Alle-Kiski Valley football teams set to learn playoff foes

Monday, October 30, 2017 | 12:06 AM

Few football teams' seasons come without adversity.

Fox Chapel lost four of its first five games. Freeport faced a must-win situation in Week 8 to earn a playoff spot. Springdale underwent a pair of offseason coaching changes and came into the final week of the regular season with its postseason fate undetermined.

But the Foxes, Yellowjackets and Dynamos all overcame their challenges to earn their spots in the WPIAL football playoff field, the specifics of which will be revealed Monday night when league officials reveal the brackets in the six classifications at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree.

“This is something our group of seniors has been working for for four years,” Fox Chapel senior quarterback Nick Gizzo said. “But we aren't done yet. We have more to accomplish.”

Fox Chapel clinched its first postseason berth since 2014 and its first under coach Tom Loughran by winning its final five games after a 1-4 start. Along the way, the Foxes upset Woodland Hills in a Week 3 thriller, and Gizzo and running back Micah Morris churned out record-breaking performances on the ground. The Foxes sealed their playoff bid with a 34-18 victory over Chartiers Valley in Week 8 and followed it up with a rout of Plum in Week 9.

“We all knew what we were capable of doing, worked hard and never gave up on our goal of making the playoffs,” Gizzo said.

Freeport (7-2) made the WPIAL semifinals in 2015 and won four of its first five games last season before fading down the stretch and missing the playoffs.

This time the Yellowjackets buckled down behind a punishing defense and powerful running game, rallying from a double-digit second-half deficit to defeat Shady Side Academy for a key victory and pulling away from Keystone Oaks in Week 8 to clinch a playoff berth with a 28-7 victory.

“There's no feeling like being in the playoffs,” junior Conor Selinger said. “Last year we fell short in the second half of the season, and this year our goal was to keep going past that way point. Right now we're setting ourselves up pretty good.”

An offseason of upheaval couldn't deter Springdale's 15th playoff berth in 16 seasons.

Previous coach Dave Leasure resigned after the Dynamos made the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals last season. The school board hired a replacement, Mike Fulmore, who resigned shortly afterward. The next hire, former assistant Seth Napierkowski, steered the program to its latest postseason spot.

Legendary former Springdale coach Chuck Wagner, who led the Dynamos to a WPIAL title in 2003, died earlier this month, adding more emotion to the season. But Springdale clinched with a 42-25 victory over Greensburg Central Catholic in the final week of the regular season.

“It feels great,” senior Parker Kline said. “The win really boosted our confidence up there, and I think we're going to do good in the first round.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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