Gorman: Chartiers-Houston experiencing a flip-side to Avella storyline
Avella is the most amazing reversal-of-fortune story in Western Pennsylvania this season, going from 0-9 last year to 5-0 for the first time since 1994.
Almost as incredible is the circumstances of Chartiers-Houston.
Only one team has played Clairton closer during its 52-game winning streak than the Bucs did in a 22-20 defeat in the opener. (Rochester lost, 14-13, in the 2009 WPIAL Class A final.)
Yet Chartiers-Houston has lost four games by a combined 17 points this fall and is in jeopardy of missing the WPIAL playoffs.
“I'm happy for Avella,” Chartiers-Houston coach Terry Fetsko said, “but at the same time, you've got to look at our side of it.”
A convoluted conference realignment shifted Avella and Bentworth to the Tri-County South from the Black Hills, which added Bishop Canevin, California, Imani Christian and Monessen to Brentwood, California, Carlynton, Chartiers-Houston, Clairton, Fort Cherry and Serra Catholic.
In the past four WPIAL playoffs, the 10 Black Hills schools have accounted for 25 wins, with 16 coming from Clairton; the nine Tri-County South schools have combined for two wins, both by Beth-Center.
What's worse, Chartiers-Houston beat Avella, 44-10, last year and 41-6 in 2010.
The realignment makes sense neither statistically nor geographically.
California, Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry are Washington County schools that not only border Avella, Bentworth and Beth-Center but could have helped balance the power in Class A.
“Naturally, I believe we're good enough to be in the playoffs and maybe win some playoff games,” Fetsko said. “But we knew the way the alignment was set up that some good teams, at least two, would not make the playoffs.
“That's how difficult our conference is. Why it's set up that way, I'm not really sure why there's so many good teams in our conference. I don't think it's really fair, but we don't have any control over that.”
Chartiers-Houston isn't out of playoff contention, but Fetsko knows it will be tough for the Bucs to qualify unless they win out.
“This is the best team I've had since I've been here, without a doubt,” said Fetsko, in his eighth year. “And we're playing well.
“We're sitting here, scratching our heads and trying to figure it out.”
Consider Friday's loss to Brentwood: The Bucs had a 7-0 lead in the final two minutes with the ball at the 18-yard line when Fetsko elected to take a knee instead of trying to score. Chartiers-Houston fumbled, and the Spartans scored with three seconds left in regulation to tie it, then won in overtime.
“The kids know we're playing good football,” Fetsko said. “I can't give them a reason why these things are happening to us. We're playing well enough to win games, and things aren't falling for us.
“I try to make the comparison to life, that things aren't always going to go your way.”
It's a valuable lesson — life isn't always fair — but one that might not make much sense come time for the WPIAL playoffs.