WPIAL Class 2A high school football playoff previews for Nov. 10, 2023

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Thursday, November 9, 2023 | 7:18 PM


Some fans are calling it Final Four Friday while others refer to it as Quarterfinals Friday. Whatever classification you are focused on, welcome to the second night of the 2023 WPIAL football playoffs.

There are four Class 2A WPIAL quarterfinals set for Friday (to go along with four semifinals in Class 6A and 5A and 12 quarterfinals in the other three classes.).

Here are preview capsules on the four 2A matchups.

Plus, we have a bonus PIAA subregional preview involving City League champion Westinghouse.

Don’t forget after the games on Friday to tune in to the WPIAL football scoreboard show for all the results and plenty of recaps starting at 9:15 p.m.

Class 2A quarterfinals

No. 9 Western Beaver (7-4) at No. 1 Steel Valley (8-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Campbell Field in Munhall

Coaches: Ron Busby, Western Beaver; Ray Braszo, Steel Valley

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Western Beaver lost to Ligonier Valley in the first round; Steel Valley had a first-round bye, then defeated McGuffey in the quarterfinals, Neshannock in the semifinals and Beaver Falls in the 2A championship game

Last week: Western Beaver 38, Serra Catholic 21; Steel Valley has a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 2A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 5 Mohawk against No. 4 Imani Christian

Players to watch: Jaivin Peel, Western Beaver (Fr., 6-0, 160, QB); Donald Barksdale, Steel Valley (Jr., 5-10, 172, RB/DB)

Team notes

• Western Beaver: The Golden Beavers’ high-powered offense was on display in the postseason opener at Norwin as they beat Serra Catholic by 17 points. The WPIAL’s leading passer, freshman Javin Peel, showed the playoff lights weren’t too bright when he threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles. Senior running back Tyson Florence rushed for 225 yards and two scores.

• Steel Valley: The Ironmen won the 2A Allegheny Conference and for a second straight year, they earned the top seed in the WPIAL 2A playoffs and a first-round bye. Last year, they parlayed that into a district title. This season, the Barksdale brothers have been golden. While an injury has sidelined Da’Ron Barksdale, junior running back Donald Barksdale has rushed for 1,458 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Historic factoids

This is only the third meeting between Western Beaver and Steel Valley. The teams split nonconference games four and five years ago. The Ironmen were 49-14 winners in 2018, while the Golden Beavers were victorious in 2019, 7-6.

Steel Valley has won six WPIAL football championships. The first came in 1982 when they shut out Aliquippa to win the 3A title, 10-0. The Ironmen were also golden in 1988, 1989, 2016, 2018 and 2022.

Western Beaver has won two district football crowns. The Golden Beavers rolled past Avella, 42-27, to win football gold in 1976. Then 18 years later, they shut out Riverview, 42-0, to win the Class A title in 1994.

No. 5 Mohawk (9-2) vs. No. 4 Imani Christian (8-2)

7 p.m. Friday, Moon Tigers Stadium at Moon

Coaches: Tim McCutcheon, Mohawk; LaRoi Johnson, Imani Christian

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Mohawk lost to McGuffey in the first round; Imani Christian did not qualify

Last week: Mohawk 42, Burrell 0; Imani Christian 52, Waynesburg 14

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 2A semifinals next week to play the winner of No. 9 Western Beaver at No. 1 Steel Valey

Players to watch: Jay Wrona, Mohawk (Sr., 6-0, 170, QB); Dayshaun Burnett, Imani Christian (Jr., 6-4, 220, QB/TE/LB)

Team notes

• Mohawk: The Warriors were dominant in bouncing back from their Week 9 loss to Neshannock in the de facto 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference title game, as they blanked Burrell in the opening round. Mohawk senior quarterback Jay Wrona hit on 6 of 9 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns while leading rusher Justin Boston ran for 149 yards and two scores.

