Baldwin, Mt. Lebanon to clash in conference showdown
Baldwin will host long-time rival Mt. Lebanon in a Quad Central Conference showdown on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Mt. Lebanon has won its past two games since opening the year with a nonconference loss to No. 1-ranked North Allegheny.
The Blue Devils, who are ranked ninth in Class AAAA in the Trib Total Media football rankings, zipped past Plum last week, 49-14, to go to 2-0 in the Quad Central Conference and 2-1 overall.
“Mt. Lebanon is big, strong and fast, and they are well-coached,” Jim Wehner, Baldwin's head coach, said.
Mike Melnyk has taken over as head coach at Mt. Lebanon, replacing Chris Haering, who was 117-71 in 17 seasons at Mt. Lebanon, with 13 playoff appearances.
Melnyk came from Manheim Township, where he was 75-63 in 13 seasons, winning two Lancaster-Lebanon League crowns.
“We've tried to raise the bar, tried to make some changes and ask the kids to try to do some things a little bit different,” Melnyk said. “(Haering) did a great job, and we want to try to elevate the program and take it to another level.”
Mt. Lebanon, which last year relied heavily on graduated tailback Luke Hagy, the school's all-time leading rusher, is led by an athletic senior quarterback in Tyler Roth this season.
Roth, who was an all-conference cornerback last season and also is regarded as one of the WPIAL's top punters, has passed for 539 yards and seven TDs.
His favorite targets are wideouts Troy Apke, a junior, Mike Briercheck, a senior, and senior tight end Mark Buda.
Apke, at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and with a Pitt scholarship offer, is one of the team's most dangerous weapons. He has 11 receptions for 253 yards and four scores.
Other skill players for the Blue Devils include Briercheck's twin brother Tim, at fullback, and Dmitri Orfanopoulos, senior wide receiver/return specialist.
Mt. Lebanon's offensive line is anchored by Alex Bookser, a 6-5, 295-pound junior.
The big question for Baldwin is: Can the local squad rebound from last week's heartbreaking 10-8 loss at Penn Hills?
“We don't have time to dwell on the past. We started to prepare for Mt. Lebanon on Friday,” Wehner said. “We need to cut down on mistakes this week.”
After the Fighting Highlanders drove 87 yards in six plays late in the game at Penn Hills, senior running back Dorian Brown scored on a 1-yard plunge with 3:08 left.
Brown then added a gutsy two-point conversion run behind the left side of Baldwin's offensive line — 6-1, 235-pound sophomore guard Devontae Evans and 6-1, 225-pound junior tackle Sean Gerst — giving the local squad an 8-7 lead.
That clutch go-ahead drive included a 42-yard run on a fake punt by senior Luke Smorey on a fourth-down call deep in Baldwin territory.
Penn Hills answered with an 11-play drive aided by two Baldwin penalties.
“I just think we sort of relaxed a little bit,” Wehner said. “They thought we were in prevent. That was my fault.”
Peter Gula, who had a 24-yard field goal attempt blocked by Smorey at the 5:25 mark, hit one from 28 yards out with just 32 seconds remaining in the fourth stanza.
“I told the football team we have a good kicker,” John Peterman, Penn Hills' head coach, said, “but when you don't block for him, he looks like he's not a very good kicker. If we make the block, he can make the kick.”
Brown finished with 174 yards on 19 carries, boosting his three-game totals to 536 yards on 54 tries. He has scored six times, and is averaging 178.7 yards per game.
“I think everybody got a glimpse of Dorian Brown,” Wehner said. “He's a big-time player. There's no doubt about it. The people that don't believe that saw it (last Thursday).”
Baldwin has lost seven consecutive times to Mt. Lebanon dating back to 2005, including last year's 38-7 decision.
The Fighting Highlanders, who socked Plum earlier this season, 35-7, are 1-2 in the conference and 1-2 overall.
FORT CHERRY at BRENTWOOD 7:30 p.m., Friday
Jim Shiel is the first head coach at Fort Cherry without the last name of Garry in program history.
Jim Garry coached the Rangers from the program's founding in 1959 through 2002, and his son, Tim, succeeded him through the end of last season.
Shiel does belong to the Fort Cherry family, however, having played for the Rangers in the 1980s and having coached the junior varsity squad for the past 13 seasons.
“We're going to have to go back to our roots — old-time, Fort Cherry smashmouth football,” Shiel said.
Fort Cherry opened the season with conference wins against Carlynton, 31-21, and California, 34-7
The Rangers (2-1, 2-1) were hit with a bit of a reality check last week, losing at home to undefeated Monessen, 49-20.
Colton Colbrys, a junior running back, leads Fort Cherry in rushing, with 459 yards, and scoring, with six touchdowns.
Another key player is junior Matt Heslin, a first-year starter at quarterback.
Brentwood (1-2, 1-2), which was upended by Imani Christian, 25-14, last week, has beaten the Rangers in overtime in each of the past two seasons.
Last year, Brentwood QB Chris Shortley found wideout Spencer Hubsch all alone in the back of the end zone on the Spartans' first possession of overtime.
THOMAS JEFFERSON at TRINITY 7 p.m., Friday
Trinity's first-year coach Ryan Coyle has one goal in 2012 — to be competitive.
The Hillers want to build familaritiy, and possibly make noise in a conference that houses perennial powers Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin.
“One thing I have always admired about Trinity student-athletes is when I've seen them (in film), they always had a desire to compete,” Coyle said.
Trinity crushed Albert Gallatin last week, 54-0, to improve to 2-0 in the Big Nine Conference and 2-1 overall.
Coyle formerly was an assistant coach at Mt. Lebanon. He replaced Ed Dalton, who now is McGuffey's head coach.
“In a transitional year, going from the previous program to this program, you rely on seniors to pull you through,” he said. “You can coach technique and tweak offensive and defensive schemes, if you can't hang your hat on senior leaders, you don't have anything.”
Senior leadership for the Hillers has been provided by the likes of, among others, Corey Hunsberger, a wide receiver/free safety; Jared Deep, a tight end/defensive end; Evan McWreath, an offensive lineman/linebacker; and Xavier Severns, an offensive/defensive lineman.
Patrick Frey, a junior, accounted for 164 yards rushing and three touchdowns versus Albert Gallatin last week, while Hunsberger scored on a 10-yard fumble recovery and 82-yard kickoff return.
Thomas Jefferson (3-0, 2-0), which hammered Hollidaysburg, 55-0, in a nonconference game last week, has won six in a row against Trinity since 2006.
The Jaguars, who are ranked No. 3 in Class AAA in the Trib Total Media football rankings, are averaging 39 ppg, led by senior wide receivers Jake Mascaro's and Zach Schademan's scoring antics.
Mascaro has nine receptions for 241 yards and six TDs, while Schademan has 14 receptions for 283 yards and five TDs.
TJ senior quarterback Joe Carroll has thrown for a record-tying five touchdowns in two games this season, including last week against visiting Hollidaysburg.
Carroll hit on 11 of 16 aerials for 237 yards and the five scores, giving him 587 yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
Mascaro, like Carroll, re-tied a team record with three TD receptions last week.
Other offensive threats for the Jaguars include senior wideout Colton Booher, junior running backs Byron Minous and Jake Farrell, and junior fullback Luke Deanavich, who was switched from the tight end position.
The Jaguars beat Trinity last year, 38-7.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.