The WPIAL Playoffs are underway and now that we have reached the Quarterfinals (in 1A-5A, along with the Semifinals in 6A), all of the conference champions will be playing this week. Last week’s first round games saw some historic results with Laurel Highlands and Armstrong capturing their first playoff victories in school history. Leechburg played their first home playoff game in school history and rewarded their fans with a victory over California, the first playoff win for the Blue Devils since 1978. Fox Chapel also scored their first playoff victory since 1997 with a 13-10 win over Upper St Clair. There were some upsets as well as two #4 seeds lost (in 2A and 1A) as the 2A Century and 1A Tri-County South conferences were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. Meanwhile, all four teams from the 4A Big Eight Conference reached the Quarterfinals. On this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show we recapped the First Round games, previewed all of this weekend’s matchups, and looked ahead to the Statewide Brackets. Additionally, for a look at the storylines and history of the teams in the playoffs, check out our Playoff Primers: 1A | 2A | 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 Aliquippa in the 4A quarterfinals after the Mustangs got their first playoff victory in school history last week.
4. North Allegheny at 1. Mt. Lebanon
North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon meet for the 5th time in WPIAL playoff history. They have split the previous matchups with Mt. Lebanon winning in 1983 and 1991 and North Allegheny winning in 2006 and 2017. The Blue Devils snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Tigers earlier this season when they won 51-20. Mt. Lebanon has the highest-scoring offense (38.4 points per game) and stingiest defense (8.9 points against per game) in 6A. North Allegheny is making their 6th straight semifinals appearance and was the runners up last year, falling to Central Catholic in the Championship Game. Mt. Lebanon is making their 4th straight playoff appearance and is looking to get back to the WPIAL finals for the first time since 2000 when they won their last title. Mt. Lebanon has won all of their games by 21+ points and are led by the outstanding offensive trio of QB Joey Daniels, RB Alex Tecza, and WR Eli Heidenreich. Tecza is 6A’s leading rusher with 1426 yards and 18 TDs. Heidenreich, a Navy-commit, is the leading receiver in 6A with 817 receiving yards, 241 rushing yards, and 16 total TDs. Daniels threw for 1285 yards and 19 TDs, the second-most in 6A. North Allegheny also has a 1200-yard passer in Logan Kushner who has thrown 14 TDs. On the ground, the combination of JR Burton (646 yards, 8 TDs) and Tanner Potts (282 yards, 4 TDs) has carried the load for the Tigers offense. Khiryn Boyd has been explosive on the outside, reeling in 446 yards and 6 TDs to lead North Allegheny’s passing attack.
3. Seneca Valley vs 2. Central Catholic
Seneca Valley’s Week 9 victory over North Allegheny propelled the Raiders to the #3 seed and a semifinal date with two-time defending WPIAL Champions Central Catholic. This is the 4th semifinal in the last 6 years for Seneca Valley who holds the distinction as being the last team to beat Central Catholic in the playoffs (back in 2018). That was the only time in the last 8 years that Central did not reach the WPIAL finals. Central Catholic ranks 2nd in 6A in both offense (36.4 points per game) and defense (13.1 points against per game). Both of these teams have capable passing attacks. For Central Catholic, Payton Wehner threw for 1246 yards and 14 TDs, spreading the ball around between Brandon Jackson (376 yards, 2 TDs), Pete Gonzalez (284 yards, 2 TDs), and Vernon Settles (257 yards, 2 TDs). On the ground, Gannon Carothers (897 yards, 13 TDs) has been the workhorse. Seneca Valley has had to overcome an injury to 1000-yard passer Graham Hancox, but Sean O’Shea has stepped in and thrown for 412 yards and 4 TDs over the last three weeks. The receiving tandem of Luke Lawson (558 yards, 6 TDs) and Brandon Ross (357 yards, 6 TDs) might be the best in 6A. In the running game, Nolan Dworek has ground out 574 yards and 7 TDs.
9. Woodland Hills at 1. Moon
Moon is the top seed in the 5A bracket and the only WPIAL 5A team to finish the season undefeated. This was Moon’s second conference title in the last three seasons. Woodland Hills made it into the playoffs by winning their final two games then topped Bethel Park 27-23 in the first round. That win made Woody High 6-0 all-time against Bethel Park in the playoffs, a victory that was made possible by two pick-sixes in the second quarter. These two teams met earlier this year with Moon prevailing 15-0 in a hard-fought defensive game. Strong defense has been the hallmark of both teams this season. Moon’s offensive attack has been led by their ground game where five different players have had over 50 carries and 200 yards. Dual-threat QB Tyler McGowan has thrown for 1082 yards and 7 TDs and run for 239 yards and 3 TDs. In the ground game, Dylan Sleva has hammered defenses for 660 yards and 6 TDs. In addition to Sleva, Jeremiah Dean (392 yards, 8 total TDs), Ian Foster (352 yards, 7 TDs), and Joseph Cotton (243 yards, 2 TDs) have all contributed. Woodland Hills star QB/DB Deontae Williams missed some time with injury but returned late in the season and has thrown for 298 yards and 2 TDs and run for 687 yards and 10 scores. Brandon Jones (528 yards, 6 TDs) and Eris Seibles (291 yards, 2 TDs) have split the running back responsibilities. On the outside, Louis Callaway (272 yards, 5 TDs) has led the way for the Wolverines receivers.
5. Penn Hills at 4. Gateway
This is a rematch of last year’s first round game when Penn Hills held Gateway’s explosive offense in check but fell 14-0. The teams met earlier this season with Gateway winning once again 41-13. Penn Hills’ defense has improved significantly since then. Since allowing 89 points in the first two games, the rest of their opponents averaged just 14 points per game – including a 38-6 shellacking of Franklin Regional last week in the opening round. For their part, Gateway has the highest-scoring offense in 5A (35.3 points per game) which will certainly test the Indians defense. Both teams have sophomore quarterbacks that we will see plenty more of in the coming years. Gateway’s Brad Birch led the WPIAL in passing with 2355 yards and 24 TDs. He had the benefit of a D1 athlete on the outside in Cincinnati-commit Patrick Body (771 yards, 5 TDs). Jaquon Reynolds leads the Gators in rushing (576 yards) and has been on the receiving end for 351 yards and found the end zone 6 times. Brad Birch’s older brother Brett (Gateway’s second-leading receiver) is not eligible for the playoffs due to the PIAA transfer rules. Penn Hills also has a tandem of brothers in QB Julian Dugger (1030 passing yards, 16 TDs, 417 rushing yards, 9 TDs) and WR Jaden Dugger (371 yards, 13 TDs). Last week, Jaden caught 4 passes and scored on all of them. Jaden Dugger and Raion Strader (315 yards, 4 TDs) are not only the leaders of the receiving corps but also the anchors of the secondary where they have been oustanding all season. On the ground, sophomore RB Amir Key (508 yards, 3 TDs) has been a solid counterpart to Julian Dugger.
10. Fox Chapel at 2. Penn-Trafford
Fox Chapel held off a comeback from the Cardiac Cats of Upper St Clair to prevail 13-10 in the opening round, earning their first playoff victory since 1997. That year was also the last time the Foxes reached the semifinals. Penn-Trafford has been to 3 of the last 4 semifinals and has now won three straight Big East Conference titles. Interestingly, Fox Chapel’s last three playoff appearances (2014, 2017, 2019) all ended at the hands of Penn-Trafford. The Foxes have a balanced offensive attack between QB Collin Dietz (1296 yards, 12 TDs) and RB Zidane Thomas (947 yards, 10 TDs). They have a trio of talented receivers in Khi’lee Patterson (441 yards, 6 TDs), Colin Kwiatkowski (408 yards, 6 TDs), and Jacob DeMotte (388 yards, 2 TDs). Penn-Trafford’s offense is built around their backfield. Leading rusher Cade Yacamelli (1150 yards, 16 TDs) is a Wisconsin-commit and capable of taking it to the house any time he touches the ball. QB Carter Green is one of the top lacrosse players in Western PA and has thrown for 927 yards and 8 TDs and run for 815 yards and 12 TDs. The Warriors have been great in the trenches all season, opening holes for the running game and dominating up front on defense.
