Cal’s Kuhns can make history
MONESSEN – Joe Kuhns has a chance of making some history tonight.
If California can beat Monessen in the Tri-County South Conference showdown at Memorial Stadium, Kuhns will become the first Trojans’ coach to get successive wins over the Greyhounds in 79 years.
Although Kuhns is in only his fourth year at California, he doesn’t need any history lesson when it comes to Monessen.
“It’s always big against Monessen and we love playing Monessen,” he said.
Second-year Monessen coach Andy Pacak agrees.
“It’s turned out to be a pretty decent rivalry,” he smiled.
A year ago, the Trojans pulled out a 20-17 victory to deal the Greyhounds their lone conference defeat.
“I knew we were capable of beating them last year but a lot of people thought it was a fluke,” said Kuhns.
Pacak wasn’t one of them.
“We expected a tough game,” he said. “They came out charged up and did what they had to do.”
This year’s meeting is a little bigger than in recent years since both are unbeaten in the conference at 2-0 after opening with a pair of defeats.
Kuhns, however, is trying to downplay the contest’s importance.
“It’s not a do-or-die game,” he claimed. “There’s way too much time. We still have to play Mapletown and Jefferson-Morgan. The Tri-County South is extremely wide open.”
Besides having identical records, the Trojans and Greyhounds have something else in common – youth.
California has only two seniors with Monessen showing five.
“For most of our kids this is their first big game in the conference,” said Pacak. “This could be a preview of the next couple of years.”
California’s biggest star is also one of their smallest in 5-7, 150 pound sophomore Donte Valentino, who’s been used at quarterback and tailback.
Valentino, who’s been slowed down by a sprained ankle, is averaging 122 yards running despite not playing one full game and two of his three pass completions have gone for touchdowns.
Last year Valentino ran for 95 yards against the Greyhounds including the game-winning 15-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“Valentino is a hand full,” said Pacak.
California’s other offensive threat is 190 pound junior fullback Waugh Carter with 179 yards on the ground and a team-leading four receptions for 70 yards.
Senior linebacker Steve Chester (42) and junior linebacker J.D. Hawk (41) have combined for 83 tackles.
“There’s no question the strength of our team on defense is our linebackers,” said Kuhns.
Monessen’s offense has put up 68 points in its last two games after scoring only 20 in the first two.
The Greyhounds have been strengthened by the return of junior Derrick Dixon, who ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in his first game Saturday at Geibel.
Monessen also has Chris Askew and Dan Towler as running backs to go with versatile quarterback Joe Heath.
“We know we’re going to have to defend the whole field,” said Kuhns.
The Greyhounds may also unveil another quarterback since promising sophomore Adam Caputo recently received clearance to play for the first time after being sidelined by health problems.
Kuhns is impressed with Monessen’s linemen.
“They’re a lot better up front and really come off the ball,” he said.
Kuhns is looking for a close, low-scoring contest.
“I think three touchdowns will win it, kind of like last year,” he said. “Whoever has the ball last will win.”