Guido: Kittanning, Ford City hockey programs talk early merger

Ford City's Marcus McCall skates against Wheeling Park at the PIHL Open Class championship game Monday, March 4, 2013, at RMU Island Sports Center.
Ford City's Marcus McCall skates against Wheeling Park at the PIHL Open Class championship game Monday, March 4, 2013, at RMU Island Sports Center.
Photo by Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

Kittanning and Ford City have been among the Alle-Kiski Valley's most successful scholastic hockey programs for many decades.

They wrapped up superb seasons in the last 10 days.

Ford City won the PIHL Open Class for the second time in five seasons, and Kittanning appeared in a fourth straight PIHL Class A semifinal, losing to Quaker Valley.

The immediate future of both programs is murky.

A new high school to serve both drawing areas is set to open in 2015, but the hockey programs could be consolidating as soon as next season.

Officials from the Armstrong Amateur Hockey League, which oversees both programs, will meet to discuss consolidation plans.

If they merge next season, the new program probably will compete in Class AA, playing against Kiski Area, Pine-Richland and Plum, among other schools.

The PIHL classifies schools every year, as opposed to the PIAA, which reclassifies every two years.

Since hockey doesn't fall under the purview of the PIAA, both schools can either merge or operate separately for the 2013-14 season.

If the schools stay separate next season, coach Glen Kilgore said Ford City will continue to participate in the Open Class, where it can draw players from outside the Armstrong School District.

Wrong way Trey

If you're having a bad day, just think about poor Trey Johnson, a basketball player for Hugo (Okla.) High School.

On Thursday in a Class AAA state quarterfinal game against Millwood, Hugo was leading, 37-36, with 3.7 seconds left.

Hugo had the ball out of bounds at midcourt, needing someone to just dribble away the waning seconds.

As the teams broke away for the in-bounds pass, Johnson was open in the backcourt.

He took the pass and dribbled to the other team's basket, scoring on a buzzer-beater to hand opposing Millwood a one-point victory.

A reporter covering the game described how the entire crowd was silent for a second, digesting what had happened before Millwood and its fans began celebrating.

Johnson was reportedly inconsolable after the game, and the play became a “YouTube” sensation over the weekend.

But officials of the Oklahoma City Thunder contacted Johnson and invited him to Sunday's game against the Celtics.

Johnson got to participate in the morning shootaround with his idols, Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

He got a front-row seat for the game, and Westbrook autographed his shoes after the game and gave them to Johnson.

PIAA news and notes

• Legendary North Catholic boys basketball coach Don Graham's state record for victories soon could fall. Graham, who coached North Catholic from 1948-99, had an 801-436 record. Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger won his 800th game last weekend as the Lancers defeated Mid Valley in their PIAA Class AA first-round game. Insinger, in his 38th season, could tie Graham with a Loyalsock victory over Philadelphia's Communications Tech.

• Another team that won its PIAA opener, Williamsport's St. John Neumann, is led by a player with a familiar name. Neumann point guard Richard Allen is the grandson of former baseball slugger Dick Allen. Grandpa Allen, who hit 351 home runs in a 15-year major league career, was an outstanding basketball player at Wampum High School before concentrating on baseball. He played in the WPIAL Class B basketball title game in 1960 against Etna.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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