Home Steelers 2022 Season WPIAL 2022 3A Playoff Primer

WPIAL 2022 3A Playoff Primer

by Ian

The 3A classification had a complete facelift this season. Both WPIAL finalists from last season (Central Valley and North Catholic) moved up to 4A. In fact, Quaker Valley and Elizabeth Forward are the only current 3A teams to have played in a 3A Championship game in the six-classification era. Aliquippa, Central Valley, and North Catholic are in 4A while Beaver Falls and Derry are now in 2A. This also means there will be a new champion on the block as all six 3A titles since 2016 had been won by Ohio Valley schools (Beaver Falls, Quaker Valley, Aliquippa, and Central Valley). This has not just a local but a statewide impact as the WPIAL 3A Champion has played in all 6 State title games and won 5 of them. A number of teams moved down from 4A this season and found immediate success including top-seeded Belle Vernon, West Mifflin, and Beaver.

The WPIAL 3A Champion will enter the statewide bracket in the semifinals. This means that 3A was able to take 12 teams into the playoffs with the top four teams receiving byes. The higher-seeded team will host the first round games and the teams with byes will host the quarterfinal games. Semifinals will be at neutral sites. The Championship Game will be part of WPIAL Championship Friday at Heinz Field at 5pm on November 25.

Check out the 3A Preview as part of this week’s WPIAL Blitz Show.

Also, check out our Playoff Primers for the other classifications: 1A | 2A | 3A | 4A | 5A | 6A

The Bracket

The Teams

Belle Vernon Leopards
Conference Record: 5-0 Overall Record: 7-2
4A #1 Seed – First round bye, will face the winner of Mt Pleasant-East Allegheny in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: Belle Vernon battled through a tough non-conference schedule where they faced playoff teams from higher classifications (Laurel Highlands, McKeesport, Penn-Trafford, and Thomas Jefferson). Once they hit conference play, the Leopards looked the part of the presumptive favorite. They scored 48+ points in all five of their games against 3A competition, including the season finale against Elizabeth Forward to claim the conference title and top seed.
Recent History: Belle Vernon is making their 14th consecutive playoff appearance. Belle Vernon has reached the semifinals in five straight seasons. They fell to Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette in 2017 and 2018 before breaking through and reaching the WPIAL final in 2019 where they lost to conference rival Thomas Jefferson. They lost to Aliquippa each of the last two seasons – in the semis in 2020 and in the WPIAL Championship in 2021.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 31
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 21-30
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 1995, beating Franklin Regional 22-6. That year, they lost to Sharon in overtime in the PIAA semifinals

Avonworth Antelopes
Conference Record: 6-0 Overall Record: 9-1
3A #2 Seed – First round bye, will host the winner of Beaver-Deer Lakes in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: The Lopes kicked off the season with a tough non-conference slate featuring Grove City (who started the year ranked ahead of them in the PennLive rankings), Central Valley, and Sto-Rox. Avonworth won two of three with their only loss coming against Central Valley. In conference play, Avonworth’s only game that was closer than 25 points was the 14-8 win over West Mifflin. The only teams to score more than twice against Avonworth’s defense this season were Central Valley and Sto-Rox.
Recent History: Avonworth is making their 14th playoff appearance in the last 15 years. They missed the playoffs last year when the WPIAL Selection Committee did not choose them for a playoff spot. The Lopes won the 2019 2A WPIAL Championship before moving up to 3A last season.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 20
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 17-18-1
Best Playoff Result: Tied Union 13-13 in the 1959 Class A Championship Game (no overtime). Defeated Washington 28-6 in the 2019 WPIAL 2A Championship. Reached the 2019 PIAA Championship Game where they lost to Southern Columbia.

Elizabeth Forward Warriors
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 9-1
3A #3 Seed – First round bye, will host the winner of Shady Side Academy-South Park in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: Elizabeth Forward’s dynamic passing attack carried the Warriors through the regular season until Week 9 where they ran into the buzz saw of Belle Vernon. In their 9 wins, Elizabeth Forward scored at least 42 points against all but one opponent.
Recent History: Elizabeth Forward reached the playoffs for the 6th straight season. In 2020 they made their first Championship Game in school history and won their first playoff game since 2000.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 17
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 8-17
Best Playoff Result: Elizabeth Forward reached WPIAL Championship Game for the first time in school history in 2020, losing to eventual State Champions Central Valley.

