The WPIAL playoff brackets will be revealed tonight at 6pm. There are still two playoff spots left to be decided. Here’s my predictions on how the brackets will shake out.
6A Bracket Prediction
The 6A bracket is straightforward and based on the order of finish in the regular season standings. Even though Mt. Lebanon beat everyone by 21+ in the regular season, they couldn’t have been thrilled by seeing Seneca Valley beat North Allegheny to drop the Tigers into the #4 seed.
1. Mt. Lebanon (7-0, 10-0) – The Blue Devils won their first conference title since 2010
2. Central Catholic (6-1, 8-2) – The two-time defending WPIAL Champs have been dominant defensively against everyone not named Mt. Lebanon this season.
3. Seneca Valley (5-2, 7-3) – Seneca Valley topped North Allegheny in the final week of the season to earn a bye to the semifinals.
4. North Allegheny (4-3, 7-3) – NA’s loss to Seneca Valley dropped the Tigers into a first round game.
5. Canon-McMillan (2-5, 4-6) – Canon Mac won a 3-way tie with Baldwin and Norwin on Tiebreaker Points to get the last spot. The Big Macs suffered a few late-season injuries that slowed their momentum.
5A Bracket Prediction
In 5A, the top four teams from each of the three conferences make up the 12-team playoff field. The bigggest question is how teams 3-6 will be seeded. Some of that will be how much weight the WPIAL places on non-conference games and how they handle the injury to Pine-Richland QB Cole Boyd (who may be back for the playoffs). In the Northeast Conference, Penn Hills, Pine-Richland, and North Hills finished in a 3-way tie atop the conference. Penn Hills has the edge for the top spot on tiebreakers, but in 3-way tie scenarios the WPIAL has not always followed their own tiebreaking procedures for playoff seeding. Gateway beat Penn Hills in non-conference play but also lost to Pine-Richland. Pine-Richland beat Penn Hills head-to-head. Pine-Richland’s loss to North Hills came without a number of starters who were out with injuries but have since returned. The other complicating factor is that if Gateway gets the #3 seed they’ll be on the same half of the bracket as conference rival Penn-Trafford, so if the WPIAL wants to separate them, it would make sense to drop Gateway to the #4 seed. That leaves two options: seed Northeast Conference Champ Penn Hills at #3 despite them losing to Gateway early in the year OR break with the order of standings and seed Pine-Richland third, Gateway fourth, and Penn Hills fifth.
1. Moon (5-0, 10-0) – The only undefeated team in 5A is the clear front-runner this season.
2. Penn-Trafford (5-0, 8-2) – Penn-Trafford was the only other 5A team that was unbeaten in conference play and the easy choice for the #2 seed.
3. Pine-Richland (4-1, 6-4) – Ultimately, I decided to go with Head-to-Head ordering between Pine-Richland, Gateway and Penn Hills, even though it goes against the ordering of the Conference standings on the tiebreaker points.
4. Gateway (4-1, 7-3) – Gateway’s convincing win over Penn Hills gets the Gators a bye. Seeding them 4th keeps them opposite Penn-Trafford on the bracket.
5. Penn Hills (4-1, 6-3) – Penn Hills technically won the Northeast Conference on tiebreakers but lost head-to-head to Pine-Richland and Gateway so gets seeded lower.
6. North Hills (4-1, 6-3) – North Hills was third in the tiebreaker atop the Northeast Conference.
7. Upper St Clair (4-1, 6-4) – The “Cardiac Cats” came back the last two weeks of the regular season, tying South Fayette on an end-of-regulation TD then winning in OT and beating Bethel Park on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.
8. Bethel Park (3-2, 4-5) – Bethel Park lost a showdown with Moon for the conference title in Week 8 then fell to Upper St Clair in Week 9, dropping them to 3rd in the Allegheny Six.
9. Woodland Hills (3-2, 4-5) – Woody High won 3 of their last 4 games to finish 3rd in the Big East.
10. Fox Chapel (2-3, 4-6) – By “true seeds” Fox Chapel would be 11th but got flipped with Peters so that conference opponents would not match up in the first round.
11. Peters Twp (2-3, 6-4) – Peters might be the hardest team to figure out. They beat Fox Chapel and Penn-Trafford early in the year and played Moon tight, but got smoked by Upper St Clair and Bethel Park. The Indians have made the last two WPIAL title games and are the most dangerous team on the bottom half of the bracket.
12. Franklin Regional (2-3, 3-7) – Franklin Regional’s comeback victory over Latrobe in Week 7 was enough to get them into the playoffs.
