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Butler cautious with upcoming schedule

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

Quad North showdown
  • Who: North Allegheny (1-1) at Butler (2-0)

  • Where: Art Bernardi Stadium

  • Whe n: 7:30 p.m. Friday

  • Coaches: Jim Rankin, North Allegheny; Mark Farabee, Butler

  • Last meeting: North Allegheny defeated Butler, 42-9, in 2000.

  • Notable: Butler kicker Justin Cherry has kicked four field goals this season and has 19 in the past three years.
  • Whenever Butler coach Mark Farabee begins to feel giddy about his team's 2-0 start, he does the same thing.

    He checks out the rest the schedule.

    'That keeps you very humble,' he said.

    Friday will begin a six-game, 35-day stretch in which Butler plays some of the toughest teams in the WPIAL Quad A.

    All six of the opponents are ranked in the top 10 and, for sure, none of them will be confused with Norwin and Indiana, the two low-enrollment schools that Butler steamrolled en route to its first 2-0 start since 1997.

    No. 7 North Allegheny (1-1) is the first team to see how far Butler has come from last year's disappointing 3-7 season, when the Tigers visit Art Bernardi Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Quad North opener.

    'We're happy with what we have done so far,' Farabee said. 'But you've got to take it with a grain of salt until we start beating some people in the Quad North or the Quad East.'

    Like it or not, Butler will get its chance.

    After North Allegheny, the Golden Tornado will play, in order, No. 3 North Hills, No. 4 Penn Hills, No. 8 Mt. Lebanon, and a pair of teams tied for No. 5, Shaler Area and Bethel Park.

    The respective opponents have a combined record of 10-2, and that will determine if Butler reaches the playoffs for only the second time in 10 years, or pulls a repeat of 1997, when it opened 3-0, but limped home fifth in the conference.

    'The Quad North will be quick to humble you,' Farabee said.

    Butler, ranked No. 10 in the WPIAL, isn't offering any apologies for its performance in the first two weeks. Sophomore running back Calvin Littlejohn rushed for more than 200 yards in a season-opening 42-7 victory over Norwin, and junior quarterback Jake Cuffman threw for two touchdowns in a 41-14 win over Indiana last Friday.

    Among all Quad A teams, only No. 2 Central Catholic (43.5 ppg) has averaged more points than Butler (41.5) this season.

    Rankin rules on quarterback
    North Allegheny coach Jim Rankin has put to rest any potential quarterback controversy.

    Senior Zack Ross will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, even when - and if - junior Matt Butler returns from his knee injury.

    'Let's make this clear,' Rankin said. 'It's Zack's job. At this point, Matt would have to beat him out.'

    Butler, who injured his knee on the third day of practice, was expected to return in mid-to-late September. He threw the ball this week for the first time since the injury.

    Ross has completed 8 of 22 passes for 120 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. North Allegheny plays at Butler (2-0) on Friday.

    'Zack has exceeded my expectations and continues to improve,' Rankin said. 'He has won the kids' respect and he has won the coaches' respect. He's our quarterback right now. Matt is a gifted kid and it's unfortunate for him. But I've explained the situation to him, and he understands it.'

    North Allegheny, meanwhile, rebounded from a 25-0 loss at No. 1 Woodland Hills by beating Norwin, 34-12, behind senior running back Bradd Bartos' career-high 209 rushing yards.

    The NA defense held Norwin to 4 rushing yards on 17 first-half carries.

    Farabee isn't fooled by North Allegheny's 1-1 record. NA has beaten Butler in 11 of its past 13 meetings.

    'Other than Woodland Hills, they probably would have beaten anyone else they lined up against,' he said. 'It's a typical North Allegheny team. They are primed for a long-playoff run.'

    North Allegheny, playing its third consecutive road game to open the season, is led by Bartos (42 carries for 324 yards) and all-conference defensive end/linebacker Tom Parks.

    Senior quarterback Zack Ross, making his third start since the training camp injury to junior Matt Butler, has completed 8 of 22 pass attempts for 120 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Senior safety Tim Madigan leads the Butler defense.

    Butler running backs Ryan Gold, Andy Fair and Littlejohn have worked behind an all-junior offensive line - left tackle Anthony Moore, left guard Todd Cypher, center Tom McPherson, right guard Josh Panei and 6-foot-3, 305-pound right tackle Chris Whelan.

    'This is the most physical Butler team I've seen since 1996,' Rankin said.

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