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WPIAL Football Playoffs Opening Night Previews



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The WPIAL football playoffs will kickoff tonight with 22 matchups around Western Pennsylvania, which will culminate with the football championship games at the end of November.

The #1 seeds for the WPIAL’s six classifications are North Allegheny (6A), Pine-Richland (5A), Aliquippa (4A), Central Valley (3A), Beaver Falls (2A) and Clairton (1A).

Here are some notes concerning the tonight’s opening round of playoff games in each classification.


#4 Seneca Valley (4-2) at #1 North Allegheny (5-0):
*North Allegheny enters tonight as the clear favorite in 6A, as they make their 17th consecutive playoff appearance. These two teams were supposed to play each other to open the season but it was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Two years ago, Seneca Valley upset North Allegheny, 31-14 in the semifinals. Seneca Valley is hoping to get senior running back Ethan West back in the lineup, who’s missed the last 3 games with an injury. The Tigers are led by senior athlete Khalil Dinkins, who committed to Penn State last Friday.

#3 Central Catholic (4-2) at #2 Mt. Lebanon (4-2):
*This Bob Palko led Mt. Lebanon team is looking to reach the WPIAL Finals for the first time since 2000 but to do that, they must beat Central Catholic, who’s reached the big stage 6 of the last 7 seasons. This will be a rematch of an exciting game played three weeks ago when Mt. Lebanon, overcame at 27-10 deficit, to beat Central Catholic, 37-30. Leading the way in that game for Mt. Lebanon was quarterback Joey Daniels, who passed for 341 yards and 4 TD’s.


#5 Upper St. Clair (5-2) at #4 Penn-Trafford (5-1):
*Expect both teams to light up the scoreboard in this game as Upper St. Clair is averaging 33 points per game, while Penn-Trafford has averaged 47 points per game. The Panthers are looking for revenge as Penn-Trafford has knocked the out of the playoffs twice recently, 31-7 in 2019 and 35-14 in 2017. The player to watch for Upper St. Clair is quarterback Ethan Dalhem, who’s combined for over 1,800 total yards in 2020. He has plenty of weapons around him in David Pantelis, Mateo Cepullio, Jamall Brown and Ethan Hiester. Penn-Trafford is led by senior quarterback Ethan Carr, who’s combined for over 1,200 yards and 20 total TD’s. The key to this game could be the defense of Penn-Trafford, who’s only allowed 13 points per game.

#8 South Fayette(4-3) at #1 Pine-Richland (6-0):
*Pine-Richland is the overwhelming favorite in 5A as they’re one of the most talented teams in the entire state of Pennsylvania. The Rams offense is led by two of the more productive players in the WPIAL- QB Cole Spencer and WR  Eli Jochem. Spencer has thrown for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns and Jochem leads the WPIAL with 752 receiving yards. South Fayette has a talented quarterback as well in Nathan Alemada, who’s also thrown for over 1,600 yards along with 15 touchdowns. Alemda’s go-to receiver is senior Charley Rossi (531 yards). Pine-Richland is looking to become the first WPIAL school to win championships in five different classifications.

#7 Penn Hills (4-3) at #2 Gateway (4-0):
*This is the 8th playoff matchup between these long-time rivals, with Gateway winning 5 of them and Penn Hills 3.  All eyes will be on Gateway star Derrick Davis and whether this will be his last high school game. Davis will be making his college decision on November 7 as he chooses between Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, LSU and Georgia. The question is can Penn Hills score enough to stay with a Gateway offense that’s averaging over 40 points per game. Thi season, Penn Hills only averaged 18 points per game. The Penn Hills offense is led by freshman quarterback Julian Dugger.

#6 Woodland Hills (5-2) at #3 Peters Township (6-0):
*Peters Township lived up to all the hype as they finished the regular season undefeated and have now won back-back conference titles. While Peters Township cruised into the playoffs, Woodland Hills had to battle but they got the job done and are in the playoffs again after failing to qualify last season. These teams have played in consecutive seasons as Peters Township have shutout Woodland Hills in back-back games, 20-0 and 26-0. Peters is led by their defense while junior quarterback Deontae Williams guides Woodland Hills, as he’s the teams leading passer and rusher.


