WPIAL Big Game Hunting – Week Twelve

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 | 2:53 PM

The Final off ramp on the Highway to Heinz is here and the WPIAL Football playoff Steering Committee is celebrating one of their finest moments ever. Each classification features seeds 1,2,3 and 5 still standing as we get set for semi-final Friday. The semi-finals feature the top three passers in the WPIAL and the top two rushers for the year are still alive as well. All the games are fantastic and so we at Big Game Hunting must make “Sophie’s Choice” in each classification. We do not have any problem with that. You can send your complaints to [email protected].

#2 Penn-Trafford Warriors (11-0) vs #3 Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings (10-1) Friday November 14th at 7:30 pm @ Norwin high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WHJB-FM 107.1 by Don Conde and Jimmy Lee Santorella 

Penn-Trafford advances to the semi-finals for a second straight season with a thrilling come-from-behind win over North Allegheny in the quarterfinals. Brett Laffoon throws for 280 yards and five touchdowns in the win.

Central meanwhile got two defensive touchdowns, and a punt return for a touchdown in blanking Woodland Hills 28-0 in their quarterfinal win. The Viking defense held Woody High to 133 yards rushing in the game.

The Vikes defense is spectacular. Linebackers David Adams and Bryan Glover lead them in tackles, combined the duo is approaching 165 tackles on the year. They benefit from having just a fantastic defensive line in front of them including Rahsad Wheeler, Jordan Scarborough and Kurt Hinish. The Vikes get pressure on the quarterback but have not piled up a bunch of sacks, in fact, I was stunned to see that through the first round of the playoffs they had only four sacks as a team for the year. They must get pressure on Laffoon if they hope to play for the title in Heinz Field.

Central will look to unleash a balanced running attack featuring Grant Foster (729 yards) Vinny Emanuele (453 yards) and Brian Totten (469 yards).

The Vikes don’t throw it a bunch with quarterback Mike Navarro completing 42 of 61 passes for 543 yards and nine touchdowns without throwing an interception.

Navarro’s top-target is John Petrishen with a team-high 16 catches. Petrishen is also a big-time threat in the return game for the Vikes, he has scored 11 touchdowns on the year including over 500 yards in punt returns. He returned a punt 55 yards for a score against Woody High in the quarters.

Penn-Trafford has great offensive balance and a defense that is allowing just over 10 points per game. The job John Ruane has done turning the Warriors back into a perrenial contender cannot be overstated.

Quarterback Brett Laffoon is one of the best in the WPIAL completing 91 of 135 passes for 1779 yards and 24 touchdowns all while throwing just two interceptions.

Laffoon throws a bunch to Tim Vecchio who has nearly three times as many catches as any other player on the Warriors roster with 41 for 972 yards, he has scored 15 touchdowns as well.

The running game for PT is powered by Devin Austin who has averaged nearly seven yoards per carry for the year. Austin has 193 carries for 1335 yards and a team-high 19 touchdowns on the season. He is also a pass catching threat out of the backfield with a dozen catches for nearly 200 yards.

The Viking defense against the Warrior offense makes this game one to watch Friday night.

#2 Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (11-0) vs #3 West Allegheny Indians (10-1) Friday, November 14th at 7:30pm @ Black Hawk Stadium on the campus of Bethel Park high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Pete Blais and Gero Von Dahn 

A pair of Hall of Fame coaches and two of the most storied programs in the history of WPIAL make this game a “can’t miss” proposition for high school football fans in the area.

These two teams are very similar. The Jags defense overwhelmed Mars in the quarterfinals and senior running back / quarterback has overwhelmed the entire WPIAL running the football all season long. TJ advanced on a 28-13 win with Kemp contributing three touchdowns and over 200 yards rushing out of the “jet” formation. 

West Allegheny has a multi-faceted run game as well, including their version of the “jet”, the “wildcat” formation featuring Chayse Dillon. Dillon totaled 153 yards and a pair of scores in West A’s 37-14 win over Franklin-Regional in the quarter-finals. 

Thomas Jefferson, playing in the semi-finals for a 16th time in 17 years is a little more ground heavy than the Indians are, in fact the Jaguars are almost ground exclusive. Through the first two playoff games this year they have attempted exactly one pass, a 26 yard completion from Kemp to tight end Corey Payne in the quarter-finals.

The Jags are all about a dominating persistent offensive line and Kemp. Kemp is the leading rusher in the WPIAL on the season with 1973 yards on 217 carries, he is also the leading scorer in the WPIAL with 39 touchdowns on the season.

Braden Pahanish will get some direct snaps as a sidecar in the “jet” to Kemp and he has rushed for 401 yards, including a bunch of the tough ones in short-yardage situations.

Sophomore quarterback Bobby Kelly has completed 9 of 18 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

The Jags leading receiver on the year is Francis Langan, but he spent the quarterfinals on crutches making it even less likely that Jags will take to the air against the defending champs.

West Allegheny quarterback Andrew Koester has just been so rock solid for Bob Palko. The senior is so experienced, calm, and cool under pressure it is a lot of fun to watch him play. He has completed 65 of 115 passes for 1201 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The receiving corps consists of Danny Guilfoil, Sean Orsini, Armand Dellovade and Tyler Scanlon. All have reached double-digits in catches led by Guilfoil’s 16 for 284 yards.

On the ground Dillon leads the Indians, despite missing multiple games with injuries the senior has piled up 811 yards on 103 carries and scored a team-high 16 touchdowns.

Terence Stephens has added 753 yards on the ground and 15 scores of his own.

