A-K Valley football notebook: WPIAL playoff picture rounding out

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Saturday, October 12, 2019 | 11:19 PM


It’s getting to the point in high school football season when the playoff picture is starting to become clearer.

Friday night’s Big East Conference matchup between Burrell and Freeport helped with that.

With their 36-35 overtime victory, which snapped the Bucs’ seven-game losing streak in the matchup, Burrell (5-3, 4-3) moved closer to its first playoff appearance since 2012. That year, Burrell finished 8-2 overall and 7-1 in conference play.

“We know about the struggles of the past, but this isn’t the Burrell teams of the past,” Bucs coach Shawn Liotta said. “We are on the road to getting this thing turned around and getting it jump-started in the right direction. Tonight was a monumental game toward our goal of doing that.”

To assure a playoff appearance for the Bucs, Deer Lakes will have to lose to first-place North Catholic or second-place Derry in its final two Big East Conference games.

Since losing to Burrell, 16-14, on Sept. 27, the Lancers have lost three straight games, including a 40-21 setback to Freeport last week.

“Our kids and coaches are committed to turning this football program around,” Liotta said. “That’s all part of the process, and we took a big step forward tonight.”

Out of their hands

After winning its first five games, Knoch has hit a wall. After a 34-7 loss to New Castle on Friday and with no conference games remaining on their schedule, the Knights’ playoff hopes are out of their hands.

“We need a lot of help, and from what it looks like, the help we need is pretty tough-looking,” Knoch coach Brandon Mowry said. “But you never say never.”

The Knights sit at 4-3 in conference play, and there are three teams ahead of them in the standings that could gift them a trip to the postseason.

The first one is Blackhawk, which is 4-2 in conference and has one league game remaining, a matchup with Beaver (2-6, 1-4). If the Cougars lose, they’ll own the same conference record as Knoch, which has the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The other two teams are Montour (4-4, 3-2) and New Castle (5-3, 3-2). Both have two conference games remaining, and one would have to lose both for the Knights to make the playoffs.

Montour has matchups left with Beaver (2-6, 1-4) and South Fayette (7-1, 5-0). New Castle will play Highlands (2-6, 2-4) and Ambridge (0-8, 0-5).

“We still have two games to go, and we still have a chance to have a good record overall,” Mowry said. “We have a good chance to be 7-3, which we haven’t done in quite a while, so that’s our goal. We want to come out with a good record and see where the playoff chips fall.”

The Knights also suffered a major injury Friday as starting running back Matt Goodlin suffered a season-ending elbow injury.

Vikings set to right ship

Apollo-Ridge suffered a minor setback Friday.

In a game when they could have clinched a first-round home game, the Vikings lost to Steel Valley, 20-14.

Logan Harmon ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and Jake Fello was 10 of 19 passing for 120 yards in the loss. Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said mistakes were the difference.

“We just didn’t play well. We had a lot of issues on a lot of different things,” Skiba said. “We had a lot of issues both offensively and defensively.”

Steel Valley got ahead early as Nyzair Burt scored twice in the second quarter, and a 1-yard run by Ronnell Lawrence in the fourth quarter sealed the victory.

Last week, the Vikings almost lost to Valley but pulled away with a 35-28 victory to secure their playoff spot. With two nonconference games remaining — against Freedom and Charleroi — Apollo-Ridge will look to right the ship.

“We just have to play sound football,” Skiba said. “We haven’t done that the past two weeks, if we can do that, we’ll be fine.”

Foxes upset Mars

After a 30-28 victory over Mars on Friday night, Fox Chapel is back in the Class 5A playoff picture.

The Foxes (3-5, 2-3) have won three of four games, with the only loss coming Sept. 27 to Upper St. Clair. After a nonconference victory over Connellsville a week later, Fox Chapel coach Tom Loughran delivered a message to his team.

“We were trying to get across to our guys that we have three conference games left. Let’s finish the season with three victories,” Loughran said. “You can’t get three until you get one, so we went up to Mars with that mindset.”

With its victory over Mars, Fox Chapel sits in fourth place in the Class 5A Northern Conference with the top five teams from each conference, plus a wild-card team, earning a berth to the playoffs.

Fox Chapel has games remaining against Armstrong (3-5, 2-3) and Shaler (3-5, 2-3).

“We still need to understand that we have to play within the constraints that are given to us by coaches,” Loughran said. “Just not try to do too much, we just need to do what we’re asked to do and let everybody do their job. We just need to play our position and do our job and trust that everyone else is going to do theirs.”

•••

Coming attractions

Derry (6-2, 5-1) at Deer Lakes (3-5, 3-3)

A win for the Lancers means their playoff hopes are still alive. A loss means their season is over. A lot on the line.

New Castle (5-3, 3-2) at Highlands (2-6, 2-4)

This game has implications for Knoch. A New Castle win, and the Knights are out after starting the season 5-0.

Armstrong (1-6, 0-5) at Fox Chapel (3-5, 2-3)

A week ago, this game probably wouldn’t have mattered. But the Foxes are back in the playoff hunt after a win over Mars.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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