North Allegheny, Pine-Richland chasing 1st-round byes along with conference title

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Friday, October 25, 2019 | 3:31 AM


North Allegheny coach Art Walker hasn’t studied playoff scenarios or counted tiebreaker points ahead of Friday’s regular-season finale at Pine-Richland.

This is all Walker cares to know: Win and North Allegheny claims the conference title outright.

“That’s it,” he said. “We haven’t done any equations. We’re just worried about the task at hand.”

Top-ranked North Allegheny (9-0, 7-0) visits third-ranked Pine-Richland (8-1, 6-1) at 7 p.m. The game will decide who receives the top two seeds in Class 6A along with the corresponding first-round byes and home games in the WPIAL semifinals.

If North Allegheny wins, the Tigers are seeded first. The scenario becomes more complicated if Pine-Richland wins, because there could be a three-way tie for the conference title between the Rams, NA and Central Catholic.

Central Catholic plays at Mt. Lebanon on Friday.

With a three-way tie, the WPIAL would need to use its margin-of-victory formula to decide who gets next week off, since Gardner Points and head-to-head wouldn’t break the tie. North Allegheny is plus-61, Central Catholic is plus-52 and Pine-Richland is plus-50.

A team can gain or lose a maximum of 10 points in a game.

“That bye is a huge thing,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “Mostly because you can get your team healthy and kind of regroup a little bit.”

Pine-Richland has taken the Week 9 spot on North Allegheny’s schedule that once belonged to North Hills, and the Rams have filled that rivalry role well. They’ve played in the regular-season finale each year since 2016.

North Allegheny leads the series 7-4 over the past decade including a 27-7 victory last season. But Pine-Richland has won four of the past six with two wins in 2017.

“It was early in the season in my first couple of years but the WPIAL moved it to the last game because they thought it would be the new rivalry,” Kasperowicz said. “I think the game has held up to that billing.”

North Allegheny is trying to complete its second undefeated regular season in a row. The Tigers are coming off a 33-14 nonconference win over West Allegheny when Percise Colon and Luke Colella each scored twice.

The Tigers have worked in recent weeks to boost its passing game and balance its strong running offense. Quarterback Ben Petschke threw for 109 yards last week.

Colon, a running back, and Colella, a receiver, each have 11 touchdowns. Colon leads the team with 834 yards rushing. Colella had a team-best 31 receptions.

“They’re physical and really efficient on offense,” Kasperowicz said, “and they’ve got two of the most explosive kids in the WPIAL in Colon and Colella.”

Pine-Richland is trying to claim at least a share of the conference title for the second time in three years.

The Rams kept those hopes alive with a 35-21 victory last week over Seneca Valley. Junior quarterback Cole Spencer passed for 327 yards, two touchdowns and rushed for another score.

Spencer threw both of his touchdowns to wide receiver Eli Jochem, who has 44 receptions, 745 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Pine-Richland’s offense is pass-heavy this season with quick screens and short crossing routes taking the place of carries. Spencer has thrown for 2,090 yards and 24 touchdowns, while leading rusher Luke Meckler has only 324 yards rushing.

Still, Meckler has 11 touchdowns while lining up in multiple spots.

“If (Spencer) gets in a rhythm, he can cause some problems,” Walker said. “If he has a lane, he proved he can tuck it and go, too. So you have to make him uncomfortable and you have to know where Meckler is on every play.”

Statistically, the two teams are very close. Pine-Richland averages 39.7 points and allows 9.7. North Allegheny scores 37.8 and allows 11.1.

For now, the numbers on the scoreboard are the only numbers Walker cares about.

“It’s about finishing what we started,” he said. “We’ll figure out the rest after Friday night.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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