Two weeks into the WPIAL regular season, and certain teams have already begun to separate themselves from the respective packs. Last week was a week of blowouts and near comebacks. Brownsville, who snapped an 11-game losing streak in Week 0, held off a furious comeback from Beth-Center to break an 11-game conference losing streak. Last week was also notable for Knoch RB Matt Goodlin who broke the single-game school record for rushing yards and tied the touchdown record as he put up 298 yards and 5 TDs in the Knights win over Beaver. Laurel is the only remaining team to not allow a point this season. On the flip side, Quaker Valley and Steel Valley enter Week 3 having yet to score a point.
Once again, I’m happy to be doing a guest spot on the WMBS pregame show. They’ll be broadcasting the Uniontown-Burrell game tonight with bonus coverage of the Laurel Highlands-Belle Vernon game. I talked about these games and some other games to watch on my guest appearance on the WMBS Pregame Show, you can listen to the show, starting at 6pm on Friday night.
As a reminder, if you’re going to be following along with the WPIAL action tonight, 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. At the end of the night, I’ll be updating my WPIAL Standings Page with all of the results of tonight’s games.
6A Game of the Week
Seneca Valley (1-1, 1-2) at Mt. Lebanon (2-0, 2-1)
Both of these teams were knocked out of the playoffs by Pine-Richland last year. Mt. Lebanon reached their first semifinals since 2005 and Seneca Valley lost in the Championship Game. Both of these teams are in playoff position and this game will have implications on the order of finish at the end of the year. Despite a Week 0 loss to Gateway, Mt. Lebanon under new coach Bob Palko has the highest-scoring team in 6A, averaging 44 points per game. Seneca Valley has averaged just 16 per game but has been much better on the defensive side. Since losing to Erie McDowell in Week 0, Seneca Valley has given up just 10 points to Central Catholic and 7 to Canon-McMillan. Mt. Lebanon gave up 21 to Canon-Mac in a game the Blue Devils offense exploded for 49 points.
Under Bob Palko, Mt. Lebanon has become a run-first team with Drew Vaughn (184 yards, 4 TDs) leading the attack. Evan Jones has played all over the field for the Blue Devils, splitting time at quarterback (94 yards), rushing for 144 yards, adding 115 receiving yards and scoring 3 total TDs. Joey Daniels has been the primary quarterback (though he has attempted fewer than 7 passes per game) but has thrown for 396 yards and 6 TDs. Mason Ventrone has been an all-around threat with 117 receiving yards, 97 rushing yards, and 5 total TDs. In addition to Ventrone, Sam Lasota (208 yards, 3 TDs) has been the top target on the outside. On the other side, Seneca Valley has a balanced offensive attack, led by dual-threat QB Gabe Lawson (539 passing yards, 3 TDs, 58 rushing yards, 1 TD). Ethan West has been the Raiders most explosive player (122 rushing yards, 85 receiving yards). RB Matt Stanger led the team in rushing last year and has 84 rushing yards, 43 receiving yards, and 2 total TDs this season. Mekhi Gay is the Raiders leading receiver with 96 yards.
Honorable Mention: Central Catholic at Hempfield
5A Games of the Week
McKeesport (1-0, 2-1) at Penn-Trafford (2-0, 3-0)
Penn-Trafford already has a win over Gateway, and if the Warriors can top McKeesport only Franklin Regional would stand in their way for the conference crown. The Warriors have been led by the tandem of dual-threat QB Gabe Dunlap and RB Caleb Lisbon. Dunlap has thrown for 5 TDs and run for 4 more. Lisbon has been a big-play hitter, rushing for over 300 yards and 6 TDs. Both teams have crushed Connellsville, with Penn-Trafford winning 41-7 last week and McKeesport winning 52-0 in Week 1. McKeesport’s triple-option offense couldn’t keep up with Erie Cathedral Prep last week. QB Devari Robinson, RB Tyron Adams-Wagner and RB Vernon Andrews have led the way, all with over 200 yards on the season. Robinson has run for 8 TDs and thrown for 2 more, both to WR Deamonte Diggs who has a number of offers from MAC schools.
Mars (0-0, 2-1) at Penn Hills (1-0, 2-1)
Last season, this game decided the conference title. Both North Hills and Hampton are off to 2-0 starts in Northern Conference Play. Penn Hills lost their Week 0 game to Pine-Richland but were able to pull away from Latrobe and Fox Chapel each of the last two weeks. Both of Mars’ wins have come over 4A opponents (West Mifflin and Greensburg Salem) while their loss came against Moon. Nearly all of the starters from Penn Hills’ State Championship team graduated. Eddie McKissick has stepped in at QB and thrown for __ and 3 TDs and also added 2 TDs on the ground. Leading rusher Germar Howard has run for 115 yards and 1 TD. All-around threat Anthony Grimes has over 100 yards of total offense and 2 TDs. Dontae Pollard has emerged as the leading receiver with 114 yards and 1 TD. Mars has continued to run their traditional run-heavy offense with junior RB Teddy Ruffner (342 yards, 10 TDs). Sophomores Tim Humes and Quinn Fuller have split time at QB but have not had to throw very often.
