WPIAL Championship weekend has arrived. Due to COVID, there are no title games being played at Heinz Field this year. The title games in 5A, 4A, and 3A will be at North Allegheny and the 2A and 1A Championships will be at North Hills. Last weekend, Central Catholic completed their revenge tour by defeating North Allegheny 38-24 to capture their 8th WPIAL Championship in school history. The Vikings avenged both of their regular season losses in the playoffs by beating Mt. Lebanon and North Allegheny and will now take on Erie McDowell in the PIAA Quarterfinals in Erie on Saturday afternoon. The rest of the WPIAL Champions will enter the PIAA playoffs next weekend as semifinalists.
This year’s WPIAL finalists include 4 of the 6 defending Champions and 4 of the 6 Runner-ups from 2019. The only teams not to make it back to the Championship Game are Gateway, Belle Vernon, Avonworth, and Washington. All of the top-seeded teams reached the Championship Games, but interestingly only one #2 seed made the final while five #3 seeds reached the finals. The Beaver Valley is well-represented with Aliquippa, Central Valley, and Beaver Falls all reaching the finals. Additionally, three neighboring schools in the Mon Valley (Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Forward, and Clairton) also reached the WPIAL finals. The big names are back with Aliquippa playing in the title game for the 13th straight season, Thomas Jefferson for the 6th straight season, and Pine-Richland for the fourth straight year. On the other side, Elizabeth Forward qualified for their first WPIAL Championship Game in school history. We had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth Forward head coach Mike Collodi about their historic season and preview the Championship Games on this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show.
This year, our WPIAL coverage is sponsored by the Small Player Big Play App, which provides schools the opportunity to fundraise by live-streaming their games and events. Check out their Twitter page and get the app for free on Apple or Android devices. Also, I would be remiss if I did not give a massive shout-out to Chris @END2008 who has provided all of the incredible helmet graphics and Games of the Week header graphics for us this season!
Follow our WPIAL Twitter account @WPIAL_Blitz where we will be tweeting score updates and other information throughout the weekend.
5A Championship Game
1. Pine-Richland (8-0) vs 3. Peters Twp (8-0)
7:00pm Saturday, November 14
North Allegheny HS
How They Got Here
Both of these teams narrowly lost in the WPIAL finals last season, with Pine-Richland falling to Central Catholic in 6A 10-7 and Peters Twp losing to Gateway in 5A 21-20. Pine-Richland reached the WPIAL Championship game in 3 straight seasons in 6A before moving down to 5A this season. The Rams have been dominant, leading 5A in both offense (50.5 points per game) and defense (10.3 points against per game). Pine-Richland’s 21-point victory over Upper St Clair was their only regular season game that was closer than 42 points. In the playoffs the Rams have breezed past South Fayette 47-7 and Penn-Trafford 49-14. Pine-Richland has a dynamic passing attack that has been breaking school records each of the last few weeks.
Peters Twp has reached the Championship game for the second straight season thanks to the strength of their defense. The Indians are allowing just 10.9 points per game, the second-best mark in 5A trailing only Pine-Richland. Offensively, Peters Twp averages about 28 points per game, the 5th best in 5A. They survived a few close calls this season, defeating Penn-Trafford 24-21 in a game where their defense forced 7 turnovers and scored multiple touchdowns. They also edged Upper St Clair 28-21. After storming past Woodland Hills in the quarterfinals (where their defense scored 2 TDs and recorded 2 safeties), they got revenge on Gateway for last year’s title game. After Gateway jumped out to a 19-0 halftime lead, Peters Twp came back in the second half and scored the game-tying touchdown with 4 seconds left before converting the extra point to give the Indians the 1-point victory.
Pine-Richland reached the last three WPIAL Championship Games in 6A. This is their 8th consecutive playoff appearance and fourth consecutive trip to a WPIAL final. The Rams won the WPIAL AAAA title in 2014 and 6A Championships in 2017 and 2018. Pine-Richland defeated St. Joe’s Prep to capture the 2017 PIAA Championship. The Rams lost to St Joe’s Prep in the 2014 PIAA Championship and in the 2018 PIAA semifinals. One of the best stories in recent history was in 2014 when the Pine-Richland student section brought a live ram to their tailgate before the title game (which may or may not have gotten loose on the North Side).
