Trib HSSN don’t-miss high school football matchups for 2023 Week 5

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Thursday, September 28, 2023 | 8:01 PM


Week 5 of the WPIAL high school football season allows us all to exhale after a huge week of showdown football last week.

Not that there aren’t any big games this weekend, some of which are previewed below, but there aren’t the ranked clashes that dominated the district in Week 4.

This weekend marks the midway point of the regular season and also marks the end of September football.

Here is a look at some of the top district high school football contests in Week 5.

Class 6A vs 5A

Pine-Richland (3-2) at Class 6A No. 2 North Allegheny (4-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday, Wright Field at Newman Stadium at North Allegheny

Coaches: Jon LeDonne, Pine-Richland; Art Walker, North Allegheny

Last week: Pine-Richland 50, Fox Chapel 0; Central Catholic 50, North Allegheny 22

Players to watch: Ethan Pillar, Pine-Richland (Sr., 5-11, 2000, RB/LB); Logan Kushner, North Allegheny (Sr., 6-1, 200, QB)

Team notes

• Pine-Richland: Following losses in two of its first three games, Pine-Richland has won back-to-back games, including its first 5A Northeast Conference victory last week. The Rams scored three touchdowns in each of the first two quarters to cruise to a home win over Fox Chapel. Senior running back Ethan Pillar carried the ball eight times for 65 yards and a touchdown, plus he threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Garrett Hores in the runaway victory. He has 470 yards rushing and seven touchdowns this season while senior wide receiver Bryce O’Brien is averaging over 28 yards per reception.

• North Allegheny: The Tigers are licking their wounds after losing big at home in a showdown against Central Catholic by four touchdowns. North Allegheny jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and tied the game 15-15 early in the second quarter before Central Catholic took over. NA senior quarterback Logan Kushner was 12 of 22 passing for 150 yards and also ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns while senior running back Tyree Alualu led the Tigers on the ground with 78 yards on 12 carries and an opening drive 4-yard touchdown run.

Historic factoids

When these northern rivals met in Week 5 last fall, it was their first clash since meeting in the 2019 6A semifinals. Rams quarterback Ryan Palmieri threw for one touchdown and ran for two others while Tigers QB Logan Kushner hit on 10 of 18 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns as host Pine-Richland defeated North Allegheny, 28-17.

North Allegheny leads the all-time series, 11-8. The Tigers won nine of the first 10 meetings, but the Rams have won seven of the last nine, including the last three in a row.

This is the 60th anniversary of the first meeting between NA and P-R. The Tigers blanked the Rams, 33-0, in the fall of 1963. The programs have met twice in the postseason with the Rams winning both in the 6A semifinals, 49-25 in 2017 and 49-14 in 2019.

Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference

South Fayette (2-3, 0-1) at Moon (2-3, 0-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Moon Area Tigers Stadium at Moon

Coaches: Joe Rossi, South Fayette; Ryan Linn, Moon

On air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Last week: Canon-McMillan 14, South Fayette 7; Moon 26, Mars 23

Players to watch: Nico Lamonde, South Fayette (Sr., 6-1, 180, QB); Nazir Brookins, Moon (Jr., 6-0, 220, RB/DE)

Team notes

• South Fayette: The Lions roared to a 2-0 start but have lost their last three games. South Fayette was averaging 36 points per game in its first three games but has only scored seven points in the last two weeks in losses to Peters Township and Canon-McMillan. Last week, senior quarterback Nico Lamonde connected on 18 of his 29 passes for 144 yards and also gained 39 yards on the ground. He scored the team’s lone touchdown on a 25-yard run in the second quarter. For the season, he has thrown for 786 yards and five touchdowns and run for 136 yards and four scores.

• Moon: Following a 1-9 season in 2022, this fall did not get off to a promising start as the Tigers lost to West Allegheny, Montour and Mt. Lebanon in overtime. However, Moon has seen the light and is coming off back-to-back impressive wins over Penn Hills and Mars. Now the Tigers become the final team to play an Allegheny 6 game as they open their conference schedule at home. Last week, junior running back Nazir Brookins rushed for 123 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 78-yard run. Senior running back Josh Bladel ran for 44 yards and also threw a touchdown pass.

Historic factoids

South Fayette ended a two-game losing streak in Week 5 last year, beating visiting Moon, 49-14. Lions quarterback Nico Lamonde threw for 117 yards and three touchdowns while running for 88 yards and a score.

This will only be the eighth all-time meeting between these conference foes. South Fayette leads the series with four wins, two losses and a tie. The Lions have recent wins in 2020 and last year while the Tigers’ most recent victory was in 2021, 28-13. The first meeting between the schools was in 1935, a 25-0 victory for SF. Nine years later, the programs played to a 0-0 tie.

