Sunday, October 28, 2012

WPIAL Playoff Outlook

Regular season games came to a roaring conclusion on Friday night with Avonworth holding off a 2-point conversion by Northgate in overtime to come away with a victory in one of the two Casket Matches. In AAAA, Upper St Clair stormed back from down 17-0 to beat rival Mt Lebanon 21-19. Incredibly enough, the season ended with 9 different 3-way ties in the standings. AAA was the worst offender with both the Greater Allegheny Conference and the Parkway Conference having two 3-way ties in the standings.

The Playoff Selection Show is Monday night at 7pm, but for now, here's a look at who's in and where we think they'll be seeded.


Foothills Conference - 1. Gateway (8-0, 8-1), 2. Penn-Trafford (7-1, 7-2), 3. McKeesport (5-3, 5-4), 4. Hempfield (4-4, 4-5), 5. Kiski Area (4-4, 4-5), 6. Altoona (4-4, 4-5)
Northern Eight Conference - 1. North Allegheny (7-0, 9-0), 2. Seneca Valley (6-1, 8-1), 3. Central Catholic (5-2, 7-2), 4. North Hills (4-3, 6-3), 5. Butler (3-4, 4-5)
Southeastern Conference - 1. Upper St. Clair (7-1, 8-1), 2. Mt. Lebanon (7-1, 7-2), 3. Woodland Hills (6-2, 7-2), 4. Bethel Park (6-2, 6-3), 5. Peters Twp (4-4, 5-4)

Hempfield finished 4th in the Foothills Conference by winning the 3-way tie with Kiski and Altoona on Gardner Points (110 to Kiski and Altoona's 80). Kiski beat Altoona head-to-head for the 5th spot. Altoona's 4 wins earned them the "Wild Card" spot over Penn Hills (3 wins) and Pine-Richland (2 wins).

Predicted Playoff Seeding
1. North Allegheny - The only undefeated team left in Quad-A and the two-time defending WPIAL champions
2. Gateway - Foothills Conference Champion, their only loss on the season was a non-conference game against North Allegheny
3. Upper St Clair - After storming from behind to beat Mt. Lebanon for the Conference title, the Panthers should get the #3 seed
4. Seneca Valley - The two-headed monster of QB Jordan Brown and RB Forrest Barnes made them the 3rd highest scoring team in Quad-A
5. Mt. Lebanon - The Blue Devils only two losses are to NA and USC in the first and last games of the season. 
6. Woodland Hills - QB Cody McClelland threw for almost 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns this season leading an aerial assault for the Wolverines.
7. Penn-Trafford - The Indians return to the playoffs with a balanced offense. They don't have any star players but they are solid all around the field.
8. McKeesport - The Tigers got the #8 seed over Central Catholic by virtue of WPIAL tiebreakers
9. Central Catholic - The Vikings have the 2nd best defense in Quad-A, giving up only 8.1 points per game. The defense pitched a shutout in 5 of their 7 wins.
10. Bethel Park - They were the only team to beat Conference Champion Upper St Clair this season
11. North Hills - Legendary coach Jack McCurry has his team in the playoffs once again
12. Hempfield - The biggest enigma in AAAA, they beat McKeesport early in the season then dropped games to Altoona and Connellsville
13. Kiski Area - The Cavaliers had a surprisingly good season and they get bumped up a little above their "true seed" so they don't have to travel to the South Hills
14. Butler - A little higher than their "true seed" so that they don't have to travel to the South Hills. First playoff season in decades for the Golden Tornado
15. Peters Twp - A little lower than their "true seed" but moved around because WPIAL takes travel time/distance into account. Dominated teams on the ground early in the season.
16. Altoona - They won the Wild Card but have the unfortunate luck of getting to play North Allegheny


Big Nine Conference - 1. Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 9-0), 2. West Mifflin (7-1, 8-1), 3. Trinity (5-3, 5-4), 4. Elizabeth Forward (5-3, 6-3), 5. Ringgold (4-4, 4-5), 6. Belle Vernon (4-4, 4-5)
Greater Allegheny Conference - 1. Mars (7-1, 8-1), 2. Hampton (6-2, 7-2), 3. Franklin Regional (6-2, 7-2), 4. Knoch (6-2, 7-2), 5. Hollidaysburg (3-5, 3-6)
Parkway Conference - 1. Central Valley (7-1, 7-2), 2. West Allegheny (7-1, 8-1), 3. Montour (7-1, 8-1), 4. Hopewell (4-4, 4-5), 5. Blackhawk (3-5, 3-6)

Belle Vernon earns the "Wild Card" spot with 4 wins over Highlands 3 wins and Ambridge's 3 wins. In the Greater Allegheny Conference, Hampton won the 3-way tie for 2nd with head-to-head wins over Franklin Regional and Knoch. Franklin Regional beat Knoch head-to-head for 3rd place. In the 3-way tie for 5th between Hollidaysburg, Highlands, and Indiana, Hollidaysburg and Highlands both had -17 tiebreaker points, putting them ahead of Indiana (-22). The tiebreaker then reverted to head-to-head where Hollidaysburg beat Highlands. In the Parkway conference, Central Valley won the Conference Championship on Tiebreaker Points (69 to Montour's 55 and West Allegheny's 43). West Allegheny finished second by virtue of a head-to-head win over Montour. In the 3-way tie for 5th, Blackhawk won on Tiebreaker Points (-5 to Ambridge's -14 and New Castle's -20).

