A-K Valley football notebook: Eastern Conference opponents rank high

Thursday, October 19, 2017 | 5:06 PM

Not many teams play multiple opponents ranked in the top 10 of the state during the regular season.

Unless, of course, you reside in Class A's Eastern Conference.

Leechburg, Riverview and Springdale share the same league as Jeannette — currently ranked No. 4 in the Pennlive.com PIAA Class A football rankings — and Imani Christian (No. 7). Clairton also ranked in the top 10 earlier this season but fell out after a recent two-game losing streak.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, we've had three chances to play top-tier Single-A teams this year,” Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said. “There's probably not a lot of teams out there that can say that. We just relish that opportunity, and we're going to put forth our best effort and see what happens.”

Springdale (4-4, 3-2) concludes its three-game tour of top teams by hosting Imani Christian (6-2, 4-1) on Friday. Riverview (2-5, 1-5) visits Clairton this week, and Leechburg (0-8, 0-6) travels to Imani Christian in Week 9.

The Alle-Kiski Valley teams are a combined 0-6 against Clairton, Imani and Jeannette, but Springdale put up a strong fight against both Clairton and Jeannette. The Dynamos played with Clairton for much of the game in Week 2 before falling 32-16, and they trailed Jeannette by a touchdown late in the first half in Week 6 before faltering.

A victory over Imani would allow Springdale to clinch a playoff spot.

“There are certainly no weeks off in this conference,” Napierkowski said. “We had a good win (37-27) last week against Bishop Canevin, but now our focus has turned to Imani. We're going to come out and just try to play Springdale football and see what happens.”

Playoff payoffs

The Alle-Kiski Valley is awaiting its first football playoff clinching, but it could get as many as three this week, as Fox Chapel, Freeport and Springdale all face win-and-in scenarios.

Fox Chapel (4-4, 4-3) can clinch the fourth and final postseason berth from the Class 5A Allegheny Nine Conference with a win over Chartiers Valley (1-7, 1-5). The Foxes, winners of three consecutive games, are a game ahead of North Hills in the standings.

Freeport (5-2, 4-1) can earn the second guaranteed spot from the Class 3A Allegheny Conference with a win over Keystone Oaks (5-2, 4-1). A loss would drop the Yellowjackets into a battle for two wild card slots with Shady Side Academy and teams from the other two Class 3A conferences.

Springdale (4-4, 3-2) would earn a Class A playoff spot with a win over Imani Christian (6-2, 4-1). The Dynamos, currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, also would clinch one of the five automatic playoff berths if Greensburg Central Catholic (3-5, 2-3) beats Bishop Canevin (2-5, 2-4); the Dynamos hold the tiebreaker over Canevin by virtue of a 37-27 win over the Crusaders last week.

Passing fancy

Friday's Class 4A Northwest Nine matchup between Highlands and No. 1 South Fayette (8-0, 6-0) features a pair of quarterbacks with similar passing lines this season.

Eerily similar.

Highlands quarterback Seth Cohen, who set school single-game yardage and touchdown records earlier this season, has thrown for 1,634 yards and 20 touchdowns — the exact same season totals as South Fayette's Drew Saxton, who ranks ninth in WPIAL history with 6,337 career passing yards.

Long story short: Passing will be on display Friday in a game Highlands (4-3, 3-3) needs to win to stay in WPIAL playoff contention. Saxton passed for 402 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Highlands last season.

Zeroed in

Shut out in three games earlier this season, Deer Lakes turned the tables last week with a 33-0 victory over nonconference opponent Laurel.

Helped by an early goal-line stand, the Lancers (1-6) put up their strongest defensive performance of the season — multiple seasons, in fact. Their last shutout came Sept. 18, 2015, a span of 23 games.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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