Thursday, September 27, 2012

WPIAL Midseason Review

It seems like just yesterday the High School Football season kicked off here in Western Pennsylvania, but we're already four games into the nine week regular season. The wheat has begun to separate from the chaff, so here's a look back at how things are sitting as we approach the midpoint of the season. You can also check out my WPIAL Standings page for full details.


Best Team: North Allegheny

The two-time defending WPIAL champions have rolled through the first four weeks of the season. They have the second best offense in Quad-A with second-year quarterback Mack Leftwich at the helm. The Tigers closest game was the season opener against a good Mt. Lebanon team that they stomped 39-14.

Most Surprising Team: Hempfield

The Spartans were 1-8 last season but pulled an upset for the ages when they beat McKeesport in the opening week of the season.  Even though they have yet to face the top teams in the Foothills Conference, this is a great turnaround story for a team that was a floormat for most of the last decade. The Spartans have a top 5 offense after having the 5th worst unit in AAAA last season.

Most Disappointing Team: McKeesport

The Tigers were supposed to compete with rival Gateway for the Foothills Conference crown, but through four weeks this looks like a team that will be fighting just to make the playoffs more than a conference champion contender. Quarterback Eddie Stockett has not lived up to the billing of the Best QB in Quad-A, and has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season.

Best Week 5 Matchups:
Seneca Valley @ Central Catholic (Thursday on ROOT Sports) - Two of the best teams in AAAA square off with Central looking to shut down Seneca Valley's explosive offense
Mt. Lebanon @ Woodland Hills - Woody High's only loss was to Upper St Clair and will need to beat a very good Lebo team (whose only loss was to North Allegheny) in order to stay in the race for the conference title.
Gateway @ Hempfield - This game means more to Hempfield than it does for Gateway. The Gators should roll to the conference title, but this is a measuring stick game for the Spartans to see how they stack up against one of AAAA's best.

Week 5 Playoff Scenarios
North Allegheny clinches a playoff spot with a win over Butler and a Shaler loss

Top 5 Teams:
1. North Allegheny (3-0, 4-0)
2. Gateway (4-0, 4-0)
3. Upper St. Clair (4-0, 4-0)
4. Central Catholic (3-0, 4-0)
5. Seneca Valley (2-1, 3-1)


Best Team: Montour

Montour is in this spot thanks to an overtime win over Central Valley where they stopped Robert Foster on a 2-point conversion try in overtime. That was the only close game the Spartans have played this year, but their spot at the top might be the most tenuous of any of the four "top" teams right now. AAA, particularly the Parkway Conference, has a lot of good teams, and anyone could pull an upset at any time. Montour won't have an easy walk to the Conference Championship, though they have already topped Central Valley who might be the most skilled team in the conference.

Most Surprising Team: Ambridge

The Bridgers Week 3 win over New Castle was their first conference win since October 15, 2010. It was also their first conference win over a team other than Moon since they beat New Castle back in September 2006. Yes, you read that right. Over the last 5 seasons, the only team Ambridge beat in conference play was Moon, who (counting their Week 4 win this season) they had a 6-1 record against. Now, Ambridge sits at 2-1 in conference play, the most Parkway wins they have had since 2006 when they beat New Castle and Moon in back-to-back weeks.

Most Disappointing Team: Belle Vernon

Belle Vernon got a lot of press in the preseason due to the recruiting of Offensive Tackle Dorian Johnson. After the Penn State sanctions were handed down, Johnson de-committed from Penn State, leaving the four-star recruit up for grabs. However, even with Johnson anchoring the line, Belle Vernon has been less than spectacular this season. After an impressive opening week win over Uniontown, the Leopards have gotten shellacked by West Mifflin (34 point loss), Ringgold (32 point loss), and Elizabeth Forward (29 point loss).

Best Week 5 Matchups:
West Allegheny @ Central Valley - West A has been involved in close games every week while Central Valley boasts one of the top players in all of WPIAL in WR Robert Foster
Knoch @ Hampton - This is an important stepping-stone for Knoch if they are going to challenge Mars for the conference title
West Mifflin @ Ringgold - West Mifflin is undefeated and Ringgold's only loss came to TJ.

Week 5 Playoff Scenarios
West Mifflin can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Ringgold
Mars can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Greensburg Salem
West Allegheny can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Central Valley and a New Castle loss.

