The final week of the WPIAL regular season is here. Earlier this week I broke down the playoff picture for the teams in the hunt for the postseason. With a limited playoff field this year along with COVID cancellations, there is more uncertainty than ever. The WPIAL Steering Committee will select the Wild Card teams in all of the classifications, including 4 Wild Cards in 2A. Last week, Plum secured their first outright conference title since 1982 and McGuffey won their first conference crown since 1994. This week we also have a few games that have earned the distinction of being a CASKET MATCH. For those that recall 1990s pro wrestling, a casket match was one where (usually the Undertaker) had to put his opponent in a coffin. In this case, they are games where the winner goes to the playoffs and the loser goes home.
We had the opportunity to interview Freeport head coach John Gaillot 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. This week they will be broadcasting the game between Laurel Highlands and Trinity. Last season Trinity edged Laurel Highlands 28-25 in one of the most exciting games of the season. All WMBS games are broadcast over the air and as a video stream on their Facebook Page. Check out my spot on the Sprowls Insurance Group Pregame Show, which you can listen to, starting at 6pm on Friday night.
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 and stay tuned for in-depth analysis of the Playoff Brackets after they are revealed.
This game has massive playoff implications in 6A. Mt. Lebanon beat Central Catholic two weeks ago so the winner of this game will likely have the inside track on the #2 seed in the 6A tournament. Mt. Lebanon’s early-season loss to Canon-McMillan is hanging out there and a Blue Devils loss coupled with a Canon-Mac win over Norwin could end their postseason hopes. Seneca Valley’s only loss is to Central Catholic and they did not play North Allegheny this season.
Mt. Lebanon’s balanced offensive attack has been led by QB Joey Daniels (853 yards, 13 TDs). Eli Heidenreich (267 yards, 6 TDs) has been the primary target on the outside. RB Alex Tecza has been an all-around threat with 299 rushing yards, 160 receiving yards and 8 total TDs. Tecza has split backfield carries with Maurice Plummer (257 yards, 1 TD). Last week, Tecza ran for over 100 yards, Plummer ran for 70 and both found the end zone. Seneca Valley has battled through injuries this season to starting QB Dustin Horn (344 yards 4 TDs) and star RB Ethan West (328 yards, 3 TDs). Their replacements have fared well. Brian Olan took the helm at quarterback in Week 5 and has thrown for 351 yards and 3 TDs in just 2 starts. Nolan Dworek has stepped into the lead back role and run for 373 yards and 4 TDs, including the game-winner in overtime last week against Baldwin. Connor Lyczek (194 yards, 2 TDs) has been the top receiver for Seneca Valley, though the Raiders have a run-heavy offense and don’t put the ball in the air often.
- Central Catholic at Baldwin on TV on 22 The Point
- Norwin at Canon-McMillan
- North Allegheny has clinched a playoff spot
- The winner of Mt Lebanon-Seneca Valley clinches a playoff spot
- Central Catholic can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Baldwin
- The WPIAL Selection Committee will have their work cut out for them if Baldwin beats Central Catholic. In that case, Baldwin would be 2-2 and Central Catholic 3-3. Canon-McMillan and Mt. Lebanon could also finish with .500 records.
Game of the Week
Upper St Clair (3-1, 4-2) at South Fayette (3-1, 4-2)
Livestream on TribLive HSSN
Neighboring communities in the South Hills will battle for the third straight season but for the first time as conference opponents. Upper St Clair has claimed victory in Week 0 meetings each of the last two seasons. The winner of this game will claim second place in the Allegheny Six Conference and secure a playoff spot. The loser will have to trust their fate to the WPIAL Selection Committee which will determine the Wild Cards.
This is a matchup of two of the best passing games in the WPIAL. Upper St Clair’s Ethan Dahlem is a dual-threat quarterback that has thrown for 1273 yards and 11 TDs and leads the Panthers with 326 rushing yards and 3 TDs. The trio of David Pantelis (417 yards, 6 TDs), Mateo Cepulio (289 yards) and Aidan Besselman (258 yards, 2 TDs) has given Dahlem plenty of options in the passing game. In the backfield, Dahlem has been complemented by Ethan Hiester (304 yards, 5 TDs) and change-of-pace back Jamaal Brown (207 yards, 4 TDs) who is averaging over 12 yards per carry. South Fayette also has an excellent quarterback in Naman Alemada (1288 yards, 12 TDs) who led the WPIAL in passing last season. The Lions also have a trio of dangerous receivers in Charley Rossi (535 yards, 5 TDs), Joey Audia (346 yards, 2 TDs) and Ryan McGuire (280 yards, 4 TDs). While Upper St Clair has a plethora of options out of the backfield, South Fayette has primarily relied on Shay Aitken (461 yards, 4 TDs).
