WPIAL bracketology: Chris Harlan, Don Rebel make final predictions for football pairings

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Saturday, October 24, 2020 | 4:10 AM


This was a football season unlike any other.

Coaches, players, administrators and fans endured covid-19 concerns and cancellations, but for the most part, WPIAL teams successfully completed the regular season, an achievement that shouldn’t go overlooked.

Now, it’s playoff time.

The WPIAL will reveal its six playoff brackets at 7 p.m. Saturday on the TribLive High School Sports Network. While we await the official brackets, here’s how the Trib’s Chris Harlan and Don Rebel would seed theirs.

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Class 6A

Format: Top four teams overall.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

4-Seneca Valley at 1-North Allegheny

3-Central Catholic at 2-Mt. Lebanon

Harlan: Canon-McMillan (3-3) is the odd team out despite a 24-17 win over Mt. Lebanon in Week 2. The Big Macs lost to all three of the other playoff teams. North Allegheny and Seneca Valley had their Week 1 matchup canceled by coronavirus, but they’ll meet here in the playoffs.

Don Rebel’s bracket

4-Seneca Valley at 1-North Allegheny

3-Central Catholic at 2-Mt. Lebanon

Rebel: Mt. Lebanon’s thrilling victory at Seneca Valley makes this bracket much easier. The Blue Devils victories over both Central Catholic and Seneca Valley earn them a home semifinals game. Both final four contests should be dandies.

Class 5A

Format: Top two teams from each conference and two wild cards.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

8-South Fayette at 1-Pine-Richland

5-Upper St. Clair at 4-Penn-Trafford

7-Woodland Hills at 2-Peters Township

6-Penn Hills at 3-Gateway

Harlan: Gateway is the defending WPIAL Class 5A champion but the Gators missed three games because of covid-19 shutdowns (including a matchup with Penn-Trafford). I drop them below Peters Township, which owns a win over P-T. Woodland Hills beat Penn Hills in Week 2, but I flip them here to avoid first-round conference rematches.

Don Rebel’s bracket

8-Woodland Hills at 1-Pine-Richland

5-Upper St. Clair at 4-Penn-Trafford

7-South Fayette at 2-Gateway

6-Penn Hills at 3-Peters Township

Rebel: The big question is who will be No. 2, Gateway or Peters Township? Gators have been No. 2 all year so why change now. South Fayette and Woodland Hills should earn the wild card spots over North Hills.

Class 4A

Format: Top two teams from each conference and two wild cards.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

8-Hampton at 1-Aliquippa

5-Chartiers Valley at 4-Belle Vernon

7-Mars at 2-Thomas Jefferson

6-McKeesport at 3-Plum

Harlan: Thomas Jefferson’s loss Friday was a surprise. The Jaguars hadn’t lost a conference game since 2017 or a home game since 2015. As defending WPIAL and PIAA champion, TJ was the presumptive No. 1 seed, but that’s no longer the case after losing 20-14 to McKeesport. Would the committee move undefeated Plum ahead of them? Maybe. Hampton sneaks into the second wild-card spot after Montour loses to Beaver.

Don Rebel’s bracket

8-Hampton at No. 1 Aliquippa

5-Belle Vernon at 4-Chartiers Valley

7-McKeesport at 2-Plum

6-Mars at 3-Thomas Jefferson

Rebel: McKeesport stuns Thomas Jefferson and 4A unravels. Aliquippa is now the top-seed and TJ falls to No. 3. Jaguars could be a No. 2 but we reward Plum for an undefeated regular season. McKeesport as tri-champs is a no-brainer for a wild card while Montour getting upset by Beaver is good news for Hampton.

Class 3A

Format: Top two teams from each conference and two wild cards.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

8-South Park at 1-Central Valley

5-East Allegheny at 4-Keystone Oaks

7-Avonworth at 2-North Catholic

6-Freeport at 3-Elizabeth Forward

Harlan: South Park’s 30-19 win Friday over Mt. Pleasant complicates this bracket — and could leave the Vikings on the outside looking in. East Allegheny and Freeport are difficult to separate since their Allegheny 7 matchup was canceled. They played three common opponents and the combined scores were 84-49 for EA and 81-46 for Freeport.

Don Rebel’s bracket

8-Freeport at 1-Central Valley

5-South Park at 4-Keystone Oaks

7-Avonworth at 2-North Catholic

6-East Allegheny at 3-Elizabeth Forward

Rebel: You have to take both Freeport and East Allegheny from the Allegheny 7 since they each had one loss and did not play each other. Avonworth gets the nod over Mt. Pleasant, although that could change if Avonworth can’t play because of covid-19 issues.

Class 2A

Format: Top team from each conference and four wild cards.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

8-Western Beaver at 1-Beaver Falls

5-Apollo-Ridge at 4-Washington

7-Laurel at 2-McGuffey

6-Serra Catholic at 3-Sto-Rox

Harlan: Serra Catholic played only four games all season. Is that enough to make the playoffs? If not, then New Brighton could join this bracket. The Lions tied Laurel for second in the Midwestern but lost to the Spartans, 27-25, in Week 5. The WPIAL committee has added flexibility in Class 2A since it’s only required to take the top team from every conference and can fill the rest with wild cards.

Don Rebel’s bracket

8-Western Beaver at 1-Beaver Falls

5-Serra Catholic at 4-Apollo-Ridge

7-Washington at 2-Sto-Rox

6-Laurel at 3-McGuffey

Rebel: Even though the committee doesn’t have to take top two teams in each conference, it works in this scenario. New Brighton is the only third place team that could debate a spot. Sto-Rox gets the edge over McGuffey based on not having lost a game on the field this year. You’re not supposed to be punished for losing games this season, if that’s the case, undefeated Allegheny Conference foes Serra and Apollo-Ridge did not play and are a perfect 4 vs. 5 battle of unbeaten teams.

Class A

Format: Top two teams from each conference and two wild cards.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

If Shenango wins Saturday

8-Avella at 1-Clairton

5-Rochester at 4- California

7-Springdale at 2-Shenango

6-Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at 3- Jeannette

If Rochester wins Saturday

8-Avella at 1-Clairton

5-Springdale at 4-Rochester

7-Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at 2-Jeannette

6-Shenango at 3-California

Harlan: It’s impossible to finalize this bracket until the Shenango at Rochester game is complete. The battle for first place in the Big Seven was halted Friday night with Rochester ahead 13-0. The game was scheduled to be completed at noon Saturday.

Don Rebel’s bracket

8-Avella at 1-Clairton

5-Shenango/Rochester at 4-California

7-Springdale at 2-Shenango/Rochester

6-Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at 3-Jeannette

Rebel: The winner of Shenango/Rochester is No. 2 with the loser falling to No. 5. Wild cards OLSH and Springdale get bumped past Avella, but kudos to the Eagles nonetheless.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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