PIAA football Class A championship game preview: Fort Cherry vs. Steelton-Highspire

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023 | 11:42 PM


The first of six PIAA championship games features two brilliant quarterbacks as District 3 and defending PIAA champion Steelton-Highspire takes on WPIAL champion Fort Cherry.

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 will take place at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg.

Here are some Class A anniversaries:

• 35 years ago in 1988: Camp Hill defeated Cambridge Springs, 18-7

• 30 years ago in 1993: Duquesne edged South Williamsport, 24-21

• 25 years ago in 1998: Rochester blanked Southern Columbia, 18-0

• 20 years ago in 2003: Southern Columbia knocked off Bishop Carroll, 49-20

• 10 years ago in 2013: North Catholic beat Old Forge, 15-14

• Five years ago in 2018: Farrell rolled past Lackawanna Trail, 55-20

• Last year: Steelton-Highspire 22, Union 8

Fort Cherry (15-0) vs. Steelton-Highspire (15-0)

1 p.m. Thursday, Chapman Field at Cumberland Valley

Coaches: Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry; Andrew Herby, Steelton-Highspire

2023 March to Mechanicsburg: Fort Cherry defeated Jefferson-Morgan in the first round, Rochester in the quarterfinals, Bishop Canevin in the semifinals and South Side in the WPIAL championship game, then beat Redbank Valley in the PIAA semifinals; Steelton-Highspire defeated Halifax in the District 6 championship game, then beat Belmont Charter in the preliminary round, Northern Bedford in the first round, Lackawanna Trail in the quarterfinals and South Williamsport in the semifinals

Last week: Fort Cherry 33, Redbank Valley 24; Steelton-Highspire 48, South Williamsport 21

Players to watch: Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry (Soph., 6-1, 170, QB); Alex Erby, Steelton-Highspire (Sr., 6-4, 210, QB)

Team notes

Fort Cherry: The Rangers fell behind in each of the first three quarters but came back strong in the fourth quarter to win their first PIAA playoff game. Sophomore quarterback Matt Sieg connected on 9 of 16 passes for 138 yards and rushed for 258 yards on 34 carries and scored four touchdowns on runs of 2, 1, 20 and 37 yards, the final three coming in the fourth quarter in the victory over Redbank Valley in the state semifinals. Senior running back Ethan Faletto also scored for Fort Cherry on a 5-yard run. For the season, Sieg has thrown for 1,650 and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 2,234 yards and 42 scores. Faletto is second in rushing with 1,188 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Steelton-Highspire: The Steamrollers hope to repeat and win a third state championship in four years in the final scholastic game for the PIAA’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. Senior quarterback Alex Erby threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns in the semifinals win last week over South Williamsport. The Navy recruit has thrown for 4,084 yards this season and 13,227 yards in his record-breaking career. He also scored on a 35-yard touchdown run. Senior running back Ronald Burnette also scored on a pair of touchdown runs for the Steamrollers.

Historic factoids

• This is the first meeting between Fort Cherry and Steelton-Highspire.

• This is the Rangers’ second PIAA football playoff game after winning their first last week.

• The Steamrollers are 23-10 all-time in the PIAA playoffs. This is the fourth straight year Steelton-Highspire won the District 3 title and earned a spot in the PIAA postseason. Their first trip to the state playoffs was in 1997.

• This is the fifth time Steelton-Highspire has played in the state championship game. The Steamrollers are 4-0 and all four wins have come against WPIAL teams: 2007 over Serra Catholic, 34-15; 2008 over Clairton, 25-16, 2020 over Jeannette, 32-20; and 2022 over Union, 22-8.

• Fort Cherry is 4-3 all-time against teams outside of the WPIAL.

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