2021 WPIAL Class 6A football breakdown: District playoffs to now feature 5 teams

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Class 6A may have been the hardest-hit classification when it came to playing football during a global pandemic in 2020.

There are only eight football teams now in the biggest class in District 7.

Seven weeks of conference play with four 6A games in those seven weeks equals 28 total games.

Only Norwin was able to play all seven of its regular-season games. North Allegheny and Baldwin were only able to play four.

Six of the 28 league games were postponed because of covid-19-related protocols.

“We actually played more football than I thought we would,” Mt. Lebanon coach Bob Palko said. “With that said, it feels so good to be able to prepare without all of the restrictions. We are very grateful.”

While the three district playoff games went off without a hitch, with Central Catholic claiming a second straight WPIAL 6A championship, the pandemic reared its ugly head again in the state playoffs when the Vikings had to forfeit their PIAA quarterfinal game against McDowell.

Now, with the hope of returning to a more normal schedule in 2021, the WPIAL will welcome an additional team to the 6A postseason this fall, with the top five teams qualifying for the district playoffs.

The fourth- and fifth-place finishers will square off in the quarterfinals, and the top three teams enjoy a bye into the final four.

“Hopefully we are back on track for a full season with fans and no restrictions,” North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. “You take stuff for granted. High school football in Western Pa. is a community event. We hope to have that back this season.”

So who is the team to beat in Class 6A? Well, it depends on who you ask.

“I hear Mt. Lebanon is strong,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said.

Palko countered: “Central has some really good returners and reloaded, too. NA has some talent, and don’t sleep on Seneca Valley.”

“Central Catholic,” Walker said when asked who the favorite was.

“Everyone has something positive going on,” Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans said. “I have tremendous respect for the coaches and programs in this league.”

Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle is hedging his bets when it comes to picking a winner.

“There is never a year that our conference isn’t the toughest in Pa. top to bottom. North Allegheny, Central and Mt. Lebo will all return strong teams.”

For the third straight season, there is a new face on the Class 6A sidelines as coach Mike Brown takes over at Hempfield for Rich Bowen. The Spartans hope to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016.

Tim Sweeney begins his second season at Baldwin after his first year netted only five games played and a 2-3 record, and Palko begins his third season at Mt. Lebanon with high hopes.

The veteran 6A coaches include Butschle, now in his second stint and fifth season currently, 10th season overall on the Seneca Valley sidelines; Evans, in season seven at Canon-McMillan; and Dave Brozeski in his eighth season at Norwin.

The graybeards of the class continue to be Totten at Central Catholic and Walker at North Allegheny. Both are starting their 17th season after Walker left the Vikings job to Totten when he took over the Tigers in 2005.

THE FAVORITE

1. Central Catholic (6-2)

The Vikings return some key players from a second straight WPIAL championship run a year ago. Central Catholic avenged both of its regular season losses to Mt. Lebanon and North Allegheny with wins in the WPIAL semifinals and title game. Now the Vikings will try to do what no Central Catholic football team has ever done, three-peat.

Preseason rankings

2. Mt. Lebanon (4-3)

3. North Allegheny (6-1)

4. Seneca Valley (4-3)

5. Canon-McMillan (3-3)

THE STARS

Ryan Angott

Canon-McMillan, sr., RB/OLB

Angott, a third-year starter, rushed for 672 yards last season, a 7.2 yards per carry average, and scored seven touchdowns, earning first-team all-conference honors. In 2019, he rushed for 896 yards and scored eight touchdowns in helping Canon-Mac reach the 6A playoffs. He set the school record with five touchdowns against Hempfield last season.

Joey Daniels

Mt. Lebanon, sr., QB

Daniels, a starter since his sophomore season, has connected on 137 of 228 passes for 2,220 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Trib HSSN preseason all-star hopes to grow into 5-foot-10, which has kept the D-I offers from coming in bunches, but he’s getting more looks and has an offer from Wheeling.

Donovan Hinish

Central Catholic, sr., DT/OT

Following in his brother’s footsteps, Donovan Hinish is a star lineman at Central Catholic who has committed to Notre Dame. Kurt Hinish, a 2017 grad, also starred for the Vikings and Fighting Irish. Rivals ranks Hinish as the No. 33 defensive tackle in the nation. The Trib HSSN preseason all-star plays tackle on both sides of the ball, but will focus on defense when he arrives in South Bend next season.

Jacob Porter

North Allegheny, sr., DE

Porter is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter and the younger brother of Joey Jr., who starred at North Allegheny and is a redshirt sophomore cornerback at Penn State. The Trib HSSN preseason all-star has helped the Tigers win back-to-back Class 6A regular season championships and hopes to lead NA to its first district crown since 2012. Porter has received offers from Colorado State, Akron and Old Dominion.

Anthony Speca

Central Catholic, so., TE/ILB

The sophomore started and starred at middle linebacker for a Central Catholic team that won a second straight WPIAL Class 6A championship. He earned a spot on the MaxPreps freshman all-American team and also was a member of the Trib HSSN preseason all-star team. He has received offers from Pitt, Penn State, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Purdue, among others.

DON’T MISS

9.24 Central Catholic at North Allegheny

One way or another as it usually does, this game will help decide the Class 6A regular season champion. North Allegheny has won the last three regular season titles while the Vikings have won back-to-back WPIAL championships.

10.8 Central Catholic at Mt. Lebanon

Hard to imagine this won’t be a big game come Week 6. These two 6A powers met twice last season with host Central Catholic losing a wild game to Mt. Lebanon, 37-30 on Oct. 9. The Vikings got the last laugh though as they plowed through the host Blue Devils in the WPIAL semifinals, 35-0.

10.29 North Allegheny at Seneca Valley

This is the last of the great ‘northern’ rivalries in the districts highest classification. A playoff post or s shot at the 6A regular season title could be at stake when Seneca Valley hosts North Allegheny in Week 9. The two did not play in the regular season last year, but the Tigers beat the Raiders in the WPIAL semifinals, 21-7.

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