Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 17, 1993 · Page 74
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 74

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Thursday, June 17, 1993
Page 74
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JJiltsburctl) Post-tfuicttc Sports Emt E-6 JUNE 17, 1993 1 State iicii a I iVl JL ML By Joe Bendel Tri-Stdte Sports & e.vs Servce Three years ago, Tony Scarpino headed to the University of Maryland's Division I football program with a potent right arm, a positive attitude and a definite purpose. "I wanted to be another one of their great quarterbacks," he said. As a senior at Gateway High School, Scarpino had the credentials to inspire such sentiments. He passed for more than 1,800 yards in eight games, completing 65 percent of his throws. Scarpino earned all-state honors in 1989. He held every Gateway passing record. Maryland was ideal. Coach Joe Krivak had worked with five quarterbacks that made the National Football League Neil O'Donnell, Boomer Esiason, Stan Gelbaugh, Scott Zolak and Frank Reich and Scarpino hoped to be the next Terrapin QB to make the big time. Thomas fulfills promise Ex-WH star gets MSU tailback job By Chuck Finder Post-Gazette Sports Writer Before last season began, Craig Thomas thought it was all over. Not the season. His career. "I honestly didn't believe I was going to play," recalled the Michigan State tailback, a former Woodland Hills High School star. "People here were saying, 'We need you to contribute this year.' I was like, Yeah, right.' "I was on the bench for, like, 10 years. I thought someday I'd get a job, get some kind of career going. That was my attitude: Football wasn't really meant for me. " A funny thing happened on Thomas' way to getting on with his life's work. He played. In fact, he starred. Five years removed from Woodland Hills, light years since his last significant performance, Thomas churned up the Big Ten as a junior in 1992. He collected the most touchdowns (15), the second-most points (90) and the fourth-most yards rushing (887) in the conference. He had four 100-yard games. He was named second-team all-Big Ten. And he was only a backup. Next fall, the ball is all his. Thomas ascends the throne of Michigan State royalty: Lorenzo White, Blake Ezor, Hyland Hickson and Tico Duckett, the man he played behind last season. At least one ranked among the top five Big Ten rushers in each of the past six seasons. At least one gained at least 1,000 yards in seven of the past eight seasons. The scepter has been passed. From Duckett to Thomas. Michigan State expects so much from Thomas, it has nominated him for the 1993 Doak Walker Award for the top collegiate running back. NFL scouts expect so much, some call him one of the 10 best backfield prospects for the 1994 draft. Football was meant for Craig Thomas after all. "It really hasn't hit me," Thomas said from his East Lansing, Mich., apartment, which he shares with his 6-month-old Chinese chow. "It probably will hit me September 11, when we play Kansas. I just want to go out and run hard, harder than before now that I'm a starter. "This is what you wait for, all four years. It has been a long time coming." A long time, indeed. It was 1987 when Thomas last ran wild for Woodland Halls, bulling for 303 yards in the snow during a WPIAL playoff loss to Mt. Lebanon. It was 1989 when he matriculated to Michigan State, starting a year late after Finishing up his high school studies. It was 1990 when he first played for Michigan State. . Thomas remembers coming late to meetings. He remembers exchanging friendly fire in the locker room and deadly hits on the field with Percy Snow, now a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker. He remembers falling into disfavor with Spartans Coach George Perles. "Did I feel like I was in his doghouse?" Thomas said before laughing raucously. "Let me put it this way: I occupied the East Wing. Basically, I just had to settle down." In 1 99 1 , he played just five games, carried the ball just nine times, gained just 12 yards. ' Then this. . "There's always kind of a waiting process here at the running back position," said Bobby Williams, who . SEE THOMAS, PAGE E-7 But that was three years ago. Times change. Krivak, head coach at Maryland from 1987-91 and a longtime assistant before that, resigned after the '91 season, with three years left on a four-year contract. The decision shocked and disappointed Scarpino: "Coach Krivak was the reason I went to Maryland. He was the reason they were so great." Mark Duffner, former head coach at Holy Cross, replaced Krivak. About then, the proverbial roof caved in on Scarpino's aspirations of becoming a star at College Park. "It was the spring of my redshirt freshman year and the new staff came in and said they'd give every quarterback a shot at the starting job," said the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder. ' "But it was very obvious that Duffner had his favorites." Scarpino confronted Duffner following spring drills and informed the coach of his feelings. I "-4 XI" Bob DonaldsonPost-Gazette Franklin Regional's Kirk Taylor eludes a sliding Brian Holt of Woodland Hills in high school game. Custom Taylor-eel Franklin Regional star signs with WVU By Mark Madden Regional Sports Editor, Post-Gazette On April 20, pro and college scouts dropped by Franklin Regional High School's baseball field to see Franklin senior Kirk Taylor. A star was born. Trouble was, it wasn't Taylor. It was Butler pitcher Matt Clement, who fanned Taylor twice and had his fastball clocked at over 