Home WPIAL WPIAL 2022 4A Playoff Primer

WPIAL 2022 4A Playoff Primer

by Ian

Since WPIAL realignment was announced and we found out that defending 4A State Champions Aliquippa and two-time defending 3A State Champions Central Valley would be aligned in a conference together, everyone had the Week 9 game circled on their calendar. The game delivered an epic showdown and the two teams are seeded at the top of the playoff bracket. The biggest surprises of the season came from the Big Seven Conference where McKeesport rolled through the regular season but was upset by Thomas Jefferson in the final week of the season. TJ had lost to Laurel Highlands for the first time ever earlier in the season which dropped the three teams into a three-way tie for the conference title. This resulted in Laurel Highlands earning their first Conference Championship in school history. In the Greater Allegheny Conference, Armstrong led by the WPIAL’s leading passer Cadin Olsen lit up the scoreboard en route to the conference title.

The WPIAL 4A Champion will enter the statewide bracket in the semifinals. This means that 4A was able to take 13 teams into the playoffs with the top three teams receiving byes. Those byes went to Aliquippa, Central Valley, and Thomas Jefferson. 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 wrap up WPIAL Championship Friday at Heinz Field at 8pm on November 25.

Check out the 4A 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

Aliquippa Quips
Conference Record: 7-0 Overall Record: 9-0
4A #1 Seed – First round bye, will face the winner of Montour-Hampton in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: The PIAA “success formula” forced Aliquippa to move up from 3A to 4A last season in 2020 but the Quips haven’t missed a beat, continuing their 14-year streak of WPIAL Championship Game appearances and capping it off with another WPIAL and PIAA title last year. Aliquippa played some close (for them) games early in the season and pulled off 4th quarter wins over Armstrong and West Allegheny. The Quips turned it on down the stretch once the calendar flipped to October and defeated rival Central Valley in a showdown for the Parkway Conference title in the final week of the season thanks to a 21-point third quarter outburst.
Recent History: Aliquippa is making their 28th consecutive playoff appearance, tied with Thomas Jefferson for the longest active streak. The Quips have reached the WPIAL title game in each of the last 14 seasons. Aliquippa won the WPIAL and PIAA 3A title in 2018. The Quips are the defending WPIAL and PIAA 4A Champions, defeating Belle Vernon to win the WPIAL title and Bishop McDevitt to win their 4th state title in school history.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 45
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 96-27
Best Playoff Result: Won the most WPIAL Championships of any school (17). Won WPIAL AAA Championship in 1952, 1955, 1964, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1989. Won WPIAL AA Championship in 1991, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015. Won 1991 and 2003 PIAA AA Championships. Won the 3A WPIAL and PIAA Championships in 2018 and won the 4A WPIAL and PIAA Championships in 2021.

Central Valley Warriors
Conference Record: 
6-1 Overall Record: 9-1
4A #2 Seed – First round bye, will host the winner of Laurel Highlands-West Allegheny in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: The three-time defending WPIAL 3A Champs moved up to 4A this season and didn’t miss a beat. They mercy ruled their first nine opponents en route to a showdown with Aliquippa for the Parkway Conference title. Central Valley had a 10-point halftime lead but gave up 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, ending their 36-game winning streak which was the longest in the state.
Recent History: Since the merger of Center and Monaca School Districts in 2010, Central Valley made at least the semifinals in each of their first 6 seasons. After the change to 6 classifications, Central Valley dropped to 3A and missed the playoffs for the only time since the merger. The Warriors won the 2019 WPIAL title with a 13-12 overtime win over Aliquippa then making a run to the State title game where they lost to Wyoming Area 21-14. The last two years, Central Valley dominated the competition, rolling to the WPIAL title and defeating Wyomissing to win the state title in both 2020 and 2021.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 11
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 27-6
Best Playoff Result:  Won WPIAL AAA Championship in 2010 and 2014 and won the WPIAL 3A Championship in 2019 and 2020. Monaca won the WPIAL Class A Championship in 1975, 1982, and 1985. Back-to-back PIAA 3A Champions, defeating Wyomissing in both 2020 and 2021.

Thomas Jefferson Jaguars
Conference Record: 5-1 Overall Record: 7-3
4A #3 Seed – First round bye, will host the winner of Highlands-Latrobe in the Quarterfinals
How they got here: TJ flew a little under the radar this year after losing a Week 0 game to Millville (NJ) and then consecutive games to Belle Vernon and Laurel Highlands to close out September. But in October the Jaguars found a groove and enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak. The season was capped off with a 20-10 victory over previously unbeaten McKeesport which put them into a three-way tie for the conference title. TJ earned the top spot based on tiebreaker points, giving them the highest seed of the Big Seven teams.
Recent History: The Jaguars won back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA Championships in 2019 and 2020. Thomas Jefferson is making their 28th consecutive playoff appearance, tied with Aliquippa for the longest active streak. They have reached the semifinals in 23 of the last 24 years. Prior to last year’s semifinal loss to Belle Vernon, TJ had reached the WPIAL finals in six straight years, winning 5 WPIAL titles. Their only blemish in that time was losing to South Fayette on a last-minute interception at the goal line in 2018.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 33
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 68-23
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 1980, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020. Won PIAA Championship in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2019, and 2020.

Armstrong Riverhawks
Conference Record: 
6-0 Overall Record: 9-1
4A #4 Seed – Will host #13 Blackhawk in the first round.
How they got here: The Riverhawks won their second conference title since the merger of Ford City and Kittanning. Senior QB Cadin Olsen led the WPIAL in passing as Armstrong bombarded the competition with an aerial assault. Their only loss of the year came in Week 1 against Aliquippa in a game that was tied heading into the fourth quarter. Armstrong’s offense put up over 35 points in 8 of their 10 games this season.
Recent History: This is Armstrong’s 5th playoff appearance in 7 seasons since the merger of Kittanning and Ford City. Last year they won their first playoff game since the merger, defeating Montour in the opening round.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 4
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 1-4
Best Playoff Result: Armstrong won their first playoff game since the merger last year, reaching the quarterfinals. Kittanning’s best result was a 13-0 loss in the 1975 AA Championship Game to Beth-Center. Ford City reached the semifinals in 2005, 2006 and 2010.

McKeesport Tigers
Conference Record: 5-1 Overall Record: 9-1
4A #5 Seed – Will host #12 Mars in the first round.
How they got here: McKeesport rumbled through the early part of their schedule which featured difficult non-conference games against Penn-Trafford and Belle Vernon. The triple-option machine kept working as they hit conference play and the Tigers whipped all of their Big Seven competition by at least 28 points. In a Week 9 showdown with Thomas Jefferson for the conference title, the Tigers ran into a brick wall of the Jaguars defense and lost 20-10, dropping them into a three-way tie with TJ and Laurel Highlands. McKeesport was technically second on the tiebreakers which dropped them to the #5 overall seed in the playoff bracket.
Recent History: McKeesport is making their 25th consecutive playoff appearance. They lost the WPIAL Championship Game in overtime to West Allegheny in 2016. McKeesport lost in the semifinals last year to eventual State Champions Aliquippa, taking them to double overtime. The Tigers have only lost in the first round once since 2012.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 31
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 33-28
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championships in 1938 (AAA), 1994 and 2005. In 1932 McKeesport, Jeannette and New Castle finished tied in Gardner Points and were crowned as co-champions with no postseason games played. Won PIAA AAAA titles in 1994 and 2005.

Highlands Golden Rams
Conference Record: 5-1 Overall Record: 9-1
4A #6 Seed – Will host #11 Latrobe in the first round.
How they got here: The Rams got off to a great start to the year, kicking off conference play by ending North Catholic’s 25-game conference winning streak. The Rams proceeded to roll over their competition with 4-year starter Chandler Thimons at QB and the dynamic Aaran Randolph as a wildcat threat. They topped Woodland Hills at the start of October to announce themselves as serious contenders. Highlands lost a 56-35 shootout with Armstrong for the Greater Allegheny Conference title in Week 9, their only setback of the season.
Recent History: Prior to the move to six classes, Highlands had made the playoffs 8 times in 10 years. Last year was Highlands’ first playoff appearance since 2015.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 22
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record:
Best Playoff Result: Highlands has never reached a WPIAL final. They lost in the semifinals in 1998, 2001, and 2008. Har-Brack tied Donora 0-0 in the 1953 AA (which later became AAA) Championship Game. Tarentum won the 1940 Class A (later AA) title, beating Mt. Pleasant Ramsay 14-12.

Laurel Highlands Mustangs
Conference Record: 5-1 Overall Record: 7-2
4A #7 Seed – Will host #10 West Allegheny in the first round.
How they got here: Laurel Highlands finished in a 3-way tie atop the Big Seven Conference, the first time in school history that the Mustangs claimed a conference title. After a 2-2 start to the season which included losses to Belle Vernon and McKeesport, the Mustangs turned things around with a narrow win over Latrobe and an upset over Thomas Jefferson, the first time in school history they defeated the Jaguars. From there, Laurel Highlands rolled through the rest of the regular season to head into the playoffs on a 5-game winning streak.
Recent History: Laurel Highlands won their first playoff game in school history last season, defeating Beaver 28-27.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 11
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record:
Best Playoff Result: Last year was Laurel Highlands’ first playoff victory in school history. They went on to lose to eventual State Champions Aliquippa in the quarterfinals. This will be just the second home playoff game in school history, the first was in 2002 where they lost to Hampton.

