Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Na Peaking at Right Time, Coach Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Na Peaking at Right Time, Coach Says

Article excerpt

North Allegheny is a name that resonates in local football and strikes fear --or at least raises some eyebrows -- when an opponent sees that name come up on its schedule.

The Tigers are one of the WPIAL's blue bloods, a program that has won three WPIAL and two state championships in the past four years.

Yet come Friday, they'll be entering a game with a wholly unfamiliar label -- spoiler.

The seventh-seeded team in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, North Allegheny has been playing as well as anyone in the area over the past two months, something that is giving it hope that it can knock off No. 2 seed Penn-Trafford.

"I love our chances," North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. "And I love our chances because of the schedule we played, the section we're in and how our kids are playing. I like our chances any week. You have to believe in your guys and we definitely do."

It's easy to understand why Walker feels the way he does.

The Tigers have won seven consecutive games after a 1-2 start, one that largely came from a brutal opening slate in which they played against Seneca Valley (then a top-five team with a healthy T.J. Holl), Upper St. Clair, Pine-Richland and Central Catholic, the latter two to whom they lost.

In many ways, facing that kind of competition right away helped strengthen the team.

"The first month was tough," Walker said. "We didn't have any choice, but we understood we had to play hard and had to be dedicated. We didn't have those weeks off to try to figure out who we were. We had to get after it right away."

During its seven-game run, North Allegheny's offense has been exceptional, averaging 34.6 points per game.

Quarterback Jeff Clemens has shown marked improvement from last season, completing 54.5 percent of his passes for 751 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. …

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