The first week of the WPIAL playoffs has finally arrived. The new 6-Classification era has come with some growing pains. Predictably, there was an appropriate amount of outrage last week as the WPIAL’s ridiculous self-imposed playoff regulations prevented a 7-2 Beaver team from making the playoffs because they lost a tiebreaker and finished 4th in their conference while a 5-4 South Park team got in with a Wild Card. Not to take anything away from South Park – they did what they needed to do per the rules to get in to the playoffs – but the WPIAL’s rules that prevented the top-ranked 3A team in the state from playing in the playoffs were terrible. The WPIAL had other options that I detailed a few weeks ago, but chose to limit the 3A playoff field to just 8 teams in order to have a fourth championship game at Heinz Field.
In Classes 6A, 5A, 4A, and 3A only 8 teams made the playoffs. Their brackets start at the quarterfinals with the Championships taking place at Heinz Field on Friday, November 18th. Class 2A and 1A had 16 teams make the playoffs and will play their semi-finals the weekend the other classifications hold their Championships. The 1A and 2A Championships will be on Saturday, November 26 at Joe Walton Stadium at Robert Morris University. Earlier this week, I profiled the narratives, recent playoff history, and best postseason results of all 64 playoff teams.
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. Central Catholic (6-0, 9-1) vs 8. Norwin (3-3, 5-5)
Central Catholic is the only remaining 6A team that is undefeated in WPIAL play. They defeated Norwin 41-0 two weeks ago and boast the best defense in 6A, allowing just 11 points per game to WPIAL opponents. Vikings QB Troy Fisher threw for 1040 yards and 13 TDs and rushed for 420 yards and 9 TDs this season. JJ Younger leads Central in rushing with 975 yards and 22 TDs and Justice Evans is their leading receiver with 505 yards and 12 TDs. Central also has the best offensive line in the WPIAL with all 5 starters holding D1 scholarship offers. While Central boasts a balanced attack, Norwin has been pass-heavy on the arm of QB Brock Dieter who has thrown for 1494 yards and 18 TDs, primarily to Anthony DelleFemine (816 yards, 9 TDs).
4. Bethel Park (5-1, 5-4) vs 5. Pine-Richland (4-2, 6-4)
This is also a rematch of a regular season game, which was impossible to avoid for both teams. Pine-Richland won 31-24 in Week 5, but that was before QB Phil Jurkovec injured his thumb. Max DeVinney has stepped in admirably and thrown for 1045 yards and 6 TDs over the last 4 weeks. Ray Falcone leads the WPIAL in receiving with 1043 yards and 10 TDs while RB Jordan Crawford has accounted for over 1100 yards of total offense and scored 16 TDs. The Black Hawks have been successful both on the ground with Terron Murphy (990 yards, 8 TDs) and through the air with Cole Rogers (1438 yards, 11 TDs). Bethel Park has one of the better defenses in 6A and has the talent to hang with Pine-Richland.
2. North Allegheny (5-1, 8-2) vs 7. Hempfield (4-2, 5-5)
North Allegheny’s only loss in WPIAL play was to Central Catholic in a game they played without QB Ethan Maenza. Maenza is the focal point of the Tigers offense and became just the 5th player in WPIAL history to throw and rush for 1000 yards in a regular season. Niko Mermigas has hauled in 721 receiving yards and 11 TDs. Like the Central-Norwin game, this is a rematch of a Week 8 game which NA won 42-7. Hempfield’s offense is capable of moving the ball down the field as QB Justin Sliwoski threw for 1763 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for 500 more and ran for 8 TDs. RB Jordan Kempka led the team with 1347 yards and 7 TDs while Nick DiAndreth was the primary target in the passing game, accumulating 686 yards and 8 TDs. Unfortunately for the Spartans, it was their defense that did them in this season and they finish the regular season with the 3rd worst defense in all of 6A, allowing over 33 points per game.
3. Mt Lebanon (5-1, 7-3) vs 6. Seneca Valley (3-3, 6-3)
Mt Lebanon rebounded from a slow start to the season to win the Southeastern Conference Title in a Week 9 showdown with Bethel Park. The Blue Devils had the second-highest scoring offense in 6A, averaging 38 points per game and scored 30+ against everyone except North Allegheny. Mt Lebanon has featured a balanced offense between QB James Stocker (1700 yards, 14 TDs) and RB David Harvey (1354 yards, 20 TDs). Seneca Valley also has a high-powered offense that averaged over 34 points per game. The Warriors relied on the two-headed tandem of QB Jack Cook (1334 yards, 13 TDs) and RB Hank Royal (1039 yards, 17 TDs).
1. West Allegheny (8-0, 9-0) vs 8. North Hills (5-3, 6-4)
West Allegheny started the season slow, but caught fire in Week 4 and averaged 41 points per game over their last 6 en route to an Allegheny Nine Conference title. North Hills was one of the few teams to hold West A under their season average in a closely fought 24-16 Week 2 game. West Allegheny has relied on the strength of their stifling defense, which has held opponents under a touchdown per game. QB Nick Ross has thrown for 1502 yards and 9 TDs while RB Kenny White has rushed for 746 yards and 15 TDs. North Hills lost 2 of their last 4 heading into the playoffs and has the lowest-scoring offense of any 5A playoff team. North Hills has been led by QB Will Hirt’s 785 yards and 9 TDs and RB Nick Santucci’s 757 yards and 5 TDs.
4. Woodland Hills (7-1, 8-2) vs 5. Franklin Regional (6-2, 7-2)
Woodland Hills rebounded from their Week 8 loss to West Allegheny to beat Upper St Clair 28-21 in the season finale to secure second place in the conference and get a home playoff game. The Wolverines have leaned on the two-headed tandem of Ja’Juanm Hill and Saeed Holt who have combined for over 1100 yards and scored 25 TDs. After an 0-2 start, Franklin Regional has won 7 in a row, including being the only team to defeat Armstrong. The Panthers have one of the top defenses in 5A, allowing just 15 points per game, and have been led by dual-threat QB Simon Behr who has thrown for 1021 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 756 yards and 8 TDs.
2. Armstrong (7-1, 9-1) vs 7. Gateway (5-3, 6-4)
The RiverHawks won the Allegheny Nine Conference in just their second year of existence after the merger of Ford City and Kittanning. RB Zane Dudek broke the WPIAL single-season rushing record by running for 2949 yards and 42 TDs. This is a rematch of a Week 3 conference game which Armstrong won 35-21 thanks to 352 yards and 3 TDs from Dudek. Gateway boasts the third-highest scoring offense in 5A at over 32 points per game, but has lost 2 in a row heading into the playoffs. While Armstrong has leaned on their running game, Gateway has relied on QB Brady Walker who ranks 4th in the WPIAL with 2058 yards and 22 TDs.
3. McKeesport (6-2, 7-2) vs 6. Upper St Clair (6-2, 6-3)
These teams met in a non-conference game in Week 7 where McKeesport emerged victorious 28-20. The Tigers boast the second-highest scoring offense in 5A at over 35 points per game thanks to their triple option rushing attack led by QB Jayvaun Shears (775 rushing yards, 18 TDs) and RB Layton Jordan (658 yards, 6 TDs). After a 5-0 start, Upper St Clair lost 3 of their last 4 games to back into the playoffs. The Panthers will have the benefit of having senior RB Thomas Vissman back for this game. Vissman missed 5 weeks in the middle of the season, including the McKeesport game, but averaged 8 yards per carry and scored 6 TDs in the games he did play.
1. Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 9-0) vs 8. Montour (4-4, 4-5)
The defending WPIAL AAA Champions have not lost to a WPIAL opponent since Week 2 of last year. TJ rolled through the regular season averaging 52 points per game and holding opponents to under 6 points per game. The Jaguars defense has pitched 5 shutouts and no one has scored more than twice against them while their offense has scored at least 48 points in all but one game. QB Bobby Kelley has thrown for 1332 yards and 24 TDs, primarily to Zane Zandier (664 yards, 12 TDs), while RB Quinton Hill has rushed for 1242 yards and 23 TDs. Montour backed into the playoffs by losing 3 of their last 4, but the Spartans sole October victory was over Blackhawk which proved to be enough to get them into the playoffs. Montour is the lowest-scoring team in the 4A playoffs, averaging just 26 points per game. The Spartans are led by dual-threat QB Kavon Morman who accounted for 1300 yards of total offense and 14 total TDs. Leading rusher Brayden Jones ran for just 539 yards but scored 13 TDs.
