East-West all-stars ready for fierce competition
Similar to college basketball, where some truly great teams have missed the NCAA Tournament field nearly every year, there are high school football players in Pennsylvania who have been bypassed for the annual Big 33 Football Classic rosters of the state's most prestigious all-star game.
That's where, comparatively, the National Invitation Tournament and Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game fit in.
“There are great football players in this state, and there are just so many spots to fill,” said South Allegheny football coach Pat Monroe, the head coach of the West team for Sunday's scheduled PSFCA all-star game against an East squad at Franklin Regional.
“Make no mistake, this game will feature some top-notch competition,” he said.
From Trib Total Media's Daily News region, the short list of players on the West roster is impressive, led by the WPIAL's top rusher from 2013, West Mifflin running back Jimmy Wheeler.
Not only did Wheeler top the league in rushing yards in his senior year, he nearly set an all-time single-season mark, falling short of former Hopewell star Rushel Shell's standard by just 124 yards.
Wheeler, a California (Pa.) recruit, is among seven regional players headed to the game. Five others also are NCAA Division II recruits.
Running back Allen Wright and offensive lineman Tom McKelvey of McKeesport are headed to Indiana (Pa.), linebackers Carlos Hudson of McKeesport and JoJuan Bray of Clairton will attend Slippery Rock, and Steel Valley defensive lineman Corey Pinkerton is going to Clarion.
Ty Cook, the dynamic two-way player for Monroe at South Allegheny and who will play defensive back in Sunday's game, has yet to decide on a college.
It is quite a collection on a West roster of 34 players that includes 26 from the WPIAL and one from the City League.
Former Serra Catholic coach Rich Bowen, now at Hempfield, joins Monroe on the six-man West team coaching staff.
The Big 33 Football Classic, scheduled for June 14 at Hersheypark Stadium, matches a pair of all-star teams from Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Among the Pennsylvania players are 12 from the WPIAL, including offensive lineman Cole Costy and linebacker Chase Winovich of Thomas Jefferson and defensive end Jawan Hill of McKeesport. The coaching staff includes former longtime Clairton coach Tom Nola, who left the Bears this year to take over as coach at Gateway.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.