Trib HSSN don’t miss high school football matchups for 2023 Week 7

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Thursday, October 12, 2023 | 7:38 PM


Welcome to the 2023 edition of the “stretch run,” otherwise known as the final three weeks of the high school football regular season.

The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and teams up and down the six classifications are fighting for conference championships, home-field advantage, playoff seeding and district postseason berths.

We got a taste last week of how anything can happen once the ball is kicked off when unbeaten teams Central Catholic and Thomas Jefferson were stunned, leaving only seven undefeated WPIAL teams remaining.

Here is a look at some of the top district high school football contests in Week 7.

Class 5A vs. 6A

Upper St. Clair (5-2, 1-2) at No. 3 Canon-McMillan (5-2, 1-2)

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

Coaches: Mike Junko, Upper St. Clair; Mike Evans, Canon-McMillan

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

Last week: Bethel Park 22, Upper St. Clair 10; Canon-McMillan 30, Baldwin 14

Players to watch: Julian Dahlem, Upper St. Clair (Jr., 5-10, 170, RB/WR/CB); Zach Welsh, Canon-McMillan (Sr., 5-9, 185, RB/LB)

Team notes

Upper St. Clair: The Panthers are on the outside looking in as far as their playoff hopes in the Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference are concerned. Before its final two must-win conference games, Upper St. Clair gets a good test at 6A Canon-McMillan on Friday in a battle of 5-2 teams. USC is hoping to bounce back after a 12-point loss at Bethel Park. A week after rushing for over 200 yards, senior running back Mason Chambers was limited to 69 yards against Bethel Park while junior Julian Dahlem led the Panthers on the ground with 75 yards on only eight carries and a 44-yard touchdown run.

Canon-McMillan: The Big Macs are winding down their nonconference schedule with games against USC this week and Peters Township next week before closing out the regular season with a key 6A game against Mt. Lebanon. Canon-Mac has won four of its last five games, including a 16-point victory over Baldwin. Senior running back Zach Welsh rushed for 280 yards on 30 carries and scored four touchdowns on runs of 65, 7, 7 and 13 yards. One of the top quarterbacks in the district, Michael Evans, did not play last week against the Highlanders.

Historic factoids

• A year ago, Canon-McMillan came from behind late for a rare win in this series. Michael Evans hit Kaeden Singleton on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining to give the Big Macs a 28-24 victory over the Panthers. Austyn Winkleblech returned a kick for a 78-yard touchdown for Canon-Mac while Jamaal Brown scored on a 99-yard run for USC.

• Upper St. Clair has dominated this series, winning 36 times to eight victories for Canon-McMillan. Up until last year’s win by the Big Macs, the Panthers had won eight straight by a total score of 299-41 with five straight shutouts between 2010-2014.

• The win last year was the first for the Big Macs over the Panthers since a 28-27 victory in 2008. Canon-Mac actually won the first five games of this series between 1966-1973 by a combined score of 123-25. Since then, USC has won 36 of the last 39 games.

Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference

Bethel Park (3-4, 2-0) at Moon (3-4, 1-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Tiger Stadium at Moon

Coaches: Phil Peckich, Bethel Park; Ryan Linn, Moon

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

Last week: Bethel Park 22, Upper St. Clair 10; Peters Township 40, Moon 7

Players to watch: Ryan Petras, Bethel Park (Jr., 5-10, 180, WR/DB); Josh Bladel, Moon (Sr., 5-9, 175, RB/LB)

Team notes

Bethel Park: Playing outside of the Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference, Bethel Park is 1-4. The good news for the Black Hawks is they are 2-0 in conference play. The even better news is their final three games of the regular season are conference contests, including Week 7 at Moon. Last week in a key conference win, junior Ryan Petras ran for 146 yards and a 64-yard touchdown run, plus he had 61 yards receiving on five catches. Petras leads the Black Hawks in receiving with 425 yards and touchdowns with seven, and he is third in rushing behind Ja’Vaughn Moore and David Dennison.

Moon: The Tigers saw their three-game winning streak come to an end with a closer-than-the-score-would-indicate loss to undefeated Peters Township. Moon led 7-0 after a Josh Bladel second-quarter 2-yard scoring run. Moon trailed by only six points after three quarters, but the Indians exploded for 27 fourth-quarter points. The Tigers’ one-two rushing punch was limited to 92 yards with junior Nazir Brookins running for 60 yards and the senior Bladel limited to 32 yards on the ground. The two have combined for 975 yards rushing this season.

Historic factoids

• In Week 7 last fall, Bethel Park destroyed visiting Moon, 56-6. Black Hawks quarterback Tanner Pfeuffer was 7 of 9 passing for 176 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Ryan Petras had five receptions for 144 yards and four touchdowns as the Hawks led at halftime, 50-0.

