The WPIAL football season fully kicked off with Week 1 games this past week. This was the first week of games scheduled by the WPIAL and – credit where it is due – the WPIAL’s new scheduling format delivered. Not only were there a number of historic rivalries or former conference opponents facing off, but FIVE games went to overtime. Hopewell got off the shined, ending a 12-game losing streak which was the third-longest in the WPIAL. On this week’s episode of the WPIAL Blitz Show, we interviewed Mars Head Coach Eric Kasperowicz who is off to a 2-0 start in his new gig. He is in the process of converting the Mars program, which had been run-heavy for years, into a passing offense. The Fighting Planets have topped two teams that made the 4A playoffs in the opening weeks and will be getting into the thick of conference play next week.
This year, our WPIAL coverage is proudly presented by Sports Solutions Marketing. The Sports Solutions network provides pay per view hosting and broadcasting for high school sporting events. More information is available via EasternPAFootball.com.
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 Kiski in a non-conference showdown of 4A opponents. This will be the first 4A matchup of the season for both teams and the last opportunity for a tune-up before they get into conference play next week.
Be sure to keep tabs on our WPIAL Standings Page for updated standings and playoff clinchings and follow our WPIAL Twitter account @WPIAL_Blitz and check out our WPIAL Blitz Facebook Page.
6A Game of the Week
Canon-McMillan (0-1, 0-2) at Seneca Valley (0-0, 1-1)
Last week the 6A conference scheduled kicked off with North Allegheny beating Canon-McMillan. With only 5 teams in 6A this season, every conference game will carry significant weight in determining the four teams that make the playoffs. While Canon-Mac is 0-1 in conference play, they have performed well in both outings so far. They lost narrowly to defending 5A State Champions Penn-Trafford in Week 0. Quarterback Mike Evans has thrown for 504 yards and 7 TDs, primarily to the dynamic Austyn Winkleblech (266 yards, 5 TDs). On the ground, Jake Kasper has run for 232 yards for the Big Macs. Seneca Valley is also coming off two hard-fought games. The Raiders topped Penn Hills in Week 0 when the Indians missed a last-second field goal then fell to Peters Twp in Week 1 on a last-second field goal. Graham Hancox has led the way, throwing for 379 yards and 4 TDs, primarily targeting Navy-commit Luke Lawson (192 yards, 1 TD). Wyatt Carver (240 yards,1 TD) has been a force on the ground. Seneca Valley is stacked with D1 talent, with Lawson and Aidan Lyczek committed to Navy and do-it-all linebacker Chris D’Appolonia committed to Toledo.
5A Games of the Week
Pine-Richland (1-1) at Penn Hills (1-1)
This might as well be titled the “Jon LeDonne Bowl.” LeDonne coached the last five years at Penn Hills, winning the 2018 WPIAL and PIAA titles. This offseason, LeDonne was hired as the coach at Pine-Richland. His staff includes a handful of former NFL players, including Steelers LB Vince Williams. Both of these teams lost their Week 0 games but bounced back for wins last week. Pine-Richland used both Vaughn Spencer and Kanan Huffman at quarterback last week. Ryan Palmieri, who came in at QB last year as an injury replacement, has taken over the lead back role and ran for 125 yards and a touchdown last week in the win over Kiski. Penn Hills is led by junior dual-threat QB Julian Dugger (278 passing yards, 2 TDs, 146 rushing yards). Joining Dugger in the backfield is fellow junior Amir Key who has run for 246 yards and 3 TDs. Miami (Ohio)-commit Raion Strader is one of the top defensive backs in the WPIAL and leads the Indians in receiving (76 yards, 2 TDs). With only 8 teams making the playoffs in 5A this year, this is an important early-season conference showdown that could eventually wind up being the game that decides the Northeast Conference title.
