5 things we learned in Week 3: Drop in classification lifts WPIAL teams to 3-0 starts

Saturday, September 26, 2020 | 10:59 PM

After years battling as one of the smallest WPIAL schools in Class 5A football, Chartiers Valley this season became one of the largest in 4A — a move that’s had an immediate impact.

The proof is in the standings.

Coach Dan Knause’s team is 3-0 this year after going 3-7 in 2019 and 2-8 in 2018. More importantly, Chartiers Valley is 1-0 in the Parkway Conference after finishing 0-14 combined against Class 5A conference teams the past two seasons.

The key difference, Knause said, is depth.

No longer do the Colts share a conference with schools that have almost 200 more boys.

“We’re all in the same ballpark,” he said. “In the other (classification), once we got a couple of kids hurt, I never felt like we were in the same boat. Football is a numbers game.”

There’s more to the team’s success than just changing classifications, but Chartiers Valley isn’t the only program that’s found a boost by moving down. Carmichaels, Plum and Shenango also are off to strong starts after the PIAA shifted them into a smaller classification.

Carmichaels and Shenango went from being the smallest Class 2A teams to being among the largest in Class A. In the past two years combined, Carmichaels went 4-10 in the conference. Shenango went 3-11 in that same span.

Now, they’re both 3-0 in their conferences.

Carmichaels defeated Bentworth, 21-7, Friday to remain tied for first in the Tri-County South. Shenango routed Cornell, 68-14, to stay atop the Big Seven standings.

The move down put then in good situations.

“It appears that way at this point,” Shenango coach Jimmy Graham said. “It’s about staying healthy and how much depth you have when it comes to football season. … I know the last few years we had significant injuries when we were one of the smallest in the state in 2A.”

Shenango also has a star in the backfield in Reis Watkins, a senior who scored six touchdowns against Bentworth. This is Graham’s third season with the Wildcats and Knause’s fourth at Chartiers Valley, so their program-building efforts can’t be ignored either.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things for us,” Graham said.

Plum had struggles similar to Chartiers Valley’s. The Mustangs went 2-11 against Class 5A conference teams in 2019 and ’20. Now in Class 4A, they celebrated a 49-21 win Friday against Mars. The victory has them 3-0 in the Greater Allegheny and alone in first place.

Chartiers Valley’s enrollment hasn’t changed much in two years. According to PIAA numbers, there were 394 boys in grades 9-11 in 2018 compared to 386 boys now. But this time, when the PIAA realigned its classifications for the 2020 and ‘21 seasons, the Colts fell below the cut line dividing Class 5A and 4A.

The only larger Class 4A teams are Plum (395), Armstrong (391) and Trinity (390). The largest schools in Class 5A are Pine-Richland (571), Upper St. Clair (537) and Peters Township (523).

“Listen, I’m a competitor, and I would love to play St. Clair or Peters or West A this year,” Knause said, “just not week in and week out.”

Down but not out

Central Catholic surrendered its status as WPIAL Class 6A favorites when it lost Friday night to North Allegheny, 35-21. But history says don’t count out the Vikings quite yet. Central Catholic won three WPIAL titles in the past five seasons (2019, ’16 and ’15). Two of those championship runs (2019 and ’15) came after losing to North Allegheny in the regular season.

“If you look at our track record when we have a regular-season loss to North Allegheny, it usually turns out pretty well,” Central Catholic offensive coordinator Steve Bezila said. “Hopefully, this was the wake-up call we needed.”

Basketball season already?

Upper St. Clair 52, Latrobe 44.

No, this wasn’t a low-scoring basketball game where one team held the ball. The Class 5A football teams combined for 96 points in a nonconference game Friday night at Latrobe. There were eight rushing touchdowns, five touchdown catches and two field goals.

Latrobe quarterback Landan Carns led all WPIAL passers in Week 3 with 384 yards. He completed 20 of 35 attempts and threw four touchdowns. Upper St. Clair had three rushers with more 100 yards. Two of them, Ethan Heister and Jamaal Brown, scored three times each.

This isn’t the first WPIAL game to reach the 90s this season, but rarely is the final score a single-digit difference.

Streak ends at 64

South Fayette’s conference winning streak ended Friday at 64 games, five short of the WPIAL all-time record. The Lions lost 17-3 to Peters Township. Newcomers to Class 5A, coach Joe Rossi’s team hadn’t lost to a conference opponent since Week 8 in 2011.

The WPIAL’s record is held by Upper St. Clair, which won 69 in a row from 1988-98.

Four is enough

What can a player do with just four carries?

A lot, apparently. Beaver Falls senior Josh Hough had four carries Friday night, a light workload for a running back/linebacker committed to Syracuse, and finished with 243 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 77, 81 and 82 yards in a 54-26 victory over Ellwood City.

His wasn’t the only eye-popping stat line in Week 3.

Apollo-Ridge wide receiver Klay Fitzroy caught 10 passes for 200 yards in 56-8 nonconference victory over Burrell. The undefeated Vikings entered the TribLive HSSN rankings this week.

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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