Big Game Hunting for Week Fourteen

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 | 11:37 PM

Before we start this week’s Big Game Hunting, we would like to extend our sympathy to the family of DiMantae Bronaugh, the Aliquippa community and the WPIAL community as well, DiMantae’s battle with leukemia could not have been fought more fiercely or with more class. I pray it continues to bring us all closer together and, that he will be remembered forever. To the PIAA semi-finals we send five WPIAL Champions, for the first time ever. All five semi-finals featuring WPIAL teams will be right here on the MSA Sports Network for those of you who cannot make the sometimes considerable drive to follow your clubs. No choices to make means no complaints to the boss, which makes these next two weeks my favorite two weeks of the season to go Big Game Hunting!

6 A Semifinals:
Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings (13-1) vs Wilson West Lawn Bulldogs (12-1) Saturday December 3rd @ 7:00 PM at Mansion Park in Altoona Pennsylvania broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Kyle Dawson and James Dotson

Central was not really tested by Williamsport in their quarter final rolling 62-21 as J.J. Younger rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns. Wilson trailed Cumberland Valley 14-0 at the half in their District 3 championship game and went on to score 28 unanswered second half points behind Iggy Reynoso’s 208 yards rushing to win 28-14.

The Bulldogs have good balance in their offensive attack. Junior quarterback Connor Uhrig has completed 122 of 194 passes for 1762 yards and 18 touchdowns while tossing just five interceptions. Uhrig has also rushed for 342 yards and three scores.

Uhrig’s top target when throwing the ball is senior wide out Justin Weller who has 38 catches for 468 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Brian Wright has 25 catches for a team-high 583 yards and five scores on the year.

On the ground the junior Reynoso has been the work horse with 207 carries for 1613 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season.

Defensively senior outside linebacker Foday Jollah leads the Bulldogs with 12 tackles for loss, while senior middle linebacker Leo Quigley has a team-high 53 tackles on the season.

Once again in the quarters the Vikes did not take to the air much with Troy Fisher completing 4 of his 7 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. For the season Fisher has completed 74 of 126 passes for 1611 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Justice Evans is the top receiver for Central with 35 catches for 1022 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns. He has also rushed for a pair of scores and returned three punts for touchdowns and a kickoff for a touchdown on the season as well. This kid is a big play waiting to happen.

Speaking of big plays, J.J. Younger continues to come up with them time and time again. Younger has now rushed for 1558 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season. Younger also has four touchdowns in the return game for the Vikings, kicking the ball to Central in any fashion can be a scary adventure for opponents  with Younger and Evans in the return game.

Tim Terry and Rod Thomas have three interceptions each to lead a Viking defense that has produced 13 interceptions and six fumbles recovered.

Can the Bulldog offensive and defensive lines hang with the Vikings offensive and defensive lines? That is what this game will come down to.

5 A Semifinals:
West Allegheny Indians (13-0) vs Harrisburg Cougars (10-3) Saturday December 3rd @ 1:00 PM at Mansion Park in Altoona Pennsylvania broadcast on WJPA 1450 AM and the MSA Sports Network by Bob Gregg

Yahmir Wilkerson tossed a District 3 Championship game record six touchdown passes as Harrisburg knocked out Manheim Central 48-20 in the PIAA quarters. West Allegheny remained perfect with a 47-20 win over Meadville, Indians quarterback tossed for 208 yards and three touchdowns as West A won their 13th straight.

Wilkerson on the season has completed 114 of 190 passes for 1887 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Penn State recruit Micah Parsons has run very tough for the Cougars of late with 303 yards and six scores in his last four games played.

Ronald Kent and Shaquon Anderson-Butts are the receiving threats for the Cougars, both have big-time-playmaking ability.

Also keep an eye on running back Joel Davis a threat in both the rushing and passing attacks for the Cougars.

Defensively sophomore linebacker Dionte Payne has been turning a lot of heads in his direction with a breakout sophomore season. The Cougars love to pressure the quarterback.

The Indians Nick Ross has now thrown for 2388 yards on the season to go along with 17 touchdowns. Not only does he throw a nice ball and run the offense to perfection for Bob Palko, but watching him play he just seems to have a calming effect on his teammates. Down against McKeesport in that WPIAL title game late he looked like he was playing 9 holes of golf on a lazy summer afternoon. That quality infuses a team with confidence and cannot be overstated in its importance.

