Thursday, October 31, 2013

WPIAL Playoff Preview: Round 1

64 teams will take the field on Friday night with the hopes of being crowned WPIAL champions. All games are at the higher seeded team on Friday Night at 7:30.


1. Upper St Clair (8-0, 9-0) vs. 16. Kiski (5-3, 5-4)
The dominant Panthers defense, which posted 6 shutouts this season, will have to contain dual-threat QB Chad Kuhn. The Upper St Clair offense boasts a 900-yard passer in Joe Repischak, an 800-yard rusher in Trevor Morrow and a workhorse short-yardage back in Mac Pope who has 13 touchdowns.

8. Bethel Park (6-2, 6-3) vs. 9. North Allegheny (5-2, 6-3)
The 3-time defending Quad-A Champions take to the road to face a well-balanced Bethel Park team. Both teams could be without their starting QB as Bethel Park QB Levi Matheny reportedly has a hand injury and North Allegheny QB Jeff Clemens injured his knee last week against North Hills.

4. Woodland Hills (7-1, 7-2) vs. 13. Pine-Richland (3-4, 5-4)
The Wolverines were tabbed by many as the #1 team in the state inthe preseason and they ride a 7-game winning streak into the playoffs. Their offense goes through sophomore RB Miles Sanders (980 yards, 12 TD). Pine-Richland has a talented squad that lost two one-score games and put up 42+ in each of their 5 wins, led by 1600-yard passer Ben DiNucci and 1000-yard rusher Connor Slomka.

5. Seneca Valley (6-1, 8-1) vs. 12. Hempfield (5-3, 6-3)
The Raiders were a bit of a surprise in the Northern Eight this year after losing most of last year's semi-final team to graduation. Dual-threat QB TJ Holl (1418 passing yards, 516 rushing yards) has the Raiders poised to make another playoff run. Standing in their way is Hempfield and 1300-yard rusher Joey DeFloria who gave every defense he faced fits this year. Hempfield might be the most dangerous team on the bottom half of the bracket.

3. McKeesport (8-0, 9-0) vs. 14. Peters Twp (4-4, 5-4)
The Tigers returned to the flexbone offense and posted an undefeated season that culminated with a convincing victory over Gateway. RB Mikell Moore ran for 795 yards and 15 TDs while QB David Queen ran for 592 yards and 12 TDs. The Indians also feature a two-headed beast in the backfield with RB Marcus Ubinger (848 yards, 10 TDs) and QB Cory Owen (762 yards, 10 TDs).

6. Penn-Trafford (6-2, 6-3) vs. 11. Penn Hills (4-4, 5-4)
900-yard rusher Devin Austin and 1000-yard passer Brett Laffon carried Penn-Trafford into the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season. Penn Hills primarily relied on dual-threat QB Billy Kisner who ran for 1100 yards and threw for 450.

2. Central Catholic (7-0, 9-0) vs. 15. Baldwin (3-5, 4-5)
The Vikings could easily have been the #1 seed and have been so good at running the ball with Luigi Lista-Brinza and played such stifling defense that Florida State recruit JJ Cosentino has only had to attempt 61 passes all season. Baldwin boasts the only 1000-yard receiver in the WPIAL in Luke Smorey, who helped propel QB Doug Altavilla into the top 10 in the WPIAL in passing.

7. Gateway (6-2, 7-2) vs. 10. North Hills (4-3, 5-4)
Another year, another Gateway team loaded with Division 1-caliber talent that vastly under achieved. Despite their 2-game losing streak at the end of the season, Gateway has enough talent on offense to get to the quarterfinals for the 12th consecutive year. North Hills has the lowest number of points scored by any team in the Quad-A Playoffs.


1. West Allegheny (8-0, 9-0) vs. 16. Hollidaysburg (3-5, 3-6)
The defending AAA Champs boast a much more balanced offense this year in their defense of their title. Led by QB Andrew Koester (1040 yards, 14 TDs) and RB Chayse Dillon (795 yards, 7 TDs) and scoring sensation Tory Delmonico who was the team's leading receiver, second leading rusher and leading scorer. Hollisdaysburg's -92 point differential was the worst of any AAA playoff team.

8. Ringgold (6-2, 7-2) vs. 9. Indiana (4-4, 4-5)
Don't get too caught up on Indiana being seeded over New Castle. The WPIAL was in a serious bind with the Little Indians. After the way the top 8 teams were seeded, Indiana couldn't be #10 (same conference as Highlands), #11 (same conference as Mars), #12 (played West Mifflin this year), or #13 (same conference as Franklin Regional). This meant Indiana either had to be the #9 seed or the #14 seed, which would have put teams from the GAC at 14, 15 and 16. Ringgold QB Nico Law is the true definition of a dual threat. He threw for 1353 yards and 14 TDs while rushing for 1116 yards and 13 TDs.

