Is it still early in the high school football season or is it getting late?
It depends on which way you look at the season and where your favorite team is in the conference standings.
It’s only late September, but we’re already at the midpoint of the season as most local teams have played four games.
Though the leaves have not started to fall off the trees and the nights have yet to turn crisp, after this weekend there will be only five weeks remaining in the season, so it’s time to make a playoff push.
Whether it’s early or late, four weeks is still enough time to make some observations about the season. Here is what we’ve learned from the season’s first four weeks:
1. Everybody can finish first – There are only five teams in Class 6A, which creates some problems in terms of scheduling. Four of the five teams will make the playoffs. With each team, including Canon-McMillan, playing only four conference games, there is still a chance for a five-way tie for first place with each team finishing 2-2 in the Tri-County Five Conference.
It will take a couple of upsets to get a five-way tie, but if that happens one team will tie for first place and miss the playoffs.
2. Matt Sieg is the real deal – Every year, we at the O-R hear about a freshman phenom who is going to be the next (fill in the blank with the name of some superstar player of yesteryear) and turn around his school’s struggling program or turn a contender into a championship team. It’s a rite of summer as we talk to head coaches and fans who have knowledge of a school’s youth league and middle school programs.
The buildup is usually warranted, but it often takes the player a year or two of varsity action to meet the hype.
This year, the talk was about a freshman quarterback at Fort Cherry, Matt Sieg. One Class A coach, whose team is not on Fort Cherry’s schedule, told us that he had heard the hype about Sieg last year. After seeing the quarterback play as an eighth grader his analysis was that Fort Cherry’s zealots undersold the quarterback’s dual-threat talents. He was better than the coach was led to believe.
Though he has played only four varsity games, helping Fort Cherry to a 3-1 record heading into a key Black Hills Conference game tonight at undefeated Our Lady of Scared Heart, Sieg has been dynamic. He has passed for 582 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed for 521 yards (11.1 yards per carry) and 11 scores.
And it helps that Sieg is playing behind what has been a very underrated offensive line, making Fort Cherry a dangerous opponent.
3. And so is Chris Cibrone – When the season began, Peters Township quarterback Chris Cibrone was as far under the radar as a quarterback could be at the Class 5A level. He had made only one career start while playing as backup to Sam Miller but inherited the controls of the Indians’ high-powered offense.
All Cibrone has done is put up video game-like numbers, leading the WPIAL in passing with 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns. And the junior can do more than just throw the football. He ran for two touchdowns last week in a win over South Fayette.
Cibrone and the Indians (1-0, 4-0) play at Upper St. Clair (1-0, 4-0) in the area’s biggest game on tonight’s schedule.
4. Who will be fourth in the Century? – During summer camps, talk of playoff teams from the Class 2A Century Conference started with three teams: McGuffey, Sto-Rox and Washington. The thinking was they would finish, in some order, in the top three spots. Nothing so far has changed that thinking.
The fourth and final playoff berth from the Century was considered up for grabs with much of the talk being about Waynesburg because of its experience in the backfield. The Raiders, however, are off to an 0-4 start, losing by a combined score of 100-15 to three Class A opponents.
Last week, Waynesburg lost it conference opener at Keystone Oaks, 47-13, and the Golden Eagles (1-0, 3-1) have to be considered a solid contender for that fourth spot.
5. Playing favorites – There is no clear-cut favorite in the Class A Tri-County South Conference. California and Mapletown are both undefeated at 1-0 in the conference and 4-0 overall. It is Mapletown’s first 4-0 start since 1997. However, the strength of schedule for both teams has been low. California’s four opponents have a combined 2-13 record while Mapletown’s opponents are 1-11. The Maples have two wins – yes, two – over Avella.
Carmichaels, like California and Mapletown, is 1-0 in the conference but 3-1 overall. The Mikes’ strength of schedule is much better than that of the Trojans and Maples. Carmichaels’ opponents are 6-10 and the Mikes have a quality win over Fort Cherry.
Monessen also is 1-0 in the league but only 2-2 overall. The Greyhounds, however, have played the toughest schedule of the TCS’s top four – their opponents are a combined 6-8 – and have lost to Class 2A Washington and a good Cornell team.
Only two of the four will be undefeated in conference play after tonight. California plays at Monessen while Carmichaels is at Mapletown. It will be interesting to see if playing a strong nonconference schedule to open the season will work in favor of Carmichaels and Monessen.