Class AAAA breakdown: North Allegheny seeks historic 3-peat
TribLIVE Sports Videos
When informed that Gateway was in consideration to start the season ranked No. 1 in WPIAL Class AAAA, Terry Smith immediately redirected that reward toward North Allegheny.
“You've got a two-time defending champion! You can't look anywhere but NA,” said Smith, whose Gators lost to the Tigers in the WPIAL semifinals last fall. “We'll gladly take Nos. 2 or 3, but until someone dethrones the champion ...”
While no one else wants to start the season atop the rankings, North Allegheny isn't shy about announcing its intentions to make WPIAL history.
The Tigers are hoping to become the first Class AAAA team to win three consecutive WPIAL championships, a feat of which five other schools fell short in the past three decades.
“I'd be crazy to tell you a goal of ours is to not try to get back down there to Heinz Field and win it again,” said North Allegheny coach Art Walker, who became the first Class AAAA coach to win back-to-back titles at two different schools (he coached Central Catholic in 2003-04).
“That's why we put so much in as coaches and ask our players to sacrifice. It's a goal, one that's in line with others: winning section, making playoffs comes first, but it's definitely there. It's a heck of a task. It's something that will be difficult.”
Walker knows how difficult, considering his father coached Mt. Lebanon to back-to-back titles in 1980-81 and '83-84. Gateway ('85-86), Upper St. Clair ('88-89) and Woodland Hills (2001-02) also won successive championships but couldn't pull off the trifecta.
North Allegheny has the talent to three-peat but will have to survive a brutal schedule that includes nonconference games at Mt. Lebanon and Gateway, as well as a Quad North slate that now includes Central Catholic.
“Going in as the favorites gives us more of a focus,” North Allegheny senior quarterback Mack Leftwich said. “We know everyone is going to be gunning for us, that we'll have a bull's-eye on our back every week. It's exciting, knowing we can do something no one's ever done, and we're looking forward to the challenge.”
Adding to the degree of difficulty is a WPIAL realignment of Class AAAA from four conferences to three.
Traditional powers Penn Hills and Woodland Hills move, along with Plum, to the Quad Central. They will play against Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.
“We open with Woodland Hills in a conference game — how much tougher can it be?” USC coach Jim Render said. “I don't think this alignment had any thought process to it.”
It has the potential for a rude introduction to the WPIAL for new Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk, who comes from Manheim Township in Lancaster.
His Blue Devils open with the aforementioned North Allegheny.
“I guess they wanted to make sure I knew what kind of caliber of competition there is across the league, so they put them all on my schedule,” Melnyk said.
“At some point, you can't worry about the competition. You just have to focus on the process. Sometimes their Xs are bigger than your Os, and there's not much you can do.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Johnston must reach Malkin in Moscow
- Steelers are in familiar territory going into training camp in Latrobe
- Air Algerie plane with 116 disappears from radar in Africa
- Pirates notebook: Recovering Cole exceeds expectations in simulated game
- Liriano, Snider lift Pirates to a victory over Dodgers at PNC Park
- New Penguins coach to meet with Malkin
- Hookah bar on tap for Greensburg
- Ex-Milwaukee archbishop told he can’t spend final days at St. Vincent Archabbey
- 3 identified in Route 66 crash near Delmont
- EQT posts $110.9 million profit in latest quarter
- Tarentum man wants confiscated cash back so he can hire attorney