High-SchoolPennsylvania: Must See

ESPNHS Baseball Players of the Week

May, 24, 2012
(After games of Tuesday, May 22)

One player is chosen from each region of the country. The only other criteria is that no player will be chosen more than once during a season.


Ben Hartz, Shady Side Academy (Pittsburgh)
The senior pitcher-first baseman led the Indians on the mound and at the plate in a 4-3 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Class AA first-round 4-3 playoff victory over Waynesburg (Pa.). Hartz struck out 14 batters in a four-hit effort and helped his own cause with two hits and a pair of RBIs. The four-year starter has been impressive his last three seasons with a combined .520 batting average, 77 RBIs, 16 pitching wins and 150 strikeouts.


Blaine Crain, Spanish Fort (Ala.)
Crain was named MVP of the Class 5A state championship series after going 3-for-6 with two RBIs to help Spanish Fort defeat Southside (Gadsden, Ala.) in a two-game sweep. It was Spanish Fort's third straight state title. Crain, who had a game-winning RBI in the team’s victory that sent them to the state finals, played despite very difficult personal circumstances. Six weeks ago, his father, Kurt, a former All-American linebacker at Auburn and an assistant football coach at South Alabama, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


Eric Veglahn, La Crescent (Minn.)
The senior left-handed pitcher had an inning to remember in a 4-1 victory over Hayfield (Minn.), striking out five batters to close out the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. He fanned the first two batters, but the next two strikeout victims reached base on passed balls by the catcher. He then wrapped up the victory with his fourth and fifth strikeouts of the inning plus the 12th and 13th of the game.


Tate Matheny, Westminster Christian (Town & Country, Mo.)
The son of new St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny is in the midst of a monster senior season. Earlier this week, in Westminster’s 3-0 win over Orchard Farm (St. Charles, Mo.) in the Class 3 sectional tourney, Matheny belted a two-run homer, his 11th of the season. Last week in a 11-1 romp in five innings against MICDS of St. Louis, Matheny went 3-for-3 with a double and homer. Prior to the game against Orchard Farm, he was batting .614 with 10 homers, 10 triples, 52 runs scored and 47 RBIs. Matheny’s team also improved to 26-3 after that win and upped its winning streak to 23 games.


Troy Conyers, El Capitan (Lakeside, Calif.)
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound left-handed pitcher struck out 16 and pitched a four-hitter in El Capitan’s 7-1 win last week against Monte Vista (Spring Valley, Calif.). Conyers also went 1-for-3 with a double at the plate. He pitched a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts in his previous start and has led the Vaqueros to a 27-5 record and No. 37 FAB 50 national ranking. Heading into this week, Conyers was batting .395 with 24 RBIs and had an 8-1 mound record with 114 strikeouts and a 0.72 ERA. He was the San Diego Union-Tribune Player of the Year as a junior and has signed with the University of San Diego.

Get Familiar: Standout OL Patrick Kugler

April, 2, 2012
KuglerKugler family North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) junior Patrick Kugler (right) has learned a lot about playing the line from his father, Sean (left), the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Few things are certain in high school football, but it’s always safe to assume North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) is going to be in the state-title discussion.

Last season, the Tigers lost in the Class AAAA state semifinals by three points and finished No. 49 in the POWERADE FAB 50. And this fall, with many of their skill players returning, the Tigers will again be among the favorites to bring home the hardware.

One of the biggest reasons for the team’s consistent success is an always-strong offensive line, and junior offensive lineman Patrick Kugler is as good as you’ll find in the nation. The ESPNU 150 Watch List recruit and Michigan commit was named an ESPNHS Underclass All-American this past fall.

Kugler’s father, Sean, is the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And his brother, Robert, is currently in his first season at center at Purdue.

Clearly, it’s a family that knows the O-line. And Patrick might be the best of the bunch.

“He’s one of those guys who just loves to play,” says North Allegheny head coach Art Walker. “He plays hard every snap, he’s physical, he’s aggressive, and he’s a good locker room guy as well.

What makes this stellar junior one of the nation’s top offensive linemen? It’s time to Get Familiar with Patrick Kugler.

ESPNHS: How’s the offseason going? What are you up to so far?
Kugler: It’s been going really good. I’ve been doing some lifting, and this summer I’m hoping to play some AAU football. I’m staying busy.