Honorable Mentions: West Allegheny at Peters Twp, Woodland Hills at Upper St. Clair, Hampton at North Hills
4A Game of the Week
Beaver (0-2, 1-2) at New Castle (1-1, 2-1)
This week’s relatively weak slate of 4A games leaves us with a battle in the middle of the Northwest Eight Conference. Both teams have losses to South Fayette. Beaver’s lone win was a Week 0 victory over City League Brashear. New Castle edged Montour 28-21 in Week 1 for their lone conference win. Beaver is coming off a game where they allowed Knoch RB Matt Goodlin to set a school record in yards and tie the touchdown record. The Bobcats will need to turn things around quickly on the defensive end against a run-heavy New Castle team. The Red Hurricanes are led by RB Demetris McKnight (411 yards, 7 TDs). Dual-threat Q Michael Wells has thrown for 339 yards and 1 TD and run for just 76 yards but scored 4 TDs. Beaver has yet to find their stride offensively. QB Tyler Ziggas has thrown for just 143 yards and 2 TDs through 3 games. RB Jackson Thomas has been the primary back, but has averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Beaver has played from behind against Knoch and South Fayette, which forced them to throw the ball more often, though Ziggas and Marco Marmone combined are just 18 for 55 with 3 TDs and 3 INTs.
3A Game of the Week
Central Valley (2-0, 3-0) at North Catholic (2-0, 2-0)
This is a non-conference game between two contenders for conference titles. North Catholic topped Central Valley by just a point last year. This season, Central Valley has looked the part of the team that upset Aliquippa last year and is a serious contender for the Tri-County West title. North Catholic has a dominant win over Burrell and an 8-point win over a solid Freeport team. Central Valley has the best defense in 3A (7 points against per game) while North Catholic has the classification’s second-best offense (41 points per game). The Warriors are led by dual-threat QB Ameer Dudley (387 passing yards, 4 TDs, 104 rushing yards). Jaylen Guy leads the team in rushing with 323 yards and 3 TDs while Jawon Hall has been the top receiver with 123 yards and 3 TDs. North Catholic has a 3-year starter at QB in Zack Rocco (399 yards, 4 TDs) who has also run for 2 scores, including last week’s game-winner over Freeport. Eamon Straub leads the Trojans in rushing (204 yards, 2 TDs). On the outside, Nick Maher (192 yards, 1 TD) and Anthony Serventi (113 yards, 2 TDs) have been North’s top receivers.
Honorable Mentions: Freeport at Elizabeth Forward
2A Game of the Week
Avonworth (2-0, 3-0) at New Brighton (2-0, 3-0)
This is another non-conference game between two teams that have been dominant in the early season. Avonworth beat a solid Neshannock team in Week 0 then cruised past conference opponents Valley and Steel Valley. The later was a 38-0 drubbing of the defending WPIAL champions that arguably makes Avonworth the team to beat in the Allegheny Conference. New Brighton has two shutout wins on their resume, in Week 0 over Rochester and last week over Ellwood City. The Lions also soundly defeated Mohawk to put themselves at the top of the Midwestern Conference with Freedom and Neshannock. This game is a matchup of two of the top quarterbacks in 2A. New Brighton’s Jackson Hall has thrown for 533 yards and 6 TDs while Avonworth’s Park Penrod has 512 yards and 9 TDs. Jacob Francona of New Brighton is second in 2A with 356 receiving yards (and has scored 6 total TDs) while Avonworth’s Kyros Thorpe (who transferred from Central Catholic) is fourth with 250 yards and 4 TDs. Avonworth has the better ground game as Jax Miller has run for 348 yards and 5 TDs. On the other side, Nyasanu Greene has run for 130 yards and 2 TDs for the Lions.
Honorable Mentions: Washington at Brownsville, Apollo-Ridge at East Allegheny,
1A Game of the Week
California (2-0, 3-0) at Laurel (2-0, 3-0)
Like the 3A and 2A Games of the Week, this is another non-conference game between unbeaten opponents. Laurel is the only team in the WPIAL that has not allowed a point this season. The Spartans have shut out 2A Mohawk along with conference foes Rochester and Bishop Canevin. California also beat a 2A school in Week 0 with a last-minute touchdown to top Beth-Center. The Trojans have rolled past Monessen and Avella in conference play. Both teams feature dominant rushing attacks and strong line play in the trenches. For Laurel, the workload has been shared between Daniel Blank (216 yards, 3 TDs), Dom Wade (204 yards, 2 TDs) who has also split time at QB, Cameron Smith (147 yards, 1 TD), and Luke McCoy (147 yards, 3 TDs). Will Shaffer has split time at QB with Wade and also played receiver. California has ridden the dynamic play of Cochise Ryan to an unbeaten start. Ryan has emerged as a dual-threat QB and thrown for 414 yards and 5 TDs and run for 232 yards and 4 TDs. RB Lucas Qualk has formed a quality tandem with Ryan, rushing for 197 yards and leading the team with 133 receiving yards and scoring twice. Malik Ramsey is the top target on the outside with 105 yards and 3 TDs.
Honorable Mentions: Sto-Rox at Cornell