Peters Twp has never won a WPIAL Championship but has been progressively better each year since the move to 6 classifications in 2016. The Indians have made the playoffs in four straight seasons. In 2018 they got their first playoff victory since 2003 with a run to the semifinals. Last year, they reached the WPIAL final for the first time in school history but lost to Gateway by just 1 point 21-20. Peters Twp avenged that 1-point loss to Gateway in the semifinals this season with a 1-point victory to send them back to the title game.
Pine-Richland has won 4 WPIAL Championships and 1 PIAA Championship. They won back-to-back WPIAL 6A Championships in 2017 and 2018, claiming both the WPIAL and PIAA Championships in 2017. Pine-Richland defeated St. Joe’s Prep to win the 2017 state title. The Rams also won the WPIAL Championship in 2003 (AAA) and 2014 (AAAA), falling in the State Championship game both times. Richland High School won the WPIAL title in 1969 and 1970 prior to the merger that formed Pine-Richland.
Peters Township reached the WPIAL final for the first time in school history last season, falling to Gateway 21-20. Prior to that, the Indians had reached the semifinals three times – the 5A semis in 2018 and the AA semifinals in 1972 and 1976.
Pine-Richland has a loaded senior class that is full of players who have been starting since their sophomore seasons and have broken a number of school records during their careers. The offense starts with senior QB Cole Spencer who currently leads the WPIAL in passing with 2066 yards and 27 TDs. In the opening round against South Fayette Spencer broke Pine-Richland’s career passing record, which is an incredible accomplishment at a school that also produced Ben DiNucci and Phil Jurkovec. Spencer has committed to Penn on a wrestling scholarship. At receiver, the talented Eli Jochem (910 yards, 15 TDs) leads the way and holds the school record for receptions, surpassing Neil Walker and Mike Merhaut. In addition to Jochem, juniors Alex Gochis (348 yards, 3 TDs) and Jeremiah Hasley (287 yards, 2 TDs) have been contributors in the passing game. Pine-Richland has a pass heavy offense but when they need to run the ball have been effective with the trio of Tristen Taylor (326 yards, 3 TDs), Caden Schweiger (321 yards, 4 TDs), and Jordan Burns (315 yards, 3 TDs). Jordan is the younger brother of former Steelers first round pick Artie Burns. In the trenches, the Rams have a pair of Liberty-commits in Harrison Hayes and Miguel Jackson. Jackson has over 30 sacks in his career and recently broke the school record. Linebacker Luke Miller is the anchor of the defense and has committed to Kent State.
Peters Twp has made it back to the title game on the strength of their defense. The Indians have a talented secondary which should make for an excellent showdown with Pine-Richland’s passing game. The back end is anchored by Florida-commit Donovan McMillon and Breylen Carrington who has become a breakout star this season, including 4 interceptions in a game against Penn-Trafford. The middle of the defense is anchored by Miami (OH)-commit Corban Hondru at linebacker. Offensively, Logan Pfeuffer was one of the top passers in the WPIAL last season and has thrown for 1110 yards and 9 TDs this year, including throwing for 283 yards and 3 TDs against Gateway last week. The Indians receiving corps is stacked with aforementioned defensive stars in Carrington (435 yards, 3 TDs), McMillon (263 yards, 4 TDs), and Hondru (173 yards, 2 TDs). Out of the backfield, Nico Pate (442 yards, 4 TDs) and Vinny Sirianni (271 yards, 5 TDs) have led the way. Keep an eye out for Peters Twp’s special teams as well. Donovan McMillon has produced big plays all year from blocking kicks to big returns.
4A Championship Game
1. Aliquippa (9-0) vs 2. Thomas Jefferson (7-1)
1:00pm Saturday, November 14
North Allegheny HS
How They Got Here
The PIAA “success formula” forced Aliquippa to move up from 3A to 4A this season and the Quips didn’t miss a beat, winning yet another conference title. The Quips finished as the highest-scoring team in 4A (45 points per game) and as the second-best defense (11.9 points against per game). Aliquippa’s only regular game that was closer than 3 scores was a Week 1 16-point win over New Castle. Aliquippa has a massive line that has paved the way for their ground game and made their defense nearly impossible to run against. In the playoffs, the Quips breezed past Hampton in the first round before a hard-fought victory over Belle Vernon in the semifinals. Aliquippa came back from a 19-7 first half deficit to beat the Leopards 33-25.
