As the WPIAL season enters the home stretch, here’s the games to watch and all the playoff implications for this weekends action.
Game to watch: Pine Richland at North Allegheny – This is the one we have been waiting for all season. Both teams held serve all season (the IMG Academy loss for Pine-Richland notwithstanding), and now they will play for first place. The Rams and Tigers are both averaging over 37 points per game and are allowing under 14 points per game. Both teams earned first-week byes and will host semifinal games, so this one is for momentum entering the playoffs, and bragging rights.
Biggest playoff implications: Canon-McMillan at Butler – Five of the six playoff spots are decided in Class 6A. The Big Macs currently hold the tiebreaker over Norwin, so a Canon-McMillan win means they’re in. Butler is winless on the season.
Game to watch: Gateway at McKeesport – Heavyweight matchup here. Gateway is undefeated this season both in conference play (6-0) and overall (9-0) while McKeesport’s only loss came to Penn-Trafford on September 14. If McKeesport wins (as well as 5-1 Penn-Trafford, which hosts fourth-place Franklin Regional) the standings could come down to tiebreaker points. Quarterback Brendan Majocha (Gateway) trails only Penn Hills’ Hollis Mathis in terms of yardage, but leads Class 5A with 28 touchdowns. Running back Derrick Davis has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and is averaging over 11 yards per carry. Gateway leads Class 5A in terms of scoring offense (51.2 points per game) and defense (4.1 points per game). The Gators have five shutouts on the year.
Biggest playoff implications: Kiski Area at Armstrong and Chartiers Valley at Woodland Hills – The winner between Kiski and Armstrong clinches a playoff spot. Ryan Wallace (Kiski) is one of the best quarterbacks in Class 5A with 1,666 yards and 14 touchdowns and receiver Jack Colecchi is averaging over 18 yards per reception. If Woodland Hills beats Chartiers Valley or Baldwin loses to Peters Township, Woodland Hills is in. Chartiers Valley is winless in section play and is currently on a five-game losing streak.
Game to watch: Beaver at Blackhawk – Both the Bobcats and Cougars have clinched playoff spots, but the game will decide the second and third place teams in the Northwest Eight. Blackhawk finished 2-6 last season but under first-year coach Zack Hayward are 8-1. The Blackhawk alum played and coached at Geneva under Geno DeMarco and has the Cougars back on track. Marques Watson-Trent (2020) leads the team in rushing yards (193), receiving yards (649) and touchdowns (13).
Biggest playoff implications: South Fayette at Montour — The only thing standing between Montour and a playoff spot is undefeated South Fayette. A brutal nonconference schedule seems to have prepared Montour for the stretch run (the Spartans have won three of their last four conference games), but South Fayette will be a tough challenge. If Montour loses and New Castle beats Ambridge, tiebreaker points between Montour, New Castle and Knoch will determine fourth place.
Game to watch: North Catholic at Deer Lakes – North Catholic quarterback Zack Rocco enters the final game of the season as one of the best quarterbacks in Class 3A. Rocco is fourth in yards (1,280) and completions (72) and ranks second in touchdowns (17). The Trojans also face one of the better receivers in the conference in Tyree Brown (22 receptions for 533 yards).
Biggest playoff implications: Yough at Elizabeth Forward – Nothing much left to figure out in Class 3A. All eight playoff spots are accounted for, it’s just up to the seeding. Elizabeth Forward, Derry and North Catholic all have a chance to tie for the top spot in the Big East, and the tiebreaker would come down to Gardner Points. The top two teams from each section will host a quarterfinal game.
Game to watch: New Brighton at Riverside – Both teams have qualified for the playoffs, Friday’s game between neighboring school districts is for third and fourth place. The stats are pretty similar for both teams; the difference may come down to the Riverside running game. Senior LeMarcus Cleckly is averaging over seven yards per carry and has seven touchdowns on the year. Both teams enter the game on two-game winning streaks.
Biggest playoff implications: Valley at East Allegheny and Frazier at Beth-Center – The Valley/EA winner will clinch fourth place in the Allegheny Conference and earn a playoff spot. Both teams enter Friday with 2-3 records and are both coming off of loses. The winner of the Frazier at Beth-Center game will also clinch fourth place in the Century Conference and a playoff berth. Beth-Center quarterback Bailey Lincoski is ninth in Class 2A with 92 passing yards and has eight touchdowns.
Game to watch: Clairton at Jeannette – Clairton spent some time this season ranked No. 3 behind Imani Christian, but a convincing 45-18 win proved the Bears and Jayhawks are the top two teams in Class 1A. Jeanette has allowed 58 total points this season while Clairton has allowed just 51.
Bonus games to watch: OLSH at Cornell and Riverview at Sto-Rox – quarterbacks Tyler Bradley (OLSH) and Eric Wilson both have the opportunity to break the WPIAL single-season passing record Friday night. Avonworth’s Zach Chandler set the record in 2015 with 2,182 yards. Wilson needs just 140 yards (he is averaging 297 per game) and Bradley needs 239 yards (he is averaging 286 per game)
Biggest playoff implications: Chartiers-Houston vs. Imani Christian – The top two teams from each of the three conferences make the playoffs as well as two wild cards. The third place finisher from the Tri-County South Conference will earn one of the wild card spots (West Greene, Monessen or California), and either Imani Christian or Laurel will be the other wild card. If Laurel and Imani Christian both win, the Saints will win out on Gardner Points. There’s a great chance West Greene, Monessen and California will end up tied for first place, and it may take a coin flip to decide the final standings. If California beats Mapletown by 10 points or more and Monessen beats Avella by 10 points or more, the three teams will be tied in records, head-to-head competition, Gardner Points and WPIAL tiebreaker points.