Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

You have found the Observer-Reporter’s annual football preview edition. And with it comes some good news and some bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news for those of you who like the sun. Summer is over. Another school year is just around the corner.

The good news is, it’s football season.

This is the 43rd year that the O-R has produced a football preview, and for more than two decades we have been producing it in conjunction with The Almanac. After several years of a glossy magazine-style edition, we have gone back to the traditional tabloid format, which allows for more photographs. If there is one thing we have learned, it’s this: If it’s not broken, don’t change it. You’ll only make the readers mad.

So we hope you keep this preview close by for the entire football season.

The O-R’s Joe Tuscano, Luke Campbell, Joe Smeltzer, John Sacco and Bill Hughes, and The Almanac’s Eleanor Bailey, have been busy so that you can be ready for the start of the high school season, which is Friday for most schools in the area.

According to our observations after visiting camps and talking to the coaches, we could be in for another exciting year. The high school season should be spiced with some interesting playoff races in all six classifications and there is a very good chance that we will see at least one local team playing for a WPIAL championship and possibly beyond.

For what it’s worth, we’ve been hearing that the WPIAL could be going back to a four-classification setup – even if the PIAA doesn’t – in the near future, so that is something we will keep tabs on in the coming months.

If anything can be learned from last year, that was to expect plenty of points to be scored. Last year, games involving teams from the O-R and Almanac’s coverage area had an average of 50.1 points. Yes, modern football is not your father’s high school football. It’s more like a video game.

Last season, Tuscano had plenty to write about with Washington & Jefferson College. The Presidents advanced to the NCAA Division III playoffs, and veteran head coach Mike Sirianni has another strong team with high expectations this year. That should keep Tuscano busy, but let’s hope the O-R’s longtime assistant sports editor can find time to study the other local teams so that he can end his streak of futility in our football predictions contest that runs in each Thursday edition.

California University was picked to finish second in the PSAC’s West Division and the Vulcans are determined to make it back to the Division II playoffs after being left out last year. Waynesburg, meanwhile, is making strides under third-year coach Chris Smithley and is looking to climb in the standings and pull off a major upset or two in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there should be fewer distractions and controversy, but will that lead to more victories? There is a sense of urgency with the Steelers as the window of opportunity for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to return Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl might be rapidly closing.

Observer-Reporter sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at dugan@observer-reporter.com.

Observer-Reporter sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at dugan@observer-reporter.com.

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