11. Peters Twp at 3. Pine-Richland
This is a rematch of last year’s 5A Championship Game which Pine-Richland won 35-0. Both teams have taken different trajectories to get here. After dismissing their entire coaching staff in the offseason after winning the State Title, Pine-Richland started the year 0-3 but then returned to winning form once they started facing 5A opponents. The Rams lost a game to North Hills when a number of starters were out injured. Peters Twp started 5-1 in non-conference play with a win over Penn-Trafford and their only loss to Mt. Lebanon. But the Indians dropped their first 3 conference games. With their playoff hopes on the brink, they won their final two games then topped North Hills 33-28 in the opening round to earn a rematch with Pine-Richland. The Rams have endured a number of injuries this season, including to 1100-yard passer Cole Boyd. In his absence, Ryan Palmieri has stepped in and thrown for 493 yards and 3 TDs and added a dual-threat element, running for 297 yards and 5 TDs. Brooks Eastburn (633 yards, 6 TDs) has led the Rams rushing attack while Alex Gochis (600 yards, 5 TDs) and Andrew Mellis (267 yards, 2 TDs) have been the primary targets outside. Defensively, Pine-Richland has one of the top linebackers in the entire WPIAL in Jeremiah Hasley. Peters Twp also has a dangerous passing game, led by Sam Miller’s 1834 yards and 16 TDs. Miller has added 488 yards and 6 scores on the ground and is joined in the backfield by Rich Woods (566 yards, 5 TDs) and scoring machine Ethan Kirsch who has 8 TDs. The Indians have an explosive tandem of receivers in Jacob Macosko (697 yards, 10 TDs) and Bryce Thompson (512 yards, 3 TDs).
9. New Castle at 1. Belle Vernon
Belle Vernon has headlined the 4A class this season with marquee wins over Penn-Trafford, Thomas Jefferson, and McKeesport. The Leopards have been explosive offensively (42.4 points per game) and stingy defensively (10.9 points against per game). New Castle topped Highlands 31-19 in the opening round thanks to Chris Hood throwing for 178 yards and 2 TDs and running for 218 yards and 2 more scores. On the season, Hood has thrown for 1133 yards and 9 TDs and run for 992 yards and 15 TDs. He has spread the ball around between Mike Wells (353 receiving yards, 254 rushing yards, 8 total TDs), Owen Ciavarino (241 yards, 2 TDs) and Tyler Leekins (204 yards, 3 TDs). For the top-seeded Leopards, dual-threat QB Devin Whitlock is the most exciting player in the WPIAL with the ball in his hands. He has thrown for 828 yards and 8 TDs, run for 960 yards and 17 TDs, and returned 3 punts for scores. Sophomore RB Quinton Martin missed a few games with injury and ran for 737 yards and 13 TDs with his breakaway speed. In Martin’s absence, Jake Gedekoh ran for 482 yards and 8 scores. Both teams have been the 4A Runner-Up to Thomas Jefferson during the 6-classification era and neither program has won a WPIAL title since the mid-1990s. The winner here may very well get a shot at Thomas Jefferson in the semifinals.
