Jake Gunn rounded out the top five, but Charlier started on the pole and led the entire way.

The win should put Charlier in first place in the early season points race. He entered the race in third, 10 points behind the lead. The win carries 86 points. Morrow was in fourth, 12 points behind, and picked up 84. Last week's leader, Dan Lepro, finished 10th.

Chris Schneider won the Sportsman Feature, averaging 97.37 mph. It's his 13th win and came in a 20 year old car.

"Our new car isn't ready yet, so we're running this old one. But she's doin' fine for us. I thought the track was smooth and slick and not a bit dusty."

Behind Schneider, Noah Brunell, Ricky Kugel, Nick Kocuba and Brian Huchko rounded out the top five.

Sportsmen drivers now point to the 10th annual Ed Laboon Memorial Classic coming up June 5th. With a $5,000 first place purse, the Laboon Memorial will attract the best Sportsmen racing teams in 12 states.

But Kocuba and Huchko were the big winners in the season point ranks. Kocuba had been tied for first and Huchko had been third, 15 points behind. They picked up 68 and 67 points, respectively, and the others in the top five finished far back or did not finish.

Frank Magill held off Cody Koteles and Karlee Kovacs to win the Stocks Feature. This is the last major division still using actual stock cars, although they've had safety equipment like roll bars, performance parts like shocks, brakes, etc, added, and the engine upgraded and tuned to racing quality. This is also the most hotly contested division at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway this season.

Magill led the whole way, but barely. Chloie Jones went out on Lap 2 with mechanical issues and Tony Magill moved up to challenge. The Magills battled in laps 1-6, until Kayla McMahan hit the wall and limped into the pits. On the restart, Koteles moved up and battled Magill the rest of the way. Kovacs, Matt Benard and Adam Ferree spun out in a tangle on Lap 11. Kovacs recovered and shot forward on the restart to dart from 7th to 3rd, from where she spent the rest of the race trying to catch Magill. John Cain and Ben Anton finished 4th and 5th.

"I just held the top line," Magill said after the race. "With 24 cars, there's a lot of banging going on, and I tried to stay above it."

The win left Magill leading the season points standings with 280. Kovacs is in second with 272. Behind them are Benard, McMahan, Koteles and Cain.

Matt Kiesel won the Four Cylinder Feature, and Logan Koteles won the Young Guns (teenage) Feature.

Justin Shea won the Modified Division Feature. All entries were from Ohio, New York and other parts of Pennsylvania. The important thing about this race was not who won, but that local fans got to see this "new" type of car, which is growing in popularity elsewhere. As can be seen in the photo at left of Shea and his car, these are a radical departure from the traditional dirt track racer. Drivers are centered, like in an Indianapolis or Open Wheel car. Rush is pushing this division as an affordable option for teams who want to compete at a high powered level but can't afford it. Rush Modifieds are standardized. They all use the same General Motors 602 cubic inch engines. They're sealed at the intake manifold, cylinder heads, front cover and oil pan, and officials check before and after races to make sure the seals have not been broken. They all use the same Holly 650 cfm carburetor, $135 Bilstein shocks, 86" Hoosier racing tires, and nine feet by five feet frames. All these components are bought from RUSH at discount prices. So no team can outspend any other team. All cars are close to equal. Driving skills and pit crews should be the only determinants of success. Owner Matt Miley will bring these cars to Pittsburgh once a month this year. The reluctance of local teams to make the change is the investment they already have in their existing cars.

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Lepro, Kocuba, McManus Win Features

Dan Lepro of Midway picked up his first Limited Late Model Feature win of his career Saturday night at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Lepro, who in 2020 moved up from Go Kart racing, averaged 114.37 mph in winning the race over Ben Policz, Zach Morrow, Daryl Charlier and Bill Kessler, who battled him all the way. The photo at right shows Speedway owner Matt Miley congratulating Lepro. Ricky Steigerwald of Moon and Eric Hamilton of Imperial finished 7th and 11th. Lepro, who was nominated for Rookie Of The Year last year, admitted "The oil pressure gauge worried me the whole way." But he was elated. "This is only our second season in this car. A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into getting it ready."

Kyle Lukon of Burgettstown and Logan Zarin of Moon skipped PMS action Saturday to enter the big Limited Late Model stakes races at Erie Speedway. Lukon won their Heat with Logan third. In the Feature Lukon finished 8th and Lukon 10th.

Nick Kocuba of Burgettstown (formerly of Imperial)won the Sportsman (which RUSH insists on calling "Pro Stocks" even though the cars are neither pro nor stock) Feature after dueling with Brian Huchko for 10 laps. While trying to pass Bill Slade, Huchko hit the wall and had to enter the pits. Huchko is back in Sportsmen this year after several years in the E-Mod Division, mostly at other tracks. He returned to the race and was able to work his way back up, but could finish only 5th. Kocuba, who averaged 108.32 mph, has a pit crew of his Dad and brother Ryan. Close behind Kocuba were Mike Harris, Al Poljak and Slade.
In the Hobby Stocks Feature, which so far is 2021's most hotly contested division, Kayla McManus, in her newly repainted 00K, won with an 89.56 mph average. It was a wild race, with numerous snarls, spinouts and restarts. McManus sharpened her skills in the Young Guns (teenage) Division, and has moved up to Hobby Stocks this year. "It was rough," she told reporters afterward. "We were knocked and banged around quite a bit, but there were 22 cars out there, so that's to be expected." Three of the top six starters were young ladies. Chloie Jones, moving up to cars at age 17 after several years in motorcycles, finished fourth. Longtime local favorite Karlee Kovacs started sixth and exploded from the starting flag to squeeze into third, but on turn 3 hit a massive snarl and had to stop by the pits. She came back but could only finish 13th.

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Post Covid Era Begins At Speedway

Yes, people are still wearing masks, washing their hands often and social distancing. But as everyone gets vaccinated and the threat of COVID slowly recedes, sports events are returning to normal. Saturday night, Pittsburgh Motor Speedway opened 2021 with a full slate of heats and features.

Most of the old favorites were there, and a few new drivers joined the competition. Logan Zarin of Moon Township picked up right where he ended last year, by finishing second in the Limited Late Model Feature. Zarin, in 1Z (the white car below), started 17th but steadily worked his way up through the 20 car field amid a series of wrecks and restarts. Kyle Lukon of Burgetttstown won the race. Other high finishers were 3. Mike Reft, 4. Cole Petrelle, 5. Dan Lepro, 6. Zach Gunn, 7. Tony White, and 8. Bill Kessler.

Noah Brunell of New Alexandria won the Sportsman Feature (now referred to as "Pro Stocks") with Burgettstown's Nick Kocuba second. These cars now race as part of the Penn Ohio Circuit, which includes Pittsburgh and tracks in Pennsylvania, Ohio and western New York. Points earned at any of the tracks count toward the Penn-Ohio season championship.

Stephen Shelpman of Pleasant Hills won the Hobby Stocks Feature, barely holding off a gang attack by Adam Ferree, Frank Magill and Karlee Kovacs. Kovacs, a California State University graduate from Carnegie, is now an American Eagle sales rep during the week while she waits for a local teaching position to open up. That's her in #221 below. She slid into second a few times during the race and held third for most of the laps, but lost out on the final lap to Magill. Shelpman started 4th but after a restart after lap one he movcd up to grab the lead although he had to fight off Ferree, Magill and Kovacs on every lap. The Hobby Stocks, sort of the high amateur division, drew 20 cars for this season opener and treated the audience to two exciting heats and one very competitive feature. Many of its drivers and pit crews have a decade of experience behind them. This could be one of this year's best divisions.

Kyle Janas of Groveton had a frustrating night. He led his Four Cylinder Division heat for a while but lost it on the final lap to Bill Tennant. Then, in the Feature, he started third and battled Tennant for the lead for a while but was forced out by car trouble with two laps to go.

Cameron Hollister of McDonald won the Young Guns (teenage) Feature over Cameron Lambert of Mars. Lambert started on the pole and led for a while but blew a tire. His pit crew got it changed and he returned to the race but never could regain the lead.

This Saturday (May 8th) the usual divisions will race plus the visiting Sprint Cars. The first race will begin at 7 pm and the last one usually ends around 10 pm.

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Fort Cherry Ends Cornell Misery 41-6

2020 will go down in history as the season Cornell would just as soon forget. Having graduated a corps of great seniors from a conference championship team, Coach Ed Dawson needed a strong off season to bring his sophomores and freshmen up to speed. Thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, he didn't get any off season. Then, with no off season and a very inexperienced lineup, he needed a couple of early nonconference games to work on execution and timing. He didn't get those, either, thanks to WPIAL and PIAA rulings that shortened the season and allowed only conference games. So Cornell faced a series of senior loaded conference opponents and suffered through onesided losses.

Friday night, Fort Cherry ended the Raider suffering with a 41-6 pounding. The Raiders hung on during the first quarter, giving up only one three yard touchdown run by Chase Belsterling and the PAT kick by Nasier Sutton for a 7-0 deficit.

But Fort Cherry won the game with a three touchdown second quarter for a 27-0 halftime lead. Maddox Trusche ran from the 12, Belstering ran 93 yards from the opposite seven, and Jake Tkach threw a 19 yard pass to Sutton. The PATs were all kicked by Sutton. Tkach and Connor Kazares scored the two second half touchdowns on one yard runs.

Raequan Troutman scored Cornell's only TD on a 78 yard kickoff runback but the game was already out of reach.

So Cornell turns its attention to 2021. The Raiders will be strong. They'll have a battle hardened quarterback in E. J. Dawson and two legitimate stars at running back in Amere Hibbler and Troutman. They'll have experience on the line and on defense. They'll still be young, with mostly juniors and sophomores, but they'll be a contender.

Meanwhile, next week, Shenango and Rochester will represent the Big Seven Conference in the WPIAL playoffs, while OLSH could receive an at large bid.

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Rochester Wins In Second Quarter, 35-7

Rochester scored 21 points in the second quarter and went on to a 35-7 win at Cornell Friday night in the last 2020 home game for the Raiders.

Amere Hibbler (#2 in photo at left) scored the only Cornell touchdown on a 58 yard run, also in the second quarter. M.J. Smith kicked the extra point. At that point, Cornell was still in the game at 21-7.

But Rochester, which two weeks ago blasted Sacred Heart and is headed for a showdown next week at Shenango for the Big Seven Conference championship, just had too much offense for the young, rebuilding Raiders. Rashawn Reid opened the Ram scoring with an 11 yard run. Sal Laure ran in the next two TDs, one from the 16 and one from the four. Danny Robinson scored on a 45 yard run, and, in the fourth quarter, Laure added a 10 yard run. Adam Schurr kicked the PAT after all five TDs.

Cornell is now out of contention for a post season bid but finishes the season next Friday at Fort Cherry, which lost a shootout to Union 43-42.

Sacred Heart lost to Shenango 45-21 Friday, so is also out of contention. The seven game WPIAL season, shortened by COVID-19, concludes early this year to allow for an abbreviated playoff series.

Burgettstown Rolls Over Cornell 29-14

Burgettstown held Cornell scoreless for three quarters and hammered the Raiders deeper into the hole 29-14 Friday night at Frank Letteri Stadium.

Cornell is now 1-4 on this pandemic shortened seven game season with only two games remaining. The Raiders play fourth ranked Rochester at home Friday and travel to Fort Cherry (2-3) a week later. They won't be favored in either contest.

Both Cornell scores came on spectacular runbacks. Tim Henderson (#7, in photo at left) ran one Burgettstown kickoff back 75 yards for a touchdown, and Micah Dickerson ran one back 52 yards for a TD. Cornell went for two after both scores. On the first, E.J. Dawson's pass was incomplete. On the second, Dawson ran it in for two points.

But it was too little too late. By the time of Henderson's electrifying run, Cornell was down 22-0. Burgettstown then scored again as Jackson Larocka passed 25 yards to Cole Shergi. William Craig kicked the extra point to make it 29-6.

Shane Kemper opened the scoring way back in the first quarter with a one yard run. The kick failed and the Blue Devils led 6-0. Burgettstown caught Cornell in its end zone for a safety and led 8-0. There was no scoring at all in the second quarter so Cornell was still just one TD (and two point PAT) down at halftime. But Burgettstown scored in the third quarter as Kemper caught a 25 yard pass from Larocka and then ran in the extra point for a 16-0 lead. Early in the fourth, LaRocka ran it in from the one for that 22-0 edge. The kick failed.

The win was slight consolation for Burgettstown, which had been a contender for several years in Class 2A, with 21 straight regular season wins, 15 straight conference wins, and five straight playoffs. When declining enrollment dropped it to Class A, the Blue Devils were expected to win the Big Seven Conference and challenge Clairton and Jeannette in the playoffs. It hasn't worked out that way. Burgettstown is only 2-5.

Cornell is also suffering a disappointing season. The Raiders are rebuilding after last year's championship, but they expected to finish at least 4-3 and maybe contend for an at large bid. COVID-19 doomed that by preventing Cornell from practicing enough.

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Cornell Loses In Overtime To Union 20-18

The inability to score extra points after touchdowns has been a problem with Cornell all year, and even back into last year. It's been a time bomb waiting to cost the Raiders a game.

Friday night, it did.

The Raiders scored three touchdowns at Union, which should have been 21 points and a victory. But they could not add the PAT after any of them and lost 20-18.

It took a while. The game went into overtime, the first for Union since 2001 and possibly the first ever for Cornell.

No one scored in the first quarter. Cornell struck first in the second period on a 48 yard punt return by Tim Henderson (#7 in photo at right). Later in the quarter, Union's Tyler Staub pushed in from the one yard line to tie it at 6-6.

In the third quarter, Amere Hibbler caught a 28 yard pass from E. J. Dawson (# 3 in photo below) to put the Raiders up 12-6.

With 3:36 left in the fourth quarter, Union's Jackson Clark went in from the four yard line to tie it at 12-12. He made the two point conversion, but a holding penalty nullified it. Union's second attempt failed. The Scotties kicked off to Cornell and were called for a horsecollar tackle, which gave the Raiders the ball on the Union 29. But on third down, Dawson's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Union's Anthony Nealy. That gave Union possession on its own 20 but the Scotties could not score and the game went to overtime.

Cornell won the toss and gave Union the first possession. Clark carried it in from the five and then ran in the PAT for a 20-12 lead. But the Raiders weren't done. On their first play from scrimmage, Henderson ran it in for the TD cutting the lead to 20-18. So it all came down to the PAT. Cornell tried a run, but it failed, and the game was over.

The loss was devastating for Cornell. It dropped the Raiders to 1-3 and ended their hopes for an at large bid to the playoffs. They return home to face Burgettstown Friday night. The Blue Devils lost to Shenango 48-7 Friday. They have also lost to OLSH 41-0 and Rochester 29-7, and beat Fort Cherry 27-22. Union plays OLSH this week at Moon Stadium.

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Zarin Finishes Second In Regular Season Finale

Logan Zarin of Moon Township concluded a strong late season rally to finish second in the 25 lap Late Model Feature at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway to wrap up the 2019 regular season. Zarin finished 5th in the points race, won by Ben Policz in Car 14B. In the Four Cylinder Division, Kyle Janas of Forest Grove (above Groveton) finished third in the Feature race and third in the regular season standings. Karlee Kovacs finished fourth in season points in the Hobby Stocks.

This Friday is the Bill Hendren 100 for Limited Late Models. Saturday is the Lucas Oil Pittsburgh 100 with a $20,000 first place purse. This is the biggest dirt track weekend of the year in the Pittsburgh area, drawing Limited and Unlimited Late Models from Florida to Texas to California. The closest to NASCAR dirt track racing gets, the Pittsburgh 100 features $100,000 cars hauled around in semi cabs and air conditioned trailers costing more than the car. The entire weekend is quite a show.

Robin Gilligan

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Watkins-Led Shenango Embarasses Cornell 68-14

It was supposed to be a battle for a WPIAL playoff spot, but apparently the Cornell Raiders missed the memo. In the words of their Coach, Ed Dawson, "We didn't show up. We had no passion. No pride. We let this team come in here and run all over us on our home field."