Freeport Yellow Jackets
Conference Record: 5-0 Overall Record: 9-1
3A #4 Seed – First round bye, will host the winner of West Mifflin-Southmoreland in the first round.
How they got here: The Yellow Jackets won their first conference title since 2015. Their only setback this season was a loss to 4A Armstrong. Freeport enters the postseason on a hot streak, having won 6 in a row and scoring 35+ in each of their last four outings. Freeport’s tough defense this season held everyone but Armstrong under 20 points.
Recent History: This is Freeport’s 5th playoff appearance in the last 6 years. They reached the AA semifinals in 2015.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 31
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 16-31
Best Playoff Result: Freeport reached the WPIAL AA Championship game 7 times but has never won. They lost to Montour in 1963, Burrell in 1967 and 1968, Beaver in 1972, Albert Gallatin in 1974, Jeannette in 1981, and Steel Valley in 1989.

West Mifflin Titans
Conference Record: 4-2 Overall Record: 5-5
3A #5 seed: Will host #12 Southmoreland in the first round
How they got here: The Titans moved down from 4A to 3A this season and found success once the schedule hit conference play. They kicked off the conference slate with an overtime win over Beaver and battled Avonworth to a tight 14-8 defeat. The Titans rolled through their next three opponents but fell to South Park in the season finale, dropping them into a three-way tie for second place.
Recent History: West Mifflin is making their 11th playoff appearance in the last 13 years. They reached Heinz Field in 2012 and made the semifinals in 2016.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 21
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 17-19
Best Playoff Result: West Mifflin North won the WPIAL Championship in 1963, beating Butler 12-6. West Mifflin lost in WPIAL Championship Games in 2000, 2004, and 2012.

Shady Side Academy Bulldogs
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 5-4
3A #6 seed: Will host #11 South Park in the first round
How they got here: Shady Side had a tough non-conference schedule and has been battling to overcome that slow start all season. The Bulldogs faced 4A teams North Catholic and Indiana as well as Elizabeth Forward to start the season. They played Freeport closer than any other Allegheny Conference opponent with just a 5-point loss. From there, Shady Side won their last four games, including a dominant 42-10 win over East Allegheny in Week 9 to secure a second-place finish in the conference.
Recent History: Shady Side Academy reached the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years. In 2018 they got their first playoff victory since 2011 but fell in the second round to eventual runner-up South Side Beaver.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 15
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: Won the 1998 WPIAL AA Championship, defeating Washington 30-12. Lost to Mt. Carmel 44-7 in the 1998 PIAA AA Championship Game.

Beaver Bobcats
Conference Record: 4-2 Overall Record: 7-3
3A #7 Seed – Will host #10 Deer Lakes in the first round.
How they got here: The Bobcats moved down from 4A to 3A this season and got a solid early-season victory over rivals Beaver Falls. They split their first few conference games with losses to West Mifflin and Avonworth. In Week 9, Beaver defeated county rival Hopewell for their third straight win and to wrap up a playoff spot in a game that was essentially a casket match.
Recent History: Beaver is making their 12th playoff appearance in the last 13 seasons. They reached the semifinals in 2013 and 2017.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 28
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 23-25
Best Playoff Result: Beaver won the WPIAL AA Championship in 1972, the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1981, and the WPIAL AA Championship in 1982.

Mount Pleasant Vikings
Conference Record: 3-2 Overall Record: 6-4
3A #8 Seed – Will host #9 East Allegheny in the first round.
How they got here: 
Mt. Pleasant’s strong rushing attack carried them to a 3-1 start to the season. But they dropped 3 of 4 games in the middle of the season, with the losses coming to 3 of the top 4 seeds in the tournament. The one win over Greensburg Salem kept them in position for a playoff spot. The Vikings closed the year by getting back on track with wins over a depleted South Allegheny team and over rival Southmoreland.
Recent History: Mt. Pleasant is making their 4th consecutive playoff appearance. Prior to their 2-year absence in 2017 and 2018, the Vikings had reached the postseason in 13 of 14 years between 2003 and 2016 but only won 4 playoff games in that timespan.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 28
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 17-26
Best Playoff Result: Mt. Pleasant won the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1983 and 1986, defeating Aliquippa in 1983 and Kiski in 1986. Mt. Pleasant Hurst was awarded the 1931 Class B (later Single-A) Championship on Gardner Points. Mt. Pleasant Hurst beat Wilmerding in the 1938 Class A Championship and tied Dormont in the 1942 Class A Championship (Note: Class A became AA in 1973). Mt. Pleasant Ramsay reached the WPIAL Championship Game 4 times, beating East Pittsburgh in the 1933 Class B Championship.

