Stewart: Shady Side, Pirates, PSU excite fans
Random Thoughts from a happy Pirates fan and hopeful Steelers fan:
• Circle the date. Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. That's when Shady Side Academy will be hosting Kittanning in what promises to be the Allegheny Conference game of the year.
Both teams are unbeaten and, on paper, should still have unblemished marks when they face off.
The Indians still have to get by Summit Academy and the Wildcats have to tangle with Valley.
It will be a battle between the stone wall that is the SSA defense and a Wildcat offense that has been running amok all season.
The Indians have been among the team leaders in defense in WPIAL Class AA all season long. They will be sorely tested. Kittanning averages well over 40 points a game. In their last three games, they've scored 160 points.
They have not punted since Sept. 20! Yep. No punts in their last three games.
It should be quite a game.
You know that SSA will need running backs Dennis Briggs and Jarred Brevard to keep the Wildcat offense off of the field. And the Indians are very good at long, sustained time-consuming drives.
• A recent survey of kids aged 8 to 14 who play team sports was conducted nationally by the 2012 i9 Sports Association.
The survey found that 31 percent wished that adults weren't watching their games, mostly because adults yell too much, are too distracting, make the players nervous and put too much pressure on them to win. Amen, brother.
That percentage is much higher among us referees. I see it every game. There are “parent-coaches” in the stands at too high a percentage of the basketball games that I referee.
On the plus side, I'd say over 90 percent of the parents are there to enjoy watching their kids play. They let the players play, the coaches coach and the refs ref. And I applaud them.
Believe me, I see the kids getting frustrated as their coach is yelling out instructions and the parent is yelling at them, too. I've even had a couple of youngsters ask my partner and I if we could toss their parent from the gym.
That's embarrassing and it's also a shame.
• So, are you happy with the Pirates' season, despite the loss. You should be.
The curse has ended and things look good for 2014. Don't get overly optimistic.
In 2012, the Washington Nationals won 98 games and were picked by many prognosticators to be in the World Series in 2013. They stumbled and struggled for much of the season before making a futile late run. Injuries were a factor, and we need the Buccos to stay healthy.
• So which of the looming Pirate free agents will be back?
A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau are eligible to sign elsewhere. I'd like to see all three back. Burnett is still a very solid No. 3 pitcher, behind Gerritt Cole and Francisco Liriano.
Byrd was invaluable once he came aboard and Morneau is still a solid player. You gotta wonder about an aging first baseman who didn't homer in two months, though.
• The problems of the Pirates are miniscule, though, when compared to the plight of the Steelers.
You can't pinpoint any one area of concern. There are problems everywhere.
There are two rays of hope though — they found a way to beat the Jets, and the division looks pretty woeful.
• Did you catch Penn State and Michigan on Saturday night afternoon/night? I sure hope so. That was definitely one of the best college football games I've ever seen.
I'm sure that PSU fans were biting their nails and chugging Nervine, Jr. as they ran the gamut of emotions. I've never seen so many momentum swings in a game.
The football gods were surely watching over Sam Fickens and Allen Robinson, who stood to be goats in overtime. Michigan's kicker, Brendan Gibbons, cursed by those same pigskin gods, missed a game-winning 33-yard attempt in the third overtime to elicit a sigh of relief from Mickens, who himself shanked a couple, and Robinson, who lost a fumble on an end-around play.
Penn State may not be going to a bowl game and may not finish in the Top 25, but they're a resilient group who play every down like it's their last.
Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.