Last week the WPIAL playoffs started with the Quarterfinals in Classes 3A – 6A and the first round in Classes 1A and 2A. The best story of the week was Derry winning their first playoff game since 1995 with a 33-20 victory over Central Valley. A close second was Freedom pulling a surprising upset over East Allegheny for their first playoff win since 2003. Unfortunately, the opening week was also marred as Armstrong RB Zane Dudek (who broke the WPIAL single-season rushing record) was injured on his first carry of the game. In Class 6A, the Northern Seven Conference went 4-0 with Central Catholic and North Allegheny cruising to victories and Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley scoring road wins. The Big East Conference in Class 4A went 3-1 with their only loss coming in a matchup of conference foes between West Mifflin and Belle Vernon. In 2A, the Midwestern Conference went 5-1 with their only loss coming from South Side Beaver who was the 2A Wild Card team. Similarly in 1A the Eastern Conference went 5-1 with Riverview (the 1A Wild Card) being the only team to lose. On the flip side, the much-maligned Tri-County South Conference went just 1-4 with Fort Cherry being the only team to win.
This week, Classes 3A – 6A move into the semifinals with a trip to Heinz Field next Friday at stake. All of the semifinal games in 4A, 5A, and 6A are rematches of games played earlier this season. Classes 1A and 2A move into the quarterfinals and are still two weeks away from their Championship Games at Robert Morris.
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, 10-1) vs 5. Pine-Richland (4-2, 7-4)
at North Allegheny
Central Catholic defeated Norwin 48-0 in a rematch of their Week 8 affair (which Central won 41-0). The Vikings were led by QB Troy Fisher who threw for 190 yards and 4 TDs. Fisher has thrown for over 1200 yards and 17 TDs on the season and has added 450 yards and 9 TDs on the ground. The Vikings have the best offensive line in the WPIAL with all 5 starters holding D1 scholarship offers and have plowed the way for JJ Younger (1037 yards, 22 TDs). Justice Evans (552 yards, 15 TDs) has been Fisher’s favorite target through the air. Central Catholic has rolled through WPIAL competition, and Pine-Richland was the only team to come within 28 points of the Vikings. That Week 5 game (which Central won 48-35) was also the last game this season Pine-Richland QB Phil Jurkovec played as he suffered a thumb injury. Max DeVinney has stepped in admirably and thrown for 1296 yards and 8 TDs, primarily to the WPIAL’s leading receiver Ray Falcone (1229 yards, 12 TDs). The Rams have also gotten significant contributions from RB Jordan Crawford who has rushed for 723 yards and added 456 receiving yards and scored 16 total TDs. Pine-Richland earned a rematch with Central Catholic by edging Bethel Park 35-32 on a last-second field goal.
2. North Allegheny (5-1, 9-2) vs 6. Seneca Valley (3-3, 7-3)
at North Hills
Like Central Catholic and Pine-Richland, North Allegheny also won a rematch in the first round, defeating Hempfield 42-7. Since losing to Central Catholic in Week 2, the Tigers have been on a roll winning 8 straight games thanks to QB Ethan Maenza, who became just the 5th player in WPIAL history to pass and rush for 1000 yards in a season. Maenza has accounted for 31 total TDs this season and has been complemented by WR Niko Mermigas (741 yards, 12 TDs) and RB Mike Pope (671 yards, 8 TDs). Seneca Valley won a shootout with Mt Lebanon by holding on against a furious fourth quarter comeback to win 49-43. The Warriors also feature a dual-threat quarterback in Jack Cook who has thrown for 1531 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for 607 yards and 13 TDs. Seneca Valley has been led by the tandem of Cook and RB Hank Royal who has 1147 rushing yards and is second on the team in receiving with 394 yards and has scored 20 total TDs. Payton Skalos is the leading receiver with 578 yards and 8 TDs. In their first meeting, North Allegheny rolled to a 49-14 victory thanks to Ethan Maenza throwing for 234 yards and 2 TDs and rushing for 73 yards and 2 more scores. Seneca Valley last reached the semifinals in 2012 and is looking for their first trip to a Championship Game since 1989.