4. West Mifflin (6-2, 8-2) vs 5. Belle Vernon (6-2, 7-2)
The WPIAL seeding committee did the right thing by placing the three Big Nine teams that finished in a 3-way tie consecutively in the standings. This produced two conference matchups in the first round, but it was the right move from a seeding perspective. The first of these matchups is between West Mifflin and Belle Vernon, a rematch of the Week 8 game West Mifflin won 26-9. The Titans have battled through the loss of star RB Howie Reid. Russell Tyree has rushed for 291 yards and 7 TDs in the 3 games since Reid broke his ankle, including 122 yards and 3 TDs against Belle Vernon. The Leopards started the season 6-0 but lost back-to-back games to Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin in Weeks 7 and 8. Belle Vernon is led by dual-threat QB Mike Fine who has thrown for 765 yards and 10 TDs and added 409 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. RB Nick Hall has led the way with 798 yards and 10 TDs.
2. South Fayette (8-0, 10-0) vs 7. New Castle (6-2, 6-4)
South Fayette took a big step up in classification this cycle and continued their tradition of excellence. Their only loss in the last 4 seasons came to Aliquippa last year at Heinz Field. QB Drew Saxton is 2nd in the WPIAL in passing with 2361 yards and 27 TDs while Geavonie Love rushed for 1117 yards and 16 TDs. Blackhawk was the only 4A team to come within 20 points of South Fayette this season. This is the second conference rematch that was caused by the consecutive seeding of the Big Nine teams, and South Fayette will look to repeat their 37-13 Week 6 victory over New Castle. The Red Hurricanes were justifiably dropped to the 7th seed because of their head-to-head loss to Ringgold. Despite boasting a secondary with two Division 1 recruits in Geno Stone and Marcus Hooker, New Castle has the worst scoring defense of any 4A playoff team, allowing 24 points per game. Their offense was the second best in the conference, led by Stone’s 931 passing yards and 11 TDs and 430 rushing yards and 11 TDs. Marcus Hooker led the team with 16 total TDs between rushing, receiving, returning, and defense.
3. Mars (7-1, 8-2) vs. 6. Ringgold (6-2, 7-2)
Mars’ two losses this year came to the top two teams in 4A. Outside of those two games (when they managed just 24 points total) the Planets averaged 34 points per game. Mars traditionally boasts a strong running game and this year was no different with the tandem of Isaiah Johnson (1264 yards, 18 TDs) and Garrett Reinke (926 yards, 9 TDs) leading the way. Ringgold lost twice in the middle of the season to Belle Vernon and Thomas Jefferson, but won all four of their October outings, including wins over West Mifflin and New Castle. The Rams have a balanced offensive attack between QB George Martin (1805 yards, 17 TDs) and RB Brenden Small (825 yards, 11 TDs). WR Max Maciejewski (727 yards, 9 TDs) ranks in the top 10 in the WPIAL and second in 4A in receiving yards.
1. Aliquippa (5-1, 8-2) vs 8. South Park (5-2, 5-4)
The defending AA Champions were rightfully given the top spot in 3A as champions of the classification’s toughest conference. This was the first time since 2008 that the Quips lost two regular season games after they fell to Beaver in Week 3 (their first regular season loss since 2009) and then Clairton in Week 6. This is a rematch of the Week 5 meeting between these teams that Aliquippa won 52-14. The Quips are built on power and have dominated teams up front and on the ground with Davion Jones rushing for 973 yards and 11 TDs and Avante McKenzie adding 888 yards and 9 TDs. South Park got to the playoffs by edging Valley on tiebreaker points for the second Wild Card spot. The Eagles are the only 3A playoff team to average under 30 points per game and have relied on dual-threat QB Jordan Kmonk who has thrown for 1179 yards and 8 TDs and rushed for 473 yards and 7 TDs.
