First and foremost, we are excited to announce our new partnership with TicketRoar, an online ticketing company that provides services for high schools so you can preorder your tickets and have them on your phone when you get to the gate. A few local schools are already on board and have seen a much more efficient process of getting fans through the gate and into the game. You can find them on Twitter @TicketRoar and on Facebook.
The WPIAL regular season has reached its midpoint. There have already been two WPIAL records broken this season. Mt. Lebanon WR Aidan Cain set the record for receptions in a single game with 27 in Week 1 against Pine-Richland and Mapletown RB Dylan Rush broke the single-game rushing record with 520 yards in Week 3 against Avella. Aidan Cain, with over 1000 receiving yards already, has a chance to break the WPIAL single-season yardage mark, which stands at 1568 yards. Another record chase to watch over the second half of the season is California’s pursuit of Clairton’s regular season scoring record of 610 points. California has scored 306 so far this year and would need 305 over the final five games to break the 2014 Bears record.
Last week, two of the top teams in 2A – Steel Valley and CWNC – needed come-from-behind victories to defeat South Allegheny and New Brighton. In 3A, the Beaver Valley Conference narrative has begun to change as Central Valley couldn’t overcome an injury to their quarterback while Quaker Valley might have their best team in school history. The Quakers are led by QB Ricky Guss who has 24 total TDs (10 passing, 14 rushing) this season. As we head into the second half of the season, there are some monster games on the slate, starting this week with the third matchup between Pine-Richland QB Phil Jurkovec and Central Catholic QB Troy Fisher. The Jurkovec-Fisher rivalry has been one of the best in the WPIAL in recent memory.
This week we also have our first playoff clinching scenario. In 2A, Burgettstown can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Brownsville on Saturday and a Charleroi victory over Bentworth on Friday night. Riverside, Rochester, and Clairton can come close to clinching a playoff spot but 3-way tie scenarios prevent them from fully securing their position this week.
The new partnership between Trib Total Media and the MSA Sports Network debuted last week with the new website tribhssn.triblive.com. We are very happy for all of our friends at the (former) MSA Sports Network and are thrilled that high school sports will continue to be broadcast over the internet airwaves for years to come. Here is their list of the games they will be broadcasting tonight.
This week’s WMBS Game of the Week is Laurel Highlands vs Belle Vernon. You can tune in online here with a pregame show starting at 6:30 and the WPIAL Scoreboard Show following the game at 10pm.
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. I”ll also be posting score updates and commentary from my Twitter account @thesteelersnat.
At the end of the night, I’ll be updating my WPIAL Standings Page with all of the results and tiebreakers.
6A Game of the Week
Central Catholic (3-0, 4-1) at Pine-Richland (2-0, 5-0)
The Game of the Year in the WPIAL so far this season. Many figure this to be a preview of the 6A Championship Game. Central Catholic, the two-time defending WPIAL champs, take their 25-game winning streak against WPIAL opponents on the road. Pine-Richland is widely considered the WPIAL favorites and are led by the best player in Western Pennsylvania, QB Phil Jurkovec. The Notre Dame commit has thrown for a WPIAL-leading 1470 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 239 yards and 9 scores. He has spread the ball around to Lehigh-commit Ray Falcone (526 yards, 7 TDs), Jason DeFrancisis (345 yards, 1 TD) and Ben Jochem (220 yards, 1 TD). Running back Jordan Crawford leads the team with 272 rushing yards and has added 145 receiving yards and scored 6 times. The Rams have the best offense in 6A, averaging over 46 points per game, but have not faced a defense as good as Central Catholic’s yet this season. The Vikings have allowed just 10 points per game this year to WPIAL opponents. This will be the third meeting between Phil Jurkovec and Central Catholic QB Troy Fisher. Fisher has taken the first two matchups in the rivalry, scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final minute when they met in 2015. Last year, Jurkovec was injured during the game and Fisher led the Vikings to a 48-35 victory. The dual-threat QBs meet again as seniors, bothing having committed to D1 schools. Fisher, a Lafayette commit, has thrown for 571 yards and 8 TDs while rushing for 176 yards and 3 scores. His favorite targets have been Gavin Thomson (174 yards, 4 TDs) and Cam Laconi (106 yards, 1 TD). The Vikings have continued to lean on their ground game with Kyros Thorpe leading the way and Khalil Weathers serving as a change-of-pace back. Weathers scored twice last week to lead Central to a come-from-behind victory over Seneca Valley in a rematch of last year’s WPIAL title game. The winner of this game will have the clear inside track towards the conference title and the top seed in the 6A playoffs.
