5 things to watch in Week 9: Aliquippa, Central Valley battle for conference title
Thursday, October 24, 2019 | 11:42 PM
Only one team has defeated Aliquippa in the past two seasons combined: Central Valley in Week 9 last year.
That’s one loss in 706 days.
It’s also the only loss in Aliquippa coach Mike Warfield’s two-year tenure.
“You don’t have to remind me,” Warfield said, laughing.
The Beaver County rivals meet again Friday night at Aliquippa’s Aschman Stadium, this time for the Tri-County West title. Aliquippa (9-0, 6-0) is ranked first in WPIAL Class 3A, and Central Valley (8-1, 6-0) is second.
A year ago, there wasn’t much on the line. This time, there’s a conference title in the balance and a No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs.
“I’m excited about it because it’s great for both communities,” said Warfield, who was a Central Valley assistant coach for four years before taking over Aliquippa. “I know their community will be supportive. Ours definitely is going to be supportive.”
Central Valley stunned the eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion last October with a 14-8 victory in Week 9 at Sarge Alberts Stadium in Center. The loss didn’t derail Aliquippa’s future as the Quips went on to celebrate championship wins at Heinz Field and Hersheypark Stadium.
But it certainly shaped Central Valley’s.
The Warriors appeared destined for a dismal 2018 season before they turned their fortunes around with a three-game October winning streak, capped with the emotional victory over the Quips.
That win was a year ago, but the impact can be seen today, Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. His Warriors were 2-5 at one point last season. This year, with much the same roster, they are outscoring teams 355-116.
“There is something to be said about momentum,” Lyons said. “… It gave us a lot of momentum going into the offseason.”
Montour goes ‘wild’
There were times when a Lou Cerro offense could throw the football seven times on one possession.
Not so, lately.
When Montour lost quarterback Luke Persinger to a broken collarbone in Week 4, the Spartans overhauled their offense and now use a run-heavy wildcat scheme. They’re also 4-0 in their past four games.
“Credit to my coaches and my team,” Cerro said. “Since the Blackhawk game, we haven’t played with a quarterback. We’ve thrown the ball seven times in four games.”
Fourth-ranked Montour (5-4, 4-2) visits second-ranked South Fayette (8-1, 6-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The playoff field in most WPIAL classifications is set with the exception of Class 5A, which remains far from settled. Blame that uncertainty on the upset-filled Northern Conference and its unpredictability.
This is certain: Penn Hills and North Hills are first and second, depending on Friday’s head-to-head matchup. But there are scenarios involving Kiski Area (3-3), Mars (3-3), Fox Chapel (3-3), Shaler (2-4) and Hampton (2-4) that could produce eight different playof outcomes.
Mars visits Hampton, Armstrong visits Kiski Area, and Fox Chapel hosts Shaler. Mars and Kiski Area already have clinched playoff spots, but Mars could finish anywhere from third to sixth in the conference.
Winner takes all
Central Valley vs. Aliquippa isn’t the only head-to-head, winner-takes-all matchup Friday for a conference championship.
In Class 2A, Washington (9-0, 6-0) visits McGuffey (8-1, 6-0) for the Century title.
In Class A, Clairton (7-2, 5-0) hosts Jeannette (9-0, 5-0) for the Eastern title.
A number of other games could produce shared conference titles including North Allegheny at Pine-Richland in Class 6A.
Hoping for the best
Putting your playoff fate in another team’s hands is never a good feeling. Just ask Knoch. To reach the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs, the Knights need winless Ambridge to defeat New Castle (5-4, 3-3).
Ambridge (0-9, 0-6) owns one of the longest active losing streaks in the WPIAL. The Bridgers have lost 16 games in a row.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .