WPIAL Class 2A football breakdown: Beaver Falls, other perennial powers to duke it out

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Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 12:01 AM


In one sense, WPIAL Class 2A football looks radically different this season.

Four conferences have been consolidated into three with the total number of teams in the class dropping from 27 to 23.

Nine of the 27 teams that played 2A football in the WPIAL last season moved out. That includes Laurel, which won the Midwestern Athletic Conference with a 7-0 record, and two other playoff teams in Shady Side Academy and Beth-Center.

Five of the 23 teams in the class this year are newcomers. That includes Imani Christian, with former Sto-Rox coach LaRoi Johnson at the helm, and Keystone Oaks, a solid program no doubt looking forward to not being stuck in the same Class 3A conference with Central Valley again.

Plenty of changes, to be sure.

But in another very important sense, things haven’t changed in Class 2A much at all.

Who are the favorites to claim a WPIAL championship in November? Mostly the same blue blood programs that are in the hunt most years.

There’s Beaver Falls, five-time WPIAL champs, most recently in 2020, soon to join the 700-win club.

There’s Washington, seven-time WPIAL champs, fourth-most wins in district history.

Steel Valley, which made three straight WPIAL finals from 2016-18, winning two of them.

Sto-Rox, six-time WPIAL finalist since 2000.

And of course Serra Catholic, which last year claimed the program’s third WPIAL championship.

“In Double-A, you have some teams that have great tradition and football is a really important part of the community,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “And you have some schools there that are always going to have really good athletes. I think Double-A is going to be really fun.”

Steel Valley appears to be the team to beat in the Allegheny Conference. Superstar running back Nijhay Burt is off to Eastern Illinois, but Kent State recruit Cruce Brookins is a dynamic leader at quarterback and Miami (Ohio) recruit Greg Smith anchors a physical offensive line.

Serra Catholic suffered massive graduation losses but could give the Ironmen a run in the Allegheny if it continues to play the kind of ball-hawking defense that brought a WPIAL title last season.

Washington is probably the favorite in the Century and comes into this season with a chip on its shoulder, having failed to win a playoff game the last two years. The Little Prexies will rely on playmaker Davoun Fuse at quarterback.

Realignment has Washington sharing a conference with a dangerous Sto-Rox team that returns six all-conference players from a year ago, including star quarterback Josh Jenkins and disruptive defensive back Dre Miller-Ross.

Beaver Falls is the odds-on pick in the Midwestern Athletic Conference. With Jaren Brickner, the school’s all-time leading passer, leading rusher Isaiah Aeschbacher and leading receiver Trey Singleton all back, the Tigers look like a dominant force.

There are wild-card teams that could upset the apple cart, of course.

For instance, coaches all over Class 2A are wondering what kind of program Johnson will build at Imani Christian. As offensive coordinator in 2017, Johnson led Imani to the WPIAL finals. He helped Sto-Rox to a 37-9 record over the four seasons since.

Western Beaver also fits the wild-card criteria. The Golden Beavers have a four-year starter at quarterback in Xander LeFebvre and are bringing in two receivers 6-foot-3 or taller as part of their co-op with Lincoln Park.

“At our level, it’s not like you need 11 dominant football players like some of the other classes,” Beaver Falls coach Nick Nardone said. “If you’ve got five or six really good kids, you can fill in the other spots and be competitive. Those schools that get a handful of kids through their recruiting could be playing for a championship any given year.”

THE FAVORITE

1. Beaver Falls (9-4)

If the Tigers had turned the ball over, say, three or four times in the WPIAL finals against Serra Catholic last season, they’d probably be coming into this season as two-time defending champs. Instead, they turned it over nine times and are looking for redemption. Pretty much everybody’s back – a dangerous crop of skill players and four starters on the line.

Preseason rankings

2. Steel Valley (11-1)

3. Washington (9-1)

4. Sto-Rox (12-1)

5. Serra Catholic (15-2)

THE STARS

Cruce Brookins

Steel Valley, Sr., QB/CB

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Brookins is of Class 2A’s top quarterbacks, but what makes him stand out is his physicality. He seeks out contact on offense and delivers hits on defense, which is where he’ll probably end up at Kent State.

Davoun Fuse

Washington, Sr., QB/DB

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Fuse probably projects as a linebacker at Rutgers, but under center for Washington, he’s a game breaker with a long stride, great acceleration and 4.4 speed.

Josh Jenkins

Sto-Rox, Sr., QB

A lanky, 6-foot-3 lefty, Jenkins can burn defenses with his legs, but he’d rather stand in the pocket and throw deep-ball touchdowns with his strong and accurate arm.

Dre Miller-Ross

Sto-Rox, Sr., WR/DB

The 6-foot, 171-pound Miller-Ross has the speed to make plays on offense, but it really shows on defense. He runs to the ball and is adept at forcing turnovers.

Greg Smith

Steel Valley, Sr., OT/DT

Smith is no lumbering 6-5, 315-pounder. He has the athleticism to get out and pull in the run game and the mean streak to finish his blocks with authority. A Miami (Ohio) recruit.

DON’T MISS

9.23: Beaver Falls at Neshannock

The Lancers are the Tigers’ top competition in the MAC, and last year this was a barnburner, won by Beaver Falls on a Jaren Brickner TD pass in the final two minutes.

10.7: Washington at Sto-Rox

This could be a doozy of a conference rivalry the next two years. And what a quarterback matchup – Davoun Fuse vs. Josh Jenkins.

10.28: Steel Valley at Serra Catholic

The Ironmen beat the Eagles, 28-7, in the regular season finale last year, then had to watch their conference rivals go on to win a WPIAL title.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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