We have come to the final third of the WPIAL season. Last week, 14 teams clinched playoff spots to bring the season total to 15 of the 64 spots secured. The highlight of Week 6 was the West Allegheny-Upper St Clair showdown for first place in the 5A Allegheny Nine Conference. West Allegheny held a 14-7 lead late in the game. Upper St Clair drove into West A territory but turned it over on downs on the edge of the red zone. With only a minute and a half left, all West A had to do was run a few times and the game would be over. West Allegheny is a shotgun-only team, and on the first snap, the center snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head and Upper St Clair was able to recover. Three plays layer, USC QB Jack Hansberry snuck in for the game-tying score to send the game to overtime. In the extra frame, West Allegheny’s defense held on third down but Upper St Clair coach Jim Render opted to go for it on fourth down rather than kick a 20-yard field goal. Render’s gamble paid off and RB Colin McLinden scored to put the Panthers in front. West Allegheny scored a touchdown to tie on their turn, but coach Bob Palko opted to go for 2 (just as he did to win the WPIAL Championship last year and to defeat North Hills this year). On a run-pass option play, West A QB Mateo Vandamia tried a shovel pass that was intercepted by Upper St Clair’s Tom Kyle to give the Panthers the victory.
This week, there are 27 more teams with an opportunity to secure their spots in the postseason. The most impacful games this week are Penn-Trafford vs Armstrong in 5A and Neshannock vs South Side Beaver in 2A. A Penn-Trafford victory would essentially solidify all four playoff spots in the Big East Conference. In 2A, a South Side Beaver loss would lock up the three remaining spots in the Midwestern Conference. Fully detailed scenarios on how all 27 teams can lock up their spots are included below.
Thanks to our sponsors TicketRoar, an online ticketing company that provides services for high schools so you can preorder your tickets and have them on your phone when you get to the gate. A few local schools are already on board and have seen a much more efficient process of getting fans through the gate and into the game. This week you can find tickets for the Mars-Ambridge and Hampton-West Allegheny games. You can find them on Twitter @TicketRoar and on Facebook.
The new partnership between Trib Total Media and the MSA Sports Network debuted last week with the new website tribhssn.triblive.com. We are very happy for all of our friends at the (former) MSA Sports Network and are thrilled that high school sports will continue to be broadcast over the internet airwaves for years to come. Here is their list of the games they will be broadcasting tonight.
This week’s WMBS Game of the Week is Laurel Highlands vs Uniontown. You can tune in online here with a pregame show starting at 6:30 and the WPIAL Scoreboard Show following the game at 10pm.
As a reminder, if you’re going to be following along with the WPIAL action tonight, keep an eye on the #WPIAL hashtags on Twitter where people post score updates from games. I”ll also be posting score updates and commentary from my Twitter account @thesteelersnat.
At the end of the night, I’ll be updating my WPIAL Standings Page with all of the results and tiebreakers.
Game of the Week
Mt. Lebanon (4-0, 5-2) at Peters Twp (3-1, 5-2)
Mt Lebanon is looking to defend their Southeastern Conference title and a win here would put them on a collision course with Bethel Park for the crown. The Blue Devils only two losses this year have come against Pine-Richland and North Allegheny and they have the best offense in the conference at 34 points per game. By contrast, Peters Twp has the second-lowest scoring offense in the conference at just 20 points per game, but has the second-best defense, holding opponents to 19 points per game. Mt Lebanon features the WPIAL’s leading receiver in Aidan Cain, who will look to continue his assault on the WPIAL receiving record as he enters the game with 66 receptions for 1195 yards and 12 TDs. The WPIAL single-season record is held by South Fayette’s Justin Watson who had 1,568 yards in 2013. James Stocker (1003 yards, 8 TDs) and Seth Morgan (971 yards, 10 TDs) have split time at quarterback this season. In addition to Cain, Lucas DeCaro has added 315 receiving yards and 2 TDs. In the backfield, Antonio LaSota (461 yards, 5 TDs) and John Naylor (344 yards, 7 TDs) have split the workload. Peters Township will have their work cut out for them defensively to contain the variety of weapons the Blue Devils have on offense. The Indians have also relied on their passing game as QB Jake Cortes has thrown for 996 yards and 9 TDs this season. His primary targets have been Josh Casilli (269 yards, 5 TDs) and Luke Mary (183 yards, 1 TD) while Angelo Quarture has been a big-playmaker with 2 TDs on just 3 receptions. In the backfield, the work has been split between Ryan Magiske (454 yards, 6 TDs) and Adrian Williams (254 yards, 2 TDs). With three conference wins already, Peters Twp is on the verge of their first playoff appearance since 2013 and can lock up a spot with a win. Peters still has an outside shot at the Conference title, but would need a win then for Mt Lebanon to beat Bethel Park to result in a 3-way tie.
Honorable Mentions: North Allegheny at Seneca Valley, Canon-McMillan at Bethel Park
Two of the playoff spots in the Northern Seven Conference have been secured by Pine-Richland and Central Catholic. A North Allegheny win over Seneca Valley would eliminate the Warriors and send NA and Penn Hills to the postseason. Canon-McMillan is still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Southeastern Conference while Bethel Park is looking to stay on track for a showdown with Mt Lebanon for the conference title in Week 9.
Northern Seven Conference
– Pine-Richland and Central Catholic have clinched a playoff spots
– North Allegheny clinches a playoff spot with a win over Seneca Valley
– Penn Hills plays a non-conference game, but can clinch a playoff spot with a Seneca Valley loss
– Mt Lebanon has clinched a playoff spot
– Bethel Park clinches a playoff spot with a win over Canon-McMillan
– Peters Twp clinches a playoff spot with a win over Mt Lebanon
Game of the Week
Upper St Clair (6-0, 6-1) at McKeesport (5-1, 5-1)
Upper St Clair is coming off of a massive overtime victory over West Allegheny that put the Panthers in control of the Allegheny Nine Conference. There is no rest is the WPIAL schedule as they now have to travel to McKeesport to take on one of the favorites in the Big East Conference. This game does not have playoff implications (other than potential seedings) but it could wind up being a matchup between the two 5A conference champions. Upper St Clair has relied on a balanced offensive attack with dual-threat quarterback Jack Hansberry leading the way. Hansberry has thrown for 981 yards and 6 TDs and rushed for 265 yards and 8 scores. Leading rusher Colin McLinden has run for 559 yards and 9 TDs. On the outside, Dom Cepullio (359 yards, 2 TDs), Tom Kyle (287 yards, 1 TD), and Chris Pantellis (182 yards, 3 TDs) have been the top receivers for the Panthers. Upper St Clair has the stingiest defense in the Allegheny Nine Conference, but will have their work cut out for them against the highest scoring team in 5A. McKeesport’s triple option attack has put up video game numbers this season and has averaged 39 points per game. Layton Jordan leads the Tigers three-headed rushing attack with 735 yards and 10 TDs, followed by John Harper (545 yards, 11 TDs) and Carlinos Acie (533 yards, 7 TDs). All three are averaging over 10 yards per carry. McKeesport’s rushing attack has been so dominant they have attempted fewer than 3 passes per game.
Honorable Mentions: Moon at Woodland Hills, West Allegheny at Hampton, Armstrong at Penn-Trafford
Eight of the nine teams in the Allegheny Nine Conference are still in contention for the playoffs after Chartiers Valley upset Moon last week. Besides Upper St Clair, West Allegheny and Woodland Hills have the inside track at 4-1 while Fox Chapel (3-3), Moon (2-3), Hampton (2-3), and North Hills (2-4) are fighting in the middle of the pack. Chartiers Valley is 1-4 and still mathematically alive after beating Moon but have a long way to go. The Big East Conference playoff race is nearly settled as Penn-Trafford, McKeesport, Gateway, and Franklin Regional have the inside track. The only remaining team that can throw a wrench in the mix is Armstrong, but the Riverhawks need to beat the undefeated conference leaders Penn-Trafford to stave off elimination.
Allegheny Nine Conference
– Upper St Clair has clinched a playoff spot
– West Allegheny clinches a playoff spot with a win over Hampton AND a Moon loss
– Woodland Hills clinches a playoff spot with a win over Moon
Big East Conference
– Penn-Trafforc clinches a playoff spot with a win over Armstrong
– McKeesport plays a non-conference game but clinches a playoff spot with an Armstrong loss
– Gateway clinches a playoff spot with a win over Kiski AND an Armstrong loss
– Franklin Regional clinches a playoff spot with a win over Latrobe AND an Armstrong loss
Game of the Week
Thomas Jefferson (5-0, 6-0) at Belle Vernon (6-0, 6-0)
Thomas Jefferson has the longest active winning streak against WPIAL opponents at 27 games. Their last loss came on their last visit to the gold turf of Belle Vernon in Week 2 of 2015. This game will essentially decide the Big Nine Conference title as Belle Vernon and Thomas Jefferson have a two-game lead over the rest of the league. Thomas Jefferson has boasted the best offense (50 points per game) and stingiest defense in 5A (3 points against per game). The Jaguars have pitched 3 shutouts and no one has scored more than once against them. The Jaguars have featured a balanced offensive attack with Justin Vigna rushing for 917 yards and 13 TDs to pace the ground game. Sean Bell has added 214 yards and 5 TDs. Sophomore Shane Stump has stepped in under center this season and thrown for 773 yards and 13 TDs, primarily to Garrett Fairman (438 yards, 8 TDs). Belle Vernon relies heavily on their running game, but has spread the ball around between 4 primary backs. Mason Pacone (316 yards, 2 TDs) leads the way with Derrick Cesovski (274 yards, 2 TDs) and Larry Callaway (146 yards, 2 TDs) also contributing. QB Jared Hartman has thrown for 530 yards and 10 TDs and has also run for 114 yards and 7 scores. Hartman’s favorite targets have been Logan Pfrogner (223 yards, 4 TDs) and Derek Thomas (190 yards, 5 TDs).
