This will be a completely different season of high school football than anyone has ever experienced. Recently, in response to the Governor’s recommendation, the PIAA decided to push back the start of the season by two weeks to engage in further discussions regarding a safe return to play for fall sports. Even though there is uncertainty about this season of high school football, there are many coaches and players who have worked their tails off to get ready for this season, and we felt their efforts deserved to be highlighted. Therefore, we are rolling ahead with our 2020 WPIAL Season Previews. This year, our WPIAL coverage is sponsored by the Small Player Big Play App, which provides schools the opportunity to fundraise by live-streaming their games and events. Check out their Twitter page and get the app for free on Apple or Andriod devices.
With 3A moving from 2 conferences back to 3 this year, the Interstate Conference makes a return. This group contains teams along the I-70 corridor in southern Allegheny, Westmoreland, and northern Fayette County. A lot of historical rivalries are back on the schedule with teams like Southmoreland, Mt Pleasant, Yough, and Brownsville all playing together. This conference does have a number of talented players with D1 potential and with the combination of teams moving up from 2A coupled with playoff teams from 3A last season, this is a wide open field.
The playoff format in 3A will be dependent on the State Tournament. If the PIAA hosts a state tournament, eight teams will make the 3A playoffs. If the PIAA does not host a state tournament, only four teams will make the playoffs. In an 8-team bracket, the top two from each conference plus two Wild Card third place teams would make the playoffs. In a 4-team bracket, only the conference champions and one Wild Card would make the playoffs. Be sure to keep tabs on our WPIAL Football ELO Rankings and WPIAL Standings Page throughout the season. Teams are listed in their predicted order of finish.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 5
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 54
The Warriors have reached the playoffs in three straight seasons, tying their most successful streak in school history. However, they have not won a playoff game since 2000. Elizabeth Forward had a successful 7-2 campaign last year with their only losses coming against Derry and North Catholic, both by less than 10 points. Unfortunately, they drew Aliquippa in the opening round of the playoffs and were one-and-done once again. The Warriors defense was the best in the conference, holding opponents to just 12.3 points per game. They return a legitimate D1 talent in RB/DE Chase Watton who has offers from nearly every MAC school along with a slew of FCS offers. Watton and fellow senior Evan lewis led the way for the Warriors last year, each scoring 7 TDs.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 9
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 59
South Park’s Week 3 victory over Keystone Oaks proved to be the deciding result for the final playoff spot. Once in the postseason, the Eagles sprung a massive upset, topping North Catholic 32-27 before falling to Aliquippa in the semifinals. Senior Nathan May will be the focal point of the offense this year after leading the Eagles in receiving (351 yards) and finishing second in rushing (590 yards) and scoring (8 total TDs). Sophomore Harper Conroy attempted a handful of passes last year as a backup and could step into the starting role this season. South Park is generally a run-heavy offense, and should give May the lion’s share of the work this season.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 11
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 61
The Vikings bounced back from a 2-8 campaign in 2018 to reach the playoffs in 2019. Mt. Pleasant’s playoff berth came courtesy of a strong October where they won 3 of their last 4 games. Asher O’Conner threw for 719 yards and 7 TDs last year as a junior and gets back his second-leading receiver Jonas King (190 yards, 1 TD). Mt. Pleasant had a strong rushing attack last season. The top two backs graduated, leaving senior Pete Billey (472 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Aaron Alaskon (136 yards, 3 TDs) to take on bigger roles after both averaged over 6.6 yards per carry.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 19
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 91
The Gladiators have not made the playoffs since 2012 in Jesse James’ senior season. They have been close the last few seasons, but the move up to 3A will come with stiffer competition. South Allegheny will be worth keeping an eye on, just to see talented senior Antonio Epps who led the way with 1307 rushing yards, 376 receiving yards and scored 13 times last year. Epps has D1 offers from Duquesne, Richmond, and Sacred Heart. He will have the benefit of stability at the QB position as Jett Jones (671 yards, 5 TDs) returns for his junior season. Fellow junior Eric Anderson also returns at wide receiver after putting up 135 yards and 1 TD. South Allegheny has the talent to make noise in the middle of the conference this season after 5 of their 6 losses came by fewer than 14 points.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 18
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 87
The Scotties had an historical campaign last year, making the playoffs for the first time since 1979, breaking the longest drought in the WPIAL. Southmoreland rattled off 5 straight wins to start the season but stumbled down the stretch, losing their final 5 games then falling to eventual WPIAL Champions Avonworth in the first round of the playoffs. Now, they move up to 3A, but have the chance to reignite some historical rivalries against neighboring districts Mt. Pleasant and Yough. Only 5 seniors graduated from last year’s team and QB Zach Cernuto (1792 yards, 15 TDs) returns for his senior season. The top two receivers graduated, so look for TE Anthony Govern (215 yards, 3 TDs) and Isaac Trout (164 yards, 2 TDs) to take on bigger roles in their junior seasons. Southmoreland has the talent on offense to compete for a playoff spot but will need to improve a defense that allowed over 30 points per game.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 16
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 74
Last year was a rebuilding campaign for Yough and their sole victory came in Week 2 over Uniontown. The young players who saw significant time last year should pay dividends for the Cougars in 2020. Gamal Marballie is a dual-threat QB who could threaten the 1000/1000 club this year after throwing for 1334 yards and 9 TDs and rushing for 708 yards and 6 scores. On the outside, Yough has a legitimate star in WR CJ Waldier (995 yards, 8 TDs) who led the WPIAL in receptions with 72 last season. With the connection of Marballie and Waldier returning, Yough’s offense should make some noise. If they want to compete in the middle of the pack, the Cougars will need to improve a defense that gave up 41 points per game, the second-most in 3A.
WPIAL ELO Rank (3A): 20
WPIAL ELO Rank (Overall): 103
The Falcons enter 2020 with the second-longest playoff drought in the WPIAL. Their last playoff appearance came in 2000 which ended a strong four-year run where Brownsville made the WPIAL final in 1997 and the semifinals the following two seasons. Brownsville’s program fell on hard times over the last decade, winning just 11 total games. Their 2 wins last year tied their best campaigns from the past decade. You would have to go back to 2005 to find a season where Brownsville won more than 2 games and all the way back to 2000 to find a non-losing season. Now, the Falcons move up to 3A after two exciting victories last year, including a Week 0 win over Bentworth on a 90-yard TD as time expired. Brownsville will need to improve upon a defense that gave up 42.2 points per game last year, the worst mark in 2A.