• Imani Christian: Playing without starting quarterback Steve Vandiver, who was ruled ineligible for the playoffs by the PIAA, junior Dayshaun Burnett has stepped in the last two weeks and the team has not missed a beat. After throwing for 318 yards in a Week 9 win over Yough, Burnett threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 102 yards and a score in the win over Waynesburg in Round 1.

Historic factoids

This is the first meeting between Mohawk and Imani Christian.

This is the ninth time Mohawk has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs and the Warriors have never advanced past the district quarterfinals. Last week’s victory over Burrell was the fourth postseason triumph. The first came in 2005 against Jeannette, 33-0, the second was in 2018 over Seton LaSalle, 48-0, and the most recent before this fall was two years ago when they defeated Chartiers-Houston, 34-12.

This is the fourth time in the brief history of Imani Christian that the Saints have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs. In 2016, they beat OLSH then lost to Rochester, and in 2018, they lost to OLSH in the first round. In 2017, the Saints went marching to the WPIAL Class A finals with wins over Sto-Rox, OLSH and California before losing to Jeannette in the title game, 35-34.

No. 10 Beaver Falls (6-5) at No. 2 Neshannock (9-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Bob Bleggi Stadium at Neshannock

Coaches: Nick Nardone, Beaver Falls; Fred Mozzocio, Neshannock

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Beaver Falls had a first-round bye and defeated Ligonier Valley in the quarterfinals and Sto-Rox in the semifinals before falling to Steel Valley in the 2A championship game; Neshannock defeated Burrell in the first round and Washington in the quarterfinals before losing to Steel Valley in the semifinals

Last week: Beaver Falls 20, Keystone Oaks 7; Neshannock had a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 2A semifinals next week to play the winner of No. 6 McGuffey and No. 3 Washington

Players to watch: Da’talian Beauford, Beaver Falls (Sr., 6-0, 180, RB/MLB); Jino Mozzocio, Neshannock (Soph., 5-10, 170, QB/CB)

Team notes

• Beaver Falls: Following a loss to Mohawk in Week 6, the Tigers were under .500 at 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference, but since then, the black and orange have won three of their last four games. Beaver Falls senior running back Da’talian Beauford continued his hot streak in the playoff win at Keystone Oaks with 182 yards rushing and a pair of touchdown runs.

• Neshannock: The Lancers have won nine straight games, including a Week 9 victory over rival Mohawk that gave Neshannock the 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference crown, a No. 2 seed in 2A and a first-round bye. Sophomore quarterback Jino Mozzocio is a duel threat with 906 yards passing and nine touchdowns to go along with 711 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

Historic factoids

In the first meeting of the year between these MAC rivals in Week 4, visiting Neshannock won a thriller over Beaver Falls, 27-26, in overtime. Jino Mozzocio scored on a 10-yard run in OT to give the Lancers the lead, 27-20, then Da’talian Beauford caught an 8-yard scoring pass from Da’Sean Anderson, but the Tigers try for two points and the win was incomplete. Mozzocio had 90 total yards from scrimmage for Neshannock while Beauford rushed for 127 yards and two TDs for Beaver Falls.

This is only the fifth meeting between Beaver Falls and Neshannock, with all of the contests coming in the last three years. The Tigers have three wins — in 2022 by a score of 22-0, in 2021 by a final of 28-23, and in 2020, the Tigers prevailed 46-27, while the Lancers’ lone win in the series came in September.

Seven years ago, these teams reached the district finals and each played for WPIAL gold in different classifications. Beaver Falls beat Aliquippa, 35-22, to win the 2016 3A championship while Neshannock lost to Steel Valley in the 2A finals, 49-14.

