Trib HSSN don’t-miss high school football matchups for Week 1 2023

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Thursday, August 31, 2023 | 8:51 PM


Most of the district teams knocked off the rust, buckled the chin straps tight and began the 2023 high school football season last week in Week Zero.

However, there were still a handful of teams that went old school and decided to play a second scrimmage and wait to officially kick off the new season this weekend.

So every WPIAL team will be hitting the gridiron Friday and Saturday.

All of the games this week and next week are nonconference, with the exception of Class 6A. Even though there are only five teams and each one plays a four game conference schedule, two teams square off Friday to officially open conference play.

Once again we will preview one of the top games in each classification every week.

Here is a look at some of the top district high school football contests slated for Week 1.

Class 6A

No. 3 Canon-McMillan (1-0) at No. 1 North Allegheny (1-0)

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

Coaches: Mike Evans, Canon-McMillan; Art Walker, North Allegheny

Last week: Canon-McMillan 14, Penn-Trafford 0; North Allegheny 61, Allderdice 0

Players to watch: Michael Evans, Canon-McMillan (Sr., 6-1, 210, QB); Logan Kushner, North Allegheny (Sr., 6-0, 200, QB)

Team notes

• Canon-McMillan: In a season where making the playoff just isn’t good enough, the Big Macs get an early big test as they visit the defending WPIAL 6A champions. Canon-McMillan got off to a good start last week by blanking Penn-Trafford, 14-0. Senior signal caller Michael Evans only threw for 42 yards but also rushed for 26 yards. Jayden Baxter and the team’s leading rusher last week, Zach Welsh, scored the touchdowns for Canon Mac.

North Allegheny: The Tigers opened up defense of their district crown in grand fashion at home in Week Zero, destroying Allderdice from the City League, 61-0. Senior quarterback Logan Kushner only threw five times and completed four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. Senior Tyree Alualu led NA on the ground with 60 yards on only three carries, two of which went for touchdowns. Reserve quarterback Jackson Failla also scored two times for the Tigers.

Historic factoids

The Big Macs have never beaten the Tigers in nine previous meetings, including 0-4 in the WPIAL playoffs.

Back in Week 1 last year, NA knocked off Canon-Mac, 35-21. Kushner threw for 194 yards and a touchdown while Andrew Gavlik rushed for 110 yards and three scores for the Tigers. Evans threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns for the Big Macs.

In their four postseason meetings, North Allegheny beat Canon-McMillan, 41-6, in the 2002 Class 4A first round and prevailed again, 48-7, in the 2019 6A quarterfinals. The last two years, the Tigers beat the Big Macs, 49-26, in the 2021 quarterfinals and pitched a shutout in the 2022 semifinals, 7-0.

Class 5A

North Hills (0-1) at Upper St. Clair (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Panther Stadium at Upper St. Clair

Coaches: Pat Carey, North Hills; Mike Junko, Upper St. Clair

Last week: Bethel Park 33, North Hills 10; Upper St. Clair 24, Norwin 21

Players to watch: Connor Davis, North Hills (Sr., 6-4, 185, QB); Ethan Hellman, Upper St. Clair (Soph., 5-10, 165, QB);

Team notes

• North Hills: It was a good start to the season for North Hills in its Week Zero game against Bethel Park, but from the midway point of the opening quarter through the final horn, it was downhill for the Indians. Senior quarterback Connor Davis connected with wide receiver Michael Murphy to give North Hills an early lead and kicker Jack Scarsella added a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter to give the Indians a 10-6 lead, but the Black Hawks scored 27 unanswered points to win, 33-10.

• Upper St. Clair: The Panthers scored 10 straight fourth-quarter points to come back last week at home and defeat Norwin, 24-21. The winning points came on a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ethan Hellman to Charlie Bywalski from 6 yards out. Hellman completed 18 of 31 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns while Mason Chambers spearheaded the ground attack with 98 yards

Historic factoids

In Week 1 last season, Upper St. Clair rolled at North Hills, 37-7. Panthers quarterback Julian Dahlem threw for only 33 yards but rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown while Jamaal Brown ran for 124 yards and a score.

Under legendary coaches Jack McCurry of North Hills and Jim Render of Upper St. Clair, these two schools collided twice in WPIAL Quad-A championship games. In 1989, the Panthers won gold, 38-14, while the Indians got revenge four years later when a young running back named Lavar Arrington led the way in the win, 21-14.