On the other side, Thomas Jefferson finished with the top-ranked defense (9.8 points against per game) and second-best offense (39.9 points per game). The defending 4A State Champions were rolling through the regular season and on a 21-game winning streak before they were upset by McKeesport in the final week of the season 20-14. Thomas Jefferson’s offense has been slowed in two of the last three weeks – the loss to McKeesport and in the semifinals against Plum where they escaped with a 20-17 victory after falling behind 17-7.
These have been two of the premier programs in the WPIAL in the last three decades. Aliquippa and Thomas Jefferson both have a WPIAL-leading 26-year playoff streak. That streak is both the longest active and the all-time high. This is the 13th straight season Aliquippa has reached the WPIAL final, an incredible accomplishment for a school that was playing up in AA, 3A, and now 4A. Thomas Jefferson is playing in their 6th consecutive WPIAL Championship Game, the second-longest active streak. Aliquippa has won 5 titles in their current streak while Thomas Jefferson has won 4 titles in the last 5 years. Aliquippa won the 3A WPIAL and PIAA Championships in 2017 but lost in overtime in the WPIAL final to Central Valley last year. Thomas Jefferson’s only blemish in that time was losing to South Fayette on a last-minute interception at the goal line in 2018. Last year the Jaguars won the WPIAL and PIAA titles.
Aliquippa has won the most WPIAL Championships of any school (17). This is their 31st appearance in the WPIAL Championship Game. Aliquippa won the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1952, 1955, 1964, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1989. The Quips won the WPIAL AA Championship in 1991, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2015. They also won the 1991 and 2003 PIAA AA Championships. The only title for Aliquippa in the 6-classification era came in 2018 when they won the 3A WPIAL and PIAA Championships.
The only postseason meeting between these two schools came in 1980 when they met in the AAA WPIAL Championship Game. Thomas Jefferson won that game, claiming their first WPIAL title. Over the last 20 years, the Jaguars have been one of the most dominant programs, winning WPIAL Championships in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Thomas Jefferson has won four PIAA Championship in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2019.
Aliquippa has a balanced offensive attack and is loaded with experienced talent all over the field. Senior QB Vaughn Morris leads the way and has thrown for 1199 yards and 17 TDs this season. Morris has also scored 7 TDs and picked up some key 3rd downs with his legs in the semifinal victory over Belle Vernon. On the outside, the Quips have a trio of junior receivers who have all contributed to the passing attack. Antonyo Anderson (369 yards, 6 TDs) leads the way with Tajier Thornton (308 yards, 4 TDs) and Cyair Clark (298 yards, 4 total TDs) also contributing. The three receivers are also stalwart defensive backs who will be tested against Thomas Jefferson’s receivers this week but have turned in some highlight reel plays this year like Cyair Clark’s 102-yard pick-six. On the ground, Vernon Redd (1200 yards, 14 TDs) has seen the lions share of the work out of the backfield while Karl McBride has been the hammer in short-yardage situations with just 253 yards but scoring 10 TDs. Redd is also an excellent linebacker and has some FCS-level offers on the defensive side of the ball. Aliquippa’s massive line is anchored by Paris Bundrige who has paved the way for the ground game and caused havoc on defense all season.
Thomas Jefferson is the defending 4A State Champions but had to replace nearly their entire starting lineup this season. The Jaguars have used a pass-heavy offensive attack led by senior QB Jake Pugh who has thrown for 1309 yards and 19 TDs. The matchups to watch in this game will be on the outside between TJ’s talented receivers and Aliquippa’s defensive backs. Ian Hansen (563 yards, 8 TDs) scored what would become the game-winner against Plum last week in the 3rd quarter. Preston Zandier (449 yards, 8 TDs) leads the team in receptions and has committed to Youngstown State as a linebacker. On the ground, the tandem of Conner Murga (529 yards, 11 TDs) and DeRon VanBibber (497 yards, 4 TDs) has done most of the work for the Jaguars.
