Home WPIAL WPIAL 2021 2A Playoff Primer

WPIAL 2021 2A Playoff Primer

by Ian

The 2A playoff bracket is the only one in the WPIAL with a true even format and no byes. There are 16 teams in the playoff field and four of them enter with perfect records. The biggest surprise in the bracket was the WPIAL giving Steel Valley the top overall seed when many assumed that last year’s runner-up Sto-Rox was the shoo-in for the top spot. In addition to the four unbeaten conference champions (Steel Valley, Sto-Rox, Laurel, and Washington) defending Champions Beaver Falls and last year’s semifinalist Serra Catholic are in the top six seeds. This might be the deepest bracket in the WPIAL with Farrell in District 10 and Southern Columbia out of the east potentially waiting in the state bracket. The Championships return to Heinz Field this year and will take place at 5pm on Friday after Thanksgiving.

Check out the 2A 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

Steel Valley Ironmen
Conference Record: 5-0 Overall Record: 9-0
2A #1 Seed – Will host #16 seed Beth-Center in the first round
How they got here: Steel Valley beat the top-seeded 1A team (Clairton) and 3A playoff teams (East Allegheny and Keystone Oaks) before rolling into conference play. Against 2A competition no one scored more than 7 points against the Ironmen’s defense and their ground attack of WPIAL leading rusher NiJhay Burt and Cruce Brookins was dominant. The only 2A school to hold them under 40 points was Serra Catholic, who they beat 28-7 for the conference title in the season finale.
Recent History: Steel Valley missed the playoffs the last two seasons after reaching the WPIAL title game in three straight years from 2016-2018. The “Mercy Boys” squad of 2016 won the WPIAL and PIAA title while mercy ruling every team they played. The Ironmen lost to Washington in the 2017 WPIAL finals but came back to win the WPIAL title in 2018. This is their 12th playoff appearance in the last 16 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 24
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 27-19
Best Playoff Result: Won  the 1982 WPIAL AAA Championship. Won the WPIAL AA Championships in 1988 and 1989 , and WPIAL 2A Championships in 2016 and 2018. Won the 2016 PIAA Championship, defeating Southern Columbia 49-7.

Sto-Rox Vikings
Conference Record:
 5-0 Overall Record: 10-0
2A #2 Seed – Will face #15 Shady Side Academy at Peters Twp in the first round
How they got here: Sto-Rox started the season with a win over Bishop Sycamore (remember them?) in the WPIAL vs Everyone Showcase (which turned out to mean literally everyone). The only game against WPIAL competition the Vikings had that was closer than 35 points was a 3-point victory over 3A Avonworth. They drew a Shady Side Academy team in the first round that they beat 65-12 earlier this year.
Recent History: This is Sto-Rox’s 5th playoff appearance in the last 6 seasons. They reached the WPIAL Championship Game in each of the last two seasons. The Vikings lost the 1A title game to Clairton in 2019 and the 2A title game to Beaver Falls in 2020. That was Sto-Rox’s 5th trip to the WPIAL final in the last 10 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 18
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 21-17
Best Playoff Result: Sto-Rox 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.

Laurel Spartans
Conference Record: 7-0 Overall Record: 10-0
2A #3 Seed – Will host #14 McGuffey in the first round
How they got here: Other than a Week 1 non-conference game against Lawrence County rivals Shenango, Laurel  was absolutely dominant this season. In conference play their closest win was an 18-point victory over Beaver Falls in Week 3. Neshannock was the only other team to come within 30 of the Spartans. Shenango was the only team all season to keep Laurel under 35 points as the Spartans offense led by Luke McCoy and Kobe DeRosa averaged 43 points per game.
Recent History: Laurel reached the playoffs in 2016 and 2017 playing in 2A then dropped down to 1A for the next cycle and narrowly missed the playoffs both seasons. The Spartans returned to 2A last season and made the playoffs again, narrowly losing to eventual runner-up Sto-Rox by just a point in the quarterfinals. Their first round victory over Chartiers-Houston in 2016 is their only playoff victory since a run to the Class A semifinals in 2009.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 21
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 16-20
Best Playoff Result: Won the 1980 WPIAL Class A Championship, defeating Clairton 14-12. Lost in the AA Championship game in 1977 and the Class A Championship Game in 1989.