4A Bracket Prediction
In 4A, 13 teams make the playoffs. The top four teams from the Big Eight and Parkway Conferences qualified along with the top five teams from the Greater Allegheny Conference. The biggest question is which team gets the third bye. Conference champions Belle Vernon and Aliquippa are locks for the top two seeds. Will the WPIAL give the third bye to unbeaten conference champion Hampton or to McKeesport whose only WPIAL loss came to Belle Vernon? Giving McKeesport the #3 seed would also separate Belle Vernon and McKeesport onto opposite halves of the bracket. If that is the case, the rest of the bracket settles in easily. With 5 first round matchups, each one gets one of the 5 Greater Allegheny Conference teams and the others all slot in to prevent conference rematches.
1. Belle Vernon (6-0, 8-0) – Belle Vernon scored an early-season win over Thomas Jefferson and thumped McKeesport in the season finale for the Big Eight title.
2. Aliquippa (5-0, 8-1) – The Quips only loss this year came against defending 3A State Champions Central Valley. This was their 34th conference title in school history.
3. McKeesport (5-1, 8-2) – McKeesport’s only losses were against Belle Vernon and a Canisius (NY) team that is one of the top-ranked teams in New York’s biggest classification.
4. Hampton (7-0, 10-0) – There will probably be some consternation if undefeated Hampton gets seeded 4th, but it keeps Belle Vernon and McKeesport separated on the bracket.
5. Thomas Jefferson (4-2, 6-2) – Thomas Jefferson is the two-time defending State Champions and have made six straight WPIAL title games. Don’t sleep on the Jaguars.
6. Beaver (4-1, 7-2) – Beaver won a number of close games this year, including two in overtime and one on a last-minute field goal.
7. Armstrong (5-2, 7-3) – The Riverhawks have one of the top passers in the WPIAL in Cadin Olsen and finished second in the Greater Allegheny Conference.
8. Highlands (4-3, 7-3) – Highlands won their first four games before dropping three straight conference games. With their playoff hopes on the brink, the Rams bounced back to win 3 in a row and finish 3rd in the GAC. It seems almost certain they will play New Castle, the question will be which team gets a home game.
9. New Castle (3-2, 6-4) – New Castle has been one of the most exciting teams this season, having multiple games decided on last-minute scores. They beat Montour by 4, Blackhawk by 1, and Char-Valley by 7 and lost to Beaver by 6.
10. Laurel Highlands (3-3, 7-3) – The Mustangs are in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 thanks to star Rodney Gallagher who became the 13th player in WPIAL history to run and pass for 1000 yards in the same regular season.
11. Indiana (3-4, 5-5) – Indiana made the playoffs on the strength of their ground game which featured two 1000-yard rushers in Devin Flint and Zach Herrington.
12. Plum (3-4, 3-7) – Plum had a tumultuous second half with news coming out of a retroactive forfeit that skewed their playoff chances, but they won a win-and-get-in game over Greensburg Salem in Week 9.
13. Montour (2-3, 4-6) – Montour won a win-and-get-in game over Chartiers Valley in the season finale to clinch a playoff spot.
3A Bracket Prediction
There isn’t a lot of mystery with the 3A bracket. The biggest decision points will be which order the teams from the Interstate Conference will be slotted who finished in a 3-way tie for second place.
1. Central Valley (5-0, 10-0) – The defending State Champs look the part once again.
2. North Catholic (6-0, 10-0) – Despite losing to Elizabeth Forward in the semis last year, North is the only other unbeaten team and gets the #2 seed. The Trojans defense has pitched 6 shutouts this year.
3. Elizabeth Forward (6-0, 8-2) – The Interstate Conference Champs get the #3 seed.
4. Avonworth (4-1, 8-2) – Avonworth’s losses this year came to the top seed in 3A (Central Valley) and the top seed in 2A (Sto-Rox).
5. Freeport (4-1, 5-4) – The Yellow Jackets finished second in the Allegheny Seven Conference
6. Mt Pleasant (3-2, 5-4) – Mt. Pleasant finished in a 3-way tie for second in the Interstate with Southmoreland and South Allegheny.
7. Southmoreland (4-2, 7-3) – Two years ago Southmoreland snapped a 40-year playoff drought. Now they’re back in the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
8. Keystone Oaks (3-2, 5-5) – Keystone Oaks finished third in the Northwest Six.
9. South Allegheny (4-2, 4-6) – South A closed out Glassport Memorial Stadium in style with a win over Mt. Pleasant to force a 3-way tie for second place.
10. East Allegheny (3-3, 4-5) – East Allegheny finished in a 3-way tie for 3rd place with Burrell and Deer Lakes.
11. Burrell (3-3, 3-7) – After starting the year 0-6, Burrell won 3 of their last 4 and edged out Deer Lakes thanks to a 28-24 victory for the last playoff spot
12. Ambridge (2-3, 2-8) – The Bridgers entered the season with the WPIAL’s longest losing streak. Not only did they snap that but beat Quaker Valley in Week 8 to qualify for the playoffs.
