Former local high school stars collide as Cal U defeats the Rock

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by Malik Vincent

It’s not typical when a star player on the high school level advances to compete at the next level. In fact, it is more often than naught when a community can tout their favorite athlete’s accomplishments, while they play at their respective college or university—especially in western Pennsylvania.

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LEADING RUSHER—Cal U’s Lamont Smith, a Central Catholic grad, gets by Brandon Watters, who played at Woodland Hills. Smith rushed for 194 yards on 31 carries in the Vulcans 29-3 win over Slippery Rock. (Photos by William McBride)

In this case, examples of the hard work and dedication put forth by local athletes to get to that level were displayed when Slippery Rock and California (PA) took the field in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West division showdown at Cal’s Adamson Stadium on Saturday.

Cal U, ranked No. 4 in the Division II coaches poll, would keep it that way and remain on top the conference with a 28-3 homecoming win over the Rock. Cal U remains undefeated and improves to 7-0 overall. The Vulcans maintained their lead in league standings with a 4-0 divisional mark. Meanwhile, Slippery Rock fell to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in conference action, dropping into a four-way tie for third place.

Cal U was led by sophomore running back Lamont Smith, a Pittsburgh native and former star at Central Catholic, who rushed for a career-high 194 yards on 31 attempts and senior quarterback Josh Portis, who tossed for three touchdowns. Smith transferred from Colorado as a freshman to a junior college in Arizona and then joined Cal U after last season.

“We did a really good job opening holes, while making things happen in the running game,” Smith said. “It’s an intense rivalry but we don’t see it as anything more than an opportunity to play and win. It is nice to be able to play against guys that I grew up playing against. We got a win and that’s what we were looking for.”

Smith played his youth football with the Garfield Gators in the Allegheny County Midget Football League. “Yeah, that’s right. I’m a Gator,” Smith replied, candidly. “I’ve played against guys like (Slippery Rock’s Brandon) Watters and Freeman back in the day. It’s nice to play them on this level and see how they’ve grown.”

Each defense showcased a former Penn Hills standout, Cal junior Shawn Anderson and Slippery Rock junior Andre Freeman.

“I know Andre very well,” said Anderson, who is a starter for Cal at safety, before the game. “We called him Dre back in Penn Hills. He’s a very good player. He player corner and then safety, whenever I left. I’m looking forward to playing against him again. I played against him last year, when he was the starting corner. I wish the best for him and I wish better for myself, obviously.”

“He’s fast and he’s going to hit you,” Freeman said about Anderson’s playing style. “I understand that he’s not only a good player, but he’s a good dude. He likes to laugh, joke and have fun. He’s just an all-around good human being.”

The game also featured another western Pennsylvania standout in Robert Doiley. He starred as a defensive player and return specialist for the McKeesport Tigers and took his talents to Slippery Rock. Doily is among the team’s leaders in all-purpose yards with 226.

“McKeesport is a rough area and football is one of the ways that you can get out,” replied Doiley. “(Coming to Slippery Rock) made me a better player and a stronger person with a stronger attitude.”

Cal hopes to remain the favorite to not only win the conference, but to be NCAA Division II national champions. Anderson feels there is a good chance for that to happen. But he also credits Slippery Rock for not playing scared.

“We played good football and we expect to continue to play at a high level,” he said. “We respect (Slippery Rock). They came out and played with courage. It was nice to play against and see old friends. We’re still good friends, despite the rivalry.”

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