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WPIAL 2021 First Round Playoff Preview

by Ian

The 2021 WPIAL Playoffs are here! In total, 73 teams qualified for the postseason with 15 receiving first round byes. That means there are 29 first round games across all six classifications that will take place on Friday night. It’s win or go home time. There’s nothing better. We previewed every team in the playoffs and discussed the brackets in this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show. Additionally, for a look at the storylines and history of the teams in the playoffs, check out our Playoff Primers: 1A2A | 3A | 4A | 5A | 6A

This year, our WPIAL coverage is sponsored by the Sports Stream Premium Network and PA Mortgage Protection and Life Insurance. The Sports Stream Premium Network enables schools to turn their livestreamed events into pay-per-view events where schools receive 100% of the revenue generated.

I will once again be doing a pregame spot on WMBS Radio. You can listen to the show here, starting at 6pm on Friday. This weekend, WMBS will be broadcasting Laurel Highlands taking on Beaver in the 4A playoffs. This is Laurel Highlands’ first playoff appearance since 2016 and the Mustangs are looking for their first playoff victory in school history.

Be sure to follow our WPIAL Twitter account @WPIAL_Blitz and check out our WPIAL Blitz Facebook Page.

6A Quarterfinal

6A Playoff Primer
WPIAL Blitz Show 6A Preview

4. North Allegheny vs 5. Canon-McMillan

With only 8 teams in 6A, all of the playoff games will be rematches. North Allegheny beat Canon-McMillan 36-14 earlier this season. The Tigers fell into this spot by losing in Week 9 to Seneca Valley while Canon-Mac lost their final four games and needed Tiebreaker Points to edge Baldwin and Norwin for the final playoff spot. Top-seeded Mt. Lebanon awaits the winner in the semifinals. Canon-McMillan boasts 6A’s leading passer Michael Evans (1378 yards, 12 TDs). The Big Macs have also relied on RB Ryan Angott (783 yards, 9 TDs) to shoulder the load offensively. North Allegheny’s traditionally run-heavy offense opened up a bit more this year with Logan Kushner throwing for 968 yards and 11 TDs. The Tigers did not have a workhorse back but employed a committee approach led by JR Burton (520 yards, 6 TDs) and Tanner Potts (244 yards, 4 TDs). Leading receiver Khiryn Boyd (358 yards) scored on 5 receiving and 3 rushing touchdowns.

5A First Round

5A Playoff Primer
WPIAL Blitz Show 5A Preview

9. Woodland Hills at 8. Bethel Park

Both of these teams saw long playoff runs come to an end in recent years. Woody High’s 23-year streak came to an end in 2019 and Bethel Park’s 21-year playoff streak ended last year. Now both are back in the playoffs. Woodland Hills is 5-0 all-time against Bethel Park in the postseason. The Wolverines are led by dual-threat QB Deontae Williams who is also one of the top defensive backs in Western PA. Williams threw for 267 yards and 2 TDs and ran for 553 yards and 9 TDs while missing a chunk of the middle of the season due to injury. In his absence, Jahshawn Pringle threw for nearly 500 yards and 6 TDs. Brandon Jones (487 yards, 5 TDs) has also been a factor in the ground game. Bethel Park’s resurgence from going winless last year has been led by Youngstown State-commit Max Blanc who has thrown for 1308 yards and 7 TDs. On the ground, Troy Volpatti has led the way with 967 yards and 16 TDs.

12. Franklin Regional at 5. Penn Hills

Penn Hills will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after winning the tiebreakers for the Northeast Conference title but being seeded behind Pine-Richland and not earning a bye. Franklin Regional saw their 16-year playoff streak come to an end last year and made it here thanks to a 20-point second half comeback against Latrobe. Penn Hills is led by the Dugger brothers – sophomore QB Julian Dugger who threw for 1030 yards and 16 TDs and ran for 417 yards and 9 scores. His older brother Jaden Dugger is a senior receiver (371 yards, 9 TDs) and a top defensive back recruit. Raion Strader has starred on both sides of the ball, not allowing a touchdown in man coverage on defense this year and racking up 315 yards and 4 TDs as a receiver. Penn Hills’ secondary will be tested by Franklin Regional’s passing attack, led by Connor Donnelly (820 yards, 8 TDs).