Live stream: https://t.co/T6CuxJfYpQ
— 22 The Point (@22ThePoint) September 29, 2017
Honorable Mentions: Seneca Valley at Penn Hills, Peters Twp at Norwin, North Allegheny at Mt Lebanon
With only 4 teams from each conference making the playoffs, the Seneca Valley-Penn Hills game could determine who makes the playoffs. Last year, Penn Hills missed the playoffs by one game due to their loss to Seneca Valley. In the Southeastern Conference, Norwin and Peters Twp sit a game out of first place. The winner will have an inside track to making the playoffs. In a non-conference matchup, North Allegheny and Mt Lebanon both figure to be playoff teams. Blue Devil WR Aidan Cain will look to continue his assault on the WPIAL receiving record as he enters the game with 57 receptions for 1013 yards and 9 TDs. The WPIAL single-season record is held by South Fayette’s Justin Watson who had 1,568 yards in 2013.
5A Game of the Week
Gateway (3-0, 5-0) at Penn-Trafford (3-0, 5-0)
The top two teams in the Big East Conference square off in a mid-season battle of explosive offenses and stingy defenses. Gateway currently holds the Victory Bell after winning this rivalry game last year. Both teams still have to play preseason favorite McKeesport so this game won’t decide the conference title, but the winner will hold the top spot in the conference by themselves after this week. Gateway boasts the best offense in 5A, led by the second-leading passer in the WPIAL Brady Walker (1328 yards, 17 TDs). The Gators offense has found a balance between Walker’s passing and RB Isaiah Cameron who has run for 454 yards and added 250 receiving yards and scored 12 times. Courtney Jackson has been Walker’s favorite target and is second in the WPIAL in receiving with 663 yards and 10 TDs. Penn-Trafford has the best defense in 5A and has held opponents to just 6 points per game. The Warriors are led by dual-threat QB Cam Laffoon who has thrown for 595 yards and 5 TDs and rushed for 311 yards and 2 TDs. Penn-Trafford has been strong on the ground with the combination of John Gay (525 yards, 7 TDs) and Caleb Lisbon (405 yards, 8 TDs). On the outside, Laffoon’s primary receiver has been Dimitri George (191 yards, 1 TD).
— Westmoreland Sports (@WestmorelandSN) September 29, 2017
Honorable Mentions: Fox Chapel at Moon, Woodland Hills at Hampton
After 4 weeks, the Allegheny Conference is crazy. Upper St Clair and West Allegheny have separated themselves from the pack while Moon, Woodland Hills and Hampton are all 2-1. North Hills and Fox Chapel, two teams that many pegged as playoff contenders, are 1-3 but have both faced some of the toughest teams in the conference and are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Only 4 of those 7 teams will make the playoffs and each week from here on out will feature big games that will determine the race to the postseason.
4A Game of the Week
New Castle (3-1, 3-2) at Mars (3-1, 4-1)
South Fayette has a half-game lead atop the Northwest Nine Conference while Mars, Montour, and New Castle are all 3-1 and battling for position. Mars already has a win over Montour and Montour beat New Castle. The winner will stay in contention for a home playoff game that comes with a Top 2 finish in the conference. Mars once again boasts a strong rushing attack between Garrett Reinke (273 yards, 6 TDs), Teddy Ruffner (236 yards, 3 TDs) and Chuck Green (207 yards, 1 TD). New Castle reached the 4A Championship Game last season but have struggled defensively this year, giving up over 25 points per game. The Red Hurricanes also rely on their running game and the two-pronged attack of Marcus Hooker (335 yards, 7 TDs) and Josh Tomason (224 yards, 4 TDs). Marcus is the younger brother of Indianpolis Colts first round pick Malik Hooker and has committed to Ohio State to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Mars is one of the schools covered by TicketRoar. If you’re going to the game tonight, you can preorder tickets online here.
Honorable Mentions: Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson, West Mifflin at Greensburg Salem
In the Big Nine Conference, Thomas Jefferson and Belle Vernon have separated themselves from the pack with 4-0 records. West Mifflin, Greensburg Salem, and Ringgold are battling for the two other playoff spots. West Mifflin took a surprising defeat to Albert Gallatin two weeks ago and has the toughest part of their schedule coming up. Greensburg Salem already has a win over Ringgold and can solidify their playoff resume with a victory over the Titans.
3A Games of the Week
Seton LaSalle (3-0, 4-0) at Apollo-Ridge (2-1, 4-1)
All of the focus in 3A is (rightly) on the loaded Beaver Valley Conference, but the Allegheny Conference will likely have the tightest playoff race. Six teams are currently within 2 games of first place and are battling it out for the two coveted positions that secure a playoff spot. Seton-La Salle currently holds the top spot in the conference thanks to a balanced offensive attack. Matt Banbury has thrown for 673 yards and 8 TDs, primarily to Nick Vari (214 yards, 3 TDs). Banbury has added 155 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Running back Lionel Deanes has had a monster year with 816 rushing yards and 196 receiving yards and 12 total TDs. Apollo-Ridge also boasts a dual-threat quarterback in Kyle Fitzroy who has thrown for 567 yards and 5 TDs and rushed for 279 yards and 3 scores. The Vikings have been strong on the ground with Logan Harmon (391 yards, 8 TDs) and Ryan Blas (148 yards, 2 TDs) both averaging over 7 yards per carry. On the outside, Klay Fitzroy (195 yards, 1 TD) and Keighton Reese (132 yards, 2 TDs) have been the primary targets.
Honorable Mentions: Quaker Valley at Hopewell, Shady Side Academy at Keystone Oaks, Central Valley at Beaver, Aliquippa at South Park
Quaker Valley is coming off two big victories over Beaver and Central Valley and takes on Hopewell, who won their only conference game. Quaker Valley has one of the best dual-threat QBs in the WPIAL in Ricky Guss who has accounted for 24 total TDs (10 throwing, 14 rushing). Central Valley and Beaver are battling in the middle of the Beaver Valley Conference pack. Both have losses to Quaker Valley and the loser will have a difficult time making the playoffs with only 2 or 3 spots available. Shady Side Academy and Keystone Oaks are in the thick of Allegheny Conference playoff race. Aliquippa takes on South Park in a non-conference game between two playoff contenders.
2A Game of the Week
Freedom (2-0, 4-1) at Riverside (3-0, 3-1)
Freedom made the playoffs last season for just the second time in 12 years and won a playoff game for the first time since 2003. The Bulldogs are off to a hot start this year with their only loss coming against a 3A opponent. Riverside knocked Freedom out of the playoffs last year and the Panthers are one of the favorites in the Midwestern Conference. In addition to these two teams, only Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic is unbeaten in conference play. Freedom has a balanced offense with dual-threat QB Zach Rosa throwing for 419 yards and 3 TDs and rushing for 288 yards and 4 TDs. Leading rusher Kyler Borgman has 385 yards and 3 TDs. Besides giving up 42 points to Beaver, Freedom’s defense has been solid and has not allowed a team to top 21 points. Riverside also boasts a strong defense and outside of the 48 points they gave up to Steel Valley, have only allowed 12 points in their other 3 games. The Panthers have one of the top two-way players in 2A in WR/DB Austin Dambach who has accounted for 346 yards and 6 total TDs. Riverside has a strong ground game between Noah Harris (246 yards, 4 TDs) and LeMarcus Cleckley (230 yards, 5 TDs) which has limited the need for sophomore QB Ben Hughes to throw. Hughes has averaged fewer than 10 attempts per game and has thrown for 459 yards and 4 TDs.
