Trib HSSN don’t-miss high school football matchups for 2023 Week 4
Thursday, September 21, 2023 | 6:08 PM
It may say September on the calendar, but Week 4 of the WPIAL football season has more of a November feel to it with big games here, there and everywhere.
Friday features not one, not two, but three games pitting top-ranked teams against teams rated No. 2 in the latest Trib HSSN Top 5.
Two of those matchups are a Class 6A clash between No. 2 Central Catholic and No. 1 North Allegheny and a nonconference meeting between Class 3A No. 1 Belle Vernon and old rival Thomas Jefferson, the No. 2 team in 4A.
Here is a look at some of the top district high school football contests in what should be a memorable Week 4.
7 p.m. Friday, NexTier Stadium at Seneca Valley
Coaches: Mike Collodi, Mt. Lebanon; Ron Butschle, Seneca Valley
Players to watch: Pat Smith, Mt. Lebanon (Soph., 6-2, 195, QB/LB); Sean O’Shea, Seneca Valley (Sr., 6-1, 175, QB)
• Mt. Lebanon: A clean 3-0 start to the Mike Collodi era at Mt. Lebanon is a distant memory after the Blue Devils were blanked by Central Catholic in their 6A opener last week. The second half was played under the mercy rule after the Vikings grabbed a 35-0 lead by halftime. Dual threat sophomore quarterback Pat Smith was one of the few bright spots for Lebo. On a night when the Blue Devils were held to 24 yards passing and 27 yards on the ground, Smith carried the ball eight times for 26 yards. Senior quarterback Michael Malone has thrown for 317 yards and four touchdowns through the first four games.
• Seneca Valley: Following three road losses to open the season, including a 38-point setback against Canon-McMillan in their lone 6A game, the Raiders finally played a home game last week. The results did not change, though, as SV lost to Pine-Richland by 22 points. Senior quarterback Sean O’Shea tied the game 7-7 with a 12-yard first-quarter scoring run. The Rams scored 28 straight points before reserve QB Parker Brugos connected with Brayden Wise on a 25-yard scoring pass. For the season, Seneca Valley has scored only 40 points while allowing 154 points.
• Seneca Valley forced six turnovers — three interceptions and three fumbles — in beating Mt. Lebanon last September, 24-6. Aiden Lyczek led the Raiders defense with three sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown, while Graham Hancox threw two touchdowns for SV. Beckham Dee had the lone Blue Devils touchdown.
• This is the 18th all-time meeting between the schools with the Blue Devils holding an 11-6 lead in the series. Half of the Raiders’ six wins have been in the regular season with victories over Lebo in 2002, 2018 and 2022.
• The teams have met six times in the WPIAL playoffs with each school winning three. Seneca Valley won and advanced in 1997, 2012 and 2016 while Mt. Lebanon was a postseason winner in 1999, 1999 and 2019.
Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Confluence Financial Partners Stadium at Peters Township Middle School
Coaches: Mike Junko, Upper St. Clair; T.J. Plack, Peters Township
On the air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Players to watch: Ethan Hellman, Upper St. Clair (So., 5-10, 165, QB); Nolan DeLucia, Peters Township (So., 6-2, 175, QB/DB)
• Upper St. Clair: The Panthers are coming off their first shutout of the season last week, a 34-point whitewash of visiting Fox Chapel. Sophomore quarterback Ethan Hellman completed 15 of 19 passes for 199 yards and three touchdown tosses, two to Julian Dahlem and one to Bryce Jones. For the season, Hellman has thrown for 554 yards and seven touchdowns. USC kicker Bennett Henderson has five field goals this season, including kicks of 25 and 26 yards last week. Mason Chambers ran for 69 yards last week, upping his season totals to 298 yards.
• Peters Township: There is a new team on top of the Class 5A rankings following a Week 3 loss by Penn Hills. Another team of Indians takes over as Peters Township dominated a good South Fayette team last week, winning in a shutout by 35 points. PT sophomore quarterback Nolan DiLucia connected on 16 of 27 passes for 292 yards, two touchdown passes and a scoring run. He has thrown for 623 yards and six touchdowns this season. Vinny Sarcone has led the PT rushing attack with 245 yards and six touchdowns, two coming in the Allegheny Six Conference opener last week.
• In the Week 4 matchup last season, Ethan Hellman made his first varsity start at quarterback for USC, throwing for 103 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers edged the Indians, 17-10. Another freshman quarterback also saw time as Nolan DiLucia replaced an injured Chris Cibrone and played the second half for PT.