10. Fox Chapel at 7. Upper St Clair

Fox Chapel’s early win against Kiski held up as enough to get the Foxes into the playoffs. For Upper St Clair, the “Cardiac Cats” came back late in the season with some thrilling finishes. Fox Chapel has a balanced offensive attack led by QB Collin Dietz (1296 yards, 12 TDs) who has spread the ball around between Khi’lee Patterson (441 yards, 5 TDs) Jacob DeMotte (388 yards, 2 TDs), and Colin Kwiatkowski (383 yards, 5 TDs). Leading rusher Zidane Thomas has run for 849 yards and 10 scores. Upper St Clair also has a balanced offensive attack, though leading receiver Mateo Cepullio had to move from WR to QB last week to replace Brady Erdos (749 yards, 6 TDs). The heart and soul of the Panthers team is Ethan Hiester who has done a bit of everything – running for 492 yards, adding 139 receiving yards, scoring a team-high 8 TDs and even throwing a touchdown pass. Hiester has been a force defensively and in the last two weeks has blocked two field goals that could have been game-winners. Aidan Besselman (371 receiving yards, 135 rushing yards, 6 total TDs) has emerged as a play-maker on offense.

11. Peters Twp at 6. North Hills

The battle of Indians vs Indians with the winner getting defending WPIAL Champions Pine-Richland. North Hills is looking for their first playoff win since 2010 and flying high after topping Pine-Richland and finishing in a 3-way tie atop the conference. Peters Twp needed a Week 9 victory over South Fayette to get into the playoffs after reaching the WPIAL finals the last two years. Peters found a good quarterback to take the helm in Sam Miller (1613 passing yards, 15 TDs, 437 rushing yards, 5 TDs). Jacob Macosko (603 yards, 9 TDs) and Bryce Thompson (487 yards, 3 TDs) have been the top targets in the passing game. For North Hills, they have opened up their traditionally run-heavy offense thanks to the emergence of QB John Green (1062 yards, 11 TDs). Bucknell-commit Robert Dickerson is an all-around playmaker in all three phases of the game and has scored 6 times. Liam Tracey (745 yards, 7 TDs) leads the ground game.

4A First Round

4A Playoff Primer
WPIAL Blitz Show 4A Preview

9. New Castle at 8. Highlands

Highlands is making their first playoff appearance since 2015 while New Castle hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016. These teams were formerly in the same Northwest Nine Conference for the first four years of the six classification era. Three of their four matchups were nail biters, including a 48-47 double overtime thriller in 2017. New Castle has won a number of close games this season with last-minute wins over Montour, Blackhawk, and Chartiers Valley. Highlands enters on a hot streak, winners of 3 in a row to get into the postseason. Both teams have dual-threat quarterbacks that have been the key to their offensive attacks. New Castle’s Chris Hood has thrown for 953 yards and 7 TDs and run for 771 yards and 13 scores. The Red Hurricanes have rotated running backs with Braylen Sibley (287 yards, 2 TDs) having the most success. Mike Wells (248 rushing yards, 218 receiving yards, 7 total TDs) is the team’s leading receiver and third-leading rusher. For Highlands, QB Chandler Thimons has thrown for 1105 yards and 14 TDs and run for 806 yards and 11 TDs. Thimons is joined in the backfield by 4A’s leading rusher Luke Bombalski (1239 yards, 16 TDs). On the outside, Landan Signorella (487 yards, 7 TDs) and Jrake Burford (366 yards, 4 TDs) have been a formidable tandem in the passing game.

