Welcome to the 2018 WPIAL Football Season! While conference play does not start until next week (Week 1 of the season), some teams will play a preseason “Week 0” game this week. When the PIAA moved to the 6-classification format, they permitted teams to schedule either an extra game or have extended practice time during the week before the official start of the regular season. Over the last two years, Week 0 has grown and now nearly all of the teams in the WPIAL will take part in games this weekend. The WPIAL does not schedule Week 0 games, it is up to individual teams to come to agreements on game dates and locations. This has led to many teams re-igniting old rivalry games during Week 0 which may have been lost when teams were split into 6 classifications. Other schools have scheduled games against teams from outside the WPIAL (including out-of-state teams), creating some high-profile early-season showdowns.
Thanks to the fine folks at Taps n’at in Derry, who are sponsoring all of our WPIAL content this year. Week 0 games count towards a team’s overall record and for players individual stats. However, since the WPIAL only counts conference games towards the playoff standings, these games will have no bearing on a team’s chances to make the playoffs. You can check out all of our conference-by-conference season previews here.
Last year, the former MSA Sports Network formed a partnership with Trib Total Media and debuted last week with the new website tribhssn.triblive.com. We are very happy for all of our friends at both entities and are thrilled that high school sports will continue to be broadcast over the internet airwaves for years to come. Here is their list of the games they will be broadcasting tonight.
As a reminder, if you’re going to be following along with the WPIAL action tonight, keep an eye on the #WPIAL hashtag on Twitter where people post score updates from games. I”ll also be posting score updates and commentary from my Twitter account @thesteelersnat.
At the end of the night, I’ll be updating my WPIAL Standings Page with all of the results of tonight’s games, which count towards a team’s overall record but not towards making the playoffs.
Western PA vs Everyone Showcase
at the Wolvarena
Erie Cathedral Prep vs Central Catholic
This is the Friday night showcase game of the “Western PA vs Everyone” event that is being held at the Wolvarena in Turtle Creek this weekend. Teams from Western PA will take on notable opponents from both in and out of state. Cathedral Prep is the two-time defending Class 4A State Champions. The Ramblers have knocked Thomas Jefferson out of the state playoffs in three straight years. Central Catholic won the WPIAL 6A title in 2016 and reached the championship game again in 2017 before falling to Pine-Richland. These two teams met in a Week 0 game at the start of last season with Cathedral Prep winning 40-7. Cathedral Prep enters the Showcase on a 28-game winning streak including 3 wins over WPIAL teams (2 over Thomas Jefferson and one over Central Catholic last year) and 2 State Championships.
Both teams will be looking to use this game to break in new starters. Central Catholic graduated 19 seniors and lost a few more contributors to transfers. The tandem of senior Dontre Jones and junior Kyros Thrope figure to be the workhorses in the backfield. Wide receiver Gavin Thomson has some FCS offers. The Vikings defense will still be solid with three players who have college offers in DE Brian Dallas, DB Anthony Costa, and Columbia-commit DB Dominic Dodson. Cathedral Prep are no slouches either, despite being a 4A-sized school. Billy Lucas has FBS offers and plays both running back and safety. In the middle of the defense, Joe Scarabino has drawn attention from FCS schools. As an interesting aside, one of the proposals that came from the PIAA discussion on private schools this summer was to have a separate classification or separate playoffs for only non-boundary schools. Central Catholic and Cathedral Prep are the two largest non-boundary schools in Western Pennsylvania, so if that proposal goes through these two teams may see a lot more of each other in the future.
