5 things to watch in Week 11 of high school football: North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon looking to flip script
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 7:14 PM
How much can change in 14 days?
That’s what North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon want to find out Friday night. Their WPIAL Class 6A semifinals are rematches from Week 9, with North Allegheny facing Pine-Richland for the second time in three weeks, and Mt. Lebanon facing Central Catholic.
Neither was close the first time around.
Central Catholic running back Eddy Tillman rushed for 204 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-7 victory over Mt. Lebanon. Pine-Richland quarterback Cole Spencer threw for 400 yards and six touchdowns to defeat North Allegheny, 42-14.
But in a rematch, might the losing team hold a strategic advantage the second time around? That losing team already knows what didn’t work and can experiment with a whole new gameplan. The winning team could be hesitant to deviate from what worked last time.
At least, that’s one argument.
“Why really change something that worked?” NA coach Art Walker said. “It was effective. There’s a lot to be said for, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.’ They’re certainly in that position. We’re in a little bit of a different one.”
North Allegheny faced a similar rematch scenario last season but from a different perspective. The Tigers defeated Seneca Valley in the 2018 regular season but lost to the Raiders in the WPIAL semifinals.
“We’ve been on both sides of this,” Walker said. “We’re the underdog, and we understand that. For us, it’s an opportunity to right a wrong.”
2. Familiar foes
It’s maybe not quite a rivalry, but nobody has seen Aliquippa up close more in the past four seasons than South Park. Twice in 2016. Twice in 2017. Once last season.
Now, twice again this year.
No. 2 Aliquippa (10-1) plays No. 6 South Park (5-5) in a WPIAL Class 3A semifinal Friday at North Hills.
“I have the utmost respect for the Aliquippa community and the football program there,” South Park coach Marty Rieck said. “This week will be the seventh time South Park has played Aliquippa since the 2016 season. To say that we know each other is an understatement.
“What I appreciate most about their kids is that they love the game, and everyone knows that they play it at the highest of levels.”
Aliquippa won 29-0 in Week 7. The Quips won the first six matchups 278-40.
3. Run-pass option
West Greene’s Ben Jackson and Sto-Rox’s Eric Wilson will share a field Friday night and each could each top 3,000 yards. If they do, it will be in much different ways.
There’s no greater contrast in styles this week than in this Class A semifinal. Second-seeded West Greene (10-1) plays No. 3 Sto-Rox (10-1) at Trinity.
Jackson is the WPIAL’s leading rusher this season with 2,923 yards. Wilson ranks second among WPIAL passers with 2,736.
4. Lucky No. 14
As the No. 14 in Class 2A, Riverside is the lowest-seeded team left in the WPIAL playoffs. But that doesn’t mean the Panthers couldn’t win a championship.
In fact, a No. 14 seed has won a title before. Riverside can take inspiration from Central Valley, which won the WPIAL title from that slot in 2010.
Riverside (7-3) faces No. 6 McGuffey (9-2) in a WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinal at Montour.
5. Heading back to Heinz?
With a win Friday, Thomas Jefferson could make its fifth consecutive trip to the WPIAL championships. The Jaguars face Blackhawk in a WPIAL Class 4A semifinal.
But that’s not even halfway to the longest active championship-appearance streak: Aliquippa is approaching a dozen. The Quips have reached the WPIAL finals each season since 2008.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .