Familiar foes Gateway and Kiski Area to renew rivalry
For several coaches and players, this Friday's Gateway-Kiski Area game has the vibe of a family reunion, but this get-together will feature much more athleticism than the average egg toss.
The trend of familiarity starts with the head coaches.
Dave Heavner, in his first year at Kiski Area, has the Cavaliers riding high after surpassing last year's win total in a 1-8 campaign. Heavner has taught at Gateway for 15 years. He often chats with Gators coach and athletic director Terry Smith and instructs Smith's players in U.S. History 101.
Then there's the welcome-back-Carter connection.
Kiski Area senior quarterback/cornerback Ricky Carter transferred from Gateway after his sophomore year and still keeps in touch with his buddies who are going to school in Monroeville. Carter's playmaking ability is respected by the Gators.
And these teams haven't played since 2007 because they've resided in different conferences the last four years.
So it might seem like a case of old friends running into each other again when No. 2-ranked Gateway (2-0, 2-0) visits upstart Kiski Area (2-0, 2-0) for a Quad East Conference matchup at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Davis Field in Vandergrift.
“The fun factor is a little higher,” Heavner said about the reunion-like atmosphere. “I'm sure the (Gateway) kids will razz me this week. They're all great kids. It's all tongue-in-cheek. But on Friday, we'll approach it like any other game.”
Heavner also has great relationships with Smith and business education teacher John Ruane, who coaches Penn-Trafford — another Quad East Conference member.
“Sometimes, Coach Smith and I talk about football, sometimes we talk about life,” Heavner said.
Smith's brother, Harvey, served as head coach at Kiski Area in 2008, when the Cavaliers finished with a 1-9 mark. Harvey now is coach at Class A Imani Christian Academy, which joined the WPIAL this season.
Terry Smith is impressed with Kiski Area's strong start under Heavner, who also has served as head coach at Burrell and as an assistant at Burrell, Butler, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Highlands and Valley.
“Coach Heavner is a really good coach,” said Smith, who is 6-0 against Kiski Area since taking over at Gateway in 2002. “They're disciplined. They line up correctly. They play hard for him. To be so early into his career (at Kiski Area) and already have established a good foundation is great.”
Carter, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound dual-threat quarterback, has guided Kiski Area to victories over Connellsville (22-14) and Altoona (7-0). Carter has passed for two touchdowns and rushed for one. He knows Gateway will present the toughest challenge so far this year for the Cavaliers.
“I know their whole team like the back of my hand,” Carter said. “We talk on Facebook. I got some text messages about the game. It's going to be fun.”
Smith has plenty of praise for Carter.
“Ricky is a terrific athlete,” Smith said. “He's not a natural quarterback, but he's a great natural athlete and playmaker. He's done a terrific job for Kiski Area, and he did the same thing for us.”
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.