Rematch for Monessen, Brentwood is special
When Monessen traveled to Brentwood for a Black Hills Conference meeting last season, it was more than just two good football teams going head to head.
The game culminated months of much-publicized bad blood, accusations and then a healing process in light of a suspected racial incident between the two schools at a basketball game.
Playing in front of Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch and television crews from news stations throughout the Pittsburgh region, the Greyhounds and Spartans managed to play one of the most entertaining games of the season that Monessen held on to win, 35-28.
“Through all of the pomp and circumstance and distractions, we managed to play a pretty good football game,” Monessen coach Andy Pacak said. “I think it may have been a game that helped set the stage for our entire season.”
The Greyhounds went on to win every game but one in the rugged conference en route to a 9-2 season.
Tomorrow's rematch at Monessen won't have the pre-game hype. There won't be a bevy of news stations there filming pre-game festivities.
That doesn't make the game any less important as both teams are ranked in Trib Total Media's Top 10 in Class A.
“In this conference, with these teams, this is a game that means so much,” said Pacak. “If you have designs on winning the conference, on being successful, this is one you want to win.
“And, looking on tape, this Brentwood team is no different a Brentwood team than I have come to know the last 30 years. They are pretty good, pretty solid.”
The Spartans (1-0, 1-0) feature one of the premier running backs in Class A in Justin Vickless, a four-year starter who lit up Monessen's defense for 197 yards on 24 carries, including a touchdown a year ago.
Pacak, who knows a little about talented running backs after coaching many at Monessen (1-0, 1-0), paid Vickless the ultimate compliment.
“He's the kind of kid I would like to have playing football for me,” he said. “He is a pleasure to watch, on both sides of the ball. He really gets after it. Stopping him, I think, is not going to be a pleasure.”
However, there was some concern earlier that a knee injury might keep Vickless out of the game. Last week against Serra, he tweaked the knee, left the contest and did not return.
“He looked pretty darn good to me on the tape,” Pacak said. “I'm sure he will be going full tilt Friday night.”
Pacak said the Spartans have more than a solid running game as quarterback Connor McWilliams hit on five of seven passes for 116 yards last week.
“They have a combination of kids who can catch and throw the ball,” he said.
“I would say that our best defense will be using our ground game to control the game and keep the ball away from their offense.”
Of course, the Greyhounds aren't without weapons on offense.
Last week, in a 40-0 rout of California, the Greyhounds rushed for 431 yards with Clintell Gillaspie (180) and Javon Brown (130) combining for 310 yards. The duo also exploded for four long-range touchdowns, the shortest being a 47-yard jaunt by Gillaspie.
In last year's game, Gillaspie was a major receiving threat, catching three passes for 172 yards and two scores.
In that game, Monessen didn't seal the win until a goal line stand in the closing minutes halted Brentwood's potential game-winning score.
Pacak is hoping this year's game is not so stressful.
“With my stress level, I could do without that,” he said with a smile.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.