Both of these teams are celebrating championship anniversaries this year. Ten years ago, South Fayette edged Aliquippa, 34-28, to win the 2013 Class 2A WPIAL title while 25 years ago, Moon rolled past Blackhawk, 34-7, to capture 3A district gold in 1998.

Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference

Armstrong (3-2, 0-1) at North Catholic (3-2, 2-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Lt. J.C. Stone Gield in North Park

Coaches: Frank Fabien, Armstrong; Chris Rizzo, North Catholic

Last week: Hampton 32, Armstrong 27; North Catholic 28, Kiski Area 7

Players to watch: Kyan Kline, Armstrong (Jr., 5-10, 165, WR/DB); Jack Fennell, North Catholic (Sr., 5-10, 180, RB/DB)

Team notes

Armstrong: When the River Hawks score a lot, they win. Armstrong is averaging just over 50 points per game in their three victories, while that average drops to 23 points per game in their two losses. Last week in their 4A Greater Allegheny Conference opener, the River Hawks came up short in a back-and-forth contest with visiting Hampton, falling by five points. Junior wide receiver Kyan Kline had a monster game for Armstrong with four receptions for 162 yards and touchdown catches of 89, 31 and 25 yards from quarterback Jaydon Oliver.

• North Catholic: Defense was a big problem early on for the Trojans as they allowed 109 points in starting the season 1-2. However, conference play has resulted in a stark turnaround for the North Catholic D, which has only given up seven points in Greater Allegheny Conference wins over Highlands and Kiski Area. Senior running back Jack Fennell enjoyed a big night in Week 4 for North Catholic, as he rushed for 145 yards on 17 carries and a first-quarter touchdown run of 53 yards in the win over the Cavaliers. For the season, he has 596 yards on the ground with a team-high seven touchdowns.

Historic factoids

In the first meeting between the schools, quarterback Cadin Olson connected on 18 of 26 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns as the River Hawks beat the Trojans in Week 5 last fall, 35-19. For North Catholic, quarterback Jason Siket hit on 13 of 24 passes for 115 yards and rushed for 71 yards and a score.

North Catholic was 2-2 all-time against Ford City and 7-4 against Kittanning. Those schools merged in 2015 to form Armstrong.

Ten years ago, the Trojans won their first and only WPIAL football championship when, known as Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, they defeated Sto-Rox, 14-0, to win Class A gold. It was nearly 50 years ago when Kittanning lost to Beth-Center, 13-0, in the district 1975 Class 2A title game.

Class 3A Western Hills Conference

South Park (3-2, 0-2) at Seton LaSalle (4-1, 2-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Dormont Stadium

Coaches: Brian Abbey, South Park; Tim Storino, Seton LaSalle

Last week: Avonworth 38, South Park 0; Seton LaSalle 42, Hopewell 7

Players to watch: Eric Doerue, South Park (Jr., 6-0, 200, RB/LB); O’Malley Daly, Seton LaSalle (Sr., 6-1, 225, RB/LB)

Team notes

• South Park: The Eagles have been grounded in conference play. After winning its first three nonconference games, South Park has lost its first two Western Hills Conference games by 26 points to Beaver and by 38 points to Avonworth last week. Junior running back Erie Doerue was averaging 8 yards a carry and had gained 619 yards through his first four games this season but was limited to 58 yards on 11 carries last week. A trio of South Park quarterbacks were a combined 2 of 9 passing for 14 yards as the offense could not get untracked against the visiting Antelopes.

• Seton LaSalle: The Rebels are one of several teams around the WPIAL trying to go from worst to first this fall. Last year, Seton LaSalle finished 0-10. Now the Rebels are tied for first place with Avonworth at 2-0 in the Western Hills Conference following their fourth victory in five games last week. Senior running back O’Malley Daly rushed for 150 yards on 15 carries and scored four touchdowns for the Rebels on runs of 27, 40, 5 and 20 yards as Seton LaSalle blasted Hopewell, 42-7.

Historic factoids

South Park defeated Seton LaSalle in Week 5 last fall, 39-14. Eagles running back Erie Doerue rushed for 202 yards and scored three touchdowns as South Park led 39-0 after three quarters. Ray Miller passed for 108 yards and a touchdown for the Rebels.

This is the 25th all-time meeting between Seton LaSalle and South Park and the Rebels have the lead in the series, 14-9-1. The Eagles victory last season ended a six-game winning streak for Seton LaSalle. The first meeting between the schools was a scoreless tie in 1959.

From 1997-2005, these programs each won two WPIAL Class 2A championships. The Eagles won in 1997 and 2005 while the Rebels earned gold in 2002 and 2004.