4. Derry (7-0, 10-0) vs 5. Central Valley (4-2, 7-3)
Derry completed a perfect regular season but was given the 4th seed in 3A based on the relative weakness of their conference. There were some that were upset over their seeding, but the postseason is the great equalizer and the Trojans will get a chance to prove their merit on the field. Derry has done their work this season on a strong rushing attack on the shoulders of Tyler Balega who has rushed for 1333 yards and 24 TDs. Central Valley finished third in the Beaver Valley Conference and got the first Wild Card thanks to a goal-line stand that gave them a head-to-head win over Beaver. The Warriors have been to at least the semifinals in all 6 years of their existence and have reached Heinz Field each of the last three seasons. Central Valley has relied on dual-threat QB Nico Battisti who has thrown for 992 yards and 9 TDs and rushed for 605 yards and 10 TDs.
2. Beaver Falls (5-1, 8-1) vs 7. Mt Pleasant (5-2, 7-3)
Beaver Falls lost their season-opener to Aliquippa, then went on a tear, winning their next 8 games including defeats of Central Valley and Beaver, to reach the postseason. The Tigers boast the third-highest scoring offense in 3A (36 points per game) and the second-best defense (16 points against per game). Beaver Falls is loaded with talent and have mixed and matched players all over the field. QB Austin French has thrown for 798 yards and 9 TDs while the Tigers have torn it up on the ground thanks to Neshaud Akins (717 yards, 9 TDs), Malik Shepherd (652 yards, 8 TDs), Torian Leak (377 yards, 7 TDs) and Derrell Carter (369 yards, 5 TDs). Mount Pleasant finished second in the Interstate Conference. The Vikings have a balanced attack led by QB Johnny Yester (1220 yards, 14 TDs) and RB Chris Wagner (1010 yards, 5 TDs). Yester’s primary target has been Keith Kelp whose 626 receiving yards rank third in 3A (and Kelp has scored 11 TDs).
3. Keystone Oaks (7-0, 8-1) vs 6. Apollo-Ridge (5-2, 7-3)
The top two passers in Class 3A square off in a rematch of a Week 7 Allegheny Conference showdown. In Week 7, Keystone Oaks won 49-21 thanks to 5 passing and 2 rushing TDs from star QB Alex Smith. Smith enters the playoffs as the WPIAL’s leading passer with 2628 yards and 28 TDs and has also rushed for 824 yards and 15 TDs. Apollo-Ridge QB Kyle Fitzroy ranks second in 3A with 1714 yards and 21 TDs. Both quarterbacks have been aided by some of the top playmakers in the classification. Keystone Oaks WR Nick Hrivnak (who had 3 TDs in the first meeting) is 3A’s leading receiver with 801 yards and 8 TDs. Apollo-Ridge star Duane Brown ranks third in 3A in scoring with 18 TDs coming in just 6 weeks of action. Brown missed the first 3 games of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery, but ignited the offense upon his return, accounting for 570 receiving yards and 446 rushing yards.
1. Steel Valley (7-0, 9-0) vs 16. Beth-Center (3-4, 3-6)
Steel Valley has absolutely obliterated every team they faced this year. The Ironmen lead the WPIAL in scoring at over 57 points per game and no team came within 30 points of them this season. The Ironmen have been led by RB DeWayne Murray (1330 yards, 29 TDs) while Pitt recruit Paris Ford has added 13 TDs and ZaiQuan Henderson has scored 10 times. No 2A team has scored more than once against Steel Valley’s defense, which is bad news for Beth-Center who enter the playoffs with the lowest-scoring offense of any 2A playoff team. The Bulldogs managed just 3 wins this season, and were reliant on RB Dominic Fundy (1106 yards, 8 TDs) and dual-threat QB Trent Cunko who accounted for over 1100 yards of total offense and 7 total TDs.
8. Chartiers-Houston (6-1, 7-3) vs 9. Laurel (4-3, 7-3)
Chartiers-Houston was one of just three 2A teams to reach the postseason while averaging under 20 points per game. The Bucs managed more than 14 points just 3 times this season, but their defense was able to keep them in most games as they held 5 teams to single-digits. Chartiers-Houston was led by QB TJ Johnson (1354 yards, 12 TDs) and RB Sepncer Terling (815 yards, 10 TDs). Laurel won their last 3 games to finish in a tie for third place with CWNC and enter the playoffs on a hot streak. The Spartans have also relied on their passing game with QB Will Shaffer (1136 yards, 10 TDs) and WR Jordan Dantico (579 yards, 6 TDs) leading the way. RB Spencer Jones has rushed for 630 yards and 10 TDs.