2A Bracket Prediction
1. Sto-Rox (5-0, 10-0) – Last year’s 2A runners up dominated everyone they played this season and are the clear choice for the top seed.
2. Steel Valley (5-0, 9-0) – Steel Valley’s ground game and defense balled out against Serra Catholic to clinch the Allegheny Conference title in the last week of the season. NiJhay Burt won the WPIAL rushing title.
3. Laurel (7-0, 10-0) – Laurel’s closest game in conference play was an 18-point win over Beaver Falls. Luke McCoy was one of the top rushers in the WPIAL.
4. Washington (6-0, 9-0) – Washington edged McGuffey for the Century Conference title thanks to a last-second touchdown.
5. Serra (4-1, 9-1) – Serra looked like one of the dominant teams in 2A until they ran into Steel Valley in Week 9.
6. Beaver Falls (6-1, 6-3) – After starting the year 0-3, the defending WPIAL Champs rattled off 6 straight wins and have found their rhythm heading into the postseason.
7. Western Beaver/South Side Beaver – These teams play Saturday afternoon and the winner will take 2nd place in the Three Rivers Conference.
8. Chartiers-Houston (5-1, 7-1) – The Bucs strong defense carried them to second place in the Century Conference.
9. Ligonier Valley (3-2, 8-2) – The Rams only losses this season came to Steel Valley and Serra Catholic.
10. Neshannock (4-3, 7-3) – Despite losing to Mohawk, Neshannock’s 7-3 overall record slots them above the 5-5 teams in the bracket.
11. South Side Beaver/Western Beaver – In order to avoid a conference rematch in the 7-10 game, the loser of the Western Beaver-South Side Beaver game falls to the 11-seed.
12. McGuffey (4-2, 5-5) – McGuffey lost close games to Char-Houston and Washington in the Century Conference to finish 3rd.
13. Mohawk (4-3, 5-5) – Even though Mohawk beat Neshannock head-to-head, the Warriors finished .500 overall and lost to a non-playoff team in Freedom.
14. Shady Side Academy (2-3, 5-5) – Assuming Shady Side Academy beats Summit Academy by more than 6, they will be the Wild Card. Since they have a .500 overall record, I slotted them higher than the two sub-.500 teams.
15. New Brighton (3-4, 4-6) – The Lions survived some injuries and a 4-game losing streak to win their final two games and beat Freedom in a Casket Match for the 5th and final spot in the Midwestern Conference.
16. Beth-Center (2-3, 2-6) – Beth-Center won a Casket Match with Waynesburg to get into the playoffs.
1A Bracket Prediction
1. Clairton (7-0, 7-2) – Clairton’s only losses this season came to unbeaten teams from 2A (Steel Valley and Washington). The Bears defense was dominant this season.
2. Bishop Canevin (6-1, 9-1) – Canevin’s only loss came to Clairton and with Cornell’s loss to OLSH, the Crusaders are elevated to the #2 seed.
3. Cornell (6-1, 7-2) – The Raiders won a conference title for the first time since 1983.
4. West Greene (7-0, 8-2) – The Pioneers won the Tri-County South.
5. Rochester (5-2, 7-2) – The Rams lost to Union to start conference play and also fell to Cornell but finished 2nd in the Big Seven.
6. Leechburg (5-2, 8-2) – The Blue Devils snapped their 32-year playoff drought, making the playoffs for the first time since 1988.
7. OLSH (4-3, 6-3) – OLSH topped Cornell in the final week of the season to secure a playoff spot.
8. Carmichaels (6-1, 8-2) – The second place team from the Tri-County South features QB Trenton Carter who was the 12th player in WPIAL history to pass and rush for 1000 yards in the same regular season.
9. GCC (4-3, 6-4) – Due to having a number of transfers on the roster who will be ineligible for the playoffs, GCC’s team will take on a very different look in the postseason.
10. California (5-2, 7-2) – The Trojans have been cruising since losing to West Greene and Carmichaels early in conference play.
11. Burgettstown (3-4, 5-4) – Burgettstown beat Fort Cherry in a Casket Match to get the last playoff spot in the Big Seven.
12. Springdale (3-4, 5-4)– Assuming Springdale beats Riverview on Saturday to get the last spot in the Eastern Conference.
13. Shenango (3-4, 3-6) – Shenango’s win over OLSH was enough to give them the Gardner Points necessary to make the playoffs. Even though they qualified ahead of Burgettstown, they are seeded lower because of their 3-6 overall record.
14. Mapletown (4-3, 6-4) – The Maples got back to the playoffs thanks to Landon Stevenson, one of the top rushers in the WPIAL.
15. Monessen (3-4, 4-6) – The Greyhounds won a Casket Match against Avella to get the last playoff spot in the Tri-County South.