Friday, August 29, 2014

WPIAL Week 1 Games of the Week

The opening night of the High School Football season is upon us. It has been 8 months since North Catholic and South Fayette lifted the giant Hershey's Bars that come with winning the State Championship. Now the task of defending their titles begins. If you want to get the low-down on every team, check out my WPIAL Season Previews for each classification.

If you're going to be at home tonight, keep an eye on the following hashtags on Twitter to follow along as people post score updates from games: #WPIAL #MSAscores #Skylights

Also, if you're not already, follow the @MSAsports twitter account which will post score updates and bookmark the MSA Scoreboard for quick reference at the end of the night. They get the final scores up faster than anyone. Also, MSA Sports broadcasts most games over the internet, here is their list of the 36 games they will be broadcasting tonight.

I'll update my WPIAL Standings Page at the end of the night. It's the only one available that includes all playoff tiebreakers (Gardner Points, WPIAL Points Tiebreaker and Head-to-Head wins).

AAAA Game of the Week
Upper St Clair at Penn Hills

There are a lot of good games on the Quad-A slate this week, including a monster matchup in the Northern Eight Conference between North Allegheny and Seneca Valley. However, the honor of Week 1 Game of the Week in Quad-A goes to Jim Render's Upper St Clair Panthers who have a lot of new faces starting on both sides of the ball against Penn Hills, who is loaded with talented returning starters. Penn Hills is led by dual-threat QB Billy Kisner who accounted for over 1500 yards of total offense last season. Upper St Clair typically gets off to a hot start and this will be an important game between two of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference. It is strange to say a Week 1 game has playoff implications, but the loser of this game may very well have to go on the road in the playoffs rather than having a first round game at home.

Honorable Mentions: Penn-Trafford at Kiski, North Allegheny at Seneca Valley, Bethel Park at Central Catholic

AAA Game of the Week
Ringgold at Thomas Jefferson

Not only does this game have playoff implications, it has conference championship implications. With Elizabeth Forward and West Mifflin reloading, the prevailing thought is that Ringgold and Thomas Jefferson are the top two teams in the Big Nine Conference. TJ has been a perennial powerhouse that you could write in sharpie on the top line of the conference standings at the beginning of the season and feel good about it. However, Ringgold returns Nico Law, one of the most exciting players in the WPIAL. Last year, Law threw for nearly 1500 yards and ran for over 1200. Thomas Jefferson is usually a defensive powerhouse under Bill Cherpak, but they will have their work cut out for them against Ringgold tonight. The winner of this game will be the clear favorite to win the Big Nine conference.

Honorable Mentions: Franklin Regional at Knoch, Mars at Indiana, Central Valley at Montour, West Allegheny at New Castle

AA Game of the Week
South Park at Seton-La Salle

This week doesn't have a great slate of games in either of the lower classifications. However, this Century Conference showdown between two teams that went to the playoffs last year is worth keeping an eye on. Seton-La Salle has openly spoke about their aspirations to be State Champions this year. The Rebels will have to get past South Fayette in conference play first, but they have a few weeks to prepare for that one. The Rebels are a good team with returning 2300-yard passer Tyler Perone and 800-yard receiver Danzel McKinley-Lewis. Similarly, South Park returns a number of starters from their 2013 squad that made the playoffs for the first time in 8 years. With Quaker Valley QB Dane Jackson's injury, the second spot in the conference is certainly up for grabs. Seton-La Salle certainly thinks they can challenge South Fayette for the conference crown, but that remains to be seen after the Lions beat them twice by 24+ points last year.

Honorable Mentions: Shady Side Academy at Freeport

A Game of the Week

Monessen at GCC

Are you surprised I didn't just shamelessly plug my alma mater by talking about the CWNC-Northgate game here? Maybe you should be, but in terms of games between teams that went to the playoffs last year, Monessen-GCC is a much better matchup. This will be Greensburg Central Catholic's debut in Class A after moving down from AA where they had a very successful run of 11 playoff appearances and 3 trips to Heinz Field (and 1 WPIAL title). GCC typically has a very stout defense which should get a good test against a high-powered Monessen rushing attack. The Greyhounds lost a lot of talented players from the team that beat Clairton last season but return 1300-yard passer Noah Rullo. This should be a good litmus test for both teams to kick off the season - will GCC dominate now that they have moved down in classification?

Honorable Mentions: Avonworth at Chartiers-Houston, Avella at Frazier

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