Friday, September 26, 2014

WPIAL Week 5 Games of the Week

Week 5 is the halfway point in the WPIAL season and generally considered a watershed moment. The wheat has begun to separate from the chaff. Gooseegg Watch 2014 ended on two fronts last week when Springdale became the first team to score points against Clairton and Brownsville put points on the board. Only 24 of the 124 teams in the WPIAL have gone undefeated through 4 weeks and there are 4 games this week which feature head-to-head matchups between undefeated teams. I wrote a post yesterday on teams with the longest current winning and losing streaks. Additionally, @AJWPIAL and I got together this week and talked for an hour and a half about the season so far. Check it out and follow him on twitter and check out his blog WPIAL Football Zone.

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 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).

This is a monster week in AA as there are 3 games between unbeaten teams that will likely decide conference champions.

AAAA Game of the Week
North Hills (3-0, 4-0) at Pine-Richland (3-0, 4-0)

The Rams and Indians are both off to fast starts in the Northern Eight Conference. The two are tied with Central Catholic with 3-0 conference records and are clearly the top teams. Pine-Richland already has an overtime win over North Allegheny on their resume while North Hills has beefed their record with wins over Butler, Fox Chapel and Seneca Valley. The winner will not only solidify themselves as the primary challenger to Central Catholic in the conference, but also take a major step towards earning a home playoff game that comes with a top 2 finish. Pine-Richland's ben DiNucci is the WPIAL's leading passer with 1040 yards and 16 TDs through 4 games. Incredibly, DiNucci has 200 more yards and 4 more TDs than the next closest passer - Clairton's Ryan Williams. North Hills has built their offense on the ground and has 3 players with over 100 yards rushing in Nick Santucci, Jake Bruder and Andrew Bly (who also has over 100 yards receiving and leads the team in scoring).

Honorable Mentions: Norwin at Altoona, Woodland Hills at Upper St Clair

The Norwin-Altoona game has big implications in the Foothills Conference playoff race. Penn-Trafford and McKeesport have the top two spots essentially solidified but everything after that is open. Plum and Norwin are currently 2-1 in conference play while Connellsville is 2-2 and Altoona is 1-2 with a win over Plum. Five teams are guaranteed to make the playoffs, so this is the first of many games over the next few weeks that will sort out the middle of the Foothills standings. In the Southeastern Conference, Upper St Clair is off to a slow start at (1-2, 1-3) and is treading water for the 5th spot in the standings. Woodland Hills looks to be the best team in the conference and it seems surprising saying that a Jim Render team winning would be an "upset" but considering how things have gone for the Panthers this year, a USC win would be a huge upset.

AAA Game of the Week
Knoch (2-1, 2-2) at Hampton (3-0, 4-0)

Hampton is the only remaining undefeated team in the Greater Allegheny Conference. Knoch got off to a fast start with wins over Franklin Regional and Greensburg Salem, but lost to Gateway last week and threw the conference standings into disarray. There is a lot of uncertainty in the middle of the GAC standings and Knoch needs a win to keep themselves above the fray. On the other hand, a win by Hampton would further separate the Talbots from the pack. Hampton features dual-threat QB Nick Grabowski who has 305 passing yards and 3 TDs to go along with 203 rushing yards and 7 TDs. The Talbots have two players with over 200 rushing yards as Matt Rech has added 292 yards and 4 TDs. Knoch is led by QB Dan Farinelli who has thrown for 472 yards, primarily to Asa Adams and Cole Shinsky who both have over 100 receiving yards. RB Cody Milsom has added 200 yards on the ground for the Knights and leads the team with 5 TDs.

Honorable Mentions: West Allegheny at Montour, West Mifflin at Belle Vernon

West Allegheny and Central Valley are not just the top two teams in the Parkway Conference, they are likely the top two teams in AAA. Behind them, the Parkway is wide open but Montour looks to be the best of the rest. Can the Spartans make a statement against West Allegheny and stake their claim as the 3rd best team in the Parkway? There are 6 teams in the Big Nine Conference with at least 2 conference wins. Belle Vernon and West Mifflin both sit at 2-1 with wins over the bottom teams in the conference. This is an important game in the middle of the standings between two teams likely headed to the postseason.