Woodland Hills (1-1) at Penn-Trafford (1-1)
This is a marquee non-conference game in 5A between former Quad East rivals. Both teams have followed similar trajectories this season, winning close games in Week 0 then falling last week. While this is no longer a conference game, it could have playoff seeding implications later in the season. Woodland Hills has used both Cam Walter (103 yards) and Austin Wells (86 passing yards, 37 rushing yards, 1 TD) at QB this season. On the ground, the Wolverines have ridden the legs of Elijah Nesby (135 yards, 3 TDs). After winning their first WPIAL and PIAA titles in school history, Penn-Trafford lost nearly all of their starters to graduation. Temple-commit Conlan Greene (as a defensive lineman) was installed at quarterback and lit it up in the opening week, but struggled to find his rhythm last week. Greene has thrown for 452 yards and 3 TDs on the year while also leading the Warriors in rushing with 86 yards and 1 TD. On the outside, Daniel Tarabrella (196 yards, 1 TD) and Jacob Otto (151 yards, 1 TD) have been Greene’s favorite targets. This game should be a fantastic battle in the trenches as both teams are solid along the line on both sides of the ball.
4A Game of the Week
Aliquippa (1-0) at North Catholic (2-0)
Aliquippa is the defending 4A WPIAL and PIAA Champions and brought back most of their roster this season. North Catholic reached the 3A title game last year and moved up to 4A this season. This will be North’s first game of the year against a 4A opponent as they played Serra Catholic and Shady Side Academy the first two weeks. Aliquippa is loaded with talent all over the field, with their Trench Dawgs on the offensive and defensive line plowing the way for sensational sophomore Tiqwai Hayes (201 yards, 4 TDs). The Quips have one of the best defenses in the WPIAL with linebacker Nate Lindsay and defensive backs Cam Lindsay and Donovan Walker. Walker also spends time at receiver on offense where he is the top target for Quentin Goode in the passing game. North Catholic has relied heavily on their ground game through two games. Jack Fennell (173 yards, 2 TDs), Samir Ware (91 yards, 2 TDs), and Chase Arrington (51 yards, 1 TD) have spread around the workload. Quarterback Jason Siket (131 yards, 1 TD) has thrown fewer than 8 passes per game.
3A Game of the Week
Elizabeth Forward (2-0) at East Allegheny (2-0)
The Warriors are off to a roaring start this season with wins over fellow Mon Valley opponents Ringgold (33-0) and West Mifflin (50-14). While Elizabeth Forward has wins over a 4A and 3A opponent, East Allegheny has topped fellow 3A team South Park and 1A Jeannette. This non-conference game has playoff seeding implications as both teams figure to be in the mix in the top half of the 3A bracket. Zion White has proven to be a dynamic quarterback for Elizabeth Forward, primarily throwing to Zach Boyd and Kelly Rush who have both scored 3 times. On the ground, Johnny DiNapoli has led the way with 3 touchdowns. The sub-plot to this game is that DiNapoli started his high school career at East Allegheny where he set the WPIAL record for passing yards by a freshman. East Allegheny also has a talented quarterback in Michael Cahill (284 yards, 3 TDs). Cahill has spread the ball around to a number of receivers and the Wildcats will attack Elizabeth Forward’s stout defense with a variety of runners and receivers.
2A Game of the Week
Washington (2-0) at Serra Catholic (1-1)
This is a non-conference matchup of two of the top five teams in 2A. Washington is one of two teams in the WPIAL to top 100 points through two games after throttling 1A opponents Monessen and Clairton. Serra Catholic, on the other hand, has faced two Catholic schools from higher classifications, losing to 4A North Catholic but pounding 3A Seton LaSalle 56-24. Washington has a balanced offensive attack with QB Logan Carlisle throwing for 315 yards and 5 TDs. He has primarily targeted Davoun Fuse (113 yards) who moved from QB to receiver this year, and Ruben Gordon (95 yards, 3 TDs). Serra Catholic’s defense made a name for themselves last year in their run to the WPIAL title and all the way to the State finals. This will be a good early-season test for this year’s iteration of the Eagles defense. Offensively, Elijah Ward is coming off an amazing week where he threw for 3 touchdowns, ran for one and was on the receiving end of another. Ward has split time at quarterback with Quadir Stribling (255 yards, 1 TD). Ward has thrown for 268 yards and 3 TDs, run for 90 yards and 1 TD, and racked up 118 receiving yards and 1 TD. Amire Spencer (231 yards, 2 TDs) has been the top target on the outside, regardless of who is playing quarterback.
1A Game of the Week
Clairton (0-2) vs OLSH (2-0)
On Saturday we get a rematch of the WPIAL quarterfinal where OLSH upset the top-seeded Clairton Bears. Clairton started the season against two 2A opponents, losing to Westinghouse out of the City League and to Washington. On the other hand, OLSH topped two 1A playoff teams from last season – Shenango and Rochester (in a rematch of the semifinal). OLSH came into the year as one of the favorites in 1A while Clairton is working in a number of young players into the starting lineup. Clairton’s typically stout defense has given up 40+ points in both outings this season. The Bears do have a talented dual-threat quarterback in Capone Jones (who has one of the best names in the WPIAL). Jones’ top target has been Martin Lawrence who has been on the receiving end of 2 TDs this season. OLSH boasts the WPIAL’s leading passer Nehemiah Azeem (694 yards, 8 TDs). Azeem has a slew of good receivers led by Dereon Greer (358 yards, 4 TDs), Dorrien Tate (133 yards, 2 TDs), and Ziggy McIntosh (71 yards).
Inter-Classification Games of the Week
Belle Vernon (1-0) at McKeesport (2-0)
The only conference losses McKeesport has suffered since moving down to 4A were against Belle Vernon. That is an impressive feat in a conference that included Thomas Jefferson. Belle Vernon moved down to 3A this year, so this game is a good measuring stick for both teams to see where they stand against a championship contender from a different classification. Belle Vernon played their first game of the season last year in a win over former 4A conference foes Laurel Highlands. With Penn State head coach James Franklin in attendance, Quentin Martin put on a show with 68 yards and 3 TDs. Braden Laux and Tanner Steeber split time at quarterback with Laux throwing for 94 yards and running for another 72 yards and 2 TDs. McKeesport’s wishbone triple-option offense has an outstanding lead back in Bobbie Boyd who has run for 282 yards and 5 TDs. Boyd was our Player of the Week last week with a hat trick on both sides of the ball – three touchdowns on offense and three interceptions on defense. Quarterback Jahmil Perryman has just 6 attempts per game and has thrown for 145 yards and 1 TD and run for 144 yards and 1 TD. Aemond Knight scored twice in the season-opener against West Mifflin.
Sto-Rox (0-1) at Avonworth (1-1)
These teams met in non-conference play last season and the rematch should be just as good. Avonworth is one of the top teams in 3A while Sto-Rox is one of 2A’s best. Avonworth beat District 10 title contender Grove City in Week 0 then fell to Central Valley, who won 3 straight 3A titles before moving up to 4A. Sto-Rox lost their season-opener to Steel Valley in a matchup of the top two seeds from last year’s 2A bracket. Sto-Rox is loaded with offensive playmakers and the catalyst is QB Josh Jenkins who threw for 275 yards and 3 TDs and ran for 69 yards against Steel Valley. Jaymont Green-Miller (89 yards, 2 TDs) and Dre Miller-Ross (81 yards) led the receiving corps while Diego Ellis scored twice and had another return TD called back on a penalty. Sto-Rox’s downfall against Steel Valley was their inability to stop the run on defense against the Ironmen’s massive offensive line. Avonworth also has a strong rushing attack led by Luke Hilyard (184 yards, 4 TDs) and Brandon Biagiarelli (147 yards, 1 TD). Both backs are averaging over 6.5 yards per carry. The Lopes have a balanced offensive attack with Nate Harper throwing for 317 yards and 2 TDs. Andrew Kuban (95 yards) and TE Peyton Faulkner (74 yards, 1 TDs) lead the Avonworth receiving corps. This should be a good inter-classification matchup between Sto-Rox’s dynamic passing attack and Avonworth’s balanced offense, but the game will likely come down to Avonworth’s ability to keep up with the Vikings speed.