Greensburg Salem trying to make history as WPIAL football playoff brackets revealed

Monday, October 28, 2019 | 9:23 PM

Greensburg Salem football coach Dave Keefer said he couldn’t write a better script for his football team’s first-round game.

The Golden Lions (5-5), who finished third in the Big Eight Conference, will open the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs at Blackhawk (6-4) with two huge opportunities in front of them. They can secure a playoff win for the first time since 2000 and the school’s historical 700th win.

The WPIAL announced the first-round pairings Monday at the Green Tree Doubletree.

One big change to this season’s playoffs is the starting time of games. The WPIAL has moved kickoff of Friday and Saturday night games to 7 instead of 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a great opportunity for our team to earn two goals,” Keefer said. “The players have been focused and they’ve handled .things the right way all season.”

This is Greensburg Salem’s 34th appearance in the WPIAL playoffs and second in a row.

Blackhawk finished second behind South Fayette in the Northwest Eight. The Cougars have won four WPIAL titles and reached the finals 10 times.

There are three teams making returns to the playoffs: Greensburg Central Catholic has missed the past three seasons, Mt. Pleasant the past two, and Southmoreland makes its first appearance since 1979 when it lost to Penn Hills, 31-0.

Greensburg Central Catholic (7-3) draws Class A second seed West Greene (9-1) and its touchdown machine, Ben Jackson, who has scored a WPIAL single-season record 47 touchdowns.

Mt. Pleasant (5-5) will face Class 3A No. 1 seed Central Valley (9-1), which is fresh off its 45-6 rout of Aliquippa.

Vikings coach Jason Fazekas said getting back into the playoff was a big step for his program.

“We made progress this season,” Fazekas said. “It was a grind this season, but the players continued to work. The conference was tough and there were a lot of good teams.

“We were trying to be competitive. We got stronger during the season.”

Central Valley, which lost to Thomas Jefferson in a nonconference game, lost to Derry, 46-0, in last season’s first round. A possible rematch awaits both teams in the semifinals.

Derry (8-2) will play host to Beaver Falls (8-2), which is averaging 34.2 points per game. The Tigers’ losses are to Central Valley and Aliquippa. They’ve beaten Blackhawk.

Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer said his team must right the ship after starting 5-0 and qualifying for the playoffs at midseason. Since then, the Scotties have dropped five consecutive games.

They begin the Class 2A playoffs against No. 2 seed Avonworth (10-0) on the road. Avonworth, No. 1 Washington and No. 3 Burgettstown are all undefeated at 10-0.

“We didn’t play whole games down the stretch,” Keefer said. “We were in the McGuffey game until late, Charleroi just whipped us, and I’m not sure what happened at Shenango. We actually did good things against Washington and last week at Greensburg Central Catholic. We just couldn’t get a first down in the second half.

“Now that we made the playoffs, now we have to learn how to finish. We have to give a team effort and we haven’t got it. We have to correct stuff that’s going on and see what happens.”

Penn-Trafford (9-1), the top seed in Class 5A, opens the playoffs against Fox Chapel (4-6).

Warriors coach John Ruane said running back Sam Fanelli, who was injured in the McKeesport game, could return for Friday’s game. Penn-Trafford defeated Fox Chapel, 28-21, in the 2017 playoffs.

“We’re happy to be playing at home,” Ruane said. “Every game will be tough from here on. It’s doesn’t matter what seed you are. You have to win four to be a champion and you have to win one to get to the next round.”

The other Class 5A teams from the county, Franklin Regional and Latrobe, face difficult opponents.

The Panthers (4-4) travel to Moon (8-2), and Latrobe (5-5) gets returning WPIAL and PIAA champion Penn Hills (9-1).

“Four times in two years,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said about getting Penn Hills again. Penn Hills won the regular-season matchup, 41-14.

Jeannette (9-1), which fell to Clairton on Friday, dropped to a sixth seed and will face No. 3 seed Sto-Rox (9-1).

WPIAL Executive Director Tim O’Malley said West Greene deserved the No. 2 seed and the consensus of the committee was to separate Jeannette and Clairton.

Jeannette coach Roy Hall said Sto-Rox will be a tough test, especially on the road.

“I feel the players will bounce back well after losing to Clairton,” Hall said. “I feel better about our effort against Clairton after watching the film. The things we didn’t do well are correctable.”

While Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette earned the top seeds in Class 4A, Belle Vernon (8-1) earned a third seed and will play host to New Castle.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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