While last week was Rivalry Week in the WPIAL, this week is Rematch Week. Specifically, there are three games that are rematches of WPIAL Championship Games. While Week 0 saw Northgate snap a 32-game losing streak, last week Waynesburg ended their 15-game losing skid. The biggest result of the week was Seneca Valley beating Pine-Richland for the first time since 2013. We interviewed Seneca Valley offensive coordinator Ryan Lehmeier on this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show. Our Brute Athletic Player of the Week award went to Belle Vernon QB Devin Whitlock who ran just 6 times for 133 yards and incredibly scored on 4 of those 6 attempts. Whitlock also threw for 135 yards and another touchdown. All told, he accounted for 268 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns against Chartiers Valley in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals.
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 Brownsville. Laurel Highlands is off to a 2-0 start after topping Southmoreland 28-21 last week. A win over Brownsville would be their first 3-0 start since 1976 when they started 3-0 thanks to a Week 3 forfeit by…Brownsville.
Be sure to keep tabs on our WPIAL Standings Page throughout the season and follow our WPIAL Twitter account @WPIAL_Blitz. Here’s a look at the top games on the slate this week. Since conference play does not start until Week 3, the standings page is currently only reflective of non-conference games which do not count towards playoff qualification. Without further ado, here’s a look at the top games on this week’s slate.
Central Catholic (1-1) at Pine-Richland (0-2)
Not only is this a matchup of the defending 6A and 5A WPIAL champions, this is also a rematch of the 2014, 2017, and 2019 WPIAL Championship Games. Pine-Richland beat Central Catholic to win the 2014 AAAA title and the 2017 6A title. Central Catholic knocked out Pine-Richland in the 2016 semifinals and beat the Rams to win 2019 6A title. Central bounced back from a Week 1 loss to Imhotep Charter in a defensive struggle to thump Penn Hills last week. The Vikings have relied on a strong defense, anchored by Notre Dame-commit Donovan Hinish. Offensively, Gannon Carothers (92 yards, 1 TD) and Amari Shield (77 yards, 1 TD) have been the workhorses in the ground game. Electric playmaker Brandon Jackson (85 yards, 1 TD) has been the top target for QB Payton Wehner (188 yards, 2 TDs). Pine-Richland has uncharacteristically blown fourth quarter leads in both of their games. The Rams fell to Harrisburg 26-21 in Week 0 and to Seneca Valley 24-20 last week. Cole Boyd has stepped into the starting quarterback role and excelled, throwing for 393 yards and 3 TDs and running for 105 yards and 2 more scores. Alex Gochis (161 yards, 1 TD) has been Boyd’s top target while Brooks Eastburn (110 yards, 1 TD) has been a solid counterpart to Boyd in the backfield. The subplot to this game is also the matchup of two of the best linebackers in the WPIAL. Pine-Richland’s Jeremiah Hasley has committed to Duke and Central Catholic sophomore Anthony Speca already has offers from Notre Dame, Pitt, Penn State, and West Virginia.
Seneca Valley (1-1) at North Hills (2-0)
Seneca Valley is coming off a huge win over Pine-Richland, which came on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Graham Hancox to Brandon Ross in the closing seconds. That was Seneca Valley’s first victory over Pine-Richland since 2013. North Hills is off to a 2-0 start with convincing victories over Mars (37-0) and Plum (49-17), both of whom are 4A schools. The aforementioned Hancox has been the catalyst for Seneca Valley’s offense, throwing for 309 yards and 4 TDs and adding another 45 on the ground. Brandon Ross (124 yards, 2 TDs) is the leading receiver for the Raiders while Nolan Dworek (107 yards, 1 TD) has gotten most of the work in the ground game. North Hills boasts one of the most dynamic playmakers in the WPIAL in Robert Dickerson who has scored twice on special teams and once on a receiving touchdown. North Hills is a traditionally run-heavy team and have shown that off with Liam Tracey (138 yards, 5 TDs) and Chase Foskey (2 TDs). They will manufacture touches for Dickerson any way they can get the ball in his hands, and he is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Gateway (1-1) at Penn Hills (0-1)
Gateway knocked off Penn Hills in the first round of the playoffs last year. While that game was a good defensive struggle, the matchup that everyone wanted between the two in 2018 never materialized. They were the top two 5A teams that season, but Gateway was upset in the semifinals by West Allegheny while Penn Hills went on to win the state title. Gateway has been the beneficiary of transfers this season with QB Brad Birch (273 yards, 3 TDs) and his older brother Brett coming over from Jeannette. The Gators have turned the keys of the offense over to the sophomore quarterback, who already has an offer from Oregon. Brett (114 yards, 2 TDs) remains his favorite receiver, but Gateway has a talented group on the outside with Cincinnati-commit Patrick Body (58 yards, 1 TD) and Jaquon Reynolds who has over 90 yards of total offense between rushing and receiving. This should be a great matchup between Gateway’s passing game and the Penn Hills secondary, which is one of the best in the WPIAL. For the Indians defensive backs, Jaden Dugger and Raion Strader both have multiple D1 offers. The interesting subplot to this game is that both teams have sophomore quarterbacks – Brad Birch for Gateway and Julian Dugger for Penn Hills. Both players also have older brothers that play receiver – Brett Birch and Jaden Dugger.