Montour Spartans
Conference Record: 5-2 Overall Record: 6-4
4A #8 Seed – Will host #9 Hampton in the first round.
How they got here: Montour had an up-and-down season but closed it out on a strong note. The Spartans beat Chartiers Valley and Blackhawk in Weeks 7 and 8 to wrap up a playoff spot. In Week 9 they defeated a good West Allegheny team in overtime 21-20 to elevate themselves to a third place finish in the Parkway conference.
Recent History: Montour has reached the playoffs in 13 of the last 15 seasons, reaching Heinz Field 4 times during that run. They reached the 2017 WPIAL Championship Game where they lost to Thomas Jefferson.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 25
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 23-20-1
Best Playoff Result: Montour has won 5 WPIAL titles. Montour tied Avella in the Class B (later Single-A) Championship in 1957 (no overtime) and defeated Edgewood in the 1958 Championship. Montour won back-to-back titles in Class A (later AA) in 1963 over Freeport and 1964 over Arnold. Montour won the 2011 WPIAL AAA Championship and lost to Bishop McDevitt in the PIAA semifinals.

Hampton Talbots
Conference Record: 3-3 Overall Record: 5-5
4A #9 Seed – Will play at #8 Montour in the first round.
How they got here: Hampton has been solid defensively this season, only allowing three teams to score more than 20 points. The Talbots playoff hopes were in trouble after a 13-7 overtime loss to North Catholic, but they bounced back to win a 49-42 shootout with Mars which gave them enough Tiebreaker Points to edge out North and Mars for a playoff spot and win the three-way tie.
Recent History: This is the third straight playoff appearance for the Talbots. Hampton had a successful run from 2000-2015, reaching the postseason 11 times and advancing out of the first round in 9 of those years. However, they only made it past the quarterfinals once, in 2009.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 15
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 11-15
Best Playoff Result: Hampton reached the AAA semifinals in 2009.

West Allegheny Indians
Conference Record: 4-3 Overall Record: 7-3
4A #10 Seed – Will play at #7 Laurel Highlands in the first round
How they got here: The Indians had a strong start to the season, moving down from 5A to 4A. They scored 40+ points in 6 of their first 7 games with the only outlier a 19-16 loss to Aliquippa. However, West A’s offense dried up down the stretch, barely eking past Blackhawk 16-13, falling to Central Valley 55-7, and losing in overtime to Montour 21-20. That final loss cost the Indians their third place spot in the conference and sent them into the playoffs on a two-game skid.
Recent History: West Allegheny is making their first playoff appearance in the post-Bob Palko era. During his tenure the Indians made the playoffs in 21 of 22 years. They reached the WPIAL Championship Game in 5 of Palko’s last 7 years but missed the playoffs in the last three seasons.
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 46-14
Best Playoff Result: West Allegheny won the WPIAL Championship in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2016. Won the 2001 PIAA Championship 28-13 over Strath Haven (who had beaten them in the PIAA title game the prior two seasons).

Latrobe Wildcats
Conference Record: 3-3 Overall Record: 6-4
4A #11 Seed – Will play at #6 Highlands in the first round.
How they got here: Latrobe moved down from 5A to 4A this year and found success. Early in the year Robert Fulton was among the WPIAL leaders in rushing yards. After a 3-game losing streak in mid-September, Latrobe turned things around by beating Trinity, Ringgold and Connellsville – decisive results that solidly entrenched the Wildcats in playoff position.
Recent History: Latrobe made back-to-back playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019, their first consecutive postseason appearances since 2005 and 2006. Latrobe has made the playoffs in 3 of the last 5 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 11
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 
Best Playoff Result: Latrobe’s lone playoff victory came in the 1968 WPIAL AA (which became AAA) Championship over Kiski.

Mars Fighting Planets
Conference Record: 3-3 Overall Record: 6-4
4A #12 Seed – Will play at #5 McKeesport in the first round.
How they got here: Mars hired Eric Kasperowicz this year to revamp their offense from the traditional run-heavy style to a downfield passing attack. The move paid dividends as Mars averaged 35 points per game. The Planets lost shootouts with Armstrong and Hampton coming down the stretch, but edged North Catholic 21-14 in Week 9 to earn a playoff spot.
Recent History: Mars missed the playoffs last year after making 16 consecutive playoff appearances. They lost in the first round four straight seasons after reaching the AAA semifinals in 2015.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 25
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 18-25
Best Playoff Result: Reached the WPIAL AA Championship Game in 1996 and 2002. Lost 26-16 to Aliquippa in 1996 and 20-6 to Seton-La Salle in 2002.

Blackhawk Cougars
Conference Record: 3-4 Overall Record: 4-6
4A #13 Seed – Will play at #4 Armstrong in the first round.
How they got here: The Cougars won three games in late September, including victories over Ambridge and Chartiers Valley. Those wins held up throughout a 4-game losing streak to the top teams in the conference and were good enough to secure a playoff spot. Blackhawk closed out the year with a dominant victory over New Castle to enter the postseason on a high note.
Recent History: Blackhawk is making their third playoff appearance in the last five years. The Cougars reached the semifinals in 2018 and 2019 then missed the playoffs each of the last two years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 22
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 36-17
Best Playoff Result: Blackhawk was the team of the 1990s reaching the WPIAL Championship Game 6 times and winning the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1996. Lost in the PIAA AAA Championship Games in 1992 to Berwick, 1993 to Allentown Central Catholic, and 1996 to Berwick.

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