Washington Prexies
Conference Record: 6-0 Overall Record: 9-0
2A #4 Seed – 
Will host #13 New Brighton in the first round
How they got here: Washington was the highest-scoring team in 2A this season, averaging 47.6 points per game. Part of that was Washington only played 7 games on the field this season as three teams forfeit against the Prexies. Nevertheless, only Chartiers-Houston held them under 40 points. In Week 9, they won a thrilling game against McGuffey with the outright conference title on the line, staging a 2-play 20-second 52-yard game-winning drive.
Recent History: Washington is making their 11th consecutive playoff appearance and 12th in the last 13 years. The Prexies won the WPIAL 2A Championship 37-10 over Steel Valley in 2017 then lost in the PIAA semifinals to Wilmington 49-42. In 2019 they returned to the WPIAL Championship but lost to Avonworth.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 33
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 43-30-1
Best Playoff Result: Tied Johnstown 0-0 for the 1917 WPIAL AAA Championship. Won the 1920 and 1926 WPIAL AAA Championship. Declared the 1923 WPIAL AAA Champion. Won the 1993 and 2001 WPIAL AA Championship. Won the 2017 WPIAL 2A Championship. Won the 2001 PIAA Championship, defeating Pen Argyl 19-12.

Beaver Falls Tigers
Conference Record: 
6-1 Overall Record: 6-3
2A #5 Seed – Will host #12 Western Beaver at Geneva College
How they got here: The defending WPIAL Champions got off to a rocky start, losing their first 3 games. Losses to 4A squads (Blackhawk and Aliquippa) weren’t anything to worry about, but an 18-point loss to Laurel could have been. The Tigers rebounded on the strength of their passing attack and went 6-0 through the rest of their slate to enter the playoffs on a hot streak. In that run, only Neshannock played them closer than 20 points.
Recent History: Beaver Falls is making their 14th playoff appearance in the last 15 years. In 2016, Beaver Falls defeated Aliquippa 35-22 in the WPIAL Championship then went on to beat Middletown 30-13 and win the State Championship. Last year the Tigers moved down to 2A and were dominant, running to the WPIAL title before falling in the State semis to Wilmington.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 20
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 31-17
Best Playoff Result: Five-time WPIAL Champions and 2016 State Champions. Awarded the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1928 and 1960 based on Gardner Points (no Championship Game). Won 1984 WPIAL AA Championship over Riverside 14-13. Won the WPIAL and PIAA 3A Championship in 2016. Won the WPIAL 2A Championship in 2020.

Serra Catholic Eagles
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 9-1
2A #6 Seed – Will play #11 Neshannock at Norwin HS in the first round
How they got here: Serra rolled through the regular season until running into Steel Valley in Week 9. Serra’s defense was outstanding this season, holding opponents to just 9 points per game and scoring multiple defensive touchdowns.
Recent History: This is Serra’s 6th straight playoff appearance after a 6-year drought. Their first round victory in 2017 was the Eagles’ first playoff win since they won the 2007 WPIAL title. Serra reached the semifinals last year and lost a thrilling game against Sto-Rox.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 13
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 9-11
Best Playoff Result: Won two WPIAL Class A Championships, defeating Clairton 12-0 in 1981 and defeating Springdale 10-6 in 2007. Lost to Steelton-Highspire 34-15 in the 2007 PIAA Class A Championship.

Chartiers-Houston Bucs
Conference Record:
5-1 Overall Record: 7-1
2A #7 Seed – Will host #10 Mohawk in the first round
How they got here: Chartiers-Houston rode a stout defense to the playoffs this season. They held McGuffey to just 7 points in a 13-7 Week 7 victory that solidified the Bucs as one of the top teams in the conference.
Recent History: 
Chartiers-Houston is making their first playoff appearance since 2016. Prior to their recent drought the Bucs had qualified 15 times in 20 years, but have not won a playoff game since 2000.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 22
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 6-20
Best Playoff Result: Four-time WPIAL Champions. Chartiers Township High School beat Masontown 6-0 in the 1945 Class B (later Single-A) Championship Game. Chartiers Houston beat Oakmont 31-0 in the 1968 Class B title game then topped Midland in back-to-back years in 1971 and 1972 to win WPIAL Class B titles.

South Side Beaver Rams
Conference Record: 
4-1 Overall Record: 7-3
2A #8 Seed – Will host #9 Ligonier Valley in the first round
How they got here: After a 3-3 start to the season, South Side won their last 4 games – including a Week 9 victory over Western Beaver for second place in the conference.
Recent History: South Side Beaver is making their 6th playoff appearance in the last 8 years. In 2018 they made a run from the #8 seed to the WPIAL title game where they lost to Steel Valley.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 17
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 17-15
Best Playoff Result: Won 1970 and 1999 WPIAL Class A Championships. Won 1999 PIAA Class A Championship, defeating Southern Columbia 27-21.