Moon (2-0) at Woodland Hills (1-1)
Moon made a statement in Week 1 with a resounding victory over Seneca Valley then followed it up with a throttling of Montour last week. With games against a 6A and 4A school under their belt, this will be the Tigers first matchup against a fellow 5A school. Woodland Hills started the season strong with a victory over Wayne Valley (NJ) in the “Western PA vs Everyone” showcase then lost a narrow 7-6 game to rival McKeesport last week when they did not convert a 2-point try in the second half. Moon has been strong in every facet of the game. The Tigers have a good quarterback in Tyler McGowan (182 yards, 2 TDs) and a solid tandem in the backfield of Dylan Sleva (142 yards, 2 TDs) and Jeremiah Dean (117 yards, 2 TDs). They have also scored on defense and special teams. Woodland Hills boasts one of the best all-around athletes in the WPIAL in Deontae Williams who has thrown for 114 yards and 1 TD, run for 105 yards and 1 TD, and picked off multiple passes on defense. The Wolverines have been strong on the ground in addition to Williams with Eris Seibles (122 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Jones (110 yards, 1 TD) all seeing action. This will be the first game against 5A opponents for both of these teams and will be a good barometer for where they stand as we start to draw closer to conference play.
Penn-Trafford (2-0) at Belle Vernon (1-0)
Two teams with talented playmakers that are looking to break through in their respective classifications meet up in Week 2. Penn-Trafford has the most playoff victories in WPIAL history without winning a championship while Belle Vernon’s lone title came in 1995. Both teams are loaded with talent and looking to break through in 5A (for Penn-Trafford) and 4A for (Belle Vernon). Penn-Trafford’s offensive attack is led by Wisconsin-commit Cade Yacamelli who has run for 315 yards and 4 TDs and added a receiving touchdown. Carter Green has taken over the quarterback role and thrown for 199 yards and 1 TD and run for 195 yards and 4 scores. Both Yacamelli and Green are averaging over 13 yards per carry, a credit to Penn-Trafford’s offensive line. Not to be outdone, Belle Vernon also has a formidable tandem in their backfield. Dual-threat QB Devin Whitlock was our Player of the Week in Week 1 after throwing for 135 yards and 1 TD and running for 132 yards and 4 TDs. Whitlock has an offer from Youngstown State in football and was also the boy’s basketball player of the year last year. Sophomore RB Quinton Martin ran for 78 yards and a score and already has offers from major D1 programs. All in all, these are two powerhouse teams looking to make an early-season statement as they gear up for potentially historic runs this fall.
South Fayette (2-0) at Thomas Jefferson (1-0)
This is a rematch of one of the best WPIAL Championship games of the last five years. In the 2018 4A final, the Lions and Jaguars went back and forth with South Fayette ultimately winning on a goal-line interception in the final minute. That is the only time in the last six years that Thomas Jefferson has not won a WPIAL title. This is also a matchup of two of the most successful coaches in recent history. Thomas Jefferson’s Bill Cherpak has won 9 WPIAL titles since 2004 and South Fayette’s Joe Rossi who has won 4 titles since 2010. South Fayette has a balanced offensive attack. Landon Lutz (305 yards, 4 TDs) has taken the helm at quarterback and has a quality outide tandem in Logan Yater (98 yards) and Connor Harcarik (91 yards, 2 TDs). On the ground, Nate Deanes (189 yards, 3 TDs) has been the workhorse while Christian Brandi (68 yards, 2 TDs) has been the change-of-pace back. Thomas Jefferson started the season with a slugfest against Gateway. Dual-threat QB Joe Lekse was the star, throwing for 77 yards and 2 TDs and running for 92 yards and another score. TJ is once again stout defensively with Nick Bryan and Jordan Mayer (who both have multiple D1 offers) on the defensive line.