ESPNHS: Is there a specific goal behind your lifting? Are you trying to get bigger, just gain strength, or just kind of stay where you’re at now?
Kugler: I’m definitely always trying to get stronger, and right now I’m just trying to mold my body. I have a little bit of a gut, and it would be awesome to get rid of that right now and just mold my body into a college-type body instead of a big wide-body high school hooligan.

ESPNHS: You play at a school — North Allegheny — that is always right in the state title discussion. What are your expectations for this upcoming season?
Kugler: If we don’t win a championship, it’s an unsuccessful season. We’ve got a great team coming back this season — great quarterback, great running game, great receivers and a great defense. The only question is going to be who starts on that offensive line, and obviously I’ll be there, and hopefully I can help give us a great shot at winning state.

ESPNHS: What are some of the things you think you need to work on before you get to college?
Kugler: Technically, I always want to improve on my pass blocking. I think we’re going to pass a lot more this year because we have a good quarterback and good receivers, and so that’s something I’m going to need to improve on. After that, it’s just keeping my feet underneath me and not losing my balance.

ESPNHS: Tell us about the process that went into your college decision.
Kugler: Well, I committed to Michigan a month ago, and it’s been nice having it over with and not having to talk to any other coaches.

ESPNHS: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of the whole process?
Kugler: My favorite part was just learning about all of the different schools, some prestigious programs. And my least favorite part was having to talk to all of these people who were trying to recruit me and continuously having to talk to people even if I knew I wasn’t going to their school.

ESPNHS: You’re from a family that knows its offensive line, between your dad and your brother. What are those conversations around the dinner table like?
Kugler: My dad doesn’t really talk a lot of football with us. We’re not criticized unless we ask for it, and then he’ll give us his two cents. But he’ll help us work out and improve. It’s not forced.

ESPNHS: Your brother just went through this whole recruiting process. How was he able to help you?
Kugler: He’s definitely really helped. He told me all sorts of schools to look at, and he told me what were some fun schools to go to and check out. He’s happy I chose a Big Ten school.

ESPNHS: You won’t line up directly against him, but is Purdue-Michigan the new rivalry now?
Kugler: Oh, definitely. We’re looking forward to it.

Patrick Kugler
School: North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.)
Position: OL
HT: 6-4
WT: 280
College: Michigan

TV Show: “Family Guy”
Athlete: Maurkice Pouncey
Sports Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Food: Steak
Video Game: “Assassin’s Creed”

FAB 50 Offseason Primer: Central Dauphin

February, 29, 2012
Central Dauphin FootballRalph Wilson/APCentral Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.) players celebrate with fans after winning the school's first state football title in December.
During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.

FAB 50 Offseason Primer Archive

This week’s team: Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.).

2011 Season: 15-1, PIAA AAAA state champion, No. 38 in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 15. The Rams celebrated their first state title last season with a team that featured several underclass standouts. Coach Glen McNamee's squad won its final 14 games after losing to rival Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.). The team defeated defending state champ North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) in the semifinals and then upended perennial contender North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.) in the championship. The Rams will likely enter the reason ranked No. 1 in the Keystone State, a spot that’s always going to translate to a high ranking in the FAB 50.

Team Strengths: The three most productive offensive players for the Rams will return for their senior seasons in the fall and that spells problems for upset-minded foes. Quarterback Brandon LaVia ran a balanced attack, throwing for 1,490 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushing for four scores. Running back/linebacker Zayd Issah was league MVP on offense, but he’s just as touted on the defensive side. He finished the year rushing for 1,345 yards and 21 touchdowns and catching 10 touchdown passes on offense and racking up 123 tackles and 14 sacks on defense. Junior running back/defensive back Drew Scales had nine touchdowns on offense and was also a dynamic kickoff returner.

Another Pennsylvania team to watch: North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) had its unbeaten season and bid for a second straight PIAA AAAA state crown halted in the state semifinals by Central Dauphin, which won 23-20 on a last-second field goal. The Tigers, who finished No. 49 in the FAB 50, could be in the running for another state crown in the fall with the return of eight all-conference players, three of which earned all-state honors. ESPNHS Underclass All-American and two-way lineman Patrick Kugler, a Michigan commit, will anchor both lines. Quarterback Mack Leftwich will run the offense after accounting for 36 touchdowns as a junior.
Earlier this week we profiled top recruit and SPARQ Rating standout David Williams of West Catholic (Philadelphia) in our Get Familiar series. Williams' story is unique not just because he's coveted by several major college programs but also because the junior running back's high school was scheduled to close its doors after this school year, sending him on a hunt for a new school and team to finish out his high school career.