• This is only the sixth meeting all-time between the schools with the previous meetings coming in the last five years. With their win last year, Bethel Park leads the series, 3-2. The Black Hawks won the first two meetings over Moon by 24 points in 2018 and seven points in 2019. The Tigers won by 23 points in 2020 and registered the only shutout of the series in 2021, 30-0.

• As both teams battle to reach .500 overall this season, it’s a feather in each program’s hat after recent lean years. Moon finished 1-9 last fall while Bethel Park was 0-7 in 2020.

Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference

Armstrong (5-2, 2-1) at Mars (5-2, 3-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Planets Stadium at Mars Athletic Complex

Coaches: Frank Fabien, Armstrong; Eric Kasperowicz, Mars

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

Last week: Armstrong 42, Indiana 7; Mars 56, Kiski Area 14

Players to watch: Jaydon Oliver, Armstrong (Fr., 5-11, 150, QB); Evan Wright, Mars (Sr., 5-9, 185, RB)

Team notes

Armstrong: The River Hawks have their second two-game winning streak of the season after cruising past Indiana in Week 6 by 35 points. Freshman Jaydon Oliver continues to shine since taking over at quarterback for Armstrong, connecting on 21 of 29 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, two to Kyan Kline of 29 and 51 yards and one to Ian Olsen of 2 yards. For the season, Oliver is 62 of 107 for 916 yards and nine touchdowns, although he has thrown six interceptions as well, three coming in last week’s win.

Mars: The Fightin’ Planets have won two in a row and five of their last six and are all alone in first place in the Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference after crushing Kiski Area by 42 points last week. Running back Evan Wright continues to have the right stuff as he averaged 16.5 yards per carry last week, ending up with 132 yards on eight totes and three touchdowns runs, plus he caught five passes for 89 yards and two more scores. The senior leads the WPIAL in scoring with 21 touchdowns, five more than anybody else in the district.

Historic factoids

• When these teams met last year in Week 6, defenses went out the door. Armstrong defeated Mars, 55-31, after building up a 41-10 lead at the half. Cadin Olsen led the way for the River Hawks, throwing for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Evan Wright had 261 yards rushing and three touchdowns for the Fightin’ Planets.

• This is the seventh all-time meeting between Armstrong and Mars. The Fightin’ Planets won the first four games, including a 31-28 win in the first contest between the teams in 2015. The River Hawks have picked up wins the last two years.

• Mars had winning records against the two school districts that merged to form Armstrong. The Fightin’ Planets were 7-3-1 against Kittanning and 13-6 facing Ford City. Mars won the first meeting against Kittanning 97 years ago, 33-0, in 1926. The only playoff meeting between the two school districts was 80 years later when the Planets beat the Wildcats, 33-29 in the 2006 postseason.

Class 3A Western Hills Conference

Beaver (5-2, 1-2) at Seton LaSalle (4-3, 2-2)

7 p.m. Friday, Confluence Financial Partners Stadium at Peters Township MS

Coaches: Cort Rowse, Beaver; Tim Storino, Seton LaSalle

Last week: Avonworth 33, Beaver 28; West Mifflin 26, Seton LaSalle 21

Players to watch: Amari Jackson, Beaver (Jr., 6-1, 165, WR/CB); O’Malley Daly, Seton LaSalle (Sr., 6-1, 225, RB/LB)

Team notes

Beaver: The Bobcats are a perfect 4-0 out of conference this season; however, they are now 1-2 in the Class 3A Western Hills Conference after falling last week to front-running Avonworth by five points. The game was tied 14-14 after one quarter, but the Antelopes scored 13 unanswered points in the second quarter. Beaver leaned heavily on junior wide receiver and cornerback Amari Jackson and he did not disappoint, scoring on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Travis Clear, a scoring run out of the wildcat formation and returning an interception for a touchdown.

Seton LaSalle: Despite their Western Hills Conference loss last week to West Mifflin, the Rebels continue their turnaround season with four more victories this season then they had all of last year when they finished 0-10 overall. Running back O’Malley Daly continued his strong senior season by rushing for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Titans. He also had four receptions for 39 yards. For the season, he has 764 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns. Seton LaSalle junior quarterback Michael Pastirik threw for 175 yards last week and has 733 yards passing and seven touchdowns on the season.

Historic factoids

• Last year’s meeting in Week 6 was one-sided as Beaver jumped out to a 24-0 lead after one quarter, extended it to 45-0 by halftime and cruised to a conference win, 59-13. Liam Gibson rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns for the Bobcats while Ray Miller threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels.

• This is the eighth meeting between the schools. Seton LaSalle won the first four games (1979, 1990, 1991, 2005) while Beaver has won the last three (2020, 2021, 2022).

