Welcome to September.
For school age kids, the ninth month of the year is one of the ugliest words in the English language. For their parents, it’s the shining light at the end of the tunnel representing the long, hot summer months of either having those same kids hanging out at home or, as is my case, trying to figure out a day care situation that won’t destroy a bank account.
For sports fans, regardless of how many kids they have, September brings with it a smorgasbord of athletic options after subsisting on only baseball, golf and tennis for the past three months. King among these new options, of course, is football and whether you prefer high school, college or pro, there is plenty to talk about in the local ranks …
n For years, West Greene had to endure being the little guy on the playground that got pushed around by the bullies. Now, the boys in Blue and Gold are the ones shaking down the have-nots for milk money. The leader of the gang is a big, mean looking kid with red hair, and I don’t mean Scott Farkus.
By the way, if you don’t get that reference, you had no real childhood when it came to Christmas movies and I am sorry.
All kidding aside, senior running back Ben Jackson has been healthy and playing like one of the best in Class A. Several coaches have told me that, if not for his injury history, the 6-1, 210-pounder would be swimming in scholarship offers. After two weeks, Jackson has run over, around and through out-manned defenses to the tune of 419 yards on just 22 carries. He’s also made a home for himself in the end zone, having scored a district-best 11 total touchdowns.
Fellow senior running back Kollin Walker has quietly provided the team an outstanding second option out of the backfield with 241 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries.
However, Pioneer fans shouldn’t be making room for another WPIAL championship trophy to go alongside the school’s four-straight softball trophies just yet. The team’s first two opponents of the season are a combined 0-3 on the season. This week’s opponent, Chartiers-Houston, could be the immovable object to West Greene’s unstoppable force, having outscored Fort Cherry and Jefferson-Morgan by a combined score of 63-0.
If the Pioneers take care of business against the Buccaneers and do it in convincing fashion, big things may be coming for the Blue and Gold …
n Saturday’s road game at Muskingum kicks off what could be a very important season for Waynesburg University. Third-year head coach Chris Smithley brings back one of the most veteran offenses in recent program history and after improving by two wins from 2018 (2-8) to 2019 (4-6), a similar improvement could vault the Jackets back into the upper echelon of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
With all 11 starters back on offense, there will be plenty of pressure on the Orange and Black to improve on last year’s 15.3 points-per-game average. Smithley and offensive coordinator Brian Radakovich are particularly excited about their depth at running back, which features second-team all-conference honoree Chad Walker.
Most of the question marks for the team center around the defensive side of the ball, where Scott Venick, one of the most respected coordinators in the PAC, will have to work his magic to replace seven starters. Nearly the entire front seven must be retooled after massive losses to graduation. The secondary will be counted upon to shoulder the load with three returning starters while the youthful players in front of them learn the college game …
n Much like the Yellow Jackets, Sunday’s Steelers season opener could set the tone for the entire campaign and validate the franchise’s decision to jettison the drama of Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell. Sunday night’s showdown in Foxboro against New England could be the setting of Pittsburgh’s first road win against the Patriots since 2008.
To be honest, I like Pittsburgh’s chances.
The absence of Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady being another year older and a defense that appears to be at its strongest and deepest in years, are all reasons for optimism. A schedule-opening victory would also give the team some crucial breathing room with the likes of Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco on tap for September.