The final week of the WPIAL regular season is here. Earlier this week, I broke down the playoff scenarios that are in play as 7 conference titles and 12 playoff spots are still up for grabs. There is at least one playoff spot still to be decided in all six classifications. A few teams had noteworthy accomplishments this past week with Mapletown clinching the Tri-County South Conference title for the first time since 2005 and Deer Lakes qualifying for the playoffs for just the third time in school history. Also noteworthy, Fort Cherry freshman Matt Sieg surpassed the 1000-yard passing mark a week after topping 1000 rushing yards, becoming just the 14th player in WPIAL history to join the elite 1000-1000 Club. Sieg was the first freshman to accomplish the feat. This week, five other players will try to join him. Neshannock’s Jonny Huff has already topped 1000 rushing yards and needs just 78 passing yards to join the club. Greensburg Salem’s Cody Rubrecht would need 80+ yards in both categories this week while Franklin Regional’s Roman Sarnic needs 40 passing yards and 118 rushing yards. Finally, California’s Jake Layhue has topped 1000 passing yards and would need a monster game of 244 rushing yards this week to join the club.
On the statistical fronts, Armstrong QB Cadin Olsen has a commanding 500-yard lead in the race for the WPIAL passing title. The rushing title will come down to the West Greene-Mapletown game this week where the top two rushers will go head-to-head. West Greene’s Colin Brady comes into the game with an 80-yard lead on Mapletown’s Landan Stevenson. On the receiving front, Southmoreland’s Ty Keffer has 62 receptions on the year, 11 more than the next closest. Serra Catholic’s Amire Spencer is the first WPIAL player to rack up more than 1100 receiving yards in a season since Upper St Clair’s David Pantellis in 2019. With 40 more yards, Spencer could be the first 1200-yard receiver in a regular season since 2018 when Imani Christian’s Rahmon Hart and Sto-Rox’s Amahd Pack surpassed the threshold.
This week has a number of high-profile matchups with conference titles on the line, but none bigger than the Parkway Conference showdown between Aliquippa and Central Valley. On this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show, we went in-depth to preview the Aliquippa-Central Valley showdown and were fortunate enough to interview BOTH head coaches. Check out our interviews with Aliquippa Head Coach Mike Warfield and Central Valley Head Coach Mark Lyons on this week’s edition of the WPIAL Blitz Show!
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 Fayette County rivals Connellsville. Last week, the Mustangs secured a playoff spot. A victory this week would clinch a home playoff game for Laurel Highlands, which would be just the second in their history. If Laurel Highlands wins and Thomas Jefferson beats McKeesport, the Mustangs would finish with a share of the conference title, their first in school history.
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 Games of the Week
Seneca Valley (1-2, 6-3) at North Allegheny (3-0, 8-1)
North Allegheny has clinched the conference title and the top seed in the 6A playoffs. Seneca Valley had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot last week but fell to Central Catholic by 3 points. The Raiders get another chance this week and need either a win over North Allegheny or a Mt. Lebanon loss to reach the postseason. Seneca Valley will need a big game from their passing attack, led by QB Graham Hancox (1826 yards, 18 TDs) and Navy-commit Luke Lawson (735 yards, 10 TDs). In addition to Lawson, Hancox has spread the ball around between Jackson Wetzel (402 yards, 4 TDs), Amari Henson (294 yards, 1 TD), and Aidan Lyczek (226 yards, 4 TDs). On the ground, Wyatt Craver (567 yards, 5 TDs) is the feature back of the Raiders offense. Defensively, Toledo-commit Chris D’Appolonia will be key to slowing down North Allegheny’s offense. North Allegheny also has a quality passing attack, led by QB Logan Kushner (971 yards, 11 TDs) and the dynamic Khiryn Boyd (475 receiving yards, 231 rushing yards, 8 total TDs). Boyd has been a threat to score any time he gets his hands on the ball this season, in any phase of the game. Andrew Gavlik (609 yards, 3 TDs) and Tyree Alualu (212 yards, 5 TDs) anchor the backfield and the defense for the Tigers.