- Peters Twp at West Allegheny
- Moon at Bethel Park
- Penn-Trafford at Franklin Regional on the Westmoreland Sports Network
- Gateway at Connellsville on TribLive HSSN
- Woodland Hills at Latrobe on the Westmoreland Sports Network
- Pine-Richland at Kiski on Kiski’s YouTube Page
- Penn Hills at Shaler on TribLive HSSN
- North Hills at Fox Chapel
- Peters Twp, Pine-Richland, and Penn Hills have clinched playoff spots
- Penn-Trafford and Gateway should be in the playoffs
- The winner of Upper St Clair-South Fayette will finish second and make the playoffs. The loser will finish third.
- Woodland Hills finishes third with a win over Latrobe
- The winner of North Hills-Fox Chapel will finish third in the Northern Conference.
Game of the Week
McKeesport (4-1, 5-1) at Thomas Jefferson (5-0, 5-0)
When the new PIAA classification alignments were announced, everyone circled the potential McKeesport-Thomas Jefferson matchup on their calendars. However, the Tigers stumbled out of the gate with a 20-0 loss to Belle Vernon but have rebounded to win 5 straight. There were some questions around Thomas Jefferson coming into the season and whether or not they would be able to restock a roster that lost nearly all of their starters to graduation. The answer was a resounding yes as TJ has rolled to the top spot in the Big Eight conference once again, averaging 49 points per game and allowing just 7 per game. TJ has already clinched the conference title (even with a loss, the Jaguars own the tiebreakers necessary) but a McKeesport victory would secure a playoff spot for the Tigers. If McKeesport loses, their hopes will be left to the Wild Card formula where they will be 5-2, along with Hampton and Montour who both face winless teams this week and should also finish 5-2.
McKeesport’s triple-option offense has swapped a number of different players into the lineup this season. On the whole the Tigers have 7 players who have run for at least 100 yards this season. Over the last few weeks they have settled into the rotation of Terrance Glenn (570 yards, 6 TDs), Caleb Reist (256 yards, 3 TDs) and Kenneth Thompson (196 yards, 5 TDs). While the Tigers don’t throw the ball much, Glenn (104 yards, 1 TD) and Reist (82 yards, 2 TDs) have both attempted a handful of passes. Thomas Jefferson once again has a balanced offensive attack led by QB Jake Pugh (789 yards, 13 TDs). Pugh’s primary targets have been Ian Hansen (390 yards, 5 TDs) and Preston Zandier (168 yards, 5 TDs), Out of the backfield, the tandem of DeRon VanBibber (335 yards, 4 TDs) and Conner Murga (258 yards, 8 TDs) has been reliable with both backs averaging over 6 yards per carry.
- Trinity at Laurel Highlands on the WMBS Facebook Page
- West Mifflin at Ringgold
- Armstrong at Plum on TribLive HSSN
- Mars at Indiana on Indiana’s Facebook Page
- Knoch at Hampton
- Greensburg Salem at Highlands
- Blackhawk at Aliquippa
- New Castle at Chartiers Valley
- Montour at Beaver
- Thomas Jefferson has clinched the Big Eight Conference title
- Belle Vernon has clinched a playoff spot
- Plum has clinched the Greater Allegheny Conference title
- Mars has clinched a playoff spot
- Aliquippa has clinched the Parkway Conference title
- Chartiers Valley has clinched a playoff spot
- McKeesport clinches a playoff spot with a win over Thomas Jefferson
- Hampton and Montour will finish 3rd in their respective conferences. Both are 4-2 and face winless teams this week and will likely finish 5-2. McKeesport will also be 5-2 if they lose to Thomas Jefferson.