AA Games of the Week
Apollo-Ridge (4-0, 4-0) at Highlands (4-0, 4-0)

As I discussed at the top, this is one of three games in AA that will likely decide the conference crown. Apollo-Ridge and Highlands have both defeated defending champion Kittanning in the last two weeks. Apollo-Ridge also has a win over Shady Side Academy, a perennial Allegheny Conference powerhouse. Both of these teams are loaded with talented players and this should be a fantastic game where the winner will be the clear favorite to win the conference crown. The Vikings are led by Pitt recruit Tre Tipton who is one of the best all-around athletes in AA. Tipton leads the team in passing (217 yards) and receiving (113 yards) and is second in rushing (442 yards) and has accounted for 8 total TDs. However, he has been overshadowed by sophomore RB Duane Brown who has 562 rushing yards, 87 receiving yards and 15 TDs. Highlands is not without their share of talented players and their offense has blossomed since  Bryaden Thimons took over at QB, throwing for 303 yards and 5 TDs. Elijah Jackson is 6th in the WPIAL in rushing with 627 yards and 8 TDs.

Mt Pleasant (4-0, 4-0) at Washington (4-0, 4-0)

Once again, the Vikings and Prexies are the top two teams in the Interstate Conference. Both teams have solid victories over teams in the bottom half of the conference on their resumes as well as hard-fought victories over an emerging Waynesburg team. The winner will have a clear advantage in the race for the Interstate title. Mt Pleasant has a well-balanced offense with dual-threat QB Nate Piesczak who has thrown for 318 yards and 3 TDs and ran for 175 yards and 2 scores. The Vikings once again have a strong running game with Jake Adamrovich (340 yards), Trevor Salopek (281 yards) and Chris Wagner (157 yards) all contributing in addition to Piesczak this year. On the other side, the Prexies also feature a balanced attack with QB Jonathan Spina throwing for 544 yards and 8 TDs, primarily to 6'2" WR DeQuay Isbell who has 317 yards and 7 TDs. On the ground, senior Malik Wells has shouldered the load, rushing for 400 yards and 7 TDs.

New Brighton (4-0, 4-0) at Aliquippa (4-0, 4-0)

At the beginning of the year, I said that I thought New Brighton would finish second in the Midwestern Conference and would be the biggest challenger to Aliquippa. The results to date have validated my prediction as Beaver smoked Beaver Falls 35-0 then turned around and got blown out of the water in the second half by New Brighton. When the dust settled, the Lions had routed the Bobcats 59-34. Aliquippa meanwhile has done what the Quips do: blow people out. The Quips have scored at least 44 points in every game and have not allowed more than 15. The second half of the season is a challenging slate for the Quips with games against New Brighton, Beaver, Mt Pleasant and Beaver Falls. Luckily for the Quips, all 4 of those games are at The Pit where they have one of the biggest homefield advantages in the WPIAL (with all due respect to The Wolvarena).

A Game of the Week
Springdale (2-2, 2-2) at Jeanette (4-0, 4-0)

This week's Class A slate is not nearly as loaded as the AA slate, but there are still games with playoff implications. In the Eastern Conference, widely considered the best conference in Class A, There are five playoff-capable teams battling over 4 spots (Clairton, Jeanette, Monessen, GCC, Springdale). Springdale suffered an early setback when they lost to Leechburg in a game where seemingly half their team got injured. However, the Dynamos should not be counted out of the playoff race. If they can find a way to get 2 or 3 more wins, it might be enough to get them to the postseason. The Dynamos have an opportunity to make a statement against a Jeanette team that has feasted on the bottom half of the Conference through 5 games, averaging over 50 points per game against Riverview, Serra, Leechburg and Wilkinsburg. This will be the first real test for the Jayhawks since moving down to Class A. A win by Jeanette will set up a showdown at the top of the conference between the Jayhawks and Clairton next week.

Honorable Mentions: Fort Cherry at Avonworth, Jefferson-Morgan at Bentworth, Mapletown at Avella

With their win over Brentwood two weeks ago, Avonworth solidified their spot as one of the top two teams in the Black Hills Conference. The Antelopes are the main challenger to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and can maintain their spot with a win over Fort Cherry this week, who currently sits in 3rd place but lost to Brentwood in Week 1. Even though the Tri-County South doesn't get much respect in Class A because they have not won a playoff game since 2010, the TCS promises to have one of the most exciting playoff races this season. Frazier and Beth-Center are clearly the top 2 teams and have 2-game lead atop the standings. However, there are 4 teams currently sitting at 2-2 who all face off this week. Bentworth scored a big win over Avella last week and now faces Jefferson-Morgan who already has a loss to Avella. Mapletown started strong with wins over Carmichaels and West Greene but lost games to Beth-Center and Frazier and faces an Avella team looking to get back on track after losing to Bentworth. Avella made the playoffs for the first time since 1978 last year and Bentworth and Mapletown have not been to the postseason since 2005.

No comments: