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Tradition treasured here in Western Pennsylvania high school football

“Louie, Louie! Rahger, Rahger!”

Western Pennsylvania certainly has its own dialect. But during football season, common play-call lingo echoes through the region’s steel towns and farm fields with its familiar Pittsburghese.

Over three weeks, I photographed 63 high school football teams throughout the region practicing for their upcoming season preview edition to be published on Wednesday.

As far “Louie,” or left, as Washington County, to as far “Roger,” or right, as Westmoreland, and both north to Lawrence and south to Fayette, my “Tour de WPIAL” proved tradition is treasured here.

The new coach of Perry Traditional Academy, of the City League, is Rod Rutherford, a former Pitt standout and NFL practice player who returned to his alma mater this season. And though new to Kiski Area, veteran coach Sam Albert gave all his players nicknames, like “he always has,” said his son and assistant coach, Aaron. Examples include “Freak,” “Smoothie” and “Munch.”

Between the pregame praying and the in-drill cussing are hearts that love the game and minds that drive to win.

It is Western Pennsylvania’s mentality. Football personifies its steel grit.

The sun rises over West Allegheny’s defending Class 5A WPIAL champion defense as they work out at 7 a.m. during a preseason practice on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at West Allegheny High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Spit flies from the whistle of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic head football coach Pat O’Shea during a preseason practice on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Woodland Hills football player Eric Oliver, center, breaks it down with his fellow Wolverines before a preseason practice on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at Woodland Hills High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Burrell linemen work on their form during a preseason practice on Monday, July 24, 2017 at Burrell High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Burrell running backs coach Shawn Bennis watches handoffs during a preseason practice on Monday, July 24, 2017 at Burrell High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Baldwin’s Pary Herrera looks to snap the ball during a preseason practice on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at Baldwin High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
The braid of Shenango 10th-grade wide receiver Shayla Ettinger rests on her jersey during the first padded preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017 at Shenango High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Avonworth head football coach Duke Johncour pauses for a moment with his players after a conditioning workout on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at Avonworth High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Members of the Butler Golden Tornado football team douse themselves with water after a preseason conditioning session on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at Butler High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Brashear’s Omar Williams walks off the field following a collision while going for the ball during a preseason practice on Monday, July 24, 2017 at Brashear High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Armstrong’s Josh Hepler works on his side steps with a chair during a preseason practice on Monday, July 24, 2017 at the former Ford City football field. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Burrell linemen work on their form during a preseason practice on Monday, July 24, 2017 at Burrell High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Pittsburgh Central Catholic head coach Terry Totten twirls his whistle during a preseason practice on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Fox Chapel linemen pass a water hose in between drills during a preseason practice on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at Fox Chapel High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Perry football players take a break in between drills during a preseason practice on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at Perry Traditional Academy. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Perry lineman Chaz Smith displays his fancy footwork during a preseason practice on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at Perry Traditional Academy. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
New Perry football coach and former Perry standout Rod Rutherford brings his team together for a cheer after a preseason practice on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at Perry Traditional Academy. Rutherford played in the NFL, as practice player, and at Pitt. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Woodland Hills defensive back Rodney Dennard looks back to the quarterback on the line before the snap during a preseason practice on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at Woodland Hills High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Brentwood quarterback Michael Trent looks down field while following through on his throw during a preseason practice on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 at Brentwood Stadium. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
A Summit Academy football player “runs the bases” with a weighted sled during a preseason practice on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 at Summit Academy in Herman. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Summit Academy football players prepare to “run the bases” with weighted sleds during a preseason practice on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 at Summit Academy in Herman. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
University Prep’s linemen work on their form up a hill before a 7-on-7 scrimmage on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at University Prep High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
North Allegheny head football coach Art Walker and new transfer Joey Porter Jr., the son of Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter, watch a drill during the first padded practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017 at North Allegheny High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Bethlehem-Center lineman Anthony Herman rests between plays during a preseason practice on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 at Bethlehem-Center High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
Summit Academy football player Abraham Sevin takes a rest under a tree during a preseason practice on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 at Summit Academy in Herman. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)
A freshly hand painted 50 yard line during a 7-on-7 scrimmage on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at University Prep High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)