5. Thomas Jefferson at 4. Hampton
Hampton rolled to the Greater Allegheny Conference title with a perfect record but was not given a first-round bye. They had a rematch with a Plum team they crushed in the regular season and eked out a 14-13 win in the first round. Thomas Jefferson rolled past Indiana 41-0 and is looking to get to the semifinals for the 23rd time in the last 24 years. The Jaguars are the two-time defending 4A State Champions and have reached 6 straight WPIAL Championship Games. Thomas Jefferson has leaned on dual-threat QB Joe Leske who has thrown for 830 yards and 10 TDs and run for 480 yards and 14 scores. Elias Lippencott has taken over the lead back role in midseason and run for 753 yards and 12 TDs. When Leske does take to the air, his primary target has been Sean Sullivan (513 yards, 6 TDs). On the other side, Hampton’s offense has been built around their efficient running game. Five Talbots have at least 50 carries and 350 yards this season with three players averaging over 7 yards per carry. The Talbots backfield is led by a pair of 1000-yard rushers in Christian Liberto (1151 yards, 16 TDs) and Brock Borgo (1090 yards, 17 TDs). Matt DeMatteo and Joey Mayer have split time at quarterback this season though both have more rushing yards and touchdowns than passing yards and touchdowns. The Talbots are looking to get to the semifinals for the first time since 2009, which was their deepest run in school history. Without a doubt this would be the biggest win in Hampton history if they can pull it off.
10. Laurel Highlands at 2. Aliquippa
Laurel Highlands was one of the best stories of the opening round, scoring a game-tying touchdown in the final minute and converting the extra point for a 28-27 victory over Beaver, the first playoff win in school history. The reward for the Mustangs? A date with perennial powerhouse Aliquippa who has reached 13 consecutive WPIAL Championship Games. With all of the headlines in 4A being dominated by the Big Eight Conference this season, Aliquippa might be the most slept-upon team in this year’s playoffs. But make no mistake, the Quips are incredibly talented and just as dangerous as always with 4A’s top offense (45.1 points per game) and defense (8.6. points against per game). Aliquippa has a balanced offensive attack with freshman Tiqwai Hayes running for 1019 yards and 12 TDs. Quentin Goode has taken the reins of the Air Warfield offense and thrown for 1352 yards and 13 TDs, primarily to the dynamic duo of Cyair Clark (475 yards, 7 total TDs) and Tajier Thornton (313 yards, 6 total TDs). Both Clark and Thornton are talented receivers and dangerous defensive backs and returners, capable of taking the ball to the house any time they get their hands on it. Laurel Highlands junior Rodney Gallagher is one of the most talented all-around athletes to ever come out of Fayette County. Gallagher joined the 1000/1000 Club this season and has thrown for 1289 yards and 12 TDs and run for 1066 yards and 20 scores. Leading receivers Keondre DeShields (353 yards, 7 TDs) and Jayden Pratt (219 yards, 3 TDs) have been big play-makers all season for the Mustangs. Last week, TJ Hooper stole the show as he was moved from WR to RB and ran for 141 yards and 2 TDs, including the game-winner.
6. Armstrong at 3. McKeesport
Like Laurel Highlands, Armstrong also scored their first playoff victory in school history last Friday, though the Riverhawks did not have to wait nearly as long. Armstrong was formed in 2015 by the merger of Ford City and Kittanning and their 27-16 win over Montour came in their 4th playoff appearance. McKeesport got a first-round bye and is looking for their 5th semifinal appearance in the last 8 years. These teams faced off earlier this season with McKeesport prevailing 24-14 in one of the Tigers closer games of the season. McKeesport’s triple-option wishbone offense is always difficult to defend and the Tigers once again have a talented backfield with two players averaging over 10 yards per carry. The explosive Bobbie Boyd (1290 yards, 14 TDs) leads the way and Kenneth Thompson (476 yards, 7 TDs) has been a strong complement. Jacob Miller and Caleb Reist have split time at quarterback this season though both have more rushing attempts than passing attempts. This game is a dramatic contrast of styles as McKeesport rarely throws while Armstrong has one of the top QBs in the WPIAL in Cadin Olsen who has thrown for 2222 yards and 26 TDs and run for 827 yards and 17 TDs. Alex Patton (734 yards, 5 TDs) has been the counterpart in the backfield with Olsen. On the outside, Olsen has spread the ball around between Isaiah Brown (856 yards, 9 TDs), Noah Shuttleworth (517 yards, 6 TDs), and Connor Cigola (302 yards, 4 TDs).