North Hills won the first meeting in 1979, 12-0. USC didn’t get its first win in the series until the eighth meeting, a 27-26 regular season victory in 1989. The Panthers also won the second meeting that season in the district finals.

Class 4A vs. 5A

West Allegheny (1-0) at South Fayette (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday, South Fayette Stadium at South Fayette

Coaches: Dave Schoppe, West Allegheny; Joe Rossi, South Fayette

On air: Video stream on TribHSSN.TribLive.com

Last week: West Allegheny 20, Moon 17; South Fayette 42, Chartiers Valley 14

Players to watch: Brock Cornell, West Allegheny (Jr., 5-11, 180, RB/DB); Nate Deanes, South Fayette (Sr., 5-10, 180, RB/DB)

Team notes

• West Allegheny: The Indians started the 2023 season with a dramatic come-from-behind victory on the final play of the game. Junior running back Brock Cornell scored his second touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run as West A escaped with a 20-17 win over visiting Moon. Cornell and Roman Police didn’t run up the rushing totals as each finished with 31 yards; however, both were successful breaking the goal line as Cornell scored on two short runs while Police escorted the pigskin 42-yards for a touchdown.

• South Fayette: The Lions scored 14 points in each of the three quarters as they roared past Chartiers Valley, 42-14. Senior quarterback Nico Lamonde threw for 127 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 47 yards and a score. Senior running back Nate Deanes rushed for 128 yards on opening night and scored on runs of 1, 7 and 3 yards against the Colts. Dom Monz had five receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns for the green and white.

Historic factoids

Last year, South Fayette jumped out to a 7-0 in its Week 1 game at West Allegheny, only to have the Indians score the next 40 points in a 40-7 nonconference victory. Nodin Tracy scored three touchdowns for the Indians while Cornell also scored on an 8-yard run. Nate Deanes scored the only Lions touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Drew Wolhorsky.

Ten years ago, both of these teams won WPIAL football championships. West Allegheny beat Central Valley, 16-6, to win the Triple-A crown, their third title in five years, while South Fayette captured Double-A gold with a wild win over Aliquippa, 34-28. It was the first of back-to-back championships for the Lions.

These two very successful football programs first met 51 years ago when South Fayette beat West Allegheny, 8-6, in the 1972 season.

Class 4A vs. 3A

Class 4A No. 4 Central Valley (1-0) at Class 3A No. 4 Avonworth (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Lenzner Field at Avonworth

Coaches: Mark Lyons, Central Valley; Duke Johncour, Avonworth

Last week: Central Valley 36, Austintown-Fitch (OH) 35; Avonworth 35, Grove City 14

Players to watch: Mason Dixon, Central Valley (Jr., 5-10, 200, RB/LB); Brandon Biagiarelli, Avonworth (Sr., 6-2, 225, RB/LB)

Team notes

• Central Valley: The Warriors headed west, young man, for their 2023 season opener and the trip home was a fun one after a dramatic comeback victory. CV sealed the deal on a 14-yard late fourth quarter touchdown pass from Steven Rutherford to Quinn Connelly and a two-point conversion run by Mason Dixon. A junior running back, Dixon finished with 143 yard rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown while Rutherford threw for one score and ran for two others as the Warriors edged Austintown-Fitch.

• Avonworth: While Central Valley traveled west in Week Zero, Avonworth headed north to visit District 10 Grove City. After falling behind early, the Antelopes scored 21 second-quarter points, then outscored the Eagles 14-0 in the second half. Senior running back Brandon Biagiarelli rushed for 201 yards and scored on an 18-yard run. Carson Bellinger threw for 106 yards and two touchdowns for the 2022 Class 3A runner-up ‘Lopes.

Historic factoids

Visiting McKeesport held the ball for all but 13 seconds of the first quarter as it dominated West Mifflin in the 2022 season opener, 40-0. Bobbie Boyd and fellow senior Aemond Knight each scored two touchdowns for the Tigers.

This is only the third meeting between these schools, with both games played over the last two years. Last season, Bret FitzSimmons rushed for 212 yards on 10 carries and scored four touchdowns as the Warriors rolled over the Antelopes, 37-22. Two years ago, Central Valley beat Avonworth, 43-6. The game bwtween the schools scheduled in 2020 was postponed due to covid-19.

Avonworth was 1-0 against Center and 5-11 against Monaca in years past. Those are the two schools that merged to form Central Valley. Monaca beat Avonworth in the 2008 WPIAL playoffs, 17-6, with the Antelopes winning in the 2009 postseason over the Indians, 27-0.

