1. Ford City
Ford City has become a mainstay atop the Allegheny Conference. The Allegheny Conference is basically AA's version of the AFC South. Every year, there's a trendy pick to unseat the Sabers, but every year Ford City comes out on top once again. They had the 3rd best defense and 5th best offense in AA last year and will likely be top 5 in both departments again this season.
2. Shady Side Academy
The Indians have a returning starter at quarterback who has already committed to Wisconsin as a defensive back. They return a handful of starters from a team that went to the playoffs last year. They should be good enough to make the playoffs once again and maybe even compete for the conference title.
An unbiased preview of the Yellow Jackets from our buddy Cory at Three Rivers Burgh Blog: "They're going to win every game 200-0. Also Burrell sucks."
QB Zack Middleby returns for his senior season after throwing for over 1,000 yards last year. Burrell, like many other teams in this conference is thin on experienced players, but they should be good enough to make a run at a playoff spot.
5. Deer Lakes
The Lancers made the playoffs for the first time in school history last year, but return only 4 starters from that team. Deer Lakes is somewhat of a wild card this year. If the young talent is there, they could push Burrell for the last playoff spot. Three of their last 4 games are at home with their only road game coming at Burrell.
Eleven starters return from a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2007. They return starters at offensive skill positions and along the line, and in a conference where a lot of inexperienced players will see significant time this season, the Vikings could make a run at a playoff spot. They get 3 of their first 4 conference games at home, and a strong start will go a long way to getting them into November.
7. Summit Academy
No clue. They'll be better than West Shamokin though.
8. West Shamokin
Long losing streaks are never easy, but West Shamokin's is entering epic proportions. They haven't won a game since 2007 (34 games) and there isn't a lot of evidence that this is going to change any time soon. They were one of only 2 teams in all of WPIAL to score under 50 points all of last season, putting up a WPIAL-worst 41 points. They were shut out 4 consecutive weeks in conference play, not scoring a point between a 46-6 loss on September 24 and a 35-7 loss (their closest game of the season) on October 29.
The Rebels return one of the best backs in AA in Kevin Hart who ran for over 1300 yards last season. There is a lot of depth and talent on this team, and we fully expect to see them playing well into November.
2. Steel Valley
The Ironmen return 12 starters to a team that was barely edged out by Beaver Falls in the first round of the playoffs last year. The pieces are there for a successful season with a junior quarterback and a 3-man tandem of running backs that will share the load and should carry Steel Valley back to the playoffs.
3. South Fayette
The defending AA champions graduated a ton of players last year and have a youth-filled roster. However, the winning tradition runs strong for the Lions, and with a lot of young teams in the conference this year, they should compete once again under coach Joe Rossi.
4. Keystone Oaks
KO lost their two star backs from last season along with a slew of other starters. The Golden Eagles had high hopes heading into last year, but injuries derailed their chances down the stretch. This is a young team but the school has a solid tradition of being a competitor in the Century Conference and they should vie for a playoff spot once again.
The Little Prexies (first off - according to any definition I could find, a Prexie is a presidential commemorative stamp from the 1930s-50s era) return players at the offensive skill positions and (wait, I can't get over this, is their team really named for stamps?) look to improve on their 3-win season where they finished 1 game shy of KO for the last playoff spot. The Prexies (stamps? little stamps? I thought all stamps were little?) still have a young team, but have the pieces in place to make a run at the playoffs this year and maybe be a factor for the conference crown in the future.
6. South Allegheny
The Gladiators have a Penn State recruit in TE Jesse James and a returning quarterback. After winning 2 of their first 3 conference games last year, they lost their last 4, giving up over 40 points in each game and only breaking 17 once.
7. Quaker Valley
The Quakers return 15 starters, but mostly along the lines, from the team that had the worst defense, not just in AA, but in the entire WPIAL. It looks to be another long year for the Quakers as they have their 4th new head coach in 7 years.
The Blue Devils return 8 starters, including their starting QB and RB from the team that brought up the rear of the Century Conference last year and had the 4th worst offense in AA.
1. Greensburg Central Catholic
When you talk powerhouses of the Interstate Conference, there are really only 2 names that come to mind: GCC and Jeanette. Since 2003, one of these teams has won at least a share of the conference title in all but one season. The Centurions return 13 starters, including QB Bob Noble, from a team that won the conference last year. Eight of the 11 defensive starters return after GCC posted the best defense in AA last year.
Jeanette had the 3rd best offense in AA last season and return a Division 1 recruit in QB Demetrious Cox, a multi-threat QB along the lines of Terrelle Pryor. No word on how many tattoos Cox has, but with his athleticism, we fully expect Jeanette to be playing GCC for the conference title the last week of the season.
3. Mt. Pleasant
I'm not sure if it speaks to the strength of the Vikings program or the weakness of the rest of the conference that a lot of freshmen and sophomores saw playing time last year and the Vikings still finished 3rd in the conference. They return a slew of starters and players that saw significant time on the field and should be in the thick of things for the playoffs once again this season.
4. East Allegheny
The Wildcats had a bounce-back season last year, making the playoffs thanks to an early-season victory over Southmoreland. They look to build on that success this year and need to come out of the gate strong with games against Charleroi, Waynesburg, Yough, and Southmoreland in the first 5 weeks of the season. If they can make it through those 4 unscathed, they should be in prime position to make the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Scotties return a 1100-yard passer and their top receiver, looking to build on their .500 record in conference play last year. Their Week 3 game against East Allegheny may wind up determining a playoff spot.
The Cougars return 9 starters from a team that finished in the quagmire of the Interstate Conference's bottom half. RB Quentin Briggs who has over 2,000 yards in his career is coming off a season-ending injury and looks to return to form this season.
The Raiders had the 6th worst defense in AA last year and averaged less than 14 points per game. Leading rusher Nick Zupper is back for his senior season and should be the focal point of the Waynesburg offense. It still figures to be a long season for Waynesburg.
Brownsville had the 3rd worst offense in AA and was one of only 3 teams to fail to score 100 points total over the whole season. Their defense was much better than the offense, finishing the season 21st out of 34 AA teams. They were able to win multiple conference games for the first time since 2005, so there is something to build on this year for the Falcons.
It looks to be another long season for the Cougars who managed only 88 points all of last season on their way to an 0-9 campaign. They bring back starters on the lines but neither unit packed much of a punch last season.
Of all the conferences in AA, this one is a no-brainer for preseason champion. The Quips rode a young team two the AA title game two years ago and built on that with a return trip to Heinz Field last year. QB Mikal Hall returns to lead the offense after throwing for over 1500 yards last season. The Qups are stacked with young talent all over the field and after posting the #5 offense and #2 defense in AA last year, they are on the verge of making it 3 straight trips to Heinz Field.
2. Beaver Falls
AA is all about the Beaver County teams and it really wouldn't be a surprise to see two teams from the Midwestern Conference end up at Heinz Field. Beaver Falls made the semi finals last year and is poised to make another big run with returning starters all over the field, including 1100-yard rusher Trey Hall.
The Bobcats have experienced upperclassmen at all the offensive skill positions and should be primed to make another run this season after losing to Aliquippa in the quarterfinals last year.
The Spartans found the move up from A to AA to be challenging, missing out on the playoffs after a semi-final run in Class A in 2009. They return 15 starters this season including RB Dylan Jones who ran for over 1200 yards last year. They have returning starters at other offensive skill positions and should be in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot this season.
The Panthers always seem to be in the thick of the hunt for a playoff berth but haven't reached the post-season since 2007. They should be right in the mix again this year as RB Evan Hart, QB Devin Kelosky and QB/RB/WR Tom Mansfield all return to the lineup.
6. Ellwood City
These perennial losers finally got over the hump last season and qualified for the playoffs after beating rival Riverside in a casket match the last week of the season. This year could be another trip into the bowels of the Midwestern Conference as 13 starters graduated from the 2010 team.
7. New Brighton
The Lions return key starters at the offensive skill positions including QB Mike Nevill, RB Kellen Mackey and WR Drew Devinney. They had the 4th worst defense in AA last year, giving up almost 38 points per game, including giving up 40+ five times.
11 starters return for the Warriors who look to make the playoffs under new head coach Joe Lamenza. Typically new coaches struggle their first year as they implement a new system and new routines. Mohawk hasn't been to the playoffs since 2005 and that probably won't change this year.
The Bulldogs ride a 13-game losing streak into this season and it doesn't look like much is about to change. They posted a goose egg in the win column last year and don't have much in the way of returning talent.