9. East Allegheny at 1. Central Valley
This is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal where East Allegheny poked the bear and talked a lot of smack before the game and were promptly demolished 56-7. The Wildcats topped Southmoreland 36-11 in the first round this season, earning just their second playoff victory since 2000. Central Valley is the two-time defending WPIAL Champions and defending State Champions. The Warriors have looked the part once again this season with the highest-scoring offense in 3A (48 points per game) and a defense that has held teams under 8 points per game. Central Valley has explosive playmakers all over the field, led by two running backs that average nearly 11 yards per carry. Landon Alexander (1362 yards, 22 TDs) is one of the top backs in the entire WPIAL and Brett FitzSimmons (328 yards, 9 TDs) has complemented Alexander’s talents. When starting QB Matt Merritt went down with an injury, Antwon Johnson (868 yards, 14 TDs) stepped in and took over, opening up the passing game via a connection with Jayvin Thompson (509 yards, 8 TDs). Merritt is also a star linebacker and has returned from injury to continue to be a defensive force along with “The Terror of the Trenches” D-lineman Sean FitzSimmons. East Allegheny has some speed as well and has utilized QB Mike Smith (852 passing yards, 13 TDs, 214 rushing yards, 3 TDs) as the catalyst of their offense. Leading receiver Prashaun Gainer (449 yards, 5 TDs) and Mike Cahill (283 yards, 4 TDs) have been a solid tandem on the outside. Central Valley is looking for their fourth straight trip to the semifinals while East Allegheny has not reached the semis since 1992 when they last won a WPIAL title.
5. Freeport at 4. Elizabeth Forward
In another rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, Interstate Conference Champs Elizabeth Forward will once again take on Freeport. The Warriors won 34-20 last season, which was their first playoff victory sine 2000. Elizabeth Forward ranked in the top three in 3A in both offense (32.4 points per game) and defense (7.5 points per game). Freeport always plays a strong brand of defense and held 7 opponents to 14 points or fewer this season, including Ambridge in the opening round who they dispatched 34-6 thanks to three fourth quarter touchdowns. Freeport’s offense has centered around dual-threat QB Ben Lane who has thrown for 436 yards and 3 TDs and run for 511 yards and 9 TDs. Both Garrett King (125 yards, 2 TDs) and Vincent Clark have seen time at quarterback this year as well. Clark’s primary usage has been at receiver where he has 187 yards and 4 TDs to complement Shawn Stivenson (217 yards, 1 TD). Zach Clark is the change-of-pace back and has run for 247 yards and 7 TDs, averaging 7 yards per carry. Elizabeth Forward has a balanced offensive attack thanks to the efficient passing of Zion White (970 yards, 19 TDs) and the explosiveness of Zach Boyd (527 yards, 16 total TDs) on the outside. On the ground, the workload has been shared by Kyle Flournoy (561 yards, 8 TDs) and DaVontay Brownfield (331 yards, 5 TDs).