Shenango, which returned every starter on both offense and defense, has been in 2A but was dropped to 1A this year. They were older, bigger and stronger at every position than the young, rebuilding Raiders, which are mostly sophomores and freshmen. They were led by senior quarterback Reis Watkins (#4 in photo at right), a 6-3, 220 college prospect who ran for 199 yards on 20 carries and scored six touchdowns. That's sophomore Raequan Troutman tackling Watkins in the photo while sophomore E.J. Dawson (#3) looks on, but the Raiders didn't succeed in bringing down Watkins very often.

In all, Shenango totalled 373 yards of offense while Cornell managed 71. The Raiders still shot themselves in the foot with fumbles and false start, delay of game and offside penalties. Their problem with center snaps continued. Cornell lines up in a shotgun with Dawson 3-5 yards back. The snap is repeatedly too high, either over his head or requiring him to reach up for it, or too low, either bouncing off the ground or requiring him to reach down for it. Sometimes he has to turn and chase the ball down. At the least, this ruins the timing of the play, and at worst, it results in a fumble recovered by the opponent.

It didn't take long for these problem to occur Friday. Cornell received and took over on its 28. A high snap lost the Raiders two yards. A delay of game lost them five more. A low snap gave the defense time to get to Dawson and rush his pass, which fell incomplete. So they punted.

Shenango took over on the 50. A Cornell offside penalty and four runs put the ball on the eight, from where Watkins ran it in. Aidan Johnson kicked the PAT and Shenango was up 7-0 with 5:56. Johnson would kick eight PATS and would have kicked two more had Shenango's coach not ordered him to take a knee after the last two touchdowns.

Cornell took over on its 28. Two passes to Caleb Dunn and a keeper by Dawson moved the ball out to the 42, where a high snap resulted in a fumble. Shenango took over, ran two plays, and Watkins ran it in from the 29 for 14-0 at 2:46.

Cornell took over on its 20. A high snap forced Dawson to fall on it at the 13, and the Raiders had to punt. Shenango started on its own 47 as the quarter ended and five plays into the second Watkins bulled in from the seven for 21-0. Raiders were beginning to hang their heads and needed a glimmer of hope. They got it with Raequan Troutman's spectacular 85 yard kickoff runback for a touchdown with 7:25. MJ Smith's PAT made it 21-7.

Cornell, flushed with enthusiasm for a big comeback, gambled with an onside kick. It didn't work, and Shenango recovered on its 49. On the next play Watkins ran 51 yards to make it 28-7 with 6:28.

It got worse fast. Cornell took over on its 20. A false start moved it back to the 15. A high snap allowed Shenango to recover on the two, and on the next play Watkins bulldozed in to make it 35-7 with 4:50.

Cornell took over on its 25 but a penalty immediately moved it back to the 15. Three incomplete passes forced a punt and Shenango took over on the Cornell 45. Four plays later Watkins ran 15 yards to make it 42-7 with 1:39.

Cornell was on the 50 and driving when the first half ended.

The crowd was sparse to begin with due to COVID limits, and half of them left at halftime. Shenango played its reserves for most of the second half. Cornell bad snaps, fumbles and penalties continued. A beautiful 50 yard Amere Hibler run was nullified by a holding penalty. Jamal Bigstaff ran 65 yards for a fourth quarter Raider TD and MJ Smith made the PAT for 62-14 with 10:12. But even then Shenango wasn't done. Their JVs scored a final TD with 3:19.

Cornell plays at Union this Friday. Both teams are 1-2 and the computer ranks the game a tossup. The WPIAL will take two teams from each conference and two at large teams to the playoffs, so a team with two losses could still qualify but a team with three losses will be eliminated. Shenango, meanwhile, is 2-0 and plays Burgettstown (1-2) Friday.

Kevin Edwards

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OLSH Mercy Rules Burgettstown, 41-0

No one expected this. Burgettstown has been quite a power in Class 2A for the last decade. In just the last few years, the Blue Devils have run up 21 straight regular season wins, 15 straight conference wins, and five straight playoffs. They've lost two games in three years, both in the playoffs. Due to an enrollment decline, they were dropped down to Class A this year, and were considered an immediate title threat, being ranked #3 behind Clairton and Jeannette. Sacred Heart returned talent and experience from last year, and were considered the strongest team Burgettstown would face, a probable at large entry after the Blue Devils won the conference.

But SH junior Jay Pearson made it clear from the kickoff that 1A was no step down in competition. He took the kick and ran it back 92 yards for a TD. The OLSH defense forced a punt, and on the second play Neimiah Azeem passed to Pearson for an 80 yard TD run. Again Burgettstown stalled and punted, and Azeem passed 32 yards to Pearson for the third TD. Another Burgettstown stall and punt, and after a short drive Azeem carried in from the two. Still in the first half, Pearson leaped over the Blue Devil defense from the one, then made the two point PAT for 35-0. In the second half, Dior Devers scored one more TD to make it 41-0.

Sadly, due to Pandemic restrictions, there were very few fans at Moon's Rip Scherer Field to see all of this. As impressive as the Charger offense was, its defense was even better. Burgettstown has a lot of weapons and is a high scoring outfit. OLSH completely shut them down.

So suddenly it's 2018 all over again. Sacred Heart is 2-0, ranked #3 in the WPIAL, and just became a heavy favorite to win the conferene and take on either Clairton or Jeannette in the playoffs. This Friday they travel to winless Fort Cherry, then next week travel to Rochester.

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Moon's Logan Zarin Surges In Late Season

Moon Township's Logan Zarin has placed first and third on consecutive Saturday night Feature Races to climb out of the teens and into fifth place in the season point standings of Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. Zarin now has 729 points, only 99 behind Michael Duritsky of Masontown. But in all likelihood, 5th is where Zarin will finish. There aren't enough races left for him to catch first place Ben Policz, who has 978, John Mollick at 898 or Bill Kessler at 836. The season didn't start until June and Zarin missed two races early. He then placed 17th, 1st, 23rd, 9th, 1st, 4th and 9th, before the 1st and 3rd finishes in September. Those two missed races plus the 17th and 23rd places are hurting now.

Other area drivers did not fare so well Saturday night. Kyle Janus of Forest Grove started first in the Four Cylinder Division but faded and came in only 11th. April Tennant of Colliers, W.Va. won. Karlee Kovacs again had a difficult time in Hobby Stocks, placing only 12th among 21 cars in their Feature. Steven Shelpman of Pleasant Hills won. Racing will resume this Saturday with a Sportsman ("Pro Stocks") Feature, plus all the usual categories.

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Cornell Wins 27-6 Despite Penalties, Fumbles

For the second straight game, Cornell's young Raiders kept shooting them selves in the foot with penalties and fumbles. But thanks to the efforts of Tim Henderson (# 7), Ameer Hibbler (#2) and Raquel Troutman (28) and the quarterbacking of E. J. Dawson (#3), the Raiders rolled to a 27-6 win over Northgate on a surprisingly chilly September night.

The scene at right was all too typical. Dawson, being tackled after a short gain, saw the ball pop loose. On this play, Henderson dove on it to save the possession for Cornell. Unfortunately, he wasn't always there, and on several occasions the Flames recovered to end strong Cornell drives.

The 150 yards of penalties hurt worse. This is a young team with mostly sophomores and freshmen. They cannot seem to get the hang of starting a play on the snap of the ball. Over and over, sometimes multiple times on the same series of downs, Cornell is called for offsides or false starts. The Raiders are also guilty of frequent holding violations.

What bails them out is their defense. This is a surprisingly strong defense, led by Dawson. The defense doesn't commit mistakes and doesn't run up penalties. They stop runners for no gain and harass passing quarterbacks.

Friday night's game was played at the old Bellevue High School field, a small but classy facility just off the main street downtown. Northgate has installed brand new, state of the art lights. Due to the Coronavirus, six feet apart seating was required and only parents and media were admitted to the actual seats. A sizeable crowd gathered along the chain link fences behind both end zones and watched from the alley and driveway. By the second half everyone including coaches had their hoods pulled up and hands in their pockets.

They saw Northgate receive the kickoff but stall after eight plays and punt. Cornell took it on its own 45 and drove to the NG 34, but penalties drove it back to its own side of the 50. With a fourth and 21, the Raiders punted. The NG receiver bobbled the ball and Jason King recovered for Cornell on the 14. A few plays later, Henderson ran it in down the right side from the four. The PAT kick was wide right and Cornell led 6-0.

Northgate took over on its 45 and drove to Cornell's 35 before stalling. Troutman moved it out to the 50 and Hibbler ran to the Bellevue 30. But penalties moved Cornell back to its own 35 as the quarter ended. The Raiders punted. NG took over on its own 23 and had ground out to its 34 when Cornell recovered a fumble. Hibler ran it to the one, and Dawson ran it in at 9:26. The pass failed for the PAT and Cornell led 12-0.

Northgate took the kickoff on its 30. Three plays later, Drew Lopez ran an interception back 35 yards at 8:16. Hibbler ran the PAT up the middle to make it 20-0.

Cornell recovered a Northgate fumble to stop the Flames and take over on their 20 with 4:03. Dawson ran it down to the 11 on a QB Keeper, but penalties moved it back and a couple incomplete passes gave it to NG on the 16. Cornell's defense pushed the Flames back to the six and forced a punt, which Henderson ran back to the NG 11 with 1:03. Hibbler ran it up the middle to the four and Dawson got to the one. A holding penalty put it back on the 15. A false start put it back even further. Dawson was irate because during the stepping off of the penalties the clock was not stopped so the Raiders never had a chance to run another play. As Cornell fans protested loudly from the stands, the half ended 20-0.

The officials could have called the game at halftime. Except for two plays nothing much happened in the second half.

Henderson scored on a spectacular 76 yard run at 8:10 and M.J. Smith's kick made it 27-0.

Northgate's Davonte Christie ran it in from the four at 3:00. The PAT run failed.

Cornell will have to play a lot better to handle Shenango this Friday. The Wildcats were only 1-9 last season but have their whole team back. They still start mostly sophomores, but have a senior at quarterback, seniors at wide receivers, and a senior center. They beat Union 25-12 last week and Fort Cherry 44-0 Saturday night. They're heavily favored over Cornell.

"We've got to eliminate those penalties," Coach Ed Dawson said after the Northgate game. "Our problem is not only are we young, but the Virus took away our off season and preseason, which is where teams work on these things and get their timing down."

He was pretty satisfied with his son E.J. at Quarterback. "He manages the game pretty well. He doesn't panic. He's pretty efficient. He's only a sophomore, so his decision making needs to speed up. And his judgement on when to throw and where to place the ball is still developing. But he's getting better every week. He's also really doing a good job on defense."

Robin Gilligan

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rsgilligan@msn.com,

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OLSH Survives Ragged Rivalry, 34-26
Photos by Tom Salvie Photography

The game wasn't supposed to be this week. As a neighborhood rivalry, it is played the last week of the season. That gives both teams two months to work out their flaws and face each other at full strength. Both coaches like to open with a nonconference opponent to get past opening game jitters.

But thanks to Covid-19, the WPIAL has reduced everyone to seven games and had the computer condense and rearrange their schedules without regard to rivalries or strength of opponents. Covid has also reduced the number of practices and affected the way coaches can conduct practices. Football is not a game which can be practiced with social distancing and everyone in masks. So here were Cornell and Sacred Heart opening against each other. The result was a ragged, sloppy game played before a very sparse crowd of parents and a few students sitting far apart at Frank Letteri Stadium. No fans were admitted and media were confined to the end zones as teams needed the entire sidelines for everyone to stand six feet apart.

The early matchup hurt Cornell the worst. The Raiders, after the greatest season in school history, a conference championship and WPIAL semifinal run, graduated its core of seniors and is rebuilding. Coach Ed Dawson has another good sophomore crop, but they need experience. His son, E. J., is at quarterback (#3 in photo, right). E.J. Friday night did a credible job. Cornell will not have the exciting pass attack of the last two years, but it won't need it. Amere Hibbler (#2 in photo, below right) and Tim Henderson (#7 in photo below left) are dangerous runners and receivers. But Dawson's line needs work, the center position is shaky (several snaps over the QB's head or on the ground stopped key drives), and the silly penalties have got to be stopped. That comes only with experience.

Sacred Heart, which won the WPIAL two years ago and rebuilt last year, is favored to win the conference this year and make another title run. Coach Dan Bradley has another high powered offense and a big, talented line on both sides of the ball. Bradley has a knack for developing quarterbacks. Now he has another legitimate talent in Jaymar Pearson, and suddenly Nehemiah Azeem gives him a second rising quarterback. To go with those two Bradley has Stephen Greer, Ryan Gehring, Bobby Brazell and Duran Smith.

The Chargers started quick, as Pearson scored on a five yard run and Gehring kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead. After the teams traded possessions a few times, Cornell blocked an OLSH punt. Hibbler ran for five yards and Henderson scampered in from the seven. MJ Smith's PAT kick tied it at 7-7 with 1:54 left in the first quarter (#23 in photo, left).

Cornell was offsides on the kickoff and had to rekick from its 35. Brazell ran it back to the Cornell 43. Bradley put Azeem in at quarterback and moved Pearson to wide receiver and running back. Greer ran to the 36 and a flag against Cornell put it on the 31. Pearson ran to the 20, then to the three, then scored from there. Gehring made the PAT for 14-7 at 0:43.

Cornell took over on its 20 but a false start penalty put it back to the 15. Hibler ran for 36, Henderson for three, then Henderson for 46 to score in just three plays. Smith's PAT was blocked, leaving OLSH up 14-13 with 11:48.

OLSH took over on its 15. Two passes to Pearson took it to the 30, then the 42. Duran Smith ran it out to the 50, and Greer ran to the Cornell 28. A flag brought it back to the 35, but Azeem passed to Greer on the 18. Another flag brought it back to the 23, but Azeem found Smith on the 17 and on the next play hit Brazell in the end zone for 20-13. Gehring's PAT made it 21-13 with 6:00.

Penalties were becoming more frequent and the rest of the half became a flag fest. Cornell took over on its 25 but a penalty put it on the 15. OLSH stopped the Raiders for three plays and Micah Dickerson punted to the Cornell 48. The Chargers incurred a penalty back to their own 42. A series of Cornell offsides penalties, a pass to Brazell and a Greer run put the ball on the one yard line, but Azeem fumbled in the backfield and Cornell took over on its own two. On the first play from scrimmage Hibler ran 98 yards to make it 21-19. Coach Dawson went for two hoping to tie the game by halftime but the pass fell incomplete.

Penalties kept either team from getting much done for the remaining two minutes of the half. The Cornell sideline was particularly unhappy with the officials. Cornell ended the half with 72 yards in penalties. But OLSH was also unhappy with at least 10 occasions on which the Raiders substituted and the departing player was late reaching the sideline, giving them 12 men on the field. None of those had been called.

Cornell opened the third quarter at its own 37. Three penalties later the Raiders punted to the OLSH 20. The Chargers then launched a 10 play, 80 yard drive. Dawson exploded when a Sacred Heart runner clearly fumbled the ball and Cornell recovered but the official ruled the runner was down. Greer ran the ball five times during this drive, including the three yard TD. Gehring's PAT made it 28-19.

Toward the end of the third, players on both sides began cramping. Pearson was also struggling with an injury, apparently a hamstring. Just before the quarter ended, Dawson again protested an obvious fumble which was ruled dead and given back to Sacred Heart.

OLSH began the 4th with Azeem running for a first and goal on the Cornell eight. Two flags pushed the Chargers back and Cornell's defense held. Cornell took over on its 22. Savon Wilson ran for eight to the 30. Then a snap over his head sent Cornell Quarterback E.J. Dawson chasing the ball down on the 17, where he fell on it. On the next play another bad snap sent him scrambling back to fall on the ball at the five. Micah Dickerson came in to punt but Cornell had 12 players on the field. That put the ball on the two. A Sacred Heart penalty moved it back out to the seven. Finally, Dickerson punted out to the Cornell 41. The Raider defense held and the Raiders took over on their 43. On the first play Dawson hit Henderson with a 62 yard pass for the TD. Smith made the PAT to close the gap to 28-26 with 5:20. Suddenly, despite the penalties, injuries, cramps and mistakes, it was a game.

