We have reached the halfway point in the 2019 WPIAL season. Of the 9 teams that entered the season with a winning streak from the end of last year, only 3 remain. Aliquippa’s win over rival Beaver Falls put the Quips win streak into double digits at 10 games. Behind them, Knoch (8 games) and Sto-Rox (6 games) have the longest active winning streaks. Beyond those top three, 12 teams are currently 5-0 and 2 more are 4-0. Two-time defending 6A WPIAL Champions Pine-Richland have a 7-game winning streak against WPIAL opponents. On the flip side, Uniontown lost to Freeport in a battle of winless teams last week to extend their losing streak to 27 games dating back to 2016. The Red Raiders next four games come against teams currently in playoff position which could extend their losing streak beyond 30 games. Uniontown would be the first team since Shaler between 2011 and 2015 to lose 30 consecutive games. Behind Uniontown, Northgate has a 19-game losing streak and Ringgold has an 18-game losing streak, though the Rams face Beaver (0-4, 1-4) in a 4A non-conference game this week. I highlighed at the longest current streaks and some other statistical leaders in my Mid-Season Review.
Once again, I’m happy to be doing a guest spot on the WMBS pregame show. They’ll be broadcasting the Uniontown-Beaver Falls game tonight which is a non-conference matchup in 3A. I talked about Uniontown’s losing streak in some historical context and some other storylines to watch this week 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
Pine-Richland (3-0, 5-0) vs Central Catholic (2-1, 4-1)
Pine-Richland is the two-time defending 6A Champions and riding a 7-game winning streak against WPIAL competition. The Rams have the best offense (42.4 points per game) and defense (6.0 points against per game) in 6A. On the other side, Central Catholic’s defense has also been stingy, allowing just 10.6 points per game. Central’s only loss this season was on a punt return touchdown in the closing minutes by North Allegheny that was followed by a 2-point conversion to give the Tigers an 11-10 victory.
Pine-Richland’s offense is led by junior QB Cole Spencer who is 6th in the WPIAL with 1105 yards and 14 TDs. The Rams RPO offiense features more throwing than running, though RB Luke Meckler has been an all-around factor with 212 rushing yards, 165 receiving yards and 8 total TDs. Eli Jochem (420 yards, 7 TDs) and Luke Miller (238 yards, 4 TDs) lead the receiving corps. Pine-Richland is good up front but will have their hands full with North Carolina-commit AJ Beatty and on the Central Catholic defensive line. Fellow linemen Ameer Allen and Elliot Donald (cousin of Aaron Donald) both have a number of D1 offers, giving the Vikings one of the best defensive lines in the state. Central Catholic got off to a slow start offensively, scoring just 10 points in consecutive weeks against Seneca Valley and North Allegheny. The Vikings run-heavy attack relies heavily on the tandem of RB Edward Tillman (6 TDs) and QB Dom Pieto (5 TDs).
Honorable Mention: North Allegheny at Seneca Valley
North Allegheny won the 6A regular season title last year but was upset by Seneca Valley in the semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons. The Tigers will be out for revenge as they look to keep their record unblemished this season and set up a showdown with Pine-Richland for the conference title in Week 9.
Playoff Clinching Scenarios:
- North Allegheny clinches a playoff spot with a win over Seneca Valley AND losses by Butler and Hempfield
5A Game of the Week
Moon (2-0, 4-1) at Bethel Park (2-0, 3-1)
Moon has not made the playoffs since 2014 but is off to a great start with their only loss coming in non-conference play against Pine-Richland. Similarly, Bethel Park’s only loss this season came against a 6A team as they fell to Central Catholic last week. With Peters Twp off to a hot start at the top of the conference, this is an important game as the winner will set themselves up to be the primary challenger for the conference crown.
Moon’s excellent start has been led by dual-threat QB Dante Clay who has thrown for 588 yards and 5 TDs and run for 410 yards and 6 TDs. On the outside, Dawson Snyder (516 yards, 5 TDs) has been the Tigers primary receiving threat. Out of the backfield, Clay has split the workload with Jamal Littlejohn (236 yards, 4 TDs). Bethel Park’s offense is led by dynamic playmaker Jehvonn Lewis who has attracted FCS attention. Lewis has 279 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards, and 6 total TDs. Last week he scored on a 78-yard run and a 98-yard kickoff return against Central Catholic. Most of Bethel Park’s offense has come out of their backfield. In addition to Lewis, RB Sean McGowan (155 rushing yards, 119 receiving yards, 2 TDs) has been the other top receiver for the Blackhawks. QB Anthony Chiccitt has thrown for 423 yards and 5 TDs with Lewis and McGowan his top targets in the passing game.
Honorable Mention: West Allegheny at Woodland Hills
Woodland Hills’ 23-year playoff streak is in jeopardy after last week’s loss to Baldwin. The Wolverines have just 3 conference games remaining to get themselves into playoff position. West Allegheny’s only conference win came over Chartiers Valley (who Woody High has yet to face), so the Wolverines are not dead yet.
Playoff Clinching Scenarios
- Penn-Trafford clinches a playoff spot with a win over Plum
- McKeesport clinches a playoff spot with a win over Latrobe
4A Game of the Week
South Fayette (2-0, 4-1) at Blackhawk (3-1, 3-2)
South Fayette has not lost a conference game since Week 8 of 2011. The incredible 8-year streak has spanned the Lions run as a AA powerhouse to moving up to 4A in the six-classification alignment. If South Fayette is able to top Blackhawk, it will be the 60th straight conference win for Joe Rossi’s team. While South Fayette has been dominant this season, averaging 40.6 points per game with their only defeat coming against 5A Upper St Clair, Blackhawk finished second in the conference and made the semifinals last season. The Cougars only conference loss was by one point to Knoch.
In a contrast of styles, South Fayette has the WPIAL’s fourth-leading passer in Naman Alemada (1161 yards, 14 TDs) and Blackhawk has the WPIAL’s fifth-leading rusher in Marques Watson-Trent (687 yards, 11 TDs). South Fayette’s offense is built around their passing game which features two quality receivers in Charley Rossi (318 yards, 2 TDs) and Joey Audia (314 yards, 5 TDs). The Lions also have a quality rushing attack with their top 3 backs averaging over 6 yards per carry, led by Andrew Franklin (380 yards, 8 TDs). On the other side, Blackhawk’s offense is built almost entirely around Watson-Trent’s dynamic playmaking abilities. The Cougars are a run-heavy team and Josh Butcher (273 yards, 2 TDs) and Vince Gratteri (142 yards, 2 TDs) have gotten some work. The Cougars have split time at the quarterback position between Logan Cailor (196 yards, 1 TD) and Carson Davidson (142 yards) but on the whole average just 10 pass attempts per game. When they do throw, James Darno (144 yards) has been the top target.
Honorable Mention: Belle Vernon at Greensburg Salem
Greensburg Salem has wins over Trinity and Laurel Highlands, which put the Lions in position to make the playoffs for the second straight year. Belle Vernon’s only conference loss was to Thomas Jefferson, and is still in the mix for a home playoff game. The winner of this game will have the inside track to challenging West Mifflin for the second place spot in the conference.
Playoff Clinching Scenarios
- Knoch clinches a playoff spot with a win over Montour. Knoch has not reached the playoffs since 2014.
3A Game of the Week
Elizabeth Forward (3-0, 4-0) at Derry (2-1, 3-2)
The Big East playoff race is tight once again this season. Elizabeth Forward and Derry both topped Freeport in the opening weeks of the season. The Warriors also have wins against playoff contenders Deer Lakes and Burrell, but this is the start of a stretch that will make or break their season. Elizabeth Forward faces Derry this week and North Catholic next week. Last year the Warriors split those games which resulted in a 3-way tie atop the conference. North Catholic topped Derry last week, and if Elizabeth Forward wins this game it will set up a showdown next week with conference championship implications. Derry is looking to get back on the winning track after falling to North Catholic.
Both of these teams have run-heavy offenses and stingy defenses that hold opponents to 13 points per game. Derry’s offensive attack revolves around RB Justin Huss (676 yards, 9 TDs). The Trojans average just 11 passes per game and Paul Koontz has thrown for 410 yards and 5 TDs, primarily to Matt McDowell (104 yards, 1 TD). Elizabeth Forward’s offense is also built around their ground game. The Warriors rely on the tandem of Evan Lewis and Nick Hunnell who have both scored 4 times. QB Nico Mrvos has thrown for 7 TDs and run for another, including a 4 touchdown performance against Burrell earlier this season.
Honorable Mention: Deer Lakes at Burrell
The top two passers in 3A square off in this important game in the Big East playoff race. Aris Hasley of Deer Lakes has thrown for 1415 yards and 17 TDs while Burrell’s Alex Arledge has 1162 yards and 13 TDs. Elizabeth Forward and North Catholic are both currently 3-0 while Deer Lakes sits at 3-1 and Burrell is 2-2. Both teams still have games against Freeport (1-3) who last year went on a 5-game winning streak to come from 0-3 to earn the 4th and final playoff spot. Both teams still have to face Derry, but the winner will put themselves in good position to challenge for a playoff spot.
2A Game of the Week
McGuffey (3-0, 5-0) at Southmoreland (4-0, 5-0)
The Kilted War between the Southmoreland Scotties and McGuffey Highlanders will be one of the biggest games in Alverton in a long, long time. Southmoreland is on the verge of breaking a 39-year playoff drought, not having reached the postseason since 1979. The Scotties can not clinch a spot this week as Brownsville plays a non-conference game, but a win would essentially wrap up a spot as only a 3-way tie could knock them out. Southmoreland has the second-highest scoring team in the WPIAL at 51 points per game while McGuffey is averaging 46 points per game, so this one has the potential to be an absolute shootout. This will be the first of a number of important games at the top of the Interstate Conference where 2A favorite Washington is also undefeated and Charleroi is also lurking with their only loss coming against Washington.