#8 Hampton (5-2) at #1 Aliquippa (7-0):
*Despite having a Class A enrollment, Aliquippa was moved up to 4A and the winning continued. Aliquippa earned the top seed and is looking to make it to the WPIAL finals for the 13th consecutive season. Hampton finished the season strong, winning 5 of their last 6, to earn a trip to the playoffs. These two teams have quite a difference in playoff history as Aliquippa has 91 all-time wins compared to Hampton’s 10. Aliquippa is led by senior Vernon Redd, who rushed for over 1,000 yards. Quarterback Matt DeMatteo paces Hampton’s offense, which has outscored opponents since Week 1 by the score of 185-64.

#5 Chartiers Valley (6-1) at #4 Belle Vernon (5-1):
*Chartiers Valley has been one of the best stories of the 2020 season as they make the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and have their first winning season since 2009. Belle Vernon is looking to return to the championship game, where last season they lost to Thomas Jefferson. The player to watch in this game is Belle Vernon quarterback Dein Whitlock.

#7 Mars (6-1) at #2 Thomas Jefferson (6-1):
*Most people expected Thomas Jefferson to enter the playoffs as the top seed but that didn’t happen following their loss last week to McKeesport. It was Thomas Jefferson’s first home conference loss in 5 years. Both programs are no stranger to the playoffs as Thomas Jefferson has made it for the 26th consecutive year while this is the 16th straight for Mars. The Planets top weapon is senior running back Teddy Ruffner, who finished the season with 1,560 yards and 24 touchdowns (2nd in the WPIAL).

#6 McKeesport (6-1) at #3 Plum (7-0):
*Plum is looking to break a recent 7-game losing streak to McKeesport and this might be their season. Matt Morgan’s squad finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1977. Plum doesn’t rely on just one player offensively as they feature weapons such as QB Ryan Hubner, RB Eryck Moore and WR’s Max Matolcsy, Reed Martin and Logan Brooks. McKeesport might have the defense to stop Plum as they’ve only allowed 13 points per game and haven’t lost since Week 1 to Belle Vernon. As is the case every year, the running game is key for McKeesport as they feature the trio of Terrance Glenn, Caleb Reist and Kenneth Thompson.


#8 East Allegheny (5-1) at #1 Central Valley (7-0):
*If Pine-Richland is the best bet to win their classification, then Central Valley is a close second as Mark Lyons team is one again loaded with talent. The Warriors outscored their 7 opponents this season by a combined score of 356-49. They have D-1 talent such as Stephon Hall, Myles Walker, Ameer Dudley, Landon Alexander and Sean FitzSimmons. East Allegheny will need to make big plays and will look to Amaryeh Lucky and Praishaun Gainer to do that.

#5 South Park (4-3) at #4 Keystone Oaks (4-2):
*These two programs have met the last 2 seasons with Keystone Oaks won in 2018 and South Park winning last season, 28-14. Both teams are led by their quarterbacks- South Park freshman Harper Conroy, who threw for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns this season and Keystone Oaks Logan Shrubb, who threw for over 800 yards and rushed for 835 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

#7 Mt. Pleasant (4-3) at #2 North Catholic (7-0):
*Mt. Pleasant received the committee’s pick for the wild-card spot and are coming off a 30-19 loss to South Park. They’ll need to stop the high-powered North Catholic offense, which is averaging over 45 points per game.

#6 Freeport (3-2) at #3 Elizabeth Forward (6-0):
*Elizabeth Forward finished the season undefeated for only the second time in school history (1966) and it’s their 4th straight year making the playoffs, which is a school record. Freeport finished 3-2 but is coming off a game where they battled #2 North Catholic before losing 26-14. Freeport and Elizabeth Forward have meet the last two seasons with EF winning in 2018 (27-21) and Freeport winning last year 31-13.


#8 Western Beaver (5-1) at #1 Beaver Falls (7-0):
*The Beaver Falls Tigers experienced success after dropping down from 3A to finish the season undefeated. Their closest game was 15 points (Laurel) and running back and Syracuse recruit Josh Hough has been unstoppable running for 1,241 yards (18 yards/carry) and 18 touchdowns. This will be an interesting game for Western Beaver coach Ryan Matsook, as he led Beaver Falls to the WPIAL title in 2016 and it’s likely his last game as a head coach because he’s accepted the job as assistant principal at Moon.

#5 Washington (5-2) at #4 Apollo-Ridge (5-0):
*Two high scoring teams in this game as Apollo-Ridge averaged 47 points per game while Washington averaged 32 per game. Washington relies a lot on senior running back Mike Allen (606 yards and 8 TD’s) while Apollo-Ridge uses senior Logan Harmon. This was Apollo-Ridge’s first undefeated season since 2000.

#7 Serra Catholic (4-0) at #2 McGuffey (6-1):
*Serra was forced to cancel their final two games because of COVID-19 as was their Week 1 contest against Steel Valley so they’ve only played 4 games this season. However in those games, they outscored their opponents by a combined score of 209-54. McGuffey was equally as dominant outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 247-40.

#6 Laurel (5-2) at #3 Sto-Rox (6-1):
*After being forced to forfeit Week 1 due to injuries and ineligible players, Sto-Rox ran off 6 consecutive wins to earn the top seed out of the Three Rivers Conference. Sto-Rox is led by sophomore quarterback Josh Jenkins, who threw for 1,245 yards and 14 touchdowns. Laurel gets it done on the ground and are paced by senior Luke McCoy, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards.


#8 OLSH (5-2) at #1 Clairton (6-0):
*After opening the season with 5 consecutive wins, OLSH has lost 2 in a row, however both were to playoff teams (Rochester and Shenango). OLSH has two big weapons in running back Jay Pearson and wide receiver Bobby Brazell. Clairton is rolling right now as they’re putting up at least 45 points every game and not allowing many on defense. The player to watch for the Bears is Donte Sanders, who rushed for close to 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. After OLSH beat Clairton in the playoffs in 2018, Clairton shut them out last year, 41-0 in the 1st round.

#5 Shenango (6-1) at #4 California (6-0):
*In a bizarre game last week against Rochester that featured multiple delays and that started on Friday but didn’t finish until Saturday, Shenango suffered their only loss of the season. A big key for Shenango is whether or not senior running back Reis Watkins is able to play after missing last week with an ankle injury. Watkins was 4th in the WPIAL this season in rushing with 1,226 yards and 21 TD’s. California also is led by a great running back as Jaden Zuzak rushed this season for 1,366 yards (15.7 per carry) and 25 touchdowns. This is the first matchup between these two schools. This was the fifth time in program history that California finished undefeated.

#7 Springdale (5-2) at #2 Rochester (6-1):
*Rochester is looking for their 9th WPIAL football championship. Springdale suffered two losses this season but they were to #1 Clairton and #3 Jeannette in conference play and received one of the two wild-card playoff spots.

#6 Avella (5-2) at #3 Jeannette (6-1):
*Avella will be looking to break their 7-game playoff losing streak but it won’t be easy as they face one of the most storied programs in WPIAL history, as Jeannette is making their 42 all-time appearance in the WPIAL playoffs. Jeannette ha won 9 WPIAL titles while Avella has won 3 of their own. After losing to # Clairton 34-28 in Week 1, Jeannette has ripped off 6 straight wins. Avella gets in done through the air with quarterback K.J. Rush and his top two playmakers wide receivers Brandon Samol and Tanner Terensky. The Jayhawks are led by senior running back Roberto Smith Jr.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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