Other Games in the Western PA vs Everyone Showcase:
Peters Township vs West Toronto Prep (Canada) – Friday at 5pm
Imani Christian vs Richard Wright Public Charter (DC) – Saturday at 11am
McKeesport vs Erie High (PA) – Saturday at 2pm
Aliquippa vs McKinley Tech (DC) – Saturday at 5pm
Woodland Hills vs Woodrow Wilson (DC) – Saturday at 8pm
Gateway at Mt. Lebanon
Mt. Lebanon Stadium, 7:30pm
It is not often that two teams can claim to have the WPIAL’s single-season receiving yardage record-holder in the same season. But that is exactly what happened last year. Mt. Lebanon’s Aidan Cain smashed the WPIAL record (formerly set by South Fayette’s Justin Watson who got drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs this year). Watson’s record was over a 16-game season that culminated in a state title and Cain surpassed his mark in just 10 regular season games, putting up 93 receptions, 1648 yards and 14 TDs. However, Mt. Lebanon was knocked out of the 6A playoffs in the opening round by North Allegheny while Gateway won their first WPIAL title since 1986 and made a run all the way to the State Championship Game. In that time, Courtney Jackson surpassed Cain’s total and ended his 16-game season with 1916 yards and 27 TDs. Jackson had finished 330 yards behind Cain in the regular season, but the extra games in the playoffs allowed him to claim the yardage crown, though his 96 catches still fell short of Cain’s 101.
Aidan Cain graduated and is now at Duquesne while Courtney Jackson returns to Gateway for his senior season. Mt. Lebanon will have some talented players returning after a number of underclassmen saw time last year. Senior Seth Morgan split time at quarterback last year due to an injury to starter James Stocker and threw for over 1200 yards and 11 TDs. Lucas DeCaro was the Blue Devils’ second-leading receiver behind Cain and racked up 756 yards and 4 TDs last season. Gateway will need to replace QB Brady Walker who set the PIAA single-season passing record as they look to make a run at a repeat 5A title. Sophomore RB Derrick Davis emerged during the playoffs last year, running for 439 yards and adding 480 receiving yards and scoring 11 TDs. He immediately jumped onto the radar of D1 schools and received numerous high-profile offers over the summer. Gateway will not be hurting for playmakers on the outside as Jackson has already committed to Syracuse and Jeremiah Josephs (582 receiving yards, 6 TDs) has committed to Miami (Ohio) as a defensive back.
South Fayette at Upper St Clair
Upper St Clair Stadium, 7:30pm
The Old Guard vs The New Guard of WPIAL High School Coaches. Upper St Clair’s Jim Render is the WPIAL’s all-time winningest coach with 398 wins. He has been the coach at Upper St Clair since 1979. On the other side, South Fayette’s Joe Rossi took over the Lions program in 2007. He has reached double-digit wins in 8 of the last 9 years and has an amazing 118-19 record at South Fayette. The last time Rossi lost more than 1 game in a season was 2011. Rossi’s 144 career victories are still well shy of Render’s incredible mark, but no one can deny that Joe Rossi is a highly accomplished coach who is well on his way to being counted among the WPIAL legends. Render has won five WPIAL titles while Rossi has won three. Both coaches have won two State Titles (though Render may have won 3 if Upper St Clair had not opted to forego the inaugural PIAA playoffs in 1988 which was won by Central Catholic who USC beat in the WPIAL Championship).
For this season, Upper St Clair will once again compete in 5A where they won the Allegheny Nine Conference reached the semifinals last year. Leading rusher Colin McLinden returns for his senior year after running for 859 yards and 13 TDs last season. He figures to complemented by Antonio Orsini and James Delulis who saw a handful of carries last season. Second-leading receiver Chris Pentellis (404 yards, 6 TDs) also returns. South Fayette has won 57 straight regular season games, dating back to 2011. They will once again compete in 4A where they won the Northwest Nine Conference with perfect records each of the last two seasons, but were upset in the playoffs prior to reaching Heinz Field. The Lions will be working in a new quarterback this year, but return a trio of senior receivers in Rayquin Glover (437 yards, 3 TDs), Mike Trimber (430 yards, 6 TDs), and Ryan Kokoski (363 yards, 5 TDs). Junior RB Andrew Franklin is the top returning rusher (266 yards, 5 TDs) after averaging 8.3 yards per carry last year. Two-way lineman Tom Elia has already committed to Richmond, but the secret weapon for South Fayette is kicker Ryan Coe who has a handful of D1 offers.
Penn-Trafford at Norwin – Two of the largest schools in Westmoreland County also boast two of the best defenses in the entire WPIAL. Last year they played to a 3-0 slugfest. These are old Foothills Conference foes from the days of Quad-A, but now Norwin plays in 6A and Penn-Trafford in 5A.
Hempfield at Greensburg Salem – Neighboring schools from the Greensburg area will meet for the third straight season in Week 0. Greensburg Salem comprises the City of Greensburg and Salem Township while Hempfield covers the areas around Greensburg proper. Interestingly, Hempfield Township separates Greensburg and Salem Township, giving geographic proximity to this rivalry. Hempfield, who plays in 6A, has defeated 4A GreensburgSalem each of the last two years.
Derry at Latrobe – Between 1956 and 2012, the Westmoreland County neighbors met 54 times. The rivalry went on hiatus when the WPIAL realigned and adjusted schedules in 2012, but returned in 2016 with the advent of Week 0. In 2016, Derry got their first victory over their long-time rivals since 2004 and repeated the feat last season. Latrobe (who now plays in 4A) leads the all-time series 35-20-1 over Derry (who plays in 3A). I would be remiss if I didn’t put in an extra plug here for our sponsors Taps n’at, located at 152 North Bank Street in Derry. If you are of age, stop by after the game to celebrate and/or drown your sorrows.
Montour at Moon – Montour did not play a Week 0 game in the last two seasons, and are dipping their feet into the water against old Parkway Conference rivals Moon. The Parkway Conference had an impressive streak of dominance in AAA with Parkway teams claiming WPIAL titles in 6 straight seasons from 2009-2014 and sending at least one team to the WPIAL Championship Game in 10 straight seasons.
Mt Pleasant at Southmoreland – These two proximate rivals from southern Westmoreland County are no longer conference foes as Southmoreland drops down to Class 2A this cycle. Mt Pleasant has dominated the rivalry in recent years. Southmoreland is hopeful the move down to 2A, coupled with a number of returning starters, can put them in the mix for their first playoff berth since 1979.
Seton LaSalle at Keystone Oaks – The two schools that stare across McNeilly Road at each other are no longer conference foes. The last two years Seton LaSalle opted to play up in 3A and the rivals split the conference titles. Keystone Oaks won the matchup and the conference in 2016 then Seton LaSalle returned the favor in 2017. This cycle, Seton LaSalle did not choose to play up and will compete in 2A while Keystone Oaks remains in 3A.
Valley at Burrell – These Alle-Kiski Valley neighbors were long-time conference foes. Valley has won 5 straight games over Burrell, but 3 of the last 4 were one-score victories. Burrell will remain in 3A this season while Valley moves down to 2A.
East Allegheny at Jeannette – These teams are not “primary” rivals, but did face each other for many years in the AA Interstate Conference before Jeannette moved down to Single-A in 2014. The 1A State Champions Jeannette eked out a 28-26 victory over 2A East Allegheny last season.
Charleroi at Monessen – These two old rivals had not competed in the same classification for many years, but were able to rekindle their rivalry in Week 0 in 2016. Charleroi squeaked out a 2-point in in 2016 then won the 2017 meeting 35-13. The Cougars are loaded offensively and could have one of the highest-scoring teams in the WPIAL this season with 2300-yard passer Geno Pellegrini at the helm. Monessen snuck into the 1A playoffs thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker last year and is looking to build on that momentum this season.
Leechburg at Apollo-Ridge – These two Alle-Kiski Valley teams have faced off each of the last two seasons in Week 0 with Apollo-Ridge winning both. Leechburg enters the season on a 15-game losing streak and faces a tough gauntlet in the 1A Eastern Conference. Apollo-Ridge played up in 3A the last two seasons but returned to 2A for this cycle.
New Brighton at Rochester – Neighboring towns along the Beaver River have not played each other in a long time as New Brighton was in AA and now 2A while Rochester was in Single-A then 1A. Even though the two schools have not faced each other in football in decades, the geographic proximity of the towns makes this an intriguing matchup.