3A Championship Game
1. Central Valley (9-0) vs 3. Elizabeth Forward (8-0)
7:00pm Friday November 13
North Allegheny HS
How They Got Here
Central Valley is the defending WPIAL 3A Champions and came out on a mission this season after a narrow loss in the state final last year. Central Valley has dominated all of their opponents, averaging 53.6 points per game and only allowing 8.6 per game, both the top marks in 3A. All of their wins against 3A competition came by at least 35 points (they beat 4A New Castle by 28) and in most games the starters were out by halftime. In the postseason the Warriors have been similarly dominant, beating East Allegheny 56-7 and topping Keystone Oaks for the second time this year 70-21. In the semifinals, Central Valley scored touchdowns in six different ways – by pass, rush, kickoff return, punt return, interception return, and fumble return.
Elizabeth Forward completed the first perfect regular season in school history, their only other unbeaten campaign was an 8-0-1 record in 1966. Their strong defense held opponents to just 9 points per game and impressively shut out North Catholic in the semifinals. The Warriors survived two close calls to claim the conference title, a 20-14 overtime win over South Allegheny and a 16-14 victory over Mt. Pleasant. In the playoffs they topped Freeport and North Catholic thanks to dominant defensive performances and a strong rushing attack.
Since the merger of Center and Monaca School Districts in 2010, Central Valley made at least the semifinals in each of their first 6 seasons. After the change to 6 classifications, Central Valley dropped to 3A and missed the playoffs for the first time then were bounced in the first round two straight years. The Warriors bounced back in a big way last year, winning the WPIAL title with a 13-12 overtime win over Aliquippa then making a run to the State title game where they lost to Wyoming Area 21-14. This is their second straight Championship Game appearance and 6th since 2010.
This has been a season of firsts for Elizabeth Forward. The Warriors reached the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the first time in school history they have accomplished that feat. Their Quarterfinal victory over Freeport was the first playoff victory since 2000 and first trip to the semifinals since 1999. Their shutout victory over North Catholic last week secured the first trip to a WPIAL Championship Game in school history.
Central Valley won the WPIAL AAA Championship in 2010 and 2014 and won the WPIAL 3A Championship in 2019. While Center High School never won a WPIAL title, Monaca won the WPIAL Class A Championship three times in 1975, 1982, and 1985. Central Valley has reached the State finals twice but lost 33-14 to Archbishop Wood in 2014 and to Wyoming Area 21-14 in the 2019 PIAA Championship Game.
This is the first WPIAL Championship Game appearance for Elizabeth Forward. Previously, their deepest playoff runs had been to the WPIAL AAA semifinals in 1985, 1990, and 1999.
Central Valley is coming off a game where they scored touchdowns in six different ways (rushing, passing, kick return, punt return, fumble return, and pick-six). The Warriors have scored from all over the field all season and their impressive point totals are proof of the talent all over the field. Offensively their ground game has been so good that talented QB Ameer Dudley has only averaged 9 attempts per game but has been efficient, throwing for 936 yards and 15 TDs. Central Valley has opened up the passing game a bit more in the playoffs as Dudley threw for 135 yards and 3 TDs against East Allegheny and 178 yards and 4 TDs against Keystone Oaks. Dudley is set to make his college decision next week and has offers from a number of FCS and MAC schools. Pitt-commit Stephon Hall and Akron-commit Myles Walker have both found the end zone 16 times this season. Hall has put up over 300 yards of total offense, most of it on the ground, while Walker leads the team with 306 receiving yards and has run for 266 yards. Both players have multiple return touchdowns on defense and special teams as well. Junior RB Landon Alexander leads the rushing attack with 947 rushing yards, 148 receiving yards, and 12 total TDs. Sophomore BretFitzSimmons has also gotten some work on the ground and run for 471 yards and 3 TDs. Defensively, in addition to Hall and Walker roaming the secondary, junior DE Sean Fitzsimmons is a rising star and has landed a number of major offer scholarship offers in recent weeks.
