Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Night Lights: WPIAL Second Round

In Western Pennsylvania, this is probably the best time of the year. The WPIAL playoffs are heating up, the Steelers have a big-time game against a division rival this weekend, Pitt is poised to make a run at the Big East title and a BCS game, the Penguins (despite their injuries) are leading the division and second in the conference, and Penn State is on track for a New Year's Day bowl. As much as we'd love to delve into all of these, it's friday night and the second round of the WPIAL playoffs.

After going 25 for 32 in the first round games (a solid 78%), I'll throw out predictions for tonight's games as well.


Gateway v. Penn Hills (@ Norwin)
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Gateway beat Penn Hills 19-7 the first week of the season. This was the last time Gateway's offense was held under 35 points. On paper, Gateway should kill them, but this is an East Hills rivalry game between neighboring school districts. This one will be a lot closer than expected.
Prediction: Gateway

North Allegheny v. North Hills (@ Pine-Richland)
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In a rematch of Northern Six rivals, North Allegheny looks to keep rolling. In our WPIAL Playoffs Preview we said, "NA's team this year has the chance to do what Bethel Park did last year (namely, come out of no where and make a run)." We're sticking with that and fully believe that they will give Gateway a run for their money in the semi-finals.
Prediction: North Allegheny

Woodland Hills v. Central Catholic (@ West Mifflin)
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Woodland Hills still hasn't lost to a team from Pennsylvania this year. They are playing some great football and absolutely destroyed Central when they met during the season. This will be a high-profile match this week, but I don't see it being much of a game. Central doesn't have the defense to stop Woodland Hills and doesn't have the firepower on offense to keep up with them. Woody High stays on their crash course with Gateway.
Prediction: Woodland Hills

Bethel Park v. Shaler (@ Baldwin)
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This is being dubbed as the "Game of the Week" by the Post-Gazette. Bethel Park is the reigning Quad-A champions and seems to have a date with destiny (aka Woodland Hills) set in the semi-finals. The only thing that could derail them is multi-purpose threat Jesse Della Valle from Shaler who has 23 TDs as a running back and wide receiver this season. Bethel has a good offense of their own, with a precise quarterback and strong running game. This one will be close, but it's hard not to like the defending champs.
Prediction: Bethel Park


Thomas Jefferson v. Franklin Regional (@ Elizabeth Forward)
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Franklin Regional has a tall task ahead against a very good TJ team looking to become the first school in WPIAL history to win 4 consecutive WPIAL titles. TJ has won 47 straight games, and I don't see them dropping one here either.
Prediction: Thomas Jefferson

West Allegheny v. New Castle (@ North Allegheny)
These two teams meet in a re-match of an earlier game this year when West Allegheny won 28-21. New Castle won a shootout last week with Greensburg Salem. Look for West Allegheny to control the game on the ground and move on to face TJ.
Prediction: West Allegheny

Hopewell v. Mars (@ Ambridge)
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Everyone knows what Hopewell does. Run the ball. Rushel Shell has been racking up huge numbers all season and look for that to continue on tonight. Hopewell is strong across the board and really shouldn't be challenged until the championship game against TJ. They are likely the only team in AAA that has a shot at beating TJ.
Prediction: Hopewell

Hampton v. Uniontown (@ Yough)
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Hampton was 1-8 last year and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year by knocking off #3 seed Chartiers Valley. Uniontown became the first Keystone Conference team to win a WPIAL playoff game in 9 years. The Keystone Conference is now 1-35. Hampton has never been to the semi-finals, so there is a lot at stake in this game.
Prediction: Hampton


South Fayette v. Aliquippa (@ Char Valley)
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South Fayette has the #1 seed in AA, but could very well be the first #1 seed to fall. Aliquippa has a young roster that has grown over the year and only dropped one game (to a very good Beaver Falls team). The Quips know how to win come playoff time and are always in the mix, regardless of how they finished the regular season. Can South Fayette counter this? In AA, it's all about the Beaver County schools, so we're going with the Quips.
Prediction: Aliquippa

