Schoolboy pick of week: TJ
If I were a new football coach taking over a program, regardless of whether I had a lot of veteran talent or was rebuilding from scratch, I'm not too sure I would want to line up against possibly the best team in my classification on their field opening night.
Welcome to Ringgold, Nick Milchovich.
Milchovich and his highly regarded Rams will christen their season tonight, taking on Class AAA bully Thomas Jefferson in a marquee Big Nine Conference matchup.
There are some folks who think that after years of futility — just four wins in 21 previous meetings — this could be the year Ringgold snatches victory from the claws of the Jaguars.
And there is good reason for that thinking as the Rams will feature one of the slickest playmakers in all the WPIAL in quarterback Nico Law.
And the electrifying Law isn't Ringgold's only weapon to fire this season.
Still, this is TJ we're talking about. The Jaguars have either won or tied for the conference crown every year since 2000.
In fact, there have only been three seasons in TJ coach Bill Cherpak's career that his team did not win the conference title.
That's a lot of tradition and talent.
And a daunting first test for Milchovich and his team.
On paper, I like Ringgold when it comes to overall talent. The Rams are good enough to win this game. If they were meeting two or three weeks into the season, I would feel a lot better picking Ringgold.
But there are bound to be a couple of bugs and a few kinks that the Rams have to work out.
Those few new system kinks just might be the difference for TJ.
The pick: TJ, 24-21.
Best of the rest
• Belle Vernon Area at Trinity. Here is a first-game coach who has to like the matchup he has, as Matt Humbert takes his Leps to Trinity. Even with a few slipups, the Leps should be able to give their coach a win in his first game. Pick: BVA, 28-14.
• Monessen at Greensburg CC. The Centurions are ranked high going into their first game after dropping to Class A. But weren't they just 5-5 a year ago? Pick: Monessen, 14-10.
• Charleroi at Southmoreland. These are two programs starving for some success who just might be battling for a playoff spot by the time the season ends. This one should be entertaining. Pick: Southmoreland, 28-27.
• Clairton at California. The Trojans are happy to get out of the same conference as Clairton, but won't be able to avoid what will hit them tonight. Pick: Clairton, 36-14.
• Avella at Frazier. The Commodores lost a lot of talent from last year, but coach Mike Steeber is not rebuilding, just reloading. Pick: Frazier, 28-7.
• Bentworth at Carmichaels. The Mikes will put a damper on Ron Skiles' third return to rebuild his alma mater. Pick: Carmichaels, 27-14.
• Elizabeth Forward at Laurel Highlands. EF coach Mike LeDonne lost a ton of offense from last year's team, so the Warriors may rely on the defense early on. Pick: EF, 14-7.
• Yough at Hollidaysburg. Can you imagine how long that ride home would be if the Cougars lose? Don't worry about it. Pick: Yough, 28-21.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.