Thursday, October 9, 2014

WPIAL Week 7 Games of the Week and Playoff Scenarios

The home stretch is here. As we enter the final third of the WPIAL regular season, 16 teams have already secured their spots in the postseason and 27 more could lock down their spots this week. There is a monster non-conference game between the two most prestigious teams in their classifications this week as Woodland Hills takes on West Allegheny. In Class A, 3 teams can clinch conference titles this week with one game (Avonworth-North Catholic) being a head-to-head showdown for the conference title. I'll be at Lt. JC Stone Field to watch my alma mater's homecoming game this week, so I probably won't be as active on Twitter updating scores.

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).

AAAA and AAA Game of the Week

Woodland Hills (5-0, 6-0) at West Allegheny (6-0. 6-0)

This might be the biggest inter-classification matchup in WPIAL history. That's not hyperbole or exaggeration. Over the last 20 years, these two schools have been the best programs in their respective classifications. West Allegheny made their first trip to the postseason in 1993 and their run of dominance under coach Bob Palko started with winning the AAA title in 1997 (Palko's first year as coach was 1995). Since 1997, West Allegheny has won more championships (7) than any other WPIAL school. The Indians have won 3 of the last 5 AAA titles and are the two-time defending AAA champions. On the other side, Woodland Hills has won 4 championships since 1997 (tied for the most in Quad-A with Central Catholic) and has been to 9 championship games (tied for the most in the WPIAL with Aliquippa and Rochester). The Wolverines have been to Heinz Field in 4 of the last 5 years. Both of these programs are at the pinnacle of their respective classifications and both are the preseason favorites to win their respective titles. West Allegheny holds the longest current winning streak in WPIAL games at 27 with their last loss to a WPIAL opponent coming in September 2012. Both teams enter the game undefeated with stingy defenses - Woodland Hills is allowing 8.8 points per game and West Allegheny 8.1.

This Palko quote is especially poignant considering Bob Palko coached against the State's All-Time Leading rusher Rushel Shell 5 times. Incredibly, Palko was only 1-4 against Shell's Hopewell teams but the 1 win came in the AAA Championship Game. Junior RB Miles Sanders is the real deal and leads the Wolverines with 747 rushing yards and 10 TDs this season and has committed to Penn State. Junior QB Jeremiah Jones (a West Virginia commit) has thrown to 546 yards, primarily to Toledo-commit Art Thompkins (165 yards, 5 TDs) and Jaymond Dunn (206 yards, 3 TDs). As the two-time defending AAA Champions, West Allegheny has a team loaded with big game experience from senior QB Andrew Koester (591 yards, 9 TDs) to senior RB Chayse Dillon (341 yards, 9 TDs) and junior RBs Terence Stephens (412 yards, 8 TDs) and Whitney White (380 yards, 7 TDs). Both teams like to run the ball but have capable quarterbacks and excellent defenses. This might be the matchup of the year in the WPIAL. The Woodland Hills Football Network will be broadcasting the game live online.

Honorable Mentions: McKeesport at Plum, Connellsville at Norwin, Bethel Park at Penn Hills, Mt Lebanon at North Hills

As last season drew to a close, Plum had lost 25 straight games but the Mustangs enter Week 7 at 4-1 in the Foothills with a chance to clinch a playoff spot. The winner of the McKeesport-Plum game will have the inside track to the home playoff game that comes with a second place finish in the conference. Plum still has an outside shot at the conference title if they can beat both McKeesport and Penn-Trafford. Connellsville and Norwin are battling right at the playoff cut line in the 5th and 6th spots in the conference. A Connellsville loss would clinch playoff spots for McKeesport, Plum and Norwin. After losing to Mt Lebanon last week, Bethel Park's chances of earning a home playoff game seem to have gone out the window but they could make a big statement against conference-leading Penn Hills this week. This will be the ROOT Sports Game of the Week on Friday night. Mt Lebanon and North Hills face off in a non-conference game that could decide which team gets a home playoff game and which one has to go on the road. Both teams currently sit in 3rd place in their conferences and 2 of the 3 3rd place teams will get home playoff games.

Foothills Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Penn-Trafford has clinched a playoff spot.
  • McKeesport clinches a playoff berth with a win over Plum or a Connellsville loss.
  • Plum clinches a playoff berth with a win over McKeesport or a Connellsville loss.
  • Norwin clinches a playoff berth with a win over Connellsville.

Northern Eight Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Pine-Richland has clinched a playoff spot.

  • Central Catholic clinches a playoff spot with a win over Seneca Valley or a Butler loss.
  • North Hills plays a non-conference game but can clinch a playoff spot with a Butler loss.
  • North Allegheny clinches a playoff spot with a win over Fox Chapel or a Butler loss.