Ligonier Valley Rams
Conference Record:
3-2 Overall Record: 8-2
2A #9 Seed – Will play at #8 South Side Beaver in the first round
How they got here: After losing 40-0 to Steel Valley at the start of conference play, injuries forced Ligonier Valley to forfeit to Serra Catholic. The Rams needed to stop a two-point conversion at the end to beat Shady Side Academy and claim the third spot in the Allegheny Conference. Their non-conference slate included wins over playoff teams from 4A (Indiana) and 3A (Elizabeth Forward) so this is a dangerous team when healthy.
Recent History:
Ligonier Valley played in the WPIAL until 19_ when they moved to District 6. The Rams returned to the WPIAL last season after four straight trips to the D-6 Championship Game. This will be their first appearance in the WPIAL playoffs.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 0
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 0-0
Best Playoff Result: Ligonier Valley won District 6 titles in 2016 and 2017 and lost in the D-6 Championship Game in 2018 and 2019. The Rams reached the PIAA semifinals in 2016, losing to Southern Columbia.

Mohawk Warriors
Conference Record: 4-3 Overall Record: 5-5
2A #10 Seed – Will play at Chartiers-Houston in the first round.
How they got here: The Warriors won their first three games in conference play, including an 8-point win over Neshannock and a 2-point win over New Brighton. As they endured a 3-game losing streak, these early wins would be enough to keep them on the right side of the playoff picture.
Recent History: After not making the playoffs from 2005-2016, Mohawk qualified in consecutive years. The Warriors won the conference title in 2018 and won their second playoff game in school history. This will be their third playoff appearance in five years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 6
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 2-6
Best Playoff Result: This is only the Warriors 7th playoff appearance all-time. Their best result was reaching the quarterfinals in 2005 and 2018.

Neshannock Lancers
Conference Record: 
4-3 Overall Record: 7-3
2A #11 Seed – Will face #6 Serra Catholic at Norwin High School in the first round.
How they got here: Neshannock won their three non-conference outings before stumbling with a loss to Mohawk to start conference play. The Lancers got back on track and rattled off 4 straight wins to put themselves in position to challenge for the conference title but blew a 23-6 lead against Beaver Falls in Week 8 then fell to Laurel in Week 9.
Recent History:
 Neshannock has made the playoffs in 8 of the last 10 years. The Lancers had a 6-year run of playoff appearances from 2012-2017. In that span, they reached the semifinals 4 times and the WPIAL final once, losing to Steel Valley in the inaugural 2A Championship.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 11
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 11-11
Best Playoff Result: Lost to Steel Valley in the 2016 WPIAL 2A Championship Game.

Western Beaver Golden Beavers
Conference Record: 3-2 Overall Record: 7-3
2A #12 Seed – Will face #5 Beaver Falls at Geneva College in the first round
How they got here: Western Beaver ran off 6 straight wins after a Week 0 loss to New Brighton, but lost 2 of their last 3 contests. The game in Week 7 against Sto-Rox was for the conference title then they fell to South Side Beaver with second place in the conference on the line, sending the Golden Beavers to the bottom half of the bracket.
Recent History: This is Western Beaver’s 4th playoff appearance in the last 8 years. They have not won a playoff game since 2008.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 23
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 18-20
Best Playoff Result: Won the WPIAL Class A Championship in 1976, 1983 and 1994. Lost to Southern Columbia in the 1994 PIAA Class A Championship Game.

New Brighton Lions
Conference Record: 3-4 Overall Record: 4-6
2A #13 Seed – Will play at #4 Washington in the first round.
How they got here: New Brighton started the season just 2-6, but the Lions showed tenacity in the face of injury. After losing their starting quarterback, they came together in the final weeks to beat Riverside and set up a Casket Match with Freedom in Week 9, which they won to earn the last playoff spot.
Recent History: New Brighton is making their 3rd playoff appearance in 4 years. In 2019, the Lions won their first playoff game since a run to the semifinals in 2001.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 17
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: Tied Canonsburg for the 1950 Class A (became AA) WPIAL Championship (no overtime). Defeated Ramsey 33-0 in the 1951 WPIAL Class A Championship. Defeated Jeannette 35-6 in the 1994 WPIAL AA Championship. Lost to Forest Hills in the 1994 PIAA semifinals.

