Fall sports teams piling up regular-season upsets
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Apollo-Ridge's fledgling football team, by all accounts, is a work in progress. Its best days could lie ahead.
That means every game is about acquiring knowledge.
The Vikings are learning in-game situations, like the rules of modern overtime and how to stop the clock without drawing a penalty.
But they're also learning how to shake up the standings.
The Vikings have posted two dramatic upset victories over the past three weeks, offering opponents a pro wrestling-like reintroduction to Class A football.
On Sept. 28, Apollo-Ridge forced Avonworth, the No. 6 team in Class A at the time, into overtime, before edging the Antelopes, 28-21, to rock Owens Field.
Then, on Oct. 12, the defiant Vikings took their talents on the road and left No. 9 Northgate staggering after a 20-19 win, capped by Lonnie Wells' 19-yard field goal with zeros left on the clock.
“We've talked about it on the bus on the way home (from Northgate). Which (upset) was bigger?,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “It's a toss-up. I thought Avonworth was bigger because we hadn't done anything up to that point. To be able to play that well, in that atmosphere, was special.
“Against Northgate, we're down nine in the fourth quarter to a very good team, yet we were very relaxed. I think our kids kind of understood because they had been through it a little bit before.”
Apollo-Ridge isn't alone on the upset trail.
Upsets have speckled the fall season, with unheralded A-K teams giving highly-ranked teams unexpected falls from grace.
Valley knows the feeling. In another football head-turner, the Vikings edged then-No. 7-ranked Freeport, 9-8, in a Week 4 Class AA Allegheny Conference game.
“We didn't want to give up; we kept fighting,” Valley junior running back Demetrius Houser said. “We were ready to play and came out with intensity.”
Knoch joined the party with a recent gem against rival Mars, the No. 4-ranked team in Class AAA. Knoch, ranked No. 10 at the time, blanked the high-flying Planets, 21-0, behind a sinister defensive effort.
“After dropping two games in a row, the seniors came together; Enough losing,” senior running back and linebacker Mike Cunningham said. “Mars must have thought we weren't the same Knoch team.”
Knoch's defense recorded seven sacks in the win.
Riverview boys soccer also pulled a brow-raising victory. It shocked Class A No. 3 Vincentian, 3-2, scoring three quick goals and holding on to beat the Royals for the first time in two years.
Raiders coach Mickey Namey has been coaching for 14 years and called it his biggest win.
“It's funny, and people might say I'm crazy, but I rank that win higher than my first playoff win,” Namey said. “You look at where Vincentian was ranked, and the size of our school. Our kids showed they can compete with that kind of program. They have 40-some kids, we have 16 or 17. We had lost to them, 2-1, the last three years.”
Playoff time is near for most fall sports, and WPIAL seedings will set the stage for more shockers. But the regular season had plenty of motivation for under-the-radar teams.
• Deer Lakes' boys soccer dropped a bombshell on then-No. 2 ranked Mars, 2-1.
The win snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Planets dating to 2003.
• Fox Chapel's girls volleyball team clipped North Allegheny, 3-1, knocking the Tigers from the No. 10 spot in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AAA rankings.
• Riverview's girls soccer team knocked off perennial power Springdale, 1-0, for its first win over the Dynamos since 2005. The Raiders had only two shots on goal.
“That was an epic game,” Riverview coach Andrew Kariotis said. “(Springdale coach) Jerry Concannon was an assistant at Duquesne when I played there, so I got to coach against him.”
• Plum boys soccer beat Central Catholic, 2-1, to break a seven-game skid against the Vikings — a stretch in which they outscored Plum, 22-1.
Skiba said lessons were learned from his team's upsets.
“The first one, the kids really didn't understand any part of it,” the coach said. “They didn't understand overtime. They asked about the coin toss: ‘Should we kick or receive?' They were thinking like NFL overtime.
“Then we scored, and they weren't sure if we won or we had to stop them. It was all new to them.”
Against Northgate, the Vikings converted a key, 3rd-and-20 late in the fourth when Alex Smith caught a pass from first-year quarterback Jesse Zelonka.
But after a few sure-thing plays Skiba had in his back pocket didn't work, Zelonka finally broke through the middle to set up the field-goal try.
“The last couple of weeks, we have gotten so much better (managing the game),” Skiba said. “This is a young team. We're always climbing that mountain.”
And ignoring the rankings on the way up.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or email@example.com.
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.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Hit sends Penguins’ Letang to hospital
- Pirates pitchers finding success with expanded strike zone
- South Side house part of former Steeler’s end game
- Mt. Lebanon native, Iraq war hero’s action goes unrewarded
- Probiotic bacteria help conquer ‘superbugs’
- Pirates notebook: Polanco’s power outburst a matter of timing
- Alvarez latest in Pirates’ revolving door at first base
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of union retirees’ pensions
- Fire burns Fayette County recycling center
- Downie’s goal, fight spark Penguins to win over Coyotes