• The Rebels and Bobcats have met twice in the WPIAL playoffs. Seton LaSalle beat Beaver in the first meeting in 1979, 16-0. The Rebels eliminated the Bobcats again 26 years later in the 2005 postseason, 42-12.

Class 2A Century Conference

McGuffey (5-1, 4-0) at Keystone Oaks (4-3, 2-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Dormont Stadium

Coaches: Ed Dalton, McGuffey; Steve McCormick, Keystone Oaks

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

Last week: McGuffey 41, Charleroi 7; Keystone Oaks 26, Hopewell 8

Players to watch: Charles Wagers, McGuffey (Sr., 5-10, 150, RB/DB); Dimajio Locante, Keystone Oaks (Sr., 5-8, 165, QB/DB)

Team notes

McGuffey: Thanks to a four-game winning streak, McGuffey is alone in first place in the 2A Century Conference with a 4-0 record, a half-game ahead of undefeated Washington. For the Highlanders’ Week 9 showdown against the Little Prexies to be for the conference crown, they must take care of business this week against Keystone Oaks. Last week in a 34-point victory over Charleroi, 11 players had multiple carries for the Highlanders, who were led by senior running back Charles Wagers, who rushed for 69 yards on eight carries and scored two touchdowns.

Keystone Oaks: Following losses in three of their first four games this season, the Golden Eagles are flying high again with three consecutive victories. The wins followed their lone loss in their conference opener to Waynesburg. Last week’s nonconference victory over Class 3A Hopewell was driven by the running of senior Dimajio Locante, who ran for 137 yards on 11 carries and scored in the opening quarter on a 78-yard jaunt. Locante leads the team in passing with 131 yards and in rushing 921 yards and seven touchdowns.

Historic factoids

• If Friday’s game is anything like the last three meetings between these two schools, then giddy up. In Week 6 last season, Keystone Oaks edged McGuffey, 32-30. Nick Buckley threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns for the Golden Eagles while Philip McCuen had 128 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Highlanders.

• Last year’s thriller was the first meeting between the schools since McGuffey edged Keystone Oaks, 41-40, in 2013. The previous year in 2012, the Golden Eagles claimed a close win over the Highlanders, 28-21.

• Keystone Oaks leads the all-time series, 8-6 thanks to five straight wins from 2000-2012. McGuffey won four out of five from KO between 1993-1997. The Highlanders won the first meeting in 1990, 7-0.

Class A Black Hills Conference

Cornell (6-1, 3-1) at No. 1 Fort Cherry (7-0, 4-0)

7 p.m. Saturday at Jim Garry Stadium at Fort Cherry

Coaches: Ed Dawson, Cornell; Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry

Last week: Bishop Canevin 21, Cornell 13; Fort Cherry 42, Avella 8

Players to watch: C.J. Jackson, Cornell (Sr., 5-7, 190, QB); Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry (So., 6-1, 170, QB/S)

Team notes

Cornell: After missing out on the playoffs in 2022 when they finished in fifth place in the Black Hills Conference with a 4-5 overall record, the Raiders won their first six games this season. Cornell finally tasted defeat last week when it lost at home to Bishop Canevin by eight points. Senior quarterback C.J. Jackson connected on 10 of his 25 passes for 118 yards and threw scoring throws to Mikey Keyes from 23 yards and Julian Cordice from 20 yards. Jackson also ran for 35 yards on seven carries.

• Fort Cherry: The Rangers put their stamp on being a legit contender, not only in the Black Hills Conference, but in Class A overall with a wild win two weeks ago over Bishop Canevin. Fort Cherry sophomore sensation Matt Sieg didn’t put up the monster numbers as he did against the Crusaders in Week 5, but he did what he needed to do last week in a 34-point win over Avella. The quarterback was 5 of 8 passing for 134 yards and two touchdowns while the running back firm of (Ryan) Huey, (Ethan) Faletto and (Nathan) Heirendt rushed for a combined 168 yards and scored four touchdowns.

Historic factoids

• A year ago in Week 7, Fort Cherry jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter and defeated host Cornell, 27-6. Matt Sieg rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns for the Rangers while E.J. Dawson provided the only points for the Raiders on a 3-yard run.

• Fort Cherry leads the all-time series against Cornell, 15-7-1. The teams have played each other four years in a row. Before 2020, the two teams hadn’t met since 2001. The last Raiders win came two years ago via forfeit after 20 Rangers players were exposed to covid-19.

• Cornell won the first meeting back in 1980, 12-6. Fort Cherry won 11 straight games in the series between 1990-2020. There has been one tie in the series as Cornell and Fort Cherry played to a 13-13 deadlock in 1984.

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