Frazier's ground attack rolls into Monessen
MONESSEN - Quick, name the Mid-Mon Valley running back listed among the top 12 rushers in the WPIAL appearing tonight at Memorial Stadium.
Hint: he doesn't play for Monessen.
The answer is Craig Neely of Frazier - yes Frazier - with 265 yards and a 6.2 yard per carry average.
"Neely's been in the weight room with me since day one," Frazier coach Larry Wilson said. "We're not going to run around you; we pound you pound you and see if it pays off. Up front, we have a couple seniors getting us some gaps and hopefully our backs can take it from there."
The Commodores bring their thriving ground game into town tonight to face the Greyhounds in the Tri-County South opener for both teams. Frazier (1-1) will need to continue grinding out yards behind center Chris Golden and right tackle Shawn Bavuso to keep the big-play offense of Monessen (2-0) off the field.
"We're the type of team that earns everything it gets," Wilson said. "We're going up against the best team in the conference and that's an opportunity to see where we stand."
So far, five of Monessen's six touchdowns have come on plays 20 yards or longer. Yet, Monessen coach Joe Fischer is wary of a Frazier team that broke two 30-yard scoring plays and a 73 yard pass hookup last week against Serra Catholic.
"They have one of the top rushers in the WPIAL and my kids have been told all week to guard against a letdown," said Fischer, whose Greyhounds handed heralded Sto-Rox a 28-12 defeat last week. "Frazier was a playoff team last year. They're well-coached, well-prepared and that has to ring in our players' heads."
Despite beating Frazier the past two years by a combined 93-0 score, the two teams have a history. They're not exactly Charleroi, but the Commodores present a rivalry to Monessen.
"A lot of it is from basketball and comes over to football," Wilson said.
"We try to be a tough and gritty team, like Monessen, and a lot of the kids know of each other and they're going to be ready to play."
Both in their third season, Fischer and Wilson are quite familiar with each other and use the same core of players on offense and defense.
"I talked to (Fischer) a couple times this week and there's a mutual respect," Wilson said. "It's a long grind at a single-A (level) and that's why you work so hard on stamina."
Fischer vows his team will not take the Commodores lightly despite jumping from unranked to No. 5 in The Associated Press state poll.
"This is not my first rodeo; the ranking in the end is the one that counts," Fischer said. "The thought going in are these are the games that count. "It's homecoming (tonight) and it's going to be a big one."
NOTES: Despite rushing for just 58 yards, Quinton Martin leads Monessen with three rushing touchdowns ... Neely has rushed for two scores and a pair of 2-point conversions ... Monessen linebacker and leading rusher Ernest Williams is probable despite being hobbled by a sprained ankle ... Frazier quarterback Steve Erdely leads the Mid-Mon Valley with three TD passes. He has also tossed two interceptions.