See Clintell run ... run, run, run
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Monessen football coach Andy Pacak cut his teeth as a coach under the late Jack Scarvel.
Proud to call himself a disciple of the coaching style of the legendary Scarvel, Pacak would do well to borrow a page out of Scarvel's script when the Greyhounds (10-1) take on Neshannock (8-2) in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal game at Chartiers-Houston.
During his career at Monessen, whenever Scarvel had a “cannon” at running back, he fired it. And he fired it often.
It wasn't uncommon for players like Tavius Smith and Raymond Dickerson, among others, to routinely carry the football 25 to 35 times a game.
Pacak has a beast of a back in his stable built along those lines in senior Clintell Gillaspie.
Gillaspie (6-0, 224) has been called “a man among boys” and a “man child” by some of the coaches who have had to devise defensive schemes to stop the Greyhounds.
Gillaspie has a rare combination of speed and power, as well as a stiff-arm that would make Jim Brown proud.
Yet amazingly, when he carried the ball 18 times for 270 yards and three touchdowns against West Shamokin last week, that marked the most carries Gillaspie has had in a game all season.
In fact, he has had only 108 carries for 1,069 yards this season while scoring 30 touchdowns.
When you look at the carries of other premier running backs in the WPIAL such as West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler (259), Fort Cherry's Koltan Kobrys (192), Moon's Cole Blake (219), Southmoreland's Jake Pisula (280), Mount Pleasant's Tyler Mellors (166) and Mars' Joshua Schultheis (194), it's obvious what kind of load workhorse backs get around the WPIAL.
One thing Pacak has going for him is a great change of pace in running back Javon Brown (88 carries for 746 yards) and a quarterback in Noah Rullo (1,276 yards, 19 TDs) that gives him options.
But at this time of the year, if I'm making the calls, I'm going with my ace until the other team stops him.
In last year's matchup, the Lancers struggled with Gillaspie as he rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries in a 24-21 loss.
He is much bigger and better this season.
The Greyhounds have a veteran line, led by seniors Jonathan Kravets, Raealo Davis and Justice Tartt, plus tight ends Justice Rawlins and Kayne Jackson.
This game should be their time to step up, give Gillaspie a crack to run through and let the big running back do the rest.
Plus, if Monessen pounds Gillaspie at the Lancers with a sprinkle of Brown in between, the Greyhounds can keep the ball away from the spread offense that Neshannock quarterback Ernie Burkes is so good at running.
The Greyhounds should take a page from Scarvel's playbook and turn Gillaspie loose and give him 25, 30 or even 35 carries.
And then get ready for the semifinals.
The pick: Monessen, 26-21.
• Yough vs. Beaver Falls. The Cougars (6-4) stunned a lot of people when they knocked off No. 3 seed Kittanning last week by scoring 57 points.
That's what you get when you have a wide-open passing attack with a talented quarterback like Tyler Donahue pulling the trigger.
The battle-tested Tigers (8-2) won't be such an easy mark.
Still, the Cougars won't go down without a fight.
Pick: Beaver Falls, 42-32.
Last week: 4-2. Season record: 77-8.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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