It seems a lot of people have kind of forgotten about the defending champs after they lost to Central Valley in week nine. It is a mistake to do so.

#1 South Fayette Lions (11-0) vs #5 Seton-LaSalle Rebels (10-1) Friday November 14th at 7:30 pm @ Peters Township high school broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Sam Hall and Cory Campano

The Lions have won four in a row in this rivalry including a 41-14 decision back in week eight. Seton did not have their best player for that game, nor did they play their best game as a team. I expect this time around will be a much better contest.

South Fayette got more of a challenge than a lot of people expected against South Park in their second go-round of the 2014 campaign in fact the Lions trailed at the half 14-13 before putting away the upset-minded Eagles 39-21 behind three touchdown passes from Brett Brumbaugh and a pair of J.J. Walker touchdown runs.

Seton-LaSalle meanwhile won a hard-fought game against Highlands 28-21 with Danzel McKinley Lewis scoring on a run and a reception and Tyler Perone throwing for 188 yards.

This is a rematch of a quarterfinal from 2013 as well, a game won at Peters Township by South Fayette 31-7.

So this meeting will be the fourth between the two teams in a two-year span. That means there will be no surprises. There might be an “x-factor” in this game as Danzel McKinley Lewis was suspended from playing in the regular season game for Seton against South Fayette he will be a big help for the Rebels on offense as a wide out and on defenses as the Rebel’s secondary attempts to deal with the all-time leading passer in the history of the WPIAL in Brett Brumbaugh.

Brumbaugh thus far in 2014 has completed 151 of 245 passes for 2690 yards and 33 touchdowns. The Duquesne recruit has spread the ball around to his receivers with six receivers having reached 13 or more catches on the season.

The leading receiver for the Lions is Nick Ponikvar who has caught 43 passes for 810 yards and nine scores. Tight end Logan Sharp is a beast for South Fayette on both sides of the ball. Sharp has 38 catches for 676 yards and 12 touchdowns, is a monster blocking in the run game, and frankly is one of the top defensive players in AA.

The Lions ground game features Hunter Hayes, the junior has carried 145 times for 1153 yards. He is also a threat to catch it out of the backfield with 17 catches for 236 yards, he has scored a team-high 22 touchdowns on the season.

Seton’s Tyler Perone has completed 149 of 233 passes for 2044 yards and thrown eight interceptions. Perone has all the throws and with all his weapons back in play he will have a much better chance to make this a competitive game against the Rebels’ chief rival.

McKinley Lewis is the leading receiver for the Rebels with 48 catches for 684 yards, he is also a threat to run with nearly two hundred yards on the ground. He has scored 13 touchdowns on the season and can score from anywhere on the field. Also on the edges for the Rebels DeQuay Broadwater and Paris Ford are big-time big play threats.

Ricky Mellick leads the Rebels rush attack with now 1102 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. Liam Sweeney does a great job in blitz pick-up and run blocking for Mellick. The fullback will also be counted on the get the tough yards in short-yardage situations.

#1 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans (11-0) vs #5 Avonworth Antelopes (10-1)
Friday, November 14th at 7:30pm @ Mars Athletic Complex in Mars, Pennsylvania broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Greg Warnock and Brandon Showers

Another conference rivalry game is featured in this semi-final as the Lopes and Trojans meet again. Avonworth in the past two seasons has only lost three games, all three losses coming at the hands of  the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Trojans. The ‘Lopes have been close in those games including having late leads in both games last year. This year, they lost 28-0 to CWNC at J.C. Stone Field but even that game was scoreless at halftime.

 Avonworth had little trouble in the quarterfinals, defeating Riverside 31-14, Josh Drwal threw for a pair of scores and also got an interception on the defensive side of the ball. Jamal Hughley rushed for 118 yards in the win.

The Trojans scored 20 unanswered points after falling behind to South Side in the quarterfinals to win 20-6. P.J. Fulmore scored three rushing touchdowns in the win. Jerome Turner did not play, that hurts the Trojans on offense but might hurt them a little worse on the defensive side of the ball. If he is not able to go again it will greatly enhance the ‘Lopes chances of pulling the upset.

Avonworth has gotten great production from Drwal after losing Zach Chandler to injury for the season back in week three. Drwal has completed 54 of 94 passes for 563 yards and five touchdowns. He is also a very good runner of the football with 408 yards on the ground and five more touchdowns.

Paul Heflin leads the ‘Lopes in receptions with 28 catches for 285 yards, he is also a threat in the return game for Avonworth.

Running back Jamal Hughley is the key to the Avonworth offense though. The junior is a load at 6’2’’ and 200 pounds, he is fast and strong and has great moves. He was limited greatly in the regular season loss by an ankle injury suffered in the first series of the game. For the year he has 650 yards rushing and 15 scores, as well as 21 catches for 412 yards.

Kevin Simpson and Brandon Wasko have combined to rush for over 900 yards for Avonworth on the year as well.

North has a pair of thousand yard rushers on the roster in P.J. Fulmore and Jerome Turner but again Turner’s availability is in question for this game. Fulmore leads the Trojans with 1370 yards on 158 carries, he has scored 26 touchdowns. Sophomore Mario Latronica takes a lot of inside hand –offs coming in motion and has amassed 740 yards on 70 attempts on the season.

Quarterback Adam Sharlow has completed 57 of 93 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns. He is a threat to hurt you with his feet as well.

Fulmore and Vashon Graham are the go-to receivers for Sharlow with a combined 36 catches for 618 yards.

The mental hurdle that Avonworth must get over in believing they can beat North Catholic might be the biggest story in this game.

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