1. West Allegheny (8-0, 10-0) vs 4. Woodland Hills (7-1, 9-2)
West Allegheny started the season slow but turned it on in Week 4 and have averaged 41 points per game since. The Indians hit that exactly in their rematch with conference foe North Hills last week, defeating them 41-21. This week, West A gets another rematch with a conference opponent, drawing Woodland Hills who they mercy rule’d in the Wolvarena in Week 8 52-13. West A has been led by QB Nick Ross, who has thrown for 1695 yards and 11 TDs, including 160 yards and 2 TDs the last time these teams met. RB Kenny White has rushed for 888 yards and 16 TDs while Ross’ favorite targets have been Brandon Lipford (659 yards, 10 TDs) and Mateo Vandamia (385 yards, 1 TD). Bob Palko’s team is clicking on all cylinders and looks destined for their 4th trip to Heinz Field in 5 years. Standing in their way is Woodland Hills, who has reached Heinz Field in 3 of the last 6 years but has not won a WPIAL Championship since 2009. The Wolverines edged Franklin Regional 17-3 in a defensive struggle last week. Running backs Saeed Holt (749 yards, 15 TDs) and Ja’Juan Hill (741 yards, 11 TDs) have shared the load this season and both scored last week. Woodland Hills has rotated between Daniel Jones and Michael Whiteherse at quarterback, but both have the advantage of throwing to 6’3″ WR Avram Abramovits (502 yards, 5 TDs).
3. McKeesport (6-2, 8-2) vs 7. Gateway (5-3, 7-3)
In another rematch of a Week 8 game, McKeesport and Gateway face off again. In the first meeting, McKeesport ran all over Gateway to the tune of a 34-19 victory. McKeesport’s wishbone triple-option offense has allowed a number of players to attack opposing defenses on the ground. QB Jayvaun Shears is averaging fewer than 5 pass attempts per game, but has run for 957 yards and 20 TDs. Layton Jordan (664 yards, 5 TDs), Carlinos Acie (456 yards, 9 TDs), Breon Green (352 yards, 4 TDs), and JJ Harper (346 yards, 2 TDs) have all factored into the attack. While the Tigers offense is built around their ground game, Gateway has done their damage through the air. QB Brady Walker has thrown for 2058 yards and 22 TDs, primarily to Jaquan Brisker who has scored 14 TDs.
1. Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 10-0) vs 4. West Mifflin (6-2, 9-2)
at Elizabeth Forward
The defending AAA Champions have not lost since Week 2 of last season and have rolled over the opposition this year, averaging 50 points per game and allowing just 5. TJ has pitched 6 shutouts in 10 games and no team has scored more than twice against them. That said, their closest game this season was their Week 9 victory over West Mifflin by a 35-14 margin. This is the 18th time in the last 20 years that TJ has reached the semifinals. This year, they have featured a balanced attack with QB Bobby Kelley throwing for 1484 yards and 29 TDs while RB Quinton Hill has rushed for 1420 yards and 24 TDs. Leading receiver Zane Zandier has accounted for 704 yards and 14 TDs. West Mifflin rebounded from losing RB Howie Reid to a broken ankle to beat Belle Vernon for the second time in three weeks. In the quarterfinals, QB Gary Galiyas led the way, throwing for 133 yards and 1 TD and rushing for 56 more and another score. On the season, Galiyas has accounted for over 1100 yards of total offense and accounted for 18 TDs. Russell Tyree has stepped into the lead back role in Reid’s absence and rushed for 547 yards and 11 TDs while leading receiver Darnell Carey has 358 yards and 12 TDs. There’s nothing like conference rivals squaring off with a trip to Heinz Field on the line.
