Friday, November 9, 2012

WPIAL Quarterfinals Preview

The first round of the WPIAL playoffs saw a handful of "upsets" that weren't really upsets because of the way the WPIAL seeded teams. Two running backs - Washington's Shai McKenzie and Clairton's Tyler Boyd - both scored six touchdowns. Boyd finished the night with the unbelievable stat line of 10 carries, 236 yards and 6 touchdowns. If you're keeping score at home, McKenzie and Boyd individually outscored 51 of the 64 teams that played last week. Boyd also scored his 100th career touchdown, putting him within striking distance of the state record 123 TDs. As we move to the Quarterfinals this week, the games move to neutral sites.


1. North Allegheny (7-0, 10-0) vs 9. Bethel Park (6-2, 7-3) at North Hills
The two-time defending champs handled Altoona in the first round while Bethel Park and their freshman quarterback took care of business on the road in McKeesport. NA has been smoking teams all year to the tune of a 35-point average margin of victory. Bethel was the only team to beat conference champion Upper St Clair and was sound defensively, giving up over 25 points only twice. Prediction: North Allegheny

4. Seneca Valley (6-1, 9-1) vs 5. Mt Lebanon (7-1, 8-2) at North Allegheny
Both of these teams lost early in the season to North Allegheny and are looking for a shot at revenge in the semi-finals. This is the ROOT Sports game of the week and for good reason. These are two of the best offenses in Quad-A. Seneca Valley is 2nd (averaging 40.3 points per game) and Mt Lebanon is 5th, about a touchdown behind at 32.3 points per game. Seneca Valley can beat you both on the ground with 1500-yard rusher Forrest Barnes or through the air with 1500-yard passer Jordan Brown. On the other side, Mt Lebanon QB Tyler Roth is leading the WPIAL in passing with almost 2400 yards. Prediction: Seneca Valley

2. Gateway (8-0, 9-1) vs 7. Woodland Hills (6-2, 8-2) at Norwin
Gateway ran through the Foothills Conference with the top offense in Quad-A, their only loss coming to top-seeded North Allegheny. Gateway is filled with D-1 talent, including QB Thomas Woodson who is 4th in the WPIAL in passing with over 2200 yards. Woodland Hills has had a good season, but they don't have enough offense to run with Gateway. Their only hope is to keep the game low-scoring and win it at the end. Prediction: Gateway

3. Upper St Clair (7-1, 9-1) vs 11. Central Catholic (5-2, 8-2) at Baldwin
These two teams met last year in a semi-final that seemed like a simple stepping-stone before the inevitable Central Catholic-North Allegheny showdown at Heinz Field. But Pete Coughlin became a legend, starting his first game at quarterback for the Panthers and leading them to an upset victory over Central. The Panthers proceeded to take NA to overtime in the Championship Game. This year, Coughlin is the entrenched starter at USC and carried his team to a 9-1 regular season and will once again have to get past a defensively stout Central Catholic team in the playoffs. Prediction: Upper St Clair


1. Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 10-0) vs 8. Franklin Regional (6-2, 8-2) at Elizabeth Forward
In a matchup of strength-on-strength, the top offense in AAA (TJ averaged 45 points per game) faces off against the top defense in AAA (FR averaged just 6.8 points against per game). On the other side of the ball, both TJ's defense and FR's offense were top 5 units in AAA. This should be a close game, but you have to like TJ's chances with 1800-yard passer Joe Carroll. Prediction: Thomas Jefferson

4. West Allegheny (7-1, 9-1) vs 5. Montour (7-1, 9-1) at Chartiers Valley
In a rematch of the lowest-scoring game of the season where West Allegheny toppled then #1 Montour 5-3, the Spartans and Indians clash again. There will probably be more scoring this time around, but these are two of the best defenses in AAA so it wouldn't be a surprise to see another slow offensive game. Whoever wins this game might just wind up hoisting the trophy at the end of the year. Prediction: Montour

2. Mars (7-1, 9-1) vs 7. West Mifflin (7-1, 9-1) at Fox Chapel
West Mifflin handled a Greater Allegheny Conference opponent in the first round, and now gets a chance against the GAC champion Mars. These are two offensive stalwarts, both with top 5 units that average over 36 points per game. Both of these teams were downright dominant on the ground this year, with West Mifflin RB Jimmy Wheeler rushing for 1800 yards (2nd in WPIAL) and Mars RB Josh Schultheis rushing for over 1600 (5th in WPIAL). Prediction: Mars

