Friday nights under the lights are back in western Pennsylvania. People will fill the stands in local high school football stadiums all over the region as this fall favorite re-appears.
One team receiving national attention are the Indians of Penn Hills Senior High School. Pennsylvania Football News ranks them No. 10 in the state in class AAAA while they are No. 17 in the nation, according to rivals.com.
|SENIOR LEADERSHIP—Penn Hills captains Myles Davis, No. 6; Cullen Christian, No. 24; Aaron Donald, No. 59; and Brandon Ifill, No. 1, with head coach Ron Graham.
They feature a star-studded defense that is led by four-star recruit Cullen Christian—a 6-1, 180-pound senior corner who currently has seven strong offers to Division I programs. These schools include Michigan, Maryland, Pittsburgh, UCLA, West Virginia, Illinois and North Carolina. Others who highlight Penn Hills’ star power are middle linebacker Myles Davis (who’s committed to Syracuse), safety Brandon Ifill (recruited by seven D-1 programs), and Aaron Donald, the 6-1, 270-pound defensive lineman who made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Pittsburgh next year.
Last season, under the direction of head coach Ron Graham, the Indians complied a record of 8-4 and made it all the way to the WPIAL AAAA semifinals where they lost to Gateway Nov. 14, at Gateway High School.
“We are very excited with the senior leadership that we display this season with our four captains in Christian, Donald, Davis and Ifill,” said Graham. You can X and O all you want but that is a real plus whenever you can rely on the leaders of your team to lead you out on the field. We still have to fill in some gaps offensively, namely at tailback and quarterback where there is a three-way battle for that position. That is a concern of ours as we get into the start of the season. But hopefully that will be addressed and we can get some wins.”
Penn Hills graduate and former Steelers running back Chuck Sanders made a donation of $55,000 this off season to renovate the weight room at the Bill Fralic Center, which is Penn Hills’ athletic training center.
The Clairton Bears are out to defend their WPIAL championship in Class A. Offensively, they will be headed by running back and Division I prospect, Deontae Howard and Pitt recruit Kevin Weatherspoon.
“Win one more game. That’s what we’re looking for,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “The players know they can’t be lazy. Our expectations are high.”
Others teams around the WPIAL who expect to have successful campaigns are McKeesport, Gateway, Woodland Hills and Beaver Falls.
Pittsburgh City League
The Brashear Bulls are expected to return to prominence as they feature three offensive threats that are coming off of big years in 2008.
Senior WR/DB Manasseh Garner is, according to scout.com, the 26th best recruit at his position in the nation. He has a multitude of Division-I offers including, Akron, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toledo and Wisconsin. He is 6-2 and 200 pounds and is a threat on both sides of the ball. He is being recruited at receiver, defensive back, linebacker or halfback.
Others returning are running back Bruce Patterson and quarterback Henri Chatman as seniors to make it a three-peat as champions of the Pittsburgh City League.
“Last year is over. They’ve got to prove they are going to be in a position to do it again,” said Brashear head coach Rick Murphy. “We’ve got a level of success that we’re trying to uphold, and they set the bar really high and push each other on the field.”—According to comments made on WTAE, high school playbook.
Last season, this offense was high-powered. Chatman facilitated the offensive scheme, completing at least 58 percent of his passes for 1,624 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also rushed for six more scores. Patterson rushed for 1,130 yards on 162 carries and 14 touchdowns, as he looks to finish out his high school football career with a division-1 offer.
Garner, however has proven the biggest threat. He was the team’s leading receiver last season with 50 receptions, 702 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had the team lead with 84 tackles and recorded six sacks and three interceptions.
“As a football player there’s just so many things he can do,” Murphy said. “He’s probably our top offensive weapon. Our offensive coordinator is always coming up with some idea to get the ball in his hands.”