4. Riverside (6-1, 7-2) vs 13. Avonworth (4-3, 5-4)
The last two seasons, Riverside and Avonworth featured two of the top QBs in the WPIAL in Jason Dambach and Zach Chandler. Both have now graduated and the MOs of their alma maters have shifted. Riverside won with defense this season, holding opponents to just 15 points per game (the third best mark in 2A). Freshman QB Ben Hughes has thrown for 837 yards and 5 TDs while being able to rely on the tandem of RBs Lance Fisher and Ricky Wass who have combined for over 1000 yards and 13 TDs. Avonworth has struggled defensively early in the season, allowing 42 points per game in their first five, but turned it around in the month of October and slashing that number to just 12 points per game. Offensively, the Lopes have relied on dual-threat QB Garrett Day who threw for 1158 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for 753 yards and 10 TDs.
5. East Allegheny (6-1, 7-3) vs 12. Freedom (3-4, 3-7)
East Allegheny had the 5th highest-scoring offense in 2A at 29 points per game, but were blown out in their two games against conference champions Steel Valley (66-0) and Neshannock (50-22). Freedom allowed 26 points per game, the third-most of any 2A playoff team. The Bulldogs are making their first playoff appearance in 4 years and just their 5th since 1980. Both teams feature 1300-yard passers with East Allegheny being led by Tamaine Underwood (1353 yards, 15 TDs) and Freedom led by Zach Rosa (1321 yards, 12 TDs). Freedom also features WR Nick Henderson, whose 899 yards are the second-most in 2A.
2. Washington (7-0, 9-0) vs 15. South Side Beaver (3-4, 4-5)
The Prexies rolled through the Century Conference and are one of just two remaining undefeated teams in 2A. Washington boasted the second-best offense in 2A at nearly 43 points per game and the second-stingiest defense, allowing just over a touchdown per game. Washington’s typically-strong rushing attack did not have a sole feature back but employed a running back by committee approach and had 5 players between 275 and 500 rushing yards. QB Connor Bedillian threw for 826 yards and 16 TDs, primarily to Isaiah Robinson who led the team with 455 yards and 11 TDs. South Side Beaver earned the Wild Card thanks to their win over CWNC which came after they were blown out 50-12 by Freedom and 56-13 by Neshannock. The Rams have relied almost entirely on their running game this season and AJ Crider has led the way with 1221 yards and 10 TDs.
7. Brentwood (5-2, 7-2) vs 10. Frazier (4-3, 5-5)
After Brentwood lost in Week 2 to East Allegheny, the Spartans went on a 6-game winning streak and put themselves in position to challenge Steel Valley for the Conference Title in Week 9. Brentwood has brelied on Dorian Bowie to be their all-around playmaker, and he has accounted for 498 receiving yards, 437 rushing yards, and 13 total TDs. QB Michael Trent has thrown for 960 yards and 8 TDs to lead Brentwood back to the playoffs for the 12th time in 15 years. Frazier provided one of the best storylines of last year when the Commodores became the first Tri-County South team to win a playoff game in four years, beating South Side Beaver in overtime by stopping a two-point conversion. Frazier followed that up by beating Shenango to reach the Class A semifinals where they lost to Clairton. This year, Frazier has relied on their passing game and QB Chris Pierce ranks second in 2A with 1597 yards and 12 TDs. He has spread the ball between JD Celaschi (626 yards, 6 TDs) and Josh Cox (577 yards, 5 TDs).
3. Neshannock (7-0, 9-1) vs 14. Serra (3-4, 5-5)
Neshannock solidified the top spot in the Midwestern Conference with a 20-13 win over Riverside in Week 6. The Lancers enter the playoffs with the third-best offense (36 points per game) and defense (12 points against per game) in 2A. The sole blemish on their record is a Week 3 loss to Quaker Valley, who plays in 3A. The Lancers high-powered offense is led by Frank “the Tank” Antuono who has thrown for 1521 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for 637 yards and 12 TDs. Sean Doran leads the team in rushing with 711 yards and 9 TDs while Daniel Welker is the Lancers leading receiver with 576 yards and 13 TDs. Serra Catholic made the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and in that 7-year span went through a 28-game losing streak that spanned from 2011-2014. The Eagles have used a balanced offensive attack led by RB Khalil Smith (1256 yards, 14 TDs) and QB Evan Honick (838 yards, 14 TDs).
