The penultimate week of the WPIAL regular season is here. With only two games remaining in the regular season, the playoffs are rapidly approaching. The big news this week was that the WPIAL clarified the playoff qualification procedures. In 6A, only 4 teams will make the playoffs. In the other five classifications, 8 teams will make the playoffs. In 2A, only the conference champions are guaranteed a playoff spot and the WPIAL Steering Committee will select the four “Wild Card” teams. In 1A, 3A, 4A, and 5A (where there are three conferences) the top two teams in each conference will make the playoffs with the Steering Committee selecting the two wild cards. The caveat is that if COVID cancellations made the normal ordering of the standings difficult, the Steering Committee could decide which teams qualify for the playoffs.
Last week saw two big upsets with Mt. Lebanon coming from behind to beat Central Catholic and Fort Cherry upsetting Rochester. Fort Cherry had lost 21 straight games before beating Northgate in Week 4. The Rangers then came out and topped undefeated Rochester 21-19 last week. We had the opportunity to interview Fort Cherry head coach Tanner Garry this week on 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.
I’m happy to once again be doing a guest spot on the WMBS pregame show. They’ll have three games this weekend starting Thursday night with Albert Gallatin against Carrick. On Friday night they’ll have Laurel Highlands against McKeesport and Saturday the Tri-County South showdown between California and Carmichaels. All three games will be broadcast over the air and as a video stream on their Facebook Page. Albert Gallatin and Carrick both are playing independent schedules after opting to leave the WPIAL and City League last season. Laurel Highlands has one of the best sophomores in the WPIAL in Rodney Gallagher and takes on a McKeesport team looking to stay in the playoff conversation. The California-Carmichaels game is previewed below. I’ll have spots on the Sprowls Insurance Group Pregame Show, which you can listen to, starting at 6pm each night before the games.
Follow our new WPIAL Twitter account @WPIAL_Blitz where we will be tweeting score updates and other information throughout the night. After the weekend’s games are over, check out our WPIAL Standings Page.
Saturday at Noon
Baldwin had a number of games cancelled early in the season and this will be their third conference game. After losing to Norwin, the Fighting Highlanders bounced back to beat Hempfield last week. Baldwin needs a victory over a playoff contender to get themselves into the conversation for a postseason berth. Seneca Valley currently sits in second place in 6A with their only loss coming to Central Catholic. With three teams currently sitting on 2 losses (Central Catholic, Canon-McMillan, and Mt. Lebanon) these one-loss teams will be battling for their playoff lives. Baldwin’s offensive attack has thrived around their passing game. Colton Brain has thrown for 646 yards and 6 TDs, including a 200-yard 3-TD performance last week against Hempfield. His top targets have been Connor Lavelle (244 yards, 3 TDs), CJ Robbins (166 yards, 2 TDs) and CJ Lucas (119 yards, 1 TD). On the ground, the Fighting Highlanders utilize the duo of Luke Loeffer (206 yards, 1 TD) and Kam Allen (137 yards, 2 TDs). Seneca Valley has had to battle through injuries to key players but the backups have performed well. With leading rusher Ethan West (328 yards, 3 TDs) sidelined last week, Nolan Dworek stepped up big time, running for 90 yards and adding 80 more receving yards. On the season Dworek has 370 yards of total offense and has scored twice. Brian Olan took over at quarterback for Dustin Horn (344 yards, 4 TDs) and threw for 267 yards and 2 TDs. The backups carried Seneca Valley to victory against Canon-McMillan and will have to do it again this week to keep the Raiders in the playoff hunt.
- Canon-McMillan at North Allegheny on the North Allegheny Sports Network
- Norwin at Mt. Lebanon on Mt. Lebanon’s Website
Postponed: Hempfield at Central Catholic
- North Allegheny clinches at least a share of the conference title with a win over Canon-McMillan
- North Allegheny clinches the conference title outright with a win over Canon-McMillan AND a Seneca Valley loss to Baldwin
Games of the Week
Moon (1-2, 3-2) at Upper St Clair (2-1, 3-2)
Livestream on BoxCast
With Peters Twp sitting atop the Allegheny Six Conference, the second-place spot will be a battle. Both teams have lost to Peters Twp and Moon has a loss to South Fayette who Upper St Clair faces next week. Moon won the conference title last year but needs a win here to stay in the playoff conversation while USC is trying to set up a showdown with South Fayette for the 2nd place spot next week. Moon’s offense has primarily come through their passing game with QB Tyler McGowan throwing for 682 yards and 2 TDs via the connection to top receiver Dawson Snyder (247 yards). Leading rusher Jeremiah Dean (233 yards, 2 TDs) and Dylan Sleva (124 yards, 2 TDs) have split the workload in the backfield. Upper St Clair has one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the WPIAL in Ethan Dahlem who has thrown for 911 yards and 4 TDs and rushed for 286 yards and 2 scores. David Pantelis (230 yards, 3 TDs) led the WPIAL in receiving yardage last season and has been aided on the outside by the emergence of Mateo Cepulio (215 yards) and Aidan Besselman (173 yards, 1 TD). Pantelis had his best game of 2020 last week with 140 yards and 2 TDs. The Panthers have had a strong ground game this season with the combination of Dahlem, Ethan Hiester (304 yards, 5 TDs) and Jamaal Brown (207 yards, 4 TDs).
North Hills (2-1, 2-3) at Pine-Richland (3-0, 4-0)
Livestream on GTXStreams
Pine-Richland has cruised to the top of the Northeast Conference standings in their first season in 5A. North Hills is sitting in a 3-way tie with Fox Chapel and Penn Hills in the middle of the conference. Coming off a close loss to Penn Hills, North Hills needs a statement victory to assert their case for the playoffs. The Indians rely heavily on their rushing attack, led by the tandem of Liam Tracey (254 yards, 1 TD) and Curtis Foskey (240 yards, 2 TDs). Robert Dickerson has emerged as an all-around star for North Hills with 297 receiving yards, 199 rushing yards and 7 total TDs. Quarterback Ethan Marker is averaging just 10 pass attempts per game but has thrown for 323 yards and 6 TDs. North Hills’ defense will be stressed against one of the best passing attacks in the WPIAL. Pine-Richland QB Cole Spencer (1054 yards, 13 TDs) is completing nearly 70% of his passes, an incredible mark for a high school quarterback. Spencer has spread the ball around as the Rams have 5 different players with over 100 receiving yards. Eli Jochem (319 yards, 4 TDs) and Alex Gochis (243 yards, 3 TDs) lead the way on the outside. Out of the backfield, the Rams have deployed a trio of backs in Tristen Taylor (198 yards, 2 TDs), Jordan Burns (179 yards), and Caden Schweiger (146 yards, 2 TDs). Pine-Richland is the second highest-scoring team in 5A, averaging 48 points per game while North Hills has the second-best defense in the conference, allowing just 18 points per game.
Fox Chapel (2-1, 2-3) at Penn Hills (2-1, 2-3)
Livestream on TribLive HSSN
This is a big game in determining the Northeast Conference playoff race. Penn Hills got a 14-7 win over North Hills last week while Fox Chapel fought off a tough Kiski comeback to get their second win. Fox Chapel still has a game remaining against Pine-Richland, making both of these teams mathematically still in the hunt for the postseason. Fox Chapel has reached this point thanks to their passing attack. Justin Rice (650 yards, 8 TDs) started the season at quarterback before Collin Dietz stepped in last week and threw for 270 yards and 4 TDs against Kiski. Lorenzo Jenkins (383 yards, 7 TDs) and Khi’lee Patterson (188 yards, 2 TDs) have been the Foxes top receivers. Benjamin Wilk (175 yards, 2 TDs) and Colin Kwiatkowski (173 yards, 2 TDs) have also been factors in the passing game while Zidane Thomas (202 yards) leads the Foxes rushing attack. Penn Hills has turned to freshman quarterback Julian Dugger this season and he has thrown for 567 yards and 3 TDs. Dugger has had the benefit of throwing to Akron-commit Noel Roach (196 yards, 2 TDs). On the ground, the Indians have used the tandem of Derrick Topeck (235 yards, 3 TDs) and Dontae Pollard (220 yards, 2 TDs). Penn Hills’s offense is averaging just 12 points per game while Fox Chapel has given up 35 per contest, which should make for an interesting matchup.
Gateway (1-0, 2-0) at Woodland Hills (2-1, 4-1)
Gateway has missed three consecutive games after a COVID case cancelled their games against Pine-Richland and Latrobe then a case at Penn-Trafford cancelled their rivalry showdown last week. Woodland Hills’ only setback this season was against Penn-Trafford. Gateway needs this victory to solidify their playoff case while Woody High is sitting in third place in the Big East and coming off a thumping of Franklin Regional. Gateway boasts the best player in the entire state in Derrick Davis who is being recruited as a safety by every major college program but is also an excellent running back with 278 yards and 5 TDs in just two games. Gateway has one of the best receiving tandems in 5A with Chamor Price (204 yards, 4 TDs) and Patrick Body (196 yards, 3 TDs). This has boosted Carsen Engleka’s to an impressive 512 passing yards and 9 TDs through just two outings. Woodland Hills has been led by dual-threat QB Deontae WIlliams who has thrown for 683 yards and 10 TDs and run for 297 yards and 3 TDs. Eris Seibles (294 yards, 3 TDs) has shared the workload out of the backfield with Williams. On the outside, Williams’ favorite targets have been T’Rek Scipio (220 yards, 3 TDs) and Armani Bailey (190 yards, 2 TDs).