Elizabeth Forward has reached their first title game in school history thanks to their defense and a strong ground game. The defensive front is led by Bowling Green-commit DE Chase Whatton who absolutely dominated against North Catholic last week. The Warriors have endured multiple injuries at the quarterback position and are on their third starter this season. After Evan Lewis and Vernon Settles were injured, sophomore Zion White has stepped in and performed well, throwing for 355 yards and 2 TDs in his 3 starts. With all of the injuries at quarterback, most of Elizabeth Forward’s offense has come from their backfield. DaVontay Brownfield has run for 621 yards and added 122 yards through the air and scored 10 total TDs. The dynamic Nico Mrvos has run for 559 yards, has 286 receiving yards, and scored 6 times. Mrvos has also taken a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback and thrown for a touchdown. Defensively, he is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who anchors the middle of the defense. Junior RB Kyle Flournoy has burst onto the scene in the playoffs. Against Freeport he ran for 161 yards and 2 TDs and has 300 rushing yards on the season. While Elizabeth Forward has battled through quarterback injuries, Zach Boyd (297 yards, 6 TDs) has been the top receiver on the outside and the aforementioned Chase Whatton has chipped in as a tight end with 147 yards and 4 TDs.
2A Championship Game
1. Beaver Falls (9-0) vs 3. Sto-Rox (8-1)
5:00pm Saturday, November 14
Martorelli Stadium, North Hills
How They Got Here
Beaver Falls’ move down to 2A made them the dominant team in the Midwestern Conference. The Tigers scored at least 42 points in all but one game (a 29-14 victory over Laurel), including the playoffs. They won the Matsook Bowl in the opening round, defeating Western Beaver 42-14. Western Beaver was coached by Ryan Matsook who coached Beaver Falls to the 2016 WPIAL and PIAA Championships. In the semifinals, the Tigers jumped out to a big lead on Apollo-Ridge then matched them score for score in the second half to prevail 50-27 to get back to the finals.
Academic eligibility issues forced Sto-Rox to forfeit their Week 1 game against Carlynton. Once the Vikings got on the field, it was a different story. Sto-Rox is battle-tested, having won a number of close games this season. In Week 3 they beat Shady Side Academy thanks to a last-minute game-winning drive. After rolling to three blowout victories to end the regular season, the Vikings came back from a 14-0 deficit to beat Laurel in the opening round of the playoffs, avenging losses the last two seasons. In the semifinals, Sto-Rox won a shootout against Serra Catholic that went back and forth all night. The Vikings scored 21 points in the first five minutes of the 4th quarter to secure a 49-38 victory and a trip back to the title game.
Neither of these teams played in 2A last season. Beaver Falls moved down from 3A to 2A while Sto-Rox moved up from 1A to 2A. Beaver Falls is making their 13th playoff appearance in the last 14 years. In 2016, Beaver Falls defeated Aliquippa 35-22 in the WPIAL 3A Championship then went on to beat Middletown 30-13 and win the State Championship. The Tigers lost to the Quips in the semifinals in 2018 and Derry in the quarterfinals last year.
Sto-Rox’s moved up to 2A this season and made the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years. They reached the WPIAL 1A Championship Game last year where they fell to Clairton. This is Sto-Rox’s 5th WPIAL title game in the last 10 years but they have not won a Championship since 1987.
Beaver Falls was awarded the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1928 and 1960 based on Gardner Points (no Championship Game was played). The 1960 Championship team featured Joe Namath at quarterback. The Tigers won 1984 WPIAL AA Championship over Riverside 14-13. Won the WPIAL and PIAA 3A Championship in 2016.
Sto-Rox reached the WPIAL Class A Championship 3 straight years from 2011-2013, losing twice to Clairton and once to North Catholic. The Vikings also lost to Clairton in last year’s WPIAL 1A Championship. Sto-Rox was awarded the 1966 WPIAL AA Championship on Gardner Points and won the 1987 WPIAL AA Championship, defeating Ellwood City. Stowe beat Ramsay in the 1937 Class A (which became AA) Championship. McKees Rocks was awarded the 1935 and 1936 Class A Championships on Gardner Points.
