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Western PA storylines in 2009

Written by: on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


The start of the 2009 high school football season might not start for six months, but it’s never too early to start thinking about what the upcoming season could offer.  How many freshmen will make significant impacts this coming season?  Will the teams in the WPIAL’s Keystone Conference ever win an opening-round playoff game?  Here is a sampling of items to watch for this upcoming season:

Portage Area running backs Mike Sinosky & Tommy Burgan each have a chance to reach 4,000 rushing yards for their careers.  It’s a unique storyline because it’s not known if a team ever had two running backs each surpass 4,000 career rushing yards in the same season.  Sinoksy has run for 3,040 yards; Burgan has 2,121.  The duo combined for 3,231 yards and 42 touchdowns last year.

Speaking of the ground attack, 18 different backfields had two running backs each surpass 1,000 rushing yards last year.  At least one PIAA champion since 2003 has produced a duo of 1,000-yard rushers.  Will that streak continue in 2009?

Clairton could make some history in terms of points scored in a season. The Bears scored 612 points last year.  If Clairton hits the 600-point mark again in 2009, it will be just the second team in state history to have consecutive seasons of 600 points or more.  The only other team to do that was Southern Columbia in 2003 & 2004.

Sticking with the WPIAL, can Thomas Jefferson keep its dynasty going strong?  How about Aliquippa – can the Quips win their 14th WPIAL football championship?  And Hopewell’s Rushel Shell (that is, if he stays at Hopewell, and isn’t recruited somewhere else) has the potential to become one of the best running backs the WPIAL has ever seen.

The elite 300-win club of coaches will welcome at least one member in 2009, and possibly a second or maybe a third.  Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth is just three victories shy of 300 for his career, and Forest Hills’ Don Bailey isn’t far behind.  Bailey is 10 wins shy of 300.  Manheim Central’s Mike Williams is 13 wins shy of the mark.  The 300 club currently has seven members, with retired Selinsgrove head coach Bill Scott (303 victories) the most recent member.

2009 marks year number two of the Mark Soboleski regime at McDowell.  Soboleski brought a high-powered triple-option offense to Millcreek Township last year, one which produced a school-record 453 points and two 1,000-yard rushers.  How will McDowell fair with the graduation of its main offensive catalysts, AJ Fenton and Alex Schmude?

Also, Wilmington and Farrell are two very dominant programs in the southern part of District 10.  Wilmington has won 11 championships between Districts 7 & 10; Farrell has won eight, six of which are WPIAL titles.  Will the Greyhounds and Steelers continue their dominance?

District 9 has an exciting junior quarterback in Brockway’s Derek Buganza.  As a sophomore, he threw for 2,923 yards.  Could he become District 9’s all-time leading passer?  The title currently belongs to former Clearfield quarterback Chad Kroell, who threw for 6,088 yards.

Brashear could win its third straight City League championship.  The Bulls have never won more than two consecutive City League titles in its history.  Also, Langley’s Joey Bell was a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous-22 selection.  Will Mr. Bell make it two straight Fab-22 selections?


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