This was where Steven Greer took over. He ran for 14, 29, five, and 10 for the TD. The PAT failed, but OLSH led 34-26 with 3:31. Still, Cornell had a shot. A TD and two point PAT would tie it. Hibbler opened with a 20 yard run and it looked like the Raiders might do it. Then a bad snap resulted in a fumble, OLSH recovered, and just downed the ball to run out the clock.

Bradley sees Burgettstown coming up this Friday night at Moon. He has a talented, experienced team, but it will have to play much better to beat Burgettstown, ranked third and considered the other conference title contender. The Blue Devils dropped down from Class 2A, where they've made the playoffs five straight years, won 18 straight regular season games and two conference championships. They're big, fast, quick, athletic and experienced. Bradley knows penalties, fumbles and errors will be fatal against Burgettstown.

Dawson, meanwhile, has reason for optimism. With a lineup heavily loaded with freshmen and sophomores, his Raiders last week held AA Mohawk to 12 points, being outscored only 12-6. Mohawk beat AA Ellwood City 45-0 Friday night. Then against heavily favored Sacred Heart, Cornell was in the game until the fumble with one minute left. Hibbler and Henderson have emerged as serious threats who can explode for long runs. Cornell's line held up well against a large, experienced OLSH line. Cornell travels to Northgate this Friday. Northgate lost 47-6 to Rochester Friday.

The Coraopolis Record needs an OLSH parent or fan to provide photographs for football and basketball games this season. Our student photographer for the last three years has graduated and is off to college. Repeated emails to the school have not found a student with the time, a good camera (phones are not adequate for motion at night), and the interest. Anyone interested should contact us at CoraopolisRecord@aol.com.

Kevin Edwards

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412-262-1256

1541 State Avenue

Policz Finishes First, Second In Dual Features

Ben Policz won the first feature and finished a close runnerup in the second at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway Saturday night. Kyle Lukon of Burgettstown won the second, but Lukon only races locally at high payout specials, so he is not a contender in the season points race, ranking only 45th. Policz's first and second places kept him in the season points lead, just ahead of John Mollick in car 60M (photo below). Mollick finished second to Policz in the first feature but faded to eighth in the second. The race was a battle among Lukon, Policz, Daryl Charlier, Mike Duritsky and Logan Zarin, with one then the other taking the lead. Policz did pull away twice but caution flags tightened the field back up. Logan Zarin of Moon Township placed fifth in the first feature but only ninth in the second. Justin Lamb finished 12th in both races. Bryan Hoffman could not get his car started in the first but came back to finish 30th in the second.

The Limited Late Model standings now show Policz leading, Mollick second, Zarin ninth, Lamb 19th and Hoffman 24th. Other area drivers are Tony White of Hopewell in eighth, Dave Gobel of Aliquippa 13th, Kassidy Kamicker of Aliquippa 18th, Bob Schwartzmiller of Coraopolis 25th, Tim Schafer of Aliquippa 31st, and Bobby Springer of Clinton 53rd.

In other races, Daryl Charlier of Midway won the Sportsman ("Pro Stock") feature, with Bill Robertson of Imperial fourth and Jeff Broniszewski of Coraopolis fifth.

Stephen Shelpman won the Hobby Stocks feature. Bob Betz of South Heights was fifth and Matt Benard of Oakdale sixth. Karlee Kovacs again had car trouble and drifted back to 13th.

Kyle Janas of Coraopolis finished fifth in the Four Cylinder feature. Philip Bubeck won it, with Bill Tennant second.

This Saturday Pittsburgh Motor Speedway will offer the usual race divisions plus races for the Vintage cars, old style coupes that resemble models from the 1950s and 1960s (although they include high tech modern parts).

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Schafer Wins PPMS Winged Sprint Feature

The weather finally gave Pittsburgh Motor Speedway a break Saturday and fans saw a full evening of top races.

Hopewell Township's Tim Shafer (photo, right) won the 20 lap Winged Sprint Feature. These are the 2020 version of what back in the 20th Century were called Midgets. A Winged Sprint car can be built for around $65,000. The $45,0000 engine produces 800+ horsepower and can hit 150 mph on straightaways, although racetrack curves require them to slow down to about 125 mph. Drivers from as far away as New York, Maryland and Delaware competed in the Winged Sprints Saturday night.

The Winged Sprints are the fastest cars currently racing on dirt tracks in the U.S. They compete on a circuit and return to Pittsburgh Motor Speedway about once a month. They have their own fan base, which follows them around from track to track.

Also racing at PPMS Saturday were the Rush Sprint Cars. These run with no wings. Rush Sprints is a division designed to keep prices down so the average person can afford to compete. There are tight limits on engines and parts and cars are closely inspected at the tracks to make sure they are within these limits. A Rush Sprint can be built for $10,000 - $15,000. Ther engines produce about 300 horsepower and hit about 100 mph. Rush Sprints also compete at PPMS about once a month, but sadly no local drivers currently participate. (photo bottom right)

The big race of the evening for local fans was the 20 lap Limited Late Model Feature. Ben Policz of Rices Landing won it, with Tommy Schirnhoffer of Dormont second and Cole Petrelle of Weirton third.

Moon Township's Logan Zarin in 1Z (photo, left) started 12th in the 22 car field and finished fourth. Other local drivers were Bryan Hoffman of Imperial finishing 6th, Tim Schafer of Hopewell finishing 12th, Tony White of Aliquippa finishing 15th, and Justin Lamb of Findlay Township finishing 20th.

Daryl Charlier of Midway won the 15 lap Sportsman Feature, edging out Nick Kocuba of Bulger.

 

Neither Karlee Kovacs nor Kyle Janas had a good night. Kovacs, in the Hobby Stocks Division, started 6th and had actually moved up to 3rd. But car trouble took her out. She finished 15th, especially disappointing since Kovacs was second in season point standings and might have moved into first with a high finish. Frank Magill, Stephen Shelpman and Cody Koteles finished first, second and third. Bob Betz of South Heights was fourth. Matt Benard of Oakdale was 8th.

Janas started 8th in Four Cylinders. Like Kovacs, he had moved up but sudden car trouble sidelined him. He was credited with a 9th place finish.

Weather permitting, Pittsburgh Motor Speedway will return to action this Saturday night with a full card. The major event will be the annual 33 lap Red Miley Rumble, a 33 lap feature for Limited Late Models. Combined with a 20 lap feature immediately preceding, this gives Late Models a 53 lap evening. Hobby Stocks and Four Cylinders will also run.

Fans are reminded masks are required to meet state requirements.

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Garrett Paugh Wins Herb Scott Memorial

Garrett Paugh of Elkins, West Virginia took the lead from John Mollick on the 15th lap and held it the rest of the way to win the 2020 Herb Scott Memorial at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway.

Paugh (shown celebrating atop his car, right) started third in the 30 lap feature for Limited Late Models, and took advantage of eight restarts, which kept bunching the field of 25 cars.

Moon Township's Lagan Zarin (Car 1Z, below) looked impressive in winning his Heat, but finished only 20th in the Feature.

Other locals weren't so lucky. Christian Schneider, in the 1ST of Imperial's Ken Meinecke, placed a distant 12.

 

Karlee Kovacs placed third in her qualifying heat in the Hobby Stocks division, and Kyle Janus placed fourth in his heat in the Four Cylinders. Because of the length of the Herb Scott Memorial and the award ceremony that followed, no Feature races in Hobby Stocks or Four Cylinder divisions were held. Those Features will be held Saturday night, July 25th, in addition to the regular card, meaning two Features in each division.

The Herb Scott Memorial is held every year to honor the late Herb Scott, the greatest dirt track racer in Western Pennsylvania history. Scott, operating out of a gas station in Wexford, won over 500 races and 10 Pittsburgh Racing Association season championships. Scott's duels with Joe Mihalic, Dick Linder and Buddy O'Connor drew crowds of 10,000 to racetracks at Heidelberg, South Park, Latrobe and Clairton. Scott's son presents the trophy every year.

Robin Gilligan

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Kovacs Sweeps To First and Third Finishes

Karlee Kovacs (221K in photo at right) enjoyed her best night in a disjointed season Saturday as she swept to First and Third places in a crowded Hobby Stocks field at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. 25 cars ran in two qualifying heats and 17 started the Feature. Kovacs won her heat and placed third in the Feature. Steve Shelpman won the Hobby Stocks Feature, as Matt Bernard finished ninth.

Kyle Janas and Christian Schneider were not as successful. Janas (#88 in photo below) came in seventh in his Four Cylinder heat, then had car trouble and sat out the Feature.

Schneider, driving the Ist for Ken Meinecke, placed third in his Limited Late Model heat but only seventh in the 17 car Feature. Keith Barbara won the Feature as Tony White finished 10th, Bobby Springer 15th and Logan Zarin 17th.

In other Features (in which no local drivers competed), Chuck Wolbert won in Modifieds and Jason Fosnaught in Sportsmen. The Modified Division is the Rush version of what PPMS has called Sportsmen. The Modified cars have the seat centered like an Indianapolis style racer, and use a sealed Crate engine. They are less expensive, but PPMS drivers don't want to go to them because of the investment they already have in their classic Sportsmen. The centered seat, steering column and controls mean no current Sportmen car could be used. They would have to be scrapped and all new cars built.

The Speedway was able to run Saturday night in this on again off again season, but it will be a week to week decision as the Governor or County Commissioners announce what may be open and what may close.

Kevin Edwards

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Team Meinecke Wins First 2020 LM Feature

Christian Schneider, driving for Imperial's Team Meinecke in Car 1ST (photo, right), led from start to finish and won the first Limited Late Model Feature of 2020 at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway. It took seemingly forever to get the race under way. A yellow flag on the first and third laps and another on the 10th kept bunching traffic back up, but when they finally put 10 uninterrupted laps together Schneider began to lap the field. Ken Meinecke, a longtime driver who is now an owner, looks to have spent the off season building a very powerful machine within the the RUSH legal limits. John Mollick of Toronto stayed with Schneider the whole way but could never pass him and finished second.

Justin Lamb (93X) of Findlay Township, 2018's season champion, came from a 16th place start to finish sixth. Bob Schwartzmiller, who appeared only sporadically last year, looks to have Car 28S (photo, left) running smoothly. He finished third in his heat, then started and finished ninth in the Feature. Bryan Hoffman of Imperial finished a disappointing 13th after a fourth place start.

Down in Hobby Stocks, Karlee Kovacs finished second in her heat and fourth in the Feature in her familar pink and black #221. Kovacs, who has become a fixture in the Hobby Stocks while attending high school and college, is overdue for a run at the championship this year. She's got the experience if her team can give her the car.

Matt Bernard of Oakdale finished eighth in Car #15B in Hobby Stocks.

Kyle Janus of Forest Grove Road just above Groveton has moved up. After several years in Young Guns, he's now in the Four Cylinder Division in Car # 88. He came in sixth in his heat and second in the Feature.

Racing will resume this Saturday (July 4th) at PPMS.

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DiVito Named Pennsylvania Player Of The Year

Kaden DiVito, a 5-11 guard who has starred at Cornell since the 4th grade, this week was named Pennsylvania Boys Basketball Player Of The Year.

DiVito, whose senior season was cut short by the virus pandemic, finished with 1970 points and 77 wins as a varsity player for Coach Bill Sacco.

Son of Jennifer DiVito, Kaden is also an honor student and a football and baseball player.

He filled several roles for the Raiders during his four varsity seasons. He could score prolifically when needed, as he showed with 46 points against Deer Lakes and many outputs in the high 20s or 30s. When opponents double teamed him, he could lead the team in assists. He could play the quarterback role, getting the ball to team mates in scoring position. Or he could play the defensive closer, harassing opposing shooters.

He was deadly from three point range, but if opponents came out and overplayed him, he could slash down the lane or drive the baseline. He had an explosive first step which he used to great effectiveness against taller opponents who tried to block his shots.

Out on the fast break in Cornell's run and gun attack, he was a deceptive ballhandler who could out dribble a defender to the basket or fire long passes to teammates for layups.

That ballhandling also came in handy late in games when Cornell was trying to protect a lead. Cornell employed an outside weave offense in such cases, and DiVito had to keep the ball away from defenders.

He was durable. He was often knocked to the floor, especially after going high for layups. He was also often run over while playing defense against taller opponents. But he would average 30 minutes a game, only coming out late in the fourth quarter after a win was guaranteed.

DiVito was also a reliable rebounder, leaping far higher than his height would suggest. He was good for 7-10 rebounds a game.

As a freshman and sophomore he dreamed of playing for a Division I college. When his size levelled off at 5-11 that dream faded. But his skill set will make him a formidable competitor at Washington & Jefferson.

The award came as quite a surprise when he was notified.

"I didn't even know Pennsylvania named a state Player of the Year," he told reporters. "When they called I was just shocked."

But he considers it a shared trophy. "It's really for my teammates, my coaches and the community. Without all of them, this would never have happened."

He also had the advantage of moving into the Cornell starting lineup as a freshman, which not only gave him time to build his statistics, but meant by the time he was a junior, he was battle hardened.

Having played in the WPIAL and State tournaments every year helped, too, because it meant coaches and sportswriters across the state, who vote for the award, got to see him. Cornell played in Pitt's Petersen Events Center during the WPIAL Tournament, and travelled to places like Johnstown and Clarion to play State Tournament games.

He is the first Cornell player to ever be named Player of the Year.

"It's amazing," Coach Bill Sacco said. "But he earned it. He deserves it. We wouldn't have gotten as far as we did without him."

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Cornell Trio Signs With Washington & Jefferson

The greatest trio of athletes in Cornell High School history isn't done. They have all signed to continue their careers at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. Kaden DiVito (#15 in photo below) and Isaiah Langston (#3 in photo at right) have signed to play basketball for Coach Ethan Stewart Smith. Zaire Harrison (passing the football in photo below) has signed to play football for Coach Mike Sirianni. And the three plan to room together. "We'll have a suite," DiVito explains. "We've already talked to the coaches and dorm people about it."

They could even end up playing together. DiVito and Langston were outstanding wide receivers in football. Harrison was an outstanding basketball player. All three were outstanding baseball players. At a small college, many players play more than one sport. The temptation will be there. And Harrison is not opposed. "Obviously, my first priority has to be football, and if we make it to the postseason that could go into December," he told reporters. "But after that, if the coaches agreed, I'd definitely be interested."

The coaches don't seem to have a problem. "We never shut the door on guys playing multiple sports," says Smith. "I have a great relationship with Coach Sirianni, and Coach Mountain in baseball. If that is something these guys had an interest in, we'd work with them."

Washington & Jefferson is a Division III school, which competes in the Presidents Conference against Waynesburg, Carnegie Mellon, Westminster, Geneva, Thiel, Grove City, Bethany, Case Western Reserve and St. Vincent. But it's not small time. W & J has one of the proudest football traditions in the NCAA. Its basketball teams were once strong, and have been rebuilding for the last few years under Smith.

But Washington & Jefferson is nationally known for its strong academics. It boasts small classes and all professors possessing a doctorate.

W & J is also known for its odd calendar, which features Fall and Spring semesters and a Winter semester in which each student takes only one class, 9 - 5 five days a week for a month, delving deep into some topic related to the student's major field. It has an enrollment of 1300.

A major reason DiVito signed there is its Math, Statistics & Data Analysis Department, which is ranked among the nation's top 20. He plans to major in Statistics with the hope of becoming a data analyst for an NBA or Division I college basketball program.

W & J began recruiting DiVito his junior year and became really serious in December. When he visited the campus the brand new facilities won him over. He signed in February. "It was a load off my shoulders. I could then focus on the WPIAL and State tournaments."

He then helped talk Langston and Harrison into joining him. "It had to be their decision," he insists. "But I pushed it every chance I got."

The three have played football, basketball and baseball together since grade school. They helped Cornell restore its football program, leading it from no program at all to the conference title and WPIAL semifinals. They led Cornell to four straight basketball postseasons, reaching the State Elite Eight (quarterfinals) their junior and senior years. This year's tournament was suspended due to rhe Coronavirus but Cornell was considered a serious contender to win the state title.

