We are entering the final third of the WPIAL football season. Last week was the first time all season that we had bad weather, and it made up for all the nice weather with a bang. Literally. A number of games were either delayed, postponed, or called early due to the thunderstorms. At the end of the weekend, we saw big results with Mt. Lebanon topping Central Catholic in 6A, Penn Hills winning a thriller in 5A, and games between Canon McMillian and Seneca Valley along with OLSH and Union going to overtime. Playoff races are in full swing with three games to go in the regular season. A number of teams have the opportunity to clinch playoff spots this week, which we detailed here. This week, the WPIAL is launching a Food Drive in cooperation with the Greater Pittsburgh Area Community Food Bank. People can donate directly to the fundraiser and designate a school to receive credit for their donations as the schools that raise the most funds will be recognized at the Sportsmanship banquet. Additionally, during games this weekend and next weekend, there will be opportunities to donate food items or make monetary donations.
On this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show we interviewed Hampton Head Coach Jacque DeMatteo, looked at the big performances from Week 5 and the standings heading into the second half of the season. Our Brute Athletic Player of the Week award went to Penn Hills sophomore QB Julian Dugger who threw a game-winning touchdown pass with just 2 seconds left to beat North Hills. Dugger accounted for 5 total TDs in the win – 3 rushing and 2 passing.
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 McKeesport in a Big Eight Conference game with playoff implications.
Be sure to keep tabs on our WPIAL Standings Page throughout the season and follow our WPIAL Twitter account @WPIAL_Blitz and check out our WPIAL Blitz Facebook Page. Sixteen teams enter this week undefeated and this week features numerous matchups with the top spot in the conference on the line.
6A Game of the Week
North Allegheny (2-2, 4-3) at Canon-McMillan (2-2, 4-3)
After dropping games to Central Catholic and Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny bounced back with a convincing win over Norwin last week. Canon-McMillan lost in double overtime to Seneca Valley last week. In 6A, the top three finishers get byes to the semifinals while the 4th and 5th place teams have to play in the quarterfinals. This game has massive playoff implications as it will help sort out which team will be a contender for that third bye as Mt. Lebanon and Central Catholic look like the cream of the crop. North Allegheny is a traditionally run-heavy team with a stable of backs and that has held true this year. JR Burton (385 yards, 4 TDs), Tanner Potts (163 yards, 2 TDs) and Aidan Buggey (119 yards) have all been factors, along with the mult-talented Kolin Dinkins. Through the air, Logan Kushner averages fewer than 10 attempts per game but has thrown for 589 yards and 8 TDs. On the other side, Canon-MicMillan has a balanced offensive attack. Leading rusher Ryan Angott (671 rushing yards, 156 receiving yards, 8 total TDs) is the workhorse of the team. Owen Carter (253 yards, 1 TD) has gotten his share of carries in spelling Angott. Through the air, Michael Evans has thrown for 951 yards and 9 TDs. Evans has spread the ball between Deuce Lyons (262 yards, 2 TDs) and Anthony Finney (244 yards, 5 TDs).
Honorable Mention: Seneca Valley at Baldwin
After an 0-5 start to the season, Baldwin has bounced back with wins over Norwin and Hempfield. The Highlanders do have losses to Canon-McMillan and North Allegheny, so in order to get into a potential playoff position, they will need to beat a contender. They will have that opportunity this week against a Seneca Valley team that can still win a share of the conference title if they win out.
5A Game of the Week
Upper St Clair (2-0, 4-3) at Moon (2-0, 7-0)
Moon is the only remaining unbeaten team in 5A. Upper St Clair dropped a few non-conference games but are off to a 2-0 start in Allegheny Six play. This game may eventually be the one that decides the conference title, though Bethel Park is also off to a 2-0 start. Moon’s success has come from a stifling defense and a balanced offensive attack. Dual-threat QB Tyler McGowan has led the way with 826 passing yards and 7 TDs and 219 rushing yards and 3 more scores. His favorite target has been Taite Beachy (404 yards, 6 TDs). On the ground, Moon has used a plethora of backs led by Dylan Sleva (454 yards, 5 TDs) and Ian Foster (167 yards, 4 TDs). Upper St Clair has also boasted a balanced offensive attack that has involved a stable of running backs. Over the last two weeks it has been the Ethan Hiester Show as he has found the end zone five times. Jamaal Brown has also been featured out of the backfield. Brady Erdos (672 yards, 6 TDs) has settled into the quarterback role and has found reliable targets in Mateo Cepullio (261 yards, 4 TDs) and Aidan Besselman (225 receiving yards, 115 rushing yards, 4 total TDs).
Franklin Regional (1-1, 2-5) at Latrobe (1-1, 3-4)
In 5A, four teams per conference will make the playoffs. In the Big East, Penn-Trafford’s win over Gateway set them atop the conference and the Gators remain a strong contender. With Woodland Hills’ victory over Franklin Regional last week, this game could very well decide who gets the final playoff spot. Both of these teams have been capable offensively and have been able to put up points even in their losses. Caden Smith has done a little bit of everything for Franklin Regional, throwing for 274 yards and 3 TDs, running for 140 yards, leading the team with 260 receiving yards, and scoring 5 total TDs. Connor Donnelly (474 yards, 5 TDs) is the Panthers main quarterback and Tyler Bewszka (309 yards, 3 TDs) has been their feature back. Latrobe’s ground game has been led by Drake Clayton (739 yards, 5 TDs) and Kyle Brewer (284 yards, 6 TDs). At the quarterback position, Latrobe has worked through a few injuries and has three players who have thrown for over 200 yards each – Bobby Fetter, Corey Boerio, and Brayden Reott.
Honorable Mentions: Pine-Richland at North Hills, Penn Hills at Fox Chapel
These two games will go a long way towards beginning to sort out the top of the Northeast Conference. Pine-Richland and Fox Chapel are 2-0 while North Hills and Penn Hills are both 1-1 after their epic game last week where Penn Hills won at the buzzer.
4A Game of the Week
McKeesport (3-0, 6-1) at Laurel Highlands (2-2, 5-2)
McKeesport has somehow flown a little under the radar this year, with Belle Vernon’s upset of Thomas Jefferson putting the Leopards at the forefront of the conversation. But McKeesport has returned to the form they have institutionalized over the years. The Tigers triple-option wishbone attack has been unstoppable so far this year, with 6 players accounting for over 100 yards each. The explosive Bobbie Boyd (784 yards, 8 TDs) leads the way, with Kenneth Thompson (336 yards, 3 TDs), Keyshawn Humphries (155 yards, 2 TDs), Caleb Reist (131 yards, 5 TDs) and Jahmil Perryman (122 yards, 7 TDs) all factoring in. McKeesport’s ground game has been so good that quarterback Jacob Miller has done nearly as much on the ground (210 yards, 1 TD) as he has through the air (235 yards, 2 TDs). Laurel Highlands started the season with their first 5-0 start in school history, but dropped their last two against Belle Vernon and Thomas Jefferson. The Mustangs are still in the playoff hunt if they lose to McKeesport, thought it will likely come down to next week’s meeting with Trinity. Laurel Highlands has a dynamic talent in Rodney Gallagher who has thrown for 928 yards and 11 TDs and run for 501 yards and 9 TDs. Gallagher has taken on the weight of the running game after Eric Allen went down with a knee injury. On the outside, Keondre DeShields (253 yards, 7 TDs) has proven to be a matchup problem with his combination of size and speed. Joe Chambers (209 yards, 1 TD) and Jayden Pratt (171 yards, 2 TDs) have been solid complements in the passing game.
3A Game of the Week
Mt Pleasant (3-0, 5-2) at Elizabeth Forward (3-0, 5-2)
The Interstate Conference title is on the line. Elizabeth Forward is the defending Interstate Conference Champions and made a run to the WPIAL title game last year. Mt. Pleasant also made the playoffs last season and both are in line to make a return trip but are looking for the conference hardware to go with it. Mt Pleasant is a run-oriented team that has three players averaging over 7 yards per carry. Robbie Labuda (503 yards, 10 TDs) and Aaron Alakson (482 yards, 7 TDs) have paced the Vikings backfield. Quarterback Tyler Reese has more rushing attempts (38 carries for 261 yards and 4 TDs) than pass attempts (32 attempts, 282 yards, 4 TDs). Elizabeth Forward has also found success on the ground and similarly their top three rushers are also averaging over 7 yards per carry. Kyle Flournoy (351 yards, 5 TDs) leads the backfield. Despite Johnny DiNapoli transferring from East Allegheny after setting a freshman record for passing yards, Zion White has held on to the starting quarterback role. White has thrown for 435 yards and 9 TDs and run for 141 yards. Charlie Nigut has been an explosive playmaker for the Warriors, leading the team with 125 receiving yards, adding 154 rushing yards and scoring 6 times.
Honorable Mention: Deer Lakes at North Catholic
2A Game of the Week
Laurel (4-0, 7-0) at Mohawk (3-1, 4-3)
A Lawrence County showdown with first place in the Midwestern Conference on the line. Mohawk is coming off a loss to Beaver Falls last week, who Laurel beat earlier in the season. A Mohawk win would put the teams into a 3-way tie situation with Neshannock also lurking. A Laurel victory would put the Spartans one step closer to the conference title with only the aforementioned Lancers standing in their way. Laurel has one of the top backs in the entire WPIAL in Luke McCoy who has run for 1140 yards and 20 TDs. Dual-threat quarterback Kobe DeRosa has run for more yards (540 yards, 9 TDs) than he has thrown for (474 yards, 5 TDs). Laurel has a solid offensive line and their top four rushers all average at least 8 yards per carry. Mohawk’s dual-threat QB John Voss (899 passing yards, 7 TDs, 227 rushing yards, 3 TDs) missed last week’s game against Beaver Falls but should be back this week. Marc Conti, who has done a little bit of everything for the Warriors with 389 receiving yards, 150 rushing yards and 7 total TDs, had to step in at quarterback last week.
