The WPIAL playoffs are here! After the 10-week regular season we are down to 62 teams vying for the opportunity to win the 6 WPIAL titles. Earlier this week, I published “primers” on each of the teams in 6A/5A/4A and 3A/2A/1A that made the playoffs with the key storylines on how they got to the playoffs and some historical information on their schools past performances. Two notable playoff qualifiers this season are Canon-McMillan (in 6A) and Latrobe (in 5A) who are making their first playoff appearances since 2008 and 2009, respectively. In 6A the top two seeds (North Allegheny and Pine-Richland) got byes to the semifinals, so the other four playoff qualifiers will start their postseasons tonight. In 4A, 3A, and 1A where only 8 teams made the playoffs we will also have quarterfinal matchups tonight. The 5A and 2A classifications both have 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs, so tonight’s games are first round action with the quarterfinals coming next week.
Once again this week I did a guest appearance on the WMBS Pregame Show, you can listen to the show, starting at 6pm on Friday night. All of tonight’s games start at 7:30pm and are at the home field of the higher-seeded team unless otherwise noted.
Thanks to the fine folks at Taps n’at in Derry, who are sponsoring all of our WPIAL content this year. At the end of the night, check back for a post with all of the scores and the semifinal (in 6A, 4A, 3A, and 1A) and quarterfinal (in 5A and 2A) matchups for the next round of the playoffs. As a reminder, if you’re going to be following along with the WPIAL action tonight, keep an eye on the #WPIAL hashtag on Twitter where people post score updates from games. I”ll also be posting score updates and commentary from my Twitter account @thesteelersnat.
Class 6A Quarterfinals
3. Mt Lebanon (5-3, 5-5) vs 6. Canon-McMillan (3-5, 4-5)
Mt. Lebanon vaulted to the #3 seed and earned a home playoff game with their Week 9 victory over Central Catholic. Canon-Mac’s Week 7 victory over Norwin set up the Big Macs to make their first playoff appearance since 2008. These two met back in Week 1 and after a defensive struggle in the first half, Mt. Lebanon ran away to a 43-29 victory. The Blue Devils are led by 6A’s leading passer Seth Morgan (1839 yards, 13 TDs) who has spread the ball around to Lucas Decaro (611 yards, 4 TDs), Mason Ventrone (313 yards, 3 TDs), Tim Walters (261 yards, 3 TDs), and Sam Lasota (222 yards, 2 TDs). Morgan is also Mt. Lebanon’s leading rusher with 480 yards and 6 TDs and is joined in the backfield by Drew Vaughn (393 yards, 6 TDs). While Mt. Lebanon likes to throw the ball, Canon-Mac has a balanced offense and a strong ground game with 6A’s second-leading rusher Joshua O’Hare (1014 yards, 9 TDs). Drew Engel has been the Big Macs best all-around threat, leading the team in receiving with 394 yards, adding 417 yards on the ground and scoring 10 TDs. QB Jon Quinque has thrown for 1005 yards and 8 TDs.
4. Central Catholic (5-3, 7-3) vs 5. Seneca Valley (5-3, 7-3)
(game played at Fox Chapel)
This is the first time since 1999 that Central Catholic has lost 3 games in the regular season. This figures to be a tough, low-scoring game between two defensively-minded teams. The two teams met back in Week 1 with Central winning 20-14. Seneca Valley has the top defense in 6A, holding opponents to just 9 points per game. Central Catholic has been forced to use 3 quarterbacks this season because of injury and enter the playoffs with junior Gus Sunseri under center. Gavin Thomson (512 yards, 5 TDs) has been the Vikings only major threat on the outside. This means that Central will rely heavily on their running game of Eddy Tillman (801 yards, 9 TDs), Kenneth Blake (313 yards, 2 TDs), and Sunseri (219 yards, 4 TDs). Seneca Valley is led by dual-threat QB Gabe Lawson (942 pass yards, 9 TDs, 298 rush yards, 7 TDs). His favorite targets have been Josh McLean (489 yards, 7 TDs), Jake Stebbins (323 yards, 1 TD), and Luke Smith (237 yards, 4 TDs). Leading rusher Matt Stanger (486 yards, 5 TDs) has enabled the Raiders to balance their offensive attack.
