Plum prepared for tough matchup with McKeesport after returning to playoffs for first time since 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2020 | 10:55 PM

When the WPIAL football brackets were revealed Saturday evening, four A-K Valley teams had their tickets to the postseason punched.

Plum, Freeport, Apollo-Ridge, and Springdale were awarded playoff bids. Plum and Apollo-Ridge finished atop their respective conferences and earned automatic bids. Freeport and Springdale were selected as wild cards.

Plum (7-0), making its first playoff appearance since 2015, is the No. 3 seed in Class 4A, making it the highest-seeded team from the A-K Valley. The Mustangs will host No. 6 McKeesport (6-1), who finished their regular season with a 20-14 upset of No. 2 Thomas Jefferson, at 7 p.m. Friday.

On Friday, the Mustangs finished their first undefeated regular season since 1977 with a dominating 63-13 win over Armstrong. They have been playing top-tier football all season, but they have a playoff matchup with a team that might be reaching its peak.

McKeesport has not lost since Week 1 — a 20-0 win for Belle Vernon — and Plum coach Matt Morgan knows his Mustangs are in for a tough matchup.

“We figured with the way it played out and not crossing over sectional games, we were going to get them,” Morgan said. “It’s one of those deals where right now where we are sitting, we are going to go through that whole conference if you would, with them, TJ and Belle Vernon. It is what it is, and we’re confident in what our guys can do. So we’ll go out there and do our best and try to beat a tough McKeesport team.”

The two teams played last year, and McKeesport came away with a 62-40 victory.

Apollo-Ridge (5-0) is one of two undefeated teams from the Class 2A Allegheny Conference, and the Vikings earned the No. 4 seed and Serra Catholic (4-0) is seeded seventh. Both teams missed games because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Led by a strong senior class, the Vikings have been one of the top teams in Class 2A but will have to prove it.

The WPIAL steering committee put Apollo-Ridge against against No. 5 Washington on Friday. The Prexies, have lost twice this season but have beat up on teams as well. After Apollo-Ridge’s first-round exit last season, the Vikings are motivated to get back to it in the playoffs.

“I think we definitely want to prove that we are a pretty good team, and I definitely think that we want to put ourselves in a position to show that to people,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “I think sometimes we get slighted with where we are at. I think sometimes people don’t notice us up here, but that’s fine. I say we need to wake those people up and make them see what we’re about.”

Until this week, Freeport’s playoff hopes were up in the air. After missing two weeks because of a coronavirus exposure, the Yellowjackets (3-2) weren’t sure if they were going to get a shot at another playoff appearance. But after an eye-opening performance in a 26-14 loss to No. 2 North Catholic on Friday, the Yellowjackets were awarded the No. 6 seed in the Class 3A playoffs.

They will take on the Interstate Conference champion Elizabeth Forward (6-0) in the first round.

While Freeport proved itself late in the season, Springdale (5-2) had proven its worth in the Class A Eastern Conference all season.

After suffering difficult, but competitive, losses to No. 1 Clairton and No. 3 Jeanette, the Dynamos made it clear they deserved a wild-card spot.

They received the No. 7 seed and a matchup against No. 2 Rochester, which won the Big Seven Conference. But after playing two of the top teams in the state, the Dynamos feel like they are ready to take on any team inthe bracket.

“Having played in the conference we play in and having played the teams we’ve played the last few weeks, I don’t think our guys are going to be intimidated,” Springdale coach Seth Napierkowski said. “We’ve seen the best in the state, and this week is going to be no different.”

Home-field advantage will play a part in the playoffs. While McKeesport will be traveling only 15 miles to Plum, Washington has a 66-mile trip to Apollo-Ridge.

“We’re happy to be at home. I know that,” Skiba said. “That plays a big role, and we’re comfortable with where we are at.”

The WPIAL also announced championship sites Saturday.

Class 6A will play their championship game Nov. 6 at North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium.

Classes 5A, 4A and 3A will play championship games at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium. Class 3A will be played at 7 p.m. Nov. 13. Class 5A (7 p.m.) and 4A (1 p.m.) will be played Nov. 14.

Classes 2A and A also will be held at North Hills. Those two games take place Nov. 14. Class A will be played at 11 a.m., and 2A will be played at 5 p.m.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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