6. Burgettstown (4-3, 4-5) vs 11. CWNC (4-3, 5-4)
Burgettstown is back in the playoffs for the second straight season and draw my alma mater in the first round. Burgettstown enters the playoffs on a 3-game losing skid that started with a Saturday afternoon loss to Charleroi in Week 7. The Blue Devils have been led by dual-threat QB Brad McLaughlin who has thrown for 1138 yards and 11 TDs and rushed for 497 yards and 6 TDs. CWNC has reached at least the semifinals in each of the last 4 seasons. It has been a strange year for the Trojans who have looked dominant in their 5 victories, which came by an average of 39.6 points and they averaged 50.4 points per game. However, they managed just 53 total points in their 4 losses. CWNC has been led by RB Mario Latronica who has run for 1075 yards and 13 TDs. The Trojans have used both Ryan Maziarz and William Gipson at QB and they have combined of over 800 yards and 13 TDs, primarily to Joey Porter, Jr who has 351 receiving yards and 8 TDs.
1. Clairton (7-0, 9-0) vs 16. Avella (2-5, 2-8)
Clairton is the two-time defending Single-A Champions and have not lost to a WPIAL opponent since 2013. The Bears rolled through the regular season, topping 1A in offense (53 points per game) and defense (6 points against per game). Jeannette was the only team to come within 30 points of the Bears, and that includes the top seed in 3A Aliquippa (who Clairton mercy ruled 52-16). The concern for Clairton entering the playoffs is that star RB/DB Lamont Wade (1486 yards, 22 TDs) had knee surgery this week and may miss the first few games of the postseason. Clairton is still loaded with dual-threat QB Noah Hamlin, who has 698 passing yards and 7 TDs and 608 rushing yards and 17 TDs. Tre’Sean Howard has accounted for over 600 yards of total offense and scored 6 TDs. This game has all the makings of a blowout as Avella enters with the worst defense of any 1A playoff team, allowing 36 points per game. The Eagles won just twice this season, but their Week 2 win over West Greene proved to be enough to win the tiebreaker to get in to the playoffs. The Eagles have been led by QB Dalton Simonelli (1409 yards, 8 TDs) and RB Garrett Geresti (227 rushing yards, 641 receiving yards, 11 total TDs).
8. Fort Cherry (6-1, 8-1) vs 9. Sto-Rox (5-3, 6-4)
Fort Cherry started the season 8-0 but lost to Carmichaels in Week 8 which cost them the conference championship. The Rangers had a solid defense and did not allow any team to score more than 20 points in a game. Fort Cherry has been led by dual-threat QB Ryhan Culberson, a transfer from South Fayette, who has thrown for 617 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 867 yards and 19 TDs. Sto-Rox returned to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus when they were forced to play in AA because of a miscalculation in their enrollment figures. The Vikings have relied on their passing game and have utilized two quarterbacks. Brady Doubt has thrown for 1190 yards and 9 TDs while Eric Wilson has thrown for 636 yards and 6 TDs.
4. Northgate (7-1, 8-1) vs 13. Mapletown (4-3 , 5-5)
Northgate’s lone loss this season came in Week 5 when Rochester scored a last-minute touchdown to seize control of the conference. The Flames boast the third best offense (44 points per game) and defense (9 points against per game) in 1A. Northgate has been led by twin brothers Stefon and Surron Adams. Stefon, the quarterback, has thrown for 1309 yards and 9 TDs while Surron, the running back, has rushed for 950 yards and 22 TDs. WR Mike Allen leads 1A in receiving yards with 877 and has scored 12 times. Mapletown is making just their 7th playoff appearance since 1980 and has not won a playoff game in that time. The Maples were solely reliant on their running game this season and RB Dylan Rush led 1A in rushing with 1796 yards and 22 TDs.
5. Bishop Canevin (5-2, 7-2) vs 12. California (5-2, 6-4)
Bishop Canevin enters the playoffs on a roll, winners of their last 4 games since losing to Jeannette in Week 5. The Crusaders have been led by RB Maleik Hemingway who has rushed for 1057 yards and 22 TDs. Like last season, Austin Scott stepped in to the QB role halfway through the season and it sparked their offense with Scott throwing for 466 yards and 4 TDs. California fared well against Tri-County South opponents, but struggled outside their conference, losing to both Imani Christian and Rochester. On the whole, the Trojans were just 2-4 against playoff teams. California has won two in a row since losing to Rochester. California is led by RB Jonathan Wood who has scored 8 TDs this season.
2. Rochester (8-0, 9-0) vs 15. Riverview (2-5, 3-6)
After missing the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons, the Rams are back and stormed through the Big 7 Conference to claim the title. Rochester is one of two remaining undefeated teams in 1A and only Northgate got closer than 14 points. Rochester has the 4th-highest scoring offense in 1A at 41 points per game and have been able to ride dual-threat QB Ian Kouba who has thrown for 1055 yards and 14 TDs and run for 874 yards and 14 more TDs. Riverview won the 1A Wild Card based on Gardner Points over West Greene and are making their first playoff appearance since 2007. The Raiders have the lowest-scoring offense of any team in the 1A playoffs, averaging just 14 points per game. RB Nassan Tibbens has led the way for the Raiders with 5 TDs.
7. OLSH (6-2, 7-2) vs 10. Imani Christian (3-4, 4-5)
This is a matchup of two schools making their first ever WPIAL playoff appearances. OLSH started playing WPIAL football in 2010 and won as many games this season as they did in the last 4 years combined. Imani Christian joined the WPIAL in 2012 but was ineligible for the playoffs then forfeited all their 2013 games and were not included in the 2014-15 cycle. The Saints returned this season and made the playoffs. OLSH is led by 1A’s leading passer Tyler Bradley (1823 yards, 19 TDs) and do-it-all RB Matt Schmarre who has 684 rushing yards, 495 receiving yards, and 15 total TDs. Imani also has a talented group of playmakers, led by West Virginia commit Kenny Robinson who has thrown for 1327 yards and 9 TDs and added 13 more scores on the ground.
3. Jeannette (6-1, 9-1) vs 14. Shenango (4-4, 4-5)
Jeannette lost to Clairton in a Week 9 game that decided the Conference Title, their third loss to the Bears in the last two seasons. The Jayhawks are looking for a rematch of last year’s Championship Game with Clairton and have the talent to get back to Heinz Field. Jeanette has the second-best offense in 1A (45 points per game) and statistically the best defense, holding teams to under 6 points per game. Before giving up 32 points to Clairton last week, Jeannette had pitched an incredible 6 straight shutouts and had not allowed a point since Leechburg’s field goal in Week 2 and not allowed a touchdown since Week 1. Dual-threat QB GioVonne Sanders has thrown for 1279 yards and 20 TDs and rushed for 482 yards and 11 TDs. Kareem Hall leads the Jayhawks in rushing with 795 yards and 13 TDs while Robert Kennedy has 600 yards of total offense and has scored 15 times. Shenango rebounded from an 0-4 start to win 4 of their last 5 and edged Union by 1 point in a Week 9 Casket Match to reach the playoffs. The Wildcats have relied on the arm of QB Max Reamer (897 yards, 10 TDs) and have balanced their offensive attack with RBs Braden Smiley, Josh Young, and Brett Hoover who have combined for over 1200 yards and 8 TDs.
6. Carmichaels (7-0, 7-2) vs 11. Springdale (3-4, 5-5)
Carmichaels won the Tri-County South Conference, but non-conference losses to Bishop Canevin and OLSH dropped them down to the 6th seed. The Mighty Mikes have been led by QB Jonathan Christopher (744 yards, 6 TDs) and the two-headed rushing attack of Joey Minor and Cody Brown who have combined for over 900 yards and 10 TDs. On the other side, Springdale features the third-leading rusher in 1A in Ben Sowinski (1198 yards, 10 TDs). The Dynamos have maintained their traditional run-heavy approach but have gotten good contributions from QB Sam Carey who has thrown for 840 yards and 7 TDs.