Home WPIAL WPIAL 2021 1A Playoff Primer

WPIAL 2021 1A Playoff Primer

by Ian

The biggest story in 1A this season was the return of Leechburg to the playoffs, snapping a 32-year playoff drought. That was the longest active drought in the WPIAL after Southmoreland broke their 40-year drought two years ago. The Blue Devils not only will be playing in the postseason for the first time since 1988, they will be hosting a playoff game for the first time in school history. Clairton got the top overall seed while the Eastern Conference was well-represented, landing 4 of the top 8 seeds. A number of early-round games were moved to different locations to try to get as many games on turf instead of grass as possible. The WPIAL 1A Championships will return to Heinz Field this year, kicking off at 2pm on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This might be the most wide open of any WPIAL classification with no singularly dominant teams.

Check out the 1A Preview as part of this week’s WPIAL Blitz Show.

Also, check out our Playoff Primers for the other classifications: 1A | 2A | 3A | 4A | 5A | 6A

The Bracket

The Teams

Clairton Bears
Conference Record: 7-0 Overall Record: 7-2
1A #1 Seed – First round bye, will face the winner of GCC-OLSH in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: Clairton started the year with consecutive losses against two of the top 2A teams, Steel Valley and Washington. Once the schedule shifted to conference play, the Bears defense returned to dominant form, holding opponents to under 10 points per game. They had a few “close” calls (by Clairton standards) with Bishop Canevin, GCC, and Springdale all coming within 14 points.
Recent History: Clairton is making their 16th consecutive playoff appearance. They have won 10 of the last 15 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. Clairton has made at least the semifinals in 14 straight seasons. Clairton lost to Jeannette in the WPIAL finals last year.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 35
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 69-23
Best Playoff Result: Clairton has won 14 WPIAL titles, the second-most behind Aliquippa’s 16 titles. Awarded the 1929, 1931, and 1954 WPIAL AAA Championship based on Gardner Points (no Championship Game). 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. Won PIAA Class A Championship in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Cornell Raiders
Conference Record:
 6-1 Overall Record: 7-2
1A #2 Seed – Will face #15 Monessen at West Allegheny HS in the first round.
How they got here: 
Cornell’s season was bookended with close losses to Mohawk and OLSH, but in between they were an offensive juggernaut. The Raiders scored at least 34 points in 5 straight games and beat Rochester for the conference title 14-7 in Week 7.
Recent History: 
Cornell ended their football program in 2011, operating under a co-operative agreement with Quaker Valley for four seasons. Cornell re-started their program in 2016 and lost their first 19 games before winning the final week of 2017. Two years ago, the Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and won their first playoff game in school history. They won their first conference title since 1983 this season.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances:
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: 
Cornell won their first playoff game in school history in 2019, beating California 32-27 before falling to Clairton in the semifinals. Coraopolis lost in the 1969 Class B (later Single-A) Championship Game to German Twp. Neville lost in the 1955 and 1956 Class B Championship Games.

Bishop Canevin Crusaders
Conference Record:
6-1 Overall Record: 9-1
1A #3 Seed –
Will face #14 Burgettstown at Canon-McMillan HS in the first round.
How they got here: Brick by brick, Bishop Canevin has rebuilt their program from some recent struggles. They got off to a 5-0 start with a 3-point win over Springdale and a 6-point win over GCC before falling by 10 to Clairton in a game where the Bears scored two defensive touchdowns. The Crusaders defense allowed just 3 points over their last 4 games and rolls into the playoffs on a hot streak.
Recent History:
This is Bishop Canevin’s first playoff appearance since 2017.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 18
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 18-17
Best Playoff Result: Won the WPIAL AA Championship in 1990. Went on to lose to Hanover in the PIAA Championship in overtime.

West Greene Pioneers
Conference Record: 7-0 Overall Record: 8-2
How they got here: After dropping their first two games, the Pioneers got back on track and rattled off 8 straight wins. They started conference play with a definitive 48-22 victory over defending TCS Champions California. Two weeks later they topped Carmichaels and cruised to the conference title with a balanced offensive attack that featured a 1000-yard passer and 1000-yard rusher.
Recent History: In 2017 West Greene reached the playoffs for the first time since 1993, breaking the third-longest playoff drought in the WPIAL. In 2019 they earned their first playoff victory since 1993, defeating GCC before losing to Sto-Rox in the semifinals.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 5
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 4-5
Best Playoff Result: West Greene reached the Class A WPIAL Championship Game in 1993, but fell to Duquesne.