13. Plum at 4. Hampton

Hampton may have a bone to pick with the WPIAL for seeding them, as undefeated conference champions, below McKeesport. Hampton draws a first round rematch with conference foes Plum who they defeated 35-7 earlier this year. Plum overcame some adversity after their win over Mars was retroactively changed to a forfeit and won a Casket Match with Greensburg Salem to get into the playoffs. Plum’s balanced offensive attack has been led by the running of Eryck Moore (963 yards, 10 TDs) and passing of Sean Franzi (998 yards, 10 TDs). Franzi has spread the ball around to four receivers between Logan Brooks (444 yards, 6 TDs), Samo Pitts (283 yards, 3 TDs), Darian Nelson (251 yards, 4 TDs), and David Westrick (199 yards). Hampton’s offense is built around their running game. The Talbots had two backs top the 1000-yard mark this season. Brock Borgo (1090 yards, 17 TDs) led the way with Christian Liberto (1009 yards, 14 TDs) not far behind. Matt DeMatteo and Joey Mayer split time at quarterback but both had more attempts and yards rushing than passing.

12. Indiana at 5. Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is the two-time defending WPIAL and PIAA Champions, but they dropped two conference games this season for the first time since 2015. TJ has reached the last six WPIAL Championship games, winning five of them. Indiana is making the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Indiana had one of the best rushing attacks in 4A with the tandem of 900-yard rushers Zach Herrington (984 yards, 12 TDs) and Devin Flint (934 yards, 16 TDs). Additionally, Korbin Wilson (558 yards, 8 TDs) and Liam McFarlane (313 yards, 2 TDs) both averaged over 8 yards per carry. Thomas Jefferson has worked in an entirely new set of starters this season, led by dual-threat QB Joe Leske (830 passing yards, 10 TDs, 480 rushing yards, 14 TDs). When Connor Murga went down with injury, Elias Lippencott stepped into the lead back role and has run for 594 yards and 11 TDs in a half season as a starter. On the outside, Sean Sullivan (426 yards, 5 TDs) has been Leske’s top target. The Jaguars are still loaded down in the trenches with Kent State-commit Nick Bryan leading the way.

10. Laurel Highlands at 7. Beaver

Laurel Highlands completed their best season in school history and made the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Beaver bounced back from a 2-win season to finish second in the conference, winning two games in overtime and another on a last-minute field goal. This game is a matchup of two star players in Rodney Gallagher and Wyatt Ringer that have led the resurgence of their programs. Gallagher is one of the best two-sport athletes in the WPIAL with D1 offers in football and basketball. He became the 13th player in WPIAL history to join the 1000/1000 Club this season, throwing for 1129 yards and 12 TDs and running for 1005 yards and 19 TDs. The Mustangs have a stable of quality receivers in Keondre DeShields (310 yards, 7 TDs), Joe Chambers (278 yards, 2 TDs), and Jayden Pratt (219 yards, 3 TDs). Beaver’s offense is built almost entirely around Ringer and they will line up two fullbacks in front of him and just let him run direct snaps all game. Ringer has run for 999 yards and 15 TDs and thrown for 305 yards and 4 TDs, averaging just 7 pass attempts per game. He has carried the ball more than twice as much as Jacob Hilton (360 yards, 3 TDs) and Liam Gibson (169 yards) combined.

11. Montour at 6. Armstrong

Armstrong is making their fourth playoff appearance in seven seasons since the merger of Ford City and Kittanning. Montour won a win-and-get-in game against Chartiers Valley in the final week of the season. Montour has relied on their ground game this season, led by the tandem of Caleb Williams (947 yards, 9 TDs) and Brock Janeda (513 yards, 3 TDs) who scored two second-half TDs last week in the win over Char Valley. Quarterback Jake Wolfe has thrown for 674 yards and 4 TDs and added 234 yards and 3 scores on the ground. Armstrong has one of the top passers in the entire WPIAL in Cadin Olsen who threw for 2019 yards and 23 TDs, but late in the season it was Olsen’s legs that were a difference-maker. He finished the year with 779 rushing yards and 16 TDs. Alex Patton also topped the 700-yard mark on the ground (scoring 5 times). Olsen’s top targets were Isaiah Brown (821 yards, 8 TDs) and Noah Shuttleworth (497 yards, 6 TDs).

