5 things to watch in Week 8 of the high school football season

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 7:45 PM

For many teams, there’s still hope.

The WPIAL has 119 football teams this season and more than 90 still have a mathematical path to the playoffs with two weeks left in the regular season.

Sure, some might seem slim.

But with a little help, even winless Butler could sneak into the postseason with consecutive victories in Weeks 8 and 9. For others, the path to the playoffs is more direct: Win and you’re in.

That’s the situation facing both Seneca Valley and Canon-McMillan in Class 6A.

Each team has two conference games left but only needs to win one. Seneca Valley (3-5, 3-3) hosts Pine-Richland and Norwin. Canon-McMillan (2-6, 2-4) visits Central Catholic and hosts Butler.

If both qualify, the WPIAL would have the same Class 6A playoff field as last season. North Allegheny, Central Catholic, Pine-Richland and Mt. Lebanon already have clinched berths.

In all, 41 teams have already earned postseason spots, leaving 21 still unclaimed.

2. TD record reachable?

West Greene senior Ben Jackson’s scoring pace has slowed, but the running back still will finish with one of the best touchdown totals in WPIAL regular-season history.

Jackson enters Week 8 with 32.

There’s a chance he could challenge the WPIAL record set by Zane Dudek. The former Armstrong standout scored 42 touchdowns in 2016.

Jackson has scored five touchdowns in a game four times this season and had four touchdowns in another.

So, 10 in two weeks isn’t unimaginable.

West Greene (7-1, 6-0) hosts Jefferson-Morgan (2-6, 2-3) in the Pioneers’ conference finale Friday and has a nonconference game at Union (3-5) in Week 9.

Close behind Dudek are McGuffey’s Christian Clutter, who scored 37 regular-season touchdowns last season, and Mars’ Bill Bair, who had 34 in 2007.

3. Time to celebrate

Seven WPIAL teams have earned at least a share of a conference title, but that list could grow considerably this week.

Among the key matchups in Week 8, Brentwood (7-1, 6-0) visits Burgettstown (7-0, 5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in what effectively is a championship game in the Three Rivers Conference.

In the Class 5A Allegheny Eight, there’s a three-way tie for first place. Two of those teams, Peters Township (7-1, 4-1) and Bethel Park (5-2, 4-1) meet Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Bethel Park. Moon is the third tied team.

4. Shady Side feeling better

Shady Side Academy’s season was in jeopardy just three weeks ago, when the short-handed Indians forfeited to Apollo-Ridge.

Now, with better health and consecutive wins, the outlook has improved.

In fact, Shady Side (5-2, 3-1) already has clinched a playoff berth in Class 2A Allegheny and could challenge for the conference title.

The Indians visit East Allegheny (5-3, 2-2) on Friday and host conference-leading Avonworth (8-0, 5-0) in Week 9.

5. Nonconference 5A clash

Week 8 isn’t the best time for a nonconference game, but there’s a strong Class 5A matchup this week that could impact the playoff bracket. Baldwin (5-3) carries a four-game winning streak into Friday’s matchup at defending WPIAL champ Penn Hills (7-1).

The outcome won’t affect who qualifies, but it could influence the WPIAL football committee’s thinking.

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

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