Rochester Rams
Conference Record: 5-2 Overall Record: 7-2
1A #5 Seed – Will face #12 Mapletown at Freedom HS in the first round.
How they got here: The Rams dropped their conference opener to Union but bounced back to get a convincing win over OLSH. A Week 7 loss to Cornell cost them a chance at the conference title.
Recent History: Rochester was one of the dominant programs in Class A in the 1990s and 2000s, reaching 11 Championship Games and winning 7 WPIAL titles between 1990 and 2010. Rochester made the playoffs three straight years from 2016-2018, including reaching the WPIAL final in 2018 where they fell to OLSH. Last year they lost in the semifinals to Jeannette.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 27
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 59-20-1
Best Playoff Result: Won the WPIAL Class AA title in 1991, 1992, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2004. Tied Westinghouse 0-0 in the 1921 AA Championship Game. Won the PIAA Class A Championship in 1998, 2000, and 2001.

Carmichaels Mighty Mikes
Conference Record:
6-1 Overall Record: 8-2
1A #6 Seed –
Will host #11 Shenango in the first round.
How they got here: After missing the playoffs when they lost a Casket Match to Avella last year, the Mighty Mikes lived up to their name this season. Other than a 21-point loss to West Greene, they won all of their conference games by at least two scores. Carmichaels QB Trenton Carter became the 12th player in WPIAL history to pass and rush for 1000 yards in the same season.
Recent History: 
This is Carmichaels first playoff appearance since 2017. They made the playoffs in 13 straight seasons from 1998-2010 but only made it out of the first round once in that span. Carmichaels made the playoffs 5 times in 6 years between 2012 and 2017 and won their first round game in 2017.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 27
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 5-25-1
Best Playoff Result: Beat Wilmerding 12-6 in the 1952 WPIAL Class B (later Single-A) Championship. Tied Rostraver 0-0 in the 1962 Class A (later AA) Championship before there was overtime.

Leechburg Blue Devils
Conference Record:  Overall Record:
1A #7 Seed –
Will host #10 California in the first round.
How they got here: Leechburg raced out of the gate, winning their first three games by 30+ before falling to Clairton in their conference opener. They got back on track with dominant wins over Springdale and Jeannette before another loss to Bishop Canevin. The Blue Devils exploded for 137 points over their next two games before topping GCC in a thrilling season finale to lock up third place and earn their first home playoff game in school history.
Recent History:
Leechburg snapped a 32-year playoff drought, the longest active drought in the WPIAL, to make the playoffs for the first time since 1988. They have not won a playoff game since 1978.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 6
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 4-3
Best Playoff Result: Three-time WPIAL Champions. Defeated Baldwin 26-21 in the 1953 Class A (later AA) Championship. Won back-to-back WPIAL titles in 1965 (over California in Class A) and 1966 (over Avella in Class A).

Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions
Conference Record: 
4-3 Overall Record: 6-4
1A #8 Seed – Will play #9 OLSH at Hempfield HS in the first round.
How they got here: 
GCC’s only loss by more than one score this season was in Week 0 against 5A Upper St Clair. They played all of their 1A competition tight, with narrow losses to Bishop Canevin, Clairton, and Leechburg. However, they will be without a number of key starters for the postseason as the PIAA’s transfer rules prevent them from playing, so this team will have a vastly different look.
Recent History: 
Before the move to 6 classifications, GCC had reached the playoffs in 13 straight seasons and 17 of 18 years between 1998 and 2015. This is their second playoff berth since 2015.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: 
GCC won the 2009 WPIAL AA Championship, defeating Aliquippa 33-7. They made it all the way to the PIAA Championship Game, losing to Lancaster Catholic 21-14.