Southeastern Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Penn Hills, Woodland Hills and Mt Lebanon have clinched playoff spots.
  • Upper St Clair clinches a playoff spot with a win over Canon-McMillan and a Bethel Park victory.


The Woodland Hills-West Allegheny game is the premier matchup in both Quad-A and Triple-A classifications.

Honorable Mentions: Elizabeth Forward at West Mifflin, Ringgold at Laurel Highlands, Hampton at Hollidaysburg, Indiana at Gateway, Mars at Knoch

Thomas Jefferson is running away with the Big Nine Conference but behind them there are 4 teams with either 4-1 or 3-2 records. West Mifflin and Ringgold enter the week with 4-1 records while Laurel Highlands and Elizabeth Forward are 3-2. Belle Vernon is lurking at 2-3. This is a big week for Ringgold and West Mifflin to separate themselves from the pack or for the middle of the conference playoff picture to get even more muddled. Similarly in the Greater Allegheny Conference, Hampton has pulled out to a 2-game lead after their win over Franklin Regional. Behind the Talbots, Franklin Regional, Indiana, Mars and Hollidaysburg all have 2 losses while Gateway and Knoch have 3. Gateway and Knoch are fighting for their playoff lives while the others are fighting to stay in playoff position.

Big Nine Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Thomas Jefferson has clinched a playoff spot.
  • West Mifflin clinches a playoff spot with a win over Elizabeth Forward.
  • Ringgold clinches a playoff spot with a win over Laurel Highlands

Greater Allegheny Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Hampton has clinched a playoff spot
  • Franklin Regional clinches a playoff spot with a win over Greensburg Salem and losses by Gateway and Knoch.
  • Mars clinches a playoff spot with a win over Knoch and a Gateway loss.

Parkway Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • West Allegheny and Central Valley have clinched playoff spots.
  • Montour clinches a playoff spot with a win over Blackhawk.
  • Moon clinches a playoff spot with a win over Hopewell and a New Castle loss.

AA Game of the Week
New Brighton (5-1, 5-1) at Washington (6-0, 6-0)

Like with Quad-A and AAA, the best game on the AA slate is a non-conference game. Both schools have already locked up their spots in the postseason and are likely headed for a home playoff game. Washington is the team to beat in the Interstate conference while New Brighton looks like the second-best team in the Midwestern Conference after blasting Beaver then getting obliterated by Aliquippa. This game, along with next week's Aliquippa-Mt Pleasant matchup will have significant seeding implications in the AA bracket. A victory by New Brighton could result in a massive demotion of Interstate Conference teams in the bracket, possibly toppling Washington (the assumed conference champion) out of the top 4 or 5 seeds. New Brighton features a balanced offense between dual-threat QB Payton Fath (727 pass yards, 5 TDs and 391 rush yards and 5 TDs) and RB Scott Florence (768 rush yards, 16 TDs). Similarly, Washington features a talented running back in Malik Wells (634 yards, 10 TDs), an efficient quarterback in Jonathan Spina (748 yards, 11 TDs) and a big-play WR in DeQuay Isbell (369 receiving yards, 72 rushing yards, 11 total TDs).

Honorable Mentions: Freeport at Apollo-Ridge, Seton-La Salle at Quaker Valley, Waynesburg at Southmoreland

Last week, the playoff picture in the Allegheny Conference was a muddled mess but after Highlands beat Freeport, Apollo-Ridge beat Ford City and West Shamokin beat Valley, the picture is a big clearer. Freeport is hanging on for their lives and has already lost to 3 of the top 4 teams in the conference. The Jackets game against Apollo-Ridge is their last hope for a win over one of the conference elite that could propel them into the playoffs. Apollo-Ridge has wins over Shady Side Academy and Kittanning and just needs to hold serve and win out to get a home playoff game. Similarly in the Century Conference, Quaker Valley is desperately trying to claw their way back into the playoff picture after losing to South Park and Steel Valley already this season. A Seton-La Salle win would set up a showdown with South Fayette for the conference title next week. In the Interstate Conference, Southmoreland is searching for their first playoff berth since 1979 and has a huge conclusion to the season with games against teams they are battling for playoff position - Waynesburg, Washington and archrivals Mt Pleasant. Waynesburg has lost 2 close games to Washington and Mt Pleasant and needs to beat either Southmoreland or McGuffey next week in order to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Allegheny Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Highlands clinches a playoff spot with a win over Burrell or a Valley loss.
  • Apollo-Ridge clinches a playoff spot with a win over Freeport.
  • Shady Side Academy clinches a playoff spot with a win over West Shamokin and losses by Freeport, Valley, and Ford City.
  • Kittanning clinches a playoff spot with a win over Valley and losses by Freeport and Ford City.

Century Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • South Fayette clinches a playoff spot with a win over Sto-Rox and a Quaker Valley loss.
  • Seton-La Salle clinches a playoff spot with a win over Quaker Valley.