Top 5 Teams:
1. Montour
2. Thomas Jefferson
3. Mars
4. West Mifflin
5. Central Valley


Best Team: Aliquippa

The Quips continue their reign as the top team in AA. They have dominated opponents so far this year, including a stomping of AAA Ambridge in a cross-river rivalry game. They have only played two conference games so far, but they have the top-ranked offense (214 points) and defense (7 points against) in AA. The Quips won their first two conference games 68-0 and 66-0 and have a relatively easy schedule the next 3 weeks facing Freedom, Mohawk, and Ellwood City who are a combined 2-10. They won't be challenged until the last two weeks when they face Beaver Falls and Beaver.

Most Surprising Team: South Allegheny

The Gladiators have been perennial floormats in the Century Conference, but after being shut out in Week 1 by Seton-La Salle, they have stormed back to win three in a row, outscoring each opponent by 20 points. Before their Week 2 win over Quaker Valley, the Gladiators had lost 12 straight conference games, with their last win coming over Quaker Valley in 2010. Their 3 wins this season are the most they have had since their 4-5 campaign in 2008 when they played in the Interstate Conference. Since then, they had won 3 games total from 2009 to 2011. They have equaled that overall win total and their conference win total through 4 weeks this season.

Most Disappointing Team: Ellwood City

After reaching the quarterfinals last season, the Wolverines have fallen flat on their faces at the start of the season. They reached the playoffs in each of the last 3 seasons and were expected to compete for a playoff spot once again, but an 0-4 start which includes losses to Freedom and New Brighton has severely limited those chances. The good news is that the other teams in the bottom half of the Midwestern Conference keep beating each other, and there are currently 4 teams (Freedom, New Brighton, Mohawk, Riverside) with 1-2 conference records, just a game ahead of the 0-3 Wolverines. They aren't totally out of the playoff race yet, but they're going to have to turn things around fast if they want to get back in the hunt.

Best Week 5 Matchups:
South Fayette @ Seton-La Salle - Two of the best AA teams square off at Baldwin Stadium in a Century Conference showdown. Both schools have one of the Brumbaugh brothers at quarterback and both defenses have been stout.
Jeanette @ Washington - The first big power clash in the Interstate Conference, which currently has 3 undefeated teams.
Shady Side Academy @ Freeport - Both teams are coming off a loss and this game could decide who gets a home playoff game.

Top 5 Teams:
1. Aliquippa
2. South Fayette
3. Seton-La Salle
4. Washington
5. Jeanette


Best Team: Clairton

What can I say about Clairton that hasn't already been said? They survived an opening week scare by Chartiers-Houston and then have gotten back to their old form of just absolutely destroying teams. This week's win over Monessen on Thursday Night was one of the most complete games you'll see. The Bears did what they do best - capitalizing on turnovers and turning them into points. Tyler Boyd is probably the best player in all of the WPIAL and the Bears just keep on dominating. 51 and counting.

Most Surprising Team: Avella

There are a few teams that could fit the bill here, but the Avella Eagles take the crown. Just a few years ago, this was a program on the verge of collapsing and they had to start a cheerleader and one of the band members in order to field a full squad. Now, the Eagles (who had won just 3 games in the previous 5 seasons) sit at 4-0 with a 3-0 conference record. The move to the Tri-County South has obviously benefited Avella, and this is probably my favorite story of any WPIAL team this year. Neshannock deserves an honorable mention here as they are sitting at 4-0 atop a much tougher Big Seven Conference with a huge upset win over Sto-Rox on their resume.

Most Disappointing Team: Geibel Catholic

I may have opinions about certain teams I like and don't like, but one thing I always want to see - regardless of school - is the team playing on the field. Geibel had to forfeit their first two games because they had so many injuries in the preseason they could not field a full team. That sucks. It sucks for the kids on the team, the fans, and their opponents. I'm not blaming these kids for getting injured, but I'm saying it's a disappointment to see a team not make it out onto the field.

Best Week 5 Matchups:
Monessen @ Bishop Canevin - The Greyhounds are coming off a stomping by Clairton and look to rebound against an undefeated Bishop Canevin squad.
Jefferson-Morgan @ Frazier - The Rockets are coming off their first loss of the season and this could be a game that decides who makes the playoffs further down the line.
Northgate @ Sto-Rox - This non-conference matchup features two of the top Single-A teams that are both contenders for their conference title.

Top 5 Teams:
1. Clairton
2. Rochester
3. Bishop Canevin
4. Neshannock
5. Northgate

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