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Southside Takes On The Ultimate Bridesmaid
BY Bob Orkwis

There are many long-standing traditions throughout Beaver County. Legendary football teams, coaches and players, hard work and deer hunting are just a few that permeate this rural county that lies west of Pittsburgh and along the Pennsylvania - Ohio border.

This Friday afternoon in Hershey, the South Side Beaver Rams will look to continue another recent tradition, winning the PIAA Class Single A Football Championship. In three of the last four years, a team from the WPIAL'S Big Seven Conference has captured the state single A crown. In 1995 & 1996, the Farrell Steelers were state champions. Last year, fellow Beaver County representative Rochester brought back the gold.

As a matter of fact, you have to go back to 1994 to find a team from the Eastern half of the state that was crowned single A champion. That team was the Southern Columbia Tigers, the very same opponent for South Side Beaver. Southern Columbia is no stranger to the state playoffs, reaching the eastern finals seven of the last eight years,and advancing to the finals in four of the last five. The Tigers reached this years finals courtesy of their (29-22) victory last Friday Night over Tri-Valley. This years Southern Columbia team is lead by sophomore QB Matt Kaskie, who has passed for over 1,200 yards. The Tigers are also paced by RB Shaun Gaul, with over 1,200 yards rushing and 12 td's. Southern Columbia represents District 4 and has a record of (11-3).

Back to the Rams, their record remains perfect at (14-0), following a (53-6) dismantling of Bishop Carroll in the PIAA Western Finals this past Friday at Mansion Park in Altoona. Big Seven Offensive Player of the Year, Quarterback Sean McCune lead the way in that game, throwing five touchdown passes, four of those to Dan Nale. McCune says that while winning the WPIAL Single A Championship two weeks ago against Monaca was great, the main goal has always been the state crown. " We've tried to remain focused on the state championship. The WPIAL was nice, but all year long, we've had the goal of winning states and we have tried to stay focused on that." Nale has had a nice stretch lately, adding a 71 yard TD run in the WPIAL Championship to his four touchdown catches from Friday. Nale returned late in the season from a broken hand suffered in week one to bolster a South Side offense that already had McCune and fullback Cory Boyd. Throw in the eleven point buck Nale bagged last Monday, and you have a great week. "You know I can't really rank the three, but I'm sure that winning the state championship will be the best of all."

McCune surpassed the 1,000 yard passing mark with Friday's 154 yard performance, and also has 871 yards rushing. He also interecpted three Bishop Carroll passes, running his season total to seven. Rams head coach Glen McDougal, Big Seven conference coach of the year, also has stayed focused on the big goal. McDougal says keeping his team moving towards that goal hasn't been too difficult. " You know this team has some great leaders in Sean, Heath (LB Heath Barrett) and Andy (Lineman Andy McCoy), so once we set the goal of going to the states, we haven't had to remind the kids that often that winning the state championship is what it's all about." Although winning the second WPIAL Championship in school history was a great accomplishment, McDougal would like to top of the best season in school history with a little chocolate. "Oh yeah, I love chocolate. And it will taste even better with a win in Hershey."

So it's the South Side Beaver Rams facing the Southern Columbia Tigers this Friday afternoon in Hershey. Kickoff is set for 2 PM and you can hear all the action of the PIAA Single A Championship Game on the Naticom Sports Network.