Though schedules for the upcoming high school football season have yet to be released, many area teams have already made plans to play in Week Zero – that August weekend in which teams have the option to open the regular season or participate in a second controlled scrimmage.
The week has gained traction since being introduced prior to the 2016 season. But with the new WPIAL realignment and scheduling changes, which are expected to put all non-conference games at the beginning of the year rather than scatted throughout the regular season, many wondered whether Week Zero would lose some of its popularity.
“No, not at all,” said South Fayette coach Joe Rossi. “Kids want to play on Friday nights. Who am I to take away from them getting another game under the lights?”
Since Week Zero started, Rossi and South Fayette have opted for playing a game that counts in the Lions’ record rather than a second scrimmage. In the first two years, South Fayette played Central Valley. The last two seasons, the Lions have played neighboring Upper St. Clair, a Class 5A school. That is no longer an option because South Fayette has moved up to 5A and into a conference with Upper St. Clair.
The number of non-conference games for each school will vary, depending on the number of teams in each conference. In Class 5A, teams will play four games out of conference prior to beginning league play. That doesn’t include if teams choose to play in Week Zero.
“You’d be foolish not to play a game,” Rossi said. “The lights are on. The band is playing. You are just trying to stay healthy in the second scrimmage anyway.”
Of the 22 area teams, 17 played in Week Zero last season.
Interest in playing a meaningful game instead of a scrimmage has increased across the WPIAL. In 2017, approximately 65% of teams played in Week Zero. That number grew to more than 80% last year.
“It’s usually not beautiful,” McGuffey coach Ed Dalton said of execution in Week Zero. “Ours wasn’t a thing of beauty last year (a 41-6 win over Ambridge). You learn the most from the first game to the second.”
McGuffey intends to play former conference opponent Southmoreland, which has since bumped up to Class 3A in the new alignment.
Multiple area schools have plans in place as to who they intend to play. However, those cannot be finalized until the WPIAL releases the regular-season schedules in the first week of February. Teams might be forced to change their plans if their desired Week Zero opponent is also a part of the regular-season schedule.
South Fayette hasn’t decided who it will play but Rossi said he’s looked in Ohio, where he used to coach, and West Virginia for possible opponents.
Rossi mentioned the growth from first-year starting quarterback Naman Alemada after last season’s game against Upper St. Clair, when he threw four interceptions. Alemada went on to be one of only two WPIAL quarterbackes to pass for more than 3,000 yards. He finished the season with 32 touchdown passes and was named to the 2019 Pennsylvania Writers’ Class 4A All-State Team.
“He wouldn’t have been able to do that and grow from it in a second scrimmage,” Rossi said.
Interest grows for PT’s McMillon, Hondru
It has been a busy couple of weeks for Peters Township’s Donovan McMillon.
Not only is the junior off to a 26-2 start in wrestling, the 6-2, 185-pound football safety is continuing to attract college recruiters.
In the past two weeks, 11 different schools have offered a scholarship to McMillon. The list includes Syracuse, Cincinnati, multiple MAC schools, Army, Air Force and others that have joined Pitt and Temple, two schools that offered him earlier.
McMillon, an Observer-Reporter Fab 15 selection, led Peters Township with 84 tackles, including seven for loss, had two interceptions, forced four fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries for the Indians this past season.
Inside linebacker Corban Hondru, another member of the Fab 15, has added five offers this month. Ball State, Lehigh, Buffalo, William & Mary and Bowling Green have joined his growing list.
Hondru had 69 tackles, including 16 for losses, and 10 sacks this year for the Indians.
Comedy picks IUP
Gerald Comedy orally committed to play at Indiana University last night.
Comedy, a stalwart on Washington’s offensive and defensive lines, recently picked up offers from Valparaiso, West Virginia State, Clarion, Notre Dame (Ohio) College and Cal before committing.
He was a finalist for the Bill Fralic Memorial Award for the WPIAL’s best lineman this past fall.
Cal offers Phillis
California University didn’t need to go very far to see Burgettstown specialist Seth Phillis.
Earlier this week, the Vulcans joined Kent State in offering Phillis a scholarship.
In his specialist role this past season, Phillips made 10 field goals, 43 extra points and had 33 touchbacks on kickoffs. That went along with seven interceptions on defense and averaging 37 yards as a kick returner for the Blue Devils.
Washington wide receiver Zahmere Robinson was offered by Division II Lake Erie. California lineman Sam Thomas received an offer from Notre Dame College.