5 things to watch in WPIAL Week 4: Schedule pits No. 1 vs. No. 2 in top-ranked matchups

Friday, September 22, 2023 | 6:00 AM

If a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup wasn’t enough excitement for a Friday night, this week also is homecoming at Peters Township, so football coach T.J. Plack had a message for his players.

“I don’t care if you’re dancing at the pep rally or who your date is or where you’re getting your hair cut, let’s worry about Upper St. Clair on Friday night,” Plack said with a laugh.

“I told them, ‘This is a game you’re going to talk about for the next five or 10 years,’ us as a team. To their buddies in college. To their wife when they meet her. This is a big game on a Friday night. It’s awesome.”

No. 1 Peters Township (4-0, 1-0) hosts No. 2 Upper St. Clair (4-0, 1-0) in a battle for first place in the Allegheny Six. The Indians are trying to hold onto the top spot in the WPIAL 5A rankings, a task that’s proven difficult for teams this season. Penn Hills fell from the top spot after losing last week.

Some coaches might downplay the No. 1 ranking, but Plack has embraced it.

“It comes up,” he said. “It’s the elephant in the room. I brought up the homecoming and I brought up, ‘Hey, you’re No. 1, they’re No. 2.’ We brought all that stuff up. But our goal is 1-0 this week. We’ve got blinders on.”

Remarkably, there are two other games on the WPIAL schedule this week that also include teams ranked No. 1 and 2.

In Class 6A, No. 1 North Allegheny (4-0, 1-0) hosts No. 2 Central Catholic (4-0, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Newman Stadium. Their game is a rematch of last year’s WPIAL final won by North Allegheny.

The other one vs. two matchup involves teams in different classifications. Belle Vernon (3-0), the top-ranked team in Class 3A, hosts Thomas Jefferson (4-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 4A.

Trying to stay perfect

There is a fourth game this week that matches two undefeated teams, even though it might be overshadowed a bit.

Elizabeth Forward (4-0) hosts Knoch (4-0) in a nonconference game Friday night. Both teams are ranked in WPIAL Class 3A, with EF second and Knoch fifth.

It might not have the glamour of a No. 1 vs. 2 clash, but it could play a role in playoff seeding down the road.

This is the second week in a row that Knoch’s perfect start has run into an undefeated opponent. The Knights handed Southmoreland its first loss last week with a convincing 27-0 win.

Elizabeth Forward is coming off a 42-14 win over Shady Side Academy.

A rare test for Quips?

For Aliquippa, most conference games are rather drama-free nowadays.

The Quips haven’t lost to a Parkway opponent since joining Class 4A in 2020, and they’ve won 17 of those 18 conference games by double digits.

However, the one outlier was West Allegheny, the opponent Aliquippa faces this week. West A (3-1, 1-0) hosts Aliquippa (3-0, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.

A year ago, there was drama.

Aliquippa needed a 97-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to pull out a come-from-behind, 19-16 win over West A. Quips running back Tiqwai Hayes leaped into the end zone for the winning touchdown with 2:10 left.

The Quips’ defense then made a game-saving stop in the final seconds.

That was different than most weeks, when the outcome is long decided before the fourth quarter. In the past four seasons, the average score for an Aliquippa conference win is 45-12.

Somebody gets a win

If there’s a chance Brownsville’s lengthy losing streak ends soon, this seemingly could be the week.

The Falcons, who’ve lost 34 in a row, face winless Carrick (0-4) on Friday at Cupples Stadium. But circumstances were the same a year ago, and this matchup didn’t go well for Brownsville.

Carrick won, 42-8.

The remaining games on Brownsville’s schedule are against Meyersdale, Albert Gallatin and a rematch with Uniontown, which already defeated Brownsville once this season, 34-8, on Sept. 1.

Brownsville hasn’t won a game since 2019.

Meanwhile, Carrick has lost nine in a row since last year’s win over Brownsville. The Raiders this season lost to Carlynton, 46-6, University Prep, 66-0, Uniontown, 45-14, and Brashear, 52-24, so they’re also hungry for a win.

Change of schedule

Two games were scratched from the Week 4 schedule.

Serra Catholic canceled classes and all activities this week after a student died Wednesday in a vehicle collision involving a school van. Serra (0-4, 0-1) was scheduled to host Imani Christian (2-2, 0-1) in an Allegheny Conference game.

Avella (2-2, 0-1) canceled its Black Hills game against Bishop Canevin (3-0, 1-0), citing a lack of healthy players. Avella started the season with only 17 players listed on its roster. A year ago, Canevin won this matchup, 56-0.

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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