Locals continue to shine on college turf
"Some day he will be playing on Sundays."
Former Belle Vernon Area High School head coach Gary Dongilli (1994-2000) uttered these words shortly after his star running back and linebacker Scott McClintock signed a letter-of-intent to continue his academic and football career at the University of Michigan.
Four years later, McClintock has become one of the more effective defensive players for a Wolverines program that is in its 125th year and leads all NCAA I-A teams with 840 cumulative victories.
The 6-2, 243-pound senior inside linebacker is Michigan's third-leading tackler through nine games of the 2004 season. He has 44 total tackles (30 solo) with two interceptions returned for 24 yards, four pass breakups, one fumble recovery, six tackles for losses of 22 yards, and a fumble recovery. His previous single-season best in total tackles was 39 set in 2002.
Aided by McClintock's fine play, Michigan is 8-1 overall and a perfect 6-0 in the Big Ten Conference. Both of McClintock's interceptions came in a 30-19 win at the University of Illinois on Oct. 16. The Wolverines defense ranks 11th nationally, yielding 275.6 total yards a game. Michigan is third nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of just 71.6 rushing yards per game.
On Oct. 30, McClintock made a single-game career-high 12 tackles (seven solo) with two tackles for losses of 9 yards and a pass breakup. The Wolverines defeated Michigan State that day, 45-37 in triple overtime.
For his career, McClintock is sixth among all current Michigan players in career games with 36 and has made 12 starts, eight of them this season. With two regular season games and one Bowl game remaining this year, McClintock has 120 career tackles with seven breakups, one sack, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
McClintock and Michigan did not play this past weekend and will resume the regular season by playing host to Northwestern on Saturday before traveling to Ohio State on Nov. 20.
It is of no surprise to area football fans that coinciding with the unexpected success of the 2004 University of Pittsburgh's football season has been the consistent play of senior tight end Erik Gill.
The imposing 6-5, 270-pound Gill is making the most of his first year as a starter after backing up All-Big East tight end Kris Wilson in 2002 and 2003.
Gill, a former scholastic star at Belle Vernon Area High School from 1997 through 2000, is the Panthers' fourth-leading receiver through seven games. He has caught 14 balls for 175 yards and a touchdown. His average of 12.5 yards per reception is second best on the team among all players with five or more receptions.
The former Leopard scored his first collegiate touchdown in a 41-17 home win over Rutgers University (New Jersey) on Oct. 23. Gill's 5-yard scoring catch from quarterback Tyler Palko closed out a 38-point first-half scoring production by the Panthers.
He caught a season- and career-long 22-yard reception in a 29-17 nationally televised loss at the University of Connecticut on Sept. 30.
Heading into this season, Gill, used primarily as a blocker each of the previous two years, had two career receptions for 23 yards.
A 2001 redshirt, Gill has helped the Panthers compile a 22-11 cumulative record since 2002. Yesterday, the Panthers resumed the 2004 season after an off-week with a Big East Conference road game at the Syracuse. Through seven games, Pittsburgh was 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big East conference.
After missing all of the 2003 season due to a hip injury, Connellsville Area High School graduate Marcus Furman continues to play an active role with the University of Pittsburgh's offense.
A letter-winner in 2001 and 2002, Furman is the Panthers' third-leading rusher through four games this season with 33 yards on 13 attempts. He is the fifth-leading receiver with five catches for 36 yards. Furman now has 351 career rushing yards and returned a kickoff 96 yards during Pitt's 24-20 home loss to the University of Nebraska on Sept. 18.
Defending Big East Conference co-champion West Virginia University's football team has won seven of its first eight games in 2004 with Uniontown Area High School graduate Kevin McLee playing a significant role with the Mountaineers' defense.
The 6-1, 245-pound sophomore linebacker is seventh among all WVU defensive players with 30 total tackles, including 19 solo or individual tackles. McLee has also produced three TFLs for 8 yards, a fumble recovery, pass breakup, and one caused fumble.
As an often-used backup in 2003, McLee made 46 tackles with three sacks. For his career, McLee now has 76 career tackles.
West Virginia played host to Boston College yesterday and will be facing Temple Saturday, an outright Big East conference championship could be for the taking when the Mountaineers finish the regular season on Thanksgiving night at Heinz Field against the University of Pittsburgh. Regardless of the conference standings and Bowl game possibilities, area fans will undoubtedly enjoy seeing Kevin McLee and the Mountaineer defense try to contain the Panthers offense and talented local players Gill and Furman.