Big Game Hunting – The Football Fourpack for Week 11

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 | 1:49 PM

Quarterfinals! They are all big now, makes my job a little more difficult but, don’t cry for me Argentina! I will keep my promise to bring you what I think will be the biggest game in each of the classifications. Exit number two on the Highway to Heinz is approaching. There were not a huge amount of upsets in the first round but certainly a couple and some games that were a lot closer than most thought they would be. That is just another of the reasons WPIAL playoff football is such a blast. Now you have to be extra careful about choosing where you will go, you don’t want to miss a great game. Take your smart phone so you can track the scores and listen to whatever turns into THE game of the week on the MSA Sports Network.

Class AAAA Quarterfinals:
#5 Seneca Valley Raiders (9-1) vs. #4 Woodland Hills Wolverines (8-2) Friday November 8th at 7:30 PM @ Carl A. Newman Stadium on the campus of North Allegheny high school broadcast on the Woodland Hills Football Network and the MSA Sports Network by Adam Gusky and Fred Guy

 The Wolverines have rattled off eight straight wins since starting the season 0-2. Woody High knocked off the 13 seed Pine-Richland in the opening round 35-14. Art Thompkins rushed for 136 yards in the win and Trevon Mathis returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown in the win.

Seneca Valley has won five in a row since being beaten by Central in week five. The Raiders continue to grow and get better with each passing week of experience. Last week they ousted the twelve seed in AAAA defeating Hempfield 36-10. Quarterback T. J. Holl threw for 265 yards and rushed for over a hundred as well in the win for the Raiders.

Woody High running back Miles Sanders continues to battle an injury, he missed the first round but George Novak’s team stepped up with the big night for Thompkins. Sanders’ return is still up in the air as of press time but he would be great addition to the Woodland Hills offense if he is ready to go. The sophomore has rushed for 1016 yards and scored 13 touchdowns so far this year. The Wolverines have no intention of trying to pass it on you, Harry Randall will contribute more on the ground than through the air and Thompkins has truly emerged as a playmaker as well.

The Woody High defense has been solid all season long allowing just barely over ten points per game in their eight-game winning streak.

Seneca Valley quarterback T.J. Holl has developed into one of the best dual threats in the WPIAL in his first year as a starter at quarterback for the Raiders. Holl has completed 117 of 188 passes for 1804 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 723 yards and 16 touchdowns. Eric Mrkonja and Mason Dehart are the top pass catchers for the Raiders and Dehart is the team’s second leading rusher as well.

This game jumps off the bracket at me in a AAAA bracket that is frankly filled with some tremendous games both teams scoring over 30 points per game, both playing as well as they have played all season coming into the quarterfinals, both teams played in very solid competitive conferences and both defenses have been sound all season. If I had a choice this is the AAAA I would attend.

Class AAA Quarterfinals:
#5 West Mifflin Titans (9-1) vs. #4 Franklin-Regional Panthers (9-1) Friday November 8th at 7:30 PM @ Churchman Stadium on the campus of East Allegheny high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Mike Sackley and Mike Krcil

Honestly, I wondered how the Titans would respond to getting thumped in week nine by Thomas Jefferson, and honestly I still wonder after they were taken to the absolute brink by the twelve seed Moon in round one before coming away with a defensive stand late in the game to win 47-42. Has the West Mifflin rush defense been exposed or are Thomas Jefferson and Moon just that gifted offensively?  Probably the real answer is a little of both.

Franklin-Regional’s only loss of the regular season came way back in week three when they were shut out by Highlands 17-0 in Murrysville. Since then the Panthers have been held under 30 points only once in running off seven straight wins.

West Mifflin’s offense rebounded nicely from the loss to Thomas Jefferson in week nine, Jimmy Wheeler bounced back big-time to the tune of 359 yards and six touchdowns in the opening round win. WOWSER! For the season Wheeler has rushed for 2381 yards and 35 touchdowns. No secret what Ray Braszo wants to do with the football Friday night. The Titans have gotten a solid passing season out of sophomore quarterback Karlyn Garner who has completed 44 of 68 passes for 848 yards and eight touchdowns without throwing an interception.

Franklin-Regional has another of the oft-talked about dual threat quarterbacks in Charan Singh, a member of the MSA Sports Kennywood Pre Season All-Star team. Singh has 1316 total yards and has played a part in 18 touchdowns this year for the Panthers.

Senior running back Paul Emanuele gets the bulk of the work on the ground for Greg Botta’s club and he is a hard, physically gifted runner. Emanuele has carried 125 times for 668 yards and five touchdowns for the season.

The Panthers did a fantastic job defensively in a week one win over Mars against another top WPIAL running back in Josh Schultheis. Wheeler will be tremendous challenge for them Friday night. Franklin-Regional enters this game with the third best defense in AAA in terms of points allowed per game at an even nine per game.

