Trib HSSN don’t-miss high school football matchups for Week Zero 2021

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Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 5:21 PM


The 2021 high school football season kicks off this weekend with Week Zero games. All of the contests are nonconference. Here is a look at some of the top matchups in each class. Final records from 2020 are in parenthesis.

Class 6A vs 5A

Class 6A No. 2 Mt. Lebanon (4-3) at Bethel Park (0-7)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Bethel Park Stadium

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

Coaches: Bob Palko, Mt. Lebanon; Brian DeLallo, Bethel Park

Players to watch: Joey Daniels, Mt. Lebanon (Sr., 6-1, 195, QB); Max Blanc, Bethel Park (Sr., 6-5, 210, QB)

Four downs

1. Mt. Lebanon finished in a three-way tie for second place behind North Allegheny in Class 6A in 2020, tied with Central Catholic and Seneca Valley. The Blue Devils finished the season with a 4-3 overall record following a 35-0 loss to eventual champion Central Catholic in the 6A semifinals.

2. Now in Palko’s third season, the Blue Devils are once again expected to be a contender for one of the five Class 6A playoff spots and could end up winning the program’s first WPIAL football championship since 2000. Senior quarterback Joey Daniels is coming off a big junior year in which he threw for 913 yards and connected on 14 touchdowns in a shortened season. Senior Alex Tecza, an all-conference defensive back in 2020, will lead the Mt. Lebanon ground game.

3. Last season was unique for everybody, but it was one that Bethel Park football fans surely want to forget. The Black Hawks finished 0-7 and only scored 49 points all season. Only once did the BP offense score more than one touchdown in a game and that came in a 55-14 loss at Gateway.

4. There is optimism a turnaround for the Black Hawks could be swift. Many players return with experience, including quarterback Max Blanc, who threw for 436 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, plus Troy Volpatti led the ground game with 518 yards and scored four touchdowns.

Extra point: Last year’s scheduled matchup between these two South Hills neighbors was postponed. This will be the first “black and blue” meeting on the football field since Bethel Park defeated Mt. Lebanon, 34-24, in the 2017 regular season finale. The Blue Devils’ last win over the Black Hawks was in 2016. The winless season for Bethel Park last fall ended a 19-year playoff streak.

Class 5A nonconference

Harrisburg (4-1) vs. Class 5A No. 3 Pine-Richland (11-0)

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, The Wolvarena in Turtle Creek

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

Coaches: Calvin Everett, Harrisburg; Steve Campos, Pine-Richland

Players to watch: Kyle Williams Jr., Harrisburg (Jr., 5-11, 180, WR); Jeremiah Hasley, Pine-Richland (Sr., 6-5, 225, TE, OLB)

Four downs

1. Harrisburg won all four of their regular season football games and was the top seed in the District 3 Class 6A playoffs, but the Cougars had to forfeit to William Penn in the District 3 semifinals due to covid-19 exposure.

2. The Cougars have been one of the elite District 3 programs over the years and will lean heavily on an experienced line led by seniors Roy Irving (6-4, 300) and Tyshawn Black (6-1, 280). The Harrisburg offense will try to get the ball in the hands of standout junior Kyle Williams Jr., who could be used in various ways.

3. What followed a perfect season in 2020 has been an imperfect offseason at Pine-Richland. Following an undefeated 11-0 run that included WPIAL and PIAA 5A championships, school administrators stunned the state high school sports world by firing head coach Eric Kasperowicz and his entire staff. It set off a firestorm that has kept the program in the news for most of the offseason.

4. The next chapter of the Pine-Richland football program is about to kick off with new coach Steve Campos in the tough spot of not only replacing a beloved coach, but also trying to fill the shoes of 17 talented graduated seniors. Cole Boyd takes over the offense from two-time HSSN athlete of the year Cole Spencer. One of Boyd’s top targets will be Duke recruit Jeremiah Hasley, a tight end who racked up 400 yards in receptions last year and is also a force at linebacker.

Extra point: Pine-Richland brings an 11-game win streak into this season opener while Harrisburg has won seven straight regular season games, with their last loss coming against State College in October of 2019. The last time Pine-Richland played a District 3 team was in the 2020 PIAA semifinals when the Rams beat Governor Mifflin, 48-44. Harrisburg last played a team from the WPIAL in the 2016 PIAA quarterfinals, a 42-10 triumph over West Allegheny.

Class 5A vs 4A nonconference

South Fayette (4-4) at Montour (4-3)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Thomas J. Birko Memorial Stadium at Montour

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

Coaches: Joe Rossi, South Fayette; Lou Cerro, Montour

Players to watch: Nate Deanes, South Fayette (Soph., 5-9, 165, RB, WR, DB); Caleb Williams, Montour (Sr., 6-0, 205, RB/LB)

Four downs

1. It was an up and down season for South Fayette in 2020 as the Lions lost two of their first three, won three straight games, then dropped their final two, including a 47-7 pasting at the hands of eventual champion Pine-Richland in the 5A quarterfinals. The 4-4 record was the first non-winning season for South Fayette since Joe Rossi’s second season when the Lions finished 3-6 in 2008.

2. The next big thing at quarterback might be senior Landon Lutz, who lost the job as starting quarterback as a freshman to Naman Alemada in 2019. The Lions lost a lot to graduation, but do return senior lineman Jon Lesko, senior running back turned wide receiver Connor Harcarik and super sophomore Nate Deanes, who will start at running back but can also help the South Fayette aerial attack.

3. Montour coach Lou Cerro tries to use a positive spin on things, but admitted that last fall was a disappointment. The Spartans finished with a winning record overall at 4-3, but they missed the playoffs for the second time in three years when they lost their final two Parkway Conference games to Blackhawk and Beaver.