7. Keystone Oaks at 2. North Catholic
North Catholic has reached the semifinals in 6 of the last 9 years but has only made it through to the WPIAL finals once in that span (the 2013 season when they won the State Title). The Trojans had the best defense (5.1 points per game) in the entire WPIAL and an offense that averaged 43 points per game. North Catholic pitched 6 shutouts in 10 games and has the longest conference winning streak in the WPIAL. Keystone Oaks is looking for their third semifinal appearance in 6 years after defeating South Allegheny 34-0 in the opening round. Keystone Oaks has been involved in a number of blowouts this year – all 6 of their wins came by at least 20 points while 3 of their 5 losses came by 19+ points. Keystone Oaks comes in with 3A’s leading passer Nick Buckley (1582 yards, 11 TDs) who has a quality tandem on the outside between Owen Minford (482 yards, 7 TDs) and Quinn Kenny (475 yards, 2 TDs). Out of the backfield, Kevin Drew has led the way with 1295 rushing yards, 280 receiving yards, and 17 total TDs. North Catholic also comes in with a talented QB Joey Prentice (1024 passing yards, 16 TDs, 282 rushing yards, 7 TDs). The Trojans are loaded with playmakers all over the field and have been absolutely dominant in the trenches. Slot back Kyle Tipinski leads the team with 414 receiving yards, 380 rushing yards, and 17 total TDs. Jack Fennell is the leading rusher with 397 rushing yards, 253 receiving yards, and 11 total TDs between offense and special teams. Tyler Maziarz (331 yards, 7 TDs) and Liam Straub (261 yards, 7 TDs) have been big-play hitters on the outside, both averaging about 30 yards per catch.
6. Mt. Pleasant at 3. Avonworth
While this is the first playoff meeting between these teams, there is some history between them as last year the WPIAL selected Mt. Pleasant (4-2, 4-4) over Avonworth (3-1, 4-2) for a playoff spot. That was Avonworth’s first missed postseason since 2007. The Lopes play a tough brand of defense, allowing just 9.7 points per game and holding 7 teams to single-digit results including 4 shutouts. Mt. Pleasant defeated Burrell 41-7 in the opening round (after beating Burrell by a nearly identical 40-7 score in Week 0). The Vikings have a run-heavy offensive attack with Robbie Labuda (905 yards, 12 TDs) and Aaron Alakson (704 yards, 12 TDs). By contrast, Avonworth had a balanced offensive attack. Nate Harper threw for 1105 yards and 11 TDs, spreading the ball around between Peyton Faulkner (299 yards, 5 TDs), Neo Miller (222 yards, 1 TD) and Tyler Schleis (167 yards, 2 TDs). On the ground, Ian Syam has run for 1028 yards and 15 TDs to pace the Lopes.
8. South Side Beaver at 1. Steel Valley
This is a rematch of the 2018 WPIAL Championship Game which Steel Valley handily won. That was the second title in three seasons for the Ironmen, but also their last playoff appearance before this season. In the opening round, top-seeded Steel Valley rolled past Beth-Center 42-14 while South Side Beaver beat Ligonier Valley 34-14. Both teams employ run-heavy offenses. Steel Valley boasts the WPIAL’s leading rusher in NiJhay Burt who has run for 2018 yards and 35 TDs. Cruce Brookins has nearly three times as many rushing yards (889 yards, 11 TDs) as passing yards (298 yards, 4 TDs). For the Rams, Parker Statler (895 yards, 20 TDs) and Cam Knox (679 yards, 6 TDs) have led the way. Brody Almashy has thrown for 839 yards and 6 TDs in the rare events when South Side throws the ball.
13. New Brighton at 5. Beaver Falls
at Geneva College
The Jug Game gets a redux this season after Beaver Falls won the regular season rivalry game (and thus ownership of the Jug) 39-18. After losing their first 3 games of the season, the defending WPIAL Champions have now rattled off 7 victories in a row, including a 42-8 thrashing of Western Beaver in the first round. New Brighton pulled off the biggest upset of last weekend, beating undefeated and 4th-seeded Washington 21-20 in overtime by stopping a two-point conversion try. Beaver Falls QB Jaren Brickner is one of the WPIAL’s leading passers with 2055 yards and 21 TDs. Brickner has spread the ball around between Trey Singleton (647 yards, 11 TDs), Mekhi Clark (595 yards, 8 TDs) and Quadir Thomas (389 yards, 9 TDs) who have all averaged around 20 yards per catch. Out of the backfield, Isaiah Aeschbacher has led the way with 655 yards and 11 TDs. For New Brighton, Gary Pugh (590 yards, 7 TDs) took over at quarterback after Gabe Haddox got hurt. The Lions have a talented pair of wide receivers in Keandre Williams (481 yards, 12 total TDs) and Blake McKay (337 yards, 3 TDs).
