Alle-Kiski Valley HSFB notebook: Apollo-Ridge’s Tipton helps teammates
With the soft sunlight fading and the temperature dipping, two Apollo-Ridge football players remained on the practice field in Spring Church on Tuesday evening.
There was senior Tre Tipton and sophomore Daniel Orkwis. Tipton set up a few small, red cones, then demonstrated a few moves to Orkwis, who looked on, clearly full of wonder.
Tipton, a quarterback and defensive back, is headed to Pitt as a receiver. Orkwis hopes to catch passes in the future.
With the team focused on the now, Tipton was helping a younger player with his future — during a playoff run.
“Tre does that all the time,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “He takes guys under his wing and works with them. He wants to see them get better. It’s the kind of kid he is.”
So Charles, “Tizzy,” @GettinSaucy_1 — his other names, the last being his Twitter handle — now has another name to add to the list: assistant coach.
Tipton stays long after daily practices to not only work on his route-running, but also to teach. He said Orkwis, who has become his personal project, has a future as a Vikings’ receiver.
“He does things with his route running that I wasn’t doing (at that age),” Tipton said. “When it comes to learning things and showing what he can do, he’s one of the best I have seen. He’s like a scientist.
“I love working with some of the younger guys. It actually helps to make myself better. It’s like finding a friend who has the same interests. I want to see others succeed.”
Plum’s turnaround this season has several layers to it, one being the Mustangs’ move to a new conference.
For the past two seasons, Plum played in the Quad Central and made numerous trips to play teams in the South Hills.
All the while, the Mustangs felt out of place, an outsider in a conference filled with perennial contenders. They went 0-17 in conference games.
A move to the Quad East this season was part of a drastic makeover for Plum, which has fine-tuned offseason weightlifting, better organized weekly activities and enhanced on-field schemes, all within the confines of the new conference.
“It speaks volumes for the conference we’re in now,” Plum second-year coach Matt Morgan said. “We thought, as a staff, that we could compete in the other conference too. But it’s better for us overall to be (in the Quad East).”
Morgan said another layer is the organization in the program. This season has been one big itinerary sheet, and the team has followed it.
A small-rostered team of 44 has held its own in the WPIAL’s largest class.
“There’s no secret formula,” he said. “I learned from (former Penn Hills coach) Ron Graham and (former Gateway coach Terry Smith) about the operational side of things. Organization is a huge thing. That’s what was missing here: structure. We have a college-, NFL-type base routine the kids go through. That’s why we’re successful now.
“And I don’t let anyone slack. Ever. If they don’t like it, they’re doing bear crawls.”
If No. 13 Plum (6-4) can pull a second straight upset in the Class AAAA playoffs and get past No. 5 McKeesport (9-1) Friday, the Mustangs could end up facing top-seeded Pine-Richland in the Quad-A semifinals.
Morgan is a commercial sales representative for G&G Fitness, which designed and built Pine-Richland’s weight room.
Morgan played a key role in those renovations.
It’s late in his senior season and Highlands star running back Elijah Jackson still is waiting for colleges to call.
The A-K Valley’s leading rusher, with 1,634 yards and 17 touchdowns, has zero scholarship offers.
The speedster, who is sneaky strong when it comes to pushing the pile, said his size could be a factor. But to have no offers, from Division I or II schools, at this point in his career is a head-scratcher.
“It is pretty frustrating but I can’t be that upset because my team is still playing and I still have time to impress (coaches),” said Jackson (5-10, 170), who is Highlands’ all-time leading rusher with more than 3,000 yards. “I still have time to show them I can play against anyone.”
Highlands coach Sam Albert had a similar issue with former quarterback/safety Jeff Sinclair. Robert Morris ended up getting a steal in Sinclair, who had a record-breaking college career with the Colonials.
“It’s hard to believe they haven’t come around,” Albert said of college coaches.
Jackson said Albert has contacted state schools and some are interested, but the coach feels Jackson can play at a higher level.
“It is a lot of motivation for me because they feel that I’m not good enough,” Jackson said. “So I’ll try to play better until I get the scholarship. But I play for my team, not only for me, so I try to not focus on the scholarship too much right now. My goal is making it to Heinz Field.”
Hail to Pitt
It’s good to be a former Pitt lineman these days, at least if you’re one who is coaching a high school football team in the WPIAL.
There are at least five former Panthers linemen coaching playoff teams. Three are from the A-K Valley: John Skiba and Jeff Christy at Apollo-Ridge, and Matt Morgan at Plum. Two others are Bill Cherpak at Thomas Jefferson and Mike Bosnic at Washington, which plays Apollo-Ridge Friday.
Needle on the record
Apollo-Ridge and Beaver Falls combined for 98 points last week in the first round, with Apollo-Ridge winning 58-40. The total was one point shy of the A-K record for combined points in a playoff game set last year when Yough beat Kittanning, 57-42 (99).
The game also brought back memories of another points-barrage in the A-K Valley. Jeannette, led by quarterback Terrelle Pryor, outran Aliquippa, 70-48, in a Class AA semifinal at Highlands in 2007.
The A-K record for scoring in a game — regular season and playoffs — is 113 points by Ford City and Northgate in 2001. Ford City won 69-44.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected].