WPIAL Big Game Hunting – First Round

Thursday, November 5, 2015 | 1:44 PM

The Highway to Heinz begins this week, a very exciting time in southwestern Pennsylvania and at the MSA Sports Network. We have been stretched to the max by the fall championship season but with one final tug we found a way to carry every single WPIAL football playoff game yet again. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Most years I fall in love with 8 v 9 games, but this year was different for me. Looking through the brackets I found myself most fascinated by three of the 7 v 10 games. Hey at this point they’re all big games, so easy pickins as we go post season Big Game Hunting.

Class AAAA:
#9 Kiski Cavaliers (5-4) vs #8 Bethel Park Black Hawks (6-3) Friday November 6th @ 7:30 PM @ Black Hawks Stadium on the campus of Bethel Park high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network with Lou Rood and Danny Holzer

The 8 v 9 game in AAAA was too scintillating to pass up. Kiski was the third place team coming out of the Foothills, the Cavs lost two of their last four games and got thumped by McKeesport to finish the regular season 62-0. How will they respond emotionally to that beating? That will be a huge key to this football game.
Chad Kuhn is completing more than 55% of his passes this year at 58 for 105 for 754 yards and eight touchdowns. He has thrown four interceptions and the Hawks secondary has one of the best in the WPIAL lurking back there in Charlie Davis.
The Cavs receiving corps consists of Cam Turner, DeShawon Bracy, and Jonathan Bracy. The trio has combined for 44 catches, 757 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.
Tariq Grant is the leading rusher for the Cavs with 351 yards on 110 carries, also Kuhn is a threat to run it himself with 363 yards and a team-high eight rushing touchdowns.
The Cavs defense will pick it if you are not careful with the ball, Jonathan Bracy leads the team with three of their nine interceptions.
Bethel counters that as the third place team out of a very good Southeastern conference. Senior quarterback Levi Metheny is a four-year starter and it has shown this year. After starting 0-2 the Hawks have won 6 of their final seven, and three in a row heading into the playoffs.
Metheny has completed 86 of 154 passes for 1446 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year while throwin 4 interceptions. He is a tough hard-nosed player who sometimes is a bigger difference defensively as an outside linebacker than he does as a quarterback.
 The go-to receivers for Metheny are wide out Charlie Davis and tight end Jake Dixon the duo has combined for 52 catches, nearly 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season.
On the ground Terron Murphy has had a breakout season at running back with 1016 yards on 116 carries and nine touchdowns, Murphy has blazing speed and some very quick moves.

Class AAA:
#10 West Mifflin Titans (6-3) vs #7 Franklin Regional Panthers (7-2) Friday November 6th @ 7:30 PM @ Franklin Regional high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network with Dow Carnahan and Mike Porembka

The West Mifflin Titans roll out as the fourth place team from the Big Ten conference winning three of their last four games but getting manhandled by Thomas Jefferson in week nine 35-0. Franklin Regional is the second place team from the Greater Allegheny conference and the Panthers had their six-game-winning streak snapped in week nine falling on the road at Gateway 15-12.
This will be a battle of two of the best-rushing quarterbacks in the WPIAL.
The Titans have Karlyn Garner who has tossed for 523 yards and rushed for 645 on the season including nine touchdowns. He has thrown five touchdown passes.
The Panthers will roll out their own rushing quarterback in Santino Birty who is in fact the leading rusher for Franklin Regional with ove 800 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground this season. Birty has also thrown for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns on the year.
Both of these teams have a nearly 4-1 ratio in terms of rushing yards versus passing yards for the year. This game might be over by 9:00 pm.
Jacob Ross is the second leading rusher for the Panthers with over 600 yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
West Mifflin has a good one in first year starter Russell Tyree who is over 800 yards on the ground along with 10 touchdowns.
Watch with all the attention on the running games it might be the team that throws the ball around a little that ends up advancing to the quarter-finals.

Class AA:
#10 Seton-LaSalle Rebels (7-2) vs #7 Highlands Golden Rams (7-2) Friday November 6th @ Highlands High School broadcast on the MSA Sports Network with Sean Meyers and Brandon Showers 

Seton is the third place team out of the Century conference while the Golden Rams of HIghlands are the 2nd place team out of the Allegheny conference. The Rebels won five of six to finish the regular season. Seton had top-seed South Fayette on the ropes in week eight leading the Lions 14-0 at the half but they could not hold on, falling 17-14. But that is a loss that has a lot of people including me, thinking the Rebels could be a very tough 10 seed in this playoff.
Highlands stumbled down the stretch after a 5-0 start losing two of their final four games.
Junior quarterback Brayden Thimons has had a great season for Highlands and head coach Sam Albert. Thimons has completed 59 of 108 passes for 1223 yards and eight touchdowns all without throwing an interception. He is also a huge threat in the Golden Rams rush attack with nearly 500 yards on the ground, including rushing for 10 touchdowns on the season.
Senior wide out Jordan Lineburg has three times as many catches as any other Golden ram on the roster with 30 catches for nearly 300 yards and six scores.
Sophomore Jermaine Jett has rushed for almost six hundred yards for Highlands while scoring six touchdowns.
The Rams defense allowed a section-low 13.3 points per game on the year but the offense has really sputtered coming down the stretch.
Seton will be without one of their best players on both sides of the ball as Liam Sweeney saw his prep career come to a close with an injury in week eight at South Fayette. He will be sorely missed by Damon Rosol’s team on both offense and defense.

The Rebels though still have a ton of talent on both sides. Paris Ford is one of the best in the WPIAL on both sides of the ball as a member of the Seton secondary the junior, a Pitt recruit basically shuts down a half of the football field, he also seems to have a great knack for knowing just the right time to blitz.

Offensively Ford has 42 catches on the year, no other Rebel has more than nine. He has combined rushing, receiving yardage of 848 and has scored 21 touchdowns more than twice as many as any of his teammates.

Nolan Abbiatici is doing great work as the Seton quarterback completing 77 of 150 passes for 1204 yards and 20 scores, he is also very good with his feet and on defense.

Sophomore Lionel Deanes keeps defenses honest with his blazing speed out of the backfield rushing for 1129 yards and ten touchdowns on the season.

Class A:
#10 Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions (7-2) vs #7 Bishop Canevin Crusaders (6-3) Friday November 6th @ 7:30 PM @ Dormont Stadium in Banksville, PA broadcast on the MSA Sports Network with Rick Smith and Jon Fisher

These two schools will meet in the girls volleyball semi-finals on Thursday then get back together Friday night for the opening round on the Highway to Heinz. GCC is the third place team out of the Eastern conference after falling to Jeannette last week. Remember in BGH last week we talked about how some unlucky second place team would be facing the loser of that Jeannette v GCC game? Well that unlucky team is Canevin.

GCC quarterback Tommy Pellis is very solid, he has hooked up on 95 of 170 attempts for 1304 yards and 14 scores while throwing only four interceptions.

His two top targets are Sam Nowicki and J.P. Pellis, Nowicki has 41 catches for 444 yards and Pellis, 20 for 316 yards, they have combined for eight scores with Nowicki chipping the bulk in there with seven.

The Centurions on the ground get solid work from Alvin Ross, also a threat to catch it out of the backfield Ross has rushed for 1245 yards and scored a team-high 18 touchdowns.

Canevin has won four of their last five games losing only to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in that span.

Austin Scott became the full time quarterback in week five for the Crusaders and he has completed 42 of 75 passes for 786 yards and nine touchdowns, but he has thrown five picks as well. He will need to take better care of the football versus GCC if the Crusaders are to move on to the quarterfinals.

Sean Fitzgerald is another guy that is head and shoulders above all his teammates in terms of passes caught, he has 30 catches for 457 yards and eight touchdowns. No other Crusader has more than eight catches.

On the ground Amaan Bridgett (137 carries, 763 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Maliek Hemmingway (61 carries, 411 yards, five touchdowns) have become a very tough one-two punch running for Darren Schoppe. This , I believe will be a fantastic football game Friday night on…..The Network!

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