Honorable Mentions: Bentworth at Charleroi, CWNC at Avonworth
In the Century Conference, Washington, Burgettstown, and Beth-Center have separated themselves from the pack and have a two-game lead on the rest of the conference. Bentworth and Charleroi are currently sitting in the middle of the field, battling over the remaining playoff spots. North Catholic and Avonworth have a long-standing rivalry and meet in a non-conference showdown of likely playoff teams.
1A Game of the Week
Imani Christian (2-1, 3-2) at Clairton (3-0, 4-0)
Clairton is the three-time defending WPIAL champions and brings their 42-game winning streak against WPIAL opponents into a tough matchup. Imani was considered by many one of the top contenders in 1A coming into the season (even named by one outlet as the preseason #1) but the hype train has slowed a bit in recent weeks. The Saints were ground up by California’s relentless rushing attack then last week lost to Jeannette in a game that was called early because of fights in the stands and an altercation on the field. Five Imani players were ejected from that game and by WPIAL rule will be suspended from this week’s game against Clairton. The Saints have one of the most explosive offenses in the WPIAL, averaging over 49 points per game. QB Tawan Wesley has thrown for 1409 yards and 18 TDs, spreading the ball around to Sam Fairley (592 yards, 11 TDs), Rahmon Hart (370 yards, 4 TDs), and Ray Jackson (344 yards, 3 TDs). Running back Asante Watkins has been a big play threat, averaging over 10 yards per touch with 535 rushing yards, 175 receiving yards, and 10 total TDs. Clairton, on the other hand, has not lit up the scoreboard with the astronomical numbers they have posted in past seasons but are still averaging over 38 points per game. The Bears also have the best defense in 1A, holding opponents to just 7 points per game. Clairton has been led by Tre’sean Howard who has run for 419 yards and added 82 receiving yards and scored 9 times. QB Brendan Parsons has thrown for 425 yards and 4 TDs, but has averaged fewer than 13 attempts per game as the Bears have relied on their ground game. In addition to Howard, Aaron Thompson (294 yards, 6 TDs) and Keishawn Wright (113 yards) both average over 8 yards per carry. Their passing game has been sparked by big plays, primarily by Delvin Clifford (105 yards, 1 TD), Leonard Robinson (122 yards, 1 TD), and Kenlein Ogletree (72 yards) who all average over 24 yards per reception. Clairton hasn’t faced an offense as explosive as Imani’s all season and it will be interesting to see how an Imani team with just 24 players on their roster is able to handle the 5 suspensions.
Honorable Mentions: Northgate at Rochester, Western Beaver at Shenango, Bishop Canevin at Jeannette, West Greene at Fort Cherry, Carmichaels at Mapletown
A tight race has emerged in the Big Seven Conference where Rochester holds a slim lead over Western Beaver, OLSH, Union, Shenango, and Northgate. Two games this week will either help sort out the mess or further complicate the picture. After being one of the last teams in the WPIAL to score a point, Bishop Canevin has won 2 in a row and put themselves right back into the playoff picture. The Crusaders take on a Jeannette team coming off a big win over Imani Christian last week. In the Tri-County South, Carmichaels and California are battling atop the conference while West Greene is in search of their first playoff berth since 1993 and already has 3 wins in the young season. Mapletown and Fort Cherry are fighting for playoff spots.