Trib HSSN don’t-miss high school football matchups for Week 3 2023

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Thursday, September 14, 2023 | 6:19 PM


While Class 6A and 5A may have had a head start with two conference games each the last two weeks, much of the rest of the WPIAL joins the fun as the starter’s pistol goes off this weekend with 43 conference football games highlighting Week 3 in the WPIAL.

There are three conference openers and one nonconference matchup this weekend where undefeated teams go head-to-head: Central Catholic at Mt. Lebanon, Montour at Aliquippa and South Park at Beaver in conference as well as Southmoreland at Knoch.

The head count Friday for section games that will determine playoff berths includes all 17 WPIAL conferences with the exception of the Allegheny 6 and the Interstate conferences in Class 3A.

Once again this week, we preview one of the top conference games in each classification.

Here is a look at some of the top district high school football contests slated for Week 3.

Class 6A

No. 2 Central Catholic (3-0) at No. 3 Mt. Lebanon (3-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Mt. Lebanon High School Stadium

Coaches: Ryan Lehmeier, Central Catholic; Mike Collodi, Mt. Lebanon

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

Last week: Central Catholic 62, Bethel Park 46; Mt. Lebanon 20, Moon 17

Players to watch: Payton Wehner (Sr., 6-1, 170, QB); Michael Malone, Mt. Lebanon (Sr., 5-11, 175, QB/DB)

Team notes

• Central Catholic: There aren’t a lot of football teams that can say they allowed 46 points and still won by 16. The Vikings defense gave up big yards in the second half through the air and on the ground, but their offense could not be stopped as they racked up 62 points, all in the first half. Senior quarterback Payton Wehner enjoyed another great night, hitting on 17 of 20 passes for 298 yards and five touchdown passes along with two scoring runs. Two touchdown passes went to Vernon Settles and the opening kickoff was returned 93 yards for a touchdown by Xavier Thomas.

Mt. Lebanon: If you want to look at similar opponents, Bethel Park lost to both teams: a three-point overtime loss to Lebo and a 16-point loss to Central. None of that means anything as the Blue Devils continue to win close, low-scoring games. Week 2 was more of the same as senior quarterback Michael Malone was 9 of 16 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 win over visiting Moon. Senior running back Fred LaSota leads the team in rushing with 301 yards and two touchdowns.

Historic factoids

This game features two new kids on the block. Ryan Lehmeier of Central Catholic and Mike Collodi of Mt. Lebanon are a combined 6-0 thus far in their first year with their new teams. They have done well in replacing coaching legends Terry Totten of the Vikings and Bob Palko of the Blue Devils.

This is a rematch of the 2021 WPIAL 6A championship game won by Mt. Lebanon, 47-7. The last time these two played at Mt. Lebanon was in the 2021 regular season when the game was suspended due to weather on Friday and finished Saturday. The Blue Devils beat the Vikings, 35-14.

Central Catholic leads the all-time series, 10-9. Since expansion to six classes, these teams have met nine times, including four playoff games. In the postseason, the Vikings are 4-2 with wins in 2011, 2019, 2020 and 2022 (28-7 in 6A semifinals). The Blue Devils’ two wins in the playoffs over Central were in 1997 and 2022.

Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference

No. 2 Peters Township (3-0) at South Fayette (2-1)

7 p.m. Friday, South Fayette Stadium

Coaches: T.J. Plack, Peters Township; Joe Rossi, South Fayette

Last week: Peters Township 34, Trinity 7; Montour 42, South Fayette 35

Players to watch: Nolan DeLucia, Peters Township (Soph., 6-2, 175, QB/DB); Nico Lamonde, South Fayette (Sr., 6-1, 180, QB)

Team notes

• Peters Township: After finishing 6-4 last fall, the Indians look like they are back among the elite in Class 5A. Peters Township improved to 3-0 with a convincing 27-point win over previously unbeaten Trinity last week thanks to the continued solid play of sophomore quarterback Nolan DiLucia, who threw for 119 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 69 yards and scored on runs of 23 and 7 yards. In three games, he has passed for 331 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 145 yards. Peters Township has only allowed 14 points in wins over Fox Chapel, Seneca Valley and Trinity.

• South Fayette: The Lions looked like they were going to start the season 3-0 when they extended their lead at Montour last week to 35-18. However, the host Spartans ended the game on a 24-0 run over the final quarter and a half to hand South Fayette its first loss of the season, 42-35. Senior quarterback Nico Lamonde was 21 of 33 passing for 249 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with his two short scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards. Senior running back Nate Deanes rushed for 126 yards and scored on a nifty 57-yard run.

Historic factoids

This is only the sixth meeting between South Fayette and Peters Township on the football field with the Indians leading the all-time series, 3-2.

Peters Township won at home over South Fayette last season, 42-28. Despite the loss, it marked the first time the Lions scored more than seven points in a game against the Indians.