OLSH Chargers
Conference Record: 4-3 Overall Record: 6-3
1A #9 Seed – Will play GCC at Hempfield HS in the first round.
How they got here: OLSH had an up-and-down season with easy wins over Burgettstown and Fort Cherry, a loss to Rochester, followed by a narrow win over Union. Their playoff hopes were in jeopardy after they dropped games to Shenango and Northgate, but the Chargers edged conference champions Cornell in the final week to secure a playoff spot.
Recent History: OLSH started playing WPIAL football in 2010 and made the playoffs for the first time in 2016. They got their first playoff victory in 2017. After two straight playoff losses to Imani Christian, OLSH defeated the Saints in the first round in 2018 and went on to beat Clairton and Rochester to win the WPIAL title. OLSH’s season ended with a loss to Farrell in the PIAA semifinals. OLSH lost to Clairton in the first round each of the last two seasons.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 5
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result:
 OLSH won their first WPIAL Championship in 2018, defeating Rochester 28-6. They lost to Farrell in the PIAA semifinals.

California Trojans
Conference Record: 5-2 Overall Record: 7-2
1A #10 Seed – Will play at #7 Leechburg in the first round
How they got here: The Trojans started the season with wins over 2A Century Conference teams (Beth-Center and Waynesburg) but dropped their conference opener to West Greene. They seemed to have things back on track before losing to Carmichaels in Week 7. California quietly had a very good offensive season, averaging 37 points per game.
Recent History: This is California’s 6th straight playoff appearance after a 4-year drought. After reaching the semifinals in 2017 California lost in the first round each of the last three years. Prior to their current streak, the Trojans had made the playoffs in 12 of 13 years but only won two games. Their two wins en route to the WPIAL semifinals in 2017 equaled that total from 1999-2011.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 23
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 7-22
Best Playoff Result: Won the 1949 AA Championship, defeating Dormont 38-6. Lost the AA Championship Game in 1965 and the Class A Championship Game in 1986.

Shenango Wildcats
Conference Record: 3-4 Overall Record: 3-6
1A #11 Seed – Will play at #6 Carmichaels in the first round.
How they got here: Shenango’s move down from 2A to 1A was highly successful as they reached the semifinals last year and made the playoffs again this season. After losing their first four games, Shenango rebounded to win 3 in a row against Burgettstown, Northgate, and OLSH. This would give them enough Gardner Points to win a 3-way tie for 4th place and get one of the last two playoff spots in the conference.
Recent History: Shenango made the semifinals last year, which was their first playoff appearance since 2016.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 13
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 6-13
Best Playoff Result: Shenango has never reached a WPIAL Championship Game but have made the semifinals four times. The Wildcats reached the Class A (which became AA) semifinals in 1971, losing to Beaver. Shenango also reached the Class A semifinals in 1980 and 1987, losing to Clairton in 1980 and Monaca in 1987. Last year, they fell to Clairton in the 1A semifinals.

Mapletown Maples
Conference Record:  Overall Record:
1A #12 Seed –
Will play #5 Rochester at Freedom HS in the first round.
How they got here: Mapletown RB Landon Stevenson was one of the top rushers in the entire WPIAL and carried his team to the postseason. It was a season of streaks for the Maples. They won their first two games then dropped their next three. As the calendar flipped to October, The Maples got back on track with a 15-8 win over Monessen that started a 4-game winning streak. They closed the season with a loss to West Greene.
Recent History: 
This is Mapletown’s first playoff appearance since 2016 and just their third in the last 16 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 7
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 0-7
Best Playoff Result: Mapletown has never won a playoff game.

Springdale Dynamos
Conference Record: 3-4 Overall Record: 6-4
1A #13 Seed – Will play at West Greene in the first round.
How they got here: Springdale won their first 3 games then lost 3 in a row to start conference play. The Dynamos bounced back to win 3 of their last 4 games and win a Week 9 Casket Match over rival Riverview to lock up a playoff spot.
Recent History: Springdale returned to the postseason last year after missing in back-to-back years. Prior to that, they had reached the postseason in 15 out of 16 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 18
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 20-15
Best Playoff Result: Tied Glassport for the 1932 WPIAL Class A title (no Championship game). Won the WPIAL AA Championship in 1946 and 1973. Won the WPIAL Class A Championship in 2003. Lost to Bishop Carroll 28-20 in the PIAA Class A semifinals in 2003.