Central Valley (2-0) at Aliquippa (1-0)
When the PIAA moved to six classifications, Central Valley and Aliquippa landed in the same 3A conference. Not only did they face off annually in the regular season, the rivalry culminated with Central Valley beating the Quips in the 2019 WPIAL Championship. Landon Alexander has been the playmaker for the Warriors offense, rushing for 257 yards and 6 TDs. Star linebacker Matt Merritt has taken over the quarterback role and thrown for 162 yards and 3 TDs. “The Terror of the Trenches” Sean Fitzsimmons is a Pitt-commit who wrecks havoc on the interior of the defensive line. This should be a great matchup with Fitzsimmons going up against Aliquippa’s massive front. Quentin Goode has taken over the quarterback role and threw for 121 yards and a TD in the opener against rival Beaver Falls. Cameron Lindsey (81 yards, 1 TD) and Nate Lindsey (56 yards) led the Quips backfield but it was Isaiah Martinez who found the end zone twice on short-yardage scores. Tajier Thornton and Cyair Clair are talented playmakers at both receiver, defensive back, and kick returners.
North Catholic (2-0) at Blackhawk (1-1)
North Catholic has made the semifinals in 3 of the last 4 years but has not been to a WPIAL Championship since 2013 when they won the State title. Blackhawk has not been to a title game since 2008 though they made the 4A semis in 2 of the last 3 years. North Catholic has designs on being a contender in 3A and with last year’s runner-up Elizabeth Forward losing to Ligonier Valley last week while defending champion Central Valley beat Blackhawk, this is a measuring stick game for the Trojans to see how they match up. Dual-threat QB Joey Prentice has thrown for 141 yards and 2 TDs and added 2 more on the ground. Jack Fennell has found the end zone five times – 3 on the ground (where he has run for 128 yards) and 2 on punt returns. Chase Arrington has run for 104 yards and 2 TDs and Kyle Tipinski has a rushing and a receiving touchdown. Defensively, North Catholic is one of 3 teams in the WPIAL that has not allowed a point through two outings. They will be tested by Blackhawk’s explosive offense. The Cougars have a talented quarterback in Carson Davidson (371 yards, 5 TDs). Davidson has a pair of dynamic receivers in Carson Heckathorn (165 yards, 2 TDs) and Lorenzo Jenkins (94 yards, 2 TDs) that can stress any defense (including the defending state champions Central Valley last week). On the ground, Zach Ours (104 yards, 2 TDs) and Tyler Dietterich (86 yards) have split the workload for Blackhawk. These are both teams that should be strong playoff contenders in their respective classifications and this game should be a good measuring stick for both.
McGuffey (1-1) at Sto-Rox (2-0)
Both McGuffey and Sto-Rox won their conference titles last season and seemed destined for a 2A semifinal matchup before Serra Catholic hit a long TD pass with seconds remaining to top McGuffey. This season Sto-Rox beat not-a-school Bishop Sycamore and pounded Jeannette. McGuffey surprisingly lost to Southmoreland in Week 0 but bounced back to handily beat Brownsville in Week 1. This will be the first game for both teams against a 2A opponent, and both were consider the class of their respective conferences coming into the season so this game will provide a good metric for the 2A pecking order. This game will be a contrast of styles as McGuffey is a run-heavy team. Kyle Brookman (221 yards, 3 TDs) and Philip McCuen (120 yards, 1 TD) lead the way while Jeremiah Johnson has found the end zone twice. McCuen has only attempted a few passes this season and thrown for 80 yards and 2 TDs. On the other side, Sto-Rox might have the most dynamic passing attack in the entire WPIAL. Austin Jones has thrown for 339 yards and 5 TDs. Jaymont Green-Miller leads the receiving corps with 136 yards and 1 TD and has scored twice on punt returns. Drevon Miller-Ross (129 yards, 1 receiving TD, 1 punt return TD, 1 defensive TD) and Josh Jenkins (95 yards, 3 TDs) aren’t far behind. McGuffey will be stretched to match up with those three on the outside. Sto-Rox hasn’t run much, but Jamar Pearson leads the way with 63 yards and 2 TDs.
Union (2-0) at Neshannock (2-0)
Two undefeated teams from Lawrence County that are just 7 miles apart will square off on Friday night. Both teams have scored victories over geographically close teams with Union topping Mohawk and Ellwood City and Neshannock beating Shenango and South Side Beaver. This is the last game for both teams before they move into conference play next week. Tyler Staub threw two touchdown passes and ran for another last week in Union’s win over Ellwood City. On the season, Staub has thrown for 243 yards and 3 TDs and run for 84 yards and another score. Mark Stanley and Jackson Clark have both run for 2 touchdowns as well for the Scotties. Neshannock has done most of their damage on the ground, led by Camron Owens (205 yards, 3 TDs) and Peyton Weaver (83 yards, 3 TDs). Dual-threat quarterback Kurt Sommerfield has thrown for 168 yards and 1 TD and run for 77 yards and 2 TDs.