Trib HSSN don’t miss high school football matchups for 2023 Week 8
Thursday, October 19, 2023 | 5:52 PM
This week is the meat of the WPIAL football “stretch run” sandwich. One piece of bread was last week and the other slice will come next week.
With two weeks left in the regular season, 34 teams have clinched a tasty district playoff berth. Now they turn to the desserts page for some icing on their cake as they play for a conference crown or playoff seeding.
That leaves 33 delicious postseason nuggets up for grabs as teams up and down the six classifications try to secure a spot at the playoff table for November football.
Here is a look at some of the top district high school football contests in Week 8.
7 p.m. Friday, Pete Antimarino Stadium at Gateway
Players to watch: Kai West, Seneca Valley (Sr., 5-10, 175, RB/DB); Payton Wehner, Central Catholic (Sr., 6-1, 170, QB)
• Seneca Valley: The Raiders lost their first five games this season, including their first two Class 6A conference games. However, Seneca Valley enters Week 8 controlling its own destiny, needing wins over Central Catholic and North Allegheny to clinch a playoff berth. It helps the Raiders that they bring some momentum into their daunting task ahead after winning three straight games. Last week, senior running back Kai West ran for 196 yards and senior teammate Sean O’Shea rushed for 167 yards in a nonconference victory at North Hills by 21 points.
• Central Catholic: The Vikings were stunned in Week 6, suffering their only loss of the season to Pine-Richland, 26-19. Central Catholic answered the bell and responded last week with an impressive victory over a Penn Hills team that was ranked No. 2 in Class 5A coming into Week 7. Senior quarterback Payton Wehner led the way, connecting on 19 of 29 passes for 276 yards and three touchdown tosses of 17 yards to Cole Sullivan, 16 yards to Colsen Gatten and 46 yards to Pete Gonzalez. Vikings running back Elijah Faulkner rushed for 146 yards and also scored three touchdowns.
• Last year in Week 8, Central Catholic clinched a playoff berth and put a dent in Seneca Valley’s postseason hopes with a wild win in Harmony, 28-25. Payton Wehner connected on 17 of 29 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns and Xavier Thomas returned a kickoff 88 yards for another Vikings score. Raiders wide receiver Luke Lawson had nine receptions for 175 yards and three touchdowns, but three unsuccessful extra point attempts proved to be the difference for SV.
• It’s been nearly 50 years since Central Catholic met Seneca Valley for the first time. The Vikings beat the Raiders, 28-6, in 1975. Since then, Central Catholic has a big edge in the all-time series, 15-4, including wins in the last 10 meetings. Seneca Valley has only won three times in 15 regular season meetings, picking up victories in 1998, 1999 and 2012.
• The Vikings and Raiders have met four times in the WPIAL postseason with Central Catholic winning three of the four. The Vikings won in 2009, 2021 and in the 2016 WPIAL 6A championship game, 42-7. The Raiders’ lone playoff victory was in the 2018 quarterfinals, 15-14.
Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Panthers Stadium at Upper St. Clair
Coaches: Ryan Linn, Moon; Mike Junko, Upper St. Clair
On air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Players to watch: Josh Bladel, Moon (Sr., 5-9, 175, RB/LB); Ethan Hellman, Upper St. Clair (So., 5-10, 165, QB)
• Moon: The Tigers bounced back from their first conference loss to Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference leader Peters Township two weeks ago with an impressive home win in Week 7 against Bethel Park. Senior running back Josh Bladel carried the ball 21 times and gained 215 yards and scored on runs of 60 and 55 yards. Tavis Lindsay and Paul Bronaugh also had touchdown runs for the Tigers, who jumped out to a commanding 28-0 lead at halftime before holding off a great second half comeback by the Black Hawks. Moon has now won four of its last five games.
• Upper St. Clair: While Moon fought back to reach a .500 overall record after a slow start, the Panthers are behind the eight ball in the conference despite winning six of their eight games this season. The problem for USC is their two losses came to neighbors Peters Township and Bethel Park, and now they must win out to have a shot at the postseason. Upper St. Clair defeated Class 6A Canon-McMillan a week ago thanks to sophomore quarterback Ethan Hellmann, who scored twice on short touchdown runs and hit Charlie Bywalski with a 14-yard scoring pass, all in the fourth quarter, as the Panthers came back to win.
• Then-freshman quarterback Ethan Hellman threw a pair of touchdown passes and Upper St. Clair scored twice on special teams on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a punt returned for a score in winning at Moon in Week 8 last fall, 43-6.
