PIAA Football Semifinals Recaps 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016 | 10:34 PM

The WPIAL has never won more than three state football championships in a single season under the old four classification format. Now in the first year of the expanded six classes postseason, the district has four teams headed to the finals. In the Final Four of the 2016 PIAA Playoffs, the WPIAL was a four for five as Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Beaver Falls, Steel Valley and Clairton all won their Semifinals contests to advance to the state championships next weekend in Chocolate Town. The lone WPIAL champ that saw their season end was West Allegheny in 5-A on Saturday. Here are recaps from the five games, all of which were broadcast here on the MSA Sports Network.

A special thanks to Cory Campano, Bob Greenburg, Bob Barrickman, Bob Gregg and Kyle Dawson for their help on these recaps.


Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings 63 – West Lawn Wilson Bulldogs 21
Back on December the 12th of 2015, the then District 7 WPIAL Quad-A Champion Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings came to Mansion Park in Altoona and took down the District 3 Champion Cumberland Valley in PIAA State Semifinal action 24-7. Fast forward a little less than a year later, Mansion Park in Altoona was once again the site of a PIAA Semifinal contest involving the highest class reigning WPIAL Champion, this one in Class 6A, again, the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings. Again the Vikings would take on the District 3 Champions, but instead of Cumberland Valley, it was the Wilson Bulldogs who defeated Cumberland Valley last week in the D3 Championship. The D-3 Champ hasn’t had a losing season in over 50 years, has won 25 section crowns and seven district 3 championships, but the one difference between these two teams, Wilson had never won a PIAA State Title. That will wait at least another year as the WPIAL Champs steamrolled the Bulldogs 63-21 in Altoona to book a trip to Hershey next week. PCC got things going quickly, scoring a 63-yard touchdown on a screen pass from quarterback Troy Fisher to tailback JJ Younger. On the next offensive drive for Wilson, Rodney Wilson intercepted a Connor Uhrig pass and took it back to the house for a 52-yard pick-six that put PCC up 14-0. The Vikes added a 62-yard rush TD by JJ Younger to make it 21-0 after one quarter. Early in the second, Fisher found John Reilly for a 60-yard touchdown to put the WPIAL 6A Champs up 28-0. Wilson, after two personal foul penalties against PCC, scored on a 15-yard pass from Uhrig to Justin Weller. At 28-7 and 1:18 later, PCC answered with the first of three Fisher rushing touchdowns, this from a yard out. Wilson added a 30-yard TD pass from Uhrig to Mason McElroy before the half and at the half, PCC led 35-14. In the second half, it was more of the same. JJ Younger scored a 10-yard touchdown before Wilson cut it to 42-21, the closest they’d get with a 27-yard score from Uhrig to Brian Wright. Fisher added rush touchdowns of 22-yards and 3-yards and a David Green 5-yard score en route to a final of 63-21. Younger finished the day with 11 rushes for 139 yards and the two scores. Fisher had seven carries for 71 yards and the three scores. On six rushes, Green had 60 yards and his 5-yard score. Leaders in the receiving game for PCC included Justice Evans, who had three catches for 70 yards. The touchdown catches for Reilly and Younger were their lone receptions. Fisher was 5-10 for 193 and two scores through the air. One down to PCC’s blowout win was in penalties. The Vikings were penalized 16 times for 132 yards. The defense of the Vikings had three picks, but Uhrig still threw for his three scores and 272 yards to five different Bulldog receivers. Wilson is done, ending its season with two losses and as District 3 Class 6A champions while PCC moves on to the Class 6A PIAA Championship game next week. The Vikings will take on St. Joseph’s, the District 12 champion, Saturday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. The game will be on the MSA Sports Network.


Harrisburg Cougars 42 – West Allegheny Indians 10
Penn State recruit Micah Parsons rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries and took an eight-yard pass to the house helping Harrisburg to a 42-10 win over West Allegheny.  The Cougars used a 21-point third quarter to blow open a one-score game, eventually instituting the PIAA mercy rule in the fourth quarter.  Harrisburg’s win is its sixth straight playoff victory and clinches a berth in the PIAA Class 5A championship game against District 12 champion Archbishop Wood next Friday night.  Harrisburg (11-3) took the opening kickoff and covered 60 yards quickly, the last 41 on Parsons’ feet, getting around the corner and down the far sideline just 1:46 into the game.  The Cougars moved deep into West Allegheny territory on their next possession, but wasted a first-and-goal form the five with two running losses and a bad snap on a field goal attempt, the kick ultimately being blocked and recovered by the Indians (13-1).  West Allegheny was held to -1 total yards in the opening quarter but started to put things together, down 7-0, early in the second.  A couple third-down conversions set the Indians up at the Harrisburg 30-yard line.  Nick Ross’ pass was behind Mateo Vandamia and picked off by Donnell Henriquez, just the fourth interception of the year thrown by the senior quarterback.  After forcing a punt, the Indians started at their own three.  Kenny White dug them out of the hole with a 28-yard run.  Connor Johnsen made a couple receptions and two pass interference penalties against Harrisburg set up first-and-goal at the six.  White took the snap, rolled right, stopped and hit Vandamia wide open at the goal line.  DJ Opsatnik’s PAT, his 51st of the year, tied the game at 7-7 with 1:33 to play before the half.  But the quick-strike offense for Harrisburg went up the field in a hurry, covering 65 yards on nine plays.  On the final play, Yahmir Wilkerson threw a swing pass to Parsons inside the 15, the 6-3, 235-pound back slipped a tackle at the 10 and ran over and through two would-be tacklers at the five to score with nine seconds to play in the second quarter.  Following intermission, West Allegheny was able to move the ball, picking up four first downs on the opening possession, including Ross’ 16-yard scramble to the Harrisburg 25.  On first down, White took a direct snap and started to follow fullback Anthony Tautkus into the hole, but then abandoned that direction and gave ground, eluding tacklers but kept having to give more yardage up.  Finally, back on his own side of midfield, White was hit and fumbled.  Raymond Allen scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the West Allegheny 34-yard line.  Three plays later, Dupri Andrews went around right end for a 10-yard touchdown.  The Cougars scored on their next three possessions to put the game away and into the mercy rule.  Parsons ran 37 yards up the middle for a score with 2:16 to play in the third.  Less than two minutes later, Joel Davis finished off a 45-yard possession, scoring from three yards out.  On Harrisburg’s first possession of the fourth quarter, Jamir Plant, a freshman, carried eight straight times, totaling 53 yards, capped off with a 12-yard touchdown run.  Opsatnik set a new PIAA record, booting a 26-yard field goal with 1:02 to play, the 16th this year and 36th of his career.  Wilkerson hit 13-of-20 for 131 yards and one touchdown.  Davis had five catches for 79 yards.  Ross finished 13-of-23 for 107 yards and one touchdown, ending his senior season four yards shy of 2,500.  Johnsen and Brandon Lipford each had four receptions–Lipford for 37 yards, Johnsen for 34.  White carried 16 times for 47 yards.  Will Weber added 31 yards on his eight rushes.


Beaver Falls Tigers 14 – Martinsburg Central Scarlet Dragons 7
A spectacular touchdown catch of 17 yards by Malik Shepherd on the first play of the fourth quarter lifted Beaver Falls to a come from behind 14-7 victory over Central High School from Martinsburg in the PIAA 3A west final Friday night.  Central High, only 20 miles from the game site at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona, looked strong at the outset.  The Dragons from District 6 went on a 73-yard drive capped by a 25-yard run by senior sensation Alex Hoenstine to go up 7-0 in the first period.  The WPIAL champions settled down defensively thereafter but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone the entire first half.  Beaver Falls had a great chance to score near the end of the second quarter but a holding call stopped the Tigers momentum and the Dragons eventually took over possession at their own 10-yard line.  After trailing 7-0 at the half, Beaver Falls forced Central to punt on its first series of downs in the third quarter.  The Tigers marched down the field and scored on a 16-yard run by Shepherd to tie the game at 7-7.  Central gambled late in the period by going for a first down on fourth and 12 from the Beaver Falls 37-yard line.  A Dragon pass went incomplete and the Tigers proceeded again offensively deep in the third quarter.  Quarterback Austin French was pressured on the first play of the final frame but just got off the pass which had a chance to be intercepted in the end zone only to see Shepherd wrestle the ball from the defender.  Central was forced to use all of its timeouts but stopped the Tigers on downs at the Dragon 15 with just under two minutes left.  A dead ball personal foul against Beaver Falls gave Central some hope and were then able to reach the opponent’s 40-yard line.  However, time ran out for the Dragons and Beaver Falls held on for its 12th straight win.  Central saw its 10-game winning streak come to a close as the Dragons finished 13-2.  Beaver Falls will take a 12-1 record into the PIAA championship against undefeated Middletown on December 10.  Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. from Hersheypark Stadium.


Steel Valley Ironmen 49 – Wilmington Greyhounds 13
Steel Valley has never reached the PIAA title game. Friday night they were one win away from finally getting there with The Wilmington Greyhounds standing in their way. It didn’t take long for SV to show just how deserving they are of finally getting to the title game, as they scored five plays into the game. The 3 yard touchdown run by DeWayne Murray was just the start of another brutal beat down. Steel Valley was 13-0 entering this game, having mercy ruled every single team along the way. Friday night was no different as they took down Wilmington 49-13. Murray added two more touchdown runs in the game of 4 and 54 yards to take his total to 46 on the season. The entire Steel Valley offense played major role to the victory, as well. Ryan Harper threw 2 touchdowns. One of those went to Najheir West, who also added 2 TD runs himself. Defensively, the Ironmen locked down their opponent. There were virtually no chances for Wilmington to get anything going and their 13 points scored were both in the 4th quarter after Steel Valley had the mercy rule in effect and most of their starters were out. The Ironmen look to cap off their Cinderella season at Hershey Park next Saturday at 11 am where they will face Southern Columbia.


Clairton Bears 24 – Farrell Steelers 6
The Clairton Bears beat the Farrell Steelers Friday night 24-6 to advance to the PIAA Class A Finals for 7th time since 2008. It was a historical night for Bears as all everything standout Lamont Wade  rushed for 243 yards to surpass 7000 yards for his career. Tre Howard finished with 99 yards on 8 carries which included a 95-yard TD run. The Bears steller defense held Farrell to 101 total yards on 47 plays. Clairton will face 2 time defending champion Bishiop Guilfoyle Friday at 1pm at Hersheypark Stadium. Guilfoyle beat Clairton 15-14 in the 2014 State Finals.

Clairton : 6 – 12 – 0 – 6 = 24
Farrell : 0 – 0 – 0 – 6 = 6

Scoring Summary:
1st Qtr  C  Hamlin 1 yd td run  (PAT Failed)
2nd Qtr  C  Fuqua 5 yd td run  (PAT Failed)
2nd Qtr   C  Wade 72 yd td run  (PAT Failed)
4th Qtr   F  Townsend 2 yd run  (PAT Failed)
4th Qtr  C  Howard 95 yd run  (PAT Failed)


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