Beaver Falls v. Sto-Rox (@ Seneca Valley)
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This is probably the Game of the Week. Sto-Rox has a solid passing attack led by Penn State recruit Paul Jones, and Beaver Falls can pound the rock with the best of them. Both teams averaged over 30 points per game this season, and this could turn into an old fashioned school-yard shootout. Despite Sto-Rox's solid offensive attack, we picked Beaver Falls as our AA champion at the outset, and we're sticking with them.
Prediction: Beaver Falls

Mt. Pleasant v. Keystone Oaks (@ Penn Trafford)
Mt. Pleasant is the #2 seed in AA and is one of two teams with an unblemished record. What does that mean? Nothing. Keystone Oaks is the best AA team outside of Beaver County. No AA team is really measured until the playoffs because there are no out-of-conference games. From what we've seen so far, we know that the Allegheny Conference wasn't up to snuff (0-4 in first round games). KO's Century Conference was 3-1 and the Interstate Conference that Mt. Pleasant swept was 2-2. On paper, these teams are almost identical, and this game could go either way, but we're sticking with the Golden Eagles.
Prediction: Keystone Oaks

Center v. Greensburg Central Catholic (@ Fox Chapel)
This is the under-the-radar matchup that might prove to be one of the best games of the evening. GCC has the best offense in AA, and Center sports the top defensive unit. At the big level, they say defense wins championships. Can Center slow down GCC's attack? Center's defeated a team with similar offensive tendencies (Beaver Falls) earlier this season. We may be eating crow tomorrow on this one, but we love defense.
Prediction: Center


Rochester v. Brentwood (@ Montour)
Brentwood, welcome to the slaughterhouse. Brentwood has put together a good season based on winning close games. Brentwood isn't a team that's going to overpower you, but they're consistent enough to keep themselves in games. They averaged 17.5 points for and 13.5 points against this season. Not too shabby. However, this week's game is set up to be a bloodbath. Brentwood surpassed 30 points on offense only twice this year, and has been held under 13 points 4 times. Rochester has the #2 offense (36.2 points per game) and #2 defense (3.9 points against per game) in Single-A. Rochester has pitched 5 shutouts and only had one game closer than 21 points (a 14-7 win over Laurel).
Prediction: Rochester

North Catholic v. Springdale (@ Deer Lakes)
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Single-A Game of the Week. North Catholic dropped their first two games of the season to Serra and Laurel, then proceeded to blow through the conference. Bob Ravenstahl won Coach of the Week honors for their Week 4 defeat of Springdale 20-14. North has a dangerous offense that can run and pass while Springdale is, well, Springdale. They're always a solid team that makes a run in the playoffs. This is going to be a good old-fashioned slug-fest.
Prediction: North Catholic

Laurel v. Beth-Center (@ Beaver)
Laurel has the distinction of being the only team to beat Clairton this season. Additionally, their only loss of the year came to conference foe Rochester. Beth-Center is the only Tri-County South Conference team left in the bracket, and don't expect them to stay around much longer. Despite handily beating Serra Catholic 38-17 in the first round, Laurel is a very, very good defensive team (See: Holding Rochester and Clairton to 22 points combined). Laurel has only given up more than 1 score twice (Rochester and Monaca).
Prediction: Laurel

Clairton v. Avonworth (@ Chartiers-Houston)
Like fellow Eastern Conference school Brentwood, Avonworth has had a good season, but they're about to get hit with something like they haven't seen before this year. Clairton has the #1 offense in Single-A (48.9 points per game) and #1 defense (3.8 points against). Of course, this came playing in a weak Black Hills conference, so their ability to play in close games hasn't been tested. Clairton lost their non-conference opener to Laurel 15-8. Since then, the Bears haven't had a game closer than 32 points. The Bears will be tested early, but Avonworth just doesn't have enough offense to stick with them.
Prediction: Clairton

Ian will be attending the North Catholic-Springdale game tonight at Deer Lakes and posting score updates on Twitter. For other score updates, check with the Post-Gazette.

Also, if you're really into following your alma mater, you can listen to games broadcast over the internet on the MSA Sports Network.

1 comment:

John M. Masslon II said...

I think you should pick against the spread in HS football. Make things more fun.