5 things to watch in WPIAL Week 8: Traditionally tough Parkway lives up to reputation

Friday, October 20, 2023 | 12:42 PM

The Parkway Conference was traditionally considered among the best battles in WPIAL football, and this year’s version has lived up to that reputation.

With two weeks left in the regular season, four teams have one conference loss or less: Aliquippa (5-0), Montour (4-1), Central Valley (4-1) and West Allegheny (4-1).

They’re all playoff bound but none has an easy finish ahead.

The conference battle resumes Friday with Central Valley visiting West Allegheny at 7 p.m. Next week, Central Valley hosts Aliquippa and West Allegheny visits Montour.

As a result, the Parkway looks as congested as ever since the title could be won outright or become a three-way tie. The week-to-week matchups between the four front-runners have been competitive more often than not.

Consider, Central Valley’s only Parkway loss was by one point to Montour, 21-20. West Allegheny’s only loss was to Aliquippa, 29-22, on a late touchdown by the Quips.

Aliquippa has won three consecutive Parkway titles since the conference was reformed in 2020. No conference was named the Parkway for four seasons after the PIAA expanded to six classifications.

Small school, big wins

Who’s the most dominant team in the WPIAL? Peters Township or Aliquippa could make a case, but statistically, it’s South Side.

Entering Week 8, the undefeated Rams’ own the largest margin of victory in the WPIAL at 38 points per game. They’ve outscored their opponents 364-59.

Seven of the eight opponents were held to a touchdown or less, and the most points they’ve allowed to anyone is 12. Offensively, the Rams have topped 50 points three times, including a season-high 62.

South Side (8-0, 4-0) will face its toughest opponent yet on Friday when the Rams visit reigning WPIAL Class A champion Union (7-1, 4-0). The outcome will decide the Big 7 Conference title.

South Side has three rushers with more than 500 yards — Ryan Navarra, A.C. Corfield and Brody Almashy — and all three have scored at least 10 touchdowns.

Top QBs clash

Two of the top four passers in the WPIAL will share the field Friday when Western Beaver visits Mohawk.

Western Beaver freshman Jaivin Peel is the WPIAL’s leading passer with 2,119 yards and has thrown for 25 touchdowns. Mohawk senior Jay Wrona ranks fourth with 1,714 yards and has 28 touchdowns.

Mohawk (7-1, 5-0) is chasing a Midwestern title. The Warriors are tied with Neshannock atop the Class 2A conference standings. Western Beaver (5-3, 4-1) is one game back.

Peel last week broke what’s believed to be the WPIAL record for passing yards by a freshman.

Will playoff drought end?

The WPIAL’s second-longest active playoff drought could end this week. Ellwood City hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2011, but the Wolverines could clinch a postseason berth Friday.

They have two ways to clinch.

The first route would be for Ellwood City (4-4, 2-3) to defeat Neshannock (7-1, 5-0). The second option would involve Riverside (0-7, 0-5) losing to New Brighton (0-8, 0-5), plus Freedom (2-6, 1-4) losing to Beaver Falls (4-4, 3-2).

However, even if it doesn’t happen this week, Ellwood City still has a good chance to qualify since the Midwestern sends five teams to the playoffs.

Sorting out the standings

The Allegheny Six playoff race will take shape this week with Upper St. Clair (1-2) hosting Moon (2-1) and South Fayette (1-2) visiting Bethel Park (2-1) in two key conference games.

Peters Township (4-0) is the clear conference favorite, but one game separates the next four teams in the standings. Only first- and second-place finishers are guaranteed playoff spots in Class 5A, so every win is crucial.

The eight-team playoff bracket also has two wild cards, so whatever happens in the Allegheny Six on Friday could impact the Big East and Northeast, as well.

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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