If there is a litmus test for determining if Week Zero has any lasting impact, it could be tonight.
Each of the seven local teams that opted for a second scrimmage – Canon-McMillan, Trinity, Carmichaels, Charleroi, Burgettstown, Monessen and Belle Vernon – take on teams that played a Week Zero game last weekend.
Here is what to watch in Week 1 of the high school football season:
1. Winning in the trenches: The Washington defensive line changed Charleroi’s game plan when the teams met last year in Week 1. During the 34 times Geno Pellegrini dropped back to pass, the Charleroi quarterback was too often forced to run left or scramble right. Pellegrini still completed 19 of his 34 passes, nearly all of which were thrown while under duress.
If the Cougars are to be one of the top teams, or the best team, in the Interstate Conference, their offensive and defensive lines must play better against Washington when the teams meet tonight at Myron Pottios Stadium in an early-season showdown.
Washington replaced four of its five starters on the offensive line but that didn’t stop the Prexies from scoring 59 points in a win over Laurel Highlands last week. The Prexies’ new offensive line looked good doing it, too. Quarterback Zack Swartz threw for 357 yard and Dylan Asbury, who Washington coach Mike Bosnic said is in line to be the next great running back at the school, ran for four touchdowns.
The only thing that slowed Washington in its 36-8 win over Charleroi last year were the Prexies’ own mistakes.
If Charleroi is to gain the inside track to the conference title, then it must start up front, in the trenches, against Washington. The team that wins the line play will likely win the game.
2. C-M trying to end drought: If Canon-McMillan is to defeat Mt. Lebanon for the first time since 2008, then stopping big plays could be the way to do it.
In a 24-17 loss to Mt. Lebanon last year, the Big Macs gave up touchdowns of 51 and 73 yards. Two years ago, a fumble returned 68 yards in the third quarter broke the game open for the Blue Devils, who always seem to have trouble with the Big Macs.
The positive news for Canon-McMillan is Blue Devils wide receiver Aidan Cain is gone. Cain reeled in 10 catches for 212 yards last season. Seth Morgan takes over at quarterback for James Stocker, who completed 14 of 23 passes for 248 yards when the teams met last year.
Can the Big Macs flip the script on Mt. Lebanon with big plays of their own?
Whether it’s Tre Lewis or Jon Quinque throwing the passes – C-M head coach Mike Evans said both could play this season – they will need to incorporate wide receiver Drew Engel into the offense as much as possible.
It’s early, but if the Big Macs are going to be one of the six playoff teams in Class 6A, games against teams like Mt. Lebanon are must-wins.
3. Avoiding 400: There might not be another team Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render would be more confident to get career win No. 400 against than Peters Township.
Rightfully so, if you look at history of the series.
The last time the neighboring schools met was in 2015, a 34-14 victory for USC. When PT and USC were put in the same conference in 2008, it began a USC winning streak that still hasn’t been snapped. The Panthers have won all eight games against PT, scoring at least 30 points six times. The Panthers also won each of those games by double digits.
Render, who has 399 career wins, has never lost to Peters Township.
This, however, could be a game in which the Indians prove they are much better than in years past.
Third-year head coach T.J. Plack wasn’t a part of any of the losses to USC. And the Indians have several talented returning players.
Both teams are 1-0 but got to that point in very different ways. USC defeated South Fayette, 34-33, in a game that ended the Lions’ 57-game regular-season winning streak. The Indians cruised to a comfortable 43-7 victory over West Toronto Prep in the Western Pa. vs. Everyone Showcase at Woodland Hills.
4.Double trouble: For the success McGuffey has had since 2000, there is something the Highlanders have never achieved. When it plays Northgate tonight in Claysville, McGuffey will be seeking its first 2-0 start this century. That’s hard to believe when you consider some of the successful seasons the Highlanders have had.
5. Zmijanac vs. Cherpak: The only alluring part of the matchup between Ringgold and Thomas Jefferson is the two coaches on the sideline.
Mike Zmijanac’s debut as Ringgold’s coach came with an expected result, a loss to Chartiers Valley. That’s not the fault of Zmijanac, who won six WPIAL titles at Aliquippa. The Rams are young, inexperienced and just not that competitive yet. It will take Zmijanac time to rebuild the program.
It’s a completely opposite situation for Bill Cherpak, whose Jaguars are trying for their fourth straight WPIAL title. Thomas Jefferson is primed to contend for another title, even with a potential showdown for the conference title against Belle Vernon looming next weekend.
Between Zmijanac and Cherpak, the two have 13 WPIAL titles.