Defending champion North Allegheny has experience to repeat in Class 6A

By:
Monday, August 7, 2023 | 7:44 PM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 25.

It had been a decade of close calls for the North Allegheny football program since the Tigers hoisted WPIAL gold.

That 10-year drought ended last fall when the Tigers beat Central Catholic, 35-21, to win that elusive fifth district championship.

“We had great focus and work ethic by our players, and they were locked in,” North Allegheny coach Art Walker said. “The coaching staff had the same focus and determination throughout the playoffs.”

While NA achieved the “one for the thumb” championship ring last fall, the Tigers might not have to wait so long to start adding title bling to the other hand.

The Tigers have a lot of key players returning in their efforts to repeat with five offensive and seven defensive starters back.

“We have competition and players making players better,” Walker said. “We are ready to put the pads on and get our players evaluated.”

One of the key returning players for North Allegheny is third-year starting quarterback Logan Kushner.

In his two years as the Tigers’ starting signal caller, Kushner has completed 147 of 383 passes for 2,874 yards and 27 touchdowns.

“We have very high expectations regarding his leadership and ability to lead our offense on Friday nights,” Walker said.

Two Tigers were named to the Trib HSSN Preseason All-Star team — senior linebacker/running back Tyree Alualu, who Walker calls energetic and explosive, and senior wide receiver/defensive back Khiryn Boyd, who his coach said is electric.

Another versatile athlete who joins Boyd at wideout and defensive back is senior Evan Lyon.

Both the offensive and defensive lines have plenty of experience returning with the likes of senior tight end/defensive end Daniel Sellers, senior offensive and defensive lineman Cameron Chmura, senior fullback and defensive end Aiden Buggey and junior offensive and defensive lineman Jack Yatchenko.

Having a total of 12 starters back from a championship team is nice, but Walker realizes there is one thing that can alter the course of any football season.

“As always, injuries and staying healthy is the key,” he said. “It’s the toughest part of the game. I hate seeing players get injured on our team or any other team.”

Now with the bulls-eye on their back, even with only four other opponents in their way, defending their WPIAL 6A crown won’t be easy for the black and gold.

“Pittsburgh Central Catholic is loaded, with everyone back,” Walker said. “Canon-McMillan has a great quarterback returning, we always have a great rivalry with Seneca Valley and Lebo with a new coach will be a challenge.”

North Allegheny

Coach: Art Walker

2022 record: 11-2, 4-0 in Class 6A

All-time record: 448-256-14

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.25, Allderdice, 7:30

9.1, Canon-McMillan*, 7:30

9.8, at McDowell, 7

9.15, at Baldwin, 7

9.22, Central Catholic*, 7:30

9.29, Pine-Richland, 7:30

10.6, at Mt. Lebanon*, 7

10.13, Norwin, 7:30

10.20, at Penn-Trafford, 7:30

10.27, at Seneca Valley*, 7

*Conference game

STAT LEADERS

Passing: Logan Kushner

108-192, 1,393 yards, 15 TDs

Rushing: Andrew Gavlik*

176-870 yards, 5 TDs

Receiving: Khiryn Boyd

40-700 yards, 12 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Art Walker begins his 26th season as head coach with the last 18 years spent at North Allegheny following seven years as head coach at Central Catholic. He has 231 career wins and six WPIAL championships. His father, legendary Mt. Lebanon and Shady Side Academy coach Art Walker Sr., coached for 26 years and also won six district titles.

• The Tigers have now won five WPIAL football championships after beating Central Catholic in the 2022 Class 6A title game. The crown came on the 10th anniversary of their most recent championship in 2012. The gold also came 33 years after NA captured its first WPIAL championship under former coach Jim Rankin. The Tigers went on to win the first of their three PIAA titles in 1990, later winning state gold in 2010 and 2012.

• North Allegheny is still the only WPIAL football team in the league’s highest classification to win three straight district championships, pulling off the hat trick in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Wilkinsburg was awarded the first three WPIAL football championships in 1914, 1915 and 1916, and Penn Hills won the district crown in 1976 and 1978, but shared the title with Butler in 1977. The Tigers will be trying to become the third team to win back-to-back Class 6A crowns this fall. Pine-Richland won gold in 2017 and ‘18, and Central Catholic repeated in 2019 and ‘20.

• With four of the five Class 6A teams qualifying for the WPIAL football playoffs, odds are good North Allegheny will be able to qualify for the WPIAL football playoffs for the 20th year in a row. The last time the Tigers missed out on the playoffs was in 2003 when they finished 3-7 overall and in sixth place in the old Quad North Conference.

• This is the 69th season of North Allegheny football.

Tags:

More High School Football

Beaver County judge to decide if Aliquippa football moves to Class 5A or stays in 4A
Ligonier Valley, Latrobe, Jeannette coaches eager for East/West All-Star game
PIAA moves closer to approving girls flag football as official sport
Sewickley Academy athletes to play football for Moon under co-op agreement
Leechburg coach Randy Walters selected to coaching staff for U.S. Tackle National Team