- Bethel Park at Peters Twp on BoxCast
- West Allegheny at South Fayette on TV on 22 The Point
- Connellsville at Penn-Trafford on the Westmoreland Sports Network
- Latrobe at Franklin Regional on the Westmoreland Sports Network
- Shaler at Kiski on Kiski’s YouTube Page
- Peters Twp clinches the Allegheny Six Conference title with a win over Bethel Park
- Pine-Richland clinches the Northeast Conference title with a win over North Hills AND a Fox Chapel loss to Penn Hills
Game of the Week
Aliquippa (3-0, 5-0) at Montour (2-1, 4-1)
The Quips are coming off a massive 35-6 victory over Chartiers Valley to take control atop the Parkway Conference. Montour lost to Chartiers Valley early in the season but has won four in a row since that setback. These two teams did meet in non-conference games each of the last two years, with Aliquippa winning both. Now they are back in the same conference, a renewal of an old rivalry from back in the 70s and 80s. The Quips have one of the best lines in the entire WPIAL which has paved the way for Vernon Redd (736 yards, 8 TDs). Vaughn Morris (469 yards, 9 TDs) leads the “Air Warfield” offense with the dynamic tandem of Cyair Clark (231 yards, 3 TDs) and Antonyo Anderson (231 yards, 5 TDs) on the outside. Clark also had a 102-yard pick-six last week against Chartiers Valley. Montour also has some stout linemen in the trenches so this should be a fun matchup to watch. The Spartans rely on RB Gannon Kadlecik (577 yards, 8 TDs) for most of their offense. Dual-threat quarterback Luke Persinger has thrown for 471 yards and 2 TDs and run for 146 yards and 3 TDs. Jaiden Hill (146 yards) has been Montour’s top receiver.
- Belle Vernon at Trinity
- Laurel Highlands at McKeesport on the WMBS Facebook Page
- Thomas Jefferson at Ringgold on TribLive HSSN
- Greensburg Salem at Mars
- Hampton at Indiana on Indiana’s YouTube Page
- Highlands at Armstrong on HighTop Sports Network
- Plum at Knoch on Knoch’s YouTube Page
- Beaver at Chartiers Valley
Postponed: Blackhawk at New Castle (rescheduled for 10/30), Uniontown at West Mifflin (not COVID related)
- Thomas Jefferson clinches the Big East Conference title with a win over Ringgold AND a McKeesport loss to Laurel Highlands
- Belle Vernon clinches second place in the Big East Conference with a win over Trinity AND a McKeesport loss to Laurel Highlands
- Plum clinches the Greater Allegheny Conference title with a win over Knoch
- Mars clinches second place in the Greater Allegheny Conference with a win over Greensburg Salem AND a Plum win over Knoch
- Aliquippa clinches the Parkway Conference title with a win over Montour
Game of the Week
Elizabeth Forward (3-0, 4-0) at Mt Pleasant (4-0, 4-1)
These are the two remaining undefeated teams in the Interstate Conference. Elizabeth Forward has a victory over South Park, while Mt. Pleasant has to face the Eagles next week. An Elizabeth Forward victory would essentially clinch the Interstate Conference title for the Warriors while a Mt. Pleasant victory leaves the door open for a 3-way tie at the top. Elizabeth Forward has a dominant defense, led by Bowling Green-commit Chase Whatton. The Warriors did get a bit of a scare last week as South Allegheny erased a 14-point halftime deficit to force overtime. Offensively, dual-threat QB Evan Lewis has thrown for 412 yards and 8 TDs and run for 298 yards and 4 TDs. DaVontay Brownfield (399 yards, 6 TDs) has been the main workhorse out of the backfield. Keep an eye out for Nico Mrvos who leads the Warriors with 177 receiving yards and has added 209 rushing yards and scored twice. Whatton has also been used offensively at tight end and has racked up 130 yards and 4 TDs. Mt. Pleasant’s offense is also built around their ground game. The tandem of Pete Billey (342 yards, 5 TDs) and Aaron Alakson (302 rushing yards, 145 receiving yards, 3 total TDs) averages over 5 yards per carry. The Vikings have been so good on the ground that QB Asher O’Connor has only had to attempt about 7 passes per game but has thrown for 400 yards and 4 TDs. His primary targets have been Alakson and Donavin Bair (175 yards, 3 TDs). O’Connor has also run for 126 yards and 3 TDs as yet another scoring threat in Mt. Pleasant’s attack. Elizabeth Forward has allowed just 20 total points all season and statistically has the best defense in 3A. Mt. Pleasant’s only loss was to 5A Latrobe and the Vikings had a similarly narrow (21-14) victory over South Allegheny.