Predicted Playoff Seeding
1. Thomas Jefferson - The only undefeated team in AAA is the easy choice for the #1 seed
2. Central Valley - Any chance of them getting the #1 seed evaporated when they lost to AA Beaver Falls in a non-conference game on Friday.
3. Mars - The Fighting Planets won the Greater Allegheny Conference with a Week 9 win over Hampton
4. West Allegheny - The Indians finished 2nd in a 3-way tie atop the Parkway thanks to a 5-3 win over Montour. They have been in a ton of close games all season and have found ways to win.
5. West Mifflin - The Titans boast one of the best running backs in AAA, but came up short against TJ for the Conference title
6. Montour - The Spartans might be the best team in AAA. They were #1 for much of the year until they were knocked off by West Allegheny. This is a dangerous team that could very well win it all for the second straight year
7. Hampton - The Talbots rebounded from an early season loss to Greensburg Salem to go on a winning streak that didn't end until they fell to Mars in the last game. 
8. Franklin Regional - The Panthers have a solid team with a great running back in Dane Brown. They will be a tough out.
9. Trinity - The 3rd place team from the Big Nine gets bumped up a little because teams from the same conference can't meet in the first round.
10. Elizabeth Forward - The Warriors have one of the best defenses in AAA, holding both TJ and West Mifflin under 30 points. 
11. Knoch - Given how the seeding above went, Knoch is slightly below their "true seed" and gets a rematch of the WPIAL Championship game with Montour. Tough luck for the Knights.
12. Hopewell - The graduation of Rushel Shell hurt the Vikings, but they still found their way back to the playoffs
13. Ringgold - The Rams enter the playoffs having lost their last 3 games
14. Blackhawk - After seemingly being down and out with a 1-6 record, Blackhawk rebounded to beat Chartiers Valley and Ambridge the last two weeks of the season and win a 3-way tie for the last playoff spot. 
15. Belle Vernon - Much like Blackhawk, Belle Vernon was mired down at the bottom of the standings before winning 3 of their last 4 to earn the "Wild Card" spot. Even though they were the last team in, they get the 15 seed because TJ is the #1 seed and they can't play TJ in the first round.
16. Hollidaysburg - Hollidaysburg beat Highlands early in the season and rode that victory all the way through a 3-way tie with Highlands and Indiana to earn the 5th spot from the Greater Allegheny Conference.


Allegheny Conference - 1. Freeport (7-1, 7-2), 2. Burrell (7-1, 8-1), 3. Shady Side Academy (6-2, 6-3), 4. Valley (5-3, 6-3)
Century Conference - 1. South Fayette (8-0, 9-0), 2. Seton-La Salle (7-1, 8-1), 3. South Allegheny (6-2, 7-2), 4. Steel Valley (4-4, 4-5)
Interstate Conference - 1. Washington (8-0, 9-0), 2. Jeanette (7-1, 8-1), 3. Mt Pleasant (6-2, 7-2), 4. Greensburg Central Catholic (5-3, 6-3)
Midwestern Conference - 1. Aliquippa (7-0, 9-0), 2. Beaver (6-1, 8-1), 3. Beaver Falls (5-2, 7-2), 4. Freedom (3-4, 4-5)

Predicted Playoff Seeding
1. Aliquippa - The Quips put together one of the most dominant seasons in their storied history, racking up a WPIAL-leading 470 points while only surrendering 36. 
2. South Fayette - South Fayette has returned to form from the season where they won the WPIAL championship. They have a Brumbaugh at quarterback and a Pitt recruit at Wide Receiver. Brett Brumbaugh threw for almost 2000 yards and 30 touchdowns. They might be the only team in AA that can challenge Aliquippa.
3. Washington - The Prexies put together a dominant season on the shoulders of junior RB Shai McKenzie who ran for 1500 yards and 25 touchdowns.
4. Jeanette - The Jayhawks only loss was an 18-15 defeat by Washington. Jeanette dominated the lesser opponents on their schedule, but only made it past the other playoff teams (Mt Pleasant and GCC) by one point each.
5. Freeport - The Jackets got blown out of the water by Washington two weeks ago, but their head-to-head victory over rival Burrell was enough to give them the Allegheny Conference crown.
6. Seton-La Salle - The Rebels only loss was a 51-12 drubbing by South Fayette. That was the only time the Rebels staunch defense gave up more than 7 points in a game.
7. Beaver - The Bobcats gave Aliquippa their closest game of the season, but still fell 39-7. Beaver's defense wasn't as stout as last season.
8. Burrell - The Bucs are a good team whose only loss was to Freeport in a game where their quarterback was hurt. RB Cole Bush ran for 1500 yards and 26 touchdowns this season.
9. Beaver Falls - The Tigers got embarrassed by Aliquippa on the Game of the Week on ROOT a few weeks back but rebounded by beating Central Valley, one of the top teams in AAA last week.
10. South Allegheny - The Gladiators put together a season for the ages, returning to the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
11. Mt. Pleasant - The Vikings averaged almost 40 points per game and came close against Jeanette.
12. Greensburg Central Catholic - GCC started slow but rebounded to make the playoffs on the backs of one of the best defenses in AA that gave up only 12 points per game.
13. Shady Side Academy - The Indians won a Casket Match against Kittanning to secure a playoff spot in the last game of the season.
14. Valley - In my season preview, I dubbed Valley as my sleeper team in AA. For a team that carried a 22-game losing streak into the season, they turned things around fast, including an upset of conference champion Freeport.
15. Freedom - The Bulldogs made their way out of the mess at the bottom of the Midwestern Conference to earn their first playoff berth in years. They should be the #16 seed but get bumped up because they can't face Aliquippa in Round 1.
16. Steel Valley - The Ironmen get the bad luck of being shuffled down to face Aliquippa because Freedom can't.