Class 5A First Round
1. Gateway (7-0, 10-0) vs 16. Kiski (2-5, 3-7)
The Gators are the defending WPIAL 5A Champions who rolled through the regular season with a perfect record while Kiski has lost their last 6 games. Gateway’s biggest question mark coming into the season was finding a replacement at quarterback and the Gators found a good one in Brendan Majocha. On the year, Majocha has thrown for 1919 yards and 29 TDs and rushed for 660 yards and 7 TDs. He has been joined in the backfield by sophomore sensation Derrick Davis (1038 yards, 18 TDs). On the outside, Gateway has two D1 talents who play WR and CB in Courtney Jackson (815 yards, 16 TDs) and Jeremiah Josephs (153 yards, 5 TDs). Kiski will certainly try to test those corners with their pass-heavy offense led by Ryne Wallace (1666 yards, 14 TDs). Leading receivers Jack Colecchi (636 yards, 8 TDs) and Troy Kuhn (538 yards, 5 TDs) should be an interesting matchup for Jackson and Josephs. Kiski doesn’t run much, but when they do it is either Drew DiNunzio-Biss (279 yards, 7 TDs) or Peyton McCann (194 yards, 1 TD).
8. Bethel Park (5-2, 6-3) vs 9. Franklin Regional (4-3, 6-3)
This should be a good old-fashioned slug-fest between two teams with strong lines that like to hunker down in the trenches and play tough defense. Bethel Park is in their first year of 5A competition and has a trio of quality backs in Luke Surunis (692 yards, 10 TDs), Sean McGowan (619 yards, 8 TDs), and Jehvonn Lewis (524 yards, 11 TDs). The Black Hawks don’t throw much, and McGowan and Surunis are the leading receivers for QB Anthony Chiccitt (857 yards, 5 TDs). Franklin Regional also has a trio of runners they rely on in Zac Gordon (434 yards, 4 TDs), Brandon Zanotto (301 yards, 3 TDs), and QB Adam Rudzinski (295 yards, 4 TDs). Rudzinski’s passing abilities (1196 yards, 16 TDs) have enabled the Panthers to open up their offense a bit more this season, and they have talented players on the outside in Mike Evans (516 yards, 6 TDs) and Nick Leopold (301 yards, 8 TDs).
4. Mars (6-1, 9-1) vs 13. Woodland Hills (3-4, 4-6)
Mars moved up to 5A this season and announced their presence like a typical Mars team – by running the ball all over everyone. The Planets had 5A’s leading rusher in Garrett Reinke (1747 yards, 22 TDs). As the season went on, QB Tyler Kowalkowski started to progress in his game and finished with 1059 yards and 11 TDs. Tom Sheehy (295 yards, 4 TDs), and Andrew Recchia (256 yards, 4 TDs) were the top targets on the outside. Woodland Hills got off to a slow start, losing their first 4 games, but bounced back to win 3 of their last 4. The Wolverines have a formidable backfield tandem of William Clark (719 yards, 7 TDs) and Anthony Merideth (704 yards, 4 TDs). Gavin Judson has thrown for 736 yards and 7 TDs, primarily to Jay Smith (317 yards, 3 TDs) and Jayden Lucas (166 yards, 2 TDs).
5. West Allegheny (6-1. 7-2) vs 12. Shaler (3-4, 4-6)
This game is loaded with storylines as Bob Palko begins his final playoff campaign as West Allegheny’s head coach. Palko already has won more WPIAL titles than any other coach. On the other side, Shaler entered the season on a 24-game losing streak and had just 1 win in their prior 59 games. But the Titans broke that streak in Week 0 and went on to a 4-6 season and their first playoff berth since 2011. West Allegheny has a balanced offenseive attack led by QB Kam Kruze (938 pass yards, 9 TDs, 232 rush yards, 6 TDs). Dante Flati is the Indians leading rusher with 734 yards and 9 TDs. Through the air, Kruze has utilized a number of receivers including Kyle Guilfoil (241 yards, 2 TDs), Drevon Baldwin (238 yards, 4 TDs), and Mateo Vandamia (194 yards, 4 TDs). On the other side, Shaler’s bounce-back season has been led by the duo of QB Darin Mizgorski (1514 yards, 13 TDs) and RB Joey Kremer (1012 yards, 10 TDs). The Titans have a trio of talented receivers in Brennan Fugh (695 yards, 3 TDs), Justin DeSabato (329 yards, 4 TDs), and Joe Impavido (229 yards, 2 TDs).