Canon-McMillan (1-2, 5-4) at Mt. Lebanon (1-2, 4-5)
The winner of this game clinches one of the final two playoff spots in 6A. For defending 6A State Champs Mt. Lebanon, it is a win-and-in lose-and-out Casket Match. Canon-McMillan could lose this game and still make the playoffs if Seneca Valley loses to North Allegheny. Mt. Lebanon will need to rely on their stingy defense, which has held opponents in check all season. The Blue Devil defense will certainly be tested against a dynamic Canon Mac offense which features one of the best QB-WR tandems in the WPIAL. Mike Evans (1448 yards, 18 TDs) and leading receiver Austyn Winkleblech (699 yards, 14 TDs) have been lighting up defenses all season. The Big Macs also have a big-time threat out of the backfield in Jake Kasper (1319 yards, 10 TDs). Mt. Lebanon is the lowest-scoring team in 6A and has struggled to find offensive consistency amidst injuries at the quarterback position. Both David Shields (652 yards, 5 TDs) and Alex Gevaudan (124 yards, 1 TD) have seen time behind center. Michael Beiersdorf (171 yards, 6 TDs) has been the most reliable target while Garrett Pavlick (336 yards, 2 TDs) has been the big-play maker. The work in the running game has been shared between Beckham Dee (283 yards, 3 TDs) and Nathan Sala (221 yards, 2 TDs).
5A Games of the Week
Peters Twp (3-1, 6-3) at Bethel Park (4-0, 8-1)
Two games will decide which teams from the Allegheny Six Conference qualify for the playoffs. This game also has conference title implications. Bethel Park, the only Allegheny Six team to clinch a playoff spot so far, will win the conference title with a win. If Peters Twp wins, they would win the conference title if Upper St Clair loses. In a three-way tie scenario where Bethel Park, Peters Twp and Upper St Clair finish at 4-1 in conference play, all three would make the playoffs. While on paper these teams may look similar – both averaging about 31 points per game and allowing around 15, this game is a contrast of styles. Peters Twp has the second-leading passer in the WPIAL in Chris Cibrone (1963 yards, 19 TDs). Brendan McCullough (782 yards, 7 TDs) leads the way in a deep receiving corps where five players have at least 200 receiving yards on the season. Since RB Richie Woods was lost for the season due to injury in Week 6, Peters has relied almost entirely on their passing game. On the flip side, Bethel Park’s entire offense comes out of the backfield. Tanner Pfeuffer has thrown for 1184 yards and 11 TDs and added 8 rushing TDs. Ryan Petras has been an all-around threat with 538 receiving yards, 432 rushing yards, and 16 total TDs. Austin Caye (638 rushing yards, 126 receiving yards, 6 total TDs) and Gavin Moul (466 rushing yards, 115 receiving yards, 5 total TDs) are a formidable RB tandem for the Black Hawks.
South Fayette (2-2, 5-4) at Upper St Clair (3-1, 7-2)
This is the second game that will determine who makes the playoffs in the Allegheny Six. If Peters Twp beats Bethel Park, then the winner of this game is in and the loser is out. If Bethel Park beats Peters, then Upper St Clair is in with a win. A combination of South Fayette and Bethel Park winning would create a three-way tie for the last playoff spot between Peters Twp, Upper St Clair, and South Fayette which would be decided by tiebreaker points. The third place team from the Allegheny Six would get a Wild Card if Penn-Trafford loses, but is almost certainly out if Penn-Trafford wins. Both of these teams have used multiple quarterbacks throughout the season. Drew Welhorsky started the year for South Fayette, but recently Nico Lamonde (838 passing yards, 7 TDs, 277 rushing yards) has taken the helm. Nate Deanes leads the Lions in rushing (351 yards), receptions (21 catches for 201 yards), and scoring (14 total TDs). For Upper St Clair, Julian Dahlem (954 yards, 15 TDs) started the year at QB but recently freshman Ethan Hellman (501 yards, 7 TDs) has taken the helm. Whoever is under center for the Panthers has the advantage of a strong core of senior skill position players, led by RB Jamaal Brown (962 yards, 8 TDs) and WR Aidan Besselman (670 yards, 9 TDs). The X-factor in this game could well be USC kicker Bennett Henderson, who is one of the best in the WPIAL.