• This will only be the 19th all-time meeting between these Route 19 next door neighbors. Upper St. Clair has won the last two meetings after Peters Township won in 2019 and 2020. USC leads the series 16-2 after winning the first 14 times the Panthers and Indians clashed.
• The first meeting between the two schools took place nearly 60 years ago when USC cruised to a 41-6 win over PT in the fall of 1964.
Class 4A Parkway Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Joe P. DeMichela Stadium at West Allegheny
Coaches: Mike Warfield, Aliquippa; Dave Schoppe, West Allegheny
Players to watch: Quentin Goode, Aliquippa (Sr., 5-11, 165, QB); Brock Cornell, West Allegheny (Jr., 5-11, 180, RB/LB)
• Aliquippa: The Quips opened up Parkway Conference action last week with an impressive home win over previously undefeated Montour by 24 points. Senior quarterback Quentin Goode was very good for Aliquippa, hitting on 16 of his 20 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns on a 45-yard scoring strike to Michael Gaskins and a 25-yard connection to DeMarkus Walker. Junior running back Tiqwai Hayes rushed for 100 yards and scored three touchdowns on short runs of 1, 1 and 3 yards. He now has 645 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns for the season.
• West Allegheny: The Indians are off to a good start in the conference and overall. Following a Week 1 loss to South Fayette, West A has won two straight, including its conference lid lifter last week at New Castle. The Indians jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead before cruising to the 46-point shutout. Junior running back Brock Cornell rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns while junior running back Roman Police ran for 102 yards and scored three times. The two have combined for 535 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
• These teams will be hard-pressed to surpass last year’s thriller won by Aliquippa, 19-16. Tikey Hayes carried the ball 25 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning dive from a yard out with just over two minutes left in the game. Brock Cornell had a pair of 26-yard touchdown runs for West Allegheny.
• This is only the fifth meeting between West Allegheny and Aliquippa. Prior to 2022, the last meeting was in 1990 when the Indians picked up their lone win in the series, 20-14. The teams met in back-to-back seasons 10 years earlier when the Quips won 47-14 in 1982 and again in 1983, 39-0.
• These tradition-rich programs both hoisted WPIAL gold in the same year twice. West Allegheny defeated West Mifflin in the 3A championship while Aliquippa edged Waynesburg Central, 14-6, in the 2A finals at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. That same season, both reached the PIAA title game, where the Indians lost to Strath Haven while the Quips fell to Mt. Carmel. Both were district champions again 12 years later. West Allegheny once again beat West Mifflin in 3A while Aliquippa rolled past Washington in 2A to win 2012 WPIAL titles.
Class 3A Western Hills Conference
7 p.m. Friday, South Park Eagles Stadium
Coaches: Duke Johncour, Avonworth; Brian Abbey, South Park
Last week: Avonworth 45, Hopewell 6; Beaver 49, South Park 23
Players to watch: Dimitri Vellsaris, Avonworth (Fr., 5-5, RB/DB); Eric Doerue, South Park (Jr., 6-0, 200, RB/LB)
• Avonworth: The Antelopes are once again among the elite in Class 3A with a 4-0 start and a offense averaging over 37 points per game. In the ‘Lopes’ Western Hills Conference opener last week, the team jumped out to a 35-6 lead at the half before cruising to a 39-point victory. Avonworth freshman running back Dimitri Vellsaris continues to shine in his “rookie” season as he gained 196 yards and scored three touchdowns on runs of 32, 28 and 19 yards. Quarterback Carson Bellinger threw for 108 yards and three touchdowns in the win for the red and white.
• South Park: The Eagles came flying high with three convincing wins at the start of the season, outscoring East Allegheny, Keystone Oaks and Brentwood by a combined 75-26. However, the start of conference play last week was a tough one as South Park lost at Beaver by 26 points. Junior running back Erie Doerue led the offense with 94 yards rushing and a 6-yard scoring run. He is averaging 8 yards a carry and has gained 619 yards this season. Quarterback Zach Ludwig threw for 168 yards and also rushed for 24 yards for the blue and white.
• A year ago, Avonworth jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the second quarter on its way to a big Western Hills Conference win over visiting South Park, 45-6. Nate Harper threw for 169 yards and three touchdowns and Luke Hilyard scored twice for the Antelopes while Eric Doerue scored the lone Eagles touchdown.