Games of the Week
Freeport (3-0, 3-1) at North Catholic (5-0, 6-0)
The Allegheny Seven conference title comes down to the final game of the regular season. Freeport missed two games this season because of a COVID exposure but returned last week to defeat archrival Burrell for the 11th time in 13 years. Notably, Freeport did not play East Allegheny (whose only loss is to North Catholic). If North Catholic wins this game, the WPIAL Selection Committee will have to decide how to handle Freeport and East A’s playoff resumes.
Freeport has battled through a number of injuries this season and is on their third different starting quarterback. Ben Lane has become the focal point of the offense, throwing for 441 yards and 3 TDs and run for 325 yards and 6 TDs. Vinnie Clark has been the Yellow Jackets top receiver with 254 yards and 3 TDs. On the other side, North Catholic also has a dual-threat quarterback in Joey Prentice who has put up 955 yards and 14 TDs through the air and 430 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. Nick Maher (403 yards, 7 TDs) has emerged as one of the top receivers in 3A while Kyle Tipinski (304 yards, 8 TDs) has complemented Prentice in the backfield.
Mt. Pleasant (4-1, 4-2) at South Park (3-2, 3-3)
The winner of this game will claim second place in the Interstate Conference and clinch a playoff spot. South Park is eliminated with a loss, as they would fall behind South Allegheny (who beat the Eagles last week). While Mt. Pleasant may garner consideration for a Wild Card if they lose, this is effectively a Casket Match where the winner will be in and the loser will likely be out.
Mt. Pleasant generates most of their offense out of the backfield. Aaron Alakson has run for 372 yards and has 145 receiving yards and scored 4 times while Pete Billey has run for 342 yards an 5 TDs. Those two have nearly evenly split the workload. Quarterback Asher O’Conner has averaged just 8 pass attempts per game but thrown for 445 yards and 4 TDs and added 163 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. In addition to Alakson, Donavin Bair (175 yards, 3 TDs) has been the Vikings top receiver. South Park has a balanced offensive attack led by QB Harper Conroy who has thrown for 621 yards and 4 TDs and run for 180 yards and 2 TDs. The Eagles have had to overcome an injury to Nathan May, one of their top offensive playmakers. Adam Johnson has emerged as one of the primary offensive threats, leading the team with 376 rushing yards and adding 98 receiving yards and finding the end zone 5 times.
- Valley at East Allegheny
- Southmoreland at Elizabeth Forward on TribLive HSSN
- Yough at Brownsville
- Hopewell at Keystone Oaks on TribLive HSSN
- Ambridge at Quaker Valley
- Central Valley vs Burrell on Central Valley’s website
- South Allegheny at Deer Lakes
- North Catholic has clinched a playoff spot
- East Allegheny and Freeport did not play this season, so the WPIAL Selection Committee will have to sort out their playoff resumes and decide their fate
- Elizabeth Forward has clinched a playoff spot
- The winner of Mt Pleasant – South Park will finish second and clinch a playoff spot
- Central Valley has clinched the Northwest Six Conference title
- Keystone Oaks clinches a playoff spot with a win over Hopewell
Games of the Week
Frazier (4-1, 4-2) at Washington (4-1, 4-2)
Livestream on YouTube
Both of these teams have losses to Century Conference Champion McGuffey. The winner will finish second and the loser will be third. Even though second place teams are not guaranteed playoff spots, it seems likely the winner of this game will be one of the four Wild Cards selected by the WPIAL Selection Committee. That essentially makes this a Casket Match where the winner will make the playoffs and the loser’s season will end.
Frazier’s Kenny Fine has been an all-around star for the Commodores. Despite missing two games with an injury, Fine has returned to lead Frazier to two straight wins. Fine leads the team with 590 rushing yards, has 163 receiving yards, and has found paydirt 11 times. Frazier also lost starting QB Brayden Boggs to an injury and has relied on their running game while Dominick Dorcon (156 yards, 2 TDs) has taken the helm at quarterback. In addition to Fine, Christian Mingrino (230 yards, 2 TDs) has been a factor out of the backfield. On the outside, Luke Santo (194 yards, 3 TDs) is Frazier’s leading receiver. On the other side, Washington also has a run-heavy attack relying on the tandem of Mike Allen (557 yards, 8 TDs) and Tayshawn Levy (240 yards, 5 TDs). The Prexies have been so good on the ground this season that QB Davoun Fuse (343 yards, 3 TDs) has averaged fewer than 8 pass attempts per game. Fuse has nearly as many rushing attempts (37 for 159 yards and 3 TDs) as he does passing attempts (47).