Class 2A Allegheny Conference

No. 5 Mohawk (4-1, 2-0) at Ellwood City (3-2, 1-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Helling Stadium at Lincoln HS in Ellwood City

Coaches: Tim McCutcheon, Mohawk; Dan Bradley, Ellwood City

Last week: Mohawk 42, New Brighton 6, Western Beaver 41, Ellwood City 18

Players to watch: Jay Wrona, Mohawk (Sr., 6-0, 170, QB); Elijah Palmer-McCane, Ellwood City (Jr, 6-0, 200, RB/DB)

Team notes

• Mohawk: The boys of Bessemer have been piling up the points this fall, averaging nearly 39 per game. The Warriors have won four straight games, including their first two Midwestern Athletic Conference tilts, since losing to 2022 Class A champion Union by three points in Week Zero. Senior quarterback Jay Wrona completed 11 of 17 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns in Mohawk’s victory over New Brighton last week. Wrona is third in the WPIAL with 1,145 passing yards and first in touchdown passes with 20.

• Ellwood City: In his second season at Ellwood City, former Our Lady of the Sacred Heart championship coach Dan Bradley is working his magic at Lincoln High. The Wolverines won only two games last season and are 3-2 thus far in 2023. Junior running back Elijah Palmer-McCane leads the WPIAL in rushing following Week 4 with 779 yards and five touchdowns. Last week in a loss to Western Beaver, Palmer-McCane had 220 yards on the ground on 38 carries and scored two touchdowns. Quarterback Chris Smiley was limited to 69 yards passing on 21 attempts.

Historic factoids

In Week 5 a year ago, host Mohawk rolled to a win over Ellwood City, 32-13. Warriors quarterback Jay Wrona threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns while top target Bobby Fadden caught six passes for 190 yards and two scores. Wolverines running back Elijah Palmer-McCane rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

Mohawk has won five straight games over Ellwood City and has taken a lead in the all-time series, 11-9. The last Wolverines victory came in 2015 when they beat the Warriors, 48-6. The only overtime game in the series happened 10 years ago when Mohawk won, 24-21.

These teams first met 85 years ago when Mohawk edged Ellwood City, 7-0, in 1938. The most lopsided win for Mohawk over Ellwood City was three years ago, 45-0. The biggest margin of victory for the Wolverines over the Warriors was 40 years ago, 47-7.

Class A Black Hills Conference

Fort Cherry (5-0, 2-0) at Bishop Canevin (3-0, 1-0)

7 p.m. Saturday at Dormont Stadium

Coaches: Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry; Richard Johnson, Bishop Canevin

Last week: Fort Cherry 42, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 0; Bishop Canevin at Avella, postponed

Players to watch: Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry (So., 6-1, 170, QB/DB); Kole Olsewski, Bishop Canevin (Jr., 5-11, 175, QB)

Team notes

• Fort Cherry: The Rangers continue to dominate the opposition, winning all five games by a average margin of nearly 43 points. Fort Cherry has scored over 42 points in all five games, twice eclipsing 50 points in a contest, while only allowing more than one score in a game once (13 points to Carmichaels in Week 1). Sophomore quarterback Matt Sieg has thrown for 552 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 474 yards and 10 scores. Last week, he threw for two and ran for one touchdown in the whitewash conference win over OLSH.

• Bishop Canevin: It will be exactly 14 days since Bishop Canevin has played a football game when they take the field Saturday evening. The Crusaders did not play last week when Avella did not have enough healthy players to field a team. It was thought to be a forfeit win for BC, but the WPIAL has said it will make an official ruling on that game and the postponed Serra Catholic vs. Imani Christian game at some point. Kole Olsewski leads the Crusaders in passing with 606 yards while Marquis Carter leads the ground attack with 235 yards in three games.

Historic factoids

Last year, Bishop Canevin jumped out to a 33-0 halftime lead and cruised to a one-sided victory over Fort Cherry, 60-7. Crusaders quarterback Jason Cross completed 11 of 13 passes for 325 yards and four touchdowns and leading receiver Xavier Nelson had five catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Ethan Faletto scored on a 40-yard run for the lone highlight for the Rangers.

This is the 18th meeting between the programs with Bishop Canevin having won 11 times and Fort Cherry six times. The Rangers won four straight games prior to the Crusaders’ rout last season. The first meeting was in 1977, a 14-7 victory for Bishop Canevin.

Bishop Canevin and Fort Cherry met in the playoffs in back-to-back years in 2010-2011. The Crusaders won both games in low scoring affairs, 24-16 in the 2010 first round and 16-6 in the 2011 Class A quarterfinals.

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