ShareThis Page

Class AAA rematch has different look this time around

| Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead eludes Thomas Jefferson's Christian Breisinger (10) during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at Chartiers Valley High School.
Alex Oltmanns | For the Tribune-Review
Central Valley's Ricky Zuk
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Valley quarterback John George throws a touchdown pass during the third quarter of a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal game against Thomas Jefferson on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at Chartiers Valley High School.

The Class AAA championship is a rematch from the regular season, but this isn't the same Central Valley team West Allegheny beat by a touchdown in Week 5.

The Warriors have a new dynamic quarterback in the lineup, and coach Mark Lyons will be on the sideline, unlike the last time when he was suspended.

“They're different,” West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said.

“I think they're better. I really do. They've always got great skill, but (new quarterback John George) adds an element. He says ‘let's go,' and they say ‘OK.' ”

Central Valley's only Week 5 touchdown was an interception returned 55 yards by Ryan Roberson. With star junior Jordan Whitehead contained, the Warriors offense struggled. But Whitehead has a newfound confidence.

“That loss frustrated me for a while, because the team relied on me,” said Whitehead, who considers that 13-7 loss to West Allegheny his season's turning point.

The Indians challenged Whitehead physically and schematically, an approach that he said left him admittedly upset. His emotions peaked when he sealed the loss with a fumbled punt return.

“People coming up to me saying it wasn't my fault made me more frustrated,” Whitehead said. “That made me change.”

Lyons has seen a difference since that loss. Whitehead can better handle the expectations that follow one of the best players in the WPIAL, Lyons said.

“It was a maturation process, learning to handle the burden of your teammates looking for you to make a play,” Lyons said. “When you allow that to consume you, you're not at your best.”

Whitehead's offensive role also changed. He played tailback exclusively in the first five weeks but has since switched to slotback. That allows him the flexibility to catch passes or run sweeps. It resembles the unpredictable role Alabama freshman Robert Foster filled during his senior year.

“You have to keep your emotions in check,” Lyons said. “Jordan realized he got out of his element a little bit as far as just concentrating on the game. He really grew from that.”

The quarterback change also made Central Valley less predictable. George, a junior, replaced injured starter Nate Climo in Week 7 and hasn't lost since. He scrambles more often than Climo, which proved valuable last week. George's versatility was troublesome for Thomas Jefferson.

“We call him Johnny Football,” Whitehead said. “There are so many options on offense now.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.