5 things to watch in Week 8: Home field at stake for WPIAL 1st round and quarterfinals

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Friday, October 22, 2021 | 2:39 PM


There’s no place like home, especially in the playoffs.

This fall that home-field advantage is a bigger factor than usual since the WPIAL decided to extend that perk to higher-seeded teams for both first-round and quarterfinal games.

The WPIAL informed schools this week.

So, a matchup like Friday’s between Fox Chapel and North Hills will have repercussions beyond who wins the conference title. Those two teams are part of a four-way tie for first place in the Class 5A Northeast.

“We’re rewarding the teams for their efforts in getting a top seed,” WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said, “as well as allowing those home crowds to attend more closely than having to drive. And with a single site, we don’t have as much overlap in crowds and exposure (to potential covid infections).”

Traditionally, WPIAL football teams had hosted only in the first round of the playoffs. But a year ago, to cope with pandemic restrictions, the WPIAL adapted and played all rounds except championships on home fields.

“This year, we’re going to back it up a game and just do first round and second round at the home sites,” Scheuneman said. “Semis will be a neutral, doubleheader-type venue.”

The WPIAL will use this home-field approach for all fall sports.

Big game in Big Eight

Laurel Highlands celebrated the first 5-0 start in team history this fall, but three consecutive losses have put a damper on that feel-good start. The Mustangs (5-3, 2-3) are now in danger of missing the playoffs if they lose again Friday.

Trinity (2-3, 1-3) hosts Laurel Highlands, and the winner seems likely to qualify as the fourth team in the Big Eight. That’s because Laurel Highlands finishes its schedule with a nonconference game against Uniontown next week, while Trinity visits Ringgold (2-5, 0-4), who’s winless in the conference.

Building a bridge

If you’re Ambridge, what’s better than snapping a 28-game losing streak?

How about qualifying for the playoffs?

It’s possible. Ambridge (1-7, 1-2) is tied with Quaker Valley (2-6, 1-2) for the fourth and final playoff spot from the Northwestern Six. The Bridgers and Quakers play Friday at Moe Rubenstein Stadium in Ambridge.

The Bridgers and first-year coach Sherman McBride saw the team’s long losing streak end Oct. 1 with a 35-9 win at Hopewell. The losing streak was the longest active in the WPIAL at the time.

Punching playoff ticket?

Leechburg hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 1988 — a 33-year absence that stands as the longest-active postseason drought in the WPIAL. That could officially end Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-2, 3-2) host Imani Christian (2-5, 1-4) needing only one more conference win to clinch a spot in the Class A bracket.

The next-longest playoff drought belongs to Brownsville, which last reached the WPIAL playoffs in 2000.

Schedule changes

The WPIAL added two more forfeits to the list this week.

Frazier forfeited to Washington in the Class 2A Century Conference. The forfeit win was the second this season for the Prexies, who’ve played only six games in nine weeks. They also had a nonconference game canceled as a no-contest.

Also, Fort Cherry forfeited Friday’s scheduled game to Cornell in the Class A Big Seven.

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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