The WPIAL Championships took place yesterday in 3A, 4A, 5A, and 6A. Beaver Falls claimed their first WPIAL title since 1984 by running out to an early lead against Aliquippa then holding on against a furious comeback in the final minutes. West Allegheny and McKeesport battled into overtime in 5A with West A scoring on a two-point conversion in overtime to win Coach Bob Palko’s 8th title. In 4A, Thomas Jefferson rolled over New Castle en route to their second straight Championship. Central Catholic also defended their WPIAL title by storming past Seneca Valley. The Champions in 4A, 5A and 6A will now proceed to the PIAA quarterfinals next week while Beaver Falls will get a bye before resuming play in the state semifinals in two weeks. Since the Championships were on Friday, the WPIAL wisely scheduled the semifinal games in Classes 1A and 2A for Saturday. The winners of these games will meet next Saturday for the WPIAL titles at Robert Morris University.
As a reminder, if you’re going to be following along with the WPIAL action tonight, keep an eye on the following hashtags on Twitter where people post score updates from games: #WPIAL #MSAscores #Skylights
Also, if you’re not already, follow the @MSAsports twitter account which will post score updates and bookmark the MSA Scoreboard for quick reference at the end of the night. They get the final scores up faster than anyone. Also, MSA Sports will be broadcasting ALL 32 playoff games over the internet, here is their list of broadcasts.
1. Steel Valley (7-0, 11-0) vs 4. Riverside (6-1, 9-2)
at North Allegheny
Steel Valley has been absolutely dominant this season, averaging 56 points per game the highest mark in the entire WPIAL. This is a rematch of a Week 1 non-conference game, which Steel Valley won 41-7 but was one of just two times this season the Ironmen were held under 50 points. Steel Valley has been led by the tandem of DeWayne Murray and Paris Ford. Murray has rushed for 1672 yards and 34 TDs. Pitt-commit Paris Ford is one of the top defensive back prospects in the state and has been an all-around playmaker for the Ironmen, scoring 6 TDs rushing, 6 receiving, 4 punt returns, 4 pick-sixes and one fumble return. QB Ryan Harper has thrown for 713 yards and 13 TDs. Steel Valley also boasts the top defense in 2A, holding opponents under 8 points per game. Riverside is not far behind with the third best defense at under 14 points per game. This year, the Panthers have been able to win with defense as their offense has averaged just 22 points per game. QB Ben Hughes has thrown for 1015 yards and 7 TDs while Lance Fisher has run for 616 yards and 10 TDs. Ricky Wass leads the team in receiving with 499 yards and is the second-leading rusher with 552 and has scored 7 times. Steel Valley has not been to a Championship Game since they won back-to-back titles in 1988 and 89 while Riverside has not been to a Championship since losing 3 straight from 1991-1993.
2. Washington (7-0, 11-0) vs 3. Neshannock (7-0, 11-1)
Both of these teams enter the semifinals after blowing out their first two opponents. Washington rolled over South Side Beaver 35-13 and crushed Brentwood 61-27. Neshannock beat Serra Catholic 60-21 then won a rematch with conference foe CWNC 71-28. These teams rank second and third in 2A in offense, both averaging over 41 points per game. Washington has reached this point with a balanced offense. QB Connor Bedillian has thrown for 1050 yards and 20 TDs. The Prexies have utilized a running back by committee approach with Lyle Webb (508 yards, 7 TDs), Zyan Wallace (468 yards, 9 TDs), and Nick Welsh (414 yards, 5 TDs). Isaiah Robinson has been an all-around playmaker, leading the team in receiving with 533 yards and adding 274 rushing yards and scoring 14 times. The Lancers are led by 2A’s leading passer, Frank Antuono who has thrown for 1927 yards and 21 TDs. His favorite targets have been Daniel Welker (756 yards, 19 TDs) and Ty Sear (326 yards, 4 TDs). Antuono is also the second-leading rusher on the team with 771 yards and 15 TDs behind Sean Doran (1066 yards, 14 TDs). Neshannock has never been to a WPIAL Championship Game while Washington is seeking their first Championship Game appearance since 2012.
1. Clairton (7-0, 11-0) vs 4. Northgate (7-1, 10-1)
Clairton is the two-time defending Single-A Champions and have won 8 titles in the last 10 years. This is only Northgate’s second trip to the playoffs in the last 14 seasons and their first semifinal appearance since 1984. Clairton did what Clairton does this season, rolling through the regular season while averaging 52 points per game, the most in 1A, and holding opponents to just 6 points per game. Last week, star RB Lamont Wade returned to the lineup after having knee surgery just two weeks prior. Wade is one of the top recruits in the nation and has rushed for 1711 yards and 26 TDs. Dual-threat QB Noah Hamlin has thrown for 972 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 707 yards and 19 TDs. Delvin Clifford leads the Bears in receiving with 430 yards and 5 TDs while Tre’Sean Howard has 407 receiving yards, 332 rushing yards, and has scored 8 TDs. Northgate has pitched shutouts in 4 of their last 5 outings and their only loss this season came on a touchdown pass by Rochester in the final minute. The Flames have been led by twin brothers Stefon and Surron Adams. Stefon, the quarterback, has thrown for 1551 yards and 12 TDs. Surron, the running back, has run for 1040 yards and 23 TDs. Northgate also features 1A’s leading receiver in Mike Allen who has 1037 yards and 18 TDs and should present a good matchup for Clairton’s talented secondary.
2. Rochester (8-0, 11-0) vs 3. Jeannette (6-1, 11-1)
at Fox Chapel
After a 3-year hiatus from the playoffs, Rochester returns to the semifinals, the round they have reached 10 times since 2000. The Rams won their conference and cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs with a 39-6 win over Riverview and 32-6 win over Imani. Now they get their third Eastern Conference team in Jeannette. Rochester has been led by dual-threat QB Ian Kouba who has thrown for 1275 yards and 15 TDs and rushed for 1028 yards and 15 TDs. Caleb Collins has been their other primary offensive threat, leading the Rams in receiving with 353 yards and ranking second behind Kouba with 726 rushing yards and 15 TDs. Jeannette boasts the second-best offense and defense in 1A and the only team to beat them in the last two years has been Clairton, who has beaten the Jayhawks 3 times in that span. Jeannette has averaged 46 points per game this season and has pitched 7 shutouts, including 6 in a row in the middle of the season. Jeannette has been led by dual-threat QB GioVonne Sanders who has thrown for 1361 yards and 20 TDs and rushed for 486 yards and 11 scores. Kareem Hall leads the team in rushing with 1037 yards and 20 TDs. Robert Kennedy and Ryan Swinton have been multi-purpose threats, both tallying for over 800 yards of total offense and Kennedy scoring 19 TDs and Swinton 11. Jeannette is looking to get back to the title game for the second straight year while Rochester is seeking their first title game appearance since 2010. If Clairton wins the other semifinal, we would either see a rematch of last year’s Championship with Jeannette or the fifth meeting Championship Game between Clairton and Rochester since 2004.