6. Ringgold (6-2, 8-2) vs 7. New Castle (6-2, 7-4)
This is Ringgold’s second trip to the semi-finals in the last three years but haven’t reached a WPIAL Championship Game since 1982 when they defeated New Castle 6-3 to win the AAAA title. This season, the Rams have been led by QB George Martin who has thrown for 2062 yards and 20 TDs, primarily to Max Maciejewski (839 yards, 10 TDs) and Dalton Holt (635 yards, 5 TDs). Martin led the way in the Rams 42-31 victory over Mars last week, throwing for 257 yards and 3 TDs. When these two teams met in non-conference play in Week 8, Ringgold was able to ride their rushing attack with Brenden Small who ran for 173 yards and 4 TDs to lead Ringgold past New Castle 41-27. New Castle is the winningest program in WPIAL history but has not won a Championship or been to the title game since 1998. The Red Hurricanes upset conference foe South Fayette in the first round, jumping out to a 21-0 lead and trading scores to hold on by a 51-43 margin. New Castle has been led by the tandem of QB Geno Stone and all-around athlete Marcus Hooker. Stone has thrown for 1357 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for 597 yards and 13 TDs. Hooker leads the team in rushing with 611 yards and has added 363 receiving yards and scored 17 times between offense, defense, and special teams. Both players are D1 recruits at defensive back.
1. Aliquippa (5-1, 9-2) vs 4. Derry (7-0, 11-0)
at Fox Chapel
Aliquippa is the defending AA Champions and have reached Heinz Field each of the last 8 years. The Quips rolled through their first round rematch with South Park 42-7 and now undefeated Derry is all that stands between them and another trip back to Heinz. Both teams have reached this point with a power running game. Aliquippa has been led by the tandem of Davion Jones (1063 yards, 14 TDs) and Avante McKenzie (996 yards, 10 TDs). The big news for the Quips this week was that QB/DB Kwantell Raines was no longer with the team and coach Mike Zmijanac offered no explanation. Derry reached this point by cruising through the Interstate Conference then running all over Central Valley in the opening round. Despite their undefeated record, Derry was given the #4 seed because of their presumed weaker strength of schedule. The Trojans won their first playoff game since 1993 thanks to Tyler Balega who ran for 224 yards and 4 TDs. On the season, Balega has rushed for 1557 yards and 28 TDs.
2. Beaver Falls (5-1, 9-1) vs 3. Keystone Oaks (7-0, 9-1)
After losing to Aliquippa in Week 1, Beaver Falls has been the hottest team in 3A, running off 9 straight victories in impressive fashion. The Tigers are looking for their first trip to Heinz Field since 2008 while Keystone Oaks has never been to a Championship Game (though Dormont High School beat Derry in the 1945 AA Championship). These are the highest-scoring teams in 3A with KO averaging over 45 points per game and Beaver Falls averaging 36. Beaver Falls has relied on a number of weapons out of the backfield and has utilized a running back by committee approach to great success. Malik Shepherd has run for 742 yards and 9 TDs while Neshaud Akins has run for 717 yards and 9 TDs. Torian Leak and Derrell Carter have averaged over 6 yards per carry and have scored 9 and 7 times respectively while QB Austin French has averaged fewer than 10 passes per game but has thrown for 822 yards and 9 scores. On the other side, Keystone Oaks features the WPIAL’s leading passer in Alex Smith who has thrown for 2885 yards and 32 TDs and rushed for 985 yards and 18 TDs. Smith’s favorite targets have been Nick Hrivnak (847 yards, 10 TDs), Dylan Knorr (704 yards, 6 TDs), and Quran Powe (632 yards, 6 TDs).
1. Steel Valley (7-0, 10-0) vs 9. Laurel (4-3, 8-3)
at West Allegheny
Steel Valley cruised through the regular season with the highest-scoring offense in the entire WPIAL, averaging nearly 57 points per game. The Ironmen rolled past Beth-Center 51-14 in the opening round. Steel Valley is led by the tandem of RB DeWayne Murray who has rushed for 1422 yards and 31 TDs and WR/DB Paris Ford who is one of the top defensive back recruits in the state and has scored 15 TDs between offense, defense, and kick returns. Laurel slogged their way through a 10-6 defensive battle with Chartiers-Houston. The Spartans have featured a balanced attack between Will Shaffer throwing for 1350 yards and 13 TDs and Spencer Jones rushing for 715 yards and 8 TDs.