Beset by serious budget issues, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was set to close four high schools in the area in June -- West Catholic, Conwell-Egan (Fairless Hills, Pa.), St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls (Philadelphia) and Monsignor Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast (Drexel Hill, Pa.). But the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Friday afternoon that the schools will live on for several more school years thanks to significant private endowments.

This news comes as a particular surprise for Williams' school given that West Catholic was the only of the four high schools to not appeal the closure decision. It appears that Williams will remain a Burr for his final season, allowing him to focus primarily on his important college decision.

In a city known for triumphant underdogs, it's fitting that David Williams of West Catholic (Philadelphia) went from third on the depth chart at running back for the Burrs as a sophomore to star status early into his junior campaign this past fall. Now coveted by major college programs across the country, with an offer from Ohio State being the most recent evidence of this reality, the ESPNU 150 Watch List standout must navigate the process of making a difficult college decision.

But before he decides where he'll take his considerable talents on the college level, the speedy back -- who clocked a 4.44 40-yard dash at the Philadelphia Nike Football SPARQ Combine -- must first find a high school to attend for his senior season. West Catholic, which dates back to 1916, is closing its doors in a wave of Catholic school closings across the Philadelphia area.

Williams is mulling local powers like LaSalle (Wyndmoor, Pa.) and POWERADE FAB 50 powerhouse Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) as potential landing spots for his senior year. He says he finds value in this unique process as it helps him on the road to the next level.

It's time to Get Familiar with David Williams.

ESPNHS: Your game is a blend of power and speed. Is there a running back in the pros or on the college level that you model your style after?
Williams: It's DeMarco Murray, no doubt. He's a complete back; he's strong when you need those short yards but also versatile in the passing game. I guess I also identify with him being an underdog and when he got the chance with the Cowboys, he ran with it. I like when a back can show off speed but then also isn't afraid to drop that shoulder and play physical.

ESPNHS: With West Catholic closing after this school year, how are you navigating your next step in high school?
David Williams
Courtesy of West Catholic High SchoolDavid Williams already has offers from Notre Dame, UConn, Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers, Temple and Virginia.
Williams: It's sad that my school and others in the area are closing. There will be a lot of talented players that have to find new schools and new teams after this year. But to get a positive out of it I have to see the side of all this that is helping prepare me for my college decision. It's like a smaller version of the college decision, with a lot of the same priorities being used. If I had to pick the two main factors for me right now, it would have to be the quality of the education at my next school and as a running back, of course, the offensive line on the team there. It's not something I was thinking about too much until lately because I had to focus on my team at West Catholic and my grades here, but I just want to find a place where I'm comfortable in the classroom and on a team that is in a position to win.

ESPNHS: You seem to have a lot of pride, like most guys from Philly, in your city and the brand of football that comes out of the area. Do you think the quality of the game from that side of the state deserves more props?
Williams: Football can be overlooked in Philly. Not just by basketball being a major sport around here, but also by Western Pennsylvania and the way people appreciate the game out there. But if you look at the past couple of years, this side of the state has had contenders in the state playoffs and even the championship games regularly, so it's also just a perception thing that the football in this area isn't as strong. It's definitely getting there. My school has shown well in the playoffs versus some teams across the state and just look at what Archbishop Wood and LaSalle have proven over the past few years.

School: West Catholic (Philadelphia)
Class: 2013
Position: Running back
HT: 6-1
WT: 185

Movie: "Law Abiding Citizen"
TV Show: Anything on NFL Network
Song: "Who Gon Stop Me" by Jay-Z & Kanye West
Musical artist: Young Jeezy
Subject: Algebra

Get Familiar: Five-star TE Adam Breneman

February, 6, 2012
Adam BrenemanCourtesy of Samuel F. Getty DCCedar Cliff (Camp Hill, Pa.) junior Adam Breneman is the only tight end in the Class of 2013 rated a five-star recruit by ESPN RecruitingNation.

In the past three seasons, no tight end recruit has earned a five-star rating by ESPN RecruitingNation.

Adam Breneman is the first to break that streak.