- Burrell at Freeport on HighTop Sports Network
- North Catholic at Deer Lakes on YouTube
- South Park at South Allegheny on South Allegheny’s YouTube Page
- Avonworth at Hopewell
- Central Valley at Ambridge
- Valley at Yough on Yough’s YouTube Channel
- Brownsville at West Greene on West Greene’s Livestream
Postponed: East Allegheny at Derry, Brownsville at Southmoreland, Quaker Valley at Keystone Oaks
- Central Valley clinches the Northwestern Six Conference Title with a win over Ambridge AND an Avonworth loss to Hopewell
- Mt Pleasant clinches the Interstate Conference Title with a win over Elizabeth Forward AND a South Park loss to South Allegheny
Games of the Week
Western Beaver (3-0, 5-0) at Sto-Rox (2-1, 4-1)
Livestream on TribLive HSSN
Western Beaver dominated Brentwood last week to lay claim to the top spot in the Three Rivers Conference. Now the Golden Beavers take on Sto-Rox whose only loss was a forfeit to Carlynton due to eligibility issues in Week 1. Sto-Rox has not lost a game when their team has taken the field and is averaging over 50 points per game. The Vikings are absolutely still in the mix for the conference title with games against Western Beaver and Brentwood over the final two weeks of the season. A Western Beaver win would secure the conference title for the Golden Beavers. Western Beaver’s 1-2 punch out of the backfield of Cameron Irvine (372 yards, 1 TD) and Thad Gray (306 yards, 5 TDs) has been unstoppable this season. Both Irvine and Gray are averaging over 7 yards per carry. Quarterback Xander Lefebvre has thrown for 439 yards and 5 TDs, primarily to Dakari Bradford (254 yards, 5 TDs) and Elias Bihop (143 yards, 2 TDs). Sto-Rox is averaging 38 points per game behind a dynamic offensive attack. Josh Jenkins took the helm at quarterback in Week 3 and in just 3 games has thrown for 872 yards and 8 TDs. Jaymont Green-Miller (425 yards, 6 TDs) has been the big-play maker on the outside for the Vikings. Sto-Rox has a number of other talented receivers in Drevon Miller-Ross (201 yards, 2 TDs) and Diontae Givens (125 yards, 3 TDs). Out of the backfield, Zay Davis (298 rushing yards, 93 receiving yards, 3 total TDs) has gotten the lion’s share of work. These are two teams loaded with offensive talent and playmakers all over the field.
New Brighton (3-2, 3-2) at Neshannock (4-1. 4-1)
New Brighton started the season 3-2 but have dropped two in a row, losing to rival Beaver Falls and a tight game to the ball-control offense of Laurel. Neshannock also dropped an early-season game to Laurel. If Neshannock has designs on claiming the conference title, they will need to beat New Brighton this week to set up a title showdown with Beaver Falls next week. New Brighton is clinging to a slim chance of making the playoffs but needs to win their final two games. The Lions have an absolute star in NyaSanu Greene who leads the team in rushing (425 yards), receiving (104 yards) and scoring (9 total TDs). The combination of Greene and Kei’Ondre Abercrombie (197 yards, 3 TDs) has been so good out of the backfield that QB Gabe Haddox (322 yards, 3 TDs) has averaged fewer than 10 passes per game. Greene is coming off a 3 TD performance against Laurel, but will have to take on Neshannock’s stingy defense which is holding teams to a conference-leading 13 points per game. Neshannock’s offense is also based around their ground game with Cam’ron Owens (621 yards, 8 TDs) as the focal point. Owens is averaging an incredible 11 yards per carry this season and is coming off a strong game against Riverside. Lancer QB Kurt Sommerfield has nearly as many rushing attempts (49 carries, 186 yards, 3 TDs) as he does passing attempts (32 of 51 for 380 yards and 3 TDs). Matt Nativio (112 yards, 2 TDs) is the Lancers leading receiver.
