Five things to watch in this weekend’s state football semifinals

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Thursday, November 29, 2018 | 11:03 PM


This weekend’s state football semifinals are a WPIAL reunion of sorts.

WPIAL champions Aliquippa, Steel Valley and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart are a win away from reaching the PIAA championships in Hershey. Standing in their way are Sharon, Wilmington and Farrell, three District 10 teams with deep WPIAL roots.

All three left the WPIAL in the not-too-distant past.

Farrell departed in 2006, Wilmington in 1994 and Sharon in 1983.

“We will always cherish our WPIAL days, being a guy who was born and bred in that tradition,” said Farrell coach Jarrett Samuels, a former all-conference linebacker who played for a WPIAL title at Three Rivers Stadium in 1988.

“There are still a lot of great, historic programs in the WPIAL, and we have respect for them. But right now, we’re District 10, and we’ve got to do our best to represent District 10.”

In Class A, Farrell plays OLSH at 7 p.m. Friday at Slippery Rock University.

In Class 2A, Steel Valley plays Wilmington at 7 p.m., Friday at Ambridge.

In Class 3A, Aliquippa plays Sharon at 1 p.m., Saturday at Slippery Rock.

Wilmington won WPIAL titles in 1987 and ’88. The Greyhounds won a PIAA title in 2008, and were runners-up last season and in 1988.

Sharon owns no WPIAL or PIAA titles but was state runner-up in 1994 and ’95.

Farrell won state titles in 1995 and ’96 as a WPIAL team. Farrell also owns six WPIAL football championships, winning titles in 1951, ’76, ’86, ’90, ’95 and ’96.

Reducing travel was cited among the schools’ reason for leaving the WPIAL. Farrell and Sharon are in Mercer County. Wilmington straddles the Lawrence and Mercer line.

Farrell asked to return to the WPIAL in 2015, but District 10 refused to release the school.

2. Youngsters in 6A

A year after clashing in the state finals, Pine-Richland and St. Joseph’s Prep are trying to earn another trip to Hershey. But unlike last year when both started senior quarterbacks, this rematch features two sophomores under center.

St. Joseph’s Prep starts Kyle McCord, a 6-foot-3 passer with 2,299 yards and 30 touchdowns.

McCord ranks among the top sophomore recruits in the state and already holds offers from Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan, Arizona and others. He’s completed 154 of 235 attempts for a 65.5 completion percentage.

One of McCord’s top wideouts has a familiar name: Marvin Harrison Jr. Also a sophomore, Harrison’s father is the former NFL star. The younger Harrison has 38 receptions for 569 yards and eight touchdowns.

Pine-Richland starts sophomore quarterback Cole Spencer, who starred in the WPIAL finals.

3. Archbishop Wood under new management

Archbishop Wood dominated the state playoffs in the past decade with five PIAA titles and two runner-up finishes since 2008. But this year, there’s a new coach in charge.

The Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse promoted 24-year-old Kyle Adkins last April to replace Steve Devlin, who went 132-22-11 in 11 seasons.

Archbishop Wood (9-3) faces WPIAL Class 5A champion Penn Hills at 7 p.m., Friday in Chambersburg.

4. WPIAL, Philly on same side

For the first time, WPIAL champions in Class 6A and 5A share that same side of the PIAA bracket as District 12 — which includes the Philadelphia Catholic League and Philadelphia’s public schools.

A year ago, WPIAL champions faced D12 champions Archbishop Wood and St. Joseph’s Prep at Hersheypark Stadium. This season, they’re semifinal opponents.

5. Short-handed Steel Valley survives

So far, Steel Valley has shown quality is better than quant

The Ironmen are short on players but big on talent.

They had only 17 players in uniform last week when they defeated South Side Beaver in the WPIAL Class 2A championship. This week, Steel Valley faces a Wilmington lineup that lists more than 40 players on its roster.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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