The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 28, 2010

LHAC schedule preps teams for playoffs

Mike Mastovich

ALTOONA — Throughout the postseason, Bishop McCort coach Ken Salem and his Bishop Carroll counterpart, Craig Sponsky credited the level of competition their teams faced on a weekly basis in the LHAC with preparing them for the district playoffs.

Bishop Carroll entered the District 6 Class A field as the fourth seed and McCort joined as the No. 7. The two programs, each with a distinguished history of District 6, were underdogs on paper only.

After running the LHAC gauntlet of teams such as eventual 5-6 Class AA winner Forest Hills, 6-AAA champion Greater Johnstown and solid opponents Central Cambria, Penn Cambria and Richland, teams such as McCort and Carroll are battle-tested for the playoffs.

The same might be said for the Double-A and Triple-A squads.

For the second consecutive season, the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference produced champions in all three district title games involving District 6 squads. No LHAC teams play in Quad-A.

Johnstown won the 6-AAA crown two weeks ago against Bellefonte, 49-8.

On Friday, Forest Hills shut out top-seeded Tyrone 14-0 in the District 5-6 Class AA title game at Mansion Park.

On Saturday, Bishop Carroll and Bishop McCort guaranteed a conference winner in that class.

“It's great competition against Double-A and a Triple-A team in Johnstown,” Bishop Carroll senior fullback-defensive end David Kephart said after the Huskies beat Bishop McCort 32-13 in the 6-A final. “Forest Hills is one great football team we had the privilege of playing this year. It gets you prepared for games like this. We played a Laurel Highlands opponent in the final. We expect it. Laurel Highlands gets you at the top of your game and prepares you for the season.”

In 2009, Johnstown (AAA), Forest Hills (AA) and Bishop McCort (A) all won district titles. Bedford, another LHAC team, won District 5-AA in 2009 before the two districts merged their playoffs again in that classification this year.

The Bisons entered the 2009 5-AA playoffs one game under .500 (4-6) but rolled to a district title and advanced deep into the playoffs to finish 7-7.

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Bishops Battle: Bishop Carroll had won the only two district playoff meetings against Bishop McCort prior to Saturday’s 6-A title bout. The Huskies won 21-9 in the 1998 and 21-14 in 1999 – both 6-A semifinal contests.

The LHAC series between the two programs has a streaky pattern.

Bishop Carroll won the first five conference meetings in 2001 (34-14), 2002 (21-14), 2003 (34-8), 2004 (17-14) and 2005 (14-13, OT).

McCort took the next five in 2006 (27-7), 2007 (13-7), 2008 (31-7), 2009 (28-6) and this year (24-10).

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Up next: Clairton’s defense stepped up again as the Bears claimed the District 7 Class A title via a 12-0 victory over Rochester at Heinz Field on Saturday morning.

Clairton (13-0) next plays District 5 champion North Star (9-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Somerset Area High School.

The WPIAL champs posted their ninth shutout and have allowed a state-low 26 points in 13 games this season. Rochester finished with 64 yards of offense on 44 plays from scrimmage.

Bears versatile quarterback Desimon Green ran for a touchdown and threw for another on Saturday.

Last year Clairton edged Bishop McCort in the state championship game.

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It’s Sharon: Forest Hills (12-1) will play District 10-AA champion Sharon (11-2) at

1 p.m. Saturday at Slippery Rock University in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.

Sharon defeated Hickory 14-6 for the District 10 crown.

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.