2. Penn Hills (7-0, 10-0) vs 15. Latrobe (3-4, 4-6)
Penn Hills moved down to 5A this season and dominated their schedule. The Indians are stacked with D1 talent, including 5A’s leading passer Hollis Mathis (2097 yards, 28 TDs) and 1000-yard rusher Tank Smith (who has scored 16 times). Mathis has also run for 617 yards and 6 scores. Penn Hills has the best secondary in the WPIAL, led by D1 recruits who play CB and WR in Daequan Hardy (610 yards, 15 TDs), Dante Cephas (409 yards, 6 TDs), and Cory Thomas (198 yards, 4 TDs). Junior WR Anthony Grimes (392 yards, 5 TDs) has also emerged as a threat in the passing game. Latrobe also has a D1 player in Trent Holler, a two-way lineman who has committed to East Carolina. The Wildcats are making their first playoff appearance since 2009 and come in with a balanced offensive attack between QB Branden Crosby (961 yards, 8 TDs), and RB AJ Rock (608 yards, 3 TDs). Zakh Williams has been Latrobe’s top play-maker, leading the team with 466 receiving yards, adding 303 yards on the ground, and scoring 14 times. Logan Gustafson (279 yards, 4 TDs) has also seen a fair share of the backfield work.
7. McKeesport (5-2, 8-2) vs 10. Upper St Clair (5-2, 8-2)
Two storied programs with rich traditions meet for the second time in three seasons after McKeesport beat Upper St Clair in the 2016 playoffs. The Tigers triple-option rushing attack has once again been dominant to the tune of 42 points per game. QB Konota Gaskins is the spark that makes everything go and has run for 558 yards and 10 TDs and thrown for 689 yards and 12 TDs despite averaging just 5 pass attempts per game. McKeesport will cycle through running backs and have used many this year, including Quaran Sayles (461 yards, 5 TDs), Devari Robinson (429 yards, 9 TDs), and Devin Sims (408 yards, 12 TDs). When Gaskins doe throw, Deamontae Diggs (424 yards, 4 TDs) has been the primary receiver. On the other side, Upper St Clair has a balanced offensive attack and is not afraid to take to the air with QB Jason Sweeney (1458 yards, 14 TDs). The Pantellis brothers have put on a show at receiver all season, and the Panthers receiving corps is led by Chris (628 yards, 7 TDs) and David (497 yards, 6 TDs). Antonio Orsini has run for 948 yards and 8 TDs while slot back Colin McLinden has done a little of everything (328 yards of total offense, 4 TDs). As is typical in the playoffs, McKeesport is not a team built to play from behind so if Jim Render’s Panthers can get out to an early lead and keep the pressure on, they can minimize the impact of McKeesport’s running game. On the other side, if Upper St Clair can’t stop the run, McKeesport has the talent to run them into the ground and blow this game open quickly.
3. Peters Twp (6-1, 8-2) vs 14. Armstrong (3-4, 5-5)
Peters Twp captured their first conference title since the 1970s this season. The Indians were led by QB Logan Pfeuffer (1487 yards, 9 TDs) who had a talented group of receivers in Josh Casilli (614 yards, 13 TDs), Jackson McCloskey (320 yards, 6 TDs), and Corban Hondru (226 yards, 1 TD). On the ground, Peters relied on Ryan Magiske (686 yards, 17 TDs) and Adrian Williams (382 yards, 2 TDs) to shoulder the workload. On the other side, Armstrong is making their 3rd playoff appearance in 4 years since the merger of Kittanning and Ford City. The Riverhawks have a dual-threat QB in Jalen Price who has run for 686 yards and 9 TDs while Isaiah Price has scored 6 times. Isaac Ridinger has also run for 520 yards and 5 TDs.
6. Penn-Trafford (6-1, 8-2) vs 11. North Hills (5-2, 6-4)
Penn-Trafford’s only losses this season were against a 6A team (Norwin) and the top team in the classification (Gateway). The Warriors ranked in the top five in offense (38 points per game) and defense (12 points against per game) in 5A. Penn-Trafford boasts dual-threat QB Gabe Dunlap who has thrown for 1102 yards and 12 TDs and run for 699 yards and 8 TDs. Caleb Lisbon (963 yards, 13 TDs) makes a quality backfield counterpart to Dunlap. On the outside, Dimitri George (646 yards, 9 TDs) and Noah Allen (198 yards, 4 TDs) have been the top receivers. Meanwhile, North Hills’ losses also came against top teams in the classification, but the Indians are the second-lowest scoring team in the 5A playoffs (18 points per game). Some of those scoring struggles can be traced to star RB “Touchdown” Tyler Brennan (784 yards, 18 TDs) missing time with injury. Brennan earned the nickname “Touchdown Tyler” after scoring 10 times in the first two games, but North Hills could not find a consistent replacement during the time he missed. Brennan is back for the playoffs which should take some of the load off Tyler Tomasic (543 yards, 1 TD), and Curtis Foskey (297 yards, 2 TDs). The Indians have also had a revolving door at quarterback with a number of different players trying their hand and none finding consistent success.
Class 4A Quarterfinals
1. Thomas Jefferson (7-0, 9-0) vs 8. New Castle (3-4, 5-5)
Thomas Jefferson is the three-time defending WPIAL Champions and certainly looked the part during the regular season, averaging a 4A-best 50 points per game and holding opponents to just 8 per game. The Jaguars had three players go over the 1000-yard mark in their respective categories. QB Shane Stump threw for 1413 yards and 20 TDs, RB Max Shaw ran for 1221 yards and 25 TDs and WR Dan Deabner accounted for 1040 yards and 17 TDs. New Castle’s offense is built around their ground game. RB Josh Thomason (680 yards 6 TDs) and QB Demetris McKnight (574 yards, 8 TDs) lead the way. McKnight took over as the quarterback in the middle of the season and has thrown for 349 yards in limited action. This is a rematch of the 2016 WPIAL Championship where Thomas Jefferson won 42-0.
4. Blackhawk (6-1, 9-1) vs 5. West Mifflin (5-2, 5-5)
Blackhawk had a breakout season, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and just the second time since reaching the WPIAL Championship Game in 2008. The Cougars are a ground-and-pound team that relies on a trip of running backs. Kenny Gawley (745 yards, 9 TDs) leads the way with Marques Watson-Trent (649 yards, 13 TDs) and Josh Butcher (614 yards, 7 TDs) also seeing significant work. The Cougars have been so good on the ground QB Chance Liptak (683 yards, 8 TDs) has not had to throw much and averages just 8 pass attempts per game. West Mifflin is also a run-heavy team, but the Titans tend to rely solely on Parrish Parker (1289 yards, 23 TDs). Similar to Liptak, West Mifflin QB Matthew Schuster (676 yards, 4 TDs) averages just 8 attempts per game but has been effective when he has thrown the ball. Bryant Johnson (442 yards, 3 TDs) is the Titans leading receiver.
2. South Fayette (7-0, 9-1) vs 7. Greensburg Salem (4-3, 4-6)
Another year, another conference title for Joe Rossi’s South Fayette Lions who have now won 7 straight. By contrast, Greensburg Salem has not been to the playoffs since 2011 and needed to beat Indiana in a Casket Match to get here. South Fayette’s offense is keyed through their passing game which produced 4A’s leading passer Jamie Diven (2373 yards, 35 TDs). Diven has spread the ball around to Mike Trimbur (809 yards, 13 TDs), Charley Rossi (477 yards, 7 TDs), and Peyton Tinney (383 yards, 7 TDs). Andrew Franklin (591 yards, 10 TDs) is the Lions leading rusher and keep an eye out for splash plays from Rayquin Glover (343 rush yards, 238 receiving yards, 9 total TDs). Greensburg Salem is led by their dual-threat QB Trent Patrick (970 pass yards, 11 TDs, 407 rush yards, 8 TDs). Tyler Williams (253 yards, 4 TDs), Ryan Thomas (185 yards, 2 TDs), and Dajauhn Hertzog (182 yards, 5 TDs) have been Patrick’s primary weapons in the passing game. On the ground, Aaren Putt has run for 628 yards and 4 TDs. The challenge for Greensburg Salem will be to slow down South Fayette’s offense. Greensburg Salem has the worst defense of any 4A playoff team (30 points allowed per game) while South Fayette averages 40 points per game.
3. Belle Vernon (6-1, 8-1) vs 6. Beaver (4-3, 7-3)
Belle Vernon’s only loss on the scoreboard this season came against Thomas Jefferson, but the Leopards also lost starting QB Jared Hartman to an ACL injury mid-season. Nolan Labuda and Andrew Pacak have both tried their hand under center in replacing Hartman. The good news for Belle Vernon is that their run-heavy offfense led by Mason Pascoe (1392 yards, 17 TDs) and Larry Callaway (584 yards, 11 TDs) has been good enough to keep them on the winning track since Hartman’s injury. The Leopards are a tough defensive team, holding opponents to just 9 points per game, and will need to play old school football with their defense and running game to make a run at the WPIAL title. On the other side, Beaver’s offensive attack is led by dual-threat QB Brodie List (1062 pass yards, 15 TDs, 549 rush yards, 7 TDs). The Bobcats are a run-first team and will usually use either List or Gino Mavero (836 yards, 13 TDs) with change-of-pace back Noah Yates (438 yards, 2 TDs) sprinkled in. When List does take to the air, Matt Lipinski (439 yards, 2 TDs), Mason Rose (232 yards, 3 TDs), and James Finch (211 yards, 3 TDs) have been the top receivers.