The Indians have won three straight in the series, winning last year and also in 2021, 35-7, and in 2020, 17-3. The Lions’ two wins also came in back-to-back years. South Fayette beat Peters Township in 1988, 7-0, then again in 1989, 7-6.

Class 4A Parkway Conference

Montour (3-0) at No. 1 Aliquippa (2-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Heinz Field at Aliquippa

Coaches: Lou Cerro, Montour; Mike Warfield, Aliquippa

Last week: Montour 42, South Fayette 35; Aliquippa 33, North Catholic 7

Players to watch: Jake Wolfe, Montour (Sr., 6-1, 185, QB/DB); Tiqwai Hayes, Aliquippa (Jr., 5-10, 190, RB)

Team notes

• Montour: The Spartans looked like they were heading to their first loss of the season last week when they trailed at home to South Fayette midway through the third quarter by 18 points, but then the big bad Wolfe appeared and the Lions were blown away. Montour senior quarterback Jake Wolfe connected on 17 of 27 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns, including scoring runs of 2, 10 and 6 yards in the big second-half comeback. Wolfe has already accounted for nearly 1,000 yards on offense, 652 yards through the air and 312 on the ground.

• Aliquippa: Junior running back Tiqwai Hayes has been nearly unstoppable through two Aliquippa victories this season. Last week in a Class 4A nonconference victory over North Catholic, Hayes rushed for 239 yards and scored two touchdowns on runs of 2 and 48 yards. For the season, ‘Tikey’ is averaging over seven yards per carry with 385 yards on 53 carries and five touchdowns. Quips senior quarterback Quentin Goode has thrown for 162 yards and two touchdowns in two games while top target Demarkus Walker has two catches for 92 yards with both receptions going for touchdowns.

Historic factoids

Aliquippa defeated Montour twice last season. In the regular season, the Quips dominated with 427 total yards of offense to minus-23 for the Spartans in a 33-0 shutout win. In the first playoff game between the schools last November, the Quips’ John Tracy led all rushers with 112 yards on nine carries while Tikey Hayes finished with 92 yards and Quentin Goode completed 4 of 8 passes for 94 yards and two scores in a 41-7 win in the 4A quarterfinals.

The Quips lead the all-time series, 17-3. The two have met six times in the last five years with Aliquippa winning all six by a combined score of 251-35. The last time the Spartans won was in 1991 by a final score of 21-13.

Twelve years ago, these programs were both crowned WPIAL football champions. Montour won the 2011 Triple-A title by beating Knoch, 42-14. Right before that game, Aliquippa edged Jeannette, 14-7, at then-Heinz Field, to win Double-A district gold.

Class 3A Nonconference

No. 2 Elizabeth Forward (3-0) at Shady Side Academy (2-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Michael J. Farrell Stadium at Shady Side Academy

Coaches: John DeMarco, Elizabeth Forward; Chuck DiNardo, Shady Side Academy

Last week: Elizabeth Forward 45, East Allegheny 15; Indiana 31, Shady Side Academy 21

Players to watch: Ryan Messina, Elizabeth Forward (So., 6-3, 185, QB); Devin Harris, Shady Side Academy (So., 6-0, 146, QB/ATH)

Team notes

• Elizabeth Forward: A longtime assistant, first-year head coach John DeMarco has been a perfect fit for Elizabeth Forward. The Warriors are off and running with a 3-0 record and currently No. 2 in the latest HSSN Class 3A rankings. In EF’s latest win last week, sophomore quarterback Ryan Messina was 10 of 17 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns as the Warriors rolled past East Allegheny by 30 points. The Warriors duo of Charlie Nigut and Jace Brown has rushed for a combined 577 yards with 5 TDs each.

• Shady Side Academy: The Bulldogs’ quick 2-0 start to the season ran into its first hurdle it couldn’t clear last week in a nonconference game at Indiana as SSA lost by 10 points. Levi Porter was too much for the Bulldogs as the sophomore running back rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns for the Little Indians. After shutting out Summit Academy in Week Zero, the Shady Side Academy defense has yielded 59 total points in a win over North Catholic and the loss to Indiana.

Historic factoids

This is a rematch of a WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal from last season. After losing in the regular season, Shady Side Academy extracted revenge with an upset win in a steady rain at Elizabeth Forward, 31-17. Naiziim Daniels returned a kickoff 80 yards for a Bulldogs touchdown while Joey Bellinotti, Patrick Bryan and Darren Haynes also scored touchdowns for SSA.

In the Week 3 regular season meeting last year, Elizabeth Forward rolled over Shady Side Academy, 42-21. Warriors quarterback Zion White hit on 7 of 12 passes for a whopping 227 yards and four touchdowns. All four TD passes and 202 of those passing yards went to wide receiver Zach Boyd.

