The title of the WPIAL receiving champion has a dual component where two different players could claim the crown in the same season. This happened last year when Yough’s CJ Waldier had the most receptions (72) while Upper St Clair’s David Pantelis had the most yardage (1135 yards). Interestingly, unlike the WPIAL Rushing Crown where the winners typically had big seasons the year prior, the receiving champions have often flown under the radar the season prior. Some of this has to do with team philosophy – in 2018 Yough had the WPIAL rushing champion in Dustin Shoaf (1968 yards). Shoaf averaged over 25 carries per game and Yough only attempted about 15 passes per game. As a result, CJ Waldier only had 10 receptions for 140 yards and 1 TD as a sophomore. After Shoaf graduated, Yough’s passing attack took on a bigger role and Waldier exploded onto the scene with 72 catches for 995 yards and 8 TDs.
Here’s a look at the top contenders for the WPIAL receiving titles this season. Of note, their rushing stats from last year are full season statistics, which include both regular season and playoff outings. I am not going to try to guess between receptions and yardage, as all of these players have the talent to be right in the mix for both.
David Pantelis (Upper St Clair)
2019 Stats: 77 receptions, 1169 yards
Career Stats: 116 receptions, 1727 yards
David Pantelis led the WPIAL in receiving yardage last season and returns for his senior season along with his starting QB Ethan Dahlem. Pantelis was the clear top target in Upper St Clair’s offense with 77 receptions last season. No other player had more than 20 receptions. With his quarterback (along with most of the other starters) returning, Pantelis is absolutely a threat to repeat as the WPIAL receiving champion. He has attracted some D1 attention with offers from a number of Ivy League schools and military academies.
CJ Waldier (Yough)
2019 Stats: 72 receptions, 955 yards
Career Stats: 89 receptions, 1160 yards
CJ Waldier led the WPIAL in receptions last season with 72. Yough did not make the playoffs and his totals were surpassed by David Pantelis who played two additional postseason games. Like Upper St Clair, Yough also returns their starting QB in Gamal Marballie who threw for over 1300 yards last season. Waldier was the clear top target in the Cougars passing attack as no other player had more than 15 receptions. Yough will once again be in 3A this season but will play in a realigned Interstate Conference which is joined by South Allegheny, Southmoreland, and Brownsville moving up from 2A. Waldier just received his first scholarship offer (from Mercyhurst) and has the talent to play at the next level.
Eli Jochem (Pine-Richland)
2019 Stats: 71 receptions, 1065 yards
Career Stats: 106 receptions, 1384 yards
Two years ago Pine-Richland plugged a number of sophomores into the starting lineup and won the WPIAL title. They reached the title game last season but lost in a defensive battle to Central Catholic. Now as seniors they move down into a loaded 5A Classification as one of the most experienced teams in the entire state. QB Cole Spencer engineers the RPO offense and threw for nearly 3000 yards last season and returns for his senior season. Jochem was the top receiver last year, averaging 15 yards per reception. Spencer will spread the ball around, but Pine-Richland throws a higher volume of passes than any team except South Fayette. The sheer volume of opportunities that Eli Jochem should see this year will keep him in the hunt for the receiving title. He has D1 offers from Fordham, Dayton, and Valparaiso.
Charley Rossi (South Fayette)
2019 Stats: 53 receptions, 820 yards
Career Stats: 91 receptions, 1433 yards
South Fayette has won an incredible 64 straight conference games dating back to 2011. During that streak, the Lions have had some of the best quarterbacks in the WPIAL and also been blessed with a plethora of good receivers. Charley Rossi is the next in that line and has D1 offers from Princeton, Sacred Heart, Dayton, and Valparaiso. South Fayette will be moving up in classification this season from 4A to 5A and will need their passing game clicking on all cylinders to compete for another conference title.
Ryan McGuire and Joey Audia (South Fayette) – South Fayette is absolutely loaded this season. Star QB Naman Alemada returns after leading the WPIAL in passing , along with his top three receivers. The three receivers all brought something different to the table last year. Charley Rossi (mentioned above) finished with the most yards, while Joey Audia (57 receptions, 738 yards) led the team in receptions and Ryan McGuire (34 receptions, 778 yards) was the big-play hitter with the highest yards-per-catch average. All three players scored 8 TDs last year. While all three are incredibly talented, this could work against them in the race for the WPIAL receiving title as they may share the workload.
Nick Maher (North Catholic) – Maher was a big-play threat in North Catholic’s passing game last season, finishing with 46 receptions for 853 yards. Over the last few seasons, North Catholic has had stability at the QB position with Zack Rocco starting. But with Rocco graduating the Trojans will have a new QB this season. They have a talented group of receivers, who should be the anchor of the offense, led by Maher. North Catholic has utilized pass-heavy offenses in the past, and if they go that route again Maher should be the beneficiary.
Ian Hansen (Thomas Jefferson) – While Thomas Jefferson saw most of the significant offensive playmakers graduate, Hansen is the top returning skill position player. He had just 36 receptions last year but was a big play threat with 738 yards and scored 10 TDs. Hansen and Preston Zandier will take over as TJ’s top receivers for a team that typically has a balanced offensive attack and will push the ball down the field.
Header image source: David Pantelis’ Hudl