WPIAL 2023 Class 6A football championship game preview: Central Catholic vs. North Allegheny

Thursday, November 16, 2023 | 8:20 PM

For the second straight year, the WPIAL Class 6A championship game will be played at Norwin Stadium in North Huntingdon.

The 6A championship game features 2022 champion North Allegheny against Central Catholic for the second year in a row.

The reason Class 6A and 5A are playing their title games a week earlier than everybody else is directly connected to the PIAA football playoff brackets.

The 6A and 5A WPIAL champions enter the PIAA quarterfinals next weekend while the 4A, 3A, 2A, and A winners go directly into the state semifinals the first weekend in December.

This is the eighth year the district has hosted Class 6A and 5A football championship games.

In Class 6A, the finals were played at then Heinz Field in Pittsburgh from 2016-2019. The 2020 title game was at Martorelli Stadium in West View and the 2021 and 2022 finals have been at Norwin Stadium.

So to prepare for the WPIAL championship football games Saturday, we open up a fresh tin of WPIAL football championship factoids.

However first, let’s acknowledge some championship anniversaries from the highest classification in the WPIAL.

• 100 years ago: Washington was declared champions of Class 3A in 1923, which was then the only classification in the district.

• 75 years ago: New Castle defeated Monongahela to win the 1948 Class 3A championship, 43-14. The Red Hurricane repeated a year later in a much closer title game, a one-point victory over McKeesport.

• 50 years ago: Seven years before expansion to four classes, New Castle again won more gold, winning the 1973 Class 3A championship over Gateway, 3-0. The Gators were the defending champs after beating Jeannette the previous season.

• 25 years ago: You would think nobody but New Castle won a WPIAL football title in the highest classification between 1948-1998 the way the Red Hurricane keep popping up as champs. NeCa High edged North Allegheny, 14-7, to win the 1998 WPIAL Class 4A crown. It is the most recent football championship the ‘Canes have won.

• 10 years ago: Central Catholic will be trying to win its ninth WPIAL championship this weekend. Ten years ago, the Tigers captured their fourth district 4A title in 2013 with a 27-7 victory over Woodland Hills. The game was the final championship game for Wolverines WPIAL hall of fame coach George Novak.

• 5 years ago: Two teams that met last week in a Class 5A semifinal each won gold in 2018. Pine-Richland rolled past Seneca Valley to win repeat as 6A champions, 34-7. Penn Hills edged West Allegheny in the 5A title game, 28-18. It was the last time Bob Palko coached West Allegheny in a championship game.

Class 6A championship

North Allegheny Tigers (10-1) vs. Central Catholic Vikings (10-1)

6 p.m. Saturday, Norwin Stadium, North Huntingdon

This great rivalry is as close as it gets. This is the 29th all-time meeting and North Allegheny has 14 wins, Central Catholic has 13 victories and there was a scoreless tie played in 1981.The Tigers won the first meeting in 1975, 9-7.

This is the eighth time the two have played each other in the WPIAL playoffs and the third meeting for gold. Central Catholic beat North Allegheny in the 2020 6A finals, 38-24. Last year, the Tigers defeated the Vikings, 35-21. Central Catholic won playoff meetings in 1988, 2001 and 2015 while North Allegheny prevailed in postseason clashes in 2000 and 2010.

North Allegheny is trying to become the third school to repeat as WPIAL 6A champions. Central Catholic did it in 2019 and 2020 and Pine-Richland accomplished it in 2017 and 2018.

The Tigers are in search of their sixth district crown. NA’s first championship was 33 years ago in 1990 coached by Jim Rankin. They followed with a three-peat from 2010-2012 and the team’s golden run a year ago in 2022.

NA coach Art Walker is trying to win his seventh WPIAL championship. He has won four as the North Allegheny head coach and he also led Central Catholic to back-to-back district championships in 2003-2004.

The Vikings are hoping to win their ninth WPIAL championship, which would move them into fifth place on the all-time district list. Central Catholic captured its first WPIAL crown 20 years ago in 2003. The Vikings repeated in 2004 and won more gold in 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020.

In his first year, Central Catholic’s Ryan Lehmeier is trying to become the third coach to lead the Vikings to a WPIAL championship, joining Walker and Terry Totten.

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