DiVito was named Pennsylvania's Player of the Year and was named to the First Team All State Team. Langston was named to the Third Team All State Team, although he was coming on very strong in the postseason and had the pandemic not halted the tournament, he would likely have moved up to the second or even first team.

Harrison, playing quarterback, passed for 2089 yards this season and 5238 yards during his four year high school career, making him the outstanding quarterback in Cornell history and the #2 quarterback in the WPIAL.

The three helped Cornell to 77 basketball wins during their four year high school run.

DiVito scored 1970 points, making him Cornell's all time leading scorer. Had Cornell played one or two more tournament games, he would certainly have passed the 2000 point mark.

Ironically, DiVito averaged fewer points this year, 20.6, than he did last year, 26.3. But that was because almost everyone double teamed him on defense, and Langston and Harrison increased their scoring output.

The friends face opposite situations at W & J.

For four years at Cornell, Harrison was THE quarterback. Now he will face stiff competition just to get on the field. . Among his freshman team mates is QB Drew Schiano, who set numerous state records in Ohio with nine TD passes in one game and 67 in his senior season. Schiano won the Tony Fisher Northwest Ohio Player of the Year award. The class also includes Central Pennsylvania All Star Seth Georg, a linebacker and defensive end from Portage HS, and Ohio All Star slot receiver Anthony Rosali. These freshmen will join a program of veteran upperclassmen, who finished last year with a bowl win. Where Cornell was always an underdog, fighting to upset teams with fourth quarter heroics, W & J will open the season as the favorite to win the conference. Any year the Prexies do not win nine or more games is considered a disappointment.

After four years of playing at Frank Letteri Field before slim crowds, Harrison will now play in sold out Cameron Stadium (photo, below), a 2000 seat facility which opened in 1885 and has been renovated several times since, most recently in 2018. When W & J competed in Division I, it hosted Pitt, West Virginia, Penn State, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

It has hosted players like George Gipp and coaches like Knute Rockne. The 1922 Prexies held the University of California to a 0-0 tie in the Rose Bowl and were named national champs. In 2019 Cameron Stadium was named one of the top 10 Division III stadiums.

Harrison will major in Business, another department in which W & J is highly ranked nationally. Head Coach Mike Sirianni began recruiting him during his junior year. Zaire visited several other schools but after seeing W & J he decided he fit in there much better. He'll be part of a 25 player freshman class and has already been online messaging back and forth among his future team mates. Normally, he'd report to W & J in the Summer to start working out, but the Coronavirus has placed those plans on hold.

He is certain of one thing, however. "My goal is to play in the postseason and they have a history of doing that almost every year. I can't wait," he told reporters.

DiVito and Langston will enjoy playing in the brand new Salvitti gym (photo at right). The gym was completely stripped out and renovated in 2019. It has a new floor, lighting, seats, sound system and dressing rooms. The photo here shows the seats retracted but when extended the gym seats 2,000. Back in the 20th Century when W & J teams were competitive they drew capacity crowds, but since 2000 they have struggled and the crowds have declined.

Coach Stewart Smith is hoping DiVito, Langston and the other incoming freshmen will help complete a massive rebuilding process. Once proud W & J totally collapsed in the 2010s, winning 4, 2 and then one game in three straight years. The school hired him from Carnegie Mellon to turn the situation around.

His first year he had only six players. "We couldn't do anything but play a control game and hope nobody fouled out," he recalls. They won five games and he hit the recruiting trail. His second year they won 10. Last year they came on late to win 14 and host a playoff game. This year, with hardened sophomores and juniors, he has signed his best class yet. He has 12 new players, six from the WPIAL, three from West Virginia, one from Georgia, and one each from Huntington and Elizabethtown, Pa. The other WPIAL recruits are from Mt. Lebanon, Ambridge, Beaver and Seton LaSalle.

"We have starters and reserves back at every position," Smith explains. "But to play the pressing, fast breaking, up tempo style we want, we need depth. So some of these freshmen will see playing time. It will be an extremely competitive environment, but there will be opportunities for Kaden and Isaiah to carve out a role. It will depend on who adapts fastest to a new system and new teammates and who works the hardest."

Smith (photo, left) played college basketball at Penn State Altoona, where he was a four year starter and is still the school's all time leader in steals and assists. He served as an assistant coach at Dickinson College and Carnegie Mellon before coming to Washington & Jefferson. "We started recruiting Kaden his junior year. Then, last Fall, Bill Sacco called me and said, 'Hey, we have this other guy you should also be looking at,' and we started coming to more games and watching Isaiah. We realized right away what a great fit both of them would be for our program. What I love about them is their versatility. Kaden can play on or off the ball. Isaiah is as good a rebounder as I've seen and can defend any position on the floor. On offense, he would be a valuable perimeter player, but coming off screens, he gives us the ability to create mismatch opportunities. I'm excited to start working with them."

It's the first time Smith has recruited two players off the same team to W & J as freshmen, but he does have players coming in this year who in high school played at Ambridge and Trinity (W.Va.) with teammates who are already at W & J.

He was also thrilled when Kaden was named Player of the Year and both players made All State. "It's always exciting to welcome recruits with this kind of recognition."

Harrison, meanwhile, can't wait to start working under Sirianni (photo, right). Sirianni played at Mt. Union (Ohio), where he was an All Conference wide receiver on conference and national championship teams. He was an assistant coach at Wilkes College and Ithaca College before returning to Mt. Union as wide receivers coach, where he helped his alma mater win two more national championships.

Since coming to W & J, Sirianni has become one of the NCAA's most successful coaches. He has been named conference coach of the year seven times and regional coach of the year twice. In 17 seasons, his teams have reached the postseason playoffs 14 times. He has become famous for developing quarterbacks, producing five Division III All American signal callers who were prolific passers, rolling up 40,000 yards and 400 touchdowns.

As a head coach he has a winning percentage of .818. During his 17 seasons W & J has won at least nine games 12 times, including three straight 10+ win years. Twice his teams have finished undefeated. His teams annually rank among the nation's best offenses, having set numerous records for TDs, passing yards, total yards, first downs, receptions and fewest turnovers.

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PIAA Suspends State Tournament

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has suspended the boys and girls state basketball tournaments until further notice.

The PIAA will reassess the situation in two weeks.

The drastic action, taken the first time in over 100 years of holding state tournaments, is in response to the rapidly spreading Coronavirus. Professional and college sports and other state high school sports are also being suspended.

Cornell was to play Bishop Carroll High School this Friday night at Hempfield in the state Elite Eight. If Cornell had won, it would have played Monday night in the state semifinals to determine who advanced to Hershey for the state championship game. With #1 Vincentian and #2 Elk County Catholic upset and out of the tournament, Cornell, ranked #7, is given a definite chance to make a run at the state championship.

Cornell Superintendant Aaron Thomas said he thought the PIAA would still try to hold the tournament, perhaps sometime in April.

One possibility is they could hold the games but not allow spectators. They might also test each player and coach for the Coronavirus before allowing them into the gyms.

But some schools are already closing entirely and announcing that extracurricular activities are also suspended. Whether most schools will close and whether basketball teams could continue to practice is unknown. This is a situation which has never occurred before and every day brings new developments.

 

 

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Raiders Skate Across Thin Ice, 53-44

Cornell was in deep trouble Tuesday night at Clarion University. The Raiders were playing far from home with a crowd decidedly favoring nearby Elk County Catholic. The officiating looked a bit suspect, too. The first seven fouls went against Cornell and starters Isaiah Langston and Jeavantae Kingwalden were saddled with two fouls each in the first quarter.

This meant Cornell had to battle the 6-5 and 6-4 Crusaders with no player taller than six feet, or else risk fouling Langston and Kingwalden out.

And the Raiders were making more errant passes than usual, lofting them out of bounds or having receivers zig when the passer expected them to zag.

Elk County Catholic feeds on situations like this. The Crusaders, ranked #2 in rhe state, and had lost only once (at Dubois) when several playees were sick with the flu. The patient Crusaders work the ball back and forth, reversing the floor and probing the defense until they get the shot they want. Opponents only average 46.3 points a game because they can't get their hands on the ball often enough to score more. ECC rarely makes mistakes. Its players spread the floor and wait for the defense to make a mistake or commit a foul.

Playing ECC is like playing in quicksand or, with two starters in foul trouble, like skating across thin ice.

Blaine Sams opened scoring with a corner three but ECC came back with a tip in and a layup to take the lead 4-3 at 4:21 in the first. The teams then alternated layups and the lead, with Kingwalden and Langston scoring two each to give Cornell an 11-8 edge at the break.

ECC definitely controlled the pace. They worked the ball for from 60-90 seconds each possession. Usually, it takes about that long for an opponent to make a mistake on defense, leaving someone open, misplaying a pick and roll so one of the ECC bigger players ends up guarded by an opposing guard, or committing a careless foul.

What ECC was not used to was Cornell's intensity on defense. Raiders were overplaying the passing lanes, doubleteaming shooters but getting back if they passed out of the trap. Crusader shooters could not get clear for good shots.

Sams hit another three to open the second quarter. Layups by Harrison and Kaden DiVito and a top three by DiVito offset two ECC free throws for a 21-10 Cornell lead with 3:31 til halftime.

 

But Langston picked up his third foul at 4:24 and Kingwalden his third at 2:50. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco had to alternate them from then on, with Drew Lopez (#24 in photo above) filling in for one or the other. Lopez, a junior, did a great job despite his lack of size.

A corner three by DiVito helped, but ECC kept hitting free throws. The halftime score was 24-17.

Langston picked up his fourth foul early in the third. But two Harrison threes and a layup and one three by DiVito plus a layup boosted Cornell to a 38-26 edge entering the fourth.

A Harrison three made it 41-26. Layups by Langston, Harrison and Kingwalden plus free throws by Sams and Langston kept the Raiders ahead of a rain of four Crusader threes.

They cut Cornell's lead to 48-41 with 1:02 on a shady move at the free throw line. An ECC guard not known for his free throw shooting stepped to the line and suddenly developed a nosebleed. A player off the bench was allowed to replace him and shoot his free throws. That player was one of ECC's best free throw shooters and made two. The player with the nosebleed returned to the game immediately after the free throws.

But Cornell hung on to win and advance to the State Elite Eight this Friday night.

Harrison led all scorers with 15 points, followed by DiVito with 14, Langston with 10, Sams with eight and Kingwalden with six.

Harrison led all rebounders with six. Kingwalden added five, Sams and DiVito four each, and Lopez and Langston (whose minutes were limited due to those fouls) two apiece.

Harrison had seven assists. DiVito added four, Kingwalden three, Sams two and Langston one.

Sams' two corner threes were critical in building Cornell's early lead, especially after he went scoreless in the WPIAL Championship gane. "I quit lifting weights for the last two weeks and I think it helped," he told reporters afterward. "My shot feels more natural again."

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco was all smiles after the game, telling reporters this was one of his all time favorite wins given ECC's #2 ranking, familiarity with the floor, huge home crowd, and the way his team overcame the adversity of Langston and Kingwalden being in early foul trouble.

Elk County Catholic Coach Aaron Straub thought Cornell's pressure defense was the difference. "We watched tapes. We knew what to expect. But we couldn't replicate that defense in practice. You can't imagine how intense they are until you're actually in the game. They were in our faces all night. And they never stop. They're very athletic and they just keep coming at you. No one up here (in north central Pennsylvania) plays that kind of defense."

The game was played in the beautiful newly updated Clarion University Gym. Since Cornell's girls played there two years ago, Clarion has done a multimillion dollar renovation and has basically a brand new facility. It has the best lighting of any gym in the state and three magnificent Diamond Vision display boards which allow for instant replays.

Cornell now faces Bishop Carroll of Ebensberg Friday night in the Quarterfinals at Hempfield Area High School in a doubleheader with Brothers Valley playing Bishop Canevin in the other game.

The upset of the tournament occurred when Brothers Valley (of Berlin) shocked Vincentian by 20 points. Brothers Valley was ranked #3 entering the game, but Vincentian was #1 and no one was thought to have the size to handle Vincentian's front line.

Brothers Valley Coach Tanner Prosser had noticed the tendency of Royal big men to power over defenders in the lane. WPIAL refs consistently gave Vincentian the benefit of the doubt and called blocking on the defenders. Prosser suspected that officials from the central part of the state would call the charge. He worked his players hard on taking those charges, being in position early, having their feet set and their hands high, and keeping their feet motionless until the offensive player ran over them and knocked them to the floor.

He was gambling on getting the calls. It worked. Vincentian's big men got in foul trouble early and eventually fouled out. When they resorted to three point shooting, their shots did not fall. At one point, Brothers Valley went on a 19-0 run and Vincentian never recovered.

Brothers Valley now plays Bishop Canevin, which defeated Cameron County Tuesday. The winner of the Cornell - Bishop Carroll game will play the Brothers Valley - Bishop Canevin game next Monday night in the Final Four. The winner of that game will play the winner of the East Thursday in Hershey for the State Championship. But first Cornell has to face Bishop Carroll. The Huskies show a lineup of 6-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and 6-2, but not all those players start and the others run 6-1 and shorter. 6-6 senior center Nolan Burke is the biggest threat. Burke averages 14 points and 12 rebounds a game. He led scoring in the Shade win with 16 points.

Bishop Carroll comes out of the District 6, the area around Altoona. Their17-9 record is misleading. In District 6 there are not as many Class A schools so many of Bishop Carroll's games are against 2A, 3A and even 4A opponents. Still, the Huskies needed a controversial foul call and three clutch free throws to defeat Shade. With two seconds to go, trailing 51-49, a Carroll player went up for a three. It missed but the official called a foul on the Shade defender. The Bishop Carroll player made all three free throws for the 52-51 win.

It's the second year in a row that Cornell has made the State Elite Eight. Last year, Vincentian knocked them out of the tournament with a 10 point win. Three of the remaining eight teams in the state are from public schools, two in the West and one in the East. Cornell has only reached the State Championship game once. The old Coraopolis High School reached it twice. The old Neville High School never reached it. But for most of the last 100 years, only the District winners advanced to the state playoffs, and a team only needed three wins to get to Hershey. Historically the state only had two classes, A and B, so winning the WPIAL was more difficult. For most of its existence, Coraopolis was in Class A with North Allegheny, Sharon, Uniontown, Farrell, McKeesport, Aliquippa, Midland., Charleroi and Newcastle.

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PIAA Sends Cornell To Clarion For ECC Game

The PIAA announced Sunday that Cornell must travel to Clarion University Tuesday for its game with Elk County Catholic in the State Tournament Sweet Sixteen.

In addition to Cornell having to make the two and a half hour trip to Elk County Catholic's back yard, it means the Raiders must play on a court they have never seen before while Elk County Catholic has played four games there within the last two weeks. The Crusaders played quarter finals, semifinals and finals there in the District 9 Tournament, which they won. They then defeated Imani there Tuesday night in the State Tournament.

Since the Cornell - Elk County Catholic game is at 7:30 as the second part of a doubleheader, it means the Raiders will be late getting back home early Wednesday morning. If they win, they then have to get rested and ready for a Friday night game at another distant location, probably at Johnstown. But they can't complain. Two other WPIAL schools were sent to Hershey and Harrisburg last Friday.

The PIAA normally tries to choose a site approximately halfway between the two schools. But there isn't a large gym close to halfway between Cory and Clarion.

Coraopolis is 115 miles from Clarion. St. Mary's, home of Elk County Catholic, is 45 miles from Clarion. The good news for Cornell fans is that they can get to Clarion by travelling two interstates, I-79 North and I-80 East. Clarion has plenty of restaurants fans can stop at if they arrive in time before the game, but those restaurants close early so will not be open after the game. The gym at Clarion is an older but good facility. Cornell's girls played there two years ago.

Elk County Catholic is ranked #2 in the state and has lost only one game. They have a lineup of 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Cornell is ranked #7 and its tallest player is 6-1

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Raiders Yawn Past Saltsburg, 73-29

It's been a long, hard season for Cornell, playing in the toughest section in the WPIAL, then battling through the playoffs. The Raiders were ready for a break. They got one Friday night against Saltsburg, The Trojans, a runnerup team from District Six (the area around Indiana, Pa.) were no match for Cornell's speed, quickness or shooting, and the game was over by halftime.

Like every team in the tournament, Saltsburg was taller than Cornell. But the Raiders outrebounded them. They also recovered their shooting eye, which had deserted them in the championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

Saltsburg hung in there for a quarter. Isaiah Langston opened scoring on a tip in and Zaire Harrison added a layup, but the Trojans used a layup and a top three to go ahead 5-4 at 6:12. However, that was their last lead.

"G" Kingwalden drained a corner three to regain the lead for Cornell at 7-5. Layups by Harrison and Kaden DiVito and another Langston tip in made it 13-5. Saltsburg kept trying, however, hitting a jumper and a side three to narrow it to 13-10. A top three by DiVito and layup by Langston pulled Cornell out to 18-10 before Saltsburg laid one in to trail 18-12 as the first quarter ended. Then a free throw cut it to 18-13 to open the second.

That was the end of that. Cornell buried the Trojans with a 25-0 run. It included three DiVito layups, three layups and a free throw by Harrison, a layup and free throws by Kingwalden, and a layup by Blaine Sams, two by Langston, and one by Michael J. Smith. Suddenly it was 43-13 at the half.

Most of those layups came off steals or rebounds and passes fired downcourt to streaking Raiders. The Trojans could not hit and Cornell was getting every rebound.

But some of the layups also came off drives slashing through Saltsburg's already set defense, which was not able to contain Cornell's passing and cutting. That's Sams in the photo above, driving through three defenders to get to the basket. DiVito in the photo bottom right is about to do the same. Harrison in the photo bottom left has faked a shot and is driving under the defender. Langston at left is soaring past yet another defender.

The second half was played under a "running clock" because of the huge Cornell lead. Both coaches substituted freely to give their reserves a chance to play in a State Tournament game.

The biggest moment came at 4:04 in the third quarter when Kaden DiVito was upended going high for a layup and crashed to the floor. At first it looked like he had come down on his wrist, but after being helped to his feet and to the bench he turned out to have only a cut lip. Once the blood was cleaned up and the lip treated, DiVito returned to the game briefly before all the starters were pulled.

Harrison led all scorers with 23 points. DiVito added 22, Kingwalden 12, Langston 10, Smith three and Sams and Drew Lopez two each.

Harrison and Langston each grabbed 10 rebounds. Sams added eight, DiVito seven, Kingwalden six, Lopez three and Smith one.

Lopez stole three passes. DiVito, Harrison and Kingwalden added two steals each and Sams one.

Harrison contributed nine assists, DiVito eight, Langston seven and Kingwalden four. But these figures are misleading. Most of these "assists" were long passes coming off rebounds and were to teammates streaking for the basket.

The game was played at Kiski Area High School. It had originally been scheduled for Fox Chapel High School, but was moved at the last minute. Many fans and even some media went to Fox Chapel not knowing of the change.

The win advances Cornell to the State Octafinals, i.e. the Sweet Sixteen. They will meet Elk County Catholic, the champion of District Nine (the area around Clarion). Elk County is just south of Kane in the Allegheny National Forest. Ridgeway is the county seat but Elk County Catholic is located in the village of St. Mary's.

Elk County Catholic is ranked second in the state. The Crusaders have only lost once all year, to arch rival Dubois. Their lineup includes 6-4 Mykey Incorminias, 6-4 Mason Mcallister, 6-2 Mark Kraus, 6-2 Jordan Deprator, 6-1 Leo Gregory and 6-1 Jack Bauer.

Elk County defeated Cameron County for the District 9 Championship, then defeated Imani Christian Friday night while Cornell was beating Saltsburg.

The computer favors #2 Elk County over #7 Cornell. For the Raiders to pull off the upset, not only will the "big three" of DiVito, Harrison and Langston need to have good shooting nights, but Sams and Kingwalden will have to contribute. Those two failed to score in the WPIAL title game at Pitt. Against Saltsburg Kingwalden did have 12 but Sams still only had two. When Sams and Kingwalden are draining threes from the corners, it spreads the defenses and opens driving lanes. Against the taller Crusaders, Cornell will also need all five starters plus Lopez and Smith crashing the boards.

The Cornell - Elk County game will be Tuesday at 6 pm at Clarion University Gym.

The winner of the Cornell-Elk County Catholic game will face the winner of the Shade - Bishop Carroll game. Shade defeated Nazareth Prep 63-56 at Johnstown Friday night.

The winner of that Cornell-ECC-Shade-BC bracket will go on to the West Region Finals (in effect, the State Tournament Semifinals). In the oher bracket, Bishop Canevin plays Cameron County Tuesday night while Vincentian plays Berlin Brothers Valley. Those two winners will play Friday night with the winner advancing to the West Region Finals.

The Vincentian - Berlin Brothers Valley game is seen as the biggest threat Vincentian faces in the West. Berlin Brothers Valley is ranked third in the state and has the size to deal with Vincentian.

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Tragedy Takes Jamestown Star, Affects 1A Playoffs

One of Pennsylvania's outstanding Class A basketball stars has died in his sleep and plunged his team and hometown into a week of mourning when they expected to be celebrating a District 10 Championship.

Darian Keyser, 6-6 center for Jamestown High School in northwestern Pennsylvania, averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds this year and has already signed a college basketball scholarship. He was also an outstanding baseball player, an honor student and a four time class president.

Because of Keyser (photo, right), Jamestown was considered a serious threat for the West Regional and PIAA State Championship. He was considered one of the few big men in the state able to take on Vincentian's 6-6 and 6-5 inside players.

The way the PIAA State Tournament brackets are set up, Vincentian and Jamestown were favored to reach the West Regional Semifinals, which are in effect the state quarter finals. Cornell is in the opposite bracket, and if the Raiders got that far would play the winner in the West Region Championship game, with the winner going on to Hershey for the State Championship.

Without Keyser, Jamestown's coaches and players chose to go ahead and play the District 10 Championship game, which they lost to a Commodore Perry team they had beaten badly twice during the regular season. Commodore Perry is not considered a threat in postseason play.

Keyser was not suffering from any known medical condition which would account for his unexpected death.

 

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Vincentian Closes Out Cornell, 63-51

Cornell ran into a double edged sword Thursday night at Pitt's Petersen Events Center in the WPIAL championship game.

One day earlier, administrators announced that Vincentian High School would close at the end of this semester. After recovering from the initial shock, players at the perennial basketball and baseball powerhouse vowed to win one last title for their school. Cornell thus faced a team on a mission, one riding an emotional wave.

At the same time, Cornell played one of its worst games of the year. Perhaps the players were intimidated or disoriented by the big arena. It was their first ever game there, while Vincentian has been in the finals four straight years, winning two and losing two. The Pete was no big deal for them.

Perhaps the game meant too much. After the semifinal win that sent them on to the Pete, Cornell players repeatedly spoke of how much it meant to them, how they had worked so long so hard for it, how it was a dream come true, how they had wished for it for years.

Perhaps it was the pressure of playing in the championship game, no matter where it was played. Vincentian was used to it and Cornell was not.

Perhaps it was the sight lines. Behind the baskets is nothing but thousands of seats going all the way to the very high ceiling, and the lights in the Center are unusually bright so the games can be televised. Shooting at a big college arena is quite different than it is in even the biggest high school gym.

Whatever the cause, Cornell never did play the game that got it there. None of the seniors could hit. They couldn't hit anything: threes, jumpers, dunks, free throws, layups.

The Raiders hit just 18 of 51 shots for 35%. This was Cornell's lowest shooting percentage of the year. Usually they hit 58-62%, and they shot 68% in their home victory over Vincentian. The Raiders were also unable to hit from beyond the arc. They hit only six all night, four by Zaire Harrison (photo below right) and one each by Kaden DiVito (photo left) and Isaiah Langston (photo above). The usually deadly Blaine Sams, who is especially reliable from the right corner, did not score. Jeavantae Kingwalden, who normally sinks several from the sides or up top, did not score.

This was not an accident. "They beat us over at their place with that hot shooting," Vincentian Coach Tim Tyree told reporters afterward. "We were determined they were not going to do it again. We spent almost all our game preparation on defense. We've been playing against these same guys two and three times a year for four years and we had plenty of film. We knew where they liked to shoot from. We made sure those spots were not available."

The Royals also targeted DiVito. "He's such a dynamo. He's all over the floor, passing, dribbling, shooting. We knew we had to contain him." DiVito, the WPIAL's leading scorer all season with a 21 points per game average and some games in the high 20s and even 30s, finished this night with eight. He didn't score a single field goal in the first half. Cornell lost by 12. The 13 points the Raiders were missing from DiVito might have made the difference. But Vincentian had taller players guarding him and usually double teaming him. There was nothing he could do.

And all those missed shots went to Vincentian. The Raiders totaled only 14 rebounds, their lowest in four years. The much taller Royals had a huge advantage : 6-6 to 6-1, 6-5 to 6-0, etc. They outrebounded Cornell 49-14.

And the officials didn't help. By the end of the first quarter, four Cornell players had two fouls, most of them charging fouls as Royals cut off their drives to the basket. This kept them from playing the kind of intense defense they usually use to overcome that height disadvantage. Alex Griggs for Vincentian also got in early foul trouble with three, but the Royals have a deep bench, and replaced him with someone just as good.

Despite all these troubles, Cornell battled all the way. A Harrison layup, top three and putback, and Langston three, kept the Raiders close at 12-10 entering the second quarter. A spurt to open the second may have decided the game, as Vincentian scored on a putback, two jump shots and two free throws to pull ahead 20-11. A Langston jump shot and free three cut it to 20-13, but the Royals responded with three layups and two free throws to reach 28 and put Cornell in a deep hole. From that point on, the Raiders were playing catch up, and, unable to hit consistently, they never could close the gap.

But they still trailed by only nine at the half, 34-25. As explosive as they've been all season, if they could begin hitting, there was still hope.

Then, to open the third, Kingwalden picked up his third and fourth fouls and went to the bench. Drew Lopez (photo, left), replaced him, but was even shorter. Lopez snuck in for two layups but Vincentian began going inside and dunking over top of him.

At the end of three it was 52-38.

Cornell's stats were grim. Harrison led scoring with 22. Langston added 17, DiVito eight and Lopez four. Harrison grabbed eight rebounds and Langston six.

The only bright spot was that Kentucky Coach John Calipari flew up to watch the game. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco coached Calipari at Moon.

Cornell's season is not over. As WPIAL runnerup, The Raiders move on to the State Tournament, where they play Saltsburg next Friday at 6 pm at Fox Chapel. The winner will play the Elk County Catholic - Imani winner the following Tuesday. If Cornell wins and Nazareth Prep wins as predicted, they would meet Friday, March 13. In the other bracket, Vincentian will play Berlin Brothers Valley in the second round, with the winner favored to reach the West Regional finals (state semifinals).

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Cornell Seniors Make It To "The Pete" 68-47

This group of Cornell seniors has dreamed of playing in Pitt's Petersen Events Center, which they call "The Pete," since they were in the seventh grade. Making it to The Pete means playing in the WPIAL Championship Game.

Three years in a row Cornell has been stopped short. As freshmen, Imani did it. As sophomores, Vincentian did it. Last year, Nazareth beat them in the semis at Ambridge. Each year, the team that stopped Cornell went on to win the WPIAL.

This was their final chance. And Monday night, before a full house at West Allegheny's spacious gym, the Raiders pulled away in the fourth quarter to down Bishop Canevin 68-47 and nail down that precious berth at The Pete.

It wasn't easy. Canevin, with the advantage in sise and depth, tried to nullify Cornell's speed and quickness by slowing the game down.

The Crusaders had perfected this strategy while winning Section 2A with a 12-0 record. For the season they had held their opponents to less than 50 points a game.

And for a half it looked like a winning strategy against Cornell. Canevin led 3-2, 9-5, and 14-12 in the first quarter. Thanks to free throws and a layup by Kaden DiVito, a top three by Isaiah Langston, a layup by Zaire Harrison and threes from the side and corner by Blaine Sams, the Raiders managed to finish the period ahead 15-14. But only because that corner three by Sams dropped through at the buzzer. And Langston had to leave the game with his second foul at the 4:29 mark.

Canevin went back up 19-17, tied it at 24-24 and led 27-26 before Cornell squeezed out a 32-29 halftime edge. The Raiders got their second quarter points from a Jeavante Kingwalden jump shot and free throws, DiVito's top three, follow and free throws, and, once he returned to the floor half way through the quarter, Langston's three layups and three free throws.

It was in the third quarter that Cornell slowly took control of the game, although it was a struggle as Langston picked up his third foul just one minute in and Sams his third at 4:25. Nevertheless, Langston and DiVito hit layups, Harrison a side three and Kingwalden a foul line jump shot (photo bottom right) for a 41-31 advantage at 4:00. DiVito hit another layup and Langston came in with a miniute to go and sank a top three at the buzzer to lift Cornell to 46-37.

Then the Raiders exploded to open the 4th. Harrison hit threes from the top and side, Langston added one from on top, and Harrison sank two free throws and suddenly it was 57-39. Sams drew his fourth foul at 5:34 but the game was in hand.

Now the tables were turned. Canevin, who had wanted to slow the game down, now had to play catchup against one of the toughest outside weaves in the WPIAL. As the Crusaders had to come out and chase Cornell, suddenly the lane was open, and Kingwalden was able to lay two in and Langston lay one in and dunk one. As an exclamation point, Sams (#15 at right) drained a corner three.

Langston (#3 above) led all scorers with 23. DiVito (#2 below left) and Harrison (#1 top right) had 13 each. Kingwalden added 10 and Sams nine. DiVito led rebounders with eight. Harrison grabbd seven and Langston and Kingwalden four each. DiVito contributed six assists and Harrison five. Harrison, DiVito, Langston and Kingwalden each stole the ball twice.

Numerous college scouts, mostly from Division II schools, were in the stands. Both teams included players not only accomplished on the court, but with good grades and high test scores.

It took a long time for players, fans and parents to clear the court after the game. "Goin To The Pete!" they kept chanting. This is Cornell's first trip to the finals since 2012, when the current seniors were in fourth grade. Back in the mid 20th Century, when the entire WPIAL Tournament was held at the old Pitt Field House, playing on that floor was not as big a deal. But now that only the finals are held there, it has taken on legendary status. Back in the Cornell locker room, players danced around in glee.

"This really means a lot to me," DiVito admitted. "I've wanted this so bad for so long. It's like a dream come true."

Langston nodded. "This is such an amazing feeling," he grinned. "We've worked so hard for so long for this."

Coach Bill Sacco was all smiles. "I'm so proud of them. They deserve it. They've been a great bunch to coach."

Cornell plays Vincentian at 7 pm Thursday at Pitt for the WPIAL title. The two split two regular season games. Vincentian is ranked #1 in the state. But both teams will go on to the State Tournament.

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Raiders Scorch Imani For Semifinal Berth

The Northgate Gym has flames painted on each corner and Cornell took that as a cue Thursday night as the Raiders scorched Imani 84-65 in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

The Raiders were only slight favorites. Imani is an inner city Pittsburgh academy with a lineup of tall, athletic players. But they led only once, on an opening jump shot and rebound putback.

Then Cornell buried them on Zaire Harrison's two layups and a corner three, Blaine Sams' top three and Kaden DiVito's layup. Suddenly it was 12-4 at 4:38.

Imani never quit. A layup, side three, baseline jumper and three free throws kept them in the game, but for Cornell DiVito (photo below) put back a rebound and added a layup, Jeavonte Kingwalden (photo bottom right) hit a side three, Isaiah Langston (photo right) laid one in, and Harrison (dribbling in photo below right) sank a side three and two free throws as the Raiders led 26-14 after one.

Langston opened the second quarter with a soaring tip in to double the score at 28-14. Langston dominated the quarter with a slashing layup, 15 foot jump shot, free throw and spectacular dunk. Added to that were a Harrison jumper, DiVito steal and layup and free throw. But it was a wild quarter, with steals, tieups, missed shots and free throws and wild passes by both teams. Still, the Raiders went to halftime leading 40-26.

