By STEVE BRENNER and PARKER HURLEY
PITTSBURGH — For the third consecutive season, Steel Valley will play for a WPIAL Class 2A Championship, and for the third consecutive year, the 2A championship will not be played at Heinz Field.
Since 2016 – when the WPIAL expanded to six classifications – two championships have been played in a different venue than the other four.
In 2016 and 2017, Class 1A and 2A played at Robert Morris University.
This season, Class 2A will again play at Robert Morris on Saturday, and Class 5A will play at Norwin on Friday.
When asked about the situation after his team’s semifinal win on Friday, Steel Valley coach Rodney Steele gave the politically correct answer, stating that the field is 100 yards long wherever they play. But there was some disappointment in his tone.
“We would love to play down there, but as long as we have an opportunity to play for a title, we don’t care where it’s at,” he said. “Our kids are excited to go to Robert Morris. Would they love to play at Heinz Field, in a stadium they watch the pros play in? Sure. But they’re playing in the (championship) game. Just tell us where it’s at.”
Steel Valley defeated Neshannock in 2016 for a WPIAL Championship and lost to Washington last season.
West Allegheny coach Bob Palko’s coaching career could still end with a championship, but it will not be at Heinz Field.
Palko will attempt to win his ninth WPIAL Championship against Penn Hills at Norwin.
When asked if it will be different not playing at Heinz Field, Palko’s response: “I’ll let you know next week.”
BEST QUOTES FROM PLAYING AT HEINZ
For those that do get to play — and win — at Heinz Field, it’s a moment that most will never forget. Here is some player reaction to getting to walk the same tunnels and play on the same turf that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Panthers play on every weekend.
“It is an honor to play at Heinz Field. I know last year the 1A championship was not here so when we heard it was in Heinz Field this year it gave us more incentive.” — OLSH quarterback Tyler Anderson.
“Every time we walked out of the locker room and onto the field it was a special moment” — OLSH wide receiver Andrew Schnarre.
“The pressure seemed surreal when we were here as freshmen. This year, it wasn’t pressure, I don’t know it was something else.” — South Fayette wide receiver Mike Trimbur.
“It was cool just being on the field and just watching that class (last season). It was a cool feeling knowing all the great players that have been out there.” — Pine-Richland quarterback Cole Spencer
NOTORIOUS TURF HOLDS UP
The last game played at Heinz Field was Pitt’s 52-22 win over Virginia Tech a week ago (ACC Coastal Champs shout out).
No, there were no visible tire tracks left on the field from Darrin Hall or Qadree Ollison, in fact, Heinz Field held up very well after 12 hours of consecutive use for the WPIAL Championships.
The natural-grass surface showed expected wear marks between the hashes (think the finals at Wimbledon), and the field can always be worse than it appears, but players and coaches said the surface was not an issue, even into the later games.
“Last year, we were slipping all around,” said Pine-Richland senior Andrew Kristofic. “I don’t know how to describe it. People are saying it’s a grass field, but it’s more like playing on the fringe of a green on the golf course. It’s real sandy. It’s a different kind of surface than we’re used to playing on.”
The field conditions were a far cry from last year’s championships, which featured heavy rain in the morning and rain throughout the rest of the day.
“It was definitely better than last year,” said Max Shaw. “I mean last year it was a downpour.”
The four games featured 2,342 yards of total offense, 27 touchdowns, 191 points and one beautiful interception from Mike Trimbur to seal a championship.
“I would have loved a downpour this year,” said Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, who Jaguars were on the losing end of Trimbur’s game-winner.