Trib HSSN Top 21 Stories of 2021: Championship droughts put on ice

Tuesday, December 28, 2021 | 7:36 PM

The year 2021 wasn’t one giant leap for mankind, but it was one big step back toward “normalcy” for all of us, especially the high school athletes from around the WPIAL.

They were able to do what they love to do: compete on area fields, courts, mats and pools. They did so in front of fans again as the return of the loud and raucous student bodies to various events was like hot cocoa on a frigid night.

As has become a year-end tradition, Trib HSSN winds down the year with a daily countdown and a look back at the top 21 WPIAL stories from the year 2021.

No. 12 – Wonderful Warriors

In the fall of 2020, the Central Valley football program had one of the more dominating seasons in WPIAL history, winning both WPIAL and PIAA gold.

For CV in 2021, it was wash, rinse and repeat as district and state champions.

The Warriors dominated the regular season, including an impressive 21-12 victory over the eventual WPIAL and PIAA 4A champion Aliquippa Quips in Week 3.

Central Valley outscored its three opponents in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs 144-15 to win a third straight district title.

Mark Lyons’ squad then edged Martinsburg Central in the PIAA semifinals and for a second straight year, defeated District 3 champion Wyomissing, 7-0, to earn back-to-back state crowns.

In doing so, they became only the sixth WPIAL school to repeat as state football champions and will carry the longest active winning streak in both the WPIAL and PIAA at 27 in a row into the 2022 season.

No. 11 – All are welcome

With mask mandates causing havoc in some sections and games being postponed due to covid-19 in other sections, the WPIAL had an issue with what to do with its basketball postseason.

The district decided to jump in its time machine and set the dial for the year 1984. That was the last time — and only time — the district held an open postseason tournament.

Because many boys and girls basketball teams would not be able to play all the games on their section schedule, the WPIAL decided they would allow every team a chance to participate in the district playoffs.

Many playoff droughts ended because of the open invitation; however, not everybody took the district up on their “all are welcome” to their postseason gala.

Boys teams that did not participate were Connellsville, West Mifflin, Moon, Indiana, Keystone Oaks, Riverside, Freedom, Bentworth, Cornell, Neighborhood Academy and Propel Andrew Street.

Girls teams turning down a chance to play in the playoffs included Canon-McMillan, West Allegheny, Derry, Valley, West Mifflin, Yough, Ligonier Valley, Riverside, Bentworth, Shady Side Academy, New Brighton, Carmichaels, Beth-Center, Cornell, Geibel Catholic, Leechburg and Propel Andrew Street.

In the standard format with the top four teams from each section qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs, only the West Mifflin girls of the 28 teams that did not participate would have earned a postseason berth after they finished in second place in Section 3-4A. However, the Titans were in quarantine when the postseason began.

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No. 10 – Droughts ended

It was like a daylong rain storm after having no precipitation for over a month.

One playoff and several championship droughts were cured by the sweet nectar of victory during the 2021 football season.

Leechburg entered the season with a couple of dubious streaks. The Blue Devils had not made the WPIAL football playoffs since 1988, a span of 33 years. In fact, they hadn’t had a winning season since 1991.

Both marks were obliterated when Leechburg finished 9-3 and not only made the postseason by finishing third behind Clairton and eventual champion Bishop Canevin but also knocked off California, 28-7, in a Class A first-round contest.

The Blue Devils’ magical season ended with a quarterfinals loss to Cornell.

Another Devil in blue took it several steps further.

Mt. Lebanon enjoyed a perfect 15-0 season that included the Blue Devils’ first WPIAL championship in 21 years and first PIAA title.

With all eyes on Steel Valley and Sto-Rox in Class 2A, it was Serra Catholic, behind a ballhawking defense, that claimed the school’s third district title and the first in 14 years.

Bishop Canevin stunned Washington with a come-from-behind upset in the 1990 Class AA football championship game. Fast forward 31 years and the Crusaders were hoisting gold again after beating OLSH in the 2021 Class A finals.

Finally, Penn-Trafford has come close to a WPIAL football crown, losing to Upper St. Clair on a missed extra point late in the AAAA finals back in 1997. Now there are no more silver linings for the Warriors after they edged Moon, thanks in part to a missed field goal on the final play of the 5A title game, giving P-T its long-awaited first WPIAL championship.

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