Friday, September 20, 2013

WPIAL Week 4 Games of the Week

What was shaping up to be the Year of the Running Back took a dramatic turn for the worse last week when three star players suffered injuries. Shai McKenzie of Washington High, one of the top recruits in the state, suffered an ACL injury that ended his high school career. This was terrible for McKenzie, but the PG reported this week that all five of his top choices (Pitt, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Arkansas) remain interested. Along with McKenzie, Steel Valley's D'Andre Pickens (who entered last week in the Top 5 in the WPIAL in rushing) suffered an ankle injury that he battled through against South Fayette. In Single-A, Apollo-Ridge star receiver Tre Tipton was also injured. Add Tipton's injury to the sprained ankle North Catholic running back PJ Fulmore suffered at the beginning of the season and it adds up to two of the best players in the Eastern Conference have had to watch games from the sidelines. The higher classifications have not been without their own drama, as Central Valley suspended their coach for two games for alleged recruiting. The Warriors are currently deadlocked with defending Champion West Allegheny atop the Parkway Conference and will face off next week. This week features good games at every level, with many of the top teams facing their toughest tests of the early season.

Big Boys Game of the Week
Upper St Clair (3-0, 3-0) at Penn Hills (3-0, 3-0)

The only two undefeated teams remaining in the Southeastern Conference do battle in Week 4. The Panthers under legendary coach Jim Render have reloaded after losing most of last year's team to graduation. The Panthers scored an early-season  victory over Woodland Hills in the Wolvarena and make their second trip to the eastern suburbs to take on Penn Hills. The Indians have run their way to the top of the conference on the legs of dual-threat QB Billy Kisner (568 rushing yards, 5 TDs) and RB Isaiah Jones (438 rushing yards, 5 TDs). Kisner is currently 5th in the WPIAL in rushing and has an opportunity to move up with the injuries to McKenzie and Pickens.

Honorable Mentions: Penn-Trafford (2-0, 2-1) at McKeesport (2-0, 3-0), Pine-Richland (2-1, 2-1) at North Allegheny (1-1, 2-1)

Parkway Conference Game of the Week
Mars (2-1, 2-1) at Highlands (3-0, 3-0)

So remember that time I told you guys that until the last week of the year when TJ played West Mifflin that there would always be a Parkway Conference game that was better than any other game in AAA? Well, I lied. I could have chosen to highlight New Castle and Ohio State recruit Malik Hooker against Montour, but that would be discussing a battle for 4th place in the Parkway Conference. Instead, I'm going to focus on the battle for first place in the Greater Allegheny Conference. In Week 1, Franklin Regional knocked off Mars 20-13. Last week, Highlands continued their surprising start to 2013 by pitching a 17-0 shutout at Franklin Regional. The Rams, behind junior RB Elijah Jackson's 520 rushing yards, sit atop the Greater Allegheny Conference. This game will be decided on the ground as Jackson and Mars' junior sensation Josh Schultheis enter the game with almost identical statistics. Both have run for 520 yards with Jackson tallying 1 more carry. Schultheis has found the end zone 7 times to Jackson's 3, though Schultheis has had the advantage of facing the worst defense in AAA (Derry) who he ran over for 210 yards and 4 TDs.

Honorable Mention: New Castle (1-1, 2-1) at Montour (1-1, 2-1)

AA Game of the Week
New Brighton (2-0, 3-0) at Aliquippa (1-0, 3-0)

New Brighton might be the most surprising team in AA this season. The Lions have not made the playoffs since 2003, but are the highest scoring team in the WPIAL after three weeks and have pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season - toppling Beaver Area 64-49 in Week 2. The Lions face their toughest test yet in the two-time defending AA champion Quips. Aliquippa is a great team that is loaded with D1 recruits and they are even better at The Pit. This game will be a contrast of styles as New Brighton has relied on Gabe Greco, the third leading passer in the WPIAL (705 yards, 7 TDs). Greco is not just a pocket passer and has added 163 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. Aliquippa has one of the best secondaries in all the WPIAL with D1 recruit Dravon Henry anchoring the back end. On offense the Quips feature a triple-threat rushing attack with Henry (275 yards, 6 TDs), Terry Swanson (309 yards, 4 TDs) and Kazeon Pugh (213 yards, 5 TDs). If you make the trip to Aliquippa for this one, don't forget to bring some extra cash for the legendary gyros at The Pit.

Honorable Mentions: Burrell (1-1, 2-1) at Shady Side Academy (3-0, 3-0), Steel Valley (2-1, 2-1) at Seton-La Salle (3-0, 3-0), Beaver Area (1-1, 2-1) at Beaver Falls (3-0, 3-0)

Small School Game of the Week
Monessen (2-1, 2-1) at Clairton (3-0, 3-0)

From a steel town on the Ohio to a steel town on the Mon. The new-look Clairton Bears have continued The Streak but face their toughest test of the season in the Monessen Greyhounds. The Killer T's have graduated and are tearing it up for Pitt. (Did you see Tyler Boyd's game against New Mexico? Holy smokes what a player. But you would've known that if you had been reading my WPIAL posts the last two years.) These Bears are younger, but are incredibly talented. Freshman RB Lamont Wade has taken over the backfield and sophomore WR Aaron Williams, who measures in at an incredibly 6'5" has been dominant on the outside. Clairton was the last team in the WPIAL to allow a point this season, and Monessen's offense could be in for a long game. The Bears will be at home defending their 66-game winning streak with camera crews from NBC on site filming footage for a segment that may be used during Sunday Night Football.

Honorable Mentions: Avonworth (2-0, 3-0) at West Shamokin (3-0, 3-0), Avella (2-0, 3-0) at Jefferson-Morgan (2-1, 2-1)

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