Brandon Lipford and Mateo Vandamia will continue to be the keys in the receiving game for the Indians, both are big-play threats as well as possession guys who can make tough catches in tight quarters.

On the ground Kenny White seems to be 100% after leaving the McKeesport game with an injury. White rushed for 121 yards and a score in the win over Meadville. He will contribute in all-phases for the “Sons of Palko”.

Keep in mind if this game is close late the Indians will have the luxury of turning to the all-time record holder in the state of Pennsylvania in terms of filed goals made in D.J. Opsatnik.

3 A Semifinals:
Beaver Falls Tigers (11-1) vs Martinsburg Central Dragons (12-1) Friday December 2nd @ 7:00 PM at Mansion Park in Altoona Pennsylvania broadcast on WBVP AM 1230 and WMBA AM 1460 and the MSA Sports Network by Bob Barrickman and Tom Hays

Central, the District 6 Champions controlled Karns City in the quarters 36-21. Alex Hoenstine passed for 66 yards and rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Beaver Falls meanwhile enjoyed a bye week and a chance to scout the Dragons as well as get some players back to 100% healthy.

The Dragons will take what you give them, Preston Karstetter has completed 73 of 135 passes for 1102 yards and nine touchdowns. If they think your secondary is suspect they will throw the ball with him. If they think they can run on you they will Line up Hoenstine in the “Wildcat” and attack you that way. Hoenstine has thrown for 432 yards and rushed for 2378 yards on the year. He will take handoffs when Karstetter is calling the signals. Hoenstine has rushed for 41 scores. He also has 22 catches for 289 yards and five touchdowns. Bottom line you have to know where number two is at all times as a defense.

Senior Chase Smith leads the Dragons with 32 catches for 516 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense for Central will get after you; as a club they have 100 tackles for loss on the season, including 29 sacks. Jared Smith has 20 of those tackles for loss and Austin Garner has 10 of those sacks.

The Tigers Austin French has completed 52 of 102 passes for 923 yards and 11 touchdowns. Beaver Falls will mix you up too in terms of having all-around athletes who can hurt you from any position and them lining up in different spots on the field.

Malik Shepherd and Derrell Carter are prime examples. Shepherd has eight catches for nearly 200 yards, he has completed four of eigh passes and he has rushed for 924 yards on the season, all the while scoring 10 touchdowns. Carter is the leading receiver for Beaver Falls with 16 catches for 229 yards, and also one of their leading rushers with 73 carries for 786 yards and he has scored 10 touchdowns as well.

Neshaud Akins has rushed for 790 yards and nine scores. Torian Leak has rushed for 569 yards and scored a team-high 12 touchdowns on the year.

Donovan Jeter anchors a stingy Tigers defense that despite playing in the best conference in the WPIAL has allowed less than 17 points per game on the season. Jeter, a University of Michigan recruit, is that guy, the guy who: despite the fact that every opponent is game planning to stay away from him, still manages to be in on almost every tackle. He is big and strong and fast and most of all tenacious and his teammates feed off him on every play. He’s a gamer and worth the price of admission by himself. 

2 A Semifinals:
Steel Valley Ironmen (13-0) vs Wilmington Area Greyhounds (12-1) Friday December 2nd @ 7:00 PM at Newman Stadium on the campus of North Allegheny high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Cory Campano and Johnny Lee

Both of these teams had no trouble whatsoever in the quarterfinals. Wilmington rolled Kane 42-0, Reese Bender threw four touchdown passes in the win, which was victory number 300 for long-time Wilmington coach Terry Verrelli. Steel Valley thumped Neshannock 49-14 DeWayne Murray rushed for 213 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Steel Valley now at 13-0 has won every game this season by the mercy-rule running clock margin of being ahead by 35 points in the 2nd half.

The ‘Hounds will run the “Wing T” Bender will call the signals, they keep it pretty balanced between rushing and throwing the pass. They rushed for 277 and passed for 228 in their quarterfinals win over Kane.

Spencer DeMedal is a guy who will contribute in both the rushing and passing attack for the Greyhounds, he rushed for 105 and caught passes to the tune of 90 yards last week.