4. Riverside (6-1, 8-2) vs 12. Freedom (3-4, 4-7)
at Seneca Valley
Riverside got to the playoffs by riding their defense, and it carried them again through a 42-7 first round victory over Avonworth. Now, they draw a rematch with conference foes Freedom who they battled to a 18-10 victory in Week 5. The Panthers have been led by QB Ben Hughes who has thrown for 837 yards and 5 TDs. Lance Fisher leads the team in rushing with 603 yards and 10 TDs while Ricky Wass is the second leading rusher with 536 yards and leads Riverside in receiving with 454 yards and has scored 6 times. Freedom pulled the upset of the opening round by beating East Allegheny 38-21. The Bulldogs have relied heavily on their passing game, led by QB Zach Rosa (1371 yards, 11 TDs) and Class 2A’s leading receiver Nick Henderson (930 yards, 7 TDs). On the ground, Kyle Borgman and Dean Ward have split carries and combined for over 1000 yards and 14 TDs.
2. Washington (7-0, 10-0) vs 7. Brentwood (5-2, 8-2)
Washington has reached the quarterfinals for the fifth time in the last six years thanks to the second best offense and defense in 2A. The Prexies are averaging 42 points per game and allowing just 8. While Washington is typically a run-heavy team, they have used a running back by committee approach this year. No back has over 500 yards but they have 6 players with over 200 rushing yards, led by Lyle Webb’s 468 yards and 7 TDs. QB Connor Bedillian has thrown for 968 yards and 19 TDs, primarily to Isaiah Robinson and Isaiah Perry. Robinson has 502 receiving yards, 274 rushing yards, and has scored 13 TDs. Similarly, Brentwood has a 1000-yard passer in Michael Trent and has leaned on RB Dorian Bowe who leads the team in rushing (535 yards) and receiving (520 yards) and has scored 14 times. Brentwood is looking to reach the semifinals for just the third time since 1980, the most recent time coming in 2006.
3. Neshannock (7-0, 10-1) vs 11. CWNC (4-3, 6-4)
In a rematch of conference opponents, Neshannock blasted CWNC 36-0 in Week 1. Despite that early result, both teams rank in the Top 5 in 2A in scoring with Neshannock averaging 38 points per game and CWNC averaging 32. Neshannock was the highest-scoring team in the WPIAL in the first round, defeating Serra Catholic 60-21, while CWNC edged Burgettstown 14-7. The Lancers have been led by dual-threat QB Frank “the Tank” Antuono who has thrown for 1670 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for 644 yards and 12 scores. Sean Doran leads the team in rushing with 912 yards and 11 TDs while Daniel Welker has been the leading receiver with 604 yards and 15 TDs. CWNC is searching for their fifth straight trip to the semifinals. The Trojans have relied on 1100-yard rusher Mario Latronica who has scored 13 TDs while Ryan Maziarz and William Gipson have split time at quarterback. Joey Porter, Jr leads CWNC in receiving with 403 yards and 10 TDs.
1. Clairton (7-0, 10-0) vs 8. Fort Cherry (6-1, 9-1)
at Peters Twp
The two-time defending Single-A Champions have once again done what they always do – rolled through their regular season schedule and cruise into the quarterfinals with an undefeated record. Clairton has averaged nearly 53 points per game and allowed just 6. Impressively, their unblemished record includes mercy ruling the top seed in 3A Aliquippa. Star RB/DB Lamont Wade, who is one of the top recruits in the nation and ran for 1486 yards and 22 TDs this season will likely still be out this week after having surgery on his knee two weeks ago. The Bears managed things just fine in their win over Avella last week without Wade as QB Noah Hamlin threw 3 TD passes and ran for 2 more in Clairton’s 50-6 victory. Kijafi Fuqua took over in the backfield and ran for 162 yards and a TD last week as well. On the season, Hamlin has thrown for 891 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 660 yards and 19 more scores. His primary targets have been Tre’Sean Howard and Delvin Clifford who both have combined for over 700 yards and 12 TDs. Fort Cherry boasted the best offense and defense in the Tri-County South conference and were the only TCS team to win their first round playoff game with a 28-14 win over Sto-Rox. The Rangers have been led by dual-threat QB Ryhan Culberson who has thrown for 684 yards and 13 TDs and rushed for 1034 yards and 21 TDs. Culberson transferred to Fort Cherry from South Fayette this year, and now gets to play on the second weekend of the playoffs while his former teammates watch from home. Fort Cherry’s leading receiver has been Scott Miller who has 484 yards and 10 TDs. The Rangers have not made it past the quarterfinals since losing in the Championship in 2001.
