The Birdie hears the buzz on the Westmoreland locals
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 | 5:27 PM
After dinner at his favorite pizza place in Green Tree, the Birdie went to the WPIAL playoff pairings meeting Monday night and blended into the crowd.
Afterward, he grabbed a seat at the lobby bar.
He wasn't able to score (steal) the brackets despite “knowing a guy,” but he gained a greater sense of perception about local teams. He even had an ear to the wall in the men's room.
“Nobody knew who I was,” he said, finishing a slice of leftover pizza — cold, because he broke the lunch room microwave — and tossing the crust onto his desk. “I was able to lend an ear to the buzz in the room, the rumors and jive talk. You know, the lowdown. I don't mingle. I just absorb the info.”
So what did he learn that night about the eight local teams in the playoffs?
“Well, nobody wants to play Penn-Trafford, and everybody would like to play Monessen,” Birdie said. “Jeannette is mad as heck after that head-scratcher against Clairton. Biggest surprise of the season? It's up there.
“Franklin Regional, like most people always tell me, is ‘well-coached,' and Norwin is ‘tough on D' but ‘hasn't seen a team like Pine.'
“Belle Vernon has some swagger and a lot more respect after beating Tommy Jefferson. And Derry, despite its run last year and push for 9-1 this year, remains an underdog. Still, ‘Those kids play hard.' ”
The Birdie brought three shiny tokens he kept from high school when he made the county skee ball finals at Major Magic's to the pairings meeting. He usually uses them for scratch-off tickets but decided to give the useless change another use.
“In case they had to break that three-way tie in the Eastern A,” Birdie said. “Imagine that drama. Probably a closed-door meeting up the DoubleTree.
“One coach asked if the WPIAL had a three-headed coin. I'm like, that doesn't even make cents.
“Personally, my fourth tiebreaker criteria would be, ‘Ask the Birdie.'
“Keep the change, you filthy animals.”
Now for the first-round picks:
Norwin (5-5) at Pine-Richland (10-0)
Norwin will keep it close with its sound red-zone defense, but big plays will rip through the Knights and the Rams will peel away slowly.
Fox Chapel (6-4) at Penn-Trafford (9-1)
A much-improved Fox Chapel team can move the ball well on the ground, but the Warriors aren't known for allowing much via the rushing game and will handle the Foxes like they two years ago in the first round.
Franklin Regional (6-3) at Upper St. Clair (7-3)
The Birdie predicted Franklin would finish 6-3 in the regular season and the Panthers did not let him down, despite injuries. He also predicts an Upper St. Clair squeaker.
Upper St. Clair, 20-14
Mars (6-4) at Belle Vernon (9-0)
Belle Vernon will have some issues with the Planets' running game, but will get the job done by forcing them into more mistakes.
Belle Vernon, 23-14
Derry (9-1) at Quaker Valley (9-1)
The Birdie thinks this could be the best game of the bunch Friday, but the Quakers will have a little more in the tank come crunch time.
Quaker Valley, 16-14
Monessen (3-7) at Jeannette (9-1)
Jeannette is fuming mad after that Clairton loss, and Monessen will be the perfect remedy for that pent-up frustration.
West Shamokin (4-5) at Ligonier Valley (10-0)
Unlike the Birdie, Ligonier Valley likes to get up early. The Rams will pile up the TDs and easily advance in the District 6 playoffs.
Ligonier Valley, 46-6
More High School Football• Ligonier Valley caps 1st season back in WPIAL with wild win over Shady Side Academy
• Late score pushes USC past South Fayette, into playoffs for 21st straight season
• South Park overcomes early Mt. Pleasant lead for victory
• Jeannette wins seventh straight against Greensburg Central Catholic
• McKeesport hands Thomas Jefferson its first home loss in 5 years in Class 4A shocker