3A First Round

3A Playoff Primer
WPIAL Blitz Show 3A Preview

9.  East Allegheny at 8. Southmoreland

In 2019 Southmoreland snapped a 40-year playoff drought and now are back in the postseason for the second time in three years. The Scotties will get to host a home playoff game after finishing in a 3-way tie for second in the Interstate Conference. They will be looking for their first playoff win in school history as they take on an East Allegheny team making their 6th straight playoff appearance but with just one win in that span. Southmoreland QB Anthony Govern finished in the Top Six in 3A in both passing (1106 yards, 10 TDs) and rushing (655 yards, 15 TDs). In addition to Govern, Isaac Trout ran for 225 yards, led the Scotties with 501 receiving yards and scored 9 times. East Allegheny also has a dual-threat QB in Michael Smith who has thrown for 852 yards and 13 TDs and run for 214 yards and 3 TDs. Prashaun Gainer (449 yards, 5 TDs) and Mike Cahill (283 yards, 4 TDs) have been a quality tandem on the outside for the Wildcats.

12. Ambridge at 5. Freeport

Freeport rode their solid defense into the playoffs. In conference play, they held every team not named “North Catholic” to under 10 points. Ambridge entered the season on a 24-game overall losing streak (dating to Week 2 of 2018) and a 34-game conference losing streak (dating back to 2015). The Bridgers were the only team that had never won a conference game in the six-classification era. They snapped both of those streaks (the overall streak had reached 28 games and was the longest in the WPIAL at the time) in definitive fashion in Week 5 against Hopewell. Ben Lane did a little bit of everything for Freeport this season, throwing for 436 yards and 3 TDs and running for 511 yards and 9 TDs. The Yellow Jackets used 3 different quarterbacks this season with Vincent Clark and Garrett King also getting time under center. Clark and King also played wide receiver where Shawn Stivenson (212 yards, 1 TD) was the top target. For the Bridgers, Sedrick Seymour (472 yards, 3 TDs) has led the ground game. Deaven Ivory (588 yards, 6 TDs) has found some success through the air, particularly throwing to D’Saun Harmon (299 yards, 4 TDs).

10. South Allegheny at 7. Keystone Oaks

South Allegheny is making their first playoff appearance since 2012. The Gladiators closed out Glassport Memorial Stadium in style by beating Mt. Pleasant last week to secure a playoff spot. Keystone Oaks played just two close games all season. They lost to Chartiers Valley by 1 in overtime and to Montour by 7, both in non-conference play. Their 3 conference wins were all by 20+ and both of their conference losses were by 35+ points. Keystone Oaks put up a lot of yards on offense with Nick Buckley (1466 yards, 10 TDs) leading 3A in passing. Kevin Drew (1132 rushing yards, 280 receiving, 15 total TDs) was one of 3A’s leading rushers. On the outside Buckley spread the ball around between Drew, Quinn Kenny (459 yards, 2 TDs) and Owen Minford (425 yards, 6 TDs). For South Allegheny, the RB tandem of Akell Carrington and Kavan Markwood (647 yards, 10 TDs) and Akell Carrington (307 yards, 7 TDs) have been the focal points of the offense. The Gladiators ground game has been strong enough that Eric Wehrer (370 yards, 4 TDs) hasn’t had to take to the air very often.

