Guido: WPIAL hoops powers hit tough times
Casual observers of high school basketball probably think they are reading the latest section standings upside-down.
Long-time powers are having their struggles, while some new faces might be presented WPIAL section plaques at the playoff pairings meeting on Feb. 12.
Among those struggling are the Highlands Golden Rams.
After seven straight trips to the WPIAL playoffs and two trips to the Class AAA finals in the past 11 seasons, Highlands is 0-17 and was eliminated from the postseason on Jan. 22.
Ford City, which has been to 48 WPIAL playoff tournaments, is looking up from last place in Section 1-AA.
Elsewhere, Penn Hills, which has made the playoffs 28 of the past 33 seasons, is 4-13. Greensburg Salem, a frequent playoff participant, is languishing at 2-13 and Aliquippa (6-10) is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
On the other hand, Mars is nearing its first section title since 1987 — hard to believe because of the number of good basketball teams the Planets have rolled out.
Deer Lakes has designs on its first section title since 1992.
Girls basketball is not immune from topsy-turviness.
Geibel, long a WPIAL and PIAA playoff contender, is 2-14 and Monessen's streak of 23 consecutive playoff berths is in jeopardy.
Burrell, by contrast, is looking to wrap up only its fourth section title in 42 years.
Fox Chapel is on track for a rare section title if the Foxes can defeat the Gateway girls on Friday.
West Shamokin appears on its way to just its second girls playoff berth in the school's 13-year existence.
Just a quick note on coach Jack McCurry, who retired as North Hills football coach after 35 seasons.
He finishes his career with 281 victories, third all-time among WPIAL coaches.
West View/North Hills High School came on the scene in 1937. The school had only 181 victories in 41 seasons before McCurry took over in 1978.
That means McCurry is responsible for 61 percent of the school's victories in less than half the school's history.
West View changed its name to North Hills in 1958 to reflect the explosive post-World War II growth of Ross Township.
Linda and the goat
Some may have noticed a news clip or a YouTube feature that went viral over the weekend featuring a female reporter who was knocked over by a goat on live television.
The reporter was none other than Linda Carson, widow of fabled Freeport native and coach Bud Carson.
Linda Carson is a reporter for WWSB-TV in Sarasota, Fla. She was with KDKA-TV in the mid-1970s.
In the stand-up, Carson was reporting from a goat pen when one of the goats must have disliked Linda standing in front of its food trough to give the news report.
Carson recovered and finished her report.
Bud Carson grew up in Freeport and was a stellar athlete for the Yellowjackets.
He later played at the University of North Carolina and was head coach at Georgia Tech.
But Carson is best known as the architect of the Steelers' “Steel Curtain” defense that led the franchise to four Super Bowl wins in six seasons, particularly Super Bowl IX where Carson's defense held Minnesota to 29 rushing yards.
George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.