Home WPIAL WPIAL 2022 5A Playoff Primer

WPIAL 2022 5A Playoff Primer

by Ian

The WPIAL has produced the last two 5A State Champions in Pine-Richland and Penn-Trafford. In thanks for that success, the PIAA made things even harder on the WPIAL this year, bumping the WPIAL Champion back from entering the state playoffs in the semifinals to entering in the quarterfinals. This meant that rather than being able to take 12 teams into the playoffs as they did last year, only 8 teams were able to qualify for the postseason. This made for some incredibly tight races down the stretch and good teams like Penn Hills, Peters Twp, and Hempfield were left at home. Interestingly, the last two 5A State Champs are matched up in the first round of the playoffs.

Since the WPIAL Champion enters the state bracket at the quarterfinals, the 5A Championship Game will not be at Heinz Field this year. The Championship Game will be on Saturday, November 19 at noon at Norwin High School. Later that day, the 6A Championship Game will be held at the same venue.

Check out the 5A 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

Bethel Park Black Hawks
Conference Record: 5-0 Overall Record: 9-1
5A #1 seed – Will host #8 North Hills in the first round.
How they got here: Bethel Park started the year with a Week 0 win over North Hills and will now take on the Indians again in the opening round of the playoffs. Their non-conference slate featured a run of 6A opponents and included their only loss – against Central Catholic. In conference play, Bethel announced themselves with a win over Upper St Clair in early October then rolled to the season finale where they defeated Peters Twp to clinch the conference title.
Recent History: Bethel Park has made the playoffs in 21 of the last 22 years, with the only miss coming in 2020. The Black Hawks won the 2008 WPIAL AAAA Championship.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 28
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 20-27
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 2008. Lost to Liberty in 2008 PIAA Championship Game in overtime.

Pine-Richland Rams
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 7-3
5A #2 seed – Will host #7 Penn-Trafford in the first round.
How they got here: The Rams got off to a slow start this season and were just 1-3 out of the gates. However, they turned things around by moving Ryan Palmieri from running back to quarterback and giving Ethan Pillar the lead back role. The dual rushing tandem in the Rams backfield carried them to a 6-0 record the rest of the way, scoring 35+ against everyone except North Allegheny.
Recent History: Pine-Richland won the WPIAL and PIAA 5A Championship in 2020. Before falling in the semifinals last year, they had reached the WPIAL finals in four straight seasons – making it 3 times in 6A before moving down to 5A. This is their 10th consecutive playoff appearance. The Rams won the WPIAL AAAA title in 2014 and 6A Championships in 2017 and 2018.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 22 (20 as Pine-Richland, 2 as Richland High School)
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 32-15
Best Playoff Result: 2020 WPIAL and PIAA Champions. Won back-to-back WPIAL 6A Championships in 2017 and 2018, claiming both the WPIAL and PIAA Championships in 2017. Also won the WPIAL Championship in 2003 (AAA) and 2014 (AAAA). Richland High School won the WPIAL title in 1969 and 1970

Franklin Regional Panthers
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 6-3
5A #3 seed – Will host #6 Woodland Hills in the first round
How they got here: The Panthers won their first conference title since 2013. All three of their losses this year (to Latrobe, Shaler, and Penn-Trafford) came in overtime. Other than that, the Panthers had a strong season that featured a four-game winning streak which secured the conference title.
Recent History: Franklin Regional has made the playoffs in 18 of the last 19 years with the only miss coming in 2020.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 21
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 20-20
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 2005, beating Thomas Jefferson 31-14. Won PIAA Championship in 2005, beating Pottsville 23-13.

Gateway Gators
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 7-3
5A #4 seed – Will host #5 Upper St Clair in the first round.
How they got here: Gateway ran out of the gate with a 3-0 start but lost their conference opener to Franklin Regional. The Gators bounced back with three straight wins, including over rival Penn-Trafford to lock up a playoff spot. Down the stretch, they faced two tough out-of-classification opponents in McKeesport and Central Catholic and lost both of those games.
Recent History: Gateway has made the playoffs in 20 of the last 21 years. In 2017 Gateway defeated Penn-Trafford 21-16 in the WPIAL Championship to win their first title since 1986. The Gators made it to the State Championship Game where they lost to Archbishop Wood. Gateway repeated the feat in 2019, winning the WPIAL title by a 21-20 score over Peters Twp then going on to lose to Archbishop Wood 24-21 in the PIAA semifinals.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 36
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 53-29-2
Best Playoff Result: Gateway has won two of the last five WPIAL 5A Championships. The Gators won the WPIAL AAA Championship in 1969, 1972, and 1986. Gateway tied Upper St Clair 6-6 in the 1974 Championship Game and North Hills 0-0 in the 1985 Championship Game, both before the WPIAL had overtime. Their 2017 run to the State title game was their best result in the PIAA playoffs.