Class 2A

Sto-Rox (0-0) at No. 1 Steel Valley (0-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Campbell Field in Munhall

Coaches: Marvin Mills, Sto-Rox; Ray Braszo, Steel Valley

Last year: Sto-Rox won the Century Conference championship and lost to Beaver Falls in the 2A semifinals, 54-16; Steel Valley won the Allegheny Conference and the WPIAL 2A championship, but lost to Westinghouse in the PIAA semifinals, 26-7

Players to watch: Eric McGuire, Sto-Rox (Sr, 5-7, 180, WR/DB); Donald Barksdale, Steel Valley (Jr., 5-10, 172, RB/CB)

Team notes

• Sto-Rox: Big questions surround the big green machine, which has enjoyed so much success for most of the last decade. Many key players are gone from a final four team a year ago that finished 9-3 overall. The biggest shoes to fill come at quarterback where Josh Jenkins threw for over 2,400 yards a year ago. Senior wide receiver Erik McGuire is expected to be the top target in a usually pass-happy offense for the Vikings.

• Steel Valley: After so many years of coming close, veteran head coach Ray Braszo finally won the big one, leading Steel Valley to an undefeated run and a WPIAL championship, the third district title in seven years for the Ironmen. The golden season ended with a loss to Westinghouse in the state semifinals. The Barksdale brothers are expected to lead the charged for the maroon and gold this fall. Junior running back Donald Barksdale was the team’s second leading rusher and scorer a year ago and younger brother Da’Ron, a junior wide receiver, was fifth on the team last fall in receiving and rushing.

Historic factoids

The season opener for these two teams last fall turned into a showcase for Steel Valley senior Cruce Brookins. The signal called rushed for 186 yards and scored all four of his teams touchdowns as the Ironmen edged the host Vikings, 27-24.

The WPIAL Class Double-A trophy found a home in either McKees Rocks or Munhall for three straight years from 1987-1989. The Vikings won district gold in ’87, beating Ellwood City, 19-0, in the finals while the Ironmen won back-to-back championships in ’88 and ’89 with title game win over Center (6-0) and Freeport (20-14).

The first meeting between the Vikings and Ironmen was 51 years ago when Sto-Rox rolled past Steel Valley, 39-6, in the 1972 season. The Vikings won the first four games of the series before the Ironmen were victorious 21-6 in 1988.

Class A vs. 2A

Class A No. 4 Clairton (0-1) at Washington (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday at Washington High School Stadium

Coaches: Wayne Wade, Clairton; Mike Bosnic, Washington

Last week: Westinghouse 28, Clairton 0; Washington 49, Monessen 20

Players to watch: Michael Wright, Clairton (Sr., 5-10, 180, QB); Rueben Gordon, Washington (Sr., 6-2, 170, WR/DB)

Team notes

• Clairton: The Bears lost their first three games a year ago and 2023 is starting no better. Last week in their home opener, Clairton was shut down by defending City League champion and 2022 2A state runner-up Westinghouse, 28-0. Bears senior quarterback Michael Wright hit on 8 of 10 passes for 64 yards but had minus-15 yards rushing as Clairton was held to minus-5 yards on the ground by the Bulldogs defense. Drahcir Jones had 35 yards rushing to lead the Bears.

• Washington: After one quarter last week, Washington and Monessen were tied 6-6. Then the Little Prexies went to work, scoring 22 points in the second quarter and outscoring the Greyhounds 21-6 in the second half of a 29-point Week Zero win for Wash High. Senior Reuben Gordon scored three touchdowns on runs of 7 and 32 yards and a 13-yard scoring reception from Tristan Reed. Cayden Cook had two touchdowns on a 15-yard run and a pick-six for the Little Prexies.

Historic factoids

In a Week 1 matchup last year between these storied programs, Washington won big at Clairton, 48-20. Logan Carlisle led the Little Prexies through the air with 134 yards passing and three touchdown tosses while Zach Walsh led the Wash High ground attack with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown.

This is the third straight year these elite programs have squared off. Washington rolled at home in 2021, 43-19. That game was the first time the two schools met in 10 years. The most recent victory by Clairton in this series came in 2011 with the Bears winning, 42-14.

This is the 15th meeting between the football powers with Wash High leading the series, 9-5 The first meeting took place 91 years ago as Washington edged Clairton, 7-6, in 1932.

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