This game matches up two distinctly different offensive styles. Beaver Falls is a run-heavy team with the best running back tandem in the WPIAL. On the other side, Sto-Rox runs a spread offense and can throw the ball all over the yard. The Tigers top three backs are all averaging over 9 yards per carry with Syracuse-commit Josh Hough doubling that to 18.2 yards per carry. Hough’s big games in the playoffs have vaulted him atop the WPIAL rushing standings with 1816 yards and 26 TDs. In the opening round against Western Beaver, Hough put up 210 yards and 5 TDs and followed that with 368 yards and 3 TD against Apollo-Ridge. He has found the end zone at least 3 times in 7 of the 9 games this season. Complementing Hough is Shileak Livingston who has run for 972 yards and 17 TDs. Those two have dominated the carries for the Tigers, but Tyler Jones (287 yards, 7 TDs) has also been effective. Last week, the Tigers came out throwing against Apollo-Ridge with Jaren Brickner throwing 2 first half TD passes. Brickner has only averaged about 10 pass attempts per game this season but thrown for 862 yards and 4 TDs. Trey Singleton (394 yards, 3 TDs) and Quadir Thomas (242 yards, 2 TDs) have been the top targets on the outside.
Sto-Rox saw almost a complete overhaul of their starting lineup this season after 14 seniors graduated from a team that went to the 1A WPIAL final last season. Huge credit to Coach LaRoi Johnson for meshing the offensive style of the Vikings with the young talent on this year’s roster (which only has five seniors). Sophomore Josh Jenkins started the year at quarterback and was lighting it up, throwing for 1250 yards and 14 TDs. But after an injury at receiver, Jenkins moved outside and junior Austin Jones stepped in at quarterback. The offense hasn’t missed a beat with Jones, who has thrown for 769 yards and 5 TDs and added 284 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. Since moving to receiver, Jenkins has tallied 171 yards and 3 TDs. On the outside, Jaymont Green-Miller (692 yards, 11 TDs) and Drevon Miller-Ross (440 yards, 5 TDs) have been the top targets and will stress Beaver Falls’ secondary. Zay Jones has led the Vikings ground game with 569 yards and added 225 receiving yards and scored 8 times. One of the five seniors on the team is Diontae Givens who is a Duquesne-commit at linebacker. Offensively, Givens has 197 receiving yards, 108 rushing yards and scored 5 times.
1A Championship Game
1. Clairton (8-0) vs 3. Jeannette (8-1)
11:00am Saturday, November 14
Martorelli Stadium, North Hills
How They Got Here
Clairton is the defending WPIAL 1A Champions and came out of the gate strong with a Week 1 victory over rival Jeannette, their 8th victory over the Jayhawks since 2014. From there, Clairton rolled through the rest of their schedule, putting up at least 45 points in all of their remaining games. Clairton was the highest-scoring team in the entire WPIAL, averaging 54.3 points per game. The Bears have the second-ranked defense in 1A, allowing 13.3 points per game. Clairton knocked out two Big Seven teams to reach the final, beating OLSH for the second straight season then topping Shenango in the semifinals 55-16.
While Clairton ranks first offensively and second defensively, Jeannette’s rankings are the inverse. The Jayhawks average 47.8 points per game (2nd in 1A) and have allowed just 12.1 points per game, the best mark in the classification. After losing to the Bears in a hard-fought 34-28 Week 1 game, Jeannette and freshman QB Brad Birch won their last 6 games with only Springdale coming within 45 of them. In the playoffs the Jayhawks stormed past Avella 62-14 then topped Rochester 40-13 in revenge for Rochester ending Jeannette’s perfect 2018 season in the semis.
This is the fourth playoff meeting between Clairton and Jeannette in the last 6 years and the third time they will meet for the WPIAL title. Clairton beat Jeannette to claim the 2015 Class A Championship and 2016 1A Championship. Jeannette defeated Clairton in the 2017 semifinals en route to winning the WPIAL and PIAA titles. Since moving down from AA to A in 2014, Jeannette is 75-3 against all teams not named “Clairton” but are just 2-8 against the Bears. Clairton is 79-11 overall in that timespan. The only teams to beat the Bears more than once since 2014 are Bishop Guilfoyle (twice in the State Championship), Jeannette (twice), and Aliquippa (twice).
