WPIAL Class 3A high school football playoff preview for Nov. 17, 2023

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | 6:33 PM

Final Four Friday is set for four WPIAL classifications as 16 teams try to earn a trip to the North Shore in Pittsburgh the day after Thanksgiving.

In Class 3A, the top four seeds have advanced to the semifinals led by defending champion and top seed Belle Vernon.

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.


No. 4 East Allegheny (9-2) vs. No. 1 Belle Vernon (9-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Norwin Stadium

Coaches: Dom Pecora, East Allegheny; Matt Humbert, Belle Vernon

2022 WPIAL playoffs: East Allegheny defeated Mt. Pleasant in the first round before losing to Belle Vernon in the quarterfinals; Belle Vernon had a first-round bye, then defeated East Allegheny in the quarterfinals, Freeport in the semifinals and Avonworth in the 3A championship game

Last week: East Allegheny 28, South Park 21; Belle Vernon 49, Deer Lakes 6

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 3A championship game next Friday at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh to battle the winner of No. 3 Elizabeth Forward against No. 2 Avonworth

Players to watch: Michael Cahill, East Allegheny (Sr., 6-1, 175, QB/S); Braden Laux, Belle Vernon (Sr., 6-4, 215, QB/DE)

Team notes

• East Allegheny: The Wildcats made their postseason debut after a first-round bye with a hard-fought seven-point win over a South Park team that beat EA in Week Zero this season. East Allegheny senior quarterback Michael Cahill was near perfect in completing 16 of his 18 passes for 254 yards and two TD tosses, one to Kam Marshall for 70 yards and one to Amir Rollins on the game-winner for 9 yards.

• Belle Vernon: It was a good start to the playoffs for the defending district and state champion Leopards as they jumped out to a 30-6 lead by halftime and cruised to a 43-point win. Senior quarterback Braden Laux continued his strong season by hitting on 14 of his 18 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, two to star senior running back Quinton Martin.

Historic factoids

This is only the second time East Allegheny and Belle Vernon have met on the football field, and the first time was last year in the postseason.

In the 2022 quarterfinals, Belle Vernon crushed East Allegheny, 55-7. The Wildcats actually scored first before the Leopards point up 55 unanswered points. Quinton Martin rushed for 204 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first two quarters. Michael Cahill scored the lone touchdown for EA.

East Allegheny captured its only WPIAL football championship 31 years ago when the Wildcats rolled past Riverside at Three Rivers Stadium in the Class 2A finals, 33-13. Three years later, Belle Vernon won its first district football title by beating Franklin Regional in the 1995 Class 3A championship game at Three Rivers, 22-6.

No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (10-1) vs. No. 2 Avonworth (11-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Pete Antimarino Stadium at Gateway

Coaches: John DeMarco, West Mifflin; Duke Johncour, Avonworth

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Elizabeth Forward had a first-round bye, then lost to Shady Side Academy in the quarterfinals; Avonworth had a first-round bye, then defeated Beaver in the quarterfinals and Shady Side Academy in the semifinals before losing to Belle Vernon in the 3A championship game

Last week: Elizabeth Forward 42, West Mifflin 21; Avonworth 41, Beaver 21

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 3A championship game next Friday at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh to battle the winner of No. 4 East Allegheny against at No. 2 Avonworth

Players to watch: Charlie Nigut, Elizabeth Forward (Jr., 5-7, 170, RB/WR/DB); Dimitri Velisaris, Avonworth (Fr., 5-6, 155, RB/SB/CB)

Team notes

• Elizabeth Forward: The Warriors broke the same script they were following from 2022 when they avoided a quarterfinal upset last week. EF bounced back from its Week 9 loss to Belle Vernon by beating West Mifflin by 21 points. Elizabeth Forward junior running back Charlie Nigut rushed for 170 yards and scored twice on a 1-yard first-quarter touchdown and a 14-yard fourth-quarter score.

• Avonworth: The Antelopes relied on a strong rushing attack last week to remain undefeated and knock off Western Hills Conference rival Beaver for the second time this season. Freshman running back Dimitri Velisaris led the way for the ‘Lopes with 202 yards rushing and two touchdowns while teammate Andrew Kuban ran for 133 yards and two scores.

Historic factoids

This is the first meeting between Elizabeth Forward and Avonworth.

Elizabeth Forward has never won a WPIAL football championship. The Warriors reached the WPIAL 3A championship game three years ago and lost to Central Valley, 35-0.

Avonworth is trying to make it back to the 3A title game for the second straight season after falling to Belle Vernon in the 2022 finals, 24-7. The Antelopes shared gold in 1959 after tying Union in the Class A championship game, 13-13. Four year ago, the ‘Lopes captured their first outright crown by beating Washington in the 2019 2A finals, 28-6.

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