Trib HSSN don’t-miss high school football matchups for 2022 Week 5

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Thursday, September 29, 2022 | 7:18 PM


The second half of the 2022 regular season begins on the final day of September. While there is still a lot of football left, five of the six games below are for at least a share of first place in their respective conferences.

The lone exception is in 6A, where parity has become the battle cry, leaving preseason top-ranked Central Catholic in the 6A basement coming into Week 5, facing a near must-win battle at Big Mac Stadium in Canonsburg.

Here are previews of six standout matchups around the WPIAL on Friday in Week 5, all of which can be viewed here on Trib HSSN.

Class 6A

No. 5 Central Catholic (0-2, 2-3) at No. 2 Canon-McMillan (1-1, 2-3)

7 p.m. Friday, Big Mac Stadium, Canonsburg

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Coaches: Terry Totten, Central Catholic; Mike Evans, Canon-McMillan

Last week: North Allegheny 7, Central Catholic 3; Canon-McMillan 21, South Fayette 17

Players to watch: Payton Wehner, Central Catholic (Jr., 6-1, 165, QB); Michael Evans, Canon-McMillan (Jr., 6-1, 205, QB)

Four downs

1. This is as close to a must-win game without actually being a must-win game as it gets for Central Catholic. The Vikings are in a hole in fifth place in 6A after back-to-back conference losses to Mt. Lebanon and North Allegheny in the last two weeks. In Week 4, Central Catholic only managed three points on sophomore Billy Lech’s 30-yard field goal in the third quarter.

2. Vikings quarterback Payton Wehner had some success through the air against the North Allegheny defense, which helped considering the CC ground attack only managed 69 yards rushing. The junior quarterback hit on 11 of 24 passes for 127 yards, plus he was second in rushing with 15 yards.

3. Canon-McMillan picked up its second win of the year with a Week 4 nonconference victory at South Fayette. Trailing at halftime, senior running back Jake Kasper scored on a 33-yard run. Then down by two points, Kasper scored the game winner on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter.

4. While this is huge game for the Vikings, it is also big for the Big Macs’ playoff hopes. A win will clinch a playoff spot for Canon-Mac. Big Macs quarterback Michael Evans hit on 10 of 18 passes for 119 yards and a 10-yard scoring pass to senior Austyn Winklenlech. For the season, Evans has thrown for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Historic factoids: This has been a one-sided series with Central Catholic leading all-time, 9-2-1. The Vikings have won eight games in a row, including six straight since 2012. In those six Vikings wins, they have outscored the Big Macs, 278-38, with three shutouts. The last time Canon-McMillan defeated Central Catholic was nearly 70 years ago, 38-6 in 1953. The first meeting between the two was three years earlier when the Vikings and Big Macs played to a scoreless tie in 1950.

Class 5A Northeast Conference

Shaler (0-0, 3-2) at Woodland Hills (1-0, 3-2)

7 p.m. Friday, The Wolvarena, Turtle Creek

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Coaches: Jim Ryan, Shaler, Tim Bostard, Woodland Hills

Last week: Shaler 42, Franklin Regional 41 (2OT); Woodland Hills 25, Norwin 0

Players to watch: Keegan Smetanka, Shaler (Jr., 5-11, 170, QB); Frankie Keyes, Woodland Hills (Sr., 5-9, 196, RB)

Four downs

1. Following a thrilling finish to the nonconference part of their schedule in Week 4, Shaler finally plays its first 5A Northeast Conference game on Friday. The Titans needed double overtime to defeat Franklin Regional on Saturday to improve to 3-2 for the season. Senior running back Luke Cignetti rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown.

2. Titans quarterback Keegan Smetanka had a memorable homecoming game for Shaler. The junior signal caller connected on 17 of 22 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns, two each to junior wide receivers Joey DeSabato and Brandon London, including the game winning two-point conversion pass to London.

3. Woodland Hills ended a two-game losing streak two weeks ago with a shutout of North Hills in the team’s 5A Northeast Conference opener in Week 3. Last week, the Wolverines made it two wins in a row and improved to 3-2 with another whitewash, this time of Norwin. All 25 points came in the second (12) and third quarters (13).

4. Wolverines senior running back Frankie Keyes drove the team to success on the ground against the Knights. Keyes rushed for 147 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns on runs of 5, 4 and 1 yard. At the midway point of the regular season, Woodland Hills (1-0) is alone in first place in the Northeast Conference.

Historic factoids: Woodland Hills has never lost to Shaler as the teams prepare to play for the 12th time. The first meeting was 35 years ago as the Wolverines blanked the Titans, 27-0, in 1987. The last meeting was seven years ago when Woodland Hills rolled past Shaler, 59-21, in 2015. The Wolverines have outscored the Titans in their 11 wins by a combined tally of 353-95. The programs have met twice in the WPIAL playoffs. In the 2000 WPIAL 4A quarterfinals, Woodland Hills beat Shlaer, 27-8. Three years later, the Wolverines defeated the Titans, 19-7, in a 2003 4A first-round contest.

Class 4A Parkway Conference

Blackhawk (2-0, 3-2) at No. 3 Central Valley (2-0, 5-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Sarge Alberts Stadium, Central Valley

On the air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com and on WBVP-AM 1230, WBVP-FM 99.3

Coaches: Zack Hayward, Blackhawk; Mark Lyons, Central Valley

Last week: Blackhawk 33, Chartiers Valley 16; Central Valley 54, New Castle 0

Players to watch: Maurice Watson-Trent, Blackhawk (Jr., 5-10, 185, RB/S); Bret FitzSimmons, Central Valley (Sr., 5-10, 182, RB/LB)

Four downs

1. Blackhawk has quietly climbed the 4A Parkway Conference ladder to the top after losing nonconference games to Beaver Falls and Highlands in Week Zero and Week 1. The Cougars’ third straight win and second conference victory last week was a 17-point road win over Chartiers Valley as sophomore quarterback Stephen Knallay threw for a touchdown and added a 1-yard scoring run.

2. The Cougars were once again led on offense by junior running back Maurine Watson-Trent. He rushed for 116 yards on 18 carries and scored on a 7-yard run in the opening quarter. Watson-Trent has rushed for 342 yards this season and has back-to-back game of 100-plus yards on the ground.

3. Defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A champion Central Valley hasn’t blinked since moving up to 4A this fall. The Warriors are 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 240-64. CV’s closest game was in Week 1 when it handed Avonworth its only loss, 37-22. In the Warriors’ win over Chartiers Valley two weeks ago, Mark Lyons picked up career win No. 200 with 130 of those wins coming since taking over the Warriors program in 2010.

4. Warriors running back Bret FitzSimmons continued his big season last week, rushing for 140 yards and a touchdown on a 10-yard run. For the season, the senior has rushed for 769 yards on 45 carries with 14 touchdowns as Central Valley continues to build on the longest current win streak in both the WPIAL and PIAA at 32 in a row.

Historic factoids: This is the 11th meeting between the schools with Central Valley dominating Blackhawk in winning nine of the previous 10 contests. The Warriors have dominated the Cougars to the tune of a combined score of 406-129. The only win for Blackhawk came in 2019, a 21-7 victory. Before the merger of Center and Monaca in 2010, Blackhawk was 3-4 all-time against Center. The Cougars won the first meeting in 1973, 36-14, while the Trojans won the final encounter in 1999, 28-7. Central Valley has won three straight WPIAL 3A championships (2019-2021) while 30 years ago, Blackhawk also won three consecutive 3A district football titles (1991-1993).

Class 3A Western Hills Conference

No. 2 Avonworth (2-0, 4-1) at West Mifflin (1-0, 2-3)

7 p.m. Friday, Titans Stadium, West Mifflin

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Coaches: Duke Johncour, Avonworth; Rod Steele, West Mifflin

Last week: Avonworth 45, South Park 6; West Mifflin 31, Beaver 24 (OT)

Players to watch: Nate Harper, Avonworth (Sr., 6-0, 185, QB); DelRon White, West Mifflin (Jr., 5-10, 220, RB/LB);

Four downs

1. Avonworth took over sole possession of first place in the 3A Western Hills Conference with a third straight victory, a 39-point rout of South Park at home last week. Antelopes senior running back Luke Hilyard rushed for 81 yards and scored the game’s first two touchdowns against the Eagles on a 1-yard run and a 41-yard jaunt, giving him a team-high 10 touchdowns this season.

2. While Hilyard led the way for the Antelopes on the ground, quarterback Nate Harper was leading the offense through the air. The senior signal caller hit on 9 of 11 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, one each to senior wide receivers Peyton Faulkner and Austin Johncour and junior wideout Andrew Kuban.

3. West Mifflin raised some eyebrows around the district with a conference-opening stunner on the road at Beaver. Following three straight losses to open the season and a nonconference victory in Week 3 over Ringgold, the Titans upset the No. 3-ranked Bobcats with a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter and the only touchdown of overtime.

4. Week 4 was a breakthrough performance for Titans running back DelRon White. The junior rushed for 206 yards on 35 carries and scored all four West Mifflin touchdowns of 4, 20 and 3 yards before capping off his big night with a 4-yard scoring run in overtime for the game winner.

Historic factoids: One week after playing Beaver for the first time in program history, this will be the first meeting for West Mifflin against Avonworth. Since expansion in 2016, the Titans have been in 4A while the Antelopes started in 2A and moved up to 3A in 2020. Before expansion, West Mifflin was in 3A while the Antelopes bounced back and forth between A and 2A. Since the turn of the century, West Mifflin has reached the WPIAL championship game three times, losing in 2000, 2004 and 2012. Avonworth has reached the district finals twice, losing in 2014 and winning WPIAL gold in 2019.

Class 2A Century Conference

No. 5 Sto-Rox (2-0, 2-2) at McGuffey (2-0, 4-1)

7 p.m. Friday, McGuffey Stadium

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Coaches: Marvin Mills, Sto-Rox; Ed Dalton, McGuffey

Last week: Sto-Rox 52, Keystone Oaks 0; McGuffey 63, Waynesburg Central 20

Players to watch: Josh Jenkins, Sto-Rox (Sr, 6-1, 180, QB/S); Philip McCuen, McGuffey (Sr., 6-0 185, QB/S)

Four downs

1. Sto-Rox has proven that it is one of the teams to beat in Class 2A this season despite an 0-2 start with nonconference losses to Steel Valley and Avonworth. The Vikings have won two straight 2A Century Conference games by a combined score of 134-7, including an impressive 52-point victory over a Keystone Oaks team that entered last week’s game with a 3-1 overall record. Senior Dre Miller-Ross had three interceptions for the Vikings.

2. Vikings quarterback Josh Jenkins continued the great tradition of signal callers at the tiny school located west of Pittsburgh in McKees Rocks. Jenkins threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns against the Golden Eagles last week, joining the 4,000 career passing club. Jenkins is the eighth Vikings quarterback to reach that milestone. He has thrown for 754 yards this season and 4,023 yards for his career.

3. McGuffey continues to put up big points on offense, dropping 63 in a second straight 2A Century Conference win last week at Waynesburg. After falling to Mt. Pleasant in Week 2, the Highlanders have scored 118 points in wins over Brentwood and Waynesburg. Senior running back Eric Donnelly had two touchdowns on the ground against the Raiders last week.

4. The Highlanders’ high-octane offense will be tested by Sto-Rox, but thus far, senior quarterback Philip McCuen has pushed all the right buttons. Last week, he threw for 83 yards and a touchdown and led the team in rushing with 86 yards and touchdown runs of 42 and 38 yards as the Highlanders improved to 4-1.

Historic factoids: This is only the second meeting between Sto-Rox and McGuffey. The first one was played last season at Sto-Rox with the Vikings prevailing in a Week 2 nonconference contest, 36-0. Sto-Rox scored 22 of its 36 points in the third quarter. Vikings senior running back Jaymar Pearson rushed for 260 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Highlanders.

Class A Big 7 Conference

Rochester (2-0, 3-1) at Laurel (1-0, 3-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Spartan Stadium, Laurel

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Coaches: Gene Matsook, Rochester; Brian Cooper, Laurel

Last week: Rochester 22. Shenango 8; Laurel 28, Union 22 (OT)

Players to watch: Parker Lyons, Rochester (Sr., 6-0, 165, QB/S); Landon Smith (Sr, 5-8, 150, RB)

Four downs

1. Following a one-touchdown loss to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Week 1, Rochester has won three straight, including a 2-0 start in the Class A Big 7 Conference. Last week, the Rams took care of business at home with a 14-point victory over Shenango. Sophomore running back Antonio Laure had a team-high 70 yards rushing while senior wide receiver Jerome Mullins had 42 yards in receptions and touchdown catches of 15 and 13 yards.

2. Rams quarterback Parker Lyons only connected on three passes for 42 yards, but two of those completions went for touchdowns. Lyons also rushed for 45 yards, giving the senior 432 yards passing and 185 yards rushing for the season with four scoring passes and two touchdown runs.

3. Laurel improved to 3-1 for the season and evened its overtime record in 2022 to 1-1 in winning its Big 7 Conference opener on the road last week at rival Union. The Spartans tied the game on a long fourth quarter touchdown run and had a chance to win it in regulation before a turnover sent the game into OT. Laurel scored the only points of overtime for a second win in a row since falling to Neshannock in double overtime in Week 1.

4. Spartans running back Landon Smith was consistent throughout the game on the ground, then came up with a couple of big runs late to help Laurel to its third win of the season. The senior rushed for 175 yards and scored the game-tying points in the fourth quarter on a 70-yard run, then dove in on a 1-yard score in overtime that was the difference in the six-point win over the host Scotties.

Historic factoids: While this has been an even battle over the last four meetings in the last 10 years, Rochester has owned the head-to-head series, winning 10 straight and 11 of 13 overall. The Rams beat the Spartans in the first contest between the two 40 years ago, 23-22, in 1982. Rochester won the first 10 meetings between 1982-2012 by a combined score of 311-89. However, Laurel has won two of the last three meetings in 2013 and in 2019. In their most recent get together three years ago, the Spartans shut out the Rams, 42-0.

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