Honorable Mentions: West Mifflin at Ringgold, Knoch at New Castle
After Thomas Jefferson and Belle Vernon, there are four teams fighting over the last two playoff spots in the Big Nine Conference. West Mifflin and Ringgold are two of them and square off in a game laden with playoff implications. South Fayette, Montour, New Castle, and Mars have the inside track to the four playoff spots in the Northwest Nine Conference. Knoch and Blackhawk are the only two teams that could throw a wrench into things over the last third of the season, but would need some help to get in.
Big Nine Conference
– Belle Vernon and Thomas Jefferson have clinched a playoff spots
Northwest Nine Conference
– South Fayette clinches a playoff spot with a win over Indiana
– Montour plays a non-conference game but can clinch a playoff spot with losses by Knoch and Blackhawk
– New Castle clinches a playoff spot with a win over Knoch AND a Blackhawk loss
Games of the Week
Aliquippa (3-0, 7-0) at Quaker Valley (4-0, 7-0)
Two teams on somewhat historic runs will clash in a game that will determine the Beaver Valley Conference title and likely the top seed in the 3A playoffs. Quaker Valley is having their best season in school history and is off to an impressive 7-0 start thanks to the highest-scoring offense in 3A at over 45 points per game. On the other side, Aliquippa’s defense has not allowed a touchdown all season. Beaver’s 10 points (a pick-6 and a late field goal) in Week 2 have been the only points scored against Aliquippa all season. This clash between Quaker Valley’s offense and Aliquippa’s defense will be one for the ages and could be a preview of the 3A Championship Game. The Quips defense, led by Kwantel Raines one of the top safeties in the nation, will be tasked with slowing down Quaker Valley QB Ricky Guss, who has been one of the top players in the WPIAL this year. Guss has thrown for 1098 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for 604 yards and 18 scores. Guss’ favorite target has been Isaiah McNair who has accounted for 444 yards and 9 TDs. JT Taylor has been an all-around star for the Quakers with 433 rushing yards and 3 TDs, 233 receiving yards and 2 TDs, and 2 pick-sixes on defense. The Quips once again feature their typical ground-and-pound run-heavy offense. Avante McKenzie is a violent runner who is not afraid of contact and has led the way with 897 yards and 8 TDs. Tariq Jones (349 yards, 6 TDs) and Xavier Harvey (293 yards, 2 TDs) both average over 6 yards per carry. The Quips have been so good on the ground they have averaged fewer than 8 pass attempts per game, but QB Eli Kosanovich has been efficient, throwing for 568 yards and 9 TDs. His favorite targets have been Will Gipson (191 yards, 3 TDs) and Deoveon Crute (142 yards, 3 TDs). MJ Devonshire has been a key red zone target and has just 5 catches but has found the end zone 4 times. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, this will be the AT&T Sports Net (formerly ROOT Sports) featured Game of the Week and will be broadcast live on Friday night.
— AT&T SportsNet™ PIT (@ATTSportsNetPIT) October 10, 2017
Freeport (4-0, 5-1) at Seton La Salle (5-0, 6-0)
at Thomas Jefferson High School Stadium
The Aliquippa-Quaker Valley game is obviously the headliner in 3A, but it is not the only big 3A game this week. The top two teams in the Allegheny Conference are also facing off in a game that could decide that conference title. Freeport’s only loss this season came in a non-conference game against Aliquippa while Seton La Salle is one of three remaining unbeaten teams in 3A. Both teams have average over 30 points per game and defenses holding opponents to around 14 per game. Freeport is led by dual-threat QB Austin Romanchak who has thrown for 380 yards and 4 TDs and run for 512 yards and 11 TDs. Romanchak also has two pick-sixes on defense, where Freeport has 6 as a team. Conor Selinger (441 yards, 6 TDs) has complemented Romanchak in the backfield and both average over 6 yards per carry. The Yellow Jackets have been so strong on the ground that Romanchak averages fewer than 8 pass attempts per game and leading receiver Jake Sarver has only 122 yards and 1 TD. Seton La Salle also boasts a dual-threat QB in Matt Banbury who has thrown a lot more than his counterpart in Freeport. Banbury has thrown for 927 yards and 9 TDs and rushed for 311 yards and 6 scores. The Rebels offense runs through the WPIAL’s second-leading rusher Lionel Deanes who has accounted for 1277 yards and 14 TDs and added 221 receiving yards and 3 more scores. Nick Vari (222 yards, 3 TDs) is the team’s leading receiver, but Banbury has spread the ball around to Jamar Shegog (187 yards, 1 TD) and Max Schipani (133 yards, 2 TDs).
