Home WPIAL Who will win the 2023 WPIAL Rushing Title?

Who will win the 2023 WPIAL Rushing Title?

by Ian

After a COVID-shortened 2020 season where only 11 players topped the 1000-yard mark, 35 players accomplished the feat in 2021 and 43 did it last season. In 2021, Steel Valley’s Nijhay Burt led the WPIAL in rushing in the regular season. Unfortunately, Burt’s season ended with an injury in the quarterfinals. By season’s end, Central Valley’s Landon Alexander and Mt. Lebanon’s Alex Tecza (who both played 16 games en route to winning state titles) surpassed Burt’s 11-game total. Last year’s regular season rushing title came down to the final week between Tri-County South opponents Landan Stevenson of Mapletown and Colin Brady of West Greene. Brady missed the final week due to injury and Stevenson rolled to the title. In the playoffs, Stevenson ran for nearly 300 yards and 5 TDs in the opening round, earning Mapletown their first playoff victory in school history. He ended the year with 2342 yards and 45 TDs. Stevenson is the only one of the top four rushers from last season who graduated, which means there is a lot of star power returning to the 2023 race.

Here is a look at the top contenders for the WPIAL rushing crown. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Of note, their rushing stats from last year are full season statistics, which include both regular season and playoff outings. Typically the “Rushing Champion” is the player with the most regular season yards. Don’t forget to check out our WPIAL Blitz Season Preview Show and bookmark our WPIAL Standings Page for once the season starts!

Top Contenders

Devin Beattie (Burrell)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1402 yards, 18 TDs

Beattie was the key to Burrell returning to the playoffs for the second straight season. He racked up over 200 carries on the season with his best performance coming in Week 5 against Imani Christian. In a game that proved to be Burrell’s decisive victory in the playoff race, Beattie ran for over 300 yards and 6 TDs.

Colin Brady (West Greene)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1882 yards, 25 TDs

Brady is the next in the line of stellar backs to come out of West Greene. Starting with Rodney Wilson in the early 90s, Ben Jackson in the late 2010s and now Brady. He was leading the WPIAL in rushing for most of last season, a combination of his speed, volume, and relatively soft defenses in the Tri-County South. West Greene was a young team gaining experience last year and with a new head coach, Brady could be the star of the show once again.

Marquis Carter (Bishop Canevin)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1547 yards, 11 TDs

Bishop Canevin should have one of the most dynamic offenses in the WPIAL. Their rushing attack should balance out the passing game as defenses will have to keep their safeties deep. Carter averaged 8.5 yards per carry last season and certainly has the breakaway speed to turn short runs into big gains.

David Davis (Imani Christian)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 17 TDs

Last year Davis burst onto the scene as a freshman. He was a dynamic playmaker for an Imani team that was short on numbers. Davis earned offers from Penn State, Pitt, and Kentucky. With more players on Imani’s team this year, they will look to contend for a playoff spot with Davis as a key piece of the offensive attack.

Tiqwai Hayes (Aliquippa)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1981 yards, 30 TDs

Hayes might be the best junior running back in the entire state. He has been outstanding as the focal point of Aliquippa’s offensive attack through two seasons. Hayes has run for over 3700 yards in his career and still has two years to go. The only thing that might keep Hayes from staking a claim to the rushing title is Aliquippa’s offense being so dominant that they enact mercy rules and the starters sit for the second half of games.

TyVaughn Kershaw (Monessen)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1363 yards, 20 TDs

Kershaw was just a freshman last year and put up over 1300 yards and 20 TDs, leading Monessen to the playoffs. He averaged 11.5 yards per carry and the Greyhounds return a lot of starters this season. Not only will they be in the hunt for the Tri-County South Conference title, but Kershaw could be in the running (pun intended) for the rushing title.

Antonio Laure (Rochester)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1407 yards, 26 TDs

Rochester’s offense is built around running the ball, running the ball, and then running the ball some more. Laure is a rising junior who took over the lead back role for the Rams as last season went on. He saved his best play for the postseason where he ran for 578 yards and 10 TDs over 3 games in Rochester’s run to the semifinals.

Eddie Lewis (Wash High)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 803 yards, 13 TDs

Washington had an up-and-down 2022 campaign but always has a strong running game. Lewis was their leading rusher and split carries with a number of other players. However, almost all of those who he shared the backfield with are gone. Davoun Fuse graduated, Zach Welsh transferred to Canon-Mac, and Logan Carlisle transferred to McGuffey. That leaves Lewis as the only one of Washington’s top four rushers to return. After averaging nearly 8 yards per carry last year, an increased workload puts him in store for a massive year.