McGuffey Highlanders
Conference Record: 4-2 Overall Record: 5-5
2A #13 Seed – Will play at Laurel in the first round
How they got here: After winning the conference title last year, many predicted big things from McGuffey this season, but it was an up-and-down campaign for the Highlanders who seemed to either be blowing out inferior teams or losing tight games. Their three October losses were all in one-score games.
Recent History: This is the fourth straight playoff appearance for McGuffey. In 2019 the Highlanders earned their first playoff victory since 1994 when they won the WPIAL AAA Championship. This is just their 8th playoff appearance since that title.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 11
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: Defeated Blackhawk 12-6 in the 1994 AAA Championship after losing to Blackhawk in the title game the year prior. Lost to Sharon 14-7 in the 1994 PIAA semifinals.

Shady Side Academy Bulldogs
Conference Record: 2-3 Overall Record: 5-5
How they got here: Shady Side got off to a 3-1 start to the season but dropped 4 of their next 5 games, including a 1-point loss to Ligonier Valley where they had a chance to win on a late 2-point conversion. The Bulldogs rebounded to thump Summit Academy in the final week and earn the Wild Card spot over Seton LaSalle on tiebreaker points.
Recent History: Shady Side Academy reached the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years. In 2018 they got their first playoff victory since 2011 but fell in the second round to eventual runner-up South Side Beaver.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 14
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: Won the 1998 WPIAL AA Championship, defeating Washington 30-12. Lost to Mt. Carmel 44-7 in the 1998 PIAA AA Championship Game.

Beth-Center Bulldogs
Conference Record: 2-3 Overall Record: 2-7
2A #16 Seed – Will play at Steel Valley in the first round
How they got here: Beth-Center lost their first four games before forfeiting to Washington. The week off helped the Bulldogs get back on track and they beat Charleroi 39-22. That victory was enough to set them up with a Casket Match against Waynesburg in Week 9, which they won 32-22.
Recent History: Beth-Center missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons after making 16th consecutive playoff appearances. They have not won a playoff game since 2010.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 24
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 13-23
Best Playoff Result: Won the 1975 WPIAL AA Championship, defeating Kittanning 13-0.

Players to Watch

NiJhay Burt (RB – Steel Valley) – The WPIAL’s leading rusher (1812 yards, 31 TDs) coupled with quarterback Cruce Brookins (842 rushing yards, 9 TDs) to make  for a formidable one-two punch out of the Ironmen backfield. Burt had three 5 TD games this season.

Josh Jenkins (QB – Sto-Rox) – This year was the inverse of last year where Jenkins started at QB and switched to WR. Jenkins started this year at wide receiver and racked up 204 yards and 3 TDs with Austin Jones playing quarterback. Halfway through the season, he switched back to quarterback and threw for 681 yards and 12 TDs to lead the Vikings explosive offense.

Jaymont Green-Miller, Zay Davis, Drevon Miller-Ross (WRs – Sto-Rox) – The Vikings trio of wide receivers have been unstoppable this season. All three have averaged over 18 yards per reception.

Luke McCoy (RB – Laurel) – McCoy was the second-leading rusher in the WPIAL behind only Steel Valley’s NiJhay Burt. McCoy averaged 12 yards per carry, running for over 1600 yards and 28 TDs. Laurel nearly had two 1000-yard rushers as QB Kobe DeRosa ran for 928 yards and 14 TDs.

Davoun Fuse (QB – Washington) – Fuse was the catalyst that keyed the highest-scoring offense in 2A. He accounted for over 1000 yards of total offense between 700 passing and 300 rushing. He threw for 11 TDs and ran for 13 scores.

Jaren Brickner (QB – Beaver Falls) – Beaver Falls graduated just 5 players from their WPIAL title team, but three of them were their top running backs. As such, they transitioned to a passing attack this season and Brickner led 2A in passing with 1840 yards and 18 TDs.

Max Rocco (QB – Serra Catholic) – Rocco threw the most touchdown passes of any quarterback in 2A (23) and piled up over 1600 yards. He did leave the game against Steel Valley with an injury, so hopefully he is okay for the playoffs.

Terrell Booth, Jayvon Holt, Amire Spencer (WRs – Serra Catholic) – Serra’s trio of receivers were dominant in all three phases of the game. Offensively they all averaged over 17 yards per catch, with Booth leading the way with over 600 yards and Hold and Spencer each had over 300. The three combined to form a tenacious defensive backfield and all had success in the return game as well.

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