Highway to Heinz culminates in Saturday’s 3 things to watch in high school sports

Friday, November 16, 2018 | 7:30 PM

Eight teams are headed to the big house hoping to strike gold on the North Shore of Pittsburgh.

For the 18th year in a row, the WPIAL will be holding four of its football championship games at Heinz Field.

There are a couple of rookie teams tasting the title game at the home of the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is in the finals for the first time in the program’s nine-year history and Derry Area is playing in its first district championship game in 73 years.

Seneca Valley is unique in that it played in the first Class 6A championship game two years ago, but the Raiders lost to Central Catholic and are still searching for their school’s first football crown.

There are plenty of familiar teams, including two that have been there and done that. A lot.

Pine-Richland is the defending Class 6A champion and is trying to win a third WPIAL title in five years.

Thomas Jefferson plays South Fayette in the Class 4A finals, and both are looking for a fourth title this decade. The Jaguars are trying to become the third school in district history to win four straight titles.

Aliquippa is participating in its 11th straight WPIAL championship game, a record the Quips keep adding to. The Quips are 4-6 in their previous 10 trips.

This is Rochester’s first final in seven years, but the Rams used to be mainstays. They have won seven WPIAL football championships since winning their first in 1992.

Wash, rinse and hope to repeat

The only WPIAL girls volleyball team to qualify for the 2018 PIAA championships on Saturday is 2017 Class AAAA champion North Allegheny.

The Tigers beat District 1 champion Bishop Shanahan, 3-0, in the finals a year ago at Richland. The title matches this year are at Cumberland Valley.

The state championship was the fourth for North Allegheny and its first in 23 years. It also was the first title in the highest classification for a WPIAL school since Pine-Richland in 2005.

The match is set to begin at 6 p.m. and can be heard on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

Year of the Deer?

Three matches are in the books with one more to go for WPIAL schools at the 2018 PIAA soccer championships in Hershey this weekend.

Freedom girls, Avonworth boys and West Allegheny boys all hit the pitch Friday, and now it is Deer Lakes’ boys’ turn.

The Lancers face Fleetwood Saturday afternoon in the Class AA championship at 1:30 p.m.

This is unchartered territory for Deer Lakes, which is playing in its first state championship.

District 3 champion Fleetwood was a once a power in state soccer, having captured three previous titles on the pitch.

But it has been a while for the Tigers, who won it all in 1978, 1980 and 2000.

Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at drebel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.

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