5 things to watch in Week 3 of high school football

Friday, September 16, 2022 | 2:46 AM

Ready or not, it’s conference time.

Most WPIAL teams had a few exhibition games to prepare, but this week the WPIAL starts conference play in earnest with a nearly full slate. By the end of the day Saturday, 94 of 117 teams will have played at least one conference game.

“The thing about conference play is now it counts, so it adds a little more to it,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “The records really count and it’s all about playoff seeding and all of that stuff, so it does make a little difference.”

The Bears are 0-3 for the first time since 2005 after a tough nonconference start against Westinghouse, Washington and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Combined, those three opponents are 8-1, so don’t count out Clairton yet.

The Bears have proven almost unbeatable at this time of year. They’re 53-2 against conference opponents in Wade’s first eight seasons as coach.

Clairton opens Eastern Conference play at noon Saturday at Riverview (1-2).

“We’re just excited to go and play,” Wade said. “Week to week, we’re getting better, whether it’s conference play or not.”

Championship rematch

There’s only one Class 6A game on the Week 3 schedule and it’s a rematch of the 2021 WPIAL championship.

The Mt. Lebanon roster has changed much since the Blue Devils won the title a year ago, but don’t expect Central Catholic to take them lightly when they meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Carnegie Mellon. The Vikings had their own title hopes last season but lost twice to Lebo: 35-14 in Week 6 and 47-7 in the WPIAL finals.

Their regular season game was split over two days because of storms.

Mt. Lebanon is 1-2. Central Catholic 2-1.

Winning start for West A

It wasn’t long ago that West Allegheny was winning WPIAL titles, the latest came in 2016, but the team endured a few lean seasons since.

Yet, things are looking up for the Indians, who now chase their first 4-0 start since 2017, when they host New Castle (1-2) in a Parkway opener at 7 p.m. Friday. West A coach Dave Schoppe is in his third season and has a two-way standout in senior Nodin Tracy, a running back and linebacker.

The Indians have outscored their first three opponents 130-14 and Tracy has seven touchdowns.

They’ve defeated Moon, 41-0; South Fayette, 40-7; and Ringgold, 49-7. Two of those three opponents are from Class 5A, the classification where West A spent the last six seasons before dropping to 4A this year.

Is eight enough in 5A?

The WPIAL playoff bracket in 5A has only eight spots, so there’s little room for error.

That means a conference game such as this week’s between North Hills and Woodland Hills in the Northeast could have big implications down the road. Both were WPIAL playoff teams a year ago when the 5A bracket had 12 teams.

They’ll meet at 7 p.m. Friday at the Wolvarena.

There are three other 5A conference matchups in Week 3: Gateway at Franklin Regional, Plum at Norwin and South Fayette at Peters Township.

The top two teams from each of the three conferences are guaranteed playoff spots and two third-place teams earn wild cards.

Warriors visit ‘The Beach’

Most schools have a conference game this week but not everyone.

The WPIAL scheduled 15 nonconference games including an intriguing matchup that has Penn-Trafford headed to Belle Vernon’s “beach” on Friday night. Penn-Trafford is ranked third in WPIAL 5A. Belle Vernon, whose gold turf resembles sand, is ranked first in 3A.

A look at common opponents says their game could be close since both teams lost to McKeesport by similar scores. Penn-Trafford lost 19-7 in Week 1 and Belle Vernon lost 14-6 in Week 2.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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