4. Northgate (7-1, 9-1) vs 5. Bishop Canevin (5-2, 8-2)
Northgate enters the quarterfinals with the third highest-scoring offense and third best defense in 1A. Their 37-0 victory over Mapletown was Northgate’s first playoff victory since 2003 and a win would give them their first trip to the semifinals since 1984. The Flames have been led by twin brothers Stefon and Surron Adams. Stefon, the quarterback, has thrown for 1404 yards and 11 TDs while Surron, the running back, has run for 950 yards and 22 TDs. Northgate also features 1A’s leading receiver in Mike Allen (943 yards, 17 TDs). Due to sharing Dormont Stadium as their home field with Keystone Oaks, Bishop Canevin had to wait until Saturday for their first round playoff game, but they demolished California 56-21 to reach the quarterfinals for the second straight year. RB Maleik Hemingway is the third-leading rusher in 1A with 1384 yards and 27 TDs. Hemingway shouldered the load last week, rushing for 327 yards and 5 TDs while throwing another on a halfback pass.
2. Rochester (8-0, 10-0) vs 10. Imani Christian (3-4, 5-5)
at Geneva College
After missing the playoffs three straight seasons, Rochester is back in the quarterfinals, the round they reached 13 consecutive times from 2000-2012. The Rams rank in the Top 5 in 1A in both offense and defense, averaging 41 points per game and allowing just 11. Since Week 3, Northgate has been the only team to score more than twice against them. Rochester has relied on dual-threat QB Ian Kouba who has thrown for 1201 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for 960 yards and 14 scores. RB Caleb Collins has been their secondary weapon, accounting for 656 rushing yards and leading the team with 325 receiving yards and scoring 14 TDs. Last week in a battle of teams making their first playoff appearances in school history, Imani defeated OLSH 44-13. That was the third straight win for the Saints who have made it this far thanks to dual-threat QB Kenny Robinson. The WVU-commit threw for 2 TDs and ran for 2 more last week and has thrown for over 1300 yards on the season.
3. Jeannette (6-1, 10-1) vs 11. Springdale (3-4, 6-5)
at Franklin Regional
This rematch of Eastern Conference foes features a Jeannette team who has absolutely dominated their competition this year. The Jayhawks have the second-best offense in 1A (44 points per game) and the best defense statistically, allowing just 5 points per contest. Since Week 2 when they gave up 3 points to Leechburg the Jayhawks have pitched 7 shutouts in 8 games. The only team that scored against them in that span was Clairton, who dealt them their only loss of the season. Last week’s 39-0 rout of Shenango was more of the same, and that 6-game shutout stretch included a 48-0 victory over Springdale. Jeannette was without dual-threat QB GioVonne Sanders last week who was out with an injury, but Robert Kennedy stepped in and threw for over 100 yards. Against Shenango, Jeannette was able to lean on their running game and Kareem Hall ran for 121 yards and 3 TDs, Ryan Swinton running for 101 yards and 1 TD, and Kennedy adding 54 more yards and 2 scores. Springdale defeated Tri-County South Champion Carmichaels last week, getting their first playoff win since 2011. The Dynamos are traditionally a power running team and feature the third-leading rusher in 1A Ben Sowinski (1326 yards, 12 TDs). But last week in their shootout victory over Carmichaels, it was QB Sam Carey who stole the show, passing for 290 yards and 5 TDs, including a 7-yarder to Josh Harmon with 3 seconds left to complete a 50-44 come-from-behind victory. Carey has thrown for 1069 yards and 12 TDs on the season and Harmon has been his favorite target with 462 yards and 10 TDs.