Interstate Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Washington has clinched a playoff spot.
  • Mt Pleasant clinches a playoff spot with a win over Charleroi and a Waynesburg loss.

Midwestern Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Aliquippa and New Brighton have clinched playoff spots.
  • Beaver Falls clinches a playoff spot with a win over Summit Academy or losses by Laurel and Ellwood City

A Game of the Week
Avonworth (5-0, 6-0) at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (5-0, 6-0)

If you think this game will be another walk in the park for the Defending State Champions, think again. Avonworth was arguably the 3rd best Class A team in the Commonwealth last year and played the Trojans closer in their two meetings than any other WPIAL opponent (including Sto-Rox in the championship game). Avonworth is a capable offensive team that has put up at least 35 points in every game this season. The Lopes offense runs through 6'2" junior Jamal Hughley who leads the team in rushing (449 yards), receiving (379 yards) and scoring (14 TDs). QB Zach Chandler (a 6'4" junior) has been battling injuries this season and has not played since Week 3. Chandler is questionable for this game and is a talented passer - throwing for 742 yards and 6 TDs in the 3 games he played. Senior Josh Drwal is Chandler's primary backup but freshman Alex Osborne saw some time last week. Outside of Hughley, the Lopes have two capable running backs in Brandon Wasko and Kevin Simpson who have both run for over 220 yards this year.

The defending State Champs are no slouches either. The Trojans actually have the second-highest scoring offense in the entire WPIAL at nearly 50 points per game, trailing only Clairton's ridiculous mark of 72. The Trojans have been excellent on defense as well, allowing just 11 points per contest. This team is loaded with offensive weapons from leading rusher Jerome Turner, a pounding back averaging almost 11 yards per carry, who has 743 yards and 16 TDs this season. Change-of-pace back Mario Latronica is capable of breaking the game open at any time and has 421 yards and 6 TDs on just 50 carries this year. There is no doubt that the heartbeat of the team is PJ Fulmore, an all-around threat in the mold of Darren Sproles who can run the ball (663 yards), catch the ball out of the slot (75 receiving yards) and has a nose for the end zone (12 total TDs). QB Adam Sharlow has been effective this year in his return from his knee injury that ended last season, but has not been forced to put the ball in the air very often, averaging less than 10 pass attempts per game. Much like last year, the lines have been the strength of the team, plowing the road for the 3 running backs and controlling the line of scrimmage on defense. Both teams have a non-conference game remaining on the schedule, so the winner of this game will be the conference champion. It's Homecoming for the Trojans, so I'll be out at Lt. JC Stone Field in North Park to take this one in.

Honorable Mentions: Riverside at South Side Beaver, Chartiers-Houston at Brentwood, Monessen at Jeanette, Bentworth at Mapletown, Carmichaels at Frazier

In the Big Seven Conference, Neshannock is one win away from the conference title. The other 3 playoff spots are currently occupied by teams picked to finish towards the bottom of the league - Shenango, Riverside and South Side Beaver. A win by Riverside puts them in position to get a home playoff game if they can beat Shenango next week. Avonworth and CWNC have run away with the Black Hills Conference but Chartiers-Houston, Brentwood and Fort Cherry are in a battle for the last 2 playoff spots. A Brentwood win could set the stage for a Week 9 Casket Match between Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry for the final playoff spot. In the Eastern Conference, Monessen lost to Springdale last week, which could be just what the Dynamos need to hop the Greyhounds and make the playoffs. If Monessen loses to Jeanette and Clairton next week, all Springdale would need to do is beat Riverview in their season finale to make the playoffs. Jeannette just needs to beat GCC in the season finale to get a home playoff game. In the Tri-County South, Mapletown can clinch their first playoff spot since 2005 with a win over Bentworth, who is fighting for their playoff lives just a game behind the Maples and Carmichaels in the standings. Carmichaels started the season slow but has come on strong as of late and can put themselves in position for a home playoff game if they beat Frazier.

Big Seven Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Neshannock has clinched a playoff spot.
  • Neshannock clinches the Conference Title with a win over Rochester.
  • Shenango clinches a playoff spot with a win over Vincentian.
  • Riverside clinches a playoff spot with a win over South Side Beaver and a Vincentian loss.
  • South Side Beaver clinches a playoff spot with a win over Riverside.

Black Hills Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Avonworth and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic have clinched playoff spots.
  • The winner of Avonworth-CWNC will win the Conference Title.

Eastern Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Clairton has clinched a playoff spot.
  • Jeannette clinches a playoff spot with a win over Monessen.

Tri-County South Conference Playoff Scenarios

  • Beth-Center clinches the conference title with a win over Avella and a Frazier loss.
  • Beth-Center clinches a playoff spot with a win over Avella.
  • Frazier clinches a playoff spot with a win over Carmichaels.
  • Mapletown clinches a playoff spot with a win over Bentworth.

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