11. Burrell at 6. Mt Pleasant

This is a rematch of a non-conference game which Mt. Pleasant won 40-7 in Week 0. Burrell lost their first 6 games but rebounded to win 3 of their last 4 to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012. On the flip side, Mt. Pleasant lost 2 of their last 3 to fall into a 3-way tie for second place. Caden DiCaprio produced nearly all of Burrell’s offense this season, running for 1286 yards and 14 TDs. Mt. Pleasant’s offense was built around their running game. Their top three rushers all averaged over 6 yards per carry. Robbie Labuda (733 yards, 11 TDs) and Aaron Alakson (589 yards, 9 TDs) led the backfield. Quarterback Tyler Reese had the same amount of pass attempts as rushing attempts, throwing for 431 yards and 4 TDs and running for 350 yards and 5 TDs.

2A First Round

2A Playoff Primer
WPIAL Blitz Show 2A Preview

16. Beth-Center at 1. Steel Valley

In a bit of a surprise, Steel Valley was given the top overall seed after their dominant win over Serra Catholic last week. The Ironmen have the WPIAL’s leading rusher in NiJhay Burt (1812 yards, 31 TDs). Burt was outstanding this season with three games where he scored 5 TDs. The Ironmen were so good in the trenches that QB Cruce Brookins wound up with more than twice as many rushing attempts (842 yards, 9 TDs) as passing attempts (292 yards, 4 TDs). Beth-Center won a Casket Match against Waynesburg to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2018. The Bulldogs rely heavily on their running game led by Ethan Varesko (576 yards, 6 TDs) and Alston Csutoros (443 yards, 5 TDs).

9. Ligonier Valley at 8. South Side Beaver

In a Rams vs Rams showdown, Ligonier Valley is making their first WPIAL playoff appearance in school history. Ligonier Valley played in the WPIAL from 1927-1969 then left for District 6 where they made the Championship Game in four straight years from 2016-19 before returning to the WPIAL last season. South Side Beaver won their last 4 games to earn a second-place finish in the Three Rivers Conference. Both teams have run-heavy offenses that rarely throw but have found some success through the air. South Side’s ground game is led by Parker Statler (721 yards, 17 TDs) and Cam Knox (623 yards, 4 TDs). Brody Almashy has only averaged about 10 pass attempts per game but has thrown for 750 yards and 6 TDs. Ligonier Valley’s offense has relied on RB Nick Beitel (773 yards, 6 TDs). Haden Sierocky (388 passing yards, 5 TDs, 299 rushing yards, 4 TDs) has battled injuries this year and split time under center with Broderick Schreyer (473 yards, 7 TDs).

13. New Brighton at 4. Washington

New Brighton beat Freedom in a Casket Match to make the playoffs while Washington topped McGuffey in a thriller to clinch the Century Conference title. Washington has only played 7 games this season after three were cancelled. New Brighton battled through a number of injuries, including to starting QB Gabe Haddox. Gary Pugh (492 yards, 6 TDs) has stepped in and led the Lions to the playoffs, with the talented combo of Keandre Williams (470 yards, 11 TDs) and Blake McKy (337 yards, 3 TDs) on the outside. Washington’s dual-threat QB Davoun Fuse accounted for 6 total TDs last week, including a game-winning touchdown pass with 2 seconds left. On the season Fuse has thrown for 713 yards and 11 TDs and run for 294 yards and 13 TDs. Tayshawn Levy has been a factor all over the field with 699 rushing yards, 102 receiving yards and 8 total TDs.

12. Western Beaver at 5. Beaver Falls

A Beaver County showdown that is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal that Beaver Falls won 42-14.  Beaver Falls, the defending WPIAL Champions, have bounced back after losing their first three in a row to win 6 straight games. Only 5 players graduated from last year’s team, but 3 of them were the top rushers which led the Tigers to switch to a passing-oriented offense. The decision was well-founded and Jaren Brickner (1840 yards, 18 TDs) led the classification in passing. He spread the ball around between Trey Singleton (586 yards, 10 TDs), Mekhi Clark (474 yards, 7 TDs), and Quadir Thomas (382 yards, 8 TDs) who all averaged around 20 yards per catch. On the ground Isaiah Aeschbacher (576 yards, 9 TDs) averaged over 10 yards per carry. Western Beaver dropped 2 of their last 3 games, falling from having a shot at the conference title to third place in the conference. Western Beaver has a quality quarterback of their own in Xander LeFebvre (1012 yards, 15 TDs) whose primary target has been Dorian McGhee (459 yards, 7 TDs). Thad Gray has led the Golden Beavers backfield with 528 yards and 9 TDs.

15. Shady Side Academy at 2. Sto-Rox

This is a rematch of a non-conference game that Sto-Rox won 65-12 earlier this season. The Vikings have rolled over every 2A team in their path so far. Shady Side got the Wild Card spot in 2A, edging out Seton LaSalle on Tiebreaker points. Sto-Rox is absolutely loaded with playmakers all over the field. Josh Jenkins started the year at WR then moved to QB where he has thrown for 805 yards and 12 TDs. The Vikings trio of receivers Jaymont Green-Miller (480 yards, 5 TDs), Zay Davis (339 yards, 6 TDs) and Drevon Miller-Ross (241 yards, 7 TDs) are all threats to score any time they get the ball in their hands. Out of the backfield, Jaymar Pearson (1077 yards, 16 TDs) has been explosive all season, averaging an insane 17 yards per carry. Shady Side Academy has relied on QB Max Wickland (1129 yards, 11 TDs) who has spread the ball around to four different receivers who all have over 200 yards. Chris Sullivan is one of those who also leads the rushing attack and has compiled 543 rushing yards, 215 receiving yards and scored 9 times.

10. Mohawk at 7. Chartiers-Houston

Both of these teams missed the playoffs the last few seasons and are back in this year. Mohawk has won just 2 playoff games in school history while Chartiers-Houston has not won a playoff game since 2000. Mohawk is a pass-heavy team led by QB John Voss (1311 yards, 12 TDs). Marc Conti has been the primary playmaker for the Warriors with 565 receiving yards and 11 total TDs. Chartiers-Houston has leaned more on their ground game where Jordan Irson (717 yards, 14 TDs) and Lane Camden (271 yards, 8 TDs) have both averaged over 6 yards per carry. Terry Fetsko (716 yards, 3 TDs) has only averaged about 11 pass attempts per game because the Bucs rushing attack has been so good.

14. McGuffey at 3. Laurel

Two teams that lost close games in the first round last year collide in the opening round. Both have strong ground games and are good in the trenches so this one should be a battle. Laurel is led by Luke McCoy, the WPIAL’s second-leading rusher with 1604 yards and 28 TDs. Dual-threat QB Kobe DeRosa had nearly twice as many rushing attempts (928 yards, 14 TDs) as passes (590 yards, 6 TDs). Leading receiver Michael Pasquarello (234 yards) is also the team’s third-leading rusher (229 yards) and has scored 7 times. McGuffey’s triple-option attack has produced two rushers averaging nearly 8 yards per carry. Kyle Brookman (672 yards, 14 TDs) leads the way and dual-threat QB Phillip McCuen has run for 564 yards and 4 TDs and thrown for 418 yards and 6 TDs.

11. Neshannock at 6. Serra Catholic

Both of these teams had somewhat disappointing ends to the season. Neshannock blew a 23-6 lead against Beaver Falls in a game where a win would have given them a chance at the conference title against Laurel. Serra went unbeaten until Week 9 when they were out-muscled by Steel Valley with the conference crown on the line. Serra’s Max Rocco (1645 yards, 23 TDs) was 2A’s second-leading passer but left the Steel Valley game early with an injury and was replaced by Elijah Ward. Whoever plays QB will have the benefit of throwing to three talented receivers in Terrell Booth (645 yards, 13 TDs), Jayvon Holt (368 yards, 10 TDs) and Amire Spencer (323 yards, 2 TDs). All three have been factors in all three phases of the game. Out of the backfield, Machai Brooks-Duetrieulle (735 yards, 5 TDs) has gotten the lion’s share of the work in the running game. Neshannock’s offense is built around their ground game. Peyton Weaver (650 yards, 11 TDs), Cam’ron Owens (387 yards, 5 TDs) and QB Kurt Sommerfield (565 passing yards 7 TDs, 227 rushing yards, 3 TDs) have shared the workload. Jonny Huff has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Lancers, running for 186 yards, leading the team with 191 receiving yards, scoring 6 TDs and throwing 2 TD passes.