The Scotties have 2A’s leading passer in Zach Cernuto (1006 yards, 11 TDs) and the WPIAL’s third-leading receiver in Riley Comforti (607 yards, 8 TDs). In addition to Comforti, Brandon Peterson (236 yards, 5 TDs) and Isaac Trout (139 yards, 2 TDs) have been dynamic threats on the outside. Southmoreland also has a quality rushing attack led by Colt Harper (471 yards, 15 TDs). On the other side, McGuffey’s offense revolves around the Whipkey brothers. QB Marshall Whipkey has thrown for 589 yards and 11 TDs and run for 179 yards and 7 TDs. McKinley Whipkey is the Highlanders’ leading rusher with 242 yards and 3 TDs. McGuffey has a run-heavy offense behind a strong offensive line with 5 of their top 6 rushers averaging over 6 yards per carry. In addition to the Whipkeys, Jordan Wallace (218 yards, 1 TD) and Jared Johnson (199 yards, 6 TDs) have been threats out of the backfield. When they do take to the air, CJ Cole (286 yards, 6 TDs) has been the primary target. Nate Yagle has been an all-around offensive threat with 208 rushing yards, 174 receiving yards and 6 total TDs.
Honorable Mentions: Neshannock at New Brighton, Brentwood at South Side Beaver
Both of these games are important separators in the middle of their respective conferences. In the Midwestern Conference, Freedom is leading the pack at 4-0. Neshannock (3-0) and New Brighton (2-0) are 2 games ahead of the rest of the conference and the winner will set themselves up to challenge Freedom for the conference title. In the Three Rivers Conference, Burgettstown (3-0) got a big win over South Side Beaver (2-1) last week. Brentwood is also 3-0 in conference play and a win over South Side Beaver would set up the Spartans for a Week 8 showdown with Burgettstown for the conference title.
Playoff Clinching Scenarios:
- Avonworth clinches a playoff spot with a win over Summit Academy
1A Games of the Week
OLSH (3-1, 4-1) at Laurel (2-0, 4-1)
OLSH is the defending WPIAL champions and have restocked their roster after graduating nearly all of their starters from last season. Laurel’s four-game shutout streak ended last week with a 33-7 non-conference loss to Clairton. OLSH’s only loss came in Week 1 against Sto-Rox, but since only two teams from each conference are guaranteed playoff spots in 1A, this is an important game in the Big Seven Conference race. OLSH is led by dual-threat QB Jaymar Pearson who has 476 passing yards and 5 TDs and leads the team with 327 rushing yards and 6 TDs. His favorite targets on the outside have been Eric Olexa (250 yards, 2 TDs) and Bobby Brazell (108 yards, 2 TDs). OLSH has used more of a run-heavy attack this season, mixing in Steve Greer (261 yards, 4 TDs) and Brock Saftner (168 yards, 2 TDs) as complements to Pearson. On the other side, Laurel is a run-heavy team that has a powerful offensive line. Six of the top seven rushers for Laurel average over 6 yards per carry. The tandem of Daniel Blank (261 yards, 4 TDs) and Dom Wade (252 yards, 3 TDs) has led the way with Luke McCoy (159 yards, 4 TDs) and Cameron Smith (153 yards, 1 TD) serving in complementary roles. Laurel hasn’t thrown the ball much, but Will Shaffer has thrown for 289 yards and 3 TDs, primarily to Dylan Aquaro (155 yards, 2 TDs).
Springdale (1-1, 4-1) at GCC (3-1, 4-1)
There are two 1A Games of the Week this week because both have significant playoff implications. Springdale is coming off their first loss of the season, a 43-0 setback against Jeannette. On the other side, Greensburg Central Catholic has won two in a row (including a triple-overtime win over Leechburg) since losing to Clairton. Both of these teams have been good in the early season but with Clairton and Jeannette sitting atop the conference it is likely that only one will finish in position to contend for the playoffs. In 1A, two of the three 3rd place finishers will earn wild cards, and this game could very well decide who finishes third in the Eastern Conference. Springdale got off to a 4-0 start on the backs of a strong rushing attack. The Dynamos ground game is led by Christian Vokes (671 yards, 10 TDs) and Cavin Kindler (300 yards, 2 TDs). QB Legend Ausk has more rushing yards (165 yards, 2 TDs) than passing yards (112 yards, 1 TD). For Springdale to be successful, they will need to control the game on the ground. On the other side, GCC has a balanced offensive attack, led by dual-threat QB David Altimore. On the season he has thrown for 480 yards and 7 TDs and run for 102 yards and 2 TDs. Altimore has a trio of receivers that have contributed this season in Ben LaCarte (220 yards, 5 TDs), Luke Mazowiecki (179 yards, 3 TDs), and Brandon Brown (171 yards, 3 TDs). On the ground, Zach Kuvinka (231 yards, 4 TDs) is the Centurions leading rusher while Danny Dlugos (104 yards, 1 TD) has been a big play threat.