Trib HSSN don’t miss high school football matchups for 2023 Week 9

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Thursday, October 26, 2023 | 6:23 PM


Welcome to the final week of the 2023 WPIAL football regular season as we wrap up the “stretch run” with meaningful football games aplenty.

Ten of the 17 conferences in the district will be decided in showdown games Friday. Some of those contests will determine outright champions while others will muddy the waters with co- or even tri-champions.

While there is plenty of focus on the top of the standings, there also will be great interest in those games that will help determine the 15 remaining unclaimed postseason berths up and down from Class 5A to Class A.

Enjoy the brilliant weather and the final Friday night of October.

Here is a look at some of those top district high school football contests in Week 9.

Class 6A

No. 4 Mt. Lebanon (5-4, 1-2) at No. 3 Canon-McMillan (5-4, 1-2)

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

Coaches: Mike Collodi, Mt. Lebanon; Mike Evans, Canon-McMillan

Last week: Mt. Lebanon 37, Baldwin 6; Peters Township 23, Canon-McMillan 10

Players to watch: Fred LaSota, Mt. Lebanon (Sr., 6-0, 190, RB/LB); Michael Evans, Canon-McMillan (Sr., 6-1, 210, QB)

Team notes

Mt. Lebanon: The Blue Devils broke out of an offensive slump and snapped a two-game losing streak with a 31-point win last week over host Baldwin. Mt. Lebanon had been limited to seven total points the two previous weeks in losses to North Allegheny and Peters Township before finding its scoring touch again against the Highlanders. Senior running back Fred LaSota led the way with 123 yards rushing on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Michael Malone ran for two scores and also threw a touchdown pass in the Blue Devils’ highest offensive output of the season.

Canon-McMillan: After winning four out of five games, the Big Macs have now dropped two straight games, falling to 5A rivals Upper St. Clair and Peters Township in consecutive weeks. Last week, Canon-McMillan became the first team to score double-digit points against Peters Township all season. Senior quarterback Michael Evans threw for 130 yards while senior running back Zachary Welsh rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Evans has thrown for 792 yards while Welsh has rushed for 1,158 yards and eight touchdowns.

Historic factoids

• Last year in Week 9, Mt. Lebanon blanked Canon-McMillan, 31-0. Both teams qualified for the playoffs after Seneca Valley lost to North Allegheny with the Blue Devils finishing third and the Big Macs fourth. David Shields had a touchdown pass and Fred LaSota had a pick-six for Lebo.

• Mt. Lebanon leads the all-time series, 46-7, including 14 wins in the last 15 meetings. The Big Macs last beat the Blue Devils three years ago in 2020, 24-17. That ended a 12-game skid against Lebo that dated to 2008.

• The Blue Devils won the first meeting between the schools in 1940, 28-0. That was one of 15 shutout wins the Blue Devils have over the Big Macs. Mt. Lebanon won the only playoff game between the two, beating Canon-McMillan, 38-31, in the 2018 6A quarterfinals. These schools have met for 18 consecutive seasons.

Class 5A Northeast Conference

No. 5 Woodland Hills (6-3, 3-1) at No. 2 Penn Hills (7-2, 4-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Yuhas-McGinley Stadium, Penn Hills

Coaches: Brian Tarrant, Woodland Hills; Charles Morris, Penn Hills

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

Last week: Pine-Richland 28, Woodland Hills 0; Penn Hills 14, Shaler 0

Players to watch: Zykir Moore, Woodland Hills (So., 6-2, 200, RB/LB); Julian Dugger, Penn Hills (Sr., 6-3, 200, QB)

Team notes

Woodland Hills: The Wolverines controlled their own destiny going into Week 8, knowing they would win the 5A Northeast Conference outright with wins over Pine-Richland and Penn Hills. Woodland Hills saw its five-game winning streak end with a 28-point loss to the defending district and state champion Rams, and now they are fighting for their playoff lives. The shutout loss and the injury to quarterback Cam Walter means more pressure on the running attack and sophomore Zykir Moore, who rushed for a team high 52 yards on 17 carries. Moore leads the team in rushing and has 10 touchdowns this season.

Penn Hills: After tiebreakers kept them out of the postseason a year ago, the Indians can win the NEC conference championship outright with a home win against rival Woodland Hills. Following a loss to 6A top-ranked Central Catholic in Week 7, Penn Hills bounced back last week with its third shutout of the season. Senior quarterback Julian Dugger threw for 94 yards and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Thomas, plus he rushed for 112 yards, including a 68-yard scoring scamper, as the Indians won for the fourth time in their last five games.

Historic factoids

• In the regular season finale a year ago, Woodland Hills defeated visiting Penn Hills, 7-3, to eliminate the Indians from the postseason chase. Frank Keyes scored the game’s only touchdown as the Wolverines forced Indians quarterback Julian Dugger into three turnovers.