East Allegheny Wildcats
Conference Record: 3-2 Overall Record: 7-3
3A #9 Seed – Will play at #8 Mt. Pleasant in the first round.
How they got here: East Allegheny did not play many close games this year. All of their 7 wins were by double-digits and 5 of the 7 were by more than 18 points. East A scored 30+ points in 6 of their 7 wins. On the flip side, the Wildcats scored 24 total points in their 3 losses, giving up 42 points in each game and losing all of them by over 30 points.
Recent History: East Allegheny is making their 7th straight playoff appearance. They have won just two playoff games since 2000 – a 2017 win over Mohawk and a victory over Southmoreland last year.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 20
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 6-19
Best Playoff Result: Won the 1992 WPIAL AA Championship, defeating Riverside 33-13. Lost in the 1992 PIAA Championship Game to Valley View 21-13.

Deer Lakes Lancers
Conference Record: 
2-3 Overall Record: 4-6
3A #10 seed: Will play at #7 Beaver in the first round
How they got here: Deer Lakes had two very narrow results in the middle of the season that paved their way to the playoffs. They had to stave off a massive 4th quarter comeback by Knoch and stop a two-point try late in the 4th quarter to preserve a 37-36 victory over their neighboring rivals. The following week, in a vast reversal of game scripts, a third quarter touchdown was the decisive score in a 7-2 victory over Valley. Deer Lakes lost their final three games, all by 20+ points, but those two victories were enough to send the Lancers to the postseason for just the third time ever.
Recent History: 
This is Deer Lakes’ third playoff appearance in school history and first since 2015.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: 
Deer Lakes has never won a playoff game. East Deer won the 1946 WPIAL Class B Championship, defeating Bethel Park 14-7.

South Park Eagles
Conference Record: 
4-2 Overall Record: 5-5
3A #11 seed: Will play at #6 Shady Side Academy in the first round
How they got here:
The Eagles struggled out of the gates, losing 4 of their first 5 this season. But they were able to turn things around after an 0-2 start to conference play and got a big win over Hopewell in Week 7 to cap a 3-game winning streak and clinch a playoff spot. They went on to defeat West Mifflin in Week 9 to force a 3-way tie with West Mifflin and Beaver.
Recent History: 
Since winning the WPIAL title in 2005, South Park went through a bit of a rough patch, missing the playoffs in 7 straight seasons. The Eagles returned to the postseason in 2013 and have made the playoffs 7 times in the last decade.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: 
South Park won the WPIAL AA Championship in 1997 and 2005, defeating Shady Side Academy in 1997 and Greensburg Central Catholic in 2005. The Eagles went on to win the PIAA title both times, defeating South Williamsport in 1997 and Wilson Area in 2005. South Park was originally founded as Snowden Township. Snowden defeated Neville in the 1955 WPIAL Class B (later Single-A) Championship.

Southmoreland Scotties
Conference Record: 
2-3 Overall Record: 4-6
3A #12 Seed – Will play at #5 West Mifflin in the first round.
How they got here: The Scotties are one of the most inspirational stories of the season. Southmoreland’s pending head coach Ron Frederick tragically passed away unexpectedly during the offseason. The team and the community rallied around his family and the team and they came together to win 4 games. The wins over South Allegheny and Greensburg Salem were enough to get them into the playoffs for the third time in four seasons – an accomplishment for a team that endured a 40-year playoff drought. Southmoreland’s Ty Keffer led the WPIAL in receptions.
Recent History: 
 Southmoreland snapped a 40-year playoff drought in 2019, making the playoffs for the first time since 1979. They have never won a playoff game.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 2
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 0-2
Best Playoff Result: This is just the third playoff appearance in Southmoreland’s history. The Scotties lost their opening game in 2019 to eventual WPIAL Champions Avonworth and their other playoff game was in 1979 when they lost to Penn Hills in the first round of the AAA playoffs.

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