Chicks Picks – Championship Friday

Thursday, November 20, 2014 | 2:01 PM

Welcome to Week 13 of the high school football season.  As Chick’s Picks began research for Championship Friday, she quickly realized all of the familiar faces that will be at Heinz Field again this year—Central Catholic, Central Valley, West Allegheny, South Fayette, Aliquippa, and Clairton.  Similarly, Chick’s Picks took a moment to reflect on the many familiar faces at the MSA Sports Network that she has had the pleasure of knowing over the years.

Despite coming from many different walks of life, many different backgrounds, and many different full-time careers, Team MSA comes together year in and year out for one common thread—the love of high school sports in the WPIAL.  That—in this holiday season, and always—is something to be thankful for.  Chick’s Picks hopes that all players, coaches, and staff taking part in Friday’s title game are equally as thankful for their teams.

As yet another season of WPIAL football comes to an end with Championship Friday, Chick’s Picks deemed it an appropriate time for a toast:                          

                There are good ships,

                                Strong ships,

                                Ships that sail the sea.

                                But the best ships—of course—are championships,

                                And may they always be!

Chick’s Picks wishes the best of luck to all teams this Friday.

Chick’s Picks finished last week with a 7-1 (88%) record, bringing her season total to 452-129 (78%).  Here are this week’s championship predictions:

#1 Pine-Richland (12-0) vs. #3 Pittsburgh Central Catholic (11-1)

Defending champion Central Catholic will seek its fifth WPIAL Class AAAA title Friday when it takes on top-ranked Pine-Richland.  The Rams come into the championship game with a perfect record after handing the Vikings their only loss of the season in Week 8, 48-28.  In last week’s semifinals, Pine-Richland rolled over McKeesport, 42-7, while Central Catholic bounced Penn-Trafford, 52-34.  The Rams boast a high-powered offense, averaging 48 points per game behind the WPIAL’s top-ranked quarterback.  Ben DiNucci has thrown for 3,300 yards and 34 touchdowns on the year—but it does not end there.  Pine Richland’s other weapons include two 1,000-yard receivers in Mike Merhaut and D’Ondre Gastion, and a 1,000-yard running back in Connor Slomka.  Central Catholic relies heavily on the running game.  The backfield trio of Grant Foster, Vinny Emanuele, and Brian Totten has combined for 1,800 yards and 26 touchdowns.  The Vikings pride themselves most on defense, however, allowing less than 11 points per game and recording five shutouts this season.  The Rams had their way with the Vikings earlier this season, but Chick’s Picks predicts that revenge will be in order on Championship Friday.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Pine-Richland.

#1 Central Valley (12-0) vs. #3 West Allegheny (11-1)

Familiar foes take the field Friday in a rematch of last year’s WPIAL Class AAA championship game.  West Allegheny won that meeting, claiming its seventh WPIAL title in school history.  These Parkway Conference rivals met earlier this season, the Warriors handed the Indians their only loss of the season, 28-17.  Jordan Whitehead leads the Central Valley offensive attack with 1,412 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.  West Allegheny, in keeping with tradition, brings a strong backfield, including Chayse Dillon, Terence Stephens, and Whitney White.  The trio, this season, has rushed for over 2,400 yards and 45 touchdowns.  Statistically, these two are very similar.  The Warriors average 3.5 points per game more than the Indians, but West Allegheny holds the edge defensively, allowing 2.5 fewer points per game than the Warriors.  Chick’s Picks predicts that the old adage will hold true—it is difficult to beat the same team twice in one season.
West Allegheny over Central Valley.

#1 South Fayette (12-0) vs. #2 Aliquippa (12-0)

South Fayette and Aliquippa take the Heinz Field stage Friday for the second consecutive year in a battle for the WPIAL Class AA championship.  The Lions took home gold in last year’s edition, claiming the school’s fourth WPIAL title.  The Quips are a fixture in WPIAL championship games, with 15 titles already under their belts.  In last week’s semifinals, South Fayette held off Seton-LaSalle, 35-21, while Aliquippa stopped Washington, 44-26.  South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh ranked among the best in the WPIAL this season, passing for nearly 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns.  When the pressure was on, though, RB Hunter Hays came through, racking up 1,280 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Lions.  Aliquippa packs a one-two backfield punch with Kaezon Pugh and DiMantae Bronaugh.  The duo has combined for 2,755 yards and 49 touchdowns so far this season.  The Quips are averaging 50 points per game to the Lions’ 47, and allowing 12 points per game to South Fayette’s 13.  Chick’s Picks predicts that the Quips will claim their 16th slice of WPIAL history in this one.
Aliquippa over South Fayette.

#5 Avonworth (11-1) vs. #2 Clairton (12-0)

The Antelopes come into Championship Friday full speed ahead after upsetting defending champ Cardinal Weurl North Catholic, 28-21, in last week’s semifinals.  The Bears faced their toughest test all season, needing overtime to put away Neshannock, 48-42, last week.  Avonworth relies heavily on the running game of Jamal Hughley, who has rushed for 779 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.  Clairton is loaded with offensive weapons, including QB Ryan Williams and RB Lamont Wade.  Williams has connected for 2,232 yards through the air and 27 touchdowns.  Wade has racked up 2,128 rushing yards and found paydirt a WPIAL-best 39 times this season.  The Bears are averaging 66 points per game—more than double that of the Antelopes.  Chick’s Picks believes that being battle-tested can pay big dividends down the stretch, and predicts that the Bears’ close call last week will help them bring home WPIAL Championship #11.
Clairton over Avonworth.


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