• This is the 13th meeting between these cats. The Panthers have won eight times and the Tigers have four victories. The teams split their first two meetings with USC winning the first time they played in 1966 and Moon winning the following year.
• Upper St. Clair and Moon have split their last four contests with the Panthers claiming victories in 2020 and 2022 while the Tigers picked up wins in 2019 and 2021. USC won all five meetings between 1984-2018.
Class 4A Parkway Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Joe DeMichela Stadium at West Allegheny
Coaches: Mark Lyons, Central Valley; Dave Schoppe, West Allegheny
On the air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Players to watch: Steven Rutherford, Central Valley (Jr., 5-11, 168, QB); Brock Cornell, West Allegheny (Jr., 5-11, 180, QB/RB/DB)
• Central Valley: The Warriors have clinched a playoff spot but could finish anywhere in the top-heavy Class 4A Parkway Conference from first place to fourth place depending on what they do these last two games against West Allegheny and Aliquippa. Last week, CV bounced back from a Week 6 loss to Montour with a 44-point win over Ambridge. Junior quarterback Steven Rutherford connected on 7 of 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown and also had 58 yards on the ground. Mason Dixon rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns for the Warriors.
• West Allegheny: The Indians have won three straight games and much like Central Valley, can finish first, second, third or fourth, depending on what they do in Week 8 against Central Valley and in Week 9 at Montour. Despite averaging over 30 points per game, West A was held to its lowest point total of the season by winless Blackhawk last week, 10 points. The Indians’ lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter on 2-yard touchdown run by junior running back Brock Cornell. The son of West A baseball coach Bryan Cornell rushed for 75 yards on 12 carries and even competed 3 of 4 passes for 23 yards.
• When these teams met last year in Week 7, it was a battle of Top 5 teams with Central Valley No. 3 and West Allegheny ranked No. 5. The game was never close, though, as the Warriors jumped out to a 42-o halftime lead and cruised to victory, 55-7. Antwon Johnson passed for 136 yards and Brett FitzSimmons rushed for 141 yards for CV.
• This is the 10th meeting between Central Valley and West Allegheny with the Warriors leading the series, 6-3. The Indians won the first meeting in 2010, 30-27, and most of the games (excluding last year) have been close. The Warriors have won the last four contests against West A. Prior to the merger for Central Valley 13 years ago, West Allegheny was 3-4-1 against Center and 0-1 against Monaca.
• These programs fought for gold in back to back WPIAL 3A title games a decade ago. In the 2013 title game, the Indians prevailed, 16-6. Chayse Dillon had 159 yards rushing and receiving while quarterback Andrew Koester threw for 120 yards. In the 2014 finals, John Goerge hit B.J. Powell with a 22-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining to give the Warriors the win, 35-28. Jordan Whitehead rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown and had another 179 yards in receptions for Central Valley.
Class 3A Western Hills Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Dormont Stadium
Last week: Avonworth 42, North Catholic 21; Beaver 38, Seton LaSalle 20
Players to watch: Carson Bellinger, Avonworth (So., 5-9, 165, QB/P); O’Malley Daly, Seton LaSalle (Sr., 6-1, 225, RB/LB)
• Avonworth: Having clinched a playoff berth in the Class 3A Western Hills Conference two weeks ago, the Antelopes remained perfect on the season with a three-touchdown victory over rival North Catholic last week in a nonconference matchup. Sophomore quarterback Carson Bellinger was impressive in Week 7, completing 20 of 26 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns, two to Andrew Kuban and two to Cooper Scharding. Freshman running back Dimitri Velisaris led the ground attack for the ‘Lopes with 95 yards on 21 carries as Avonworth improved to 8-0 overall.
• Seton LaSalle: Following a strong start with wins in four of its first five games, including their first two Class 3A Western Hills Conference games, time is running out for Seton LaSalle to crack the top four in the standings and go from winless in 2022 to a playoff teams in 2023. This is the Rebels’ final conference game and they need an upset win and some help to get in. Last week, in an 18-point loss to Beaver, senior running back O’Malley Daly did it all for the green and gold, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown and catching five passes for 55 yards and a score.
• Avonworth rolled over Seton LaSalle in Week 8 a year ago, 48-7. Antelopes quarterback Nate Harper was 8 of 12 passing for 143 yards and two touchdowns while Luke Hilyard rushed for 83 yards and a score.
• This is only the fourth meeting between Avonworth and Seton LaSalle with the Antelopes winning the previous three. Besides last season, the Antelopes beat the Rebels in 2018, 30-13, and again in 2019, 35-7.