1A First Round

1A Playoff Primer
WPIAL Blitz Show 1A Preview

9. OLSH at 8. GCC

OLSH needed a Week 9 victory over Big Seven Conference Champions Cornell to secure their spot in the playoffs. GCC had already locked up a playoff spot but fell to Leechburg, costing them the third place spot in the conference. Both teams played a number of tight games this season. GCC will be without a number of players who transferred from Jeannette and are ineligible for the postseason due to PIAA rules. Their top available rusher is QB Tyree Turner who threw for 757 yards and 8 TDs and ran for 199 yards and 7 TDs. Leading receivers Amari Mack (285 yards, 4 TDs), Nate Dlugos (255 yards, 4 TDs) and Joe Blahovec (216 yards, 1 TD) will all be available for the Centurions. OLSH’s Nehemiah Azeem was one of 1A’s top passers with 1369 yards and 10 TDs. Ziggy McIntosh (534 yards, 4 TDs) was the Chargers top receiver. On the ground, Stephen Greer led the way with 614 yards and 7 TDs.

13. Springdale at 4. West Greene

West Greene bounced back after losing their first two games to win 8 in a row, with an average margin of victory of 33 points in conference play. The Pioneers won the Tri-County South title for the third time in four years. Springdale had a roller-coaster season, winning their first 3 games then losing their first three in conference play. With their season on the brink, the Dynamos won 3 of their last 4, including as Casket Match over rival Riverview, to get into the playoffs. West Greene has been known for producing big numbers in the running game, and they have a quality sophomore RB in Colin Brady (1333 yards, 20 TDs) who is next in line. This season, the Pioneers opened up the passing game with Wes Whipkey (1022 yards, 16 TDs) throwing to Nathan Orndoff (354 yards, 5 TDs) and Dalton Lucey (307 yards, 6 TDs). Sprindale is led by dynamic playmaker Logan Dexter who led the team in rushing (571 yards), receiving (264 yards), and scoring (15 total TDs). Legend Ausk, who has one of the best names in the WPIAL, threw for 688 yards and 11 TDs for the run-heavy Dynamos. Chris Savko (423 yards, 3 TDs) and John Utiss (249 yards, 4 TDs) also contributed in the rushing attack.

12. Mapletown at 5. Rochester

Mapletown is making their first playoff appearance since 2016 and has never won a WPIAL playoff game. Rochester has reached the semifinals in 3 of the last 5 years. Both of these teams are built around their running games. Mapletown’s Landan Stevenson was one of the top rushers in the entire WPIAL with 1579 rushing yards, 238 receiving yards, and 27 TDs. Handing the ball to Stevenson was pretty much the Maples whole offense, though AJ Vanata (333 yards, 4 TDs) did get a few carries per game. Max Vanata only averaged about 8 pass attempts per game and threw for 537 yards and 7 TDs. For Rochester, their lead back was Sal Laure (828 yards, 17 TDs) with Antonio Laure (356 yards, 2 TDs) and Connor Martin (277 yards, 4 TDs) sharing in the workload. JD Azulay averaged less than 6 pass attempts per game and threw for 366 yards and 8 TDs.