Franklin Regional (4-0, 6-2) at Penn-Trafford (2-2, 5-4)
Franklin Regional was the first team in the WPIAL to clinch a conference title. Penn-Trafford, the defending 5A State Champions, has their season on the ropes. The Warriors would claim one of the third place Wild Cards with a win over Franklin Regional, but would be out with a loss. Interestingly, two players in this game are vying for inclusion in the elite 1000/1000 Club. Franklin Regional QB Roman Sarnic has 960 passing yards and 10 TDs and 882 rushing yards and 12 TDs. On the other side, Penn-Trafford QB Conlan Greene (who has committed to Temple as a defensive lineman) has already surpassed the threshold in passing (1223 yards, 8 TDs) but will need a big day on the ground (718 rushing yards, 8 TDs). Franklin Regional has surrounded Sarnic with big-play threats in RB Zach Bewszka (718 yards, 8 TDs) and WR Ayden Hudock (791 yards, 14 TDs). Penn-Trafford has had more players involved in the offense with four different receivers over 100 yards and four different rushers over 275 yards. Greene’s favorite target has been Daniel Tarabrella (555 yards, 4 TDs) while Tasso Whipple (386 yards, 4 TDs) has been the complementary back in the rushing attack.
North Hills (3-1, 3-6) at Pine-Richland (3-1, 6-3)
Like in the Allegheny Six Conference, the two guaranteed playoff spots in the Northeast Conference come down to two games in the final week. The winners of both games are guaranteed playoff spots. North Hills, who is 0-5 out of conference, can finish no worse than 3rd and be in contention for a wild card. The Indians would clinch the conference title with a win. Pine-Richland has been one of the hottest teams in the WPIAL over the second half of the season and could claim the conference title with a win and a Penn Hills loss. North Hills’ offense has shifted away from their traditional run-heavy attack thanks to the talents of QB John Green (750 yards, 8 TDs). He has found reliable receivers in Michael Hoskey (246 yards, 2 TDs) and Cooper Thompson (163 receiving yards, 151 rushing yards, 9 total TDs). Julius Green (299 yards, 4 TDs) has been the lead back for the Indians offense. On the other side, in almost a reversal of storylines, Pine-Richland’s former pass-happy offense has shifted back to the ground game this year. After a 1-3 start, the Rams shifted Ryan Palmieri back to quarterback and they have run off five straight wins (including victories over North Allegheny and Central Catholic). Palmieri has thrown for 406 yards and 1 TD but more importantly run for 899 yards and 11 TDs. The rushing tandem of Palmieri and Ethan Pillar (505 yards, 8 TDs) has been almost impossible to stop over the last month where the Rams have averaged over 40 points per game.
Penn Hills (3-1, 5-4) at Woodland Hills (2-2, 4-5)
This game is nearly a Casket Match. The winner is through to the postseason. Woodland Hills is out with a loss. Penn Hills is out with a loss if Pine-Richland wins, but would finish 3rd and have a chance at the Wild Card if North Hills wins. Penn Hills could also win the conference title if they win and Pine-Richland wins. These two old rivals meeting with a playoff spot on the line is a fitting end to the regular season. Penn Hills’ offensive attack runs through dual-threat QB Julian Dugger (1137 passing yards, 10 TDs, 478 rushing yards, 2 TDs). Running back Amir Key leads the team in rushing (978 yards), receptions (18 catches for 222 yards), and scoring (14 total TDs). The tandem of Rain Strader (258 yards, 7 TDs) and D’Andre Cochran (246 yards, 2 TDs) on the outside and in the secondary once again gives Penn Hills one of the best group of defensive backs in the WPIAL. The Indians will need to be strong in the trenches against a stout Woodland Hills offensive line and the running back tandem of Brandon Jones (489 yards, 5 TDs) and Frank Keyes (328 yards, 7 TDs). The Wolverines will throw the ball with Cam Walter (744 yards, 5 TDs), primarily targeting Will Smith (277 yards, 5 TDs).
4A Games of the Week
Central Valley (6-0, 9-0) at Aliquippa (6-0, 8-0)
The Game of the Week, not only in the WPIAL but in the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The winner will claim the Parkway Conference title and the top seed in the 4A Playoffs. We did an in-depth preview of this game, including interviews of BOTH head coaches, on this week’s WPIAL Blitz Show. Central Valley is the three-time defending WPIAL 3A Champions and two-time defending 3A State Champions. The Warriors have won 36 straight games, the longest streak in the state. Aliquippa is the defending 4A State Champions and has the second-longest winning streak in the state at 20 games. Since Mike Warfield became coach at Aliquippa in 2018, the Quips are 55-1 against all opponents not named Central Valley but 0-4 against his mentor Mark Lyons and the Warriors.
On paper, these teams are nearly identical as well. Central Valley is the highest-scoring team in 4A (47.7 points per game) with the third-best defense (8.8 points against per game). Aliquippa ranks second in both categories (41.2 points per game and 8.3 points allowed per game). Both teams are strong in the trenches with Aliquippa’s “Trench Dawgs” dominating everyone they’ve faced so far this season and holding multiple opponents to negative offensive yards in a game. Aliquippa’s offense is led by sophomore RB Tiqwai Hayes (1204 yards, 22 TDs) who already has multiple D1 offers from high-major schools. The Quips line is so good that Hayes, John Tracy (292 yards, 5 TDs), and Cameron Lindsey (121 yards, 3 TDs) are all averaging over 7 yards per carry. When the Quips take to the air, Quentin Goode (1321 yards, 13 TDs) has been outstanding this season. The tandem of Brandon Banks (357 yards, 6 TDs) and Donovan Walker (347 yards, 1 TD) have been tough to defend as receivers and absolute lockdown defensive backs on the other side of the ball. Behind the Trench Dawgs on defense, the Quips have one of the best groups of linebackers and defensive backs in the entire WPIAL. Walker is one of the top safeties while Banks has been a standout corner. Cameron Lindsey and Nate Lindsey have both played all over the defense as well. For Central Valley, their offense runs through Brett FitzSimmons (1355 yards, 25 TDs) who averages an incredible 14 yards per carry. The Warriors have been so good on the ground and have mercy ruled all of their opponents so far so their starters haven’t played much in the second half of games. Quarterback Antwon Johnson is averaging about 11 pass attempts per game and has thrown for 970 yards and 12 TDs. Like Aliquippa, the Warriors also have a star receiver/defensive back in Jayvin Thompson (499 yards, 14 total TDs). Thompson is a standout safety who made a name for himself with 4 interceptions in the WPIAL title game last year. Deniro Simpson has been an all-around offensive threat, running for 218 yards, adding 145 receiving yards, and scoring twice.
Thomas Jefferson (4-1, 6-3) at McKeesport (5-0, 9-0)
The Jaguars and Tigers meet with the Big Seven Conference title on the line. McKeesport has clinched a share of the title and would win it outright with a victory over Thomas Jefferson. TJ would win the title with a victory AND a Laurel Highlands loss to Connellsville. If Thomas Jefferson and Laurel Highlands both win, there would be a 3-way tie atop the conference. Thomas Jefferson has yet to beat McKeesport in the two years since the Tigers moved down from 5A to 4A. The Jaguars come in with a balanced offensive attack. Quarterback Brody Evans (1677 yards, 17 TDs) has spread the ball around with 4 receivers over 200 yards, led by Sean Sullivan (684 yards, 9 TDs) and Ryan Lawry (359 yards, 3 TDs). On the ground, Elias Lippincott (685 yards, 9 TDs) and Aidan Whalen (426 yards, 7 TDs) have shared the workload. Keep an eye out for defensive end Jordan Mayer, a Wisconsin-commit, who will be key for TJ in trying to slow down McKeesport’s triple-option rushing attack. The Tigers have a dynamic threat in the backfield in Bobbie Boyd (944 yards, 13 TDs) who has missed some time with injuries this season. Boyd is a home-run hitter capable of scoring any time he touches the ball and is in the conversation for 4A Player of the Year. Quarterback Jahmil Perryman has more than double the yardage on the ground (834 yards, 14 TDs) as he does through the air (329 yards, 4 TDs) but has been key in helping McKeesport’s offense continue to thrive while Boyd recovered from injury. McKeesport has been so strong in the trenches that in addition to Boyd and Perryman, Larry Gibson (432 yards, 6 TDs) and Anthony Boyd (234 yards, 2 TDs) are all averaging over 7 yards per carry.