Class 3A Quarterfinals
1. Aliquippa (6-1, 9-1) vs 8. Freeport (5-3, 5-4)
Aliquippa rolled through the regular season until falling to Central Valley in Week 9. Meanwhile, Freeport rebounded from losing their first 3 games to win 5 in a row and lock up a playoff spot. The Quips with their new “Air Warfield” offense have been outstanding and QB Eli Kosanovich leads 3A with 2156 yards and 30 TDs. WR Will Gipson (1118 yards, 14 TDs) was 3A’s leading receiver and RB Avante McKenzie ran for 1154 yards and 21 TDs. The Quips also have MJ Devonshire, the most exciting player in the WPIAL with the ball in his hands. Devonshire tied a national record with 8 punt return touchdowns this season and also produced 525 yards of total offense and found the end zone 10 more times. On the other side, Freeport’s offense is built around their ground game. QB Austin Romanchak did more running than throwing this year, racking up 963 yards and 17 TDs on the ground while throwing for 494 yards and 2 TDs. His backfield partner Conor Selinger ran for 603 yards and 9 TDs. In the rare times when Freeport did throw, Evan McCrea (181 yards) was the leading receiver.
4. Beaver Falls (6-1, 8-2) vs 5. Elizabeth Forward (7-1, 8-1)
(at Geneva College)
Beaver Falls’ only setback this season came against rival Aliquippa while Elizabeth Forward’s only loss was against North Catholic. On paper these are two fairly evenly matched teams that both average over 30 points per game and allow about two touchdowns per game. Beaver Falls bounced back from a dismal 2017 thanks to the emergence of dual-threat QB Dayln Brickner (948 pass yards, 16 TDs, 769 rush yards, 13 TDs). The Tigers are a run-first team and Brickner is joined in the backfield by Josh Hough (677 yards, 10 TDs). Amen Cottrill has been an all-around threat, running for 376 yards and leading the Tigers in receiving with 350 yards and scoring 10 TDs. Brice Anderson is the top WR with 328 yards and 5 TDs. Elizabeth Forward counters with a dual-threat QB of their own in Zachary Benedek (908 pass yards, 11 TDs, 836 rush yards, 14 TDs). Benedek’s top receivers have been Nate Alberts (248 yards, 6 TDs) and Evan Lewis (6 TDs).
2. Derry (7-1, 9-1) vs 7. Central Valley (5-2, 5-5)
Two of the hottest teams in the classification face off in a rematch of a 2016 quarterfinal where Derry got their first playoff win since 1995. The Trojans won the three-way tie for the Big East Conference and have won 4 in a row since falling by 3 points to Elizabeth Forward. Central Valley has won 5 of their last 6 as their offense has found a groove, including an upset win over Aliquippa. Derry has one of the top play-makers in 3A in Justin Flack who has run for 992 yards, added 264 receiving yards, and scored 29 TDs. The Trojans are a run-heavy team with Onreey Stewart (621 yards, 4 TDs) and Colton Nemcheck (419 yards,3 TDs) aiding Flack in the backfield. Their ground game has been so good that QB Paul Koontz has averaged just 9 pass attempts per game but has thrown for 532 yards and 9 TDs this season. After struggling offensively to start the season, Central Valley found their groove with dual-threat QB Ameer Dudley (915 pass yards, 5 TDs, 364 rush yards, 6 TDs). Dudley’s biggest successes have been getting the ball into the hands of WR Anthony Mendicino (517 yards, 6 TDs). Dudley is joined in the backfield by Noah Thompson (334 yards, 4 TDs).
3. North Catholic (7-1, 9-1) vs 6. Quaker Valley (5-2, 5-4)
(at Lt. JC Stone Field)
The defending 3A State Champions Quaker Valley return to the playoffs to defend their title against a hot North Catholic team that has the second-best offense in 3A (40 points per game) and has averaged 50 points per game in the last 5 weeks. The Trojans have a dual-threat QB in Zack Rocco (1555 pass yards, 22 TDs, 407 rush yards, 8 TDs) and a plethora of talented playmakers. Cameron Branch (638 yards, 6 TDs) leads the rushing attack while Tyree Brown (591 yards, 8 TDs) and Nikhai Hill-Green (292 yards, 6 TDs) are the top receivers. Quaker Valley counters with a dual-threat QB of their own in Ethan Moore (1411 pass yards, 10 TDs, 537 rush yards, 11 TDs). Like Ricky Guss before him, Moore is the primary rusher and passer on the team. Smith Johnson (262 yards, 4 TDs) and Isaac Guss (258 yards, 3 TDs) are secondary factors behind Moore in the run game. On the outside, Ryan Jackovic (464 yards, 8 TDs) is Moore’s favorite target.
