Five things we learned in high school football Week 11
Saturday, November 9, 2019 | 7:00 PM
With another celebration at Heinz Field, Central Catholic or Pine-Richland can call itself the team of the decade in the WPIAL’s largest classification.
For now, both could make that claim.
Each team has won the WPIAL’s largest classification three times since 2010, tying them with North Allegheny (2010-12) during that nine-year span. Who is the big-school team of the 2010s? That tie will be broken in the Class 6A final Saturday night when No. 1 Central Catholic (10-1) plays No. 2 Pine-Richland (10-1).
Pine-Richland won WPIAL titles in 2014, ’17 and ’18. Central Catholic won in 2013, ’15 and ’16.
Their rivalry quickly became one of the most competitive in the WPIAL. This will be the seventh year in a row Pine-Richland or Central Catholic wins the WPIAL’s largest classification.
“This is what it’s all about,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said Friday. “We have another opportunity to go down there and represent the school district on the biggest stage.”
Both teams advanced with strong semifinal wins.
Central Catholic used 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns from running back Eddy Tillman to eliminate No. 4 Mt. Lebanon, 31-14. Pine-Richland quarterback Cole Spencer threw six touchdowns in a 49-14 victory over No. 3 North Allegheny.
“Judging (by the reaction) after the game, the kids are excited,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “We’ll have the week to get healthy and be prepared, and then we’ll try to go get ’em.”
Central Catholic defeated Pine-Richland, 29-7, in Week 5. The Vikings lead the series 7-4 since 2010, but Pine-Richland has won two of the past three.
2. First to 3,000 yards
The WPIAL got its first 3,000-yard rusher in history when West Greene senior Ben Jackson reached that remarkable milestone.
Jackson rushed for 150 yards in a Class A semifinal loss to Sto-Rox, leaving his season total at 3,066 yards.
Armstrong’s Zane Dudek set the previous WPIAL single-season rushing record at 2,949 yards in 2016.
Jackson fell just short of another WPIAL record. His 50 touchdowns were one fewer than the single-season record set by Clairton’s Tyler Boyd in 2012.
3. Championship rematches
The WPIAL championships at Heinz Field might have a rerun feel to them. Three of the four finals are rematches from the regular season.
The Class 6A game was always guaranteed to be a rematch, since there is only one conference. But Friday’s semifinals also created rematches in Class 4A and 3A. The only new matchup will be Clairton and Sto-Rox in Class A.
In Class 4A, Thomas Jefferson already defeated Big Eight rival Belle Vernon, 34-7, in Week 2.
In Class 3A, Central Valley defeated Tri-County West rival Aliquippa, 45-6, in Week 9.
The Heinz Field schedule has Class A at 11 a.m., 3A at 2 p.m., 4A at 5 p.m., and 6A at 8 p.m.
The Class 5A and 2A finals are a week later at Norwin.
4. Cinderella story in 2A
Riverside has become the bracket-busting, Cinderella story in this year’s WPIAL playoffs after celebrating another upset win.
The 14th-seeded Panthers defeated No. 6 McGuffey, 41-27, in a Class 2A quarterfinal behind quarterback Ben Hughes’ five-touchdown night.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior ran for four scores and threw for another.
A week earlier, Riverside upset No. 3 Burgettstown.
“Everyone doubted us all year. No one gave us a shot, and everyone was taking us lightly,” Hughes said Friday. “They gave us a 14 seed, and we were mad about that. We knew we were better than a 14, and we showed that the past two weeks.”
The Panthers’ next upset target is No. 2 Avonworth in the semifinals.
They are trying to become the first No. 14 seed to win a WPIAL title since Central Valley in 2010.
5. Beasts of the East
The Big East has three teams in the Class 5A semifinals for the second time in three years.
The conference was considered top-heavy with Penn-Trafford and Gateway seeded first and second overall in the Class 5A playoffs. Both reached the semifinals with wins Friday, but sixth-seeded McKeesport also crashed the Final Four party by defeating Penn Hills, 35-20.
The same three reached the 2017 semifinals.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .