DONTA GREEN is in his first year as head coach of the Westinghouse Bulldogs. (Photo by Andre Swinton Jr.)
by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
What exactly is maturity?
How do you become more mature?
When do you know you’ve matured?
Trying to lock down a definition of maturity could take all day, though Wikipedia defines maturity as “the emergence of individual and behavioral characteristics through growth processes over time.”
Moments after Westinghouse High School’s football team let their second straight game slip away after having a third quarter lead, head coach Donta Green said it all boiled down to one word concerning his players: maturity.
The Bulldogs, who most high school football experts believe have a good shot of returning to the Pittsburgh City League championship game, had an 18-6 lead midway through the third quarter of their matchup against Linsly School (W.Va.) at Cupples Stadium on the South Side, Aug. 30. But Linsly fought back by scoring three unanswered touchdowns and a game-sealing interception of Westinghouse quarterback Troy Lanier to take a 26-18 win back to the Mountaineer State.
A week prior, Aug. 24, the Bulldogs had an astonishing 30-13 lead after three quarters over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, at a game played at the Wolvarena in Turtle Creek. But Our Lady of the Sacred Heart scored 20 fourth quarter points to stun Westinghouse, 33-30.
That’s right, Westinghouse has not scored a single point in the fourth quarter of their first two games of the season—the reason for their 0-2 record heading into their Sept. 5 matchup against City League foe University Prep, their first City League conference game of the season.
“It takes maturity to finish games and we haven’t been able to do that,” Green told the New Pittsburgh Courier after his team’s loss to Linsly, Aug. 30. “It’s just finishing those games and really driving that point home that we have to finish.”
Green said his team has a good amount of seniors, but “a lot of them are first-year players or second-year players, so we appear to be older than we really are. So it’s just trying to find our identity, trying to find that will from inside to finish these games, that’s the biggest thing…at some point it has to become embedded in their hearts to want to finish these games and want to get better and want to make tackles. We (as coaches) can’t want it more than they do.”
Though Westinghouse has gotten off to a rocky start, this year’s squad still has a good chance to return to the City League championship game for a second straight year. They lost to Allderdice, 18-8, on Oct. 30, 2018.
Green said his Bulldogs are “enjoying football, they’re enjoying coming to practice, they’re enjoying the preparation,” all the little things needed to master to hopefully, for the ‘House, have its first City League championship since 1996.
Westinghouse is also enjoying having one of the top players in the state of Pennsylvania on their team—Dayon Hayes, a senior defensive end who’s ranked as the No. 3 recruit in 2020 on Rivals.com. He’s already committed to play football at Pitt.
“From Day 1, in school he’s a huge leader, making sure all the young guys, even the older guys, are where they’re supposed to be, in class,” Green said of Hayes. “Then of course on the field, it’s just his natural ability to take over games and to basically take one side of the football field away is big for us from him.”
Hayes lets his play do the talking. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, you probably won’t hear him say one word in the game,” Green said, “but he’s going to give 100 percent effort every single play.”
Hayes, at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, anchors a Westinghouse defense that returns eight starters, including senior free safety Khalil Jeter. The Bulldogs also return eight starters on offense, and will call upon Lanier (a senior), running backs Mike Massey (senior) and Malik Harris (sophomore), and senior receiver Cameron Jones to carry the load.
While the Bulldogs relied much more on the run game last year, Green told the Courier he’s not going to worry about which attack (run or pass) will be relied on more. He just wants “hard-nosed football…I just want a team that’s going to come out and that’s going to smash into some people,” he said. “It’s going to be hard-nosed football that’s going to finish plays, finish drives and finish games.”
Following Westinghouse’s game against University Prep at Cupples Stadium, Sept. 5, they’ll face Allderdice at Cupples, Sept. 12. They’ll also play Carrick (Sept. 19), Brashear (Sept. 26), Hickory (Hermitage, Pa., Oct. 4) and Perry (Oct. 11), all at Cupples.
Can the Bulldogs turn things around, and get back in the fast lane to the City League championship game once again? Green believes so.
“I think we’re just inexperienced, and it’s going to take some time,” he told the Courier. “Once we find ourselves, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
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