Burgettstown Blue Devils
Conference Record: 3-4 Overall Record: 5-4
1A #14 Seed – Will play #3 Bishop Canevin at Canon-McMillan HS in the first round.
How they got here: Burgettstown started the season with big wins over Tri-County South opponents, but once they got into Big Seven Conference play, they struggled, losing their first four. But the Blue Devils bounced back with a 3-point win over Northgate and 4-point win over Union to set up a Casket Match against Fort Cherry, which they won 23-0 to get the last playoff spot.
Recent History: Burgettstown is making their 6th playoff appearance in the last 7 years. Their 2017 first round victory over Neshannock was their first playoff win since 1977.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 16
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 5-14
Best Playoff Result: Awarded the 1929 WPIAL Class B (became Single-A) Championship based on Gardner Points (no Championship Game). Won the 1941 WPIAL AA Championship Game 34-7 over Crafton.

Monessen Greyhounds
Conference Record: 3-4 Overall Record: 4-6
1A #15 Seed – Will play #2 Cornell at West Allegheny HS in the first round
How they got here: After going winless last season and having to forfeit their last three games, it was questionable whether or not Monessen would even be able to field a team this year. After losing their first two games the Greyhounds rallied to win three in a row, including wins over Bentworth and Jefferson-Morgan. Those two conference victories carried them through a 4-game losing streak and set up a Week 9 Casket Match against Avella, which they won 14-6 to earn the final playoff spot.
Recent History: Monessen made the playoffs in 26 of 29 years between 1985 and 2013. This is just their third playoff appearance in the last 8 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 34
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 19-32
Best Playoff Result: Won the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1930 and 1961.

Players to Watch

Capone Jones (QB – Clairton) – Clairton’s dual-threat quarterback was the catalyst of their offense, throwing for over 500 yards and rushing for over 700 yards.

Tommy Burke and Braylan Lovelace (QB & RB Leechburg) – Leechburg led the classification in scoring (45 points per game) and did it through the air with Burke as 1A’s top passer with over 1600 yards and 15 TDs and on the ground with Lovelace, who ran for over 1300 yards and 26 TDs

Trenton Carter (QB – Carmichaels) – In Week 8, Carter became the 12th player in WPIAL history to join the 1000/1000 Club by accumulating over 1000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards in the same regular season.

Landon Stevenson (RB – Mapletown) – 1A’s leading rusher and one of the top rushers in the WPIAL with 1579 yards and 27 TDs.

Lasae Lacks & Xavier Nelson (WRs – Bishop Canevin) – The Crusaders had the top receiving duo in 1A. Both players averaged over 20 yards per catch, tallied over 500 yards and scored 9 times.

Logan Dexter (RB – Springdale) – Dexter missed some time with injury this season, but was a dynamic force on the Dynamos offense when healty. He was the team’s leading rusher (571 yards), receiver (264 yards), and scorer (15 total TDs).

Sal Laure (RB – Rochester) – Rochester is always a run-heavy outfit that uses a number of backs, but Sal Laure was the workhorse this season, running the ball more than twice as much as any other member of the Rams backfield. He compiled 828 yards on the ground, 168 receiving, and scored 17 times.

Sincere Kimbrough (QB – Cornell) – The dual-threat QB that spurred Cornell’s success, Kimbrough threw for over 800 yards and 9 TDs and ran for over 250 yards and 6 TDs.

Wes Whipkey & Colin Brady (QB & RB – West Greene) – West Greene has been known for producing talented running backs, but this season the Pioneers had a quarterback to go with it. Wes Whipkey threw for over 1000 yards and 16 TDs. Sophomore Colin Brady staked his claim as the next in the line of great West Greene backs, running for over 1300 yards and 20 TDs.

Tyree Turner (QB – GCC) – With a number of GCC players having to miss the playoffs due to the PIAA’s transfer rules, the weight of the offense will fall onto Turner’s shoulders. He threw for 757 yards and 8 TDs this year and at 199 rushing yards and 7 TDs will be the only one of their top four rushers available in the postseason.

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WPIAL 2021 First Round Playoff Preview - Steel City Blitz November 4, 2021 - 11:18 pm

[…] a look at the storylines and history of the teams in the playoffs, check out our Playoff Primers: 1A […]

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