PIAA football Class 6A championship preview: North Allegheny vs. St. Joseph’s Prep

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Thursday, December 7, 2023 | 6:45 PM


The final PIAA championship game of the weekend is the second title game that features a multiple-time state winner from the Pittsburgh area against a PIAA power from the Philadelphia as WPIAL champion North Allegheny battles defending champion and District 12 winner St. Joseph’s Prep.

This is the 35th year of the PIAA football playoffs, which began in 1988.

Since then, the state championship games have been played at one site the last 31 years, first at Mansion Park in Altoona, then at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, and this is the second year the games take place at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

The first Class 6A tournament was played in 2016.

Here are some Class 6A anniversaries:

• Seven years ago in 2016: St. Joe’s Prep cruised past Central Catholic, 42-7

• Six years ago in 2017: Pine-Richland stunned St. Joe’s Prep, 41-21

• Five years ago in 2018: St. Joe’s Prep defeated Harrisburg, 40-20

• Four years ago in 2019: St. Joe’s Prep beat Central Dauphin, 35-13

• Three years ago in 2020: St. Joe’s Prep crushed Central York, 62-13

• Two years ago in 2021: Mt. Lebanon surprised St. Joe’s Prep, 35-17

• Last year: St. Joe’s Prep 42, Harrisburg 7

North Allegheny (13-1) vs. St. Joseph’s Prep (12-1)

7 p.m. Saturday, Chapman Field at Cumberland Valley

Coaches: Art Walker, North Allegheny; Tim Roken, St. Joseph’s Prep

2023 March to Mechanicsburg: North Allegheny defeated Central Catholic in the first round (WPIAL finals), McDowell in the quarterfinals and Harrisburg in the semifinals; St. Joe’s Prep defeated Abraham Lincoln in the first round (District 12 finals), Nazareth in the quarterfinals and Central Bucks South in the semifinals

Last week: North Allegheny 24, Harrisburg 12; St. Joseph’s Prep 49, Central Bucks South 0

Players to watch: Logan Kushner, North Allegheny (Sr., 6-1, 200, QB); Samaj Jones, St. Joseph’s Prep (Sr., 6-1, 210, QB)

Team notes

North Allegheny: The WPIAL champion Tigers are one win away from their first PIAA football championship in 11 years. NA has won nine straight games since losing to Central Catholic in Week 4 of the regular season, 50-22. Senior quarterback Logan Kushner enjoyed another big day in the state semifinals last week, throwing for only 47 yards leading the team on the ground with 165 yards on 26 carries and touchdown runs of 1 and 9 yards. For the season, Kushner has thrown for 1,636 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading the team in rushing with 1,373 yards and 21 scores. Senior running back Tyree Alualu is second in rushing with 888 yards and 16 TDs. He gained 28 yards last week with a TD.

St. Joseph’s Prep: The Hawks are one win away from repeating as PIAA Class 6A champions. St. Joe’s has won 12 straight games since losing their season opener to national powerhouse IMG Academy of Florida, 17-14. Leading the way for the Hawks is senior quarterback Samaj Jones, who was a perfect 6 of 6 passing for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the semifinals win over District 1 champion Central Bucks South. For the season, Jones has thrown for 1,667 yards and 17 touchdowns. The run game is balanced with Isaiah West, Erik Sanchez and Kahseim Phillips each rushing for over 500 yards this season. Phillips led the way last week with 74 yards rushing.

Historic factoids

• This is the first meeting between North Allegheny and St. Joseph’s Prep.

• North Allegheny is 11-2 in PIAA football playoff games. The Tigers are 3-0 in state championship games. NA defeated Ridley in the 1990 4A finals, 21-14; they shut out LaSalle College in the 2010 4A finals, 21-0; two years later, they beat Coatesville in the 2012 4A championship, 63-28.

• St. Joe’s Prep is 26-2 in state postseason games. The Hawks are 7-2 in championship games. SJP’s seven title wins: 2013 over Central Catholic, 35-10; 2014 over Pine-Richland, 49-41; 2016 over Central Catholic, 42-7; 2018 over Harrisburg, 40-20; 2019 over Central Dauphin, 35-13; 2020 over Central York, 62-13; 2022 over Harrisburg, 42-7. Their two losses came in the 2017 finals to Pine-Richland, 41-21, and in the 2021 title game to Mt. Lebanon, 35-17.

• In the last 10 years, St. Joe’s Prep has played in every title game in the highest classification (4A or 6A) except in 2015.

• The Tigers are 1-0 against teams from District 12 while the Hawks are 5-2 all-time against teams from the WPIAL.

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