Honorable Mentions: Hopewell at Beaver, McGuffey at South Park, Apollo-Ridge at Keystone Oaks
With Aliquippa and Quaker Valley at the top, the 3 Beaver Valley Conference teams with two losses are all battling to stay in wild card contention. A third loss would probably be a season-ender, and Beaver and Hopewell both already have two losses. In the Interstate Conference, Derry, McGuffey, and South Park all have 1 conference loss and are battling for a playoff spot behind conference leader Elizabeth Forward.
Beaver Valley Conference
– Quaker Valley has clinched a playoff spot
– Aliquippa clinches a playoff spot with a win over Quaker Valley AND losses by Hopewell and Central Valley
– Seton La Salle clinches a playoff spot with a win over Freeport AND a Keystone Oaks loss
– No clinching scenarios
Games of the Week
East Allegheny (4-0, 5-1) at Steel Valley (3-0, 5-0)
Steel Valley carries the WPIAL’s longest active winning streak at 20 games into a showdown with East Allegheny. These were the top two teams in the Three Rivers Conference last year and are the only remaining unbeatens there this year as well. While the winner will not clinch the conference title, this game will essentially decide who finishes on top. Both teams have had to survive challenges this season with Steel Valley needing a 4th quarter comeback to defeat South Allegheny and East Allegheny edging Avonworth by just a point last week. Steel Valley has been dominant on offense, averaging 41 points a game and allowing just 15 per game defensively. East Allegheny has a better statistical defense at 13 points per game, but averages 14 fewer points per game than the Ironmen. East Allegheny is a pass-heavy offense, led by QB Tamaine Underwood who has thrown for 1385 yards and 15 TDs. The Wildcats have 4 receivers with over 200 yards, led by TJ Banks (332 yards, 5 TDs). Underwood has spread the ball around to Tyler Padezan (275 yards, 2 TDs), Dan Kasmier (240 yards, 2 TDs), and Ronnie McGill (208 yards, 1 TD). In the backfield, Tyvon Wright (163 yards, 5 TDs) and Khyree Marshall (148 yards, 2 TDs) have split carries but average only about 10 carries per game as a tandem. While they have not been as dominant as the team that steamrolled through 2A last year, Steel Valley is still immensely talented. The Ironmen can score from anywhere on the field and in any situation and have 2 defensive touchdowns and 3 special teams touchdowns this season. Trevon Adams has been an all-around star for Steel Valley, boasting 223 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 240 receiving yards and 5 TDs, and a punt return for a score. The other work in the backfield has been split between Kameron Williams (381 yards, 5 TDs) and Todd Hill (4 TDs). Amonte Strothers has been a shut down corner defensively with a pick-six, has 218 receiving yards and 5 TDs and also has returned a punt for a TD. East Allegheny has the athletes to give Steel Valley a run for their money, but they will have to keep the Ironmen from racking up big plays defensively and on special teams if they want to spring the upset.
Riverside (5-0, 5-1) at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (4-0, 5-2)
Like in 3A, there are two Games of the Week in 2A, because both are essentially for conference titles. Riverside and CWNC sit atop the Midwestern Conference. Riverside’s only loss came in Week 1 to Steel Valley while CWNC has yet to lose to a 2A opponent this season (both of their losses were to 3A schools). Riverside can clinch their first conference title since 1993 with a win. Since giving up 48 points to Steel Valley, the Panthers have held their conference opponents to just 33 points over 5 games. Riverside averages 35 points per game offensively, the highest mark in the conference. The Panthers have a balanced offense, led by sophomore QB Ben Hughes who has thrown for 781 yards and 11 TDs, primarily to Lehigh-commit Austin Dambach (385 yards, 9 TDs). Dambach is a two-way player who is also a shutdown corner defensively. In the backfield, LeMarcus Cleckley (551 yards, 5 TDs) and Noah Harris (519 yards, 7 TDs) have split the workload. Riverside’s defense will be challenged by North Catholic’s offense, who feature a dual-threat sophomore QB of their own. Zack Rocco has accounted for 1377 passing yards and 21 TDs while adding 235 rushing yards and 3 more scores. Senior RB Joe Meinert has been effective all over the field, leading the team in both rushing (537 yards) and receiving (284 yards) and scoring 6 times. Rocco has spread the ball around to Cameron Branch (259 yards, 3 TDs), Tyree Brown (242 yards, 2 RDs), Ryan Maziarz (224 yards, 7 TDs), and Nikhai Hill-Green (143 yards, 4 TDs). With both schools boasting sophomore quarterbacks. this could be the first of many battles between Hughes and Rocco for supremacy in the Midwestern Conference.