- Beth-Center at Frazier on the Frazier Facebook Page
- Chartiers-Houston at McGuffey on McGuffey’s YouTube Page
- Washington at Charleroi on YouTube
- Beaver Falls at Freedom
- Mohawk at Laurel on Mohawk’s YouTube Page
- Riverside at Ellwood City on YouTube
- Seton LaSalle at Carlynton on Seton LaSalle’s YouTube Page
- South Side Beaver at Brentwood on Brentwood’s YouTube Page
- Waynesburg vs Ligonier Valley
- Steel Valley at Shady Side Academy (Saturday)
Postponed: Apollo-Ridge at Serra Catholic
- McGuffey clinches the Century Conference title with a win over Chartiers-Houston
- Beaver Falls clinches the Midwestern Conference title with a win over Freedom AND a Neshannock loss to New Brighton
- Western Beaver clinches the Three Rivers Conference title with a win over Sto-Rox
Games of the Week
OLSH (4-1, 4-1) at Shenango (5-0, 5-0)
Livestream on TribLive HSSN
The Big Seven Conference race got thrown for a bit of a loop last week when Fort Cherry upset unbeaten Rochester. This left Shenango alone atop the conference standings but with games against OLSH and Rochester the final two weeks. OLSH’s only loss was to Rochester in which they gave up 6 rushing touchdowns to Rashawn Reid. The challenge for OLSH’s run defense will be equally tough this week as they face the WPIAL’s second-leading rusher Reis Watkins (1101 yards, 19 TDs). Watkins has done a little bit of everything for the Wildcats as he has also attempted a handful of passes and thrown for 2 TDs. Tino Campoli has rarely had to throw the ball but in limited attempts has thrown for 301 yards and 3 TDs. Shenango’s top receiver is Ryan Lenhart (142 yards, 1 TD). OLSH has seen their young players settle into effective roles over the season. Nehemiah Azeem has taken command of the quarterback position, throwing for 763 yards and 3 TDs. Jaymar Pearson has been an all-around star for the Chargers, rushing for 412 yards, adding 213 receiving yards and scoring a team=high 14 TDs. Leading rusher Stephen Greer (493 yards) and leading receiver Bobby Brazell (224 yards) have both scored just once. Around the goal line, Azeem has proven to be an effective runner and has found the end zone five times – a consistent once per week so far. OLSH needs this victory to stay in the conference title hunt while Shenango is looking to set up a showdown with Rochester for the Big Seven title next week.
California (4-0, 4-0) at Carmichaels (5-0, 5-0)
SATURDAY on the WMBS Facebook Page
The top two teams in the Tri-County South will square off on Saturday, potentially with the conference title on the line. With Avella’s loss to Bentworth on Thursday night, the winner of this game will claim the Tri-County South conference title. These two teams have differing styles but have had similar success. California has one of the best ground games in 1A with the WPIAL’s leading rusher Jaedan Zuzak (1103 yards, 18 TDs). Last week against Jefferson-Morgan, Zuzak ran for 440 yards and 7 TDs. California has a beastly offensive line and a difficult attack to slow down between Zuzak and Damani Stafford who has run for 359 yards and 4 TDs. Stafford is also the quarterback, but has attempted just 15 passes all season, throwing for 142 yards and 2 TDs. On the other side, Carmichales has a balanced offensive attack. Their ground game still leads the way with Bailey Jones (657 yards, 10 TDs) getting the bulk of the carries. Dual-threat QB Trenton Carter has thrown for 539 yards and 7 TDs and run for 250 yards and 3 scores. On the outside, Michael Stewart has been the leading receiver for the Mighty Mikes with 213 yards and 5 TDs. California is the second-highest scoring team in 1A (49 points per game) while Carmichaels has the second-best defense, allowing just 9 points per game.
- Avella at Bentworth (Thursday)
- Fort Cherry at Union on Union’s YouTube Page
- Northgate at Burgettstown
- Rochester at Cornell
- Bishop Canevin at Jeannette on Jeannette’s YouTube Page
- Clairton at GCC on KVT
- Imani at Springdale
- Riverview at Leechburg on Leechburg’s YouTube Page
- Mapletown at Jefferson-Morgan
Cancelled: Monessen at West Greene
- Shenango clinches the Big Seven Conference title with a win over OLSH AND a Rochester loss to Cornell
- Clairton clinches the Eastern Conference title with a win over GCC AND a Springdale loss to Imani
- The winner of California-Carmichaels will win the Tri-County South Conference title