90 miles per hour. Earlier this month, Clement was picked in the third round of the major-league amateur draft by the San Diego Padres. "Glad to help the guy along," Taylor said, chuckling wryly. But all's well that end's well. Taylor has accepted a baseball scholarship to NCAA Division I school West Virginia University. WVU assistant coach Greg Van Zant thinks Taylor who played shortstop in high school but will play outfield in college will get his shot at pro ball someday. "Kirk could play for any college team in America. I think he has pro potential. I'm surprised he wasn't drafted. That day against Clement, that was just one of those days." Said Taylor, "West Virginia was with me all the way. They recruited me from the beginning. That's definitely one reason I'm going there." Taylor was also recruited by Clemson and James Madison. Taylor's commitment ends a strange, bewildering recruiting saga for one of the WPIAL's most gifted athletes. As a tailback for Franklin's football team last fall, the 6-foot, 180-pounder rushed for 1,085 yards and 13 touchdowns, totalling 2,051 all-purpose yards. He's well-built. He has run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. But he got very little Division I interest. Things went only slightly better in baseball. He hit .361 (22-for-61) while scoring 23 runs and stealing 22 bases. He was 3-1 as a pitcher. Yet, Division I interest was minimal. Taylor is happy to be going to WVU. But he's still "Duffner said he didn't think it was that way, and he said, 'If it was, I didn't mean for it to be,' " Scarpino said. "He told me everyone would get their shot again in the fall." Fall camp came and went. Scarpino wasn't named the starter. He transferred to Memphis State University in the fall of 1992. "I figured, I'll go somewhere else, somewhere I'll be treated fairly," said Scarpino, who had to sit out last season in keeping with the NCAA's transfer policy. "I thought I was the best quarterback at Maryland. I thought I should have been named the starter." At Maryland, Scarpino was third on the depth chart behind John Kaleo, who was second in the nation in total offense as a senior last season, and Scott Milanovich, a Butler High School graduate who is expected to start this fall. "I thought I was better than those guys because I have all the tools," 4 it"!, confused: "Recruiting was a bad experience. Schools treat you like a piece of meat, in baseball and football. They tell you what you want to hear until they figure they don't need you, then they're very cold. "I'm glad it's over." Looking at his baseball recruiting, "I will admit, I didn't hit Tike I can during the high school season. Scouts said I had the arm and I had the speed, but I just couldn't hit. Of course, it didn't help that I had the worst game of my life with everyone watching, against Clement." For the record, Taylor struck out four times in that game. In football, Taylor said, "They said I was too small. But I'm not. I don't know what the problem was." Brighter days are ahead, though. Taylor is hitting .533 (16-for-30) for Murrysville's Legion team. He has six triples, two doubles and two home runs. "I'm hitting up to expectations now," he said. Taylor's chances of playing at WVU right away look good. "Kirk can run, he has a good arm, and we think he's going to hit," said Van Zant. "He'll probably be our fastest outfielder. If he swings the bat, he'll play. It's as simple as that. If the season opened tomorrow, he'd have a good chance to start." Looking ahead, Taylor thinks he'll improve much more quickly in baseball now that he's a one-sport athlete. Looking back, he says he'll always remember the WPIAL Section 4 baseball title Franklin won this year, the only championship be won at the scholastic level. But right now, Taylor is mad. "Yeah, I'm mad," he said, laughing anyway. "All those scouts came to see me and got turned off based on one game. One game! "I want to do well at West Virginia because I want to pay them back for the faith they've shown. And I want to try and develop my potential, because West Virginia has turned out some pro players. "And I want to prove a lot of people wrong." Scarpino said. "I can roll out and Eass, I can throw on the run or drop ack, and I feel I can run an offense as good as anybody, if not better. "The guys they had there had only one asset, not all of them." Scarpino hopes to show off his assets at Memphis State, where he has two years of eligibility remaining. He is No. 2 on the depth chart behind senior-to-be Steve Matthews, the 13th-ranked passer in NCAA Division I last year. Matthews passed for over 2,000 yards and fired 18 touchdowns while leading Memphis State to a 6-5 record. But wasn't Scarpino's backup role the reason he left Maryland? "It's different at Memphis State, because at least I know I'm getting a fair opportunity. I'm one snap away from being the starting quarterback. It's very rare that a quarterback makes it through a whole season without any bumps and bruises. I'm not wishing anything bad on Matthews, but I think I'll get my opportunity." Scarpino made a good impression on Tigers' head coach Chuck Sto-bart when he completed 11 of 19 passes for 129 yards in Memphis State's spring game in April. "I think Tony will put pressure on Matthews," said offensive coordinator Carl Battershell. Scarpino should be comfortable playing in Tennessee for two reasons: Former Maryland assistant Brian Kelly was hired by Memphis State and recommended Scarpino to Stobart, who promptly gave Scarpino a scholarship. And Scarpino, a business major, lived in Nashville for