• This is the 33rd meeting between these East Hills neighbors and gridiron powers. Woodland Hills has 18 wins and Penn Hills has 14. The teams have met six times in the last 10 years with Woody High winning four of them. The longest winning streak for either team in the series was six. The Wolverines’ six straight came between 1997-2002 while the Indians’ six-game winning streak in the series was right after between 2003-2008.

• Woodland Hills won the first two games of the series in their first two years in 1987 and 1988 with two shutout victories by a combined score of 34-0. The Wolverines have five shutouts in the series with the latest coming in 2012 while the Indians have two shutouts to their credit with the most recent in 2006.

Class 4A Big Seven Conference

No. 2 McKeesport (8-1, 5-0) at No. 5 Thomas Jefferson (8-1, 4-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Thomas Jefferson Stadium Complex

Coaches: Matt Miller, McKeesport; Bill Cherpak, Thomas Jefferson

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

Last week: McKeesport 42, Latrobe 14; Thomas Jefferson 61, Connellsville 0

Players to watch: Anthony Boyd, McKeesport (Jr., 5-10, 180, RB/SS); Brody Evans, Thomas Jefferson (Sr., 6-3, 190, QB)

Team notes

McKeesport: Since losing in overtime to Belle Vernon in Week 2, the Tigers have roared to six straight wins by an average score of 44-9. McKeesport has clinched a share of the 4A Big Seven Conference championship and can win it outright with a win. The Tigers rolled over playoff-bound Latrobe last week by 28 points thanks to 133 yards rushing and three touchdowns by senior Keith Spell and 127 yards on the ground and a touchdowns by the team’s top rusher this season, junior Anthony Boyd.

Thomas Jefferson: To say the Jaguars were an angry football team after being stunned by Trinity for their only loss in Week 6 is an understatement. In the two games since their loss, Thomas Jefferson has defeated Ringgold and Connellsville by a combined score of 132-0. It was a total team effort in the whitewash of the Falcons last week as senior quarterback Brody Evans led the way with 9 of 13 passing for 154 yards and three touchdowns. TJ also had five players with at least 20 yards rushing and four of those running backs scored a touchdown.

Historic factoids

• As Thomas Jefferson tries to win to force co-conference champs this season, last year in Week 9 they defeated McKeesport, 20-10, to force tri-champions in the 4A Big Seven with Laurel Highlands joining the cats at the top. TJ’s Brody Evans twice connected with Sean Sullivan on scoring strikes in the road victory.

• This is only the fourth meeting between these tradition-rich football powers. The Jaguars’ win a year ago was their first in the series. The Tigers won the first meeting in 2020, 20-14. The blue and red made it two in a row in 2021, winning 42-28.

• These programs had near misses of being WPIAL champions in the same year. In 2005, McKeesport beat Woodland Hills, 19-7, to win 4A gold; however, Thomas Jefferson was stunned by Franklin Regional in the 3A finals, 31-14, marking the only time TJ did not win the 3A title between 2004-2008. Then in 2016, the Jaguars crushed New Castle, 42-0, in the 4A finals while the Tigers lost a heartbreaker to West Allegheny in the first 5A championship game, 38-37.

Class 3A Allegheny 6 Conference

Shady Side Academy (5-4, 2-2) at No. 4 East Allegheny (7-2, 4-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Churchman Memorial Stadium, East Allegheny

Coaches: Chuck DiNardo, Shady Side Academy; Dom Pecora, East Allegheny

Last week: Deer Lakes 41, Shady Side Academy 38; East Allegheny 14, Knoch 13 (OT)

Players to watch: Devin Harris, Shady Side Academy (Soph., 6-0, 150, QB); Michael Cahill, East Allegheny (Sr., 6-1, 175, QB/S)

Team notes

Shady Side Academy: A win clinches a WPIAL Class 3A playoff berth for the Bulldogs, who have been in win-one, lose-one mode for their last four games. It was a mixed bag for SSA sophomore quarterback Devin Harris last week in a three-point loss to visiting Deer Lakes. He connected on 11 of 29 passes for 263 yards and two touchdown passes, one of 81 yards to Aki Durham and another of 69 yards to Carter Simko; however, he threw three interceptions in the loss. Besides the touchdown reception, Simko, a senior wide receiver, also returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown and had a 1-yard TD.

East Allegheny: The Wildcats are conference champions for the first time since 2000. EA clinched at least a share of the Class 3A Allegheny 6 Conference title with a sixth straight victory on a blocked extra point in a thrilling one-point overtime victory over host Knoch last week. A victory at home Friday gives East Allegheny the conference crown outright. Wildcats senior quarterback Michael Cahill connected on 18 of 29 passes for 175 yards and two touchdown tosses to senior slot back Brennan Rutledge of 19 and 8 yards.

Historic factoids

• In the regular season finale a year ago, Shady Side Academy cruised to a win over visiting East Allegheny, 42-10. The Bulldogs scored all but seven of their points in the second and third quarters. Michael Cahill led the Wildcats with 79 yards passing, 66 yards rushing and a touchdown as SSA clinched second place in the 3A Allegheny 6 Conference with the win.

• This is only the eighth meeting between Shady Side Academy and East Allegheny with the Bulldogs holding a big edge, 6-1. The Wildcats’ only win in the series was in 2019 when they outslugged the Bulldogs, 42-27. Prior to that, Shady Side Academy won the first five meetings. The first meeting between the ‘Cats and the ‘Dogs was in 2006, a game won by SSA, 43-6.

• Back in 1992, East Allegheny won its lone WPIAL football championship when the Wildcats rolled past Riverside, 33-13. Six years later, Shady Side Academy captured its only district football title when it beat Washington in the 1998 Class 2A finals, 30-12.

Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference

No. 4 Mohawk (8-1, 6-0) at No. 2 Neshannock (8-1, 6-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Bob Bleggi Stadium, Neshannock

Coaches: Tim McCutcheon, Mohawk; Fred Mozzocio, Neshannock

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

Last week: Mohawk 31, Western Beaver 21; Neshannock 42, Ellwood City 14

Players to watch: Jay Wrona, Mohawk (Sr., 6-0, 170, QB); Jino Mozzocio, Neshannock (So., 5-8, 160, QB/CB)

Team notes

Mohawk: The Warriors are a victory away on Friday from celebrating their third conference championship. Since losing by three points to defending Class A champion Union in Week Zero, Mohawk has ripped off eight consecutive wins with one of their most impressive victories of the season coming last week in a 10-point triumph over playoff-bound Western Beaver. Senior running back Justin Boston rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown for the Warriors while senior quarterback Jay Wrona threw for 83 yards and two scores and ran for 27 yards and a touchdown.

Neshannock: Like Mohawk, the Lancers also have won eight straight games after falling to District 10 Sharon in Week Zero, 26-0. Neshannock is hoping not to finish in second place in the Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference for a second straight season. Last week, Neshannock blasted host Ellwood City by 28 points thanks to a big game by sophomore Jino Mozzocio, who connected on 10 of 19 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the team on the ground with 118 yards rushing and a score. Senior running back Patrick Argiro scored three rushing touchdowns for the Lancers.

Historic factoids

• In Week 9 a year ago, Neshannock cruised past Mohawk, 42-12, thanks to a monster game by senior quarterback Jonny Huff. Huff didn’t have to do much with his arm with his legs doing such great damage against the Warriors. He rushed for 285 yards on 22 carries and scored six touchdowns on runs of 22, 3, 11, 1, 1 and 27 yards.

• This is the 43rd meeting between these Lawrence County rivals and the margin is razor thin: Mohawk has 20 wins, Neshannock has 19 victories and there have been three ties. In the last decade, though, the Lancers have six wins and the Warriors have one.

• Mohawk had a 10-game winning streak against Neshannock from 1987-2007. The Lancers’ longest win streak in the series was five in a row between 2016-2020. This year is the 65th anniversary of the first meeting in 1958, a 7-0 win for Mohawk.

Class A Black Hills Conference

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (4-5, 3-3) at No. 5 Cornell (7-2, 4-2)

7 p.m. Friday at Frank Letteri Stadium, Cornell

Coaches: Don Militzer, OLSH; Ed Dawson, Cornell

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

Last week: Bishop Canevin 41, OLSH 7; Cornell 39, Chartiers-Houston 0

Players to watch: Brandon Brazell, OLSH (Sr., 5-9, 185, QB/RB/LB); Khylil Johnson, Cornell (So., 5-7, 150, RB/DB)

Team notes

OLSH: This is a win-and-you’re-in game for the Chargers, who have been consistent this season or inconsistent this fall, depending on your viewpoint. OLSH has yet to win two straight games but only lost two games in a row once, back in Week 1 and 2. Last week in a 34-point loss to Bishop Canevin, senior quarterback Brandon Brazell rushed for a team high 57 yards and scored the team’s only touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.

Cornell: The Raiders were on the outside of the postseason looking in last year and are hoping to be a part of the fun of November football in 2023. They will clinch a Class A Black Hills Conference playoff berth with a home win over the rival Chargers. Cornell put themselves in position to clinch this week with a shutout victory at Chartiers-Houston last week. Sophomore running back Khylil Johnson rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown, plus he returned a punt 70 yards for a score.

Historic factoids

• A year ago in the regular season finale, OLSH held off Cornell to win a thriller, 27-26. The Raiders’ fourth quarter comeback came up a point short when an attempt to take the lead late was stopped short on a 2-point conversion. Nehemiah Azeem threw three touchdown passes for the Chargers while E.J Dawson had two scoring passes for the Raiders.

• This will be the eighth meeting between these rival schools from the Coraopolis area with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart holding a decisive lead, 6-1.

• While the first three games between 2016-2018 were Chargers blowout wins, the last four games have been very competitive. The Raiders’ lone win came in 2019, 22-14. OLSH has won the last three meetings, by eight points in 2020 and by one point in each of the last two meetings.

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