Don't forget to bookmark my WPIAL Standings Page (the only one available with all tiebreakers listed!) I should note that teams are organized in Conference previews by my predicted order of finish.
Also, all helmet images courtesy of PA Helmet Project.
View A: Big Seven in a larger map
After seven years of missing the playoffs, Neshannock has reached the semi-finals in each of the last two seasons. The burden of the offense will fall on Senior RB Eli Owens who ran for 1,469 yards and 13 TDs as a junior and 1,268 yards as a sophomore. With Sto-Rox gone from the Big Seven, this is the Lancers' conference to lose at this point. Neshannock had the 5th best offense in Class A last season and return their top two receivers in Jimmy Medure and Rocco Fazio. The key to their success will be finding someone to take over under center as dual-threat QB Ernie Burkes graduated.
South Side Beaver
View A: Black Hills in a larger map
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic
Ring The Bell Again. The hallowed halls of Troy Hill have shut their doors for the last time, but the Victory Bell and the PIAA State Champions trophy will make their way up 279 to their new home in Cranberry. Things will be different for my alma mater this year, which tacks "Cardinal Wuerl" in front of their name and finally gets air-conditioned classrooms! Some things will stay the same, including still playing their home games at Lt JC Stone Field in North Park. The reigning State Champions return leading rusher PJ Fulmore, who is one of the top prospects in the WPIAL and verbally committed to Duquesne. Fulmore ran for 1213 yards last year despite missing 6 games due to injury. Fulmore was forced into quarterback duty his second game back when QB Adam Sharlow (who also returns for his senior year) suffered an ACL injury. Fellow rising senior Jerome Turner ran for 1151 yards and 24 TDs last season. Keep an eye out for speedy Sophomore Mario Latronica who ran for 566 yards and 8 TDs as a Freshman. The Trojans are loaded with talent at the offensive skill positions, but will have to replace most of their offensive line which was the key in their run to the state title. Ring. The. Bell. Again.
The Spartans have made the playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons, including each of the last 6. Senior QB Connor McWilliams is one of the best in Class A and comes off a junior year where he threw for 1745 yards and 14 TDs. Top rushers Pat Carr and Bill Madeja return. Madeja was also the team's leading receiver. 6'1" receiver Tyler Paranzino also returns for his senior season, giving McWilliams a full complement of weapons to work with. The Spartans should be right in the mix for the playoffs once again this season and could challenge some of the teams at the top of the conference.
View A Eastern in a larger map
Greensburg Central Catholic
The Dynamos saw their 11-year playoff run come to an end last season. Their biggest problem was their inability to find the end zone, scoring only 63 points all season. The Dynamos will need to improve on offense, which was the 3rd lowest-scoring in Single-A and the 5th-lowest in the entire WPIAL. Quarterback Daniel Franskousky returns for his senior year after leading the team in rushing and passing last season. Second-leading rusher Austin Kline and leading receiver TE Adam Lock return for their senior seasons as well. While they have never played in a conference with Monessen, there is a budding rivalry as Springdale has knocked Monessen out of the playoffs in 6 of the last 11 seasons.
The Tigers have won 5 games in the last two seasons, which may not sound like much, but for a program that was the basement-dweller of the Eastern Conference, that's a step in the right direction. Leading scorer RB Montay Clancy returns for his senior season. The Tigers will be celebrating the 100-year anniversary of their victory in the first ever WPIAL Championship. There was a great article in the Trib about it. The biggest hurdle for Wilksinburg this year will be finding able bodies after they started camp with just 17 players on the roster.
View A Tri-County South in a larger map
The Bulldogs were the cream of the crop in the Tri-County South last year, going 9-0 and only having one victory of less than 10 points. However, the WPIAL did not believe in their 9-0 record and gave them the 8th seed in Class A where Beth-Center fell 42-28 to Apollo-Ridge in the first round. Anthony Welsh led the team in rushing with 1202 yards and 21 TDs as a sophomore. The Bulldogs have made the playoffs in each of the last 11 seasons and have won four of the last 6 conference titles. Even with the graduation of their quarterback and leading receiver, Beth-Center is still the favorite to finish atop the Tri-County South. Whether or not they are able to break the conference's 3-year playoff losing streak is a different matter, however.
Big Seven: Neshannock, Rochester, Western Beaver, Riverside
Black Hills: CWNC, Avonworth, Brentwood, Bishop Canevin
Eastern: Clairton, GCC, Jeanette, Springdale
Tri-County South: Beth-Center, California, Avella, Carmichaels
Championship: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic over Clairton