WPIAL Class 2A football breakdown: Can Steel Valley reach title game for 4th straight season?
By: Don Rebel
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 | 11:18 AM
Predicting what will happen in Class 2A football since the expansion to six classifications three years ago has been a steal … or Steel.
Steel Valley has dominated Class 2A, appearing in all three championship games at Robert Morris and winning district gold in 2016 and ’18.
But the winds of change are in the air at the home of the Ironmen and perhaps in the classification overall.
It wasn’t a straight-up trade, but after the West Mifflin football coaching job opened, Rod Steele left Steel Valley to take over the Titans.
Just-released West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo packed his bags and returned down the road to Steel Valley for a third time as coach and his second stint as head coach.
Despite losing key players to graduation and transfers, Steel Valley is considered one of the teams to beat in the seven-team Allegheny Conference. Shady Side Academy finished a game in front of the Ironmen last fall to win the conference crown.
“The team to beat in the Allegheny Conference is a tough one,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said.
“There are new coaches, and several teams had key players graduate. Other teams were young, so it is tough to say who the front-runner is.”
Washington won the 2017 WPIAL Class 2A title and tied for the Interstate Conference championship last year with Charleroi.
While the Little Prexies were ousted by Steel Valley in a rematch of the ’17 championship game in last year’s quarterfinals, Charleroi reached the semifinals.
Wash High is the team to beat and the Trib HSSN Preseason No. 1 team in Class 2A. McGuffey also is a top-five team from the Interstate.
“We’ve had a good offseason, and the kids have been committed,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “We have a strong group of seniors returning this year.”
Former district doormats Freedom and Mohawk enjoyed terrific 2018 seasons as they shared the Midwestern Athletic Conference crown, but both were hit hard by graduation.
“The great and difficult thing about the MAC is how good it is top to bottom,” Mohawk coach Tim McCutcheon said. “Most games can go either way, and it will come down to who can finish.”
Riverside, Neshannock and New Brighton are expected to be in contention for the MAC title.
Burgettstown cruised to the Three Rivers Conference championship by two games, but when it came to the postseason, the Blue Devils lost in the quarterfinals. South Side Beaver surprised many, as the No. 8 seed in the tournament reached the finals only to lose big to Steel Valley.
“They (Burgettstown) bring a lot of talent back, both in the skill positions and up front,” South Side Beaver coach Luke Travelpiece said.
Brentwood and Carlynton were young last year but bring back a lot of experienced talent.
1. Washington (10-2)
The Little Prexies return the leading passer in school history in senior quarterback Zach Swartz, who threw for more than 2,285 yards a year ago with 28 TDs. Also, leading rusher Dylan Asbury returns.
2. Burgettstown (10-1)
3. Steel Valley (12-2)
4. McGuffey (8-3)
5. Riverside (6-4)
• (Records are from 2018)
C.J. COLE – McGuffey, sr., WR/DB
Cole averaged nearly 19 yards per catch a year ago. He is an outstanding athlete at 6-4 and is a standout for the basketball team and finished fourth in the PIAA triple jump this past spring.
CHASE MITCHELL – Washington, sr., OT/DT
Mitchell has great size at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds and has been getting a lot of Division I attention with offers from William & Mary, Howard and Liberty, among others.
TYLER PADEZAN – East Allegheny, sr., WR/DB
Padezan was the leading receiver for East Allegheny last fall, averaging better than 20 yards per catch while scoring six touchdowns. He has offers from several schools, including Albany, Rhode Island and William & Mary, among others.
MAX SCHIPANI – Seton LaSalle, sr., RB/DB
Schipani was Seton LaSalle’s second-leading passer, third-leading rusher and fifth-leading receiver last season and also is a standout at safety. He is being recruited by Air Force, Albany, Cornell and Rhode Island, among others.
ZACH SWARTZ – Washington, sr., QB/P
Swartz is the all-time leading passer in Wash High history, having thrown for more than 2,000 yards the last two seasons and tossing 28 touchdown passes in both his sophomore and junior campaigns. He helped lead Little Prexies to a WPIAL championship two years ago.
Sept. 6: Avonworth at Steel Valley
Another homecoming for Ray Braszo as he returns for his second stint as head coach of the Ironmen and opens up conference play against the always-tough Antelopes.
Sept. 14: Mohawk at Freedom
Both teams were hit hard by graduation, but this is a matchup of MAC co-champs from a year ago and a rematch of a 27-21 thriller won by Mohawk a year ago.
Oct. 25: Washington at McGuffey
This game was for a share of the conference title a year ago with the Little Prexies winning a wild one 42-36. This will likely be for a piece of the Interstate crown again.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.