Highlands (4-1, 8-1) at Hampton (3-2, 5-4)
Another year, another wild set of circumstances in the Greater Allegheny Conference. Hampton topped Mars in a shootout last week while Highlands fell to Armstrong in a game which decided the conference title. Hampton would clinch a playoff spot and potentially get a home playoff game with a win over Highlands. If Hampton loses and Mars beats North Catholic, tiebreaker points will settle the three-way tie, so the margin of victory will be important in this game. Highlands’ offense runs through dual-threat QB Chandler Thimons who has thrown for 804 yards and 11 TDs and run for 508 yards and 8 TDs. The Golden Rams have a strong rushing attack led by Luke Bombalski (798 yards, 10 TDs). Mid-season the Rams debuted a wildcat offense with Aaran Randolph taking direct snaps and it has paid off. Randolph has run for 538 yards, added 130 receiving yards, and scored 12 times. He has also thrown for 161 yards and a TD (to Chandler Thimons, nonetheless!). Hampton also has a dual-threat QB in Joey Mayer (940 passing yards, 14 TDs, 278 rushing yards, 4 TDs). Statistically, the Talbots are very similar to the Rams in that their offense is built around their ground game. Brock Borgo (845 yards, 8 TDs) has been the workhorse back while Eric Weeks (319 rushing yards, 316 receiving yards, 8 total TDs) has been a big-play maker. Benny Haselrig (600 yards, 10 TDs) leads Hampton’s receiving corps and is the primary threat on the outside.
North Catholic (3-2, 5-4) at Mars (2-3, 5-4)
This game will decide the final playoff spot in the Greater Allegheny Conference. It is very nearly a Casket Match. If Hampton beats Highlands, the winner of this game is in and the loser is out. If Hampton loses to Highlands, North Catholic would still be in with a win. In that case, a Mars win would drop Hampton, Mars, and North Catholic into a three-way tie that would be settled by tiebreaker points, so the margins of victory will also matter. North Catholic has one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the conference while Mars is one of the highest. On the flip side, North Catholic has one of the stingiest defenses while Mars has been one of the most porous. For the Trojans, they have relied heavily on Jack Fennell who leads the team in rushing (502 yards), receiving (189 yards), and scoring (9 total TDs). Jason Siket (700 passing yards, 5 TDs, 131 rushing yards, 3 TDs) returned last week after a mid-season injury. Joining Fennell in the ground game have been Samir Ware (188 yards, 4 TDs) and Chase Arrington (152 yards, 2 TDs). Mars’ offense has undergone a reinvention this year from the traditional run-heavy approach to the Eric Kasperowicz downfield passing attack. With Eric Kasperowicz Jr (1228 passing yards, 12 TDs, 328 rushing yards, 8 TDs) at quarterback, the Fighting Planets have been able to push the ball down the field like never before. Gabe Hein (439 yards, 6 TDs) and Aiden Alessio (208 yards) have been the top targets in the passing game. Mars still has a strong rushing game and offensive line with Evan Wright (1293 yards, 17 TDs) averaging over 9 yards per carry.
3A Games of the Week
Belle Vernon (4-0, 6-2) at Elizabeth Forward (4-0, 9-0)
The long-anticipated showdown between Belle Vernon and Elizabeth Forward has arrived. The Leopards and Warriors will battle for the top spot in the Interstate Conference and the top seed in the 3A playoffs. Belle Vernon moved down from 4A to 3A this season but did not face a 3A opponent until conference play began. They ran the gauntlet of a tough non-conference schedule and are battle-tested. Elizabeth Forward has rolled over the competition this season to the tune of 45 points per game. Statistically, these are the two highest-scoring offenses and stingiest defenses in 3A. Belle Vernon is led by one of the top juniors in the state in RB/S Quinton Martin who leads the team in rushing (612 yards), receptions (16 for 210 yards), and scoring (16 total TDs). The Leopards have been so strong up front that Martin, Jake Gedekoh (377 yards, 11 TDs), and Anthony Crews (174 yards, 2 TDs) are all averaging around 9 yards per carry. That has taken the pressure off QB Braden Laux (660 yards, 5 TDs) who averages less than 10 attempts per game. When Laux does take to the air, Martin and Chase Ruokonen (294 yards, 3 TDs) have been the top targets. While Belle Vernon’s offense revolves around their running game, Elizabeth Forward has one of the top passing attacks in 3A. Zion White has thrown for 1521 yards and 24 TDs, primarily throwing to Zach Boyd (988 yards, 18 TDs) who is second in the WPIAL in receiving yards. On the ground, the workload has been split between Jordan Wilmore (405 yards, 8 TDs), Johnny DiNapoli (371 yards, 9 TDs), and Diego Magwood (370 yards, 4 TDs). Charlie Nigut has been an all-around threat for the Warriors with 231 rushing yards, 290 receiving yards and 4 total TDs.