• In the all-time series between these two programs, South Park has a 6-4 advantage, although it has been 45 years since its last victory. The Eagles beat the Antelopes, 29-8, in 1978.
• Most of the games played between South Park and Avonworth came between 1973-1979 when the two met each year and the Eagles won four of the seven, including a wild 59-40 win in 1973.
Class 2A Allegheny Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Reeves Field at Geneva College
Players to watch: Anthony Eakin, Neshannock (So., 5-11, 160, RB/SS); Da’talian Beauford, Beaver Falls (Sr, 6-0, 180, RB/LB)
• Neshannock: The Lancers were blanked in their season opener, a Week Zero loss to District 10 Sharon. Since then, Neshannock has scored 108 points in three victories, including a narrow one-point victory in the Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference opener last week over Western Beaver. Sophomore running back Anthony Eakin led the way on the ground for the Lancers with 130 yards rushing and a 5-yard touchdown run and a 26-yard scoring reception on a pass from Jino Mozzocio, who also had a scoring run.
• Beaver Falls: It has been an up-and-down season for the Tigers. They beat Blackhawk in their season opener and then lost two close games to a pair of 4-0 teams in Beaver and Knoch before winning their MAC lid-lifter last week by 43 points over host New Brighton. Beaver Falls spread the wealth in Week 3 with three running backs rushing for over 50 yards each, including senior Da’talian Beauford gaining 89 yards on only seven carries and scoring touchdowns of 53 and 12 yards. He also scored on a 49-yard interception return for a score.
• This is only the fourth meeting between Beaver Falls and Neshannock, with the first three contests coming in the last three years. The Tigers are a perfect 3-0, including wins in 2021 (28-23) and 2020 (46-27).
• Last year, these teams finished first and second in the Class 2A MAC with Beaver Falls first and Neshannock one game back in second place. The difference was a Week 4 shutout win for the Tigers over the Lancers, 22-0. BF quarterback Jaren Brickner threw for 153 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 104 yards and a score.
• Seven years ago, these teams played for WPIAL gold. Beaver Falls beat Aliquippa, 35-22, to win the 2016 Class 3A championship while Neshannock lost big to Steel Valley in the 2A finals, 49-14.
Class A Big 7 Conference
7 p.m. Friday at Jim Garry Stadium at Fort Cherry
Coaches: Don Militzer, OLSH; Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry
Players to watch: Dorrien Tate, OLSH (Sr., 6-1, 175, QB/DB); Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry (So., 6-1, 170, QB/DB)
• Our Lady of the Sacred Heart: The Chargers evened their overall record and snapped a two-game losing streak last week with a 16-point victory over visiting Carlynton. Senior quarterback Dorrien Tate connected on 12 of 15 passes for 139 yards and a 30-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Gardner. Tate also rushed for 39 yards as OLSH won its Black Hills Conference opener. Gardner and Brady Brazell also scored on short touchdown runs for the Chargers.
• Fort Cherry: The Rangers have been dominant in winning their first four games by an average score of 49-6. That dominance on both sides of the ball carried over to their conference opener last week in picking up their first shutout victory of the season. Sophomore quarterback Matt Sieg hit on 7 of 9 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, plus he led Fort Cherry in rushing with 83 yards, all coming on a touchdown run as the Rangers jumped out to a 35-0 lead after one quarter and cruised to the win over host Chartiers-Houston. Sieg has thrown for 489 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 408 yards and nine scores.
• Last year, OLSH and Fort Cherry finished tied for second place with Burgettstown in the Black Hills Conference with 5-2 records, two games behind Bishop Canevin. In Week 4, Nehemiah Azeem and Brandon Brazell combined for five touchdowns as the Chargers defeated the Rangers, 40-24.
• This is the sixth meeting between OLSH and Fort Cherry. The Rangers won the first two games in 2014 (27-26) and 2015 (28-14) while the Chargers won in 2020 (35-13), 2021 (27-6) and last fall.
• Five years ago, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart celebrated its first and only WPIAL football championship. That same season, Fort Cherry finished with a 2-8 record. The Rangers did not win a game (0-10) in 2019. While Fort Cherry has never hoisted WPIAL football gold, 67 years ago, Midway High School, now part of the Fort Cherry school district, beat Neville, 45-6, to win the WPIAL Class A crown.
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