10. Mohawk at 2. Sto-Rox
at North Hills
Sto-Rox was the top-ranked team in 2A all season and the presumed shoo-in for the top seed, which the WPIAL ultimately gave to Steel Valley. The Vikings came out with a vengeance in the opening round and demolished Shady Side Academy 61-8 thanks to 225 rushing yards and 5 TDs from Jay Pearson. Mohawk got their 3rd playoff victory in school history with a 34-12 over Chartiers-Houston. Mohawk’s run has been keyed by QB John Voss who has thrown for 1441 yards and 14 TDs and run for 351 yards and 4 TDs. Voss and leading receiver Marc Conti (635 yards, 11 TDs) have had a strong connection this season. Sto-Rox is absolutely loaded with talent. Josh Jenkins started the year at wide receiver and switched to quarterback mid-season and thrown for 1060 yards and 15 TDs. Jaymar Pearson has been a dominant back, running for 1302 yards and 20 TDs, averaging an insane 17 yards per carry. On the outside, the trio of Jaymont Green-Miller (536 yards, 7 TDs), Zay Davis (464 yards, 7 TDs), and Drevon Miller-Ross (241 yards, 7 TDs) have been threats to score any time they get their hands on the ball whether on offense, defense, or special teams.
6. Serra Catholic at 3. Laurel
Laurel and Serra both lost close games to Sto-Rox in the playoffs last year. Through 8 weeks of the regular season they were both unbeaten and dominant. Laurel completed their perfect regular season while Serra fell to Steel Valley and now the two face off with a likely semifinal rematch with Sto-Rox as the reward for the winner. Laurel ranks 3rd in the classification in both offense (43 points per game) and defense (7.5 points against per game) and manhandled McGuffey 41-2 in the first round. Serra righted the ship with a 61-21 win over Neshannock. For Serra, 1600-yard passer Max Rocco missed last week’s game after being injured against Steel Valley in the regular season finale. Elijah Ward stepped in and threw for 200 yards and 2 TDs. The Eagles have an extremely talented trio of receivers in Terrell Booth (737 yards, 13 total TDs), Jayvon Holt (473 yards, 10 total TDs), and Amire Spencer (323 yards, 2 TDs) who also make up a fearsome secondary and are all capable returners. On the other hand, Laurel has been a run-heavy offense this season with two 1000-yard rushers in Luke McCoy (1720 yards, 30 TDs) and Kobe DeRosa (1054 yards, 17 TDs). McCoy is the WPIAL’s second-leading rusher while DeRosa has twice as many rushing attempts as passing, where he has thrown for 590 yards and 6 TDs. Laurel has averaged less than 6 pass attempts per game, and when they do throw Michael Pasquarello (234 receiving yards, 230 rushing yards, 8 total TDs) has been the top target.
9. OLSH at 1. Clairton
For the fourth straight season, Clairton and OLSH will meet in the playoffs. In 2018, OLSH defeated Clairton in the semis en route to winning the WPIAL title. Clairton returned the favor in each of the last two years, beating OLSH in the quarterfinals. The Bears were the only 1A team to get a first round bye while OLSH defeated GCC 28-8. Clairton’s team has battled through a number of injuries this season and has been led by dual-threat QB Capone Jones (551 passing yards, 5 TDs, 717 rushing yards, 7 TDs). Brooklyn Cannon recently returned from injury and has put up 243 receiving yards and 5 scores while making a number of big plays on defense. Cameron Lewis (266 yards, 6 TDs) and Christian Wade (262 yards, 6 TDs) have both complemented Jones’ rushing abilities out of the backfield. OLSH has had a balanced attack with a talented quarterback in Nehemiah Azeem throwing for 1369 yards and 10 TDs. Ziggy McIntosh (534 yards, 5 TDs) has been Azeem’s primary target while Stephen Greer (614 yards, 7 TDs) has shouldered the workload in the ground game.