Hopewell (2-3, 3-6) at Beaver (3-2, 6-3)
The last playoff spot in 3A comes down to this game in the Western Hills Conference. It is not quite a true Casket Match as South Park’s result could play a factor as well. South Park has clinched a spot through tiebreakers. Beaver is in with a win. Hopewell is in with a win and a South Park win over West Mifflin. If Hopewell wins and South Park loses, tiebreaker points would be a determining factor between Beaver, South Park, and Hopewell for the last two spots. Hopewell has a balanced offensive attack between QB Kingston Krotec (666 yards, 8 TDs) and RB Dayveon Jackson (432 yards, 8 TDs). Both will need to have big games, along with leading receiver Cameron Fedorka (215 yards, 3 TDs) for the Vikings to have a shot at making the playoffs. Hopewell has struggled defensively the last few weeks and Beaver has the second-highest scoring team in the conference. The Bobcas will lean on their running game of Liam Gibson (626 yards, 8 TDs) and Quay Cain (198 yards, 3 TDs). Beaver has been so strong on the ground this season that QB Isaac Pupi hasn’t had to throw much, averaging just 10 pass attempts per game. When Pupi does throw, he has been effective, throwing for 726 yards and 13 TDs, primarily to Gerrell Leeper (293 yards, 6 TDs).
2A Games of the Week
Steel Valley (6-0, 8-0) at Serra Catholic (5-1, 7-2)
For the second straight season these two meet with the Allegheny Conference title on the line. Last year, Steel Valley won the head-to-head and earned the top seed in the playoffs but it was Serra Catholic who went on to win the WPIAL title. Steel Valley has an absolutely dominant rushing attack that flourishes behind an outstanding offensive line, anchored by Miami (Ohio)-commit Greg Smith. The top five rushers for the Ironmen have all averaged over 11.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Cruce Brookins has led the way with 740 rushing yards and 19 TDs. Steel Valley has been so good on the ground this year that Brookins is only averaging about 7 pass attempts per game, but has thrown for 558 yards and 6 TDs, primarily to Makhai Valentine (355 yards, 6 TDs). Joining Brookins in the rushing attack are Donald Barksdale (558 yards, 11 TDs), Quaron Pierce (555 yards, 3 TDs), and Da’Ron Barksdale (248 yards, 5 TDs). Jesean Wright has done a little bit of everything for the Ironmen, rushing for 312 yards, adding 172 receiving yards, and scoring 6 times. While Steel Valley likes to run, Serra Catholic likes to throw. The Eagles have TWO 1000-yard passers, a rarity in WPIAL history. Quadir Stribling has thrown for 1229 yards and 12 TDs and Elijah Ward has thrown for 1064 yards and 11 TDs. Ward has done a bit of everything for the Eagles with 445 rushing yards, 381 receiving yards, 8 total TDs and being the anchor of the secondary at safety. Serra also has a record-setting receiver in Amire Spencer (1160 yards, 13 TDs) who broke the school record for yardage last week. When Serra does run the ball, Mike Schanck (503 yards, 8 TDs) has led the way. Schanck is also a standout defensive end on the other side of the ball for a ferocious Eagles defense that led the way to the WPIAL title last season.
