The WPIAL football season is winding down. On Saturday, the Championship Games for Classes 6A, 4A, 3A, and 1A will take place at Heinz Field. Earlier this week I posted a full preview of those four games. On Friday night, the semifinals in Classes 5A and 2A will take place with their Championship Games being played next Saturday at Norwin Stadium. In 5A, three of the four semifinalists came from the Big East Conference while in 2A the four semifinalists all came from different conferences. Interestingly, only two semifinalists in each classification were conference champions.
All four of Friday night’s semifinal games will be broadcast online through the TribLive High School Sports Network. They will have BOTH radio broadcasts and video streams of the games.
What we have for you this weekend!
• Full production video streams of each 2A, 5A semifinal
• Saturday's #WPIAL football championships
• #PIAA and District 6 playoff and championship action
All at 𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐁𝐇𝐒𝐒𝐍.𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐁𝐋𝐈𝐕𝐄.𝐂𝐎𝐌‼️#TribHSSN pic.twitter.com/96h5m7l4cP
— TribLive HSSN (@TribLiveHSSN) November 13, 2019
As a reminder, if you’re going to be following along with the WPIAL action on Friday night, keep an eye on the #WPIAL hashtag on Twitter where people post score updates from games. I’ll also be posting score updates and commentary from my Twitter account @thesteelersnat.
Class 5A Semifinals
1. Penn-Trafford (11-1) vs 5. Peters Twp (11-1)
at West Mifflin
This is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal which was one of the best games of the 5A playoffs. The teams traded touchdowns through a blistering first quarter that ended tied at 21. The game was tied at 28 at halftime and again at 35 in the second half before Peters kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. Now, the two teams meet again in the same stadium where they played last year with a number of returning starters on both sides. Penn-Trafford is the highest-scoring team in 5A (38 points per game) with Peters Twp close behind (33 points per game). These are also the top two defensive squads in the classification with Peters allowing just 8 points per game and Penn-Trafford just 11 points per game. Penn-Trafford has cruised past Fox Chapel and Upper St Clair with big second-half performances while Peters avenged their only loss of the season by beating Moon last week. Peters Twp is making their fourth semifinal appearance ever and has never reached a WPIAL final. Penn-Trafford is making their fifth semifinal appearance in the last seven years and reached the title game twice in that span but has never won the Championship.
Penn-Trafford lost star RB/S Caleb Lisbon to an injury early in the season. In his absence, QB Gabe Dunlap has stepped up to throw for 1611 yards and 17 TDs and run for 1092 yards and 12 TDs. Dunlap ran for 176 yards and 2 TDs and threw for another in last week’s win over Upper St Clair. Ethan Carr has been the Warriors top playmaker with 644 receiving yards, 289 rushing yards and 20 TDs, including a kickoff return touchdown last week that started a 28-point second half run. Chase Vecchio (260 yards, 2 TDs) and Noah Allen (222 yards, 2 TDs) have also contributed at receiver. Peters Twp also has quality playmakers all over the field. Logan Pfeuffer has thrown for 2024 yards and 23 TDs. Ryan Magiske has led the rushing attack with 1225 yards and 17 TDs. Josh Casilli has been an all-around contributor with 852 receiving yards, 257 rushing yards, and 22 total TDs. Aidan McCall (330 yards, 6 TDs) has also been a contributor in the Indians’ aerial attack.
2. Gateway (10-2) vs 6. McKeesport (9-3)
at Greensburg Salem
This is the third playoff meeting between the Gators and Tigers in the last four years. In 2016 they faced off in an epic semifinal where McKeesport hit a hook-and-ladder Hail Mary to win 41-38. In 2017, Gateway got revenge with an interception in the final minute to secure a 28-21 semifinal victory en route to winning their first WPIAL title since 1986. Gateway dominated the first meeting this season, a 36-7 Week 9 victory. That was the last easy win for Gateway as they were challenged by Shaler in the first round and Bethel Park last week. McKeesport came back from 13 points down in the first round to top Baldwin who nearly won their first playoff game since 1991. Last week, the Tigers ran past defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Penn Hills, handing the Indians their first loss to a 5A team since moving down.
Gateway has the top junior in the state of Pennsylvania in RB/S Derrick Davis who has offers from every major D1 program east of the Mississippi, including Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State. On offense, Davis has run for 1385 yards and added a team-high 514 receiving yards and scored 28 times. The Gators also have a quality passing attack with the tandem of QB Bryson Venanzio (2241 yards, 24 TDs) and WR Tui Brown (454 yards, 7 TDs). McKeesport’s triple-option rushing attack has been led by QB Devari Robinson (1561 yards, 33 TDs). Last week, Robinson was unstoppable, running for 197 yards and 5 TDs to carry McKeesport past Penn Hills. Tyron Adams-Wagner (775 yards, 3 TDs), Vernon Andrews (420 yards, 4 TDs), and Asaad Robinson (225 yards, 5 TDs) have also been factors in the Tigers wishbone offense. Robinson has averaged just 5 pass attempts per game and thrown for 6 TDs, primarily to the talented Deamontae Diggs (240 yards, 6 TDs) who has attracted D1 attention.