five years as a youth while his father conducted business at his computer software company. The elder Scarpino still has an office in Nashville. "I see more of my dad now than I did when I was at Maryland," Scarpino said. Guzik brothers progress slowly in minor leagues By David Assad Tn-State Sports & News Service The long-distance telephone calls, Florida to Iowa, Guzik to Guzik, twice a month, had been upbeat this baseball season. Until last week. Brian Guzik, a Latrobe High School product and younger brother of Robbie, hurt his right knee last Friday while running to first base during a Class A Midwest League game at Waterloo, Iowa. Brian's team, California Angels affiliate Cedar Rapids, Iowa, put the 21-year-old first baseman on the disabled list following the game. Doctors will re-examine Brian Monday to determine the extent of his injury. "Brian was telling me last week that he was moved up in the batting order because his hitting had picked up lately," said Robbie Guzik, a 24-year-old relief pitcher for the New York Mets' St. Lucie affiliate in the Class A Florida State League. Then came' the injury. "When you get hurt in the minor leagues, you usually get pushed back," the elder Guzik added. "This is a tough break for him after everything he's been through." Brian Guzik, drafted by the Angels in the 22nd round of the 1990 major-league amateur draft, is still looking to play his first full minor-league season. An elbow injury that required surgery to his right (throwing) arm limited him to 54 games in his first three campaigns, all spent with Mesa of the short-season Arizona Rookie League. This year, his first with Cedar Rapids, Brian was hitting .254 with three home runs, five doubles, 10 RBIs and 20 runs in 35 games before the knee injury. No one knows the severity of his problem. "It's too swollen for the doctors to tell how badly I'm hurt," said the younger Guzik. "I tried to keep playing, but it got too stiff and swollen. I'm not too sure how it happened. It felt like someone hit me in the knee with a ball while I was running." The 6-foot-4 first sacker was just starting to improve, by all accounts. He had bulked up to 190 after weighing 175 in high school. He had driven in 23 runs in 36 games for Mesa the season before. "The Angels project him as a To turf or not to turf : the artificial question By Chuck Finder Post-Gazette Sports Writer Something unnatural's unfolding. Artificial turf. Trinity High School is breaking new ground for an artificial turf athletic field. So is Peters Township High School. They're ripping up the grass and rolling out the carpet. Upper St. Clair High School hopes to do the same soon. School officials there and elsewhere have decided the time has come to give in, pony up and splendor in the ersatz grass. "When you look at it from a standpoint of utility, if you measure the cost and the hours of operation, I think it's cost-effective," said Chuck Heberling, the WPIAL's executive director. "The taxpayer gets overwhelmed in the beginning when he hears the cost. But if you ever figure out the usage it gets, it's probably a pretty big value." How far that $700,000 or so goes, only a few people really know for sure. They know at Mt. Lebanon. The WPIAL's artificial trend-setter K 1 , 7 eW' Tony Scarpino Was disgruntled at Maryland, so he transferred to Memphis State Brian Guzik California dreamin' power hitter, and he was starting to consistently hit for extra bases," Robbie Guzik said. "They were also thinking about moving him back to third base Brian's original position because his arm has almost totally recovered." Robbie Guzik, meanwhile, remains upbeat about his prospects this season. He expects to move up to Binghamton, N.Y., of the Class AA Eastern League later this summer. Drafted by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the 1988 draft, the former Allegany (Md.) Community College player has found new baseball life since switching from outfielder to pitcher in 1991. Me said he went from "suspect to prospect" thanks to the move. Last season, just his second on the mound, Robbie Guzik went a combined 10-6 with Mets farm teams Columbia, S.C., and St. Lucie. This season, he was switched again from starter to reliever. The elder Guzik is 0-3 for St. Lucie, but has a 3.19 ERA and four saves in five chances. He has struck out 25 and walked just seven in 46 innings. He has picked up a slider to complement a 90 mph fastball "The Mets project me as a closer," he said. "I'm starting to get myself used to it after starting the last two years. I'm feeling a lot more confidence in myself." I f f , v " ' , V '" V k IH back in 1973, the school has started work to replace its second-generation, 10-year-old rug. The City League's South Stadium has been unnatural for 17 years; North Allegheny's Newman Staditim for two. "Frankly, there's not enough of them around to study," Heberling added. "We'd like to have two more, maybe one in the east and one in the west. That would make it easier on everybody. "But school districts are having enough problems already. It's, an added frill in some people's minds." Gerry Chambers heard the arguments, felt the heat. He is Trinity's athletic director, the man responsible for the Hillers' new $2.7 million home being constructed at Trinity's middle school. Things got so hot, two school board members decided not to seek re-election. Actually, the timing for such an athletic expense was rather fortuitous: The district is in the midst of a $36 million elementary-school project. ' SEE TURF, PAO&v7 h

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