Chick’s Picks certainly not a green thumb when it comes H.S. football Gardner Points

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Thursday, October 28, 2021 | 1:47 PM


Welcome to Week 9.

As we enter the final week of regular season play, all eyes are on the postseason. Amid the playoff hype, we hear a lot about clinchings, final rankings, and perhaps the most enigmatic factor of all — Gardner Points.

What are Gardner Points anyway? This is a phenomenon that Chick’s Picks has pondered countless times throughout her prognosticating career. She has had discussions with many WPIAL experts on the matter, but has never been able to gain any clarity.

During the pandemic, Chick’s Picks even took up gardening as a hobby — a last-ditch effort by the prognosticator to gain a better understanding of the Gardner Points system. At the end of the gardening season, however, the collection of lifeless plants was proof that Chick’s Picks certainly did not have a green thumb. To add insult to injury, the experiment left Chick’s Picks still just as confused about the inner workings of the Gardner Points system.

With her failed research in the books, Chick’s Picks decided to leave the calculations to the experts, like The Boss, and stick with her area of expertise — prognosticating.

Chick’s Picks finished last week with a 52-8 (87%) record, upping her season total to 411-135 (75%). Here are this week’s big games:

WPIAL CLASS 6A

No. 3 North Allegheny Tigers (6-3) at No. 4 Seneca Valley Raiders (6-3)

The Raiders welcome the Tigers in a battle between Class 6A foes Friday night. Seneca Valley looks to rebound after falling to top-ranked Mt. Lebanon last week, 38-7. North Allegheny rolled over Hempfield, 65-13. The Tigers’ balanced offensive attack is led by sophomore quarterback Logan Kushner, who has thrown for 758 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior JR Burton has racked up 462 rushing yards and six scores for North Allegheny. Seneca Valley quarterback Graham Hancox has gained 1,353 yards through the air and passed for eight touchdowns in this, his junior season. The Tigers have scored 106 more points than the Raiders in nine games. Both North Allegheny and Seneca Valley have clinched playoff spots. The winner of this matchup will earn the third-place spot, along with a quarterfinal-round bye. When these two met in last year’s WPIAL quarterfinals, North Allegheny came away with a 21-7 victory. Chick’s Picks predicts a repeat performance by the Tigers…North Allegheny over Seneca Valley.

WPIAL CLASS 5A

Upper St. Clair Panthers (5-4) at Bethel Park Black Hawks (5-4)

Upper St. Clair travels to take on Bethel Park in an Allegheny Six Conference showdown Friday night. Last week, the Panthers held off South Fayette, 31-28, while the Black Hawks were blanked by Moon, 30-0. Junior quarterback Brady Erdos has thrown for 694 yards and six touchdowns for Upper St. Clair. Senior Ethan Hiester and junior Jamaal Brown have combined for 575 rushing yards and eight touchdowns for the Panthers. Senior quarterback Max Blanc captains the Bethel Park offense with 1,172 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Fellow senior Troy Volpatti leads the Black Hawks’ ground game with 803 rushing yards and 13 scores. Both Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park have locked in their postseason appearances; however, the winner of this matchup will secure second place in the conference behind Moon. When these two met last season, Upper St. Clair knocked off Bethel Park, 34-7. Chick’s Picks predicts a similar outcome for the Panthers in this year’s edition…Upper St. Clair over Bethel Park.

WPIAL CLASS 4A

No. 3 McKeesport Tigers (8-1) at No. 1 Belle Vernon Leopards (7-0)

Belle Vernon hosts McKeesport in a battle for the Big Eight Conference title Friday night. The top-ranked Leopards remained perfect last week with a 49-0 rout of Trinity. The Tigers climbed up one spot in the rankings after upsetting No. 2 Thomas Jefferson, 42-28. McKeesport’s only loss this season came to Canisius (N.Y.), 35-14, in Week 3. Senior quarterback Devin Whitlock, a Division I prospect, leads Belle Vernon with 782 passing yards and six touchdowns to go with his team-high 877 rushing yards and 15 scores. Whitlock has helped the Leopards to average 42 points per game. Belle Vernon is solid on the other side of the ball, as well, allowing only 73 points in seven games — the best in Class 4A. McKeesport has once again found success in its running game. Junior running back Bobbie Boyd has rushed for 1,184 yards and 12 touchdowns. When these two met last season, Belle Vernon blanked McKeesport, 20-0. Chick’s Picks predicts that the Tigers’ upset streak continues in this one…McKeesport over Belle Vernon.

WPIAL CLASS 3A

No. 5 Mt. Pleasant Vikings (5-3) at South Allegheny Gladiators (3-6)

The Gladiators welcome the Vikings for an Interstate Conference battle Friday night. Last week, South Allegheny fell to Deer Lakes, 27-14, while Mt. Pleasant knocked off South Park, 28-6. Senior Kavan Markwood leads the Gladiators with 433 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Vikings’ senior Robbie LaBuda and junior Aaron Alakson have combined for 1,069 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. South Allegheny needs a win over Mt. Pleasant in order to advance to the postseason. Mt. Pleasant has secured is playoff spot, but can claim second place with a victory in this one. When these two met last season, the Vikings came away with a 21-14 win. Chick’s Picks predicts that the Vikings will put an end to the Gladiators’ season when this one is in the books…Mt. Pleasant over South Allegheny.