Quinton Martin (Belle Vernon)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1274 yards, 30 TDs

The Penn State-commit was Belle Vernon’s leading rusher, receiver, and scorer last season. He is a dynamic play-maker all over the field who led the Leopards to their first State Title in school history. Back for his senior year with most of his supporting cast, Martin and Belle Vernon are the favorites to repeat as WPIAL Champions. Martin will split the workload in the Leopards backfield with fellow senior Jake Gedekoh after both players averaged over 8 yards per carry last season.

Matt Sieg (Fort Cherry)

Highlights: Hudl
2022 Stats: 1982 yards, 32 TDs

Matt Sieg might be the most exciting player in the WPIAL with the ball in his hands. Last year he became the first freshman to pass and rush for 1000 yards in the same regular season. He put up more yards rushing (nearly 2000) than passing (over 1200), but is a dynamic threat on every play. Sieg averaged an astounding 10.8 yards per carry and broke school records in both the 100m and 200m. Considering he will touch the ball on every play, he has to be considered a contender for both the WPIAL rushing and passing titles.

Others to Watch

Donald & Da’Ron Barksdale (Steel Valley) – The Barksdale brothers will take over the Ironmen backfield this season. Steel Valley has traditionally been a run-heavy team and their quarterbacks have generally accumulated more rushing yards than passing yards. With both dynamic talents in the backfield, chances are one of them will be carrying the ball on most plays, but they will also be sharing the load in the running game. They will rack up a ton of yards collectively, but as individuals may not reach the heights of some others on the list who are the primary backs in their respective offenses.

Anthony Boyd (McKeesport) – McKeesport’s triple-option offense is a running back’s dream. The Tigers always put up monster numbers on the ground. After graduating four of their top five rushers from last year, junior Anthony Boyd (the younger brother of Bobbie Boyd) figures to step in as the lead back. He averaged nearly 9 yards per carry last year and has the breakaway speed to be a threat to score any time he touches the ball.

Eric Doerue (South Park) – The Eagles returned to the playoffs last year mostly thanks to the legs of Doerue. He ran for 1378 yards and 18 TDs. Doerue was the feature back in South Park’s offense, getting five times as many carries as the second-leading rusher. Doerue is a volume machine as he also had more carries than South Park had passing attempts between all of their quarterbacks.

Amir Key (Penn Hills) – Even though Penn Hills has a Pitt-commit at quarterback in Julian Dugger, they will still have a balanced offensive attack with Key running the ball. He got 150 carries last season and came just shy of 1000 yards. Key was also the most reliable receiver for Dugger, meaning that the Indians know that getting the ball in his hands is a key to offensive success.

Jake Layhue (California) – Layhue threatened the 1000/1000 club last year, throwing for over 1200 yards but coming up just short of 1000 on the rushing side. California is traditionally a run-heavy team but with a dual-threat talent like Layhue in the backfield it makes sense that they have opened up the offense. Given that Layhue will touch the ball on every play and averaged over 8 yards per carry when he ran it himself last year, he is a player to watch.

Elijah Palmer-McCane (Ellwood City) – Ellwood City won just two games last year, but they were incredibly meaningful victories. The Wolverines ended an overall losing streak and conference losing streak that dated back to 2018. One of the keys to getting back in the win column was Palmer-McCane who ran for over 1100 yards and 12 TDs as a sophomore.

Ethan Pillar (Pine-Richland) – Pillar is one of the only returning starters for Pine-Richland’s defending state champions. After running for over 1000 yards en route to the state title, Pillar should see his role increase this year.

Braylon Thomas (Union) – Thomas was the key to Union’s run to their first WPIAL title since 1959. The dual-threat quarterback made several game-winning plays with his legs during the Scotties playoff run. In total, he put up nearly 1500 yards on the ground and scored 20 TDs. With Thomas (and most of Union’s other players) returning this season, their offense could take the next step.

Evan Wright (Mars) – While Mars started to move away from their traditional run-heavy approach last year with the hiring of Eric Kasperowicz, they did not entirely forget about the run. Evan Wright led the Planets with 1333 yards and 17 TDs. While the Mars passing game should open up more this year, that will also create space for Wright to operate on the ground. After averaging 8.5 yards per carry last year he could run for even more this season.


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