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Scholastic Notebook
By Rich Emert
Valley News Dispatch

This is going to be Chuck Sabatos' final year as a teacher and coach at North Allegheny High School. He can think of no better way to go out than with a PIAA title.

Sabatos is the track and cross country coach at North Allegheny. Last year, his girls team captured the PIAA Class AAA cross country title. The Tigers appear to be every bit as strong this year.

North Allegheny won the Class A division at the California Invitational last week. North Allegheny finished with 47 points and had its top five runners place in the top 20 in the 3.1-mile race. Norwin was a distant second with 126 points.

"We ran well and I think we're strong enough to win the state title again this year,'' Sabatos said. "But you never know who's out there and we can't relax. I talked to the girls about that the other day. Only two of them had better times at California this year than they did last year, so we're not figuring we have it made.''

Carrie Hucko, a senior at North Allegheny, was the overall winner at California in a time of 19 minutes, 44 seconds. Teammates Stephanie Madia and Stephanie Barros placed fourth and sixth, respectively. Stephanie Dishart was 17th and Melanie Sheetz was 19th.

Sheetz has been a pleasant surprise for Sabatos. She wasn't one of North Allegheny's top runners last year, but has come on strong.

"She worked hard in the offseason and is running well,'' Sabatos said. "She's been a surprise, but you need to have runners like that come on if you're going to be a top team.''

Baldwin won the boys Class A title with 71 points and had five runners in the top 25. Scott Munro of South Park was the boys individual winner with a time of 16:29.

Vernillo watch: After two weeks of the high school football season Fort Cherry running back Mike Vernillo continues his assault on the WPIAL record book.

Vernillo has rushed 31 times for 312 yards thus far. That gives him 5,896 yards and moves him into third place behind Matt Gavrish of Penn-Trafford, the WPIAL's all-time leading rusher, and Rodney Wilson of West Greene, who is No. 2 with 6,304 yards.

Fort Cherry (2-0) has a big game Friday, entertaining South Fayette (1-1) in the Class A Ohio Valley opener for both teams.

Brother act: The Cortazzo brothers will be staring across the field at each other Friday night when South Allegheny plays at East Allegheny.

Frank Cortazzo is in his first season as head coach at South Allegheny, while younger brother Tim is in his first season at East Allegheny.

"I told my players no team will know what we do better than this team," Frank Cortazzo said. "Fortunately, Tim and I won't be going against each other directly.''

The reason for that are both of the Cortazzos acts as the defensive coordinators for their teams. So, Frank Cortazzo will be matching minds with East Allegheny's offensive coordinator, not his brother and vice versa.

Tim Cortazzo will be trying to contain his nephew, Nick, however. Nick Cortazzo, Frank's son, is South Allegheny's starting tailback and the third leading rusher in the WPIAL with 404 yards on 52 carries.

Changing numbers: Ryan Zalus started the season wearing uniform No. 90 for Deer Lakes, but probably will not sport that jersey the rest of the year.

Zalus, a 6-1, 170-pounds senior, was forced to switch to uniform No. 34 last week against East Allegheny. All he did was rush for 229 yards on 22 carries, score on runs of 8, 63 and 63 yards, intercept a pass, recover a fumble and return the second-half kickoff 42 yards.

He was forced to switch uniforms because the No. 90 on Deer Lakes' home jerseys was smeared.

"We got new uniforms and you could see the number. It was one big blob,'' Zalus said. "That's why I switched. I've never had a game like this before. I'm going to keep No. 34 the rest of the season because I'm superstitious.''

State rankings: Woodland Hills is the only WPIAL team in the top 10 in Class AAAA in the Harrisburg Patriot-News state rankings. The Wolverines of coach George Novak are No. 7.

In Class AAA, Valley is ranked No. 6, West Allegheny No. 8 and Moon Area No. 9. In Class AA, Washington is ranked No. 2, Aliquippa is No. 6 and Quaker Valley No. 9.

In Class A, Fort Cherry is No. 2, South Side Beaver is No. 7, Rochester No. 8 and Monaca is No. 9.