Sto-Rox (2-0, 7-0) at Western Beaver (2-0, 6-1)
The top spot in the Three Rivers Conference is on the line on Saturday afternoon. After Sto-Rox’s run to the WPIAL Championship Game last season they have come out with the highest-scoring team in 2A this season. Western Beaver made the playoffs last year and is also off to a strong start with their only loss coming to New Brighton in Week 0. Sto-Rox started the season with Austin Jones at QB and he threw for 680 yards and 7 TDs, but was replaced with Josh Jenkins in Week 4 and the offense has exploded the last two games. Jenkins has thrown for 377 yards and 8 TDs after hauling in 204 yards and 3 TDs playing receiver to start the season. The Vikings are absolutely loaded with talent on the outside with Jaymont Green-Miller (308 yards, 4 TDs), Drevon Miller-Ross (238 yards, 3 TDs) and Zay Jones (221 yards, 3 TDs) who are all game-breaking talents with D1 abilities. On the ground, Jay Pearson has taken the helm in the backfield and run for 529 yards and 7 TDs. Western Beaver has relied on the backfield combination of Xander LeFebvre and Thad Gray. LeFebvre has thrown for 814 yards and 12 TDs and run for 192 yards and 3 more scores. Gray has paced the ground game with 354 yards na 8 TDs. On the outside, Dorian McGhee leads the Golden Beavers receivers with 419 yards and 6 TDs.
Honorable Mentions: Shady Side Academy at Steel Valley, McGuffey at Chartiers-Houston
In both the Allegheny and Century Conferences there are two teams with unblemished conference records. In the Allegheny it’s Serra Catholic and Steel Valley, in the Century it’s Washington and McGuffey. Steel Valley and McGuffey both face teams that are behind them in the middle of the pack, looking to stay unbeaten and keep pace in the race for the conference title.
1A Game of the Week
Cornell (4-0, 5-1) at Rochester (3-1, 5-1)
Union’s Week 3 upset of Rochester is the only blemish on either team’s conference record. Since then, Rochester has put together convincing victories over OLSH and Fort Cherry. Cornell is on a 5-game winning streak after a narrow 14-7 loss to Mohawk in Week 0. The Raiders have scored at least 34 points in all five of their victories. Cornell has been led by the dynamic Sincere Kimbrough who has thrown for 618 yards and 8 TDs and run for 227 yards and 6 scores. The Raiders running game has been incredibly strong this year with their top four rushers all averaging over 6 yards per carry, a credit to their offensive line. Leading rusher Raequan Troutman (447 yards, 9 TDs) averages over 10 yards per carry. Timothy Henderson leads the team with 363 receiving yards and has added 164 rushing yards and scored 6 times. For Rochester, it has been all about the Laures. Senior RB Sal Laure has run for 494 yards and 11 TDs, including 3 last week. Freshman Antonio Laure was inserted two weeks ago and has already put up 207 yards and a touchdown. The Laure tandem has been so good on the ground that quarterback JD Azulay hasn’t had to throw much but has put up 255 yards and 5 TDs, primarily to Jerome Mullins (182 yards, 4 TDs).
GCC (3-1, 5-2) at Clairton (4-0, 4-2)
Clairton has knocked off Leechburg and Bishop Canevin in their last two contests and now just GCC stands between the Bears and another conference title. GCC has put themselves in position to make the playoffs for just the second time in the six-classification era and their only conference loss was a narrow 3-point defeat by Bishop Canevin. GCC is coming off two consecutive shutouts of Springdale and Riverview in which Tyree Turner took over the quarterback role and threw for 384 yards and 6 TDs. GCC’s primary offense has been through the air with Amari Mack (204 yards, 4 TDs), Joe Blahovec (194 yards, 1 TD) and Jaydin Canady (137 yards, 1 TD) pacing the receiving corps. The Centurions ground game has been led by Danny Dlugos (316 yards, 3 TDs) and Taishaun Jamison (108 yards, 3 TDs) who both average around 8 yards per carry. Clairton is also coming off an outstanding defensive performance against Bishop Canevin where the Bears scored two defensive touchdowns and a safety. Dual-threat quarterback Capone Jones has thrown for 333 yards and 3 TDs and run for 320 yards and 4 TDs. Cameron Lewis (201 yards, 6 TDs) and Christian Wade (116 yards, 4 TDs) have both been factors in the ground game. On the outside, the explosive Brooklyn Cannon (137 yards, 4 TDs) and Lawrence Short (121 yards, 3 TDs) are the Bears top receivers.
Honorable Mentions: Carmichaels at California
With West Greene having wins over California and Carmichaels, this game is essentially for second place in the Tri-County South. Given how the 1A bracket is structured, this game could very well decide which team gets a home playoff game.