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Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, 1:11 a.m.

That sunglass-wearing, bird-brained prognosticator from the Alle-Kiski Valley's Valley News Dispatch flew through Armstrong County recently — apparently he lost his way while checking out migration routes.

The Birdie decided to drop by the Leader's office for a bit, and they agreed to have some lunch.

The Leader wonders if the Birdie's mother accidentally dropped the famous fowl out of the nest shortly after he was born because in almost no time, that yellow lump of feathers started squawking about the mysteries of athletics.

It all started with a simple debate about the turnarounds of Kittanning and Valley football, both of whom suffered through two miserable years in Class AAA but became playoff contenders after WPIAL realignment moved them back to the Class AA Allegheny Conference.

The geek with the beak went on and on about the importance of new coaches and philosophies, as if the new hires were mystic healers who cured Kittanning and Valley of their woes.

The Leader doesn't deny that a change in team culture and other sources of inspiration can help. But just a few years ago, the Wildcats and Vikings fared fine with their previous coaches in Class AA. Losing in Class AAA came down to Kittanning and Valley's talent pools, which weren't as deep as their opponents, who enjoy larger enrollments.

Keep an eye on the Birdie if he lands near you anytime soon. The Leader worries the little guy has gone a bit loopy in his old age. Here's this week's picks:

Kittanning (4-3, 4-2) at Valley (5-2, 4-2)

When the two met as winless teams in 2010 and 2011, the Wildcats won. Friday, the two square off as potential postseason squads — the Leader still likes Kittanning and its high-scoring offense. Expect a fun one at Valley Memorial Stadium.

Kittanning, 42-33

Ford City (2-5, 1-5) at Deer Lakes (3-4, 2-4)

These are hard times for the Sabers, who haven't experienced a losing season since 2000. There's too much pride among the members of that team to let the struggle continue.

Ford City, 14-13

Riverview (2-5, 2-4) at Apollo-Ridge (4-3, 4-2)

Riverview righted itself after a poor start to the year. But the Raiders aren't ready for an Apollo-Ridge team that's eager to stay in the playoff race.

Apollo-Ridge, 27-13

West Shamokin (1-6, 1-5) at Leechburg (1-6, 1-5)

As a Class AA program, West Shamokin pointed to successful scrimmages against Leechburg during the last few years as evidence that the Wolves might be more competitive in Class A. On Friday night, the Wolves will see if anything changes against the Blue Devils now that the score counts.

West Shamokin, 20-19

Washington (7-0) at Freeport (6-1)

No team has been fast enough to stop the high-powered Prexies, who average 40.1 points per game. The Leader isn't sure Freeport will become the first.

Washington, 45-20

Oil City (2-5) at Karns City (5-2)

No matter their records, District 10 teams tend to challenge those from District 9. Karns City will keep this close, though.

Oil City, 38-36

St. Marys (3-4) at Redbank Valley (0-7)

This is a season to forget for the Bulldogs.

St. Marys, 24-7

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