Home-field advantage weighs heavy in WPIAL playoffs

Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 7:57 PM

North Hills’ Rowdie Rooters, the team’s famed hilltop cheering section, hasn’t celebrated a home playoff game at Martorelli Stadium in almost a decade.

But when the WPIAL football playoffs start Friday night, North Hills will be among the teams playing on home turf, an advantage that’s proven to be significant. A year ago, home teams went 26-4 in the first round.

In the past three years combined, first-round home teams won 78% of the time.

“It’s something that we, as a team, talked about all year,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said. “We wanted to find ourselves back home for the playoffs with a better seed than we’ve had in the last couple of years.”

Some others in the WPIAL also earned a home playoff game for the first time in years. Among them, Cornell earned its first home game in 36 years before rain forced the Raiders to move the game to West Allegheny.

Moon will play its first since 2004.

“The opportunity to play at home is pretty cool,” said Moon coach Ryan Linn, whose team hosts Franklin Regional. “We’ve talked about getting one more home game for the seniors. It will be a little sentimental.”

First-round games are played on the home field of the higher seed. Later rounds are played at neutral sites.

North Hills hasn’t hosted — or won — a playoff game since 2010, so the Indians anticipate a strong fan turnout Friday. Eighth-seeded North Hills hosts ninth-seeded Upper St. Clair at 7 p.m.

“It’s a great atmosphere. It’s a community event. We expect it to be a big deal,” Carey said. “Our student section, our band, our Rowdie Rooters come out and supports us.”

1 day, 2 games

Shady Side Academy junior Emory Anderson has a busy Friday ahead of her.

The multi-sport athlete will compete in the WPIAL Class A girls soccer championship at Highmark Stadium in the afternoon before changing uniforms and hurrying to Washington to kick for Shady Side in the Class 2A football playoffs.

The soccer final starts at 4 p.m. The football game is at 7 p.m.

Anderson, who kicked an extra point last week, is the first female to score a point in Shady Side football history.

Class A clash

One of the noteable decisions by the WPIAL football committee was pairing Sto-Rox with Jeannette, creating a powerhouse first-round matchup in Class A.

But not everyone was surprised.

“I’d told my staff before we went in (the pairings meeting) that I was pretty sure they were going to give us Jeannette,” Sto-Rox coach LaRoi Johnson said. “I kind of saw it coming.”

Johnson has some history with Jeannette. He was offensive coordinator for Imani Christian when the Saints lost to the Jayhawks, 35-34, in a competitive WPIAL Class A championship in 2017.

The teams play Friday at Sto-Rox.

Jeannette (9-1) finished second in the Eastern Conference but had been in contention for the No. 1 overall seed before losing to Clairton in Week 9. The loss also kept the Jayhawks from hosting a first-round game.

Sto-Rox (9-1) was co-champion in the Big Seven Conference.

Playing in the mud?

Friday’s forecast predicts dry weather, but Thursday’s rain caused two Class A games to be moved off grass. California and Cornell now will play at West Allegheny. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Clairton moved to West Mifflin.

But not everybody is headed for turf.

Apollo-Ridge, Burgettstown, Derry and West Greene are scheduled to play Friday on grass.

A year ago, West Greene moved its home playoff game to an artificial surface, but this year, the Pioneers plan to play at home, coach Brian Hanson said Thursday.

Week 3 rematches

The Class 6A playoffs start with two rematches from Week 3. One was a 36-point blowout by North Allegheny over Canon-McMillan, but the other was much closer.

Mt. Lebanon defeated Seneca Valley, 26-20. The Blue Devils had trailed 14-0 at half before scoring 26 second-half points.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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