They put the game away early in the third, with a top three by Harrison and corner three by DiVito for a 46-26 lead. Harrison picked up his third foul and had to be replaced by Drew Lopez (bottom left). But the rout continued, with a corner three and layup by Langston, three straight layups off steals and a jumper by DiVito, a corner three by Sams, and a side three by Lopez. That made it 65-46 entering the fourth.

Harrison came back in at this point, and Cornell went to its trademark outside weave.

Sams drained two corner threes, Kingwalden added another corner three, and Langston, Harrison and Kingwalden hit a series of layups off steals and passes downcourt after defensive rebounds.

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco sent in the reserves to finish out the game.

Harrison led all scorers with 23 points. DiVito added 20, Langston 18, Sams 12, Lopez three and Kingwalden eight.

Langston led in rebounding with eight. Harrison, DiVito and Kingwalden each grabbed six, and Sams added two.

Harrison and DiVito each contributed six assists. Langston and Kingwalden had three each, and Sams one.

DiVito, Langston and Sams each stole three Imani passes. Kingwalden stole two and Harrison one.

The win sends Cornell to the WPIAL semifinals Monday night where they will face Bishop Canevin, which edged Union 40-39 on two last second free throws. Union had tried to slow the game down and it almost succeeded.

Whether Imani's season is over depends on Cornell. If the Raiders win Monday night and make the championship game, Imani will receive a "trailer" bid to the State Tournament. If Cornell loses, Imani is done.

This is so because, as the state's largest and most powerful region, the WPIAL receives six slots in the Class A State Tournament. The other, much smaller, regions receive one or two. So the WPIAL awards bids to the four semifinalists. Then, the two quarterfinal losers to the champion and runnerup also receive bids. Of course, the all important seeds in the State Tournament depend on the WPIAL finish. The two "trailers" receive the low seeds, playing the two top non-WPIAL teams. The WPIAL champion and runnerup play runners up from other regions, and the semifinal losers play champions from other regions.

In the other Class A quarterfinals, Nazareth Prep edged Eden Christian 69-57 in a game much closer than the score suggests. Eden was within four, five and six points for most of the fourth quarter but never could close the gap.

Vincentian destroyed Geibel Catholic 99-51. So Vincentian will play Nazareth in the other semifinal Monday night.

So of the eight teams in the quarterfinals, only two were publlic schools : Cornell and Union.

And of those eight teams, five were from Cornell's Section 1A, proving once again that the section is by far the strongest in the WPIAL.

Of the four teams in the semifinals, three are from Section 1A and Union came within one point, two free throws and five seconds of giving the section a four team sweep. Of the four teams in the semifinals, Cornell is the only public school.

A Cornell win Monday night would fulfill a dream for these seniors, who have been starting since they were freshmen and made the playoffs every year but never made it to the championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center, which players refer to as "The Pete."

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Cornell Draws Opposite Vincentian,Nazareth

Cornell's dreams came true.

The WPIAL awarded the Raiders the #2 seed in the Class A Playoffs that begin this week. Vincentian received the #1 seed, with Bishop Canevin #3 and Nazareth #4. That gave Cornell a first round bye. The Raiders won't play until next Thursday, February 20, when they'll face the winner of the Imani Christian vs. West Greene game. If Cornell wins that quarterfinal game, it will advance to the semifinals and play the winner of the Bishop Canevin - Union - Clairton quarterfinal.

Most importantly, Vincentian and Nazareth are in the opposite bracket and assuming they win their quarterfinal games will meet in the other semifinal. Vincentian meets the winner of the Leechburg-Geibel game. Nazareth will play Clairton in the octafinal, and if it wins will face the Eden Christian - Greensburg Central Catholic winner.

Cornell's draw is not easy. West Greene has two 6-3s and one 6-4 player, Imani has two 6-5 players, and Canevin has 6-4 Dom Elliott. The undersized Raiders struggle with taller teams. But in a very difficult field, they received the best draw possible.

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Isaiah Langston Passes 1000 Points

Isaiah Langston (#3 in photo at right) scored 29 points Monday night in an exhibition game against inner city Neighborhood Academy to give him a four year total of 1003.

Langston becomes the third Cornell senior to pass the 1000 point mark. Kaden DiVito and Zaire Harrison also passed that threshold this season.

Cornell won 71-33. The game was never close. The Raiders led 26-6 after one quarter and 43-12 at halftime. They went on to a 64-25 third quarter edge. Coach Bill Sacco sent in the reserves in the fourth quarter.

Divito added 12 points.

Sacco scheduled the game as a fill in to keep the team sharp during the WPIAL dead period while teams wait for the playoff announement tonight.

The WPIAL has announced pairings for the upcoming Class A Playoffs. Cornell, along with Vincentian and Bishop Canevin, has received a first round bye. Vincentian was given the #1 seed, Cornell #2 and Canevin #3.

West Greene and Imani Christian will play in a first round game Thursday night. Cornell will play the winner Thursday night, February 20, at a site yet to be announced.

If Cornell wins that quarterfinal game, it will play the winner of the Canevin - Union - Monessen game in the semifinals.

Nazareth received the #4 seed. If the seeds hold, it will play Vincentian in the opposite semifinal. Cornell could thus play either Vincentian or Nazareth at the University of Pittsburgh Petersen Events Center for the WPIAL championship.

Cornell is now 16-6 on the season, 12-2 in Section 1A.

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Cornell Seniors Bid Farewell With Epic Win

Cornell's seniors, who have been starting since they were freshmen and have achieved the greatest four year run by the same players in school history, gave their fans one of the greatest wins in school history Friday night by upsetting the state's #1 team, Vincentian, 66-57.

Cornell did it by flipping the script from road losses to Vincentian and Nazareth. In those games against much taller opponents, Cornell could not hit, got in early foul trouble, had to back off on defense because of the fouls, and was unable to slow the game down and work for open shots.

Friday night, every Cornell player hit a high percentage, especially from outside. Cornell drained six threes in the first half alone, which forced Vincentian to come out to the perimeter and guard the shooters. Once out there, it was obvious Cornell was quicker and faster and had more explosive first steps.

Free of foul trouble, Cornell also cranked up its pressure defense. Many of its layups resulted from steals and long passes downcourt. The Raiders also went to war on the boards as the officials let both teams play. Fans of both teams were unhappy with several noncalls, but even though several Raiders ended up on the floor with no whistle, overall it worked to Cornell's advantage

With Royals defenders aggressively guarding the threes, the Raiders could fake the shot and burst past. Since all Royals had been drawn out, the lane was open for drives. Isiah Langston and Kaden DiVito alone scored seven layups on these moves.

Scrambling to retreat back inside and help stop these drives, Vincentians then left the corners open, and Zaire Harrison or Langston could drive to the lane and fire passes to DiVito or Blaine Sams for open threes. Sams drained five.

The first quarter was a battle for the lead. Kaden DiVito scored the first basket on a layup and was fouled, as seen in the photo at right. He sank the free throw and the Raiders led 3-0. They would never lose that lead. Vincentian hit a corner three to tie it at 3-3. Isaiah Langston and Divito scored layups and DiVito sank a corner three but Vincentian responded with three straight layups to stay with Cornell 10-9 at 3:37.

DiVito scored two more layups and Langston hit two free throws but Vincentian made two jump shots and a top three. Sams (dribbling in photo below right) drained a side three but a Royal layup left Cornell defending a shaky 19-18 lead at the break.

The Raiders won the game in the second quarter. A 15 foot Langston jump shot, a layup and corner three by DiVito put Cornell up 27-23.

That was when Langston ((#3 in photo at left) tipped, tipped, tipped and finally scored on a tipin and was fouled. He made the free throw for a 30-23 lead at 4:18. Vincentian scored a layup to cut it to 30-25, but Langston sank a corner three, Sams hit a side three and a corner three, and DiVito laid one in for a 41-25 halftime edge. It was the first time all year the Royals had trailed at the half.

They opened the third quarter with two follows, a free throw and a layup but Sams hit a corner three, Zaire Harrison laid one in, and Divito sank a free throw to hold the lead 47-32 at 4:51.

Vincentian scored three layups as the quarter wound down, but Sams sank anorher corner three to hold the lead at 50-38.

But the key to the third quarter was that Vincentian only had seven possessions. Cornell was controlling the pace of the game as they patiently worked for the shots they wanted. Vincentian was scoring every time they had the ball. They just didn't have it enough. And since Cornell had a 12-16 point lead, they were in no hurry.

The Raider patience continued in the fourth. They held the ball for the first 1:10 before DiVito sank a corner three for 53-39. Vincentian quickly responded with a corner three.

Cornell held it for another minute but missed. Vincentian missed, too, but scored on a tipin to make it 53-44 with 5:27.

Cornell worked it around for another minute before Langston laid one in on a slashing drive. Vincentian came down and was called for charging. Cornell held it for another minute before Langston was fouled and sank both free throws for 57-44 at 3:30.

The Royals laid one in and hit a free throw to cut it to 57-47 at 2:42. Vincentian called time out and went to a full court press. The crowd rose to its feet.

Langston was fouled and sank two free throws for 59-47 at 2:09. A Vincentian layup cut it back to 59-49 at 1:17. Harrison slashed in for a layup and was fouled. His free throw made it 62-49 at 1:13. Vincentian sank a corner three and a layup for 62-54 with 51 seconds.

Langston broke loose for another spectacular drive, was fouled, and sank two free throws. A top three cut Cornell's lead to seven at 64-57 with 24 seconds to go. But DiVito and Sams hit free throws for the final score.

A celebration erupted at the buzzer as players hugged each other and Coach Bill Sacco, and fans streamed out of the stands to join in.

The win avenged a 92-61 loss at Vincentian back in January and quelled talk about Vincentian being unbeatable by any Class A team.

Sams, with five of five threes, 15 points, pressure defense, clutch ballhandling and crisp, pinpoint passing against Vincentian's very physical defense, played the finest game of his career.

Although Harrison was held to one of his career low point outputs, he actually played one of his best games. His defense, ballhandling and rebounding were outstanding.

Cornell entered the game ranked third in the WPIAL behind Vincentian and Bishop Canevin and ahead of Nazareth and Greensburg Central Catholic. The win might move the Raiders up to second, ahead of Canevin. This would be critical, because it would improve their draw in the upcoming playoffs. The WPIAL will announce those pairings at a meeting Tuesday night.

Vincentian thus ends the season in first place in Section 1A with a 13-1 record. Cornell is second at 12-2. Nazareth is third at 11-3. Eden and Union are tied for fourth at 7-7 and will both advance to the playoffs.

The WPIAL field this year includes Bishop Canevin, Monessen, Geibel Catholic, West Greene, Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani, Clairton and Leechburg, as well as Vincentian, Cornell, Nazareth, Union and Eden. The opening playoff games are expected to be next Friday or Saturday.

Langston turned in another outstanding performance with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He hit nine of nine free throws. DiVito added 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals. Kingwalden had three points and five steals.

As a section runnerup, Cornell should draw a third place team, which would pit it against Geibel or Clairton. As the current #3 team in the WPIAL, Cornell should be in the same bracket as Canevin and opposite Vincentian and Nazareth. That would be critical, since it would mean the Raiders could reach the finals at Pitt before meeting either Vincentian or Nazareth for a third time.

Cornell plays two exhibition games in the "dead period" between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs. Raider Coach Bill Sacco likes these games because they keep his team sharp. Cornell plays Central Valley at Lincoln Park at 5 pm Sunday and Neighborhood Academy at home at 7 pm Monday. Central Valley is the merger of Monaca and Center. The Warriors are 12-7 this year, 7-5 in their 4A section. They did not qualify for the playoffs. Quaker Valley, Blackhawk, Newcastle and Ambridge took the four playoff spots for that section. Neighborhood Academy is a private college prep school in inner city Pittburgh. Students are required to participate in sports to fulfill their physical education credits. Neighborhood is not a WPIAL member but plays a limited number of games against WPIAL schools. It is 0-4 this year, having lost to Winchester Thurston 81-38, Bentworth 65-44, Geibel 73-61, and Aquinas 74-65. There is no JV game.

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Jayvees End Season With A Loss, 69-47

Powerful Vincentian rolled over Cornell's outmanned Junior Varsity team Friday night 69-47 to end their season at 6-9.

The Raiders hung in there for a half. MJ Smith hit three layups, a corner three and a side three, while Hunter Smith added a layup, to trail only 16-14 after one.

In the second, layups by Drew Lopez, Hunter Wegley and Patrick Scott and a free throw by Scott kept the Raiders within striking distance 26-21 at halftime.

Wegley drained a midrange jumper to cut it to 26-23 to open the third, but at that point the Raiders totally collapsed. Vincentian went to a full court press and stole the ball seven straight times. They fired the ball upcourt for layups every time, and added a follow, free throw and one more layup to lead 50-26 at the quarter break.

Cornell actually outscored Vincentian 21-19 in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late. Smith hit a layup, side three, top three and free throws. Lopez added a side three, a layup, a free throw.

But the Raiders could not stop Vincentian from scoring. The Royals kept taking the ball inside and laying it in over Cornell defenders frantically waving their arms. They scored nine of these plus one free throw.

Smith led all scorers with 27. Lopez had eight, Hunter Smith and Hunter Wegley each had four, Scott had three and Tristine Carlisle had one. Carmine D'Alesandro did not score.

With the five varsity starters all graduating, this JV team will be Cornell's varsity next season. It's going to take massive offseason work for Cornell to make the WPIAL and State playoffs again.

Unless someone experiences a dramatic growth spurt or a tall transfer shows up, this will be the shortest starting lineup in the WPIAL. The current varsity also carries that distinction, but it makes up for it with great shooting and spectacular leaping skill. Except for only Smith and Lopez, this is not a high scoring group and Smith is its only strong rebounder. It becomes essential that Craig Pulford recover from his back injury and Caleb Dunn get his academics in order.

This year's eighth graders struggled. They'll need two years at the JV level before any of them are ready for the varsity. The school's next strong team is in the seventh grade. In a league of 2A, 3A and 4A schools, they won all season.

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Langston Leads Cornell Over Quigley 77-62

With Cornell, Vincentian and Nazareth graduating most of their starting lineups, Quigley sees itself as a rising power in Section 1A. The Spartans have size and a trio of shooters. Tuesday night, in their final home game of the year, they dreamed of making a statement against traditional power Cornell. Those underclassmen sank 12 threes and crashed the boards. And they hung with Cornell for a while, leading for the first four minutes and tying 16-16 to end the first quarter. Isaiah Langston (#3 in photo at right) was having none of that. The 6-2 senior exploded for 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and six steals to lead Cornell to a 77-62 win and set up a showdown with #1Vincentian Friday night.

Quigley started off with three threes, two from the corner and one from the side, two layups, a jumper from beside the lane, and a free throw. Langston alone scored nine with a top three, two layups and two free throws for nine points. Kaden DiVito (# 2 in photo bottom right) added a side three and two layups as the teams went to the second quarter 16-16.

DiVito was staggered for a few minutes by a hard fall to the floor after soaring high for a layup. He was so shaken that the referee stopped the game to ask if he was alright. But he stayed in the game, and the Raiders began picking up steals off their press. Langston hauled down four rebounds and scored 10 points on two side threes, a layup and two free throws. DiVito added eight with two layups, two free throws and a set shot from the side. Zaire Harrison (#1 in photo bottom left) hit two layups and a free throw, Blaine Sams (#15 in photos below and bottom right) added a corner three, and Cornell went to halftime leading 42-27.

The Raiders put the game away with nine points to open the third, as Harrison hit a top three and two layups and Langston added two free throws. A Quigley layup and follow were too little too late with the score suddenly 51-31 at the 4:13 mark. DiVito, who was fouled almost every time he touched the ball, hit three free throws and a layup and Langston finished the quarter with a side three and two layups to make it 63-44.

Fouls were mounting at this point but it didn't matter. Harrison spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench and only scored on one follow, but Langston hit a layuip and a two from just inside the line, DiVito added four free throws, and Sams a side three. Cornell spent the last three minutes working on its control game, which it figures to need Friday against Vincentian and in the playoffs.

Langston's 32 points led everyone. DiVito added 23 points and six assists. Harrison had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Sams' two threes gave him six points and Je'avante Kingwalden had two points and six rebounds.

The win left Cornell second in Section 1A at 11-2 with Vincentian first at 13-0. Nazareth defeated Union Tuesday 54-40 and Vincentian beat Eden 84-43, so Nazareth is in third at 10-3. Union hosts Western Beaver Friday as Eden goes to Nazareth, so barring a huge upset Union and Eden will tie for fourth place. How the WPIAL will pick that fourth playoff team is uncertain. This all senior Cornell team, which is concluding the greatest four year run in school history, plays its final home game Friday night.

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Depleted Jayvees Crushed By Quigley 53-20

Cornell's Junior Varsity is in the final week of its season and is not finishing well. Caleb Dunn is ineligible due to grades. Drew Lopez was held out for missing practice. Craig Pulford is out with a back injury. That takes away most of their rebounding, scoring and ballhandling.

Quigley revealed just how vulnerable the depleted Raiders are Tuesday nighr when they handed them a 53-20 beat down. The game was never close. Quigley led 14-7, 30-11 and 35-15 at the quarter stops.

There weren't many bright spots for Cornell. Michael J. Smith (#33, in photo at right), led them with nine points and 10 rebounds. Scott Patterson and Hunter Smith (#30 in photo below left) did most of the ball handling. Carmine D'Alesandro (#14 in photo below right), despite being the smallest player on the floor for either team, provided scoring, passing and defense. Hunter Wegley (#32 in background in photo bottom right) and Tristine Carlisle hung in there but were guarded by taller Spartans and had a hard time stopping those same taller opponents on defense. The only two Cornell threes of the night were by D'Alesandro and Smith.

Behind Smith, D'Alesandro added five points, Carlisle had four and Wegley two.

The Raiders could not hit. Part of that was the size disadvantage, as they had trouble getting shots off over taller defenders, and when they did they had to rush it or shoot a higher arc. But they also missed layups and free throws. They were badly outrebounded, 38-17. And many of their passes were too slow and were intercepted by Quigley defenders.

The loss dropped the Jayvees to 6-8 with one game remaining. Their unravelling season is especially worrisome because Cornell graduates five seniors and this group will become the varsity as of April 1. Hopefully Pulford, at 6-2, will recover from that back injury and develop into a competent center, and MJ Smith and Dunn will be able to help him on the boards. But they need a strong Summer in the weight room and at Summer Camp to compete with varsities from Vincentian, Nazareth, Union and a rising Quigley.

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Raiders Pull Away From Union Late, 67-45

The WPIAL's top four scorers were on the floor at the same time Friday night at Cornell, so fans expected a real shootout. And that's what they got.

#1 Kaden DiVito, #2 Matt Stanley of Union, #3 Isaiah Langston and #4 Zaire Harrison were all in action as Union tried to upset the Raiders and avenge one of its rare home losses.

Cornell had defeated Union 56-48 on January 7th. But Union had two players out with injuries for that game and now they were both back. The Scotties also had motivation. Union was tied with Eden Christian for fourth place and needed this win over Cornell to reach the postseason.

Nick Pasquarello, 6-2 senior (#20 in the photos), was a force on the boards as usual. The Scotties made it a very physical game. They controlled the pace, working the ball around, reversing the floor again and again until they got exactly the shots they wanted and then making them. They made that clear on their very first possession, when they held the ball for over a minute before sinking a corner three. Three layups and a corner two just inside the line gave Union 100% shooting for the first quarter. Two DiVito layups (#2 below), one each by Harrison (pink shoes below right) and Langston, and a corner three by Blaine Sams tied the score at 11-11 at the quarter break.

Cornell opened the second with a corner three by DiVito, a layup by Harrison and a tipin by Langston (#3 at right) for an 18-11 lead at 6:13. Two layups and a baseline jumper cut that to 18-17, but Langston hit a layup, a corner two and a foul line jump shot while Harrison added a free throw to pull the Raiders back out to 25-17 at 1:41. A Union layup cut it to 25-19 but Harrison found Langston with a lob pass for a dunk and DiVito sank a free throw for a 28-19 halftime lead.

Union opened the third with threes from the corner, side and top. Harrison hit a baseline jumper and two free throws to keep Cornell up 32-28 at 5:35. A Jeavante Kingwalden layup and Langston corner three increased that to 37-28 but two Union corner threes cut it back to 37-34 at 4:02.

By this point the game had become extremely physical. Cornell finished the third with a surge on layups by DiVito, Harrison, and Langston, two free throws by Harrison, and a dunk by Langston on a lob pass from Harrison. The one layup by Langston was a spectacular drive from midcourt. Union's only response was two layups. The quarter ended 48-38.

Union opened the fourth with a tipin and two free throws to narrow it to 48-42 before Cornell exploded. Langston scored on two spectacular dunks and a free throw, Harrison broke through for three twisting layups, DiVito scored on one layup and three free throws, and Sams drained a side three. That put Cornell up 67-42 and Coach Bill Sacco pulled his starters. The reserves did not score, but Union sank only one more corner three for the finsl 67-45 score.

Langston led both scoring and rebounding with 22 poinrs and 10 boards. Harrison added 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. DiVito had 17 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. Sams had six points. Kingwalden had two.

The win guaranteed Cornell a playoff spot. The Raiders are in second place at 10-2 with games next week at Quigley and home against Vincentian, which is first at 12-0. Behind Cornell are Nazareth at 9-3, Eden at 7-5 and Union at 6-6. Union plays Nazareth and Western Beaver next week. Eden plays both Vincentian and Nazareth. Presumably, Union and Eden will end up tied at 7-7. They split their two games, so the WPIAL will have to break the tie to choose which one goes to the playoffs.

Union Coach Mark Stanley thought his team gave a good effort. "I warned the boys coming in that Cornell was capable of 10-15 point runs. We wanted to get a lead and slow it way down, but we never could get ahead. Cornell just has those three guys able to score at any time from anywhere on the floor. I thought we wore down by late in the third quarter. Playing against Cornell is exhausting because of their in your face defense and run and gun offense. You can keep up for a while, but eventually it gets to you. I thought we did a good job working for the shots we wanted and hitting them, but once we got tired those shots quit falling. Cornell is hard to beat on this floor."

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Cornell Jayvees Lose To Union, 50-40

Cornell's Junior Varsity dropped to 6-7 on the season as it lost to Union 50-40 Friday night.

They led for the first four minutes on layups by Drew Lopez (#24 below right) and M. J. Smith and a jump shot from the lane by Lopez. But threes from the corner and side and two layups put Union ahead and the Raiders never caught them. It was 16-11 after the first and 26-16 at halftime. The third quarter score was 39-28.

The closest Cornell came was in the fourth quarter when Caleb Potts Dunn (in the corner about to receive the pass in the photo below) rebounded and put it back up to bring the Raiders to within six at 40-34. But then Union ran off eight straight points on layups and free throws.

Lopez and Patrick Scott (#22 dribbling at right and with ball below left) led all scorees with 11 each. M. J. Smith added 10, Dunn six and Hunter Smith four.

Other members of the JV team are Carmine D'Alesandro, Hunter Wegley and Tristen Carlisle. The Jayvees end their season next week with games at Quigley Tuesday and home against Vincentian Friday.

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WPIAL Announces 2020 Cornell FB Schedule

The WPIAL has announced 2020 football schedules and Cornell ends up with two new nonconference opponents.

The Raiders will open with Mohawk and play Jefferson Morgan a week later.

Then they will play seven straight conference games : Northgate, Shenango, Union, Burgettstown, Rochester, Fort Cherry and Sacred Heart.

Coach Ed Dawson and/or Athletic Director have the option of adding one more game, in the so called "zero week." That game would be a week before Mohawk. Or Dawson could choose to play a second scrimmage and only play seven actual games. He has done this the past four years.

Mohawk is a Class AA school which finished last year 1-6 in their conference and 2-8 overall. Their two wins were over Ellwood City and Summit.

Jefferson-Morgan is a Class A school which finished last year 3-4 in their conference and 3-7 overall. Their three wins were over Mapletown, Avella and Bentworth.

Cornell graduates most of its starters from this year's conference champions and WPIAL semifinalists, the best team in school history. But Dawson returns several skill position players and several linemen.

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Cornell Holds Off Eden Christian, 70-62

Cornell held off Eden Christian 70-62 Tuesday night to tighten its hold on second place in Section 1A and set up two final week showdowns with Union and Vincentian. The game was close throughout. Eden Christian, which is a relatively new school that has only been competing in the WPIAL several years, has its best team in history. The Mt. Nebo school is tied with Union for fourth place in the section. One of them will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs. So, with only two weeks to go, Eden is fighting for every win, and this was a home game.

Even worse, this Eden team is exactly the kind of team that has been giving Cornell trouble. Like Vincentian and Nazareth, Eden has its "twin towers" in 6-4 Drew Lipinski and 6-4 Ryan Aiken, plus three other starters at 6-1. The Warriors usually control the boards, and like to take the ball inside and score over shorter opponents. Cornell battled to a 13-9 first quarter lead, but Eden out scored the Raiders 18-17 in the second so the halftime edge was only 30-27. Cornell probably won the game in the third quarter, when it totalled 20 points to Eden's 16 for a 50-43 lead. Eden narrowed the lead several times in the fourth but the Raiders managed to pull back ahead to tally another 20 while holding Eden to 19. Eden's Elijah Manges led all scorers with 21. Lipinski and Tom Medure added 13. For Cornell, Zaire Harrison led with 19. Kaden DiVito (#2 in photo at right) added 17 and Isaiah Langston had 11.

The win left Cornell 9-2 in the Section with three games to go. Vincentian, which beat Western Beaver 90-39 Tuesday night, stands alone in first at 11-0. Nazareth, which won 76-44 at Quigley, is third at 8-3. Union, which rolled over Rochester 56-78, and Eden are tied for fourth at 6-5.Cornell faces a strong challenge Friday night at home against Union. The Raiders then play Sewickley in a Saturday showcase at Quaker Valley, travel to Quigley Tuesday, then close out the regular season next Friday at home against Vincentian.

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Cornell Youth Baseball Signups Begin

Signups have begun for the 2020 Cornell Youth Baseball Association.

Cornell this year will be competing in the Southwest Pittsburgh Baseball League. Teams in the league at this time include Crafton, Beechview, Sheraden, Brighton Heights, Mt. Washington, Westwood, Carrick, Sto-Rox, Avalon and Bellevue. There may be teams join or withdraw between now and the season opening. Kirk Jessup is the Commissioner. Cornell will again play its home games at Ronnie Bliwas Field.

The CYBA offers teams at the TBall, Coach Pitch, Minor, Little and Pony League levels. Fees are $50, $60, $70, $80 and $100 for the respective levels. $10 discounts are available for families registering two or more siblings, for returning CYBA players, and for Cornell youth football players. Any player can only count one discount.

Parents can sign players up at www.tinyurl.com/cornellyouthbaseball or in person at the Coraopolis Memorial Library from 6-7 every Wednesday and 10 am - noon every Saturday.

The Association has obtained the use of an indoor facility at Cornell High School so will be able to begin practices regardless of weather. Coaches will be able to work on conditioning, fundamentals, pitching, batting and fielding skills for a month before the opening game.

Both girls and boys are welcome. Youth baseball is considered the best possible preparation for girls planning to play softball at the high school level. Football players are also welcome. Youth baseball season ends before football practices begin.

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Raiders Regain Winning Ways At WB, 82-38

After a disastrous week of two road losses, Cornell regained its winning ways Tuesday night at Western Beaver with an 82-38 rout.

The game was over in the first quarter when the Raiders grabbed a 20-10 lead. Then they shifted into high gear and outscored the Golden Beavers 30-9 in the second, for a 50-19 halftime edge. At the end of the third it was 75-27. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco played his reserves in the fourth.

Kaden DiVito (#2 in photo at right) led all scorers with 28. With a 22.6 average, DiVito ranks 15th among WPIAL scorers from all classes. Zaire Harrison added 21 and Isaiah Langston 12. Langston averages 19.7 and Harrison averages 16.4. So despite being in a well balanced offense, all three are among the WPIAL's top 25 scorers of all classes.

Elsewhere in Section 1A, Vincentian beat Nazareth 74-72, the second time this season Vincentian has beaten the Saints by one basket. That leaves Vincentian all alone in first place with a 9-0 record, Cornell in second at 7-2 and Nazareth third at 6-3.

Eden Christian defeated Rochester 74-59. Union rolled over Quigley 61-44. This leaves Eden and Union tied for fourth at 5-4. Unfortunately, Eden has more games remaining against the top three teams so is likely to pick up enough losses to give Union sole possession of fourth and the accompanying WPIAL postseason bid.

Cornell still faces a rugged road stretch in the unbalanced schedule the WPIAL computer created for it. The Raiders travel to Rochester this Friday, and Eden next Tuesday. That will conclude five consecutive road games. Then, on Friday (January 31) Cornell finally returns home for a big game with Union. Tuesday (Feb. 4) the Raiders go to Quigley and then close out the regular season with Vincentian Friday Feb. 7.

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WPIAL FB Realignment Alters Cornell Schedule

The WPIAL football realignment for the next two year cycle will significantly change Cornell's schedule.

Gone from the Raider schedule are Sto-Rox, Laurel and Bishop Canevin. Added will be Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and Shenango.

Bishop Canevin has been moved to a different Class A conference. Sto-Ros and Laurel have been moved up to Class 2A.

Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and Shenango have all been moved down from Class 2A.

So Cornell's conference schedule will now include Northgate, Union, Rochester, Sacred Heart, Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and Shenango.

Last season, Sto-Rox handed Cornell its only regular season loss.

Rochester and Sacred Heart are traditional WPIAL powers.

The WPIAL realigns schools every two years, which represents a home-and-away cycle. Its computer creates the schedules, including the nonconference games.

There will also be a change in the nonconference schedule. Coaches requested, and the WPIAL agreed, to move all nonconference games to the beginning of the season, so that teams have two or three games to polish their offenses and defenses before beginning conference play.

The WPIAL struggled with this year's realignment. Coaches and administrators have complained loudly for the last two years about the loss of traditional rivals, the long distances teams have to travel, and the declining attendance because fans don't care about the teams placed in their conference.

So the WPIAL summoned all the coaches and administrators to a special meeting at which they presented an alternate proposal. They would go back to neighborhood rivals regardless of school size. This would have had Cornell playing Avonworth, Carlynton, Quaker Valley and Montour, in addition to OLSH, Sto-Rox, Northgate and Rochester. But, at the end of the regular season, conference play would be irrelevant. The WPIAL computer would power rank all teams and select the top eight in each class to advance to the playoffs.

Coaches decided they didn't like this format, either. They voted to keep conferences within enrollment classes.

For most of the 20th Century, Burgettstown was a traditional Coraopolis and Cornell rival in both football and basketball. Fort Cherry has been a frequent basketball opponent and Shenango has off and on been a football conference opponent. As Cornell declined in enrollment and Burgettstown grew slightly, they stopped playing each other. But now Burgettstown is also losing enrollment, so it is once again close to Cornell's size.

Cornell is coming off its greatest season in school history and Coach Ed Dawson will be in a massive rebuilding year. However, he retains several key skill players and several key linemen so has a nucleus to build around. OLSH will be strong again and favored to win the conference. Rochester suffered through its rebuilding year last year and will be strong again. But losing Sto-Rox from the schedule will help, since Cornell has not won a Sto-Rox game in modern memory. Losing traditionally strong Laurel will also help. Struggling Canevin was a guaranteed win, so losing it from the schedule hurts.

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Cornell Grade Schoolers Lay The Foundation

Cornell High School Girls Basketball is struggling. The team is in the WPIAL's toughest section and is not doing well. And the reason why is no secret. Cornell has never had a comprehensive elementary school program. It does not bring girls up to the high school with game experience or years of work on fundamentals.

This year they're trying to change that. Aaron Melius and Bethsny Griffith volunteered to coach a 4th grade and under, and a 6th grade and under team. They have third graders acting as reserves on the 4th grade team, and 5th graders acting as reserves on the 6th grade team. (Mark Bolla coaches the high school team.)