Kyle Slicker and Colt Marett will add to the rushing attack for Wilmington Area.

I saw Steel Valley in person for the first time at RMU this past Saturday. I’ve been doing this a long time. I don’t have a good enough memory to throw around words like best or greatest. I do have a good enough memory to easily say this, I have never seen a more physical football team playing in AA. The stats for the  skill guys you will see in a moment, are dazzling.

What I don’t have a stat for is how fast and physical the defense for the Ironmen is. Every tackle they make, makes you turn to whoever you are watching the game with and just go “Boom, WOW!”

Ryan Harper has completed 87 of 142 passes for 1800 yards and 32 touchdowns, while only tossing three interceptions. Maybe most impressive, he doesn’t get nearly as much time at quarterback as probably 75% of the quarterbacks in the league. The Ironmen will run several versions of the “Wildcat” and having rolled everyone all year, Harper is rarely throwing in the second half. He has a bazooka, and he has touch, and awareness of any need to move within the pocket.

Oh by the way he also has the best receiver in the WPIAL to throw to. Paris Ford is just about impossible to cover, even with two guys, and if you do manage to get lucky and find yourself in position to be around him when the ball is, he will, out jump you, take the ball away from you and break you intended tackle. Ford has scored 19 touchdowns. ZaiQuan Henderson, Trevon Adams and Najhier West will destroy you if you try to slide guys over to help out on Ford.

As if the passing game wasn’t terrifying enough for opposing defenses, now you need to also worry about DeWayne ”The Train” Murray, who has rushed for 1901 yards and scored a tops-in-the-WPIAL 43 touchdowns on the year.

Defensive coordinators who have to watch this team on film and then try to prepare for them are not sleeping well, I promise you that.

1 A Semifinals:
Clairton Bears (13-0) vs Farrell Steelers (10-3) Friday December 2nd @ 7:00 PM at Slippery Rock University broadcast on WPIC AM 790 and the MSA Sports Network by Mark Slezak and Bob Greenburg

The Steelers defense has been spectacular, they shined again last week holding their opponent to 32 total yards. Wow there’s a sentence that hasn’t been written around here for a while. But this is the Farrell Steelers defeating Ridgway 20-7 to advance to the semis to face Clairton. Jourdan Townsend scored a pair of touchdowns in the win for the former District 7 team. Clairton defeated a very game Jeannette team to win their 9th WPIAL championship in the last 11 years. Yes this round of the playoff is actually pretty “old hat” for Wayne Wade’s club.

The Bears were once again without Noah Hamlin, and once again Lamont Wade took care of business at quarterback with aplomb. Wade is a one-man wrecking crew and he is surrounded by tons of young talent as well. The Bears do hold out hope for a Hamlin return this week but, make no mistake they are ready to go either way.

Wade has 143 carries for 2046 yards, he has scored 32 touchdowns for the season and is now the all-time leader in career touchdowns in the WPIAL with 120. But, here is the kicker, he might be a more dominant force on the defensive side of the ball than he is offensively. He is in on almost every tackle yet somehow always is around any ball in the air in the secondary, all the while being clearly the fastest player on the field.

Juniors Tre Howard and Kijafi Fuqua are the emerging stars for this Bears team. They have blossomed into their greatness like so many other Bears before them. Howard at 5’9” and 165 pounds seems to be the guy opponents see on film as someone they want to go after in the Bears secondary but he has shut down all-comers time and time again. He has also added the wrinkle of being a big-play guy on offense running the jet sweep or catching short passes and turning them into huge gains. Fuqua at 6’0” 190 pounds is a force of nature on defense and seemingly un-blockable. He is a monster running the football as well, breaking tackles easily at the line of scrimmage and then running away from everyone with blazing speed once he is into the secondary.

For the Steelers Kyi Wright has completed 73 of 115 passes for 1311 yards and 18 scores.

Jourdan Townsend and Brandon Chambers have combined for 55 catches for 1010 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year.

Braxton Chapman is the go-to rusher of the football for Farrell with 126 carries for 1437 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season.

Tymir Green has 115 tackles to lead Farrell tough defense. They have produced 20 sacks on the season led by junior Josh Nix with six on the season.

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