• The Rebels have won five WPIAL football championships while the Antelopes have two district titles to their name. Seton LaSalle captured back-to-back gold in 1979-1980, won again in 1990 and won two titles in three years in 2002 and 2004. Avonworth shared the Class A championship in 1959 with Union and won its first outright title 50 years later in 2019.
Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference
7 p.m. Friday, Mohawk Stadium
Coaches: Ron Busby, Western Beaver; Tim McCutcheon, Mohawk
On the air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Players to watch: Jaivin Peel, Western Beaver (Fr., 6-0, 160, QB/DB); Jay Wrona, Mohawk (Sr., 6-0, 170, QB)
• Western Beaver: Since the football co-op between Lincoln Park and Western Beaver, the Golden Beavers have steadily improved and finished in third place in the Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference a year ago. WB has clinched another playoff berth this fall and is still alive for a share of the conference title thanks to a sensational freshman quarterback from Lincoln Park. Jaivin Peel continues to slice and dice opposing defenses, last week throwing for 423 yards and five touchdowns in a 50-point victory over New Brighton. Peel leads the WPIAL in passing with 2,119 yards and 25 touchdowns.
• Mohawk: The Warriors are having a sensational season as they sit perfect in conference play heading into Week 8. Mohawk has to be careful not to get caught looking ahead to a possible conference championship game against rival Neshannock in Week 9. Last week in a 24-point win at Freedom, senior quarterback Jay Wrona didn’t have to put up big numbers, throwing for 105 yards and two touchdowns because the Warriors defense registered two pick-sixes, one of 70 yards by Justin Boston and another of 51 yards by Joey Nail.
• In Week 8 a year ago, Mohawk stunned Western Beaver, 22-6. Jimmy Guerrieri and Justin Boston scored second-quarter touchdowns for the Warriors and Coleton Root returned a fumble for a score. Tyson Florence rushed for 12 yards for the Golden Beavers, who saw their hopes of finishing tied for first place or in second place in the MAC dashed with the loss. Mohawk clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
• These teams don’t play often, but the games always seem to be competitive. This is the eighth meeting and fourth in six years with each team winning three times with one tie. Besides last year, Mohawk’s most recent win came in 2018, 14-7. The last victory for Western Beaver was a year later in 2019, 24-21.
• The teams also played four straight times between 1980-1983. The Golden Beavers pitched shutouts in 1982 and 1983 while the Warriors were winners in 1981. The first meeting was a scoreless tie in 1980.
Class A Big 7 Conference
7 p.m. Friday at Socs Roussos Stadium at Union
Coaches: Luke Travelpiece, South Side; Kim Niedbala, Union
On the air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Last week: South Side 35, Laurel 7; Union 47, Northgate 6
Players to watch: Brody Almashy, South Side (Sr., 5-10, 165, QB/DB); Braylon Thomas, Union (Sr., 6-1, 190, QB/DB)
• South Side: The Rams may not have wowed anybody with eye-popping statistics, but the team effort in Hookstown this year has been perfect. South Side has scored 364 points this season but only has allowed 59 points for an average score of 45-7. Senior quarterback Brody Almashy has been a steady hand in literally running the Rams offense. Almashy has thrown for 670 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he is also the team’s third-leading rusher with 520 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ryan Navarra has a team-high 843 yards rushing and 13 scores while A.C. Corfield has 659 yards on the ground and 10 TDs.
• Union: The Scotties lost their third game of the season to Cornell but have now won four straight and all four of their Class A Big 7 Conference games. Senior quarterback Braylon Thomas helped lead Union to a surprising run in the 2022 district playoffs and has been a stud in 2023. Last week in a 41-point victory over Northgate, Thomas threw for 98 yards and two touchdowns, plus he rushed for 229 yards on 21 carries and two more scores. For the season, Thomas has thrown for 1,409 yards and 21 touchdowns, plus he leads the team with 873 yards rushing and 13 scores.
• South Side defeated Union a year ago in Week 8, 35-8. It was the last loss for the Scotties until the PIAA state championship game. The Rams jumped out to a 28-0 lead by halftime and cruised to the win thanks to quarterback Brody Almashy, who threw for 78 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 82 yards and two scores. The lone Union touchdown came on a 52-yard scoring pass from Braylon Thomas to Dayne Johnke.
• South Side leads the all-time series against Union, 13-6. It has been a series of streaks. The Rams have won the last three games, the Scotties won four in a row before that, South Side won four straight prior to that, Union two in a row and South Side the first six games of the series.
• The Rams won the first meeting 31 years ago, 40-8, in 1992. The Scotties’ first triumph in the series was eight years later, 28-12, in 2000.
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