When RecruitingNation released its early look at the top 100 prospects in the class of 2013 last week, the Cedar Cliff junior was one of 26 athletes to earn the coveted honor. But it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering how well Breneman has played.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder caught 72 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and was selected to the ESPNHS Underclass All-American team. Breneman helped Cedar Cliff advance to the district quarterfinals, where the Colts fell to eventual state champ Central Dauphin.

But for as good as he was in the receiving game, he might have been an even better blocker -- a source of pride for the junior who has close to 30 scholarship offers.

So what makes this stellar tight end so good? It’s time to Get Familiar with Adam Breneman.

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Super Bowl XLVI high school alumni

January, 31, 2012
Eli Manning, Tom BradyAP Photo, Serra High SchoolBefore they led their teams to Super Bowl XLVI, Eli Manning (left) and Tom Brady were high school standouts at Isidore Newman (New Orleans) and Junipero Serra (San Mateo, Calif.), respectively.

With signing day upon us and the the Super Bowl not far behind, it's a busy time for all levels of the game. Given that every player in Super Bowl XLVI played as a prep back in the day, we decided to break down the rosters for the New England Patriots and New York Giants by state and by high school.

Emerging superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski and fullback Lousake Polite of the Patriots are both from Woodland Hills (Pittsburgh). These two are also the only two players from Pennsylvania from the Patriots in this year's game.

For the Giants, star receiver Hakeem Nicks from Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) was part of the school's legendary 109-game win streak from 2000 to 2009 that still stands as the second-longest in U.S. history.

And with the Great State Debate still fresh on our minds, it's worth mentioning that California leads the way for Super Bowl participants this season with 13, while Florida (11) and Ohio (9) aren't far behind in the tally.

Giants LB Michael Boley (Elkmont)
Giants WR Jerrel Jernigan (Eufaula)
Giants DL Justin Tuck (Central Coosa County, Rockford)
Giants DL Osi Umenyiora (Auburn)

Giants DB Prince Amukamara (Apollo, Glendale)

Giants OL Mitch Petrus (Carlisle)

Giants WR Ramses Barden (Flintridge Prep, La Canada)
Patriots QB Tom Brady (Junipero Serra, San Mateo)
Giants QB David Carr (Stockdale, Bakersfield)
Patriots DB Patrick Chung (Rancho Cucamonga)
Patriots WR Julian Edelman (Woodside)
Patriots OL Logan Mankins (Mariposa)
Patriots DB Sterling Moore (Deer Valley, Antioch)
Giants TE Bear Pascoe (Granite Hills, Porterville)
Giants LB Spencer Paysinger (Beverly Hills)
Patriots WR Matthew Slater (Servite, Anaheim)
Giants DL Dave Tollefson (Ygnacio Valley, Concord)
Patriots RB Shane Vereen (Valencia)
Patriots OL Ryan Wendell (Diamond Bar)

Giants DB Derrick Martin (Thomas Jefferson, Denver)
Patriots OL Nate Solder (Buena Vista)

Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (Bristol Central, Bristol)
Patriots LB Niko Koutouvides (Plainville)
Patriots OL Donald Thomas (Career Magnet, New Haven)

Giants OL David Baas (Riverview, Sarasota)
Giants OL Kevin Boothe (Pine Crest, Fort Lauderdale)
Giants DL Linval Joseph (Santa Fe, Alachua)
Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco (Miami Beach)
Giants DB Kenny Phillips (Carol City, Miami)
Giants DL Jason Pierre-Paul (Deerfield Beach)
Giants DB Antrel Rolle (South Dade, Homestead)
Giants K Lawrence Tynes (Milton)
Patriots DL Gerard Warren (Union County, Lake Butler)
Giants LB Jacquian Williams (Riverview, Sarasota)
Patriots DL Vince Wilfork (Santaluces, Lantana)

Patriots Deion Branch (Monroe, Albany)
Giants DB Deon Grant (Josey, Augusta)
Patriots LB Gary Guyton (Bradwell Institute, Hinesville)
Patriots DL Kyle Love (North Clayton, College Park)
Giants RB D.J. Ware (Rockmart)

Patriots DB Sergio Brown (Proviso East, Maywood)
Giants OL David Diehl (Brother Rice, Chicago)
Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich (Lincoln-Way Central, New Lenox)

Giants OL James Brewer (Arlington)
Giants LB Mathias Kiwanuka (Cathedral, Indianapolis)
Giants P Steve Weatherford (North Vigo, Terre Haute)

Giants DB Tyler Sash (Oskaloosa)