Big Seven Conference - 1. Sto-Rox (7-1, 8-1), 2. Rochester (7-1, 8-1), 3. Neshannock (7-1, 8-1), 4. Union (5-3, 6-3)
Black Hills Conference - 1. Clairton (9-0, 9-0), 2. Monessen (8-1, 8-1), 3. Brentwood (6-3, 6-3), 4. Bishop Canevin (6-3, 6-3)
Eastern Conference - 1. North Catholic (7-1, 7-2), 2. Springdale (6-2, 6-3), 3. Apollo-Ridge (6-2, 6-3), 4. Avonworth (5-3, 5-4)
Tri-County South Conference - 1. Beth-Center (7-1, 8-1), 2. Jefferson-Morgan (6-2, 7-2), 3. Carmichaels (6-2, 7-2), 4. Frazier (6-2, 7-2)

Predicted Playoff Seeding
1. Clairton - Bout Dat streak
2. Sto-Rox - The Vikings beat Rochester in the last game of the season to earn the conference title. A 1-point loss to Neshannock is the only blemish on their record and they look to return to Heinz Field for the second consecutive season.
3. Monessen - They boast WVU recruit Chavaz Rawlins at QB who accounted for over 1400 yards of total offense this season. Their only loss was to Clairton.
4. Rochester - The Rams carried an undefeated record into the last week of the season before losing to Sto-Rox. They finish 2nd in the Big Seven based on a head-to-head win over Neshannock.
5. North Catholic - My alma mater won their second conference title in 4 seasons on the legs of sophomore RB PJ Fulmore who ran for over 1100 yards and 14 scores. The Trojans got stomped in a non-conference loss to Neshannock so I don't see any way they get seeded higher than Rochester.
6. Beth-Center - The Bulldogs were expected to run through the Tri-County South Conference, but a 21-14 loss to Frazier marred their record and was the only time they were held under 35 points.
7. Springdale - The Dynamos finally get seeded on the side of the bracket opposite Clairton. They have a dominant running game behind 1400-yard rusher Sean Dugan and the 3rd best defense in Class A.
8. Jefferson-Morgan - The Rockets came in second in the Tri-County South, winning a 3-way tiebreaker with Carmichaels and Frazier on head-to-head victories over both.
9. Neshannock  - The Lancers are probably one of the top 5 teams in Class A, having drubbed North Catholic to the tune of 42-7 just 2 weeks ago, but because they got the short end of the stick on the 3-way tie atop the Big Seven, they will have to play Clairton in the second round.
10. Brentwood - The Spartans have been the center of controversy this year from incidents that occurred at a basketball game against Monessen in the spring to "mysteriously" turning on the sprinklers right before their game against Clairton to try to slow down the Bears. 
11. Bishop Canevin - They lost a lot of talent from last year's team, but still put together a solid playoff season, which was an accomplishment in the brutal Black Hills Conference
12. Union - The Scotties were one of the surprises of the season, coming from the bottom of the Big Seven last year to making the playoffs. This is a dangerous team that can put points on the board. Don't be surprised if they pull a first round upset.
13. Apollo-Ridge - The Vikings were great in their wins but terrible in their losses. Fortunately, their first year in Single-A saw them in the Eastern Conference and head-to-head wins over Northgate and Avonworth (in OT) got them in.
14. Carmichaels - The Mighty Mikes finished 3rd by virtue of a head-to-head win over Frazier. The Tri-County South is not a good conference, so that isn't saying much.
15. Avonworth - The Antelopes stopped a 2-point conversion try in overtime to beat rival Northgate in a Casket Match and make the playoffs. That's about as exciting as it gets.
16. Frazier - They were the only team to beat Beth-Center this season, but lost to Jefferson-Morgan and Carmichaels head-to-head

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