Share This Page

West Mifflin to face first-round challenge from Moon

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 10:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Thomas Jefferson's Chase Winovich tries to bring down West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler during the third quarter Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, at West Mifflin.

With his prized running back ailing from the wear-and-tear of the team's first loss of the year, West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo remained optimistic that the Titans would recover in time for the postseason.

Braszo was counting on senior Jimmy Wheeler, the WPIAL's leading rusher, to return to form for the start of the WPIAL playoffs this weekend after Wheeler was limited to a season-low 13 yards in a 35-0 loss to Thomas Jefferson on Friday, spoiling the Titans' chances for an undefeated regular season.

Wheeler, who needed 142 yards to break the WPIAL regular-season rushing record, was held out of a portion of the game with concussion-like symptoms, but test results were negative and he was practicing this week with the Titans.

“He did come out of the game as a precaution, but he didn't have a concussion,” Braszo said. “We're being careful with him. We're hopeful.”

On Monday, West Mifflin (8-1) was awarded a fifth seed in the Class AAA bracket and, with or without Wheeler, will face 12th-seeded Moon (6-3) at home in the first round on Friday night. The winner will play either fourth-seeded Franklin Regional or 13th-seeded Montour on Nov. 8 in the quarterfinals.

Behind the powerful running of Wheeler, West Mifflin reeled off eight consecutive victories before being shut out by Thomas Jefferson. With or without Wheeler, look for the Titans to stick to the ground game.

“We're practicing and preparing like we're going to be facing Jimmy Wheeler,” Moon coach Mark Washington said. “We're going against a great running back and a great program. He's not the only great player they have. West Mifflin has a strong program, and it will be an honor to play against them.”

It is Moon's first playoff appearance since 2006.

“It's not just about having confidence,” Washington said. “It's also about going out there and competing. We want to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Moon's sizeable offensive line is a concern to Braszo, whose team was manhandled by the size of Thomas Jefferson's front in the previous game.

“They're a strong team,” Braszo said of Moon. “They're a big team. They're a power team. It's going to come down to who can control the line of scrimmage. If we can do that, I think we'll be OK.”

Wheeler, who has gained 2,022 yards, won't be the only explosive running back in uniform. Moon senior Cole Blake rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' 35-21 victory over Montour on Friday, increasing his season total to 1,457.

Blake scored on runs on 9, 66 and 11 yards against the Spartans, while quarterback Aleksel Yaramus threw two touchdown passes, the second a 23-yarder to Kyle Bondi that put the Tigers ahead for good in the fourth quarter.

“It's a new season now,” Braszo said. “Our guys realize that. Hopefully, we'll come to play.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.