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Gorman: Showcasing WPIAL would be a great start

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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

If Terry Totten had his way, Central Catholic wouldn't be opening the season against a Quad North rival but rather a national powerhouse.

The Vikings have started past seasons against the likes of Lakeland (Fla.), Clayton (Ohio) Northmont, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward and Philadelphia's St. Joseph Prep and Archbishop Wood, and Totten misses the opportunity to play in showcase events.

“I think it is a great experience, a great test for our football against the nation,” Totten said. “The emphasis we put on high school football stands up against anyone. It's sad that that opportunity was lost.”

Blame it on PIAA realignment, which left the WPIAL with little choice but to use odd-numbered configurations. Now, with nine-team conferences and staggered schedules, there is no freedom to play in showcase events in Week 1.

WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley called the scheduling a “nightmare to figure out,” but said the league is more concerned with serving the interests of all schools, not just a few.

There's no denying that the WPIAL's football reputation gained great exposure when perennial powers such as Central, Woodland Hills, McKeesport and Thomas Jefferson played nationally renowned teams.

“I liked playing in those games,” said Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, whose Jaguars have played Cocoa (Fla.) and Glenville (Ohio). “It was a big boost in camp to get ready for a big game and also you could judge your team against good competition.”

Woodland Hills coach George Novak notes that his Wolverines got to play host to Manatee (Fla.) one year and at the home of the Dallas Cowboys another.

“When we played at Texas Stadium,” Novak said, “a lot of those kids had never flown on an airplane before.”

Not only that, but the games gave WPIAL powers a chance to compare and contrast football styles with the nation's best.

“It was a virtual national scene of Who's Who right here in our backyard,” Totten said. “Win or lose, it was us vs. them.

“There was a pretty cool aspect to it, too. I remember going down to the TJ sideline and cheering their kids on and Woodland Hills clapping for us. For years, us and Woodland Hills was a pretty good rivalry. Here they were backing us and we were doing the same for them. The pride in our football here runs very deep.”

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