Neshannock (4-2, 4-2) at Beaver Falls (6-0, 6-0)
Beaver Falls has clinched the Midwestern Conference title. Neshannock’s loss to New Brighton last week put their playoff hopes on life support. Laurel, New Brighton, and Neshannock all currently sit with 2 losses but the Lancers have lost head-to-head to both of them. The Lancers will need to upset Beaver Falls and get some help in the final week of the regular season to get the attention of the WPIAL Selection Committee.
Neshannock’s has relied heavily on their rushing attack with Cam’ron Owens (793 yards, 8 TDs) leading the way. Dual-threat quarterback Kurt Sommerfield has thrown for 448 yards and 3 TDs and run for 271 yards and 5 TDs. Matthew Ioanilli (157 yards, 4 TDs) has also been a factor in the ground game. Beaver Falls has the best tandem of running backs in the WPIAL. Syracuse-commit Josh Hough (1069 yards, 15 TDs) has run for over 1000 yards in just 6 games and is averaging nearly 20 yards per carry. Shileak Livingston has been outstanding in his own right, running for 668 yards and 14 TDs. Jaren Brickner has been solid, throwing for 620 yards and 2 TDs, primarily to Trey Singleton (210 yards, 1 TD) and Quadir Thomas (194 yards, 1 TD).
Brentwood (2-2, 3-3) at Sto-Rox (3-1, 5-1)
Sto-Rox is coming off a big win over Western Beaver. The Vikings had to forfeit their first game of the season due to eligibility issues and have yet to lose a game in which their team has stepped onto the field. Brentwood was one of the preseason favorites but lost to Western Beaver two weeks ago then to South Side Beaver last week. The Spartans still have a chance to put themselves in the playoff conversation with a win over Sto-Rox and some help in the tiebreaker department.
Brentwood has relied nearly solely on Aiden Wardzinski to carry the offense. Wardzinski is averaging 19 carries per game and has run for 711 yards and 13 TDs. When Wardzinski isn’t running the ball, Brentwood has given it to O’Malley Daly (256 yards, 4 TDs). Amire Spencer has accounted for nearly 500 yards of total offense between rushing and receiving and has scored 5 times. Jase Keib has been an efficient passer, throwing for 639 yards and 3 TDs. Sto-Rox has an explosive passing game that has proven difficult to defend for everyone they have faced. The Vikings are led by QB Josh Jenkins (1063 yards, 11 TDs) who accounted for 5 total TDs last week in their win over Western Beaver (3 passing, 1 rushing, 1 receiving). Jenkins’ top receivers have been Jaymont Green-Miller (515 yards, 7 TDs), Drevon Miller-Ross (253 yards, 3 TDs), and Diontae Givens (158 yards, 4 TDs). Sto-Rox’s pass heavy attack does not call for a ton of running plays, but Zay Davis hads led the way with 300 rushing yards, 100 receiving yards, and 4 total TDs.
