Breaking down the WPIAL football playoffs
Here’s a look at each classification in advance of the start of the WPIAL football playoffs Friday night.
Favorite: Pine-Richland hasn’t won a playoff game since joining Class AAAA in 2008, with three first-round losses. But 2,000-yard passer Ben DiNucci leads an offense that averages 46.8 points.
Challengers: Central Catholic was a favorite to repeat before it lost to Pine-Richland, 48-28, in Week 8. The strength of Penn-Trafford’s conference may be questionable, but last year’s semifinal run says the team’s for real. QB Brett Laffoon has thrown for 1,300 yards and 20 TDs, with WR Timmy Vecchio catching 11. Penn Hills, with RB Te’Shan Campbell (14 TDs) and QB Billy Kisner (12 TDs runs), enters with boosted confidence after a win over Woodland Hills, which has three D1 recruits in its backfield in Miles Sanders (Penn State) Art Thompkins (Toledo) and Jeremiah Jones (WVU). The Wolverines have reached the final in four of the last five years. McKeesport’s only loss was to Penn-Trafford.
Don’t overlook: NA came the closest to Pine-Richland, with a 28-24 OT loss. Jeff Clemens has more than 1,000 yards passing.
Prediction: Pine-Richland over Central Catholic
Favorite: A win over two-time defending champion West Allegheny last week earned Central Valley the No. 1 seed. The Warriors’ lineup features Pitt-bound RB/DB Jordan Whitehead.
Challengers: West Allegheny knows how to win: A senior core with QB Andrew Koester and RB/LB Chayse Dillon had won 29 in a row against WPIAL teams before the Week 9 loss to CV. A Parkway Conference team has won Class AAA five years in a row, including West Allegheny the past two years. With 1,500-yard rusher Austin Kemp, Thomas Jefferson finished its third straight undefeated regular season. Hampton’s last playoff run was 2009, when it reached the semifinals. Ringgold has won eight straight with 1,000-yard passer Nico Law and 1,200-yard rusher Chacar Berry, who has 19 TDs.
Don’t overlook: Montour has a 1,000-yard passer (Randall Labrie), a 1,000-yard rusher (David Haseleu) and came within a TD of West A in Week 5. The Spartans won the 2011 title.
Prediction: Central Valley over West Allegheny
Favorite: With 2,000-yard passer Brett Brumbaugh, South Fayette has a chance to defend both its WPIAL and state titles from last year. The Lions have a 25-game winning streak. But another showdown with Aliquippa seems likely. When the two teams met in last year’s final, SF won 34-28.
Challengers: Aliquippa has reached Heinz Field in six consecutive seasons. The Quips average 52 points with juniors DiMantae Bronaugh and Kaezon Pugh as the team’s new tailback tandem. The pair has 1,800 rushing yards and 34 TDs. Washington averaged 43 points behind 1,000-yard rusher Malik Wells. The runner-up in 2012, the Prexies lost in the first round last year. Highlands, a newcomer to Class AA, features 1,300-yard rusher Elijah Jackson. Apollo-Ridge with Pitt WR/DB recruit Tre Tipton lost to Highlands by one point. Beaver Falls and Beaver reached the semifinals last year.
Don’t overlook: Seton-La Salle has a 1,600-yard passer in senior Tyler Perone and its only loss was to South Fayette.
Prediction: Aliquippa over South Fayette
Favorite: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic is the defending state champion. Senior RBs P.J. Fulmore and Jerome Turner have more than 2,000 yards and 34 touchdowns combined. The Trojans have a 25-game winning streak.
Challengers: Clairton isn’t a defending champ, but it might be the true favorite. The Bears, who’ve won six of the last eight titles, outscored teams 610-33. CWNC’s margin was 424-91. Clairton sophomore Lamont Wade has rushed for 1,313 yards and 19 TDs. Back from a torn ACL, senior RB Eli Owens (10 TDs) led Neshannock to the 2013 semifinals. Beth-Center, which had a second straight perfect regular season, seeks its first playoff win since 2010.
Don’t overlook: Second-place teams Avonworth and Jeannette could reach the semifinals without much surprise. Led by RB Jamal Hughley (nine TDs) and QB Josh Drwal (five rushing TDs), Avonworth’s only loss was to CWNC, 28-0. With QB Julian Batts (607 yards rushing, 681 passing), Jeannette lost only to Clairton, 58-14.
Prediction: Clairton over Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Connellsville (3-6) at Pine-Richland (9-0); Bethel Park (6-3) at Altoona (7-2); Plum (5-4) at Penn Hills (7-2); Mt. Lebanon (5-4) at McKeesport (8-1); Fox Chapel (4-5) at Penn-Trafford (9-0); Upper St. Clair (4-5) at North Allegheny (7-2); Norwin (5-4) vs. Central Catholic (8-1) at Cupples Stadium; North Hills (6-3) at Woodland Hills (7-2)
Laurel Highlands (4-5) at Central Valley (9-0); West Mifflin (6-3) at Indiana (6-3); New Castle (4-5) at Hampton (8-1); Gateway (4-5) at Ringgold (8-1); Moon (4-5) at Thomas Jefferson (9-0); Mars (6-3) at Montour (7-2); Knoch (4-5) at West Allegheny (8-1); Belle Vernon (5-4) at Franklin Regional (6-3)
Waynesburg (6-3) at South Fayette (9-0); South Park (7-2) at Beaver (7-2); New Brighton (6-3) at Highlands (9-0); McGuffey (7-2) vs. Seton-La Salle (8-1) at Chartiers Valley; Kittanning (6-3) at Aliquippa (9-0); Shady Side Academy (6-3) at Mt. Pleasant (7-2); Steel Valley (6-3) at Washington (9-0); Beaver Falls (7-2) at Apollo-Ridge (8-1)
Avella (5-4) at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (9-0); South Side Beaver (6-3) at Frazier (8-1); Riverside (5-4) at Beth Center (9-0); Mapletown (7-2) at Avonworth (8-1); Chartiers-Houston (5-4) at Clairton (9-0); Springdale (6-3) at Shenango (6-3); Greensburg Central Catholic (5-4) at Neshannock (9-0); Brentwood (6-3) at Jeannette (8-1)