5 things to watch in Week 8 of high school football: Teams control playoff destiny

Thursday, October 19, 2017 | 7:33 PM

Win and you're in.

That's the mindset a number of WPIAL teams can embrace Friday night, knowing their playoff destinies are entirely in their own hands this week.

But that doesn't mean it'll be easy.

For instance, South Allegheny (1-4) could earn its first postseason trip since 2012 with a win. However, its Three Rivers Conference opponent, Avonworth (2-3), also can qualify for the playoffs with a win.

A large percentage of the WPIAL playoff spots already are claimed (46 of 64) and a handful will rely on Week 9 outcomes. But Freeport, Mars, Greensburg Central Catholic, Peters Township, Bentworth, Springdale and some others can wrap up a playoff berth in Week 8.

Win and they won't need to check scores from other games.

“It's always best to have your destiny in your hands,” said Fox Chapel coach Tom Loughran, whose team would earn its first postseason trip in three seasons with a victory over Chartiers Valley. “We always tell our kids, we can't control what happens in other games. We can only control how we play on Friday, so let's go out and play our best. Whatever else happens, happens.”

Fox Chapel (4-3 in the Allegheny Nine) has won three games in a row and has a one-game edge over North Hills (3-4) for fourth place. But North Hills holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, so a loss to Chartiers Valley (1-5) could be costly for the Foxes.

North Hills would qualify with a Fox Chapel loss and a victory over Hampton (2-4) in Week 9.

No one will overlook this game

Motivation won't be lacking when No. 2-ranked McKeesport (6-1, 5-1) and No. 3 Gateway (7-1, 5-1) renew their rivalry Friday night in Monroeville. The two teams are tied for second in the Class 5A Big East, and the conference title remains a possibility for each.

McKeesport's Layton Jordan, Carlinos Acie and Johnny Harper might form the most electric run game in the WPIAL, while Gateway quarterback Brady Walker leads all passers this season.

Need more? Well, the teams are 6-6 against one other since 2004. When they met in the playoffs last season, McKeesport defeated Gateway, 41-38, in the semifinals on a last-second touchdown catch-and-lateral.

As an added touch, the contest was chosen for The Great American Rivalry Series, which recognizes top high school rivalries across the country.

AT&T Sportsnet will televise the contest tape-delayed after the Penguins game.

WR on a record-setting pace

Mt. Lebanon senior wideout Aidan Cain needs 12 catches in two weeks to match the WPIAL regular-season receptions record set by Seton LaSalle's Carmen Connolly in 2004.

Cain has 74 catches and 1,341 yards.

The Blue Devils visit Penn Hills this week and face Mt. Lebanon in Week 9. This has been a breakout season for Cain, who missed his sophomore and junior seasons with knee injuries. He set a state single-game record in Week 2 with 27 receptions against Pine-Richland.

Cain already owns the WPIAL regular-season record for receiving yardage.

Midseason coaching changes could be sad trend

Waynesburg coach Russ Moore and Freedom's Tom Liberty each resigned this week, so their former teams must play Friday with a new person in charge.

Waynesburg (1-6, 1-5) is in the midst of a one-win season, but Freedom (5-3, 3-2) already has clinched a spot in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. Russ Barley, Freedom's top assistant, replaces Liberty for Friday's matchup with Neshannock. Coincidentally, Barley is a teacher at Neshannock.

Who says nonconference games don't count?

A couple of nonconference contests this week could impact the playoffs when the committee builds the brackets. Seton LaSalle (7-0) and Quaker Valley (7-1) each can make a compelling argument for a very high seed in the Class 3A playoff bracket. The teams meet Friday at Peters Township.

Seton LaSalle has the WPIAL's top rusher (Lionel Deanes), leads the Allegheny Conference and joins Aliquippa (8-0) as the only undefeated teams in Class 3A. Quaker Valley, which lost 22-7 to Aliquippa, is the only team to challenge the Quips this year.

Elsewhere, Mt. Lebanon (6-2) at Penn Hills (6-2) could be a preview of a first-round matchup in Class 6A. Entering Friday night, Mt. Lebanon leads the Southeastern Conference while Penn Hills sits fourth in the Northern Seven.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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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