No. 6 McGuffey (8-3) at No. 3 Washington (10-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Big Mac Stadium in Canonsburg

Coaches: Ed Dalton, McGuffey; Mike Bosnic, Washington

2022 WPIAL playoffs: McGuffey defeated Mohawk in the first round, then lost to eventual champion Steel Valley in the quarterfinals; Washington upset Serra Catholic in the first round, then lost to Neshannock in the quarterfinals

Last week: McGuffey 25, Derry 13; Washington 48, Ellwood City 6

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 2A quarterfinals next week to play the winner of No. 10 Beaver Falls at No. 2 Neshannock

Players to watch: Connor Crowe, McGuffey (Sr., 5-8, 155, QB/RB/DB); Eddie Lewis, Washington (Jr., 5-9, 170, RB/LB)

Team notes

• McGuffey: The Highlanders bounced back from their Week 9 loss to rival Washington for the 2A Century Conference crown with a 12-point home victory over Derry in the first round of the district playoffs last week. McGuffey doesn’t throw the ball much, but senior quarterback Connor Crowe threw for a pair of touchdowns, one of 14 yards to Ryan Keith and the other of 15 yards to Rian Johnson.

• Washington: Since losing to Keystone Oaks in Week 8, the Little Prexies have righted the ship, first downing McGuffey to earn a share of the 2A Century Conference crown, then in the opening round cruising past Ellwood City by 42 points. Wash High junior running back Eddie Lewis ran for 102 yards and scored on runs of 18 and 5 yards. Ruben Gordon had a pair of scoring receptions for the Little Prexies.

Historic factoids

These Washington County rivals just met two weeks ago with Washington edging McGuffey, 13-7. Wash High quarterback Tristan Reed hit on 11 of 19 passes for 181 yards and touchdown tosses to Zxavian Woods of 72 yards and Elijah Thomas of 9 yards. Connor Crowe only threw for 24 yards, but he rushed for a team-high 72 yards and scored on a 4-yard run.

This is the 28th all-time meeting between McGuffey and Washington. The Little Prexies hold the lead in the series, 18-8-1. The teams have split their last four games.

Despite their rich history, this the first WPIAL playoff meeting between the teams. Wash High won the first meeting between the teams in 1977, 15-14. The lone tie in this rivalry was nine years later when the Little Prexies and Highlanders finished deadlocked in their 1986 clash, 14-14.

Class 2A PIAA subregional

Westinghouse (9-0) vs. Berlin-Brothersvalley (10-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Somerset Area High School Stadium

Coaches: Donta Green, Westinghouse; Doug Paul, Berlin-Brothersvalley

Last week: Westinghouse did not play; Berlin-Brothersvalley 29, Chestnut Ridge 22

Up next: The winner advances to the PIAA 2A first round next week to play the winner of the District 9 championship between Brookville and Central Clarion

Players to watch: Khalil Green, Westinghouse (Jr., 5-9, 175, QB); Pace Prosser, Berlin-Brothersvalley (Jr., 6-1, 176, QB/FS)

Team notes

• Westinghouse: Following up on their breakout 2022 season that ended with a loss in the PIAA 2A championship game, the City League champion Bulldogs remain perfect heading into the state postseason. Junior quarterback Khalil Green enjoyed a big afternoon in the District 8 finals win over University Prep with 82 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 3, 3, 61 and 18 yards.

• Berlin-Brothersvalley: The Mountaineers overcame an eight-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to defeat Chestnut Ridge by seven points in the District 5 Class 2A finals last week for their sixth straight win. Junior quarterback Pace Prosser threw for 75 yards and two touchdown passes, plus he rushed for 117 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard run.

Historic factoids

These teams squared off in a PIAA 2A subregional game last year and it was all District 8 champions as Westinghouse pounded Berlin-Brothersvalley, 59-7. The Bulldogs outgained the Mountaineers, 462-39. Quarterback Keyshawn Morsillo hit on 13 of 15 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns for Westinghouse.

This is the fifth all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and the Mountaineers. Berlin-Brothersvalley won the first three meetings in 2013, 2016 and 2017 by a combined score of 93-26.

Following last year’s win over Berlin-Brothersvalley, Westinghouse was a combined 4-9 against teams from District 5 in the state subregionals.

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