Patriots DL Brandon Deaderick (Elizabethtown)

Patriots RB Kevin Faulk (Carencro, Lafayette)
Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (St. Augustine, New Orleans)
Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (Assumption, Napoleonville)
Giants QB Eli Manning (Isidore Newman, New Orleans)
Giants DB Corey Webster (St. James)

Patriots DB Kyle Arrington (Gwynn Park, Brandywine)

Patriots DL Ron Brace (Burncoat, Worcester)
Giants LS Zak DeOssie (Phillips Academy, Andover)
Patriots DB James Ihedigbo (Amherst-Pelham Regional, Amherst)

Patriots OL Nick McDonald (Ford, Sterling Heights)
Giants WR Devin Thomas (Canton)

Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski (Madison Central, Madison)
Patriots RB Stevan Ridley (Trinity Episcopal, Natchez)

Patriots OL Dan Connolly (Marquette, Chesterfield)

Patriots LB Dane Fletcher (Bozeman)

Patriots RB Danny Woodhead (North Platte)

Giants WR Victor Cruz (Paterson Catholic, Paterson)
Patriots DB Nate Jones (Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Scotch Plains)
Patriots DB Devin McCourty (Saint Joseph Regional, Montvale)
Giants OL Kareem McKenzie (Willingboro)
Giants DL Justin Trattou (Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey)
Patriots WR Tiquan Underwood (Notre Dame, Lawrenceville)

Giants DL Jimmy Kennedy (Roosevelt, Yonkers)

Giants DL Chris Canty (Charlotte Latin, Charlotte)
Giants WR Hakeem Nicks (Independence, Charlotte)
Patriots LB Brandon Spikes (Crest, Shelby)

Giants TE Jake Ballard (Springboro)
Giants LB Chase Blackburn (Marysville)
Giants OL Jim Cordle (Lancaster)
Patriots QB Brian Hoyer (Saint Ignatius, Cleveland)
Giants LB Greg Jones (Archbishop Moeller, Cincinnati)
Patriots OL Matt Light (Greenville)
Patriots Zoltan Mesko (Twinsburg)
Giants WR Mario Manningham (Harding, Warren)
Patriots DB Antwaun Molden (Glenville, Cleveland)

Patriots DL Mark Anderson (Booker T. Washington, Tulsa)
Patriots WR Wes Welker (Heritage Hall, Oklahoma City)

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (Woodland Hills, Pittsburgh)
Giants LB Mark Herzlich (Conestoga, Berwyn)
Giants RB Henry Hynoski (Southern Columbia, Catawissa)
Patriots RB Lousaka Polite (Woodland Hills, Pittsburgh)
Giants RB Da'Rel Scott (Plymouth Whitemarsh, Plymouth Meeting)
Giants OL Chris Snee (Montrose)

Giants DB Will Blackmon (Bishop Hendricken, Warwick)

Patriots DL Shaun Ellis (Westside, Anderson)
Patriots LB Tracy White (Timberland, St. Stephen)

Giants DL Rocky Bernard (Sterling, Baytown)
Patriots OL Marcus Cannon (Odessa)
Patriots QB Ryan Mallett (Texas, Texarkana)
Giants DB Aaron Ross (Tyler)
Giants OL Tony Ugoh (Westfield, Houston)
Patriots OL Brian Waters (Waxahachie)
Patriots DB Malcolm Williams (South Grand Prairie, Grand Prairie)

Patriots LS Danny Aiken (Cave Spring, Roanoke)
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Graham, Bluefield)
Patriots LB Jerod Mayo (Kecoughtan, Hampton)

Giants TE Travis Beckum (Oak Creek)

Note: List does not include OL Sebastian Vollmer of the Patriots, who is not from a U.S. high school (Germany); Rob Gronkowski attended Williamsville North (Williamsville, N.Y.) before transferring to Woodland Hills for his senior year

ESPNHS Top 50 Junior commits to UNC

January, 14, 2012
Austin Pifani, AbingtonESPNHSAustin Pifani from Abington (Pa.) was a standout at the Fab 40 All-Star game at the 2010 Philly Lacrosse Showcase.
Related Commitment Links: Most Recent Commits | Class of 2013 Boys | LaxPower Recruit Database

Abington (Abington, Pa.) junior defensemen Austin Pifani has confirmed to ESPNHS via Facebook that he has made a verbal commitment to play men's college lacrosse for the University of North Carolina.

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