Predicting area football winners
Taking a look at this weekend's area football games after an 8-2 showing upped the season record to 62-12:
New Castle at Belle Vernon Area
Attractive matchup between two conference champs. New Castle, the Parkway titlist, was rolling along unbeaten until getting surprised at home last week by Blackhawk, 42-24. The Red Hurricanes were coming off wins over Parkway powers Hopewell (18-0) and West Allegheny (31-8). New Castle's other wins were over Greenville (28-12), Ambridge (46-7), Hampton (32-6), Moon (21-3) and Montour (36-7). BVA, the Keystone winner, has won seven in a row after its opening 43-0 loss to Thomas Jefferson. New Castle features one of the WPIAL's premier linemen in Allen Billyk, a 6-4, 250-pound two-way lineman. A four-year starter, Billyk is considering college offers from a number of schools including Ohio State, Pitt and Stanford. The Red Hurricanes' Robert Calhoun has run for 858 yards. At stake will be seeding in the upcoming Class AAA playoffs. The Leps' last two home games weren't decided until the closing minutes. Not this time. The pick is New Castle by three touchdowns.
Mapletown at Monessen
The Maples are coming off a deceiving 21-20 double overtime defeat to Frazier since Mapletown outgained the Commodores, 231-95. Mapletown's two Tri-County South victories were on the road at Jefferson-Morgan (26-13) and Geibel (36-14). The Maples' other win was over Bentworth (16-14). Mapletown's other setbacks were to Springdale (30-0), West Greene (28-27), Carmichaels (40-7) and California (18-0). Mapletown boasts one of the WPIAL's top passing combos with Drew Denham throwing to Gerod Buckhalter. Denham has thrown for 1,020 yards and 11 TDs with Buckhalter catching 41 passes for 533 yards. Denham, who holds the school record with 28 career touchdown passes, hit only six of 17 passes for 54 yards in last year's 33-0 defeat at Monessen. It will be a lot closer this time. Monessen wins by three touchdowns.
Brownsville at Charleroi
The Falcons will probably be missing veteran coach Don Bartolomucci, 65, who was hit with a two-game suspension by his school board. Offensive coordinator Robert Rhoades and defensive coordinator Andy Assad will be calling the shots for Brownsville for the second straight contest. The Falcons are coming off a 17-10 loss at Class AAA Elizabeth Forward. Brownville's lone Interstate win was over Southmoreland, 41-10. Its only other win was over Class A Clairton (34-14) in the opener. Brownsville has bowed to Seton LaSalle (40-13), Jeannette (44-14), Waynesburg (35-21), Washington (39-18) and Greensburg Central Catholic (21-12). Last year Brownsville was a 14-7 winner at Charleroi. The Cougars' Mario Tarquinio needs 76 yards to hit 1,000. He should get it and more. Go with the Cougars by 13 points.
Albert Gallatin at Ringgold
Homecoming for Ringgold's last two head coaches, Albert Gallatin boss Chuck Colborn and defensive coordinator Scott Venick. Like winless Ringgold, Albert Gallatin hasn't had much success. The Colonials' lone win was at Trinity (12-7). The Colonials have lost their last four to Fox Chapel (32-14), Canon-Mcmillan (68-12), McKeesport (40-22) and Franklin Regional (32-22). The other defeats were to Baldwin (41-0), Butler (35-8) and Upper St. Clair (36-16). The Colonials' Vaughn Jones is 243 away from 1,000 yards. Last year the Rams spoiled Colborn's return to Ringgold Stadium, 41-0. It's payback time. The Colonials get even by 35 points.
California at Geibel
After posting a surprising 27-24 win at Frazier, Geibel returned to its losing ways with setbacks to Mapletown (36-14) and Carmichaels (41-8). California saw a two-game winning streak snapped with a 12-7 home setback to West Greene. Playing without injured Ryan Robinson last year, California still came back from Connellsville with a 35-12 victory over the Gators as sophomore Chris Guerra ran for touchdowns of 63 and 25 yards in the second half. Robinson has run for 757 yards, 56 more than the gators' Dan Chorba. A win will clinch a playoff berth for the Trojans. California rolls by three touchdowns.
Elizabeth Forward at Peters Township
Home hasn't been sweet for Peters Township. The Indians have been outscored 117-14 by Knoch (42-0), Thomas Jefferson (48-7) and West Mifflin (27-7) in the three games on their own field. The Indians own wins over South Park (28-27), Chartiers Valley (14-13) and McGuffey (23-0) with other losses to Charleroi (23-22) and Keystone Oaks (54-23). Coming off a 304 yard game against Brownsville, Elizabeth's Ryan Abels needs 82 yards to get 3,000 in two seasons. The Warriors were a 23-20 winner at Peters Township in 1999 when the two were Keystone rivals. Go with Elizabeth by nine points.
Carmichaels at Frazier
Frazier is riding a two-game winning streak and is a win away from the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Commodores have to close with unbeaten Carmichaels. The Mikes haven't been tested in the Tri-County South, winning by a margin of 32 points. The Mikes' Bob Hathaway (108) and Colby Giles (100) have combined for 32 touchdowns and 208 points with Hathaway rushing for 1,021 yards. Carmichaels owns six straight victories over Frazier including a 42-8 rout at Perryopolis last year. In a repeat, Carmichaels by 34 points.
Yough at Mt. Pleasant
The loser will finish last in the Keystone Conference. The Vikings own one of Class AAA's longest losing skids at 16. Yough has dropped seven-in-a-row after a 14-13 win at Southmoreland. The Cougars' Scott Kasics is 52 yards shy of throwing for 1,000 . Last year Yough was a 13-0 winner at Mt. Pleasant. The pick is Yough by six points.
Beth-Center at Bentworth
Beth-Center snapped a five-game losing streak with a 21-7 win over Chartiers-Houston. Bentworth has lost five-in-a-row since dropping Chartiers-Houston, 23-6, for its lone Black Hills Conference win. The Bearcats have allowed 138 points in their last three defeats to Sto-Rox, Fort Cherry and Canevin. The last time the two teams met they were Class AA Century Conference rivals in 1997. The Bearcats won 26-13 at Beth-Center. The Bearcats are 0-3 at home. In a mild upset, the pick is Bentworth by one point.
Mansfield at California University
For the second straight week, California faces one of the PSAC's top quarterbacks. Mansfield junior Travis Motley ranks second in the conference with 249 yards a game. He's thrown 14 touchdowns but has also been intercepted 13 times. Senior Steve Smith is his favorite target with 27 catches for 320 yards and five scores. Junior linebacker Dan Holland leads the country with an average of 14 tackles a game. The Mounties were off last week following a 32-22 loss at Kutztown. Mansfield shows wins over Buffalo State (20-19) and Millersville (12-6) between losses to East Stroudsburg (31-14), Westminster (24-21) and Lock Haven (33-30). Mansfield owns 5-4-1 advantage in the all-time series but lost to the Vulcans, 35-20, last year. Last night game (7 p.m. kickoff) of season for California. The Vulcans may have turned the corner with last week's 20-9 loss at Indiana. Go with California by two touchdowns.