More uncertainty than usual surrounds WPIAL football playoff picture

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Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 7:25 PM


There is a week left in the high school football season, and there is a lot of uncertainty about the playoffs.

Usually, there would be a clear picture of the playoff scenarios. Not this year, thanks to the coronavirus.

The WPIAL and the football committee met this week to determine how teams will earn spots in and/or be selected for the upcoming playoffs.

All Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas knows is if his Vikings defeat South Park on Friday, his team will be in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

“That game is as big as (Friday’s game),” Fazekas said after Mt. Pleasant dropped a 16-14 decision to Elizabeth Forward in a first-place showdown in the Interstate Conference. “All we have to worry about is ourselves. If we take care of business, we’re in.”

Mt. Pleasant will visit South Park, which has dropped three consecutive games.

Fazekas said he’ll remind his team to expect South Park’s best game.

Here are other scenarios:

In Class 6A, the football committee will determine the top four teams. North Allegheny is 4-0, Seneca Valley is 4-1, and Central Catholic and Mt. Lebanon are 3-2. Baldwin fell to 1-2 after losing to Seneca Valley on Saturday, 19-16.

Canon-McMillan can finish 3-3 with a victory against Norwin. If Mt. Lebanon loses to Seneca Valley, that might vault Canon-McMillan into the top 4. The Big Macs did defeat Mt. Lebanon.

In Classes 5A, 4A, 3A and A, the top two teams in each of the three conferences will qualify, and two wild cards will be determined by the football committee.

In Class 5A, Peters Township (4-0) from the Allegheny Six and Pine-Richland (4-0) and Penn Hills (3-1) from the Northeast Conference likely are in as well as Penn-Trafford (3-0) and Gateway (1-0) from the Big East.

The winner of Friday’s Upper St. Clair at South Fayette game will earn the second berth from the Allegheny Six, and the loser is a strong candidate for one of the wild-card spots. Woodland Hills (2-1) is also in good position to claim a wild-card berth. The North Hills (2-2) and Fox Chapel (2-2) winner also will have to be considered.

In 4A, Plum (6-0) and Mars (5-1) will represent the Greater Allegheny Conference. As long as Thomas Jefferson (5-0) defeats McKeesport on Friday, the Jaguars and Belle Vernon (5-1) will be the top two teams in the Big Eight. Aliquippa (3-0) and Chartiers Valley (3-1) occupy the top two spots in the Parkway.

So who would be the wild cards? McKeesport, Montour (2-1) and Hampton (4-2) are the top three candidates.

In 3A, it looks like North Catholic (5-0) is in from the Allegheny Conference along with Elizabeth Forward (4-0) from the Interstate.

Central Valley (4-0) is in from the Northwest Conference, and it will determine the second team when it faces Avonworth (3-1) on Friday. Keystone Oaks (2-1) plays Hopewell (2-2). If the Golden Eagles win and Avonworth loses, KO will earn an automatic berth.

If Freeport (3-0) loses to North Catholic, East Allegheny (2-1) forge a second-place tie with a win over Valley. Freeport vs. East Allegheny was canceled because of the coronavirus.

In Class A, Clairton (5-0) and Jeannette (5-1) will be the top teams from the Eastern Conference with wins in Week 7. Clairton hosts Springdale (5-1), which could grab a share of the top spot in the conference with an upset victory.

Jeannette is at Greensburg Central Catholic (2-4), which has been a disappointment this season after being ranked in the top three in preseason.

California (4-0) and Carmichaels (5-0), which played for the top spot in the Tri-County South Conference on Saturday, are in, while Shenango (6-0) and Rochester (5-1) square off for the top spot in the Big 7 Conference on Friday.

OLSH (4-2) and one of the teams from the Eastern Conference are the wild-card favorites. Avella (4-2) could stake a strong claim with a win over Carmichaels next week.

Class 2A is a little different. The top teams in each conference are in, and the football committee will determine the four wild cards.

McGuffey (5-0) has locked up the Century Conference, and the winner of the Frazier (4-1) at Washington (4-1) will finish second.

Beaver Falls (6-0) has locked up the Midwestern Conference, and Laurel (4-2), Neshannock (4-2), New Brighton (4-2) and Freedom (3-3) are vying for the second spot,

More than one wild card could come from the Midwestern Conference. Laurel hosts Ellwood City (0-6), Freedom (3-3) is at Mohawk (1-5), Neshannock faces Beaver Falls and New Brighton faces Riverside (2-4).

The Three Rivers Conference has Sto-Rox (3-1) leading the way fresh off its impressive win over Western Beaver (3-1), which hosts Carlynton on Saturday.

The Allegheny Conference is jumbled. Apollo-Ridge (2-0) and Serra Catholic (2-0) are tied for the lead, but Serra is not playing next week because Summit Academy decided not to play this season. Apollo-Ridge is at Steel Valley.

With the football committee making decisions on wild cards and seeds, some coaches have expressed their concerns about the process.

WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman told the Trib earlier this week: “We did talk about other ways, but you come back to the same way. You could break it down into winning percentage, but that’s not fair. Every way you break it down, it turns into: ‘Well, that’s not fair and that’s not fair.’ There are other people who have other opinions, but we thought this was the best way.”

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

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