WPIAL Class 3A football championship preview: Avonworth vs. Belle Vernon

Wednesday, November 22, 2023 | 9:31 PM

A rematch is set in the third of four title games Friday at Acrisure Stadium on the North Shore of Pittsburgh in the Class 3A championship game.

Undefeated and No. 2-seeded Avonworth will face defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Belle Vernon for a second straight season.

This is the 109th season of Class 3A football in the WPIAL.

Wilkinsburg was awarded the first 3A championship in 1914. The Tigers earned their golden stripes a year later by beating Pittsburgh Fifth Avenue in the 1915 finals, 12-7.

The winner of this year’s WPIAL 3A championship game will play in the PIAA semifinals Dec. 1 or 2 against the winner of the game between District 6 champion Martinsburg Central (12-0) and District 10 winner Hickory (10-2).

To prepare you for the 3A championship football game Friday evening, we open up a fresh tin of WPIAL football championship factoids.

However, first, let’s acknowledge some championship anniversaries from Class 3A.

• 100 years ago: Washington was declared champions of Class 3A in 1923, which was then the only classification in the district.

• 75 years ago: New Castle defeated Monongahela to win the 1948 Class 3A championship, 43-14. The Red Hurricane would repeat a year later in a much closer title game, a one-point victory over McKeesport.

• 50 years ago: Seven years before expansion to four classes, New Castle again won more gold, winning the 1973 Class 3A championship over Gateway, 3-0. The Gators were the defending champs after beating Jeannette the previous season.

• 40 years ago: It was the second of four straight trips to the 3A finals for Aliquippa and once again, the Quips settled for silver. Mt. Pleasant won 16-14 to take the 1983 3A championship. Aliquippa returned to win gold in 1984 and 1985. The Vikings won another 3A title three years late in 1986.

• 30 years ago: Blackhawk completed a three-peat by shutting out McGuffey, 28-0, in the 1993 3A finals. The Cougars defeated Valley in 1991 and blanked Knoch in 1992, posting rare back-to-back championship game shutouts. Blackhawk won again in 1996, giving the Cougars four titles in six years.

• 25 years ago: “Zero Tolerance” was all the rage in the 1998 season thanks to a dominating year by the Moon defense. The Tigers allowed only 48 points and posted an incredible nine shutouts on their way to a district title, secured with a 34-7 win over Blackhawk.

• 10 years ago: West Allegheny repeated as WPIAL 3A champions in 2013 with a 16-6 victory over Central Valley in the finals. It was the Indians’ third title in six years and came one season after defeating West Mifflin in the 2012 title game, 34-8.

• Five years ago: For all the gold collected by Aliquippa in recent decades, the 2018 title was the first Class 3A championship the Quips won in nearly 30 years. The real story of the title game five years ago was who Aliquippa beat. The Quips knocked off rags-to-riches Derry in the finals, 42-19, ending an incredible turnaround season for the Trojans.

WPIAL Class 3A championship

Avonworth Antelopes (12-0) vs. Belle Vernon Leopards (10-1)

5 p.m. Friday, Acrisure Stadium

This is the second meeting between Avonworth and Belle Vernon with the first coming last year in the WPIAL 3A championship game.

The Leopards defeated the Antelopes in the 2022 3A finals, 24-7. Quinton Martin did a little bit of everything for BVA, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown, catching two passes for 41 yards and a score and returning a punt 51 yards for a touchdown. Brandon Biagiarelli ran for 47 yards and scored the lone touchdown for the Antelopes.

Avonworth is over .500 in WPIAL playoff games with a postseason record of 21-20-1. Meanwhile, Belle Vernon is now 26-30 all-time in the district playoffs, including five straight wins.

The Antelopes are trying to win their third district title in this, their fifth WPIAL championship game. Avonworth beat Washington to win the 2019 2A title, 28-6. In 1959, the ‘Lopes tied Union, 13-13, to share the Class A crown. The Antelopes lost last year to Belle Vernon and in the 2014 Class A finals to Clairton, 46-14.

The Leopards are looking to repeat and win the school’s third district football championship. BA beat Franklin Regional in the 1995 3A finals, 22-6. Belle Vernon is 2-4 in WPIAL title contests having lost to Blackhawk in 1996, 24-6, to West Allegheny in the 1999 title game, 37-12, to Thomas Jefferson in the 2019 4A finals, 41-7, and to Aliquippa in the 2021 4A championship, 28-13.

Belle Vernon led Class 3A in team offense and defense this season, scoring 462 total points while allowing only 107 total points. That averages out to 42 points per game scored and less than 10 points per game allowed. Senior quarterback Braden Laux has thrown for over 1,300 yards while Martin has nearly 1,000 yards rushing.

Undefeated Avonworth is third in Class 3A in total offense behind Belle Vernon and Beaver with 446 points scored, for an average of just over 37 points per game. The Antelopes had the No. 2 defense in the class with 160 points allowed, an average of just over 13 points per game given up. Sophomore quarterback Carson Bellinger has over 1,500 yards passing while freshman running back Dimitri Valisaris and senior Andrew Kuban have combined for over 1,400 yards on the ground.

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