Class 2A Semifinals
1. Washington (12-0) vs 5. Brentwood (10-2)
at Chartiers Valley
Washington was the most dominant team in 2A this season, winning all of their regular season games by at least 21 points. Their offense slowed a bit in the playoffs with a 21-7 win over Shady Side Academy then beat Freedom 28-0 last week, the only games all season they were held under 35 points. Washington won the 2017 WPIAL Championship, their seventh in school history. Meanwhile, Brentwood is making their first semifinals appearance since 2006. The Spartans have reached the WPIAL final twice in school history (1976 and 1985), losing both times. This game matches two of the top four defenses in 2A with Brentwood leading the pack allowing just 10 points per game and Washington not far behind at 11 points against per game. Both defenses pitched shutouts last week in the quarterfinals.
This game features a matchup of dual-threat quarterbacks. For Washington, that is Zack Swartz who has thrown for 1702 yards and 22 TDs and run for 985 yards and 24 TDs. In addition to Swartz, Zahmere Robinson has been the Prexies top playmaker with 728 rushing yards, 640 receiving yards and 18 total TDs. Tayshawn Levy (426 yards, 4 TDs) has also been a factor in the ground game and Caleb Jackson (520 yards, 7 TDs) is Wash High’s second-leading receiver. Brentwood’s offense has a similar distribution, led by dual-threat QB John Milcic (1603 passing yards, 15 TDs, 775 rushing yards, 8 TDs). Aden Wardzinski leads the Spartans in rushing (1012 yards), receiving (561 yards), and scoring (14 total TDs). Last week’s victory over Neshannock was a perfect example of this distribution as Wardzinski scored on the ground then Milcic threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Eddie Gomez (471 yards, 6 TDs) and Jayneil Latham (335 yards, 3 TDs) have also contributed to the receiving corps.
2. Avonworth (12-0) vs 14. Riverside (8-3)
at West Allegheny
Both of these teams have explosive offenses led by strong passing attacks and solid running games. Both offenses average around 36 points per game while Avonworth has the superior defense, allowing just 10 points per game. The Lopes completed a perfect regular season with one of the most difficult slates in the WPIAL – facing 6 playoff teams in 10 games. Even without star WR/CB Kyros Thorpe (who is ineligible to play in the playoffs because of the PIAA’s ridiculous rule), Avonworth has dominated in the playoffs with a 41-0 win over Southmoreland in the Scotties first playoff appearance since 1979. Last week they won a rematch with New Brighton to the tune of 38-13. Riverside has been the biggest surprise of the playoffs. The Panthers finished fourth in the Midwestern Conference but their offense has exploded in the playoffs to lead upsets over #3 seed Burgettstown (42-35) and #6 seed McGuffey (41-27). This is Avonworth’s fourth semifinal appearance in the last 12 years. Their 2013 loss in the Championship Game to Clairton was their first WPIAL final since 1959. This is Riverside’s third semifinal in four years but they have not been to the WPIAL Championship Game since losing three in a row from 1991-1993.
This game features two of the top passing attacks in 2A. Avonworth’s offense has not slowed down in Kyros Thorpe’s absence under the leadership of QB Park Penrod (1773 yards, 26 TDs). In the playoffs, Penrod has spread the ball around to Theo Newhouse (370 yards, 8 TDs), Trevor Faulkner (303 yards, 5 TDs), and Jordan Rapp (205 yards, 4 TDs). The Lopes have an impressive rushing attack with the top backs averaging over 8 yards per carry. Jax Miller (1683 yards, 21 TDs) leads the way with Ian Syam (591 yards, 2 TDs) playing a complementary role. Last week both Miller and Syam scored with Miller running for 231 yards and Syam adding 95 more. For Riverside, they have pulled two major upsets thanks to senior QB Ben Hughes who has thrown for 2050 yards and 29 TDs and run for 280 yards and 9 scores. In the first round against Burgettstown, Hughes threw for 243 yards and 3 TDs then last week against McGuffey he ran for 4 scores. Riverside boasts 2A’s leading receiver Nate Sciarro (1165 yards, 21 TDs) who also had a pick-six last week. Josh Bishop (767 yards, 6 TDs) also ranks in the top five in the classification in receiving yards. On the ground, Hunter Nulph has run for 1270 yards and 12 TDs, giving the Panthers a solid rushing attack to complement their aerial assault.