Class 2A First Round
1. Shady Side Academy (6-0, 9-0) vs 16. Serra (4-3, 6-4)
Shady Side Academy returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 thanks to a dominant regular season that saw them deal Steel Valley the Ironmen’s first regular season loss since 2015. The Indians are led by QB Skyy Moore who became the first player in WPIAL history to have TWO seasons with 1000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards. Moore enters the playoffs with 1275 yards and 16 TDs through the air and 1049 yards and 19 TDs on the ground. Dino Tomlin has emerged as Shady Side’s top receiver with 644 yards and 16 TDs while Billy Frohlich has scored 10 times. Serra had an up-and-down season but was able to get into the playoffs by winning 3 of their last 4 games. The Eagles have a balanced offensive attack led by QB Pat Brennan (1039 yards, 8 TDs) and RB Khalil Smith (886 yards, 6 TDs). Brennan has a quality pair of receivers in Matt Ulishney (484 yards, 7 TDs) and Jayvon Holt (329 yards, 3 TDs).
8. South Side Beaver (5-2, 7-3) vs 9. McGuffey (5-2, 8-2)
These are two run-heavy teams which should make for a good old-fashioned battle in the trenches. South Side Beaver’s offense revolves around their top three rushers. Jake Botkin (1266 yards, 17 TDs) leads the way, followed by Jordan Bruce (471 yards, 4 TDs) and Derek Franchek (413 yards, 8 TDs). On the other side, McGuffey RB Christian Clutter is the WPIAL’s leading scorer with 37 TDs (he has also run for 1282 yards and added 322 receiving yards). The Highlanders ground attack also features a heavy dose of McKinley Whipkey (642 yards, 4 TDs) and dual-threat QB Marshall Whipkey has thrown for 906 yards and 14 TDs and run for 587 yards and 7 scores.
4. Charleroi (6-1, 8-1) vs 13. Riverside (4-3, 6-3)
Last year the Cougars made their first playoff appearance since 2004 and were upset by Avonworth in the first round in a game where they turned the ball over 6 times. Riverside has been to the semifinals each of the last two seasons. Charleroi was one of the highest-scoring teams in 2A, averaging 51 points per game. QB Geno Pellegrini has thrown for 1668 yards and 26 TDs and run for 622 yards and 9 TDs. The Cougars have a solid ground game led by Brayden Milhalcin (991 yards, 15 TDs) and two quality receivers in Dakota Romantino (727 yards, 13 TDs) and Legend Davis (441 yards, 8 TDs). Hunter Perry has been a jack-of-all-trades for Charleroi with 383 rushing yards, 423 passing yards, and a team-high 15 TDs. Riverside is built around their running game and the tandem of Lamarcus Cleckley (917 yards, 7 TDs) and Hunter Nulph (489 yards, 7 TDs). The Panthers have been so good on the ground they have not needed to take to the air much, but QB Ben Hughes has been very good when they do pass, throwing for 903 yards and 13 TDs. Hughes’ favorite targets have been Nate Sciarro (459 yards, 5 TDs), Josh Bishop (199 yards, 3 TDs), and Nic Ottaviani (174 yards, 3 TDs).
5. Mohawk (6-1, 8-2) vs 12. Seton LaSalle (4-3, 6-4)
Mohawk has a great bounce-back story that carried them from a winless 2016 to making the playoffs in 2017 to a conference title this season. This year’s run to the conference title has been led by 2A’s leading rusher Brayden Cameron (1473 yards, 13 TDs). The Warriors have been able to balance their offense with a strong passing game thanks to Nick Wheeler (1542 yards, 19 TDs). Nate McCutcheon (768 yards, 8 TDs), Dmitri Pendro (434 yards, 2 TDs), and Jordan Mollenkopf (200 yards, 4 TDs) have been Wheeler’s top receivers. This has been an up-and-down year for Seton LaSalle as they moved down from 3A. After a 1-3 start that included a loss to South Allegheny, the Rebels narrowly beat New Brighton. They did win 4 of their last 6 games, but needed overtime in Week 9 to beat Carlynton to clinch a playoff spot. Joey Ranft took over at quarterback mid-season and threw for 574 yards and 5 TDs. The Rebels also made a commitment to the ground game, which flourished under Gabe Finale (652 yards, 8 TDs) and Jamar Shegog (577 yards, 8 TDs). The Rebels are the lowest-scoring team in the 2A playoffs, averaging just 19 points per game.
