5 things to watch in WPIAL Week 5: Finally, every team has reached conference play

Friday, September 29, 2023 | 10:38 AM

WPIAL teams are now five weeks into the football season and 14 schools had yet to play a conference game.

That’ll change Friday when the Interstate and Allegheny 6 open conference play. Both are WPIAL Class 3A conferences, not to be confused with the similarly named Allegheny Six in Class 5A.

One of the top Week 5 matchups sees Deer Lakes (4-1) visit Knoch (4-1). Both teams hope to contend for a conference title in the Allegheny 6, and anyone in the stands shouldn’t leave early.

A year ago, these teams combined for 38 points in the fourth quarter alone, including 22 by Knoch and 16 by Deer Lakes, which escaped with a 37-36 victory.

In the Interstate, Elizabeth Forward (5-0) opens conference play by hosting Southmoreland (3-1). Also in the Interstate, defending state champion Belle Vernon (3-1) opens conference play at South Allegheny (1-4).

Teams in those two conferences will finish the regular season with five consecutive conference matchups.

In a scheduling quirk, Class 5A teams Moon (2-3) and Shaler (4-1) also haven’t played a conference game. Moon opens conference play Friday at home against South Fayette (2-3, 1-1). Shaler plays Saturday against Woodland Hills (3-2, 1-1).

Most WPIAL teams — 81 — have already played two conference games.

Two at a time

Mohawk quarterback Jay Wrona can throw deep, since he leads all WPIAL passers with 20 touchdowns, but he’s obviously got a good short game, too.

The senior will compete Monday in the finals of the WPIAL 2A individual golf championships. He qualified by shooting an 84 in the first round this past Monday at Willowbrook County Club in Apollo.

A year ago, he placed 16th at WPIALs and qualified for state championship.

But before he tees it up, Mohawk (4-1, 2-0) has an important conference game Friday against Ellwood City (3-2, 1-1), which has the WPIAL’s leading rusher, Elijah Palmer-McCane (779 yards).

Too much for one day

Friday night is still primetime for WPIAL football, but the Week 5 schedule has a couple of big games Saturday.

Among them is a first-place matchup in the Black Hills between Fort Cherry (5-0, 2-0) and Bishop Canevin (4-0, 2-0) at 7 p.m. at Dormont Stadium. It’s a Class A game between small-school teams, but both have big talents.

Fort Cherry sophomore Matt Sieg recently received a Penn State offer. As the team’s quarterback, he both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman. Bishop Canevin has a number of college recruits, including senior safety/wide receiver Jason Cross, a West Virginia commit.

A year ago, Canevin routed Fort Cherry, 60-7, but the Rangers hope they’ve narrowed the gap.

Another Saturday game sees Woodland Hills visit Shaler in the Northeast Conference. Saturday is homecoming for Shaler. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

Big-school rivalries renewed

Mt. Lebanon vs. Upper St. Clair was once among the WPIAL’s best conference rivalries. So, too, was North Allegheny vs. Pine-Richland.

They’ll renew their rivalries Friday, but nowadays both are nonconference games. Upper St. Clair hosts Mt. Lebanon at 7 p.m. Pine-Richland visits North Allegheny at 7:30 p.m.

Familiar foes in Butler County

Butler (2-3) won’t return to WPIAL football until next season, but the Tornado will make a visit into the district Friday to play Seneca Valley (0-5).

It’s Butler’s second game this season against a WPIAL opponent after losing to Shaler, 38-7, in Week Zero. Butler has wins over Meadville, 27-26, and Brashear, 38-0. The team’s other losses were to Hollidaysburg, 33-13, and Erie High, 20-19.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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