The only other meetings between these programs came when Shady Side Academy faced old Elizabeth HS over 75 years ago. SSA won in 1936, 6-0 and again in 1944, 17-0.

Class 2A Allegheny Conference

No. 2 Steel Valley (1-1) at No. 3 Imani Christian (2-1)

7 p.m. Friday, UPMC Graham Field in Wilkinsburg

Coaches: Ray Braszo, Steel Valley; LaRoi Johnson, Imani Christian

Last week: Seton LaSalle 23, Steel Valley 20 in double overtime; Imani Christian 41, South Allegheny 14

Players to watch: Da’Ron Barksdale, Steel Valley (Soph., 5-11, 175, QB/WR/CB); Stephen Vandiver, Imani Christian (Jr, 6-2, 170, QB/ATH)

Team notes

• Steel Valley: Following a one-sided win in their season opener over Sto-Rox in Week 1, the Ironmen lost for the first time in the regular season last week since losing to Apollo-Ridge in October of 2020. In the Steel Valley loss to Seton LaSalle by three points in double overtime, junior Donald Barksdale led the Ironmen with 83 yards rushing and a touchdown while sophomore brother Da’Ron Barksdale rushed for 78 yards and a score, but only threw for 10 yards on 1 of 3 passing. The Barksdale brothers have combined to rush for 379 yards and scored four touchdowns.

• Imani Christian: Following a Week Zero loss to Steelton-Highspire, the defending PIAA champs and the No. 1 Class A team in the state, Imani Christian has won two straight by outscoring Brentwood and South Allegheny by a combined score of 93-28. Last week in a 28-point victory at South Allegheny, junior running back Dayshaun Burnett rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Stephen Vandiver threw for 111 yards and two touchdowns while also scoring on a 4-yard run. Vandiver has 698 yards passing and 213 yards rushing.

Historic factoids

This is the second meeting between Imani Christian and Steel Valley.

In the first meeting last year in Week 3, the Ironmen crushed the Saints, 56-6. Cruce Brookins led Steel Valley with 155 yards and four touchdowns while the SV defense held David Davis to only 18 yards on 12 carries. Davis did return a kickoff 72 yards for the Saints’ lone touchdown.

LaRoi Johnson is in his second year as Imani Christian head coach after four successful seasons at Sto-Rox. Johnson was offensive coordinator for the Saints for two years, including on the 2017 team that lost to Jeannette in the WPIAL Class A finals. Ray Braszo is in his fifth year in his second stint at his alma mater, Steel Valley. The WPIAL 2A crown last year was his first championship. He had two successful runs as head coach at neighboring West Mifflin.

Class A Big 7 Conference

No. 2 South Side (3-0) at Northgate (2-1)

7 p.m. Friday at Alumni Field at Bellevue Elementary School

Coaches: Luke Travelpiece, South Side; Chris Lucas, Northgate

Last week: South Side 41, Burgettstown 7; Northgate 38, Riverview 21

Players to watch: Brody Almashy, South Side (Sr., 5-10, 165, QB/DB); Austin Mitchell, Northgate (Sr., 5-10, 155, QB/DB)

Team notes

• South Side: A year after winning 11 games and reaching the WPIAL Class A final four, South Side is off to a 3-0 start and outscored Hopewell, Riverside and Burgettstown by a combined score of 109-20. Last week in their home opener, the Rams jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead and never looked back in their 34-point win over Burgettstown. Senior quarterback Brody Almashy threw for 22 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 46 yards and a score. Sophomore running back A.C. Corfield led South Side on the ground with 187 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns.

• Northgate: After losing to Fort Cherry in Week Zero, Northgate has bounced back with two wins thanks to a ground attack with a sweet one-two punch. In a 17-point win over previously unbeaten Riverview last week, the Flames were led by senior quarterback Austin Mitchell, who rushed for 125 yards with two touchdowns and a scoring pass, along with junior running back Darius Fields, who gained 121 yards and scored three touchdowns, two on the ground and one on a 15-yard toss from Mitchell. As they prepare for their Big 7 opener, the Flames won only one conference game in 2022.

Historic factoids

Host South Side led Northgate 35-0 at the half before cruising to a 49-0 whitewash in Week 3 last season. Brady Almashy had a touchdown pass and a scoring run and Ryan Navarra had two touchdown runs for the Rams. Darius Fields led the Flames with 38 yards on 13 carries.

South Side leads the all-time series against Northgate, 5-3. The Rams have won the last two meetings. The last Flames victory came in the 1989 regular season, 13-7. The schools split six meetings in six straight years between 1984-1989.

Northgate had a record of 7-13 the last two years. Not bad considering the Flames had winless seasons in 2018, 2019 and 2020. South Side has come a long way from a decade ago when it won three games total in four years between 2010-2013, including winless seasons in ’11 and ’13.

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