Apollo-Ridge (3-3, 5-4) at Burrell (3-3, 6-3)
The last playoff berth in 2A comes down to this game. Apollo-Ridge kept their playoff hopes alive with a massive upset of Serra Catholic last week. Now, the Vikings must top their Alle-Kiski Valley rivals in order to claim a playoff spot. Burrell has already locked up their postseason position. Apollo-Ridge is in with a win or an Imani Christian loss to Yough. If Apollo-Ridge loses, they would be out if Imani beats Yough. Both teams are led by outstanding running backs who have put up big-time performances this season. Apollo-Ridge’s Nick Curci was our WPIAL Blitz Player of the Week last week for his 338-yard 5-TD performance against Serra Catholic. On the season, Curci has run for 1286 yards and 18 TDs. While the Vikings are still a run-first team, Apollo-Ridge has balanced their offensive attack with QB Gage Johnston (771 yards, 6 TDs) throwing primarily to Jake Mull (663 yards, 7 TDs). On the other side, Burrell’s Devin Beattie (1299 yards, 17 TDs) is also in the Top 10 in the WPIAL in rushing. In addition to Beattie, the Bucs have relied on Mason Jones (541 yards, 3 TDs) and Chase Fenner (368 yards, 5 TDs) in their run-heavy offensive attack.
1A Games of the Week
Leechburg (4-1, 7-2) at GCC (5-0, 7-2)
Only one conference title in 1A is undecided heading into the season finale. Greensburg Central Catholic has the inside track and would clinch the Eastern Conference title with a win over Leechburg. On the other hand, the Blue Devils would claim their first conference title since 1978 with a win and a Clairton loss to Jeannette. If Leechburg and Clairton both win, the Blue Devils would need to win by at least 9 points to claim the tiebreaker to win the title in a 3-way tie. Both of these teams have bee lighting up the scoreboard this season with Leechburg averaging over 50 points per game and GCC at 44 per game. Leechburg has a balanced offensive attack led by Pitt-commit RB Braylan Lovelace (1322 yards, 28 TDs). Through the air, the Blue Devils have also been dangerous with Jayden Floyd (1099 yards, 13 TDs) throwing to the talented tandem of Tyler Foley (478 yards, 10 TDs) and Logan Kline (451 yards, 8 TDs). GCC also has a dynamic passing attack with Tyree Turner (1315 yards, 17 TDs) at the helm. He is complemented in the backfield by RB Da’sjon Craggette (904 yards, 14 TDs). Samir Crosby has been an all-around weapon for the Centurions, second on the team in rushing (329 yards), leading the team in receiving (412 yards), and tied for the lead in scoring (14 total TDs).
Cornell (3-3, 4-4) at OLSH (4-2, 7-2)
The final playoff spot in 1A comes down to this game. OLSH was the runners up last season and will get back to the playoffs with a victory. Cornell could knock out OLSH with a win and if Fort Cherry beats Burgettstown. If Cornell wins but Fort Cherry loses, the three finish in a tie. Fort Cherry can not miss out on tiebreakers so the last playoff spot will be determined by the margin of victory tiebreaker. Recovery from injuries will play a big role in how this game pans out. Cornell QB EJ Dawson (260 yards, 4 TDs) missed most of the season with an injury but returned last week to lead the Raiders to a massive 52-7 win over Chartiers-Houston. When Dawson was out, Cornell relied almost entirely on Raequan Troutman (1062 rushing yards, 172 receiving yards, 16 total TDs) in all three phases of the game. On the other side, OLSH is coming off a 40-0 loss to Bishop Canevin where star QB Nehemiah Azeem (1952 yards, 20 TDs) suffered an injury in pregame warmups and wasn’t able to play. Azeem’s status for Friday night is uncertain and we wish him all the best for a speedy recovery, as he was one of the most exciting players in the WPIAL. When Azeem is at the helm, OLSH has a dynamic passing attack with the trio of Dereon Greer (736 yards, 9 TDs), Ziggy McIntosh (489 yards, 5 TDs) and Dorrien Tate (335 yards, 7 TDs). OLSH doesn’t run the ball much, so if Azeem is not available, the Chargers will need to rely more heavily on Brandon Brazell (345 yards, 5 TDs) to carry them to the playoffs.