Class AA Quarterfinals:
#12 Beaver Bobcats (7-3) vs. #4 Mount Pleasant Vikings (10-0) Friday November 8th at 7:30 PM @ Mustang Stadium on the campus of Plum high school broadcast on WLSW-FM 103.9 and The MSA Sports Network by T.J. DiStefano and Aaron Wills

The Vikings continued their perfect 2013 in round one with a 48-14 win over the 13-seed Valley last Friday night. Tyler Mellors ran for four touchdowns in the win. Mt. Pleasant has frankly been quietly dominant this season. They have rarely been challenged and in fact their closest game all season was a week six win over Jeannette 35-21. Their average margin of victory is 31.70 points.

Beaver, meanwhile pulled off one of very few legitimate first round upsets knocking off the five seed Shady Side Academy. The Bobcats fell behind 7-0 before rattling off 42 straight points to win 42-21. Alex Rowse continued his fabulous season throwing the ball with 294 yards passing and three touchdowns tossed.

Can the Cinderella Bobcats knock-off the Vikes in the quarters? I don’t know but, this I think, ends up being the best game by far in AA. Funny usually I look at AA and the depth really blows me out of the water. Not the case this year at all, I will be surprised if any of the other three quarter-finals are very good games in this classification.

That said, Rowse is the ultimate wild-card here, his big game making skills can be overwhelming from the quarterback position. Check out these numbers, 164 completions in 276 passes for 2445 yards and 37 touchdowns. Both of those numbers for yards and touchdowns lead the entire WPIAL. The Bobcats are big-time “throw first”, they average nearly 30 passes per game. Darius Wise is their leading receiver with 44 catches for 745 yards and he has scored 15 touchdowns on the year. Rowse spreads it around though Dylan Goff and Kresten Wallace have combined for 57 catches, 1016 yards and 17 scores on the season.

When they run look for Wise to get the bulk of the carries with 345 yards on the ground this season.

The Vikings are definitely more “run first”, and rightly so with one of the best running backs in the WPIAL at their disposal. Senior Tyler Mellors has carried the ball 166 times for 1592 yards on the year and he has scored a team-high 28 touchdowns as well.

Mellors is complimented nicely by solid quarterbacking from Ryan Gumbita, who has thrown for 576 yards and rushed for almost 300 on the season. He has had a part in a dozen touchdowns. 

Trevor Salopek is the go-to receiver for Gumbita with nine catches for 284 yards and five touchdowns on the 2013 campaign.  

Class A Quarterfinals:
#7 Avonworth Antelopes (9-1) vs. #2 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans (10-0) Friday November 8th at 7:30 PM @ Fridley Field on the campus of Hampton high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Sam Hall and Steve Nagler

Single A is way different than AA this Friday night, all four of the quarter-finals look like fantastic games to me. So if you are wondering how I chose this game, I literally rock-paper-scissored it with a friend until we had decided on a winner.

North has handled the loss of Adam Sharlow to a season-ending knee injury in their week eight win over Neshannock well so-far. But the competition level will pick-up here in the quarterfinals. Sharlow was a huge part of the passing and rushing attack for the Trojans, he had thrown for almost 900 yards and rushed for another 660 while accounting for 14 touchdowns. Tough to replace numbers like that, but the Trojans have some special players and P.J.Fulmore has stepped in from tailback to quarterback in fabulous fashion. North rolled in the first round over Western Beaver 24-0 and stayed perfect on the season in doing so. Ryan Kirby, who was the Trojans quarterback last year and an outstanding wide receiver this year also picked up some playing time at quarterback in the stead of Sharlow.

Avonworth meanwhile has just suffered a single loss on the season so far, that came in week six to…the North Catholic Trojans 21-12. Of note from that game, Avonworth had a fourth quarter lead and Adam Sharlow scored on a pair of touchdown runs in that game. The ‘Lopes got a battle from the 10 seed Laurel in week one of the playoffs but on the strength of Jesse Zubik’s 95 yards rushing and a touchdown, along with Matt Donovan tossing for 228 yards and a pair of scores they have moved into the quarters for another crack at their Eastern conference rival.

The Antelopes defense has been their calling card all season long allowing a classification low 8.3 points per game they have three first-team all-conference players on that defense in linebacker Dalton Day, defensive back Brad Mankey, and Devon Rice on the defensive line.

Offensively quarterback Matt Donovan has completed 84 of 144 passes for 1305 yards and 20 touchdowns while tossing just four interceptions. Jesse Zubik has been the go-to receiver for Donavan with almost 500 yards and he has scored 15 touchdowns catching and running combined.

Moses Giles has rushed for 799 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season, but he put it on the turf four times last week in the win over Laurel, I bet he was carrying a football all week long in school. If he holds on to it he is a big-time playmaker and a powerful runner.

North Catholic meanwhile will likely be all about P.J. Fulmore who missed much of the season with an injury but since returning late has looked as fabulous as we expected him to be all season, look for him in the wildcat, and catching screens from Kirby when he is not at running back. Ronnie Meder is a great tight end, he will block your lights out and make the great big time catch as well. He caught a touchdown pass from Fulmore and one from Kirby in the Trojans opening round win.

Up front on both sides for North keep your eye on Ryan Long, he is the heartbeat of the North Catholic Trojans, big, strong, athletic, and an engine that never stops going at full rev, the kid is a coach’s dream. This game is a play-by-play guy’s dream!

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