Honorable Mentions: Burgettstown at Charleroi
Burgettstown scored a big victory over Beth-Center last week to put themselves in position to challenge Washington for the conference title. Charleroi is on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
– Burgettstown and Washington have clinched playoff spots
– Beth-Center clinches a playoff spot with a win over Brownsville
– Charleroi clinches a playoff spot with a win over Burgettstown OR a Brownsville loss
– Riverside and CWNC have clinched playoff spots
– Riverside clinches the Conference Title with a win over CWNC
– Freedom clinches a playoff spot with a win over Mohawk OR a South Side Beaver loss
– Mohawk clinches a playoff spot with a win over Freedom OR a South Side Beaver loss
– Neshannock clinches a playoff spot with a win over South Side Beaver
Three Rivers Conference
– East Allegheny and Steel Valley have clinched playoff spots
– Serra Catholic clinches a playoff spot with a win over Carlynton
Game of the Week
Rochester (5-1, 5-1) at California (5-0, 7-0)
Rochester’s 13-game conference winning streak was snapped last week when OLSH scored a touchdown in the closing minutes to upset the Big 7 Conference-leading Rams. If Rochester had won, this game would have been between unbeaten conference leaders. As it stands, the Rams and Trojans are still leading their respective 1A conferences. This game will have an impact on playoff seeding and will determine the best team in 1A outside the loaded Eastern Conference. Both teams have featured run-heavy offenses and this figures to be a battle of attrition in the trenches. Rochester has the fourth-best offense in 1A, averaging 36 points per game and one of the top defenses, holding opponents to just 12 points per game. California has the highest-scoring offense in the entire WPIAL, averaging over 57 points per game. The Trojans defense has been stifling, holding opposing offenses to just 9 points per game. Some may say California’s high-scoring offense is a fluke by playing in the defensively soft Tri-County South, but they put up 41 against a good Imani Christian team and have a chance to make a statement against Rochester. California relies heavily on 6’1″ 260-pound RB Jelani Stafford who has run for 1055 yards and 18 TDs. Second-leading rusher Cochise Ryan (370 yards) is also the team’s leading receiver with 141 yards and has scored 10 total TDs. The Trojans have a stable of running backs that have been successful this year, including Jonathan Wood (318 yards, 6 TDs) and Zion Aldrich (312 yards, 8 TDs). QB Collin Phillips has rarely had to throw, and has 288 yards and 5 TDs through the air to add to his 222 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. Rochester also has a loaded backfield that will go toe-to-toe with California. The Rams are led by the backfield combination of QB Mahlik Strozier who has run for 763 yards and 10 TDs and Caleb Collins who has 631 yards and 12 TDs. Strozier has only averaged 3 pass attempts per game and has thrown for just 141 yards and 2 TDs. Darius Goosby has also contributed out of the Rams backfield with 300 yards and 3 TDs. With the variety of running backs for both teams, this will be an old school smash-mouth affair.
Honorable Mentions: OLSH at Union, GCC at Jeannette, Northgate at Western Beaver, Springdale at Bishop Canevin
Big 7 Conference
– Rochester plays a non-conference game but clinches a playoff spot if either Northgate or Shenango lose
– The winner of OLSH-Union clinches a playoff spot with a loss by either Northgate or Shenango
– Western Beaver clinches a playoff spot with a win over Northgate
– Jeannette has clinched a playoff spot
– Imani Christian plays a non-conference game but can clinch a playoff spot with a Bishop Canevin loss
– Clairton clinches a playoff spot with a win over Leechburg
Tri-County South Conference
– California has clinched a playoff spot
– Carmichaels clinches a playoff spot with a win over Jefferson-Morgan OR a Monessen loss
– Fort Cherry clinches a playoff spot with a win over Mapletown AND a Monessen loss
– West Greene clinches a playoff spot with a win over Monessen