PIAA football: semifinals factoids

Thursday, November 28, 2019 | 9:55 PM

What better way to follow up Thanksgiving than to digest some high school football state playoff factoids.

• This is the 31st year of the PIAA football playoffs.

• The most District 7 teams qualifying for the PIAA finals is four. That has happened 10 times with the most recent coming in 2017.

• The most state championships won in a season by WPIAL is three. It happened four times, in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2017.

Could this be a history making season for the WPIAL? This marks the first time they are sending all six district football champions to the PIAA semifinals since the expansion three years ago.

First things first, the WPIAL champions must survive the ‘western’ finals this weekend.

Here are the teams that won PIAA semifinals games from the ‘west’ side of the bracket:

• 30 years ago: Upper St. Clair, Perry, Hickory and Keystone in 1989.

• 25 years ago: McKeesport, Sharon, Forest Hills and Western Beaver in 1994.

• 20 years ago: Cathedral Prep, West Allegheny, Tyrone and South Side in 1999.

• 10 years ago: State College, Manheim Central, Greensburg Central Catholic and Clairton in 2009.

• 5 years ago: Pine-Richland, Central Valley, South Fayette and Clairton in 2014.

PIAA Class A: Clairton Bears (11-2) vs. Farrell Steelers (12-2) at North Allegheny on Friday at 7 p.m.

• These Class A state powers have taken a similar route to this meeting. Both started out 0-2 after losses in Week Zero and Week One. Clairton lost to Aliquippa and McGuffey, and defending state champion Farrell lost to University Prep and Wilmington.

• Clairton has won four PIAA championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), and Farrell has won three state crowns (1995, 1996, 2018). The Steelers first two state championships in the mid 90’s came as a member of the WPIAL.

• Clairton is 7-2 in state semifinals games. The Bears lost their first two to Keystone in 1989 and West Middlesex in 2006 before winning their next seven.

• Farrell is 5-5 in the PIAA Final Four. This is the fifth straight trip to the state semifinals for the Steelers, who are 2-2 in that span.

• This marks the fifth time Clairton has faced Farrell in a regional final. The Bears are a perfect 4-0 against the Steelers with wins in 2008 (24-21), 2009 (13-7), 2010 (48-8) and 2016 (24-6).

PIAA Class AA: Avonworth Antelopes (14-0) vs. Wilmington Greyhounds (12-0) at Slippery Rock High School on Friday at 6 p.m.

• This is the first PIAA football playoff game for Avonworth.

• Avonworth outscored their four playoff opponents 148-33 in winning their first outright district title. The Antelopes tied Union for the 1959 Class A title.

• Wilmington has one PIAA championship, coming 11 years ago when they beat West Catholic, 35-34, in the 2008 Class AA title game.

• The Greyhounds are 4-5 in PIAA semifinals games with wins in 1988, 2008, 2017 and 2018. The losses in 1997, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2016 have all come against WPIAL opponents.

• District 10 traditional power Wilmington is making its fourth straight appearance in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals.

WPIAL Class 3A: Central Valley Warriors (12-1) vs. Bald Eagle Eagles (11-3) at Moon HS on Friday at 7 p.m.

• This is Central Valley’s second trip to the PIAA semifinals. Five years ago, the Warriors beat Bishop McDevitt, 26-21, to earn a spot in the state finals, where they would lose to Archbishop Wood, 33-14.

• The Warriors didn’t reach the semifinals in their first trip to the PIAA postseason when they lost to Cathedral Prep, 31-21 in the quarterfinals.

• Bald Eagle is playing in the programs first PIAA semifinals. The Eagles advanced to the Final Four with back-to-back 21-20 wins over Bedford and Sharon.

• Bald Eagle does not have history on its side. Only two District 6 schools have won PIAA football championships, Tyrone in 1999 and Bishop Guilfoyle in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

• This is only the fourth time in PIAA playoff football history that a WPIAL team faced a District 6 team in a Class 3A semifinals game. In 1992, Blackhawk beat Lock Haven, 22-0. In 1998, Moon blanked Huntingdon 21-0, and, in 2016, Beaver Falls edged Martinsburg Central, 14-7.

WPIAL Class 4A: Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (14-0) vs. Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers (11-3) at Hollidaysburg HS on Friday at 1 p.m.

• Thomas Jefferson has won three PIAA championships beating Manheim Central in 2004 (56-20), Garnet Valley in 2007 (28-3) and Archbishop Wood in 2008 (34-7).

• The Jaguars are 3-1 in state semifinals games, beating Strong Vincent 21-20 in ’04, Strong Vincent again 35-6 in ’07 and 49-21 over West York in ’08. TJ’s only loss was to General McLane, 28-7, in 2006.

• Lampeter-Strasburg is playing in its first PIAA semifinal.

• The Pioneers made a surprise title run in the District 3 playoffs as the No. 8-team in a 10-team tournament. They beat ELCO, upset top-seed York Suburban, edged Bishop McDevitt and defeated Berks Catholic to win the D-3 championship.

• WPIAL vs. District 3 champions in the PIAA Class 3A and 4A semifinals has been a one sided matchup for District 7. The WPIAL is 11-3 in PIAA head-to-head games against District 3.

WPIAL Class 5A: Gateway (12-2) vs. Archbishop Wood (9-3) at Mansion Park in Altoona on Friday at 3 p.m.

• Gateway’s only other taste of PIAA postseason play came two years ago after it beat Penn-Trafford to win WPIAL gold.

• The Gators semifinal game in 2017 was against District 3 champion Manheim Central, with Gateway prevailing 31-28.

• Archbishop Wood has won five PIAA championships (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017).

• The Vikings have reached the PIAA semifinals in 11 of the last 12 years, including four straight. In the 10 previous trips, Archbishop Wood is 7-3, including a 20-13 loss to Penn Hills last year.

• The only other meeting between Gateway and Archbishop Wood came in the 2017 PIAA Class 5A championship game. Nasir Peoples rushed for 266 yards and four touchdowns as the Vikings jumped out to a 42-0 lead at halftime and cruised to a 49-14 victory over the Gators.

WPIAL Class 6A: Central Catholic Vikings (12-1) vs. St. Joseph’s Prep (10-2) at Mansion Park in Altoona on Saturday at 1 p.m.

• Both teams have a combined seven state championships. Central Catholic has three state crowns (1988, 2004 and 2007), and St. Joseph’s Prep has four PIAA championships (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018).

• The Vikings have reached the state semifinals seven times and never have lost. They won and advanced to the PIAA title game in 1988, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

• The Hawks have reached the state semifinals five times and also never have lost. St. Joe’s has reached the Final Four in five of the last six years with the lone exception coming in 2015.

• In three district and state playoff games, Central Catholic has outscored opponents 65-42. In four District 12 and PIAA postseason games, St. Joseph’s Prep has outscored opponents 189-57.

• This is the third meeting between Central Catholic and St. Joseph’s Prep with the two previous meetings coming in the PIAA finals. The Hawks beat the Vikings 35-10 in the 2013 championship game and 42-7 in the 2016 state finals.

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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