13. Springdale at 5. Rochester
In a rematch of last year’s Quarterfinal (which Rochester won 34-7), the Dynamos and Rams meet again. This will be the fifth all-time playoff meeting between the schools, the most memorable of which came in the 2003 semifinals when Springdale upset Rochester en route to winning the WPIAL title. That was the only WPIAL crown between 2000 and 2004 that the Rams did not win. This year’s Rochester team is once again built around their ground game. Sal Laure (984 yards, 19 TDs), Antonio Laure (356 yards, 2 TDs) and Connor Martin (277 yards, 4 TDs) have all gotten 50+ carries this season. QB JD Azulay hasn’t thrown much but has thrown for 418 yards and 8 TDs and run for 207 yards and 6 TDs. Springdale endured a number of injuries this season but seems to be healthy at the right time. The dynamic Logan Dexter leads the team in rushing (621 yards), receiving (264 yards), and scoring (16 total TDs). Last week, Chris Savko (531 yards, 5 TDs) was the hero for Springdale, running for over 100 yards and 2 TDs. Legend Ausk has thrown for 742 yards and 12 TDs.
7. Leechburg at 2. Cornell
at North Allegheny
Storylines collide in this Quarterfinal. Leechburg made the playoffs for the first time since 1988, snapping the longest current drought in the WPIAL. The Blue Devils got their first home playoff game in school history and with their 28-7 victory over California earned their first playoff victory since 1978. Cornell won their first conference title since 1983 and won their second playoff game in school history with a dominant 33-0 victory over Monessen. This is a matchup of strength on strength as the highest-scoring team in 1A Leechburg (43.8 points per game) takes on Cornell’s defense (9.1 points against per game), the second-best unit in the classification. Leechburg’s high-scoring offensive attack has been balanced between 1A’s leading passer Tommy Burke (1944 yards, 16 TDs) and the second-leading rusher in 1A Braylan Lovelace (1481 yards, 29 TDs). On the outside, Burke has been able to spread the ball around between Tyler Foley (634 yards, 5 TDs), Eli Rich (532 yards, 10 TDs) and Logan Kline (513 yards, 10 TDs). Cornell’s has scored 30+ points 6 times this season. Sincere Kimbrough has thrown for 867 yards and 10 TDs and run for 299 yards and 7 TDs. Raequan Troutman has been a factor all over the field, leading the Raiders in rushing with 630 yards, adding 103 receiving yards and scoring 10 times. Leading receiver Timothy Henderson (457 yards) has also run for 286 yards and scored 10 times.
11. Shenango at 3. Bishop Canevin
at Dormont Stadium
Bishop Canevin continued their dominant run with a 49-6 victory over Burgettstown. Since losing to Clairton, the Crusaders have outscored their 5 opponents by a combined score of 229-9. Bishop Canevin has the top-ranked defense (6.3 points against per game) in 1A and the 3rd best offense (34.4 points per game). Shenango lost their first 4 games then won 3 in a row which earned the Wildcats enough Gardner Points to make the playoffs where they topped Carmichaels 31-13. Shenango has relied on their running game this year led by the tandem of CJ Miller (935 yards, 9 TDs) and Hunter Lively (575 yards, 4 TDs). Sam Patton took over the quarterback role in mid-season and threw for 455 yards and 6 TDs, primarily to Dalton Peters (329 yards, 7 TDs). Bishop Canevin has arguably the most dangerous duo of receivers in 1A in Lasae Lacks (646 yards, 10 TDs) and Xavier Nelson (621 yards, 10 TDs). They have enabled QB Jason Cross (1289 yards, 15 TDs) to be one of 1A’s top passers. Kole Olszewski (419 yards, 7 TDs) has split time at quarterback with Cross. On the ground, Marquis Carter (539 yards, 5 TDs) leads the way and Cross has contributed with 351 yards and 10 TDs.