4. Franklin Regional (7-1, 8-1) vs. 13. Montour (4-4, 5-4)
The biggest storyline in this game is that Montour has suspended five players - including three starters - for violations of team rules. Franklin Regional has a three-headed monster in their backfield with QB Chanran Singh, RB Paul Emanuele and RB Brett Zanotto who have all rushed for over 450 yards and at least 6 TDs.

5. West Mifflin (7-1, 8-1) vs. 12. Moon (5-3, 6-3)
West Mifflin boasts the WPIAL's leading rusher in Jimmy Wheeler, who is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. Wheeler has single-handedly won games for the Titans this year. Moon is in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. This game might feature the most combined yards of any two running backs this year, with Wheeler's 2022 yards and Moon's Cole Blake's 1457.

3. Central Valley (7-1, 8-1) vs. 14. Belle Vernon (4-4, 4-5)
The Warriors have pitched 5 shutouts on defense and have a dynamic RB duo in JaQuan Pennington (738 yards, 9 TDs) and Jordan Whitehead (544 yards, 14 TDs). Belle Vernon has been hot and cold all season, laying duds against good teams and blowing out bad teams.

6. Mars (7-1, 8-1) vs. 11. Elizabeth Forward (5-3, 6-3)
Junior RB Josh Schultheis ran for 1459 yards and 22 TDs to lead the Fighting Planets to a tie atop the Greater Allegheny Conference. Elizabeth Forward boats a dual-threat QB with Division 1 potential in JaQuan Davidson who has rushed for over 1000 yards and 13 TDs and threw for 870 yards and 14 TDs, the lions share going to Matt Bernadowski who is 2nd in AAA with 679 receiving yards.

2. Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 9-0) vs. 15. Hampton (3-5, 4-5)
Thomas Jefferson topped West Mifflin for the Big Nine Conference title thanks to a superior defensive effort led by Michigan recruit Chase Winovich. Hampton and 1200-yard passer Nick Grabowski will have to find a way to solve the Jaguars defense. TJ hasn't played a game closer than 21 points all season.

7. Highlands (6-2, 6-3) vs. 10. New Castle (6-2, 7-2)
The Rams rode RB Elijah Jackson and his 1137 yards and 14 TDs into the playoffs. New Castle's dynamic offense is led by Ohio State recruit Malik Hooker.


1. Aliquippa (7-0, 9-0) vs. 16. South Park (5-3, 5-4) (played at Hopewell)
This is actually a rematch of an early September game between the Quips and the Eagles. Aliquippa won 45-14, which was actually their closest game outside of their 34-28 win over Beaver Falls. The Quips have one of the best backfield tandems in the WPIAL with 1000-yard rusher Terry Swanson and 900-yard rusher Dravon Henry. Henry has 20 TDs and Swanson has 14 while Henry is a highly recruited defensive back who has offers from Pitt, WVU and Alabama.

8. Quaker Valley (7-1, 7-2) vs. 9. New Brighton (5-2, 6-3)
Quaker Valley is hosting the first home playoff game in school history. Dual-threat QB Dane Jackson ran for 855 and threw for 600 for the Quakers. New Brighton's season was almost derailed when QB Gabe Greco was sidelined, but junior Payron Fath stepped in and threw for 878 yards and 11 TDs while rushing for 473 and 7 more scores.

4. Mt Pleasant (8-0, 9-0) vs. 13. Valley (5-3, 6-3)
Did the WPIAL purposefully matchup two teams named the Vikings? We will never know, but one thing we do know is that Mt Pleasant and workhorse back RB Tyler Mellors, who set a school record with 1370 yards and 24 TDs this season, are poised to make a deep run in the playoffs. Valley has their own talented back in 900-yard rusher Demetrius Houser.

5. Shady Side Academy (7-1, 8-1) vs. 12. Beaver (4-3, 6-3)
Shady Side Academy barely missed out on the conference title after missing a game-tying extra point against Kittanning that they had to attempt from 35 yards out due to an excessive celebration penalty. The Indians will have to find a way to slow down Beaver's aerial assault with the WPIAL's leading passer Alex Rowse (2151 yards, 34 TDs).

3. Kittanning (8-0, 9-0) vs. 14. Yough (5-3, 5-4)
The Wildcats finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1976. Braydon Toy leads Kittanning in passing (1515 yards, 20 TDs) and rushing (816 yards, 9 TDs). Yough also features a dynamic quarterback in Tyler Donahue who threw for 1514 yards and 18 TDs and ran for 500 yards and 8 TDs.

6. Beaver Falls (6-1, 7-2) vs. 11. Summit Academy (5-3, 5-4)
The Tigers were the only team to challenge Aliquippa this year and got the benefit of being seeded on the opposite side of the bracket from the Quips, setting up a potential rematch at Heinz Field. Beaver Falls has an 1100-yard passer in Dan Stratton and a 1000-yard rusher in Damian Rawl. Summit Academy is in the playoffs for the first time in school history.

2. South Fayette (8-0, 9-0) vs. 15. Greensburg Central Catholic (5-3, 5-4)
Brett Brumbaugh threw for over 1900 yards and 23 TDs, leading a dominant Lions offense that also featured 900-yard rusher Grant Fetchet and 800-yard receiver Justin Watson and averaged nearly 50 points per game. The Centurions will have to hope to crack the Lions defense - something no one else has managed to do this year - and will rely heavily on 1400-yard rusher Tyler Balla.

7. Washington (7-1, 8-1) vs. 10. Seton-La Salle (6-2, 7-2)
Were the Little Prexies penalized by the WPIAL for their use of an inelligible player even though the PIAA over-ruled the WPIAL? We may never know, but the defending runners up played well after losing all-state RB Shai McKenzie to an ACL injury earlier this year. This will be a clash of styles as Washington likes to run the ball while Seton-La Salle leans heavily on QB Tyler Perone who threw for 1826 yards and 19 TDs this season.


1. Sto-Rox (8-0, 9-0) vs. 16. Avella (5-3, 6-3)
Sto-Rox has been to Heinz Field each of the last two seasons, falling to Clairton in the championship game. The Vikings feature the WPIAL's all-time leading passer Lenny Williams. Avella is in the playoffs for the first time since 1976 thanks to 1200 yards and 16 TDs from QB Santino Paris.

8. Beth-Center (8-0, 9-0) vs. 9. Apollo-Ridge (6-2, 7-2)
There was a lot of outrage on the internet, particularly on the MSA Sports website and facebook page, about Tri-County South Champion Beth-Center being given the #8 seed in Class A. While there was some creative seeding done here with Carmichaels and Fort Cherry essentially being "flipped," the fact of the matter is that the Tri-County South is the WPIAL's weakest conference and a non-conference game against Vincentian does not provide an adequate measuring stick for the conference. Apollo-Ridge is a talented squad with a 1200-yard passer in Jesse Zelonka and a talented junior receiver in Tre Tipton.

4. Clairton (7-1, 7-1) vs. 13. Frazier (6-2, 7-2)
The five-time defending Class A champions are aligned on the same side of the bracket as Sto-Rox and while they suffered a defeat this year, it is their only loss in the past 71 games.This team is stacked with young talent in dual-threat QB Aaron Matthews, RB Lamont Wade and WR JoJuan Bray. The Bears defense will need to find a way to slow down Frazier's passing attack, led by 1600-yard passer Charlier Manack.

5. Carmichales (7-1, 8-1) vs. 12. Fort Cherry (7-1, 8-1)
This game is really "flipped" for seeding purposes because even though Fort Cherry finished in a 3-way tie for first atop the Black Hills Conference, they lost out on tiebreakers and had to start the playoffs on the road. RB Koltan Kobrys could be a household name before the playoffs are up as he did anything and everything for the Rangers this season. Carmichaels does have a balanced offense with 800-yard rusher Brennen McMinn and 800-yard receiver Tyler Aeschbacher, who helped propel QB Brandon Lawless to a 1400-yard season.

3. Monessen (7-1, 8-1) vs. 14. West Shamokin (5-3, 6-3)
The Greyhounds were the only team to beat Clairton in their last 71 outings. The Greayhounds have been successful running the ball and playing defense this year. Their offense primarily runs through Clintell Gillaspie who led the team in both rushing and receiving, tallying over 1400 yards of total offense and 26 TDs. QB Noah Rullo threw for 1200-yards and has  not thrown a pick yet this year. West Shamokin reached the playoffs for the first time in school history.

6. Neshannock (7-1, 7-2) vs. 11. Brentwood (5-3, 5-4)
Neshannock's only two losses were in one-score games to Sto-Rox and North Catholic. QB Ernie Burkes threw for over 900 and ran for over 800 this season, tallying 26 total touchdowns. His backfield partner, Eli Owens, ran for 1100-yards and found the end zone 14 times. In a drastic contrast in styles, Neshannovk's ground and pound approach will clash with Brentwod and QB Connor McWilliams' 1600 passing yards.

2. North Catholic (8-0, 9-0) vs. 15. Western Beaver (5-3, 5-4)
The Trojans enter the playoffs without starting QB Adam Sharlow who was injured against Neshannock. All signs point to the Trojans turning back to the PJ Fulmore Wildcat that carried them to the semi-finals last season. Western Beaver relies heavily on RB Hunter Roknich, who ran for over 1200 yards this season.

7. Avonworth (7-1, 8-1) vs. 10. Laurel (6-2, 7-2)
The Lopes only loss came in a heartbreaker to North Catholic where they had the ball down by 1 with under 2 minutes to play and they threw a pick-6. Lopes QB Matt Donovan threw for over 1000 yards this season and RB Moses Giles ran for over 700, finding the end zone 15 times. Laurel had 3 rushers run for over 400 yards this season, making it difficult to defend against their offense.

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