- Apollo-Ridge at Steel Valley
- Shady Side Academy at Ligonier Valley on Ligonier Valley’s Facebook Page
- McGuffey at Beth-Center
- Waynesburg at Chartiers-Houston
- Ellwood City at Laurel on TribLive HSSN
- Riverside at New Brighton
- Freedom at Mohawk
- Charleroi at Albert Gallatin
- Carlynton at Western Beaver (Saturday)
- South Side Beaver at Seton LaSalle (Saturday)
- Beaver Falls has clinched the Midwestern Conference title
- McGuffey has clinched the Century Conference title
- Apollo-Ridge can clinch a share of the Allegheny Conference title with a win over Steel Valley
- Serra Catholic will finish undefeated due to two COVID cancellations
- Sto-Rox wins the Three Rivers Conference title with a win over Brentwood
- The WPIAL will select all four Wild Card teams in 2A
Game of the Week
Shenango (6-0, 6-0) at Rochester (5-1, 5-1)
Both of these teams have clinched playoff spots so this game is purely for the Big Seven Conference title. Shenango and Rochester both have wins over third place OLSH so they are locked in to the top two spots. These are two run-heavy offenses with two of the best rushing attacks in 1A. Shenango’s Reis Watkins is the WPIAL’s third-leading rusher with 1226 yards and 21 TDs. With California (and WPIAL leading rusher Jaedan Zuzak) not playing this week, Watkins has a shot at the WPIAL rushing crown. Watkins did leave last week’s game early with an injury and CJ Miller stepped in to run for 64 yards and 2 TDs. Shenango, primarily due to Watkins, has been so good running the ball this season that QB Tino Campoli has only averaged 6 pass attempts per game but has thrown for 444 yards and 5 TDs. On the other side, Rochester has relied on the trio of Denny Robinson (730 yards, 11 TDs), Rashawn Reid (603 yards, 11 TDs), and Sal Laure (419 yards, 8 TDs). The Rams have run over nearly every opponent they have faced this season with the exception of Fort Cherry. Both Reis Watkins and Rashawn Reid have had games with 6 touchdowns this season and this game for the conference title will be a battle in the trenches for who can clear more room for their respective rushing attacks.
Springdale (5-1, 5-1) at Clairton (5-0, 5-0)
Springdale has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Their only loss is a narrow defeat by Jeannette in which the Dynamos led for most of the game before committing multiple second-half turnovers. Clairton has a victory over Jeannette in Week 1. The conference title is on the line as a Springdale victory would force a 3-way tie and a Clairton victory would give the Bears the title outright. Both of these teams are loaded with talented playmakers. For Springdale, Logan Dexter leads the team in rushing (473 yards), receiving (403 yards), and scoring (13 TDs). QB Legend Ausk (800 yards, 11 TDs) missed one game due to injury but has been solid all season. In addition to Dexter, Demitri Fritch (328 yards, 9 TDs) has been an important part of the Dynamos passing attack. Dexter has split the backfield work with Calvin Kindler (419 yards, 6 TDs). On the other side, Clairton has a dynamic offensive attack led by their backfield tandem of Dontae Sanders (972 yards, 16 TDs) and Isaiah Berry (385 yards, 7 TDs). Through the air, Jonte Sanders hasn’t had to throw often but has racked up 764 yards and 13 TDs. Clairton’s top receiver has been Brooklyn Cannon (457 yards, 9 TDs).
Carmichaels (5-1, 5-1) at Avella (4-2, 4-2)
Carmichales lost to California last week in a game that decided the Tri-County South title. Now they take on Avella for second place with a playoff spot on the line. This game gets the Casket Match designation as the winner will finish second and the loser will finish third, though it seems unlikely the WPIAL would give a Wild Card to the Tri-County South. Both teams are coming off a loss with Carmichaels falling to California and Avella falling to Bentworth. Carmichaels has a balanced offensive attack with dual-threat quarterback Trenton Carter throwing for 651 yards and 8 TDs and running for 308 yards and 4 TDs. Bailey Jones has been the focal point of the running game, piling up 758 yards and 12 TDs when averaging 12 yards per carry. Avella has a dual-threat quarterback of their own in KJ Rush who has thrown for 823 yards and 6 TDs and run for a team-high 271 yards and 3 TDs. Noah Markle (269 yards, 6 TDs) has also been a contributor in the ground game for the Eagles. On the outside, Tanner Terensky (328 yards, 4 TDs) and Brandon Samol (215 yards) are Avella’s top receivers.
- Northgate at OLSH
- Burgettstown at Union
- Cornell at Fort Cherry
- Jeannette at GCC on the Westmoreland Sports Network
- Leechburg at Imani on Imani’s Facebook Page
- Bishop Canevin at Riverview
- West Greene at Jefferson-Morgan
- Bentworth at Mapletown
- Shenango and Rochester have clinched playoff spots.
- OLSH is third in the Big Seven
- Clairton and Jeannette should be in the playoffs.
- Springdale can share the conference title with a win over Clairton but can finish no worse than third in the Eastern Conference.
- California has clinched the Tri-County South conference title
- The winner between Carmichaels and Avella will finish second and make the playoffs. The loser will finish third.