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Alle-Kiski Valley high school notebook: Ex-NFL star Christy helping Apollo-Ridge

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Monday, July 21, 2014, 9:18 p.m.

Jeff Christy left Freeport a few years ago and moved his family to the South Butler School District.

The former NFL lineman and Yellowjackets assistant has not gotten back into coaching at Knoch — where his son, Mac, is a promising sophomore — or anywhere else, for that matter.

But while Christy has not rekindled the coaching embers in an official capacity, he's lending his services this summer to Apollo-Ridge.

Christy, a Super Bowl champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, knows Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba from the pair's playing days at Pitt.

Christy wore No. 62 and Skiba 63.

The versatile Christy played five positions at Pitt — linebacker, fullback, punter and offensive guard and tackle — while Skiba was a defensive linemen.

“I really like what (Skiba) is doing,” Christy said. “He has great knowledge of the game and really understands what it takes to be a winner.”

Christy was an All-Pro center whose durability never was questioned. Naturally, his expertise is in teaching blocking technique to the linemen.

“How could you not want someone like Jeff helping out?” Skiba said. “He can really help our linemen. There's been days where he's spent two, two-and-a-half hours out here.”

With the rise of seven-on-seven passing camps in the summer, linemen essentially remain parked in the garage until the fall.

“There is also a mentality that goes along with playing on the line, and I try to instill that mentality in these young men,” Christy said. “A lot of schools concentrate on the skill positions and overlook the linemen. That's kind of like building a house without a foundation.”

Christy also has familiarity with Bruce Yard, the defensive coordinator at Apollo-Ridge. They coached together at Freeport.

Numbers up at KA

Kiski Area's girls basketball program hit bedrock level last season as participation dwindled and offensive production at the varsity level fell off to where the varsity team was scoring in single digits.

But coach Nick Ionadi, who will enter his third season, suddenly is seeing things trend upward, with 68 girls taking part in an offseason clinic.

And a summer camp that had 12 girls last year rocketed to 58.

Ionadi said he was told by unnamed people around the program that “no one at Kiski cares about girls basketball,” and that “you are making a huge mistake (because) you can't win there.”

But now, he's building momentum to be able to prove those same people wrong.

“This means a great deal to me,” he said of the spike in interest. “It means these kids are responding, and as a coach seeing how excited they are to play, that is the point of this whole thing.

“This is why I decided to do this. Also shows those three or four individuals may need to open their eyes.”

Ionadi said there are about 20 girls from grades seven to nine who have been attending open gyms and summer-league games five days a week.

Petrishen waiting

Central Catholic senior receiver/safety Johnny Petrishen said last week he wants to wait until mid- to late-season to make his college decision.

The Lower Burrell native has 29 scholarship offers from a spectrum of Division I schools, including Pitt, Syracuse and Wake Forest. Of late, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder has heard from Northwestern, Illinois and Notre Dame.

Fall ahead

The WPIAL fall sports season is fast approaching with the first practice date for football, soccer, golf, girls tennis, girls volleyball, cross country and field hockey scheduled for Aug. 11.

Golf begins play Aug. 14 and tennis starts Aug. 18. The rest of the sports start games, meets and matches Aug. 29.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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