2. Burgettstown (7-0, 9-0) vs 15. East Allegheny (3-3, 6-4)
One of the pleasant surprises of 2A was undefeated Burgettstown getting the #2 seed. The Blue Devils convincingly won the Three Rivers Conference Title thanks to a strong running game and a dominant defense that held teams to just 5 points per game. Last year Burgetttstown got their first playoff victory since 1977 and the Blue Devils are looking to build off that success. Their rushing attack is led by QB Jake Lounder (586 yards, 9 TDs) with significant contributions from Shane Kemper (533 yards, 8 TDs), and Cyle Conley (371 yards, 6 TDs). Lounder averages 6 passes per game and has thrown for 340 yards and 5 TDs.
7. Freedom (6-1, 9-1) vs 10. Avonworth (4-2, 7-3)
This will be a contrast of styles between Freedom’s run-heavy offense and Avonworth’s dynamic passing attack. Both teams average over 31 points per game and play good defense, with Freedom’s ranking as the second-best in 2A at 8 points against per game. The Bulldogs rushing attack is led by the tandem of Jake Pail (723 yards, 14 TDs) and Cody Ross (503 yards, 10 TDs). Pail is also the team’s second-leading receiver with 362 yards. QB Zack Rosa has had a good year, throwing for 1134 yards and 20 TDs, primarily to Pail, Noah Yeck (378 yards, 7 TDs), and Max Ujhazy (194 yards, 3 TDs). Avonworth counters with 2A’s leading passer Derek Johncour (2420 yards, 23 TDs). Johncour has been able to spread the ball around to the sure-handed Turner Grau (839 yards, 14 TDs), Ethan Syam (554 yards, 2 TDs), and Drew Harper (511 yards, 4 TDs). Out of the backfield, Jax Miller has been the exclusive ball-carrier, running for 873 yards and 21 TDs.
3. Steel Valley (5-1, 8-1) vs 14. Beth-Center (5-2, 7-3)
Steel Valley has reached the WPIAL title game each of the last two seasons. This year, they suffered their first regular season loss since 2015 when they fell to Shady Side Academy. The Ironmen have a dominant running game with two backs that topped the 1000-yard mark. Kam Williams ran for 1318 yards and 17 TDs while Todd Hill ran for 1228 yards and 23 TDs. Ronnell Lawrence averages about 10 passing attempts per game and has thrown for 782 yards and 8 TDs. On the outside, Eshawn Carter (418 yards, 6 TDs) has bee the top receiver, along with Williams (279 yards) and Hill (132 yards). The Ironmen’s ground game could cause problems for Beth-Center, who has the worst defense (28 points allowed per game) of any 2A playoff team. The Bulldogs were able to win this season by virtue of a strong offense that averages 36 points per game. Beth-Center QB Bailey Lincoski joined the elite 1000 pass / 1000 rush club, throwing for 1044 yards and 10 TDs and running for 1100 yards and 17 scores. Like the Ironmen, the Bulldogs have a pair of players that topped 1000 yards on the ground as Dominic Fundy ran for 1264 yards and 11 TDs. On the outside, Lincoski’s top receivers have been Devyn Dingle (704 yards, 8 TDs) and JJ Green (344 yards, 2 TDs).
6. Washington (6-1, 9-1) vs 11. New Brighton (5-2, 5-5)
The defending WPIAL 2A Champions got slotted in the 6-seed despite just one loss this season, a Week 1 defeat by Charleroi. The Prexies are the highest-scoring team in 2A, averaging 52 points per game, but their last 3 opponents have found success against them, all scoring in the 30s. Dual-threat QB Zack Swartz (2000 pass yards, 26 TDs, 660 rush yards, 9 TDs) has led the way for Washington. Swartz has two talented receivers on the outside in Zahmere Robinson (917 yards, 12 TDs) and Daniel Walker (549 yards, 16 TDs). Walker is also a standout defensive player who has drawn some interest from D1 schools. On the ground, Dylan Asbury has run for 814 yards and 16 TDs, averaging over 10 yards per carry. New Brighton bounced back from a 1-4 start to the season to win 4 of their last 5 games, including a come-from-behind victory over Riverside. The Lions are a pass-heavy team led by Jackson Hall (1298 yards, 10 TDs) and leading receiver Caleb Shuler (763 yards, 8 TDs). Leading rusher Jacob Francona has run for 254 yards and added 325 receiving yards and scored 8 times. Francona has split the workload with Austin Fath (245 yards, 7 TDs). Both of these teams allow 22 points per game on defense, so this one has the potential to be an offensive shootout.
Class 1A Quarterfinals
1. Jeannette (6-0, 10-0) vs 8. Monessen (6-1, 7-2)
Jeannette is the defending WPIAL and PIAA Champions and rolled through the regular season with a perfect record. Their closest calls came in 15-point victories over Clairton and OLSH. Monessen announced themselves as contenders early with a Week 1 victory over defending Tri-County South Champion California and rode that victory to a 3-way tie atop the conference. Jeannette has a multi-faceted offensive attack led by QB Seth Howard who has thrown for 1222 yards and 13 TDs and run for 528 yards and 10 scores. His backfield counterpart Imani Sanders leads the team with 571 yards and 10 TDs. On the outside, Howard has spread the ball around to a number of talented playmakers including Marcus Barnes (521 yards, 8 TDs), Jackson Pruitt (231 yards, 4 TDs), and Jimmy Sanders (203 yards, 2 TDs). Monessen has done most of their damage this season with their ground game. RB Vaughn Taylor has scored 11 TDs and Justin Towler has run for 6 more. Devin Whitlock has scored 9 TDs.
4. West Greene (6-1, 7-3) vs 5. Rochester (6-1, 9-1)
West Greene is looking for their first playoff win since 1993 after finishing in a 3-way tie atop the Tri-County South Conference and winning the coin flip for the home playoff game. These are two run-heavy offenses and the game willbe settled by who can win in the trenches.For West Greene, Ben Jackson led the way with 1454 yards and 24 TDs. Kolin Walker (538 yards, 7 TDs) has come on strong late in the season. The Pioneers don’t throw much, but QB Gavin Scott (567 yards, 4 TDs) has a good receiver in Nathan Brudnock (377 receiving yards, 183 rushing yards, 7 total TDs). Rochester’s offense is also driven by their tandem of running backs. Noah Whiteleather has run for 1552 yards and 21 TDs and Darius Goosby has run for 559 yards and 13 TDs. QB Zaine Jeffers (311 yards, 3 TDs) averages just 3 passes per game and when he does throw it is either to one of the top backs or Tyreek Sherod (151 yards, 2 TDs).
2. Clairton (5-1, 8-1) vs 7. California (6-1, 6-4)
A first round matchup between the two teams that lost in the WPIAL semifinals last season. Clairton rode a stifling defense that allowed just 8 points per game through the regular season before falling to Jeannette in the season finale. On the other side, California got off to a slow 1-4 start, but returned to form over the second half of the season, winning 5 in a row and averaging 50 points per game. Clairton does not have any one individual stand-out player, but a number of talented athletes all over the field. QB Brendan Parsons has thrown for 1033 yards and 14 TDs and run for 230 yards and 6 scores. He has spread the ball around to Keinlein Ogletree (370 yards, 6 TDs), Andress Wiggins (224 yards, 3 TDs), Leonard Robinson (173 yards, 4 TDs), and Dom Solomon (142 yards, 6 TDs). Out of the backfield, Taevon Thompson (472 yards, 6 TDs) and Dontae Sanders (401 yards, 5 TDs) have shared the workload. Clairton has scored a number of defensive touchdowns this year as well, but that unit will be put to the test against California’s rushing attack. The Trojans have 3 running backs averaging over 9 yards per carry. Jelani Stafford (915 yards, 13 TDs) leads the way, Cochise Ryan (457 yards, 10 TDs) is a dynamic playmaker who scored 5 TDs in a game earlier this season, and Lucas Qualk (404 yards, 6 TDs). QB Austin Grillo hasn’t thrown much (568 yards, 10 TDs) but has also been a factor in the running game (392 yards, 4 TDs).
3. OLSH (7-0, 9-1) vs 6. Imani Christian (4-2, 7-3)
Two years ago, OLSH and Imani Christian both made the playoffs for the first time in their respective histories and were matched up in a first round game. The two teams met again in the quarterfinals last year. Imani Christian won both previous meetings, and this year’s iteration figures to be a matchup of similarly-styled teams. This game features two of the top quarterbacks in the entire WPIAL. Imani’s Israel Reed threw for 2682 yards and 30 TDs and OLSH’s Tyler Bradley threw for 2669 yards and 34 TDs. OLSH’s leading receiver is Richard Banks (724 receiving yards, 265 rushing yards, 11 total TDs) who ran for 1000 yards last year as the starting running back. With Austin Wigley (659 yards, 18 TDs) returning from injury, Banks moved to wide receiver and has thrived. Andrew Schnarre (518 yards, 5 TDs) and Ricco Tate (462 yards, 7 TDs) have been Bradley’s other top receivers. For Imani Christian, Israel Reed has two outstanding receivers to throw to in Rahmon Hart (1274 yards, 15 TDs) and Dashaun Wright (1037 yards, 15 TDs). It is an incredibly rare feat for two wide receivers from a team to top 1000 yards in the same season. Imani is definitely a pass-heavy team but Reed is a capable runner (454 yards, 7 TDs) and Jaron Thompson (373 yards, 8 TDs) has gottten his share of work as well.