4. With the return of senior Braden Flint and junior Alonzo Labrie on the offensive and defensive lines, the Spartans believe they will be more physical this season. Senior running back Caleb Williams and junior Brock Janeda should be the benefactors of what could be a strong running attack for the black and gold.

Extra point: This is the first meeting between the programs since they were 4A Northwest Nine Conference rivals from 2017-2019. South Fayette won all four of those meetings by a combined score of 153-65. Montour won its most recent WPIAL football championship 10 years ago when it won the 2011 WPIAL AAA title.

Class 2A vs 3A nonconference

Brentwood (3-4) at Keystone Oaks (5-3)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Dormont Stadium

Coaches: Kevin Kissell, Brentwood; Greg Perry, Keystone Oaks

Players to watch: Jase Keib, Brentwood (Sr., 5-11, 165, QB, DB); Nick Buckley, Keystone Oaks (Jr., 6-1, 150, QB/DB)

Four downs

1. After four games last season, Brentwood was in a battle for first place in the 2A Three Rivers Conference with three wins in four games. However, a three-game losing streak ended the Spartans’ playoffs hopes a year after reaching the 2A semifinals.

2. With four of the six teams in the Three Rivers Conference qualifying for the 2A playoffs this season, optimism for a return to the postseason is high thanks to the return of senior quarterback Jase Keib. In his first season at quarterback in 2020, Keib passed for 774 yards and five touchdowns.

3. What if Central Valley was in 4A? That was the question Keystone Oaks and other 3A teams probably asked themselves after the Warriors dominated Class 3A on their way to a WPIAL and PIAA championship. Two of Keystone Oaks’ three losses a year ago came at the hands of CV, including a 70-21 loss in the 3A district semifinals.

4. Gone for the Golden Eagles is a four-year starter at quarterback, Logan Shrubb. Tasked to replace KO’s leading passer and rusher is junior Nick Buckley. He won’t be alone as Tyler Perry, Kevin Drew, Own Minford and Alex Samarin will all help at various skill positions to keep the Golden Eagles offense flying high.

Extra point: These teams will open up the season against each other for the second time in three years after last season’s opener was postponed. Keystone Oaks edged Brentwood, 26-21, in 2019.

Class 2A nonconference

Westinghouse (7-0) at Seton LaSalle (1-6)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dormont Stadium

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

Coaches: Donta Green, Westinghouse; Chris Siegle, Seton LaSalle

Players to watch: Keyshawn Morsillo, Westinghouse (Jr., 6-2, 190, QB); Gabe Finale, Seton LaSalle (Sr., 5-8, 155, RB)

Four downs

1. Westinghouse is out to become only the second District 8 school to win three straight City League championships this century. The Bulldogs repeated in 2020 with a perfect 7-0 record following a 16-point come-from-behind victory over Allderdice in the City League title game.

2. The Bulldogs will have a lot of bite again this season with the return of quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo. The junior has a talented target in senior wide receiver Jai’Ron King and four starting lineman back up front, plus senior running back Malik Harris.

3. The once-proud Seton LaSalle football program has fallen on hard times. The Rebels were 3-13 in the last two years, including a 1-6 season in 2020. A new coach was brought in, but before he could coach his first game, Mauro Monz resigned and Chris Siegle now takes over on an interim basis.

4. Gabe Finale has been a bright spot for the Rebels. The four-year starter is preparing to lead the ground game in his senior season. Emmett Harris garnered some experience last year as a junior, throwing for over 400 yards, and he will take over at quarterback for Seton LaSalle.

Extra point: The last time Seton LaSalle faced a team from the City League was 10 years ago. The Rebels cruised past Carrick, 49-7, on opening night of the 2011 campaign. The previous time Westinghouse played a WPIAL team was in the opener of the 2019 season when the Bulldogs were edged by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 33-30.

Class A vs. 2A nonconference

Class A No. 5 Shenango (7-2) at Neshannock (4-3)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Bob Bleggi Stadium at Neshannock

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

Coaches: Jimmy Graham, Shenango; Fred Mozzocio, Neshannock

Players to watch: C.J. MIller, Shenango (Jr., 5-10, 165, RB); Cam’Ron Owens, Neshannock (Sr., 6-2, 185, RB)

Four downs

1. 2020 was one of the most successful seasons in recent history at Shenango. Led by Reis Watkins, the Wildcats were undefeated heading into the regular season finale, but lost to Rochester in the de facto Big Seven Conference championship, 13-0. After beating California in the Class A quarterfinals, the season ended with a loss to unbeaten Clairton in the semifinals.

2. With Watkins and several other key players gone from last year, the Wildcats will lean on an experienced line of seniors in Brandon Stuck, Trever Valenti, Jason Domenick and junior Kyle Lenhart. Several players will be relied on in the ground game, including junior C.J. Miller, who averaged 11.9 yards per carry with 16 totes a year ago.

3. After losing to Laurel by seven points in the season opener, Neshannock ripped off four straight 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference victories and looked to be in good shape for another trip to the postseason. However, the Lancers lost to New Brighton and eventual champion Beaver Falls to miss out on a playoff spot by one game.

4. The Lancers will rely heavily on running back Cam’Ron Owens. In a short season, Owens rushed for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior Kurt Sommerfield is a dual-threat quarterback while reserve QB Jonny Huff will be one of the top targets after moving to wide receiver.

Extra point: This is the first meeting between these Lawrence County rivals since Neshannock edged Shenango, 13-7, in the 2019 AA MAC season finale. The Lancers have won the last two meetings since the host Wildcats posted a 20-12 victory at Shenango in 2015.

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