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Friends of Coal Prep Classic press conference highlights game matchups

Written by: on Thursday, July 30th, 2009


WHEELING, W. Va. – Thursday was supposed to be an exciting day, a day of talking football and the 2nd annual Friends of Coal Prep Football Classic during a press conference featuring the 10 coaches of the schools involved in a five-game marathon Sept. 5th in Wheeling.

Instead, the press conference began on a somber note.

Event coordinator Ken Halloy broke the news that St. Joseph’s Prep head football coach Gil Brooks called Wednesday night and would not be in attendance. One of the players on the St. Joe’s Prep team drowned while at the beach.

Halloy did not name the player, but promised coach Brooks that there would be a moment of silence before kicking off the activities.

When Halloy broke the news, a look of concern came across the face of Pittsburgh Central Catholic head coach Terry Totten. Last fall, recall, Totten and the Vikings dealt with the loss of Kyle Wilson, who passed away after complications from a stroke.

This year’s event features five games, with kickoffs scheduled for 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m, 6 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.

For the Pennsylvania teams involved in the event, they each face a unique set of challenges.

McKeesport Area and St. Joe’s Prep face off at 12:30 p.m. in the second game of the day. McKeesport Area head coach George Smith said he hasn’t seen a lot of the Hawks, but what he has seen impresses him.

“They’re a very impressive, hard-nosed football team,” Smith said of the Hawks, who have won 462 games and 15 Philadelphia Catholic League championships.

St. Joe’s Prep must contend with a forceful McKeesport flexbone offense. The Tigers’ offense has, since the start of the 2004 season, topped 40+ points in a game 29 times, and outscored their opposition by an average of 36-14 in that 62-game span.

The middle match, slated for 3:30 p.m., is an absolute doozy. Woodland Hills, led by five-time WPIAL champion coach George Novak, goes up against Steubenville, a big red machine that is all sorts of powerful.

These two teams have met before – twice, in fact – in the middle 1990s, and both meetings went the way of the Big Red. Novak recalled that first meeting.

“They had this horse in the end zone that shot fire out of it when they scored a touchdown,” Novak recalled, “and they scored so many points that the horse ran out of gas.”

Longtime Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia (pronounced Saa-koch) wasted no time in talking a little trash.

“I’d like to wish all the coaches the best of luck…except George Novak,” Saccoccia said.

That wasn’t meant personally, but in jest. Saccoccia and Novak have been good friends for quite a while. But that might change if Novak’s Wolverines end Steubenville’s impressive 60-game regular season winning streak.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic is back in the classic for the second straight year. Last year, the Vikings drew a tougher-than-leather matchup in Lakeland, a Florida powerhouse which ran circles around them.

This year’s match-up gets no easier – Youngstown Ursuline is the defending Ohio Division-V state champions, coming off of a 15-0 season. For the second straight year, the Irish will not play a single Division-V football team until they reach the Ohio state playoffs.

Some people made note about how reserved Totten was during last year’s classic.

“That’s because we were getting our heads kicked in by Lakeland,” Totten said.

“We know we’re in this thing with a great football team in Ursuline,” Totten continued.

Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon’s team might not be afraid of Central Catholic, a school with a much larger enrollment than his own, but he acknowledged the challenge his Irish face.

“Pittsburgh Central Catholic is a very formidable opponent,” Reardon said. “And we’re looking forward to taking on that formidable opponent.”

Youngstown-Ursuline is 44-20 under Reardon, who enters his fifth season with the school.

The opening game pits Wheeling Central Catholic against Akron-Buchtel (pronounced Book-tul). The Maroon Knights have a 48-7 record and three state championships under the guidance of head coach Mike Young, and finished 10-3 last season.

Buchtel finished with four victories last season, and is led by former Michigan running back Ricky Powers.

In the nightcap, regional rivals Bellaire and John Marshall square off on the Wheeling Island turf.

Marshall finished winless last season, but has had 14 state playoff appearances in its history, which began in 1968. Bellaire, located six miles west, just across the Ohio River, has won 12 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championships in its history, and played in consecutive state championship games in 1995 and 1996.

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