Friday, November 18, 2011

WPIAL Semi-Finals Preview

The High School football playoffs are winding down. Since the WPIAL expanded to having playoffs in all 4 classifications in the late 1970s, this is the highest number of undefeated teams to enter the semi-finals. With 11 undefeated teams remaining, it should be a wild night on the gridiron. Tonight is all about strength against strength. The top 3 seeds in all four classifications advanced to the semis. In Class A, #4 Rochester advanced, making it the only classification with the top 4 teams still remaining. In AA, AAA, and AAAA the #5 seed advanced to the semis, though it's hard to argue that GCC, Montour, and Gateway aren't contenders to win the title.

If you're going to the games and have a twitter account, tweet score updates with the hashtag #WPIAL.

Follow the #WPIAL hashtag all night for score updates. Also, you can listen to live internet broadcasts via the MSA Sports Network (broadcasts listed here). The North Allegheny-Gateway game will be televised  on ROOT Sports. Here's to hoping Craig Wolfley drops a "slippier than snot on a doorknob" analogy tonight.


 1. North Allegheny (11-0) vs 5. Gateway (9-2) at Fox Chapel
North Allegheny Preview
Gateway Preview

 The Gators have had an emotional season that started with a tragedy in North Carolina. They held the high-powered Central Catholic offense to 13 points and certainly have the play-makers to keep the game tight against defending state champion North Allegheny. The Tigers are led by QB Mack Leftwich (1803 yards) and have a stellar running game where they share the load amongst a handful of backs. This is the ROOT Sports game of the week, so you can tune in to enjoy Craig Wolfley's ever-entertaining way of describing how these kids play. We're hoping he busts out the "slippier than snot on a doornob" analogy again. Prediction: North Allegheny

 2. Central Catholic (11-0) vs 3. Upper St Clair (10-1) at Chartiers Valley
PG Preview

 The big story in this game is USC QB/LB Dakota Conwell and his ankle injury. Conwell suffered the injury last week against McDowell and didn't play defense afterwards. After the Pitt linebacker recruit left the defensive side of the field, McDowell scored to make it 21-14 and drove down the field at the end of the game with a chance to tie or win. Without Conwell on defense, it's hard to imagine the Panthers slowing down the Central Catholic offense. Prediction: Central Catholic


1. Central Valley (11-0) vs 5. Montour (9-2) at Ambridge
PG Preview

 The top two teams from the best conference in WPIAL square off for the right to go back to Heinz Field. Central Valley, in their second year of competition, is the defending AAA champion. Standing in their way of defending their title is the team they beat at Heinz Field last year - the Montour Spartans. On the field, Central Valley easily has the best all-around athlete in junior WR/DB/KR Robert Foster. He is a threat to score any time he is on the field. Montour has one of the most balanced offenses in WPIAL with QB Dillon Buechel (1974 passing yards) and RB Julian Durden (1522 rushing yards). These teams have had some great games and this one will certainly be worth the price of admission if you can make it out to Moe Rubenstein Stadium. Prediction: Central Valley

 2. Franklin Regional (11-0) vs 3. Knoch (11-0) at Valley
PG Preview

 Two former conference rivals face off for the right to go to Heinz Field. Knoch has knocked off two perennial AAA powerhouses in West Allegheny and Thomas Jefferson while Franklin Regional has slugged it out against Belle Vernon and Pennsylvania's all-time leading rusher Rushel Shell and Hopewell. Both of these teams can put up points in a hurry, with quality running backs. Knoch's Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin has 1288 yards and 18 TDs and Franklin Regional's Dane Brown has 1900 yards and 33 touchdowns. However, in the quarter-finals Franklin Regional was able to do damage through the air against Hopewell's defense, so don't be surprised if a big pass play makes the difference in this one. Prediction: Franklin Regional


 1. Aliquippa (11-0) vs 5. Greensburg Central Catholic (10-1) at North Hills
Aliquippa Preview
GCC Preview

 Aliquippa gets another shot at the team that denied them a WPIAL title in 2009. GCC had one of the top five offenses in AA during the season (34.4 points per game), but have sputtered in the playoffs, putting up only 24 against Ford City and 18 against Ellwood City. Now, they face their biggest challenge yet in Aliquippa's top 5 defense (8.4 points against per game). The Quips have 3 shutouts this season and held opponents under 10 points in 7 of their 11 games. On offense, the Quips are just as potent with senior QB Mikal Hall. Hall has been the Quips QB since his freshman year when he carried them to a WPIAL title. Hall has been to Heinz Field every season, losing in the championship game to GCC and South Fayette the last two seasons. You have to like the Quips chances to get back to Heinz for the fourth consecutive season. Prediction: Aliquippa

 2. Jeanette (11-0) vs 3. Seton-La Salle (11-0) at Elizabeth Forward
PG Preview

 Two of the best players in AA square off with Jeanette QB Demetrius Cox and Seton RB Kevin Hart. Between passing and rushing, Cox has over 1700 yards this season for the Jayhawks. He is easily the most electrifying player AA has seen since fellow Jayhawk Terrelle Pryor. Cox is a Division 1 recruit at safety, and could wreck havoc on junior QB Luke Brumbaugh who has thrown for over 1200 yards this season. Hart is equally capable of taking the game over and dominating. His 1723 yards this season put him in the top 5 backs in all of WPIAL. Prediction: Seton-La Salle


1. Clairton (11-0) vs 4. Rochester (10-1) at West Allegheny
PG Preview

 In what has become an annual affair, the Bears and Rams meet in the playoffs once again. These two teams have played in the last 2 Class A Championship games and met 7 of the last 8 years in the playoffs. Clairton is the three-time defending state champions and riding a 42-game winning streak. But that all goes out the window here. Rochester has had their season ended by the Bears for 5 consecutive years. The Rams are led by RB DeAndre Moon (1624 yards, 31 TDs) and will look to expose Clairton's run defense like Springdale did last week. Clairton is stacked with talent in RB Tyler Boyd (1504 yards, 27 TDs), QB Capri Thompson (1269 passing yards), and WR/CB Trenton Coles, a WPIAL track champion and Pitt recruit. Prediction: Clairton

 2. Sto-Rox (11-0) vs 3. Bishop Canevin (11-0) at Moon
PG Preview

 It's been a great year for the Crusaders who ran through the Eastern Conference and posted a perfect season. However, Sto-Rox and their three Division 1 recruits will simply be too much for Canevin to handle. The Vikings have been mauling people all year, with their closest game a 21-point shellacking they laid on Rochester. Sto-Rox has been on a collision course with Clairton in the WPIAL title game all season, and while Canevin has slugged it out and won two close games, they just don't have the talent or the speed to hang with the Vikings. Prediction: Sto-Rox

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