Clairton has made the playoffs in 15 straight seasons and have won 10 of the last 14 WPIAL Championships. The Bears won three straight WPIAL titles from 2014-2016 but lost in the semifinals two years in a row before winning the 2019 WPIAL title. After winning the WPIAL title, Clairton lost to Farrell 13-10 in the PIAA semifinals last year.
Jeannette reached the WPIAL Championship in 3 straight seasons before falling to Rochester in the 2018 semifinals then a surprising first round loss to Sto-Rox last year. They defeated Imani Christian by a point in the 2017 WPIAL title game then rolled on to the State Championship where they defeated Homer-Center to win their second PIAA title.
These are the two premier programs in the entire WPIAL. Jeannette is the all-time winningest team in the WPIAL with 764 wins. Meanwhile, Clairton’s 14 WPIAL Championships are second only to Aliquippa’s 17 titles.
Clairton has won 14 WPIAL titles, the second-most behind Aliquippa’s 17 titles. Clairton was awarded the 1929, 1931, and 1954 WPIAL AAA Championship based on Gardner Points (no Championship Game played). The Bears won the WPIAL Class A Championship in 1989, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and the WPIAL 1A Championship in 2016 and 2019. They have won four PIAA Class A Championships in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. All of the state titles came during the era of the “Killer T’s” of Tyler Boyd, Titus Howard, Terrish Webb and Trenton Coles.
Jeannette was the 1932 co-champion after finishing tied with McKeesport and New Castle in Gardner Points (no playoffs or Championship game was played, all three were dubbed co-champions). Jeannette won the 1939 and 1956 WPIAL AAA Championship. The Jayhawks won the WPIAL AA Championship in 1971, 1981, 1983, 2006, and 2007. Jeannette won the PIAA AA Championship in 2007 led by Terrelle Pryor, defeating Dunmore 49-21 and won the WPIAL and PIAA 1A Championships in 2017.
Clairton is back in the 1A Championship game thanks to a dynamic offensive attack that produced the highest-scoring team in the WPIAL. Running back Dontae Sanders leads the way with 1780 yards and 29 TDs. Sanders has been putting up beastly numbers all season while usually only playing the first half. Against OLSH in the quarterfinals he had his best game of the season with 428 yards and 6 TDs. Isaiah Berry has been a solid complement to Sanders, running for 457 yards and 9 TDs. Clairton’s backs have been so good that Sanders is averaging an insane 15.9 yards per carry and Berry is averaging 13.8 yards per carry. Quarterback Jonte Sanders hasn’t had to take to the air often (an average of 9 attempts per game) but has thrown for 1066 yards and 17 TDs and added 364 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. On the outside, Brooklyn Cannon (560 yards, 11 TDs) and Andre Henderson (254 yards, 3 TDs) have been the top receivers. Up front, two-way lineman Dametrius Weatherspoon has committed to Howard and has been dominant on both sides of the ball.
When these two teams met in Week 1, it was the first start for Jeannette freshman QB Brad Birch. Birch did not shrink away from the spotlight and threw for 274 yards and 3 TDs in a losing effort. Since then, Birch has continued his breakout campaign, throwing for 1630 yards and 27 TDs. Jeannette only lost that Week 1 game by 8 points, and Birch have a whole season of games under his belt before the rematch makes them a dangerous opponent for Clairton. Brad has a slew of talented receivers, but his favorite target has been his brother Brett Birch (489 yards, 10 TDs) who he hooked up with for 3 TDs in the semifinals last week. In addition to Brett, Brad Birch and has been able to spread the ball around to Toby Cline (485 yards, 10 TDs), James Sanders (398 yards, 9 TDs) and Kaelan Piscar (243 yards, 5 TDs). The Jayhawks have a solid ground game as well, led by senior Roberto Smith (697 yards, 17 TDs) and complemented by sophomore Jaydin Canady (257 yards, 5 TDs). Smith and Canady have both averaged about 8 yards per carry this season.