3. Central Valley (7-1, 8-2) vs 11. Hopewell (4-4, 5-5) at Ambridge
Central Valley eeked by Belle Vernon in the first round and get star WR Robert Foster back from his one-game suspension. Foster is a difference-maker, but the Warriors are still without their starting QB and RB. Hopewell has had an up-and-down season, and Central Valley should have enough talent on their roster to move on to the Semi-Finals, but don't be surprised if this game is close. Prediction: Central Valley


1. Aliquippa (7-0, 10-0) vs 9. Mt Pleasant (6-2, 8-2) at Peters Twp
The Quips have blasted every opponent in their path this season. Mt Pleasant presents a unique challenge as it is likely the best offense Aliquippa has seen this year, and they are battle-tested, winning a close game against GCC and falling just short of Jeanette. That said, the Quips are loaded at the skill positions and are other-worldly on defense. Prediction: Aliquippa

4. Jeanette (7-1, 9-1) vs 5. Beaver (6-1, 9-1) at Hampton
It's hard to know what to expect from Jeanette this season. They pounded inferior opponents but struggled against playoff competition from the Interstate conference. The Jayhawks beat Mt. Pleasant and GCC by 1 point each and fell to Washington by just 3. That's a very thin margin between being conference champs and finishing 4th. Beaver rolled through their schedule before getting stomped by Aliquippa in the season finale. Jeanette has the experience in close games that Beaver does not. Prediction: Jeanette

2. South Fayette (8-0, 10-0) vs 10. Beaver Falls (5-2, 8-2) at Moon
As dominant as Aliquippa has been, South Fayette has been just as good. Sophomore QB Brett Brumbaugh is second in the WPIAL in passing with 2253 yards. The Lions have forced a mercy rule against every opponent so far, and this week shouldn't be any different. Prediction: South Fayette

3. Washington (8-0, 10-0) vs 6. Seton-La Salle (7-1, 9-1) at Canon-McMillan
Seton-La Salle has flown under the radar a bit this season after an early-season loss to South Fayette. They only gave up more than a touchdown once in the regular season (51 points to South Fayette) and pitched 4 shutouts. That said, Washington is a better team than everyone else they've faced. Prexies RB Shai McKenzie leads the WPIAL in rushing with over 2100 yards and is coming off a first round game where he found the end zone 6 times. The Prexies averaged 45 points per game this season, which was 3rd best in AA. Prediction: Washington


1. Clairton (9-0, 10-0) vs 9. Brentwood (6-3, 7-3) at Belle Vernon
The first meeting between these two teams was rife with controversy as Brentwood "accidentally" turned on their rarely-used sprinklers right after kickoff to water down the field in an attempt to slow down the Bears. The wet field "slowed down" Clairton to the extent that they only beat Brentwood by 35 (42-7), which broke a 4-game streak of the Bears breaking the 50-point mark. There won't be any errant sprinklers this week on Belle Vernon's artificial turf, but the Bears might be even better. Prediction: Clairton

5. Monessen (8-1, 9-1) vs 13. Neshannock (7-1, 9-1) at Chartiers-Houston
Monessen is led by WVU-recruit Chavas Rawlins who accounted for over 1800 yards passing and rushing this season. On the other side, Neshannock QB Ernie Burkes is also a dual-threat who put up over 2000 yards of total offense. Monessen's only loss was to Clairton and Neshannock's only mis-step was against Rochester. Prediction: Neshannock

2. Sto-Rox (7-1, 9-1) vs 10. Union (5-3, 7-3) at Mars
Sto-Rox won the Big Seven Conference after beating Rochester in the last week of the season and winning the 3-way tiebreaker. In a rematch of Big Seven Conference foes, Sto-Rox seemingly has an advantage after beating Union 48-21 earlier this season. Prediction: Sto-Rox

3. Rochester (7-1, 9-1) vs 6. North Catholic (7-1, 8-2) at Keystone Oaks (Dormont Stadium)
In a rematch of a semi-final game from a few years ago, two of the top RBs in Single-A face off. Rochester is led by 1600-yard rusher Dante Marsick and North Catholic boasts sophomore sensation PJ Fulmore who ran for 1500. Even though Rochester is a much better team, as a North Catholic Alum, there's no way I'm picking against the Trojans. Homer Pick: North Catholic

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