After Friday night we will be a full third of the way into the 2017 WPIAL regular season. Last week saw a handful of late-game scores secure victories. In the 6A Game of the Week, Central Catholic and North Allegheny slogged through a 7-7 battle before a late Troy Fisher touchdown gave the Vikings their 24th straight win over WPIAL competition. After a winless 2016, Hampton followed up their victory over Chartiers Valley by beating Baldwin by a point to get the Talbots off to a 2-0 start. Fox Chapel scored a touchdown with 43 seconds left and booted an extra point to upset Woodland Hills 22-21. Aliquippa continued their 2017 Revenge tour by throttling Beaver 30-10. In a big Interstate Conference showdown, South Park edged Mt. Pleasant 14-9, giving the Eagles an inside track towards the conference title. Some of the biggest surprises of the night came from the 1A Classification where Union pounded Northgate 33-0, Shenango beat Sto-Rox 31-3, and West Greene beat Mapletown 42-12.
The game of the night, however, was between Highlands and New Castle. Highlands held a 26-14 halftime lead but the Red Hurricanes stormed back to take a 27-26 lead at the end of the third. Marcus Hooker scored his 4th rushing touchdown to put New Castle up by 8. Not to be out-done, Highlands QB Seth Cohen threw his 5th touchdown pass of the night with 4 and a half minutes left. The Rams converted the 2-point try to tie the game. No one scored the rest of the way, which set up a crazy finish in overtime. The teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime and New Castle scored first in the second OT. After Cohen’s school-record 7th touchdown pass of the night in the second overtime, Highlands opted to go for 2 and the win. The Rams weren’t able to convert and New Castle held on for the 48-47 victory in double overtime.
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.
The fine folks at the MSA Sports Network broadcast most WPIAL football games over the internet, here is their list of the games they will be broadcasting tonight.
This week’s WMBS Game of the Week is Laurel Highlands vs Trinity. You can tune in online here with a pregame show starting at 6:30 and the WPIAL Scoreboard Show following the game at 10pm.
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
Penn Hills (1-0, 3-0) at Pine-Richland (1-0, 3-0)
The two best offensive teams in 6A square off in an early-season showdown. Pine-Richland has the highest-scoring offense in 6A, averaging over 45 points per game. The Rams are led by the WPIAL’s leading passer in Notre Dame commit Phil Jurkovec. Jurkovec has thrown for 957 yards and 9 TDs and is the Rams leading rusher with 185 yards and 5 scores. Ray Falcone (379 yards, 6 TDs) and Jason DeFrancisis (277 yards, 1 TD) have been his top targets. Penn Hills has averaged 37 points per game and might be the only team in 6A that can keep up with Pine-Richland offensively. Indians QB Hollis Mathis has thrown for 654 yards and 7 TDs this season. Dante Cephas (272 yards, 7 TDs) and Daequan Hardy (200 yards, 1 TD) have been his top targets on the outside. Running backs Jaquay Sears (204 yards, 4 TDs) and Tank Smith (166 yards, 3 TDs) have split the workload in the backfield.
— Penn Hills Football (@phqbclub) September 15, 2017
Honorable Mentions: Norwin at Bethel Park
5A Game of the Week
Penn-Trafford (2-0, 3-0) at Woodland Hills (1-1, 1-2)
Penn-Trafford is off to a 3-0 start and have only allowed 7 points all season. The Indians are one of the top contenders in the Big East Conference while Woodland Hills is fighting at the middle of the pack in the Allegheny Nine Conference. That said, Woodland Hills is a tougher opponent than any they have faced so far. The Warriors are led by dual-threat QB Cam Laffoon who has thrown for 382 yardsa nd 3 TDs and rushed for 183 yards. Leading rusher John Gay has run for 217 yards and 4 TDs. Dimitri George has been the primary receiving target and has 131 yards and 1 TD. Woodland Hills is coming off a surprising defeat by Fox Chapel who scored a game-tying touchdown with under a minute to play and converted the extra point to give the Foxes the victory. Woodland Hills has relied primarily on their running game this season. Jayquan Smith and Rodney Dennard have been the primary ball-carriers. QB Daniel Jones’ favorite target has been Naszhir Taylor, who is averaging over 20 yards per catch.
Honorable Mentions: Armstrong at Gateway, North Hills at Fox Chapel
4A Game of the Week
Mars (1-1, 2-1) at Montour (2-0, 2-0)
In my Northwest Nine season preview I identified Montour as a team that a lot of experts were sleeping on. The Spartans backed up my prediction by taking it to New Castle in Week 1 then pounding Indiana in Week 2. The Spartans have been able to lean on their running game as Brayden Jones has racked up 265 yards and 4 TDs. Dual-threat QB Kavon Morman has thrown for 259 yards and 4 TDs and rushed for 128 yards and 2 scores. His primary receivers have been Jaxon Schrenker and Branden Lipford, who are averaging over 17 yards per reception and have each scored once. Mars reached the playoffs last year and already has a loss to South Fayette on their slate. The Fighting Planets typical ground-and-pound approach has held true once again. Garrett Reinke has rushed for 237 yards and 3 TDs while Chuck Green has run for 199 yards. QB Tyler Kowalkowski has thrown for 226 yards and 1 TD. If Montour is able to make it past the Fighting Planets, they will be the primary challenger to South Fayette in the conference which could set up a Week 9 showdown for the conference title.
Honorable Mentions: Thomas Jefferson at Greensburg Salem, Ringgold at Belle Vernon
3A Game of the Week
Beaver (0-1, 2-1) at Quaker Valley (0-0, 3-0)
Beaver got off to a hot 2-0 start to the season but dropped a game to Aliquippa last week. The Bobcats are averaging 40 points per game and the Quakers are currently averaging over 50. The teams have 5 wins between them but none against conference opponents. Only 1 of those 5 wins (Quaker Valley’s defeat of McGuffey) is against a fellow 3A opponent. As we saw last season, life in the Beaver Valley Conference can be brutal. One loss is safe, but two losses can be season-ending. For Beaver, Brodie List and Harrison Pontoli have split time at quarterback. The Bobcats have leaned heavily on their rushing attack led by Te’Vonn Williams (241 yards, 4 TDs) and Amen Cottrill (125 yards, 2 TDs). Quaker Valley is a hot team right now but they have run up big wins over 2A opposition. This will be their first big test as 6 of their final 7 are against conference opponents. Quakers QB Ricky Guss has thrown for 499 yards and 8 TDs and run for 349 yards and 7 TDs. Leading receiver Isaiah McNair has 361 yards and 5 TDs while second-leading rusher JT Taylor has run for 215 yards and 2 scores. If Quaker Valley wants to avoid a repeat of last season when their 2-4 conference record kept them from the postseason, they need to get off to a fast start with a win against Beaver.
Honorable Mentions: Freeport at Aliquippa, Apollo-Ridge at Shady Side Academy, McGuffey at Mt Pleasant
2A Game of the Week
Burgettstown (1-0, 2-0) at Bentworth (2-0, 2-1)
Some of the best 2A teams this week are playing inter-classification games against teams that play in 3A. The best game between 2A squads is the matchup in the Century Conference between Burgettstown and Bentworth. Both teams are undefeated in conference play and the winner will slot themselves as the primary challenger to Washington for conference supremacy. Bentworth has featured a pass-heavy offense this year led by QB Shawn Dziak (551 yards, 6 TDs). Ben Peternel (313 yards, 6 TDs) and Bruce Hook (123 yards) have been the leading receivers for the Bearcats. In the backfield, Spencer Fereza (175 yards, 1 TD) has been the primary ball-carrier. Burgettstown has also leaned on their passing game this season with QB Ryan Louder leading the way. He threw 4 touchdown passes last week in their win over Bishop Canevin and scored on a kickoff return and punt return in the season opener against Frazier. His primary receiver has been Jarred John who has scored 3 offensive touchdowns and returned an interception for a score against Frazier.
Honorable Mentions: South Park at Washington, Valley at Steel Valley, Central Valley at CWNC
1A Game of the Week
Carmichaels (1-0, 1-1) at West Greene (2-0, 3-0)
On the SCB WPIAL Season Preview Podcast, I identified West Greene making the playoffs for the first time since 1993 as one of my “bold predictions” for the year. So far, the Pioneers have made me look good with their unbeaten start to the season. After averaging just 16 points per game last season, West Greene has put up 47 per game this year. Dual-threat QB Zachary Pettit has thrown for 199 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 412 yards and 8 scores. Pettit has split time under center with Gavin Scott (151 yards, 3 TDs). Second-leading rusher Benjamin Jackson has run for 383 yards and 6 TDs and leading receiver Nathan Brudnock has 281 yards and 4 TDs. Carmichaels is the defending Tri-County South Conference Champions. The Mighty Mikes beat Monessen in Week 1 then lost a non-conference game to OLSH last week. RB Nicholas Mundell has been the work horse, rushing for 244 yards and 1 TD. Second-leading rusher Brennen Pelzer has run for just 62 yards but has scored twice. Carmichaels’ rushing attack has been so strong they have barely needed to rely on QB Kevin Kelly to throw the ball. Kelly has just 5 completions for 46 yards and 1 TD this season.
Honorable Mentions: California at Imani Christian, Shenango at Northgate