On the sixth grade team, he starts Zoey Kaczmarek (#62 in photo at right), Bethany Shugis, Alivia Walsh, McKenna Griffith and Courtney Gutt. Reserves are Kylie Arnot, Areanna Camardese, Ramsey Shaw, Peyton Thomas and Gianna Gracyk

On the fourth grade he starts Caitlyn Gibson, Maleah Turner, Samantha Melius, Clara Joranger and Reese Roebels.

Their basic routine is to practice two days a week and play one game a week. However, the gym isn't always available, so sometimes they have to adapt. They might play two games one week and none the next.

"This gym is a problem," he admits. "We only have this one gym. But we have both girls and boys high school teams, middle school teams, and grade school teams all needing to use it. One problem that causes is if the high school teams use it right after school, and the middle school teams use it next, then by the time we get our turn it's too late in the evening to ask 10-12 year old girls to be staying out every night.

Another problem is the schedule. "We want to play a 10 game schedule. But none of the other schools our size bother with grade school girls. The only schools which do are the big 5A schools like Canon McMillan, Montour, Chartiers Valley and West Allegheny. If we play them, with so many more girls to draw from, they have girls much taller and more athletic. So we have a hard time winning. Now, we could find schools our size with teams, but they're a long ways away. We'd be driving up on the other side of Pittsburgh or down below Washington or up by Newcastle every week. Not all of our Parents can do that, what with jobs and other family responsibilities."

He's hoping to find a few Class A Tournaments for late February. He'd organize one and host it at Cornell, but the gym;'s not available.

So, temporarily Cornell is a Class A school playing in a 5A conference.

It's tough to persuade grade school girls to invest the time in basketball. Cheerleading, Girl Scouts, piano lessons and homework take precedene.

"But if we don't get them involved now, we never will. Right now, we have really good athletes in high school on the cheerleding team. But not playing basketball. So we have to get them now."

Melius played high school basketball at Portage, in the center of the state. After serving in the military, he played college basketball in his mid 20s.

"For years I resisted the temptation to coach because it's so time consuming. But here they had no one else, so it came down to either I did it or there was no team for my daughter to play on."

Samantha Melius is the coach's daughter. She already has a reputation as a fine youth baseball player, as does McKenna Griffith. Samantha has played on Coach Pitch teams, McKenna on Minor League teams.

Melius would like to work with the girls during the off season if he can persuade them to put in the time and if he can get the gym.

"We have a lot of fundamentals work to do," he pointed out. "If we have to compete with these bigger schools, we have to become better shots, better ballhandlers, better defenders and better rebounders. Plus, the girls have to spend a lot of time in the gym if they're going to develop the kind of instincts you need to play in midle school or high school."

But in the first year of the program he has 29 girls on the roster. "If we can keep them, we'll be OK in a few years."

Kevin Edwards

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Nazareth Dims Lights On Cornell, 65-48

The Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club, where for some unexplained reason Nazareth Prep plays its home games, has a fine full length floor. But on a good evening it has only eight lights overhead. Friday night, three of those were burned out. So playing there was rather like playing on an outdoor court under a streetlight. There were shadows. (These photos have been artificially brightened through Photoshop.)

And the darkness went beyond lighting. Cornell played its worst game of the season, losing 65-48 to a poor shooting team it had beaten 76-54 just a month ago.

The difference was that this time Coach Nehemiah Brazil told his Saints to shoot NOTHING outside the lane. All Nazareth shots were layups, dunks, follows, lobs and free throws.

For the first quarter and half of rhe second, it looked like Cornell would overcome this strategy. Isaiah Langston hit two layups and a foul line jump shot, Kaden DiVito made a corner three, a tip in, and a layup, and Giavante Kingwalden added a layup for a slim 17-16 lead. But it was a costly quarter. Zaire Harrison (shooting in bottom photo) was already in foul trouble with two.

In the second Drew Lopez (with ball in bottom photo) opened with a layup, Langston followed with a corner three and a dunk, DiVito hit a layup and a free throw, and Harrison added a top three. That made it 29-16 with 4:54 til halftime. And that was when Cornell's game fell apart.

"We're up 13," Coach Bill Sacco told his team.

"We're in control. From here on, run your weave and keep working the ball until you get either a layup or short jump shot or a wide open three. Do not hurry your shots and do not take anything but your best shots."

No one listened. The Raiders kept firing too quickly and did not wait for their favorite shots. The much taller Saints got every rebound, came down, and fed the ball to the big men inside. Nazareth scored on three layups, a jump shot (from in the lane just below the foul circle), a follow and two free throws to cut the halftime lead to 31-28. Meanwhile, Cornell was accumulatimg fouls. Harrison had gone back in and promptly picked up his third. Other Raiders had two. And relations with the officials were becoming testy. The larger, beefier Saints were making it a physical game and Cornell was being called for fouls. Nazareth made more free throws (17) than Cornell shot (14), and Cornell only hit five of 14. Nazareth players hit 17 of 31. So the Saints shot twice as many as Cornell.

The third quarter was a disaster for Cornell. The only points they could produce were a Harrison layup and free throw and a Lopez layup. Meanwhile, taking it inside on every possession, Nazareth scored 18 on four layups, three follows and four free throws. The Saints shot poorly. They took three or four shots to finally make a simple layup. But they kept grabbing rebound after rebound over the much shorter Raiders.

And the fouls kept mounting. Sacco played reserves Drew Lopez, Caleb Dunn (#12 in photo above) and MJ Smith to spell his foul plagued starters, but only Lopez scored and he got the only rebound of the reserves.

The atmosphere grew more hostile as the Saint lead rose. Ranked 4th to Cornell's 2nd, they taunted Cornell after each made basket, clapping in their faces and chanting "over rated." When Raiders took the bait and responded, they were whistled for warnings or Technical fouls. Blaine Sams (#15 at right) was called for two technicals and will have to sit out a game next week.

Cornell launched its final rally to start the fourth. Down 46-36, Harrison hit a corner three and layup, Sams a side three and Langston a layup to cut it to two with 5:44 left. But those were the last field goals Cornell scored. The Saints ran off four follows, two layups, a five foot jumper and five free throws for 19 points while the Raiders were limited to one free throw each by Harrison and DiVito.

For the second game this week Cornell was outrebounded badly, 50-29. Much of that disparity was due to Nazareth shooting so badly. Each possession, they would rebound three or four times trying to score on layups, tipins or follows. Langston led Cornell with 11, followed by DiVito with seven, Kingwalden with four, Harrison and Sams with three each, and Lopez with one.

Langston and Harrison led scoring with 14 each. DiVito added 10, Lopez four, and Kingwalden and Sams three each.

The game was especially worrisome because it revealed a Cornell inflexibility that could prove fatal in the playoffs. This late in the season, everybody has everybody scouted and has plenty of game film. Coach Brazil had clearly drilled his defenses on Cornell's offensive movements and their favorite shooting spots. Every time a Cornell player moved to one of their spots, a defender was there waiting. Brazil used a matchup zone out of a 1-3-1 alignment to reach Cornell's perimeter shooters, while collapsing on anyone trying to drive. Notice in the photo at left, and the two above, how any Cornell player moving toward the basket is immediately surrounded by three defenders. It's an effective defense, but it opens up other players IF the players are patient and willing to keep reversing the floor and finding the open man, or driving and kicking out.

For example, in rhe photo above (taken from the catwalk high above the floor) Harrison has three taller defenders collapsed on him, but Kingwalden (#4) is wide open at the free throw line for an easy jump shot. The secret is to keep moving the ball and not forcing shots.

That rebounding problem can also be addressed by aggressive boxing out, even if it comes down to face blocking by some players while teammates go for the rebound. Against timber tall teams like Vincentian and Nazareth, it must be addressed.

But Cornell's seniors, who have been playing together since the 4th grade, seem reluctant to run any new offensive movements or bother with boxing out. They have compiled the most successful four year run in school history and believe in their system. Unfortunately the game is changing. They face coaches who have recruited all star teams and are using sophisticated strategies against them. Sacco and his staff have been around for 40 years and know the game, but the players have to listen.

Cornell will face Vincentian once more in the regular season and will almost certainly face both Nazareth and Vincentian in the postseason, in the WPIAL and the PIAA. Last year Nazareth defeated Cornell in the semifinals to keep them from the Petersen Events Center, then Vincentian knocked Cornell out of the PIAA. Two years ago, Vincentian stopped them in the semifinals.

The loss left Cornell and Nazareth tied for second in the Section with 6-2 records, behind 8-0 Vincentian. Cornell will lose its #2 ranking in the WPIAL, probably to be replaced by Bishop Canevin.

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Vincentian Size, Marksmanship Too Much

Cornell's #2 ranked Raiders gave it all they had, but there's a reason Vincentian is ranked #1 in the WPIAL and the entire state.

A 6-6 player playing hard is just too much for a 6-0 player playing hard. Cornell could create no advantage Tuesday night in Vincentian's rat's nest gym with its three rows of metal bleachers and fans sitting with their feet on the playing surface. The Royals won in a rout, 92-61, although the score was only 84-55 when Cornell Coach Bill Sacco called time out and sent in the reserves with 3:16 remaining.

Cornell opened up in its usual aggressive in your face defense and made a game of it for a while. Kaden DiVito (#2 in photo below) put a rebound back in and scored two free throws, Zaire Harrison (#1 in photo at right and below)) scored on a top three, two layups and a free throw, and Isaiah Langston (bottom photo) scored on a layup. That put Cornell up 14-11 with 3:28 left in the first quarter and Vincentian Coach Shelton Carney called time.

He changed his lineup, replacing a few of his taller players with 5-10 and 5-11 players to match Cornell's quickness. And he ordered his players to open fire from the perimeter. The result was stunning. The Royals hit three straight side threes and buried SIX threes in all, two from on top and four from the sides, en route to a 27-21 first quarter lead. Harrison's layup and top three and Giavante Kingwalden's jump shot could not keep up with this barrage.

The problem Cornell faced was that they had 6-6 players shooting over their outstretched arms and draining threes. There was nothing they could do.

But they kept fighting. Vincentian's long distance shooting cooled to begin the second, and with those shooters out on the perimeter Cornell was able to grab a few rebounds and fire them downcourt. Harrison, Langston and DiVito scored three straight layups to cut that gap. Again, Carney called time and changed strategy. This time, he told his team to take it inside. Again, Cornell with its height disadvantage was unable to stop the Royals.

Layups, a dunk and a foul line jump shot pushed the lead back out to 41-29 at 2:43, as all Cornell could produce was a DiVito layup.

Then things got worse. Harrison and Langston picked up their second fouls and Kingwalden his third, so Sacco had to ease off his aggressive defense. Blaine Sams grabbed a rebound and put it back and Harrison hit a layup at the buzzer to keep Cornell's flickering hopes alive, 45-33 at the half.

But Vincentian and the officials quickly extinguished those hopes in the third. The Royals scored the first nine points to go up 54-33. While this was happening, Langston picked up his third foul only 40 seconds in, and Kingwalden got his fourth at 6:32 and fouled out at 6:11.

Cornell fans weren't happy with the officials, but whenever two or more 6-6 players are wrestling with 5-10 and 5-11 players for the ball, either under the boards or out on the floor, and every player is physically fit and strong, inevitably the smaller players end up on the floor, against the wall or in the first rows of the stands, just like a bear shaking off a dog. That was how the game progressed, with DiVito, Harrison and Sams taking the brunt of it, but Langston getting knocked around under the basket (see photo below). In one almost comical sequence, Vincentian double teamed Harrison on their full court press. They wrestled the ball away and flung Harrison into the stands. He was still freeing himself from being half under the bleachers and half tangled up in two spectators while down at the other end of the floor Cornell was playing 4-on-5 defense until he got there. There was no call by the official standing three feet away.

Cornell couldn't get its shots off. Vincentian defenders swatted shots away, blocked them, or simply grabbed them out of the air and went the other way. Even when Raiders did get a shot off, it was hurried and had to be altered, usually with a higher arc to get over those taller defenders. So the usual high Cornell shooting percentages were way down.

Somehow, DiVito managed to get off three layups, Harrison soared high for a spectacular runner (photo, left), Langston sank three free throws, and Drew Lopez added a layup. But it was too little too late, as the third quarter score ballooned to 69-47.

Those 24 points came on nine layups, all over top of Cornell defenders who had position, plus a side three and three free throws.

The fourth opened with a Vincentian dunk and three layups and Harrison picking up his fourth foul. That made it 77-47 with 5:17.

With 3:16 to go and the score 84-55 Sacco pulled his starters to avoid injuries.

DiVito led Cornell with 21 points. Harrison added 20, Langston nine, MJ Smith three, and Sams, Lopez and Kingwalden two.

It was the worst Cornell rebounding in three seasons. The Raiders were outrebounded 44-17. Langston had nine, Harrison four, DiVito three and Sams one.

DiVito had five steals. Langston had four assists and three blocks.

The win left Vincentian alone in first place in Section 1A with a 7-0 record. Cornell is second at 6-1. Nazareth, which defeated Eden 75-54 Tuesday, is third at 5-2. Eden is fourth at 4-3.

Vincentian remains #1 in the WPIAL and #1 in Pennsylvania. The computer considers them the odds on favorite to win the state championship.

Cornell gets the Royals at home the last Friday of the regular season. Presumably, Vincentian will not shoot quite as well, especially from the three point line. But the Twin Towers of Ethan Embleton and Angelo Reeves are still 6-6 and Cornell will still have to figure a way to handle them on the boards and keep them from just scoring over top of defenders,

First, however, Cornell has another challenge. It has a game Friday night against Nazareth. The Nazareth game is a classic example of how bizarre competition in WPIAL Class A has become. The WPIAL has ruled that Nazareth's home court is so bad as to be unusable. So the Saints have to find another site for their home games. They've played some at Robert Morris, then moved to the Hill District YMCA. That arrangement ended. Nazareth has now scheduled Friday's game at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. So Cornell and Nazareth, located three miles apart across a bridge from each other, are both travelling 18 miles into the city to play. Parking is not a problem at the Lawrenceville site, there being two large lots adjacent. This new facility was built in 2000 to replace the old 1920 building. The problem will be in seating. The gym was not built with the idea of hosting games. There is room for 100 spectators. The JV game begins at 5:30. Cornell fans are urged to arrive early in order to get one of those 100 seats, or indeed to get in at all. Although Cornell defeated Nazareth earlier this year at Cornell, the Saints are defending WPIAL champions and only lost to Vincentian by three two weeks ago. The Saints badly outrebounded Cornell in their earlier matchup.

Robin Gilligan

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412-262-2913

rsgilligan@msn.com,

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Raiders Destroy Quigley, 86-35

Cornell's Raiders warmed up for their showdown with Vincentian with an 86-35 Friday night home rout of Quigley.

Quigley stayed with Cornell for a quarter, 23-17. Then Cornell shifted into gear and outscored the visitors 24-9 in the second for a 47-26 lead at halftime. It gor worse for Quigley, as Cornell rolled 20-3 in the third and 19-6 in the fourth.

Zaire Harrison and Kaden DiVito led all scorers with 22 points each. Isaiah Langston added 15.

The win kept Cornell ranked second in the WPIAL and tied for first in Section 1A with Vincentian with a 6-0 record.

Vincentian defeated Eden Christian 82-62 Friday night, as Nazareth beat Union 73-53 and Western Beaver rolled over winless Rochester 86-48.

So now it's on to the Tuesday night civil war with Vincentian at the Royals' McKnight Road crackerbox gym.

Vincentian starts the tallest lineup in Pennsylvania and is ranked #1 in the state, as well as the WPIAL. The shortest Royal starter is 6-5. Its Twin Towers, Angelo Reeves and Ethan Embleton, both 6-6, both average 20+ points and 10+ rebounds.

Ironically, Cornell now finds itself hating to go into Vincentian with its cramped floor and playing conditions, officially recognized as the worst remaining gym in the WPIAL. For years, the old Coraopolis High School had the worst gym in the WPIAL and opponents always hated coming in. Now Cornell has a fine gym and has to go play in a bad one.

Because of the home floor advantage, Vincentian will be favored. But Cornell gets the Royals back home in February.