WPIAL Class 3A high school football playoff previews for Nov. 10, 2023

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Thursday, November 9, 2023 | 7:07 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 3A 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 three of the four 3A matchups. A preview of Deer Lakes at Belle Vernon appears elsewhere on Trib HSSN.

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 3A quarterfinals

No. 12 South Park (7-4) at No. 4 East Allegheny (8-2)

7 p.m. Friday, Churchman Memorial Stadium at East Allegheny

Coaches: Brian Abbey, South Park; Dom Pecora, East Allegheny

2022 WPIAL playoffs: South Park lost to Shady Side Academy in the first round; East Allegheny defeated Mt. Pleasant in the first round before losing to Belle Vernon in the quarterfinals

Last week: South Park 37, Knoch 20; East Allegheny had a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 3A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 8 Deer Lakes at No. 1 Belle Vernon

Players to watch: Eric Doerue, South Park (Jr., 6-0, 200, RB/OLB); Michael Cahill, East Allegheny (Sr., 6-1, 175, QB/S)

Team notes

• South Park: The Eagles could have forced a three-way tie for second place in the 3A Western Hills Conference with a Week 9 win, but they lost to West Mifflin. South Park ended a two-game losing streak with a first-round road win last week at Knoch. Junior running back Eric Doerue rushed for 150 yards and scored four touchdowns. He has 1,376 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns for the season.

• East Allegheny: The Wildcats earned a week off with an opening-round bye after winning the 3A Allegheny 6 Conference, the program’s first conference title since 2000. EA started the season 1-2 but has won seven straight games heading into the postseason. Senior quarterback Michael Cahill leads the East Allegheny offense, which averages nearly 29 points a game.

Historic factoids

These teams played in August to open the season in Week Zero. The game was supposed to be at South Park, but a storm the day before knocked out power at the stadium and just before the game was postponed, East Allegheny said it could host. South Park running back Erie Doerue rushed for 183 yards to lead the Eagles to the 22-16 win. East Allegheny quarterback Michael Cahill threw for 203 yards and a touchdown.

This will be the 14th meeting between South Park and East Allegheny. The Eagles have 10 wins to the Wildcats’ three victories. South Park won the first five against EA and had won three in a row before the teams split the last two years with the Wildcats winning in Week Zero last season and the Eagles claiming victory this year.

Seven of the previous 13 matchups have been decided by 10 points or less. The first meeting was 33 years ago when South Park defeated East Allegheny, 20-14, in 1990.

No. 7 Beaver (9-2) at No. 2 Avonworth (10-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Lenzner Field at Avonworth

Coaches: Cort Rowse, Beaver; Duke Johncour, Avonworth

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Beaver defeated Deer Lakes in the first round, then lost to Avonworth 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: Beaver 42, Shady Side Academy 7; Avonworth had a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 3A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 6 West Mifflin at No. 3 Elizabeth Forward

Players to watch: Drey Hall, Beaver (Jr., 5-7, 165, RB/OLB); Carson Bellinger, Avonworth (Soph., 5-9, 165, QB/P)

Team notes

• Beaver: The Bobcats ran wild in the first-round playoff victory over visiting Shady Side Academy. Junior running back Drey Hall ran for 183 yards and scored four touchdowns while sophomore quarterback Travis Clear threw for 115 yards and a touchdown for Beaver. Since losing to Avonworth five weeks ago, the Bobcats have won four straight games by a combined score of 192-48.

• Avonworth: The Antelopes earned a first-round bye after finishing the regular season with a perfect overall record and winning the 3A Western Hills Conference. While the Avonworth ground attack has been split with six runners gaining over 100 yards this season, the passing attack has been in the good hands of junior Carson Bellinger, who has thrown for 1,328 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Historic factoids

Avonworth defeated Beaver in Week 6 this season in a thriller, 33-28. Andrew Kuban had 145 yards rushing and 104 yards receiving for the Antelopes. Amari Jackson had three touchdowns for the Bobcats, including a pick-six.

This is only the fourth meeting between the schools in 81 years. Before 2022, the previous time they met on the football field, the Antelopes edged the Bobcats, 7-0, in 1942. In the 2022 3A quarterfinals, Brandon Biagiarelli scored three touchdowns as Avonworth eliminated Beaver, 28-7.

Avonworth leads the all-times series 7-3 with the Antelopes winning in 1915, 1920, 1941, 1942, twice in 2022 and in 2023 while the Bobcats were triumphant in 1919, 1922 and 1940.

No. 6 West Mifflin (7-4) at No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (9-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Elizabeth Forward Warrior Stadium at Elizabeth Forward HS

Coaches: Rod Steele, West Mifflin; John DeMarco, Elizabeth Forward

2022 WPIAL playoffs: West Mifflin defeated Southmoreland in the first round, then lost to Freeport in the quarterfinals; Elizabeth Forward had a first-round bye, then lost to Shady Side Academy in the quarterfinals

Last week: West Mifflin 40, Mt. Pleasant 14; Elizabeth Forward had a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 3A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 7 Beaver at No. 2 Avonworth

Players to watch: Armand Hill, West Mifflin (Fr., 5-10, 165, RB/DB); Ryan Messina, Elizabeth Forward (Soph., 6-3, 195, QB)

Team notes

• West Mifflin: Since a midseason injury to DelRon While, it has been all up Hill for the Titans. Freshman running back Armand Hill has been sensational since taking over as the feature back, running for 313 yards in a win over Quaker Valley in Week 7, then for an encore, ran for 495 yards in a victory over Hopewell, the second-most in a single game in WPIAL history.

• Elizabeth Forward: The Warriors are hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. Last year, EF was undefeated and lost to Belle Vernon in Week 9 for the 3A Interstate Conference title, then following a first-round bye, the Warriors were upset by Shady Side Academy, the same scenario as this year. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Messina has thrown for 1,569 yards and 14 TDs for Elizabeth Forward.

Historic factoids

This is the 50th all-time meeting between these old 3A Big Eight Conference rivals. West Mifflin holds the advantage, 30-19, and the Titans had won eight straight against the Warriors before EF won the last two years.

This is the second meeting of the season between the blue and gold against the red and black. In Week 1, the Warriors defeated the host Titans, 24-7. Ryan Messina threw for 99 yards and a touchdown and Jace Brown rushed for 81 yards and two scores for EF. DelRon White led all rushers with 113 yards for WM.

This is only the second time these programs have met in the WPIAL playoffs. The Titans blanked the Warriors in the 2000 postseason, 14-0. West Mifflin won the first meeting against Elizabeth Forward in 1961, 56-12.

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