15. Monessen at 2. Cornell

This is a matchup of resurgent stories. Monessen had to forfeit their final three games of last season due to low roster numbers. The Greyhounds had the lowest-scoring offense of the 1A playoff field, but played strong defense. Cornell won their first conference title since 1983 and will be looking for their second playoff win in school history. The Raiders are led by QB Sincere Kimbrough who threw for 790 yards and 9 TDs and ran for 259 yards and 6 TDs. Good things happened when Raequan Troutman (497 rushing yards, 103 receiving yards, 9 total TDs) got his hands on the ball as he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry. Leading receiver Timmy Henderson (415 yards) also contributed in the running game (246 yards) and scored 9 times. Monessen’s rushing attack has been led by Anthony Crews (287 yards, 4 TDs) and Daevon Burke (144 yards, 3 TDs).

10. California at 7. Leechburg

After Southmoreland broke their 40-year playoff drought in 2019, the longest streak went to Leechburg who had not made a postseason appearance since 1988. The Blue Devils snapped that 32-year drought this year and earned the first home playoff game in school history. They will take on a California team in a matchup of two explosive offenses. Leechburg was the highest scoring team in 1A (45.4 PPG) and California was close behind in third (37 PPG). Both defenses allowed about 20 points per game so this one has all the makings of a shootout. Leechburg QB Tommy Burke led 1A in passing with 1628 yards and 15 TDs, spreading the ball between Tyler Foley (618 yards, 5 TDs), Logan Kline (482 yards, 10 TDs), and Eli Rich (476 yards, 10 TDs). On the ground, Braylan Lovelace (1313 yards, 26 TDs) averaged over 9 yards per carry and was one of the top backs in the WPIAL. California also has an explosive offense with Damani Stafford (994 yards, 14 TDs) leading the way on the ground. Hunter Assad (1040 yards, 13 TDs) took the helm at quarterback this year and found success throwing the ball to Caden Powell (345 yards, 5 TDs) and Ethan Fike (318 yards, 3 TDs).

14. Burgettstown at 3. Bishop Canevin

Bishop Canevin has rebuilt their program brick by brick and put together one of the most dynamic and explosive teams in 1A. The Crusaders averaged 33 points a game while holding opponents to under a touchdown per contest. Burgettstown lost their first four conference games but rebounded to get two narrow wins over Northgate and Union to set up a Casket Match with Fort Cherry. Bishop Canevin has the most talented set of receivers in 1A in Lasae Lacks (594 yards, 9 TDs) and Xavier Nelson (529 yards, 9 TDs) who both average over 20 yards per catch. Quarterback Jason Cross has thrown for 1167 yards and 14 TDs and also run for 283 yards and 7 TDs. On the ground, Marquis Carter (509 yards, 5 TDs) has led the rushing attack. Burgettstown’s offense relies on their dual-threat QB Jackson LaRocka who has thrown for 415 yards and 2 TDs and run for 314 yards and 5 TDs. LaRocka and Caleb Russell (307 yards, 8 TDs) have been the focal points of the Blue Devils rushing attack.

11. Shenango at 6. Carmichaels

Carmichaels returns to the playoffs after missing out last year when they lost a Casket Match to Avella. Shenango reached the semis last year but dropped their first four games this year. The Wildcats won their next 3, which gave them enough Gardner Points to win a 3-way tie for a playoff spot. Shenango’s offense has been built around their ground game and the tandem of CJ Miller (669 yards, 6 TDs) and Hunter Lively (571 yards, 4 TDs). Aaron Martin (217 yards) has not gotten as much work as the other two but has scored 6 times. In Week 8, Carmichaels QB Trenton Carter became the 12th player in WPIAL History to join the 1000/1000 club. Carter finished the season with 1149 yards and 16 TDs through the air and 1213 yards and 20 TDs on the ground. Mike Stewart (467 rushing yards, 12 TDs, 495 receiving yards, 7 TDs) was also a force on the Mighty Mikes offense and a touchdown machine. Peyton Schooley (438 yards, 3 TDs) also contributed in the ground game.

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