WPIAL CLASS 2A

No. 2 Serra Catholic Eagles (10-0) at No. 5 Steel Valley Ironmen (8-0)

Serra Catholic hits the road to take on Steel Valley in a showdown between Allegheny Conference undefeateds Friday night. The Eagles are coming off of a 46-0 rout of Summit Academy last week, while the Ironmen rolled over Apollo-Ridge, 57-6. Serra Catholic senior quarterback Max Rocco ranks as one of the best in the WPIAL this season, passing for 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns. Steel Valley features dual-threat junior quarterback Cruce Brookins, who has thrown for 233 yards and also plays an integral role in the elusive running game of the Ironmen with 754 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Nijhay Burt leads the WPIAL in rushing, posting 1,617 yards and 29 scores for Steel Valley. Both the Eagles and Ironmen boast stingy defenses, holding opponents to less than a touchdown per game. The postseason is already guaranteed for both Serra Catholic and Steel Valley, but the Allegheny Conference title is still up for grabs. Chick’s Picks predicts the Ironmen claim gold in this one…Steel Valley over Serra Catholic.

WPIAL CLASS A

Burgettstown Blue Devils (4-4) at Fort Cherry Rangers (5-4)

The Rangers host the Blue Devils in a Big Seven Conference showdown Friday night. Fort Cherry had time to rest last week after its game against Cornell was canceled. Burgettstown, on the other hand, held off Union for a 12-8 victory. The Rangers are led by senior dual-threat quarterback Maddox Truschel, who has thrown for 602 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for a team-leading 1,005 yards and nine scores. Blue Devils’ senior quarterback Jackson LaRocka also leads his squad’s running game with 233 rushing yards and five touchdowns to go along with his 236 passing yards. Fort Cherry can punch its ticket to the postseason with a win in this one, but will need some help with a loss. Burgettstown needs a win and assistance from its Big Seven Conference foes in order to advance. When these two met last season, the Blue Devils knocked off the Rangers, 27-22. Chick’s Picks predicts that Truschel and his Rangers will be hard to contain this time around…Fort Cherry over Burgettstown.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Week 9 slate:

WPIAL CLASS 6A

Central Catholic over Canon-McMillan

Mt. Lebanon over Baldwin

Norwin over Hempfield

WPIAL CLASS 5A

Allegheny Six Conference

Moon over West Allegheny

Peters Township over South Fayette

Upper St. Clair over Bethel Park

Big East Conference

Gateway over Franklin Regional

Penn-Trafford over Latrobe

Woodland Hills over Connellsville

Northeast Conference

North Hills over Shaler

Penn Hills over Kiski Area

Pine-Richland over Fox Chapel

WPIAL CLASS 4A

Big Eight Conference

Ringgold over Trinity

Thomas Jefferson over West Mifflin

Greater Allegheny Conference

Armstrong over Indiana

Greensburg Salem over Plum

Highlands over Knoch

Hampton over Mars

Parkway Conference

Beaver over Blackhawk

Chartiers Valley over Montour

Aliquippa over New Castle

Nonconference

Laurel Highlands over Uniontown

WPIAL CLASS 3A

Allegheny Seven Conference

North Catholic over Derry

Freeport over Deer Lakes

Burrell over Valley

Interstate Conference

Southmoreland over South Park

Elizabeth Forward over Yough

Northwestern Six Conference

Keystone Oaks over Ambridge

Avonworth over Quaker Valley

Central Valley over Hopewell

Nonconference

East Allegheny over Brownsville

WPIAL CLASS 2A

Allegheny Conference

Ligonier Valley over Apollo-Ridge

Shady Side Academy over Summit Academy

Century Conference

Frazier over Charleroi

Washington over McGuffey

Beth-Center over Waynesburg

Midwestern Conference

Mohawk over Ellwood City

New Brighton over Freedom

Laurel over Neshannock

Beaver Falls over Riverside

Three Rivers Conference

Sto-Rox over Carlynton

Seton LaSalle over Brentwood

Western Beaver over South Side

WPIAL CLASS A

Big Seven Conference

Cornell over OLSH

Rochester over Northgate

Shenango over Union

Eastern Conference

Bishop Canevin over Imani Christian

Clairton over Jeannette

Leechburg over Greensburg Central Catholic

Springdale over Riverview

Tri-County South Conference

California over Bentworth

Carmichaels over Jefferson-Morgan

Monessen over Avella

West Greene over Mapletown

INDEPENDENT

Albert Gallatin over Spring Mills (WV)

DISTRICT 10

Erie over Butler

CITY LEAGUE

Westinghouse over Allderdice

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