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Scholastic Notebook
By Rich Emert
Valley News Dispatch

South High football coach Kurt Kiefer isn't making any predictions on how many victories the Orioles will come up with this season. He is just savoring the first one.

South defeated Westinghouse, 36-19, the first week of the City League schedule. The victory was surprising because Westinghouse annually qualifies for the City League playoffs and because South has been down for so long.

The Orioles finished 3-7 last year but have not had a winning season since 1986 when they went 6-5. That was also the last time South qualified for the City League playoffs.

"I kind of think we're in the middle of the pack in the City," Kiefer said. "Schenley, Oliver and Perry appear to be the top three and Peabody is pretty good. I don't know if we can make the playoffs or not. If we're close, we'll probably have to fight Peabody and maybe Allderdice for that fourth spot."

Kiefer has done a wonderful job of turning around a program that between 1996 and '93 won just one game. His secret had been to keep players at South, which is the smallest high school in enrollment in the City League.

"In the past, we'd have players for two years and then they'd transfer to Perry or someplace else," he said. "We've been able to keep these guys here for a while and it's paying off."

Kiefer has a Division I college player in wide receiver Tony Woods, who is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He caught touchdown passes of eight and 14 yards in the opener. There's also waterbug running back Tony Coleman, 5-7, 165, who rushed for 125 yards on 11 carries and scored three touchdowns. On the line, Kiefer has four players who tip the scales at 300 pounds or better.

Depth isn't as much a problem as it has been in the past. Forty players are on South's roster.

"That's excellent for us," Kiefer said. "I can remember the days when we had just 17 players."

Vernillo watch: Fort Cherry running back Mike Vernillo entered the season needing 929 yards to surpass Matt Gavrish as the WPIAL's all-time leading rusher. In the season opener against Freeport, Vernillo carried 15 times for 163 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Vernillo now has 5,747 yards and needs only three this week to pass former McGuffey standout Jason Barr and move into third place on the WPIAL's all-time list. After that, Rodney Wilson of West Greene, who closed out his scholastic career with 6,304 yards, will be the next target.

The 600 club: Greensburg Salem defeated Indiana, 12-7, last Friday to join the state's elite 600-victory club. The Golden Lions became the sixth high school team in Pennsylvania to reach the plateau. The others are Mt. Carmel, Easton, Berwick, New Castle and Williamsport.

The next WPIAL school on track to reach 600 wins? How about Jeannette, Greensburg Salem's neighbor.

The Jayhawks, who scored a 20-0 victory over Deer Lakes last Friday, have 550 victories and, unless they fall on hard time, should become the next WPIAL school to 600. Johnstown is five victories behind with 545. Washington is next with 535 and then comes Monessen with 530.

Change of venue: Kiski Area was supposed to play at Hempfield Friday night but the non-conference game has been moved to McKee Stadium in Jeannette. The reason for the switch is that Hempfield's stadium, which has been renovated, isn't ready yet. Workers are still putting down artificial turf and are not expected to be done until next week.

"It's a bit of an inconvenience, but the people at Jeannette have been very helpful," said Rick Druschel, Hempfield athletic director. "We had thought about playing at Offutt Field in Greensburg, but Greensburg Salem has a game there Friday and we'd have to move ours to Saturday. We'd rather play Friday night and the folks at Jeannette were kind enough to help us out."

Druschel said Hempfield's stadium should be ready for next Friday's home game against Penn-Trafford.

Zero tolerance again: Moon Area had the best defense in the state last season, allowing just 58 points in 15 games. The Tigers picked up right where they left off.

In the season opener against Ambridge Moon Area pitched another shut out, winning 16-0. Ambridge managed just 43 yards rushing and only 186 yards total offense.

Best line: The best line of the week goes to Riverview coach Jake Cappa.

During last Saturday's game against South Fayette Cappa's Raider had too many men on the field for a play. One Riverview player tried to hustle off the field but was still five yards from the sidelines when the ball was snapped. The officials threw penalty flags.

When the penalty was called, Cappa looked at the official and, tongue in cheek, asked, "How could you see that?" The official looked at Cappa and said, "He (the Riverview player) was right in front of me."

Cappa then smiled and turned to some people on the sideline and said, "If they hadn't called that, they (South Fayette fans) would have come down and had us arrested."