5 things to watch in Week 7 of the high school football season

Thursday, October 10, 2019 | 5:45 PM

One conference loss is manageable, but two might doom someone’s season in WPIAL Class A.

A handful of one-loss teams face the dire situation this week including Cornell, Greensburg Central Catholic and Laurel. In the WPIAL’s smallest classification, only the top two finishers from each conference and two wild cards are guaranteed playoff spots, so there’s little room for error.

A year ago, Laurel finished 5-2 and missed the playoffs.

“We worry about that,” said Jeannette coach Roy Hall, a guest Tuesday on TribLive HSSN’s This Week in the WPIAL. “You can have two losses and possibly be sitting at home. Some people think (making the playoffs) is a given, but it’s not.”

This week’s schedule will help decide who’s left on the outside looking in.

Jeannette (3-0 in conference) visits Greensburg Central Catholic (4-1) in the Eastern Conference, where Clairton (4-0) also is undefeated.

Elsewhere, Cornell (4-1) hosts Laurel (3-1) in the Big Seven, where Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (4-1) also has only one conference loss. All three trail conference-leading Sto-Rox (5-0).

In the Tri-County South, West Greene (6-0), Chartiers-Houston (4-1) and California (3-1) all have one conference loss or fewer.

That’s 10 teams vying for eight playoffs spots.

The WPIAL reduced the Class A bracket from 16 teams to eight last season, in part because there were so many first-round blowouts. Reducing the playoffs from four rounds to three also allowed the Class A final to be played at Heinz Field.

2. Small schools, big matchup

Despite those playoffs implications, the most interesting WPIAL Class A matchup this week might be a nonconference game.

Tri-County South leading West Greene (7-0 overall) visits Neil C. Brown Stadium to face Eastern leader Clairton (5-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.

West Greene has outscored opponents 313-56 behind WPIAL rushing and scoring leader Ben Jackson, but the Tri-County doesn’t receive much respect because of its dismal playoff history.

That postseason outlook could change with a win over Clairton.

The Pioneers lost to Clairton, 33-14, at home last season, but Jackson was injured. The senior has rushed this season for 1,857 yards (an average of 265 per week) and scored 31 touchdowns.

3. New names, same results

How consistent is South Fayette’s offense? Consider, Naman Alemada could become the third Lions different quarterback in three years to have 2,000 passing yards.

South Fayette’s Drew Saxton passed for 2,749 yards in 2017, and Jamie Diven had 3,211 last season.

Alemada has 1,925 yards entering Friday at Highlands. The 6-foot-4 senior threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns last week against Knoch.

In the entire WPIAL, only 12 teams had a 2,000-yard passer last season. One of those was Gateway, which also could have its third different 2,000-yard passer in three years.

Gators quarterback Bryson Venazio needs 437 yards to reach 2,000, following Brendan Majocha (2,179 in 2018) and Brady Walker (4,657 in 2017).

4. Crowded race in Allegheny 8

The Allegheny Eight title likely won’t be decided until Week 9 because only one game separates the top four teams in the Class 5A conference standings.

Bethel Park (4-0), Moon (3-1), Peters Township (3-1) and Upper St. Clair (3-1) are in contention. Baldwin (3-2) could force its way into the conversation as well.

That makes these next three weeks interesting because there are five head-to-head matchups involving those five teams in Weeks 7, 8 and 9.

5. Pa. vs. Ohio, Part 2

Three weeks after Penn-Trafford lost to Massillon, Gateway takes its chances against one of Ohio’s top-ranked teams.

The Gators (6-1) play Massillon (6-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Massillon is the top-ranked team in Division II, the second-largest classification in Ohio. Gateway is ranked third in Class 5A, the second-largest in Pennsylvania.

Penn-Trafford lost at Massillon, 42-21, on Sept. 20.

Gateway and Penn-Trafford each needed to fill an open week after Albert Gallatin left the WPIAL in football.

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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