Friday HighLights AND Saturdays Scholastic Starz – 12/05/2016

Monday, December 5, 2016 | 4:38 PM

Five WPIAL champions entered the State Semifinals with hopes of collecting more gridiron gold, and four keep that championship dream alive with victories to earn a trip to Chocolate Town. While Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Beaver Falls, Steel Valley and Clairton advanced to Hershey with wins on Friday or Saturday, only WPIAL 5-A champ West Allegheny saw their season come to an end two wins shy of a state crown. Here are the district standouts who helped lead their team to the PIAA Finals or refused to go quietly into the cold goodnight.

J.J. Younger – Pittsburgh Central Catholic

The older this 2016 high school football season gets, the Younger Pittsburgh Central Catholic becomes. Saturday was another big day at the office for the diminutive senior running back as J.J. Younger rushed for 133 yards with 117 yards coming on only seven carries in the first half, plus he scored on touchdown runs of 62 and 10 yards, plus he caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Troy Fisher for another score as the Vikings cruised past the West Lawn Wilson Bulldogs 63-21 at Mansion Park in Altoona to set up the much anticipated first ever Pennsylvania 6-A championship game between Central Catholic and St. Joseph’s Prep out of Philadelphia.

Malik Shepherd – Beaver Falls

Trailing by a touchdown at halftime Friday night at Mansion Park in Altoona, Beaver Falls needed a leader to step up and lead the way to a first ever trip to a state championship game…they needed a shepherd if you will. Malik Shepherd scored on a 15-yard run in the third quarter to tie the game at 7-7, then caught what proved to be a game winning 17-yard touchdown pass from Austin French in the fourth quarter as the Tigers came back to earn a 12th consecutive victory in a 14-7 defensive struggle victory over the District 6 champion Martinsburg Central Scarlet Dragons.

Ryan Harper – Steel Valley

On a team that has put up mind-numbing numbers on offense all year and who have mercy-ruled all thirteen of their opponents this season, you would think the quarterback would get a lot more love. Ryan Harper is a distant third on the list of what makes Steel Valley tick on offense behind DeWayne Murray and Paris Ford, but he quietly continues to lead his teammates to dominant victory after dominant victory. The latest came Friday when Harper hit on 10 of 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown as the Ironmen cruised past the Wilmington Greyhounds 49-13 at North Allegheny High School.

Lamont Wade – Clairton

A lot of area high school and college football fans are anxiously awaiting the final college decision for the outstanding Lamont Wade of Clairton. Meanwhile, opponents of the black and orange are anxiously awaiting his graduation so they won’t have to face him anymore. Wade had another huge day Friday night at Slippery Rock University as he rushed for 248 yards and scored on a 72-yard jaunt right before halftime that extended the lead to 18-0 in what would be a Bears 24-6 victory over the District 10 champion Farrell Steelers to clinch a second PIAA Class 1-A Finals between Clairton and Bishop Guilfoyle in the last three years.

D.J. Opsatnik – West Allegheny

It has been a record breaking performance for several players and teams this year around the WPIAL, with another record biting the frozen dust on Saturday at Mansion Park in Altoona. Trailing 42-7 to Harrisburg late in the fourth quarter in a Class 5-A Semifinals contest,  West Allegheny drove down to the 7-yard line where kicker D.J. Opstanik drilled a 25-yard field goal with 1:02 left in the game to break the all-time WPIAL and PIAA career field goal record with his 36th and last field goal as the Indians season came to an end in the Cougars 42-10 triumph.


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