Upper St Clair Panthers
Conference Record: 4-1 Overall Record: 8-2
5A #5 seed – Will play at #4 Gateway in the first round.
How they got here: Entering Week 6 after back-to-back 17-10 wins over Peters Twp and Mt. Lebanon, Upper St Clair was the top-ranked team in 5A. But they dropped their next two outings to Bethel Park and Canon-McMillan. USC installed freshman Ethan Hellman at quarterback and he lit it up over the last two weeks in blowout victories to send the Panthers to the playoffs on a hot streak.
Recent History: Upper St Clair is making their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance. The Panthers reached the semifinals in 2017 but have not made it past the quarterfinals since.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 40
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 46-33-2
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1997, and 2006. Tied for the 1974 (AAA) and 1975 (AAA) WPIAL title (no overtime). Won the PIAA Championship in 1989 and 2006.

Woodland Hills Wolverines
Conference Record: 3-2 Overall Record: 5-5
5A #6 seed – Will play at #3 Franklin Regional in the first round.
How they got here: Woodland Hills’s playoff hopes were in jeopardy after a Week 5 game where they lost to Shaler for the first time ever. The Wolverines would rebound with a win over Fox Chapel in Week 7 but suffered another setback against Pine-Richland. With their season on the line in a Casket Match against rival Penn Hills, Woody High pulled off a 7-3 victory in a Week 9 defensive struggle to get into the playoffs. Their head-to-head wins over North Hills and Penn Hills landed the Wolverines in second place in the conference. 
Recent History: Woodland Hills missed the playoffs in 2019, breaking a streak of 23 consecutive playoff appearances. Woody High returned to the postseason in 2019, which means they have qualified in 26 of the last 27 years.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 32
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 48-26
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2009. Lost in PIAA Championship Game in 1996, 2001 and 2002

Penn-Trafford Warriors
Conference Record: 3-2 Overall Record: 6-4
5A #7 seed – Will play at #2 Pine-Richland in the first round.
How they got here: The defending 5A State Champs stumbled out of the gate in conference play, losing to an upstart Hempfield team. After losing to rival Gateway for the first time since 2019, Penn-Trafford would right the ship with a win over Plum to put them in position to earn a wild card spot. The Warriors delivered in a thrilling Week 9 overtime victory over conference champion Franklin Regional.
Recent History: This is the 19th playoff appearance in the last 20 years for Penn-Trafford. The Warriors are the defending 5A WPIAL and PIAA Champions. They defeated Moon on a missed field goal to win their first WPIAL title and Imhotep Charter in overtime to win the State title.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 30
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 24-29
Best Playoff Result: Penn-Trafford is the defending WPIAL and PIAA 5A Champions. Defeated Moon 24-21 to win the WPIAL title and defeated Imhotep Charter 17-14 to win the PIAA title. The 2021 championship was their first WPIAL Championship in school history, having previously reached the title game in 1997, 2015, and 2017. Trafford High School lost to Bridgeville in the 1949 Class B (which became single-A) Championship Game and Penn Joint lost to Albert Gallatin in the 1961 Class A (which became AA) Championship Game.

North Hills Indians
Conference Record: 3-2 Overall Record: 3-7
5A #8 seed – Will play at #1 Bethel Park in the first round.
How they got here: The 2022 North Hills season is a story in never giving up. After an 0-4 start to the season, North Hills came from down 20-6 to force overtime against Penn Hills which they won by a 27-26 margin. That proved to be the decisive game in earning North Hills the tiebreaker over Penn Hills to get into the playoffs.
Recent History: North Hills has qualified for the playoffs in 9 of the last 11 years. They have not won a playoff game since 2010.
WPIAL Playoff Appearances: 35
All-Time WPIAL Playoff Record: 37-31-1
Best Playoff Result: Won WPIAL Championship in 1982, 1987, and 1993. Tied for the WPIAL title in 1985 (no overtime). Won PIAA title in 1993.

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