WPIAL Class 4A high school football playoff previews for Nov. 10, 2023

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Thursday, November 9, 2023 | 7:01 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 WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals set for Friday to go along with four Class 6A and 5A semifinals and 12 quarterfinals in the other three classes.

Here are preview capsules on three of the four 4A matchups. A preview of Latrobe vs. Aliquippa appears elsewhere on Trib HSSN.

Plus, we have a bonus PIAA subregional preview involving City League runner-up University Prep.

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 4A quarterfinals

No. 5 Central Valley (8-3) vs. No. 4 Mars (9-2)

7 p.m. Friday, Moe Rubenstein Stadium at Ambridge

Coaches: Mark Lyons, Central Valley; Eric Kasperowicz, Mars

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Central Valley had a first-round bye, then defeated Laurel Highlands in the quarterfinals and Thomas Jefferson in the semifinals before losing to Aliquippa in the 4A championship game; Mars lost to McKeesport in the first round

Last week: Central Valley 28,Highlands 7; Mars 44, Chartiers Valley 19

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 4A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 9 Latrobe at No. 1 Aliquippa

Players to watch: Steven Rutherford, Central Valley (Jr., 5-11, 168, QB); Evan Wright, Mars (Sr., 5-9, 185, RB)

Team notes

• Central Valley: Following its third loss of the season in Week 9 to Aliquippa, Central Valley bounced back nicely with a three-touchdown victory over visiting Highlands. Junior quarterback Steven Rutherford continued his strong season against the Golden Rams, throwing for 79 yards and a score and rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown.

• Mars: The 4A Greater Allegheny Conference champions started the postseason strong with a 25-point victory over visiting Chartiers Valley. Senior running back Evan Wright rushed for 159 yards and scored four touchdowns. He now has a WPIAL-leading 31 touchdowns on the season. Planets junior quarterback Luke Goodworth threw for 133 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Colts.

Historic factoids

This is only the third meeting between Central Valley and Mars and all three have come in the WPIAL playoffs.

In the 2013 Class 3A quarterfinals, the Warriors defeated the Fightin’ Planets, 35-21, thanks to a John George 81-yard pick-six late in the game. Two years later in the 2015 3A semifinals, Central Valley clinched a third straight trip to the WPIAL finals with a 48-41 victory over the Fightin’ Planets. Warriors QB Chris Callaghan threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a 70-yard run. Freshman running back Garrett Reinke scored three touchdowns for the Fightin’ Planets.

Mars was 5-16 all-time against Center and 0-3 against Monaca, the two schools that merged in 2010 to form Central Valley. One of the losses to Center was in the 1998 playoffs when the Trojans beat the Planets, 37-0.

No. 10 Trinity (7-4) at No. 2 McKeesport (9-1)

7 p.m. Friday, George Smith Field at Weigle-Schaeffer Stadium at McKeesport

Coaches: Dan Knause, Trinity; Matt Miller, McKeesport

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Trinity did not qualify; McKeesport defeated Mars in the first round and Armstrong in the quarterfinals before losing to Aliquippa in the semifinals

Last week: Trinity 49, North Catholic 0; McKeesport had a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 4A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 6 Thomas Jefferson at No. 3 Montour

Players to watch: Jonah Williamson, Trinity (Soph., 6-3, 190, QB/FS); Anthony Boyd, McKeesport (Jr., 5-10, 180, RB/S)

Team notes

• Trinity: The Hillers have won four of their last five games, including last week’s opening-round victory over North Catholic. In that game, Trinity registered its second shutout of the season nine weeks after blanking Chartiers Valley in Week 1. Sophomore QB Jonah Williamson threw for 59 yards and ran for 77 yards and a score, giving him 1,709 passing with 12 TDs and 897 yards rushing with 11 scores in 2023.

• McKeesport: The Tigers earned a first-round bye after beating Thomas Jefferson in Week 9 by three touchdowns to secure the 4A Big Seven Conference title. Winners of seven straight, McKeesport is led on the ground by junior running back Anthony Boyd, who has 1,101 yards rushing and has a team-high 13 touchdowns. Keith and Kemon Spell have combined for 715 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Historic factoids

In Week 4 this season, McKeesport jumped out to a commanding halftime lead, 28-0, and cruised to a conference win over Trinity, 35-7. Anthony Boyd had 122 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Tigers while Jonah Williamson threw for 132 yards and ran for 57 yards and a score for the Hillers.

This is the 11th all-time meeting between the programs and Trinity has never beaten McKeesport in the first 10. The last four wins in the series has come since 2020 with the Tigers outscoring the Hillers in those four wins, 129-34.

McKeesport also beat Trinity four straight years between 2002-2005. In the first meeting between the two, the Tigers beat the Hillers, 41-7, during the 1994 regular season.

No. 6 Thomas Jefferson (9-2) at No. 3 Montour (9-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Thomas J. Birko Memorial Stadium at Montour

Coaches: Bill Cherpak, Thomas Jefferson; Lou Cerro, Montour

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Thomas Jefferson had a first-round bye and defeated Latrobe in the quarterfinals before losing to Central Valley in the semifinals; Montour defeated Hampton in the first round before losing to Aliquippa in the quarterfinals

Last week: Thomas Jefferson 57, Kiski Area 13; Montour had a bye

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 4A semifinals next week against the winner of No. 10 Trinity at No. 2 McKeesport

Players to watch: Brody Evans, Thomas Jefferson (Sr., 6-3, 190, QB); Jake Wolfe, Montour (Sr., 6-1, 185, QB/DB)

Team notes

• Thomas Jefferson: The Jaguars bounced back from a Week 9 loss to McKeesport for the 4A Big Seven Conference championship with a convincing 44-point win over Kiski Area in the playoff opener. The platoon quarterbacks were working to perfection as senior Brody Evans threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns while junior Luke Kosko was 5 of 5 passing for 114 yards and two scores.

• Montour: Following a victory over West Allegheny in Week 9 and a second-place finish in the 4A Parkway Conference, the Spartans earned the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye. Montour senior quarterback Jake Wolfe is having a tremendous season with his arm and his legs. He has thrown for 2,258 yards and 25 touchdowns and is tops on the team in rushing with 698 yards and 13 scores.

Historic factoids

This is the seventh time that Thomas Jefferson and Montour have met and the Jaguars have never lost to the Spartans, winning all six previous meetings.

These teams have only met twice in the regular season. Thomas Jefferson beat Montour in 2000 and 2001 by a combined score of 64-0.

In the four previous postseason clashes, the Jaguars shut out the Spartans in the 2007 Class 3A finals, 34-0, behind 248 yards rushing and four touchdowns by Orlando Torres. TJ won in the 2016 first round, 35-0, the Jaguars blanked the Spartans again in the 2017 semifinals, 27-0, and Thomas Jefferson eliminated Montour in the 2019 first round, 49-7.

Class 4A PIAA subregional

University Prep (7-3) at Meadville (8-2)

2 p.m. Saturday, Bender Field at Meadville HS

Coaches: Lou Berry, University Prep; Raymond Collins, Meadville

Last week: University Prep did not play; Meadville 45, Corry 13

Up next: The winner advances to the PIAA 4A first round next week to play the winner of DuBois at Juniata

Players to watch: Max Quershi, University Prep (Sr., 6-1, 195, QB); Bradyn Miller, Meadville (Jr., 5-7, 160, RB/OLB)

Team notes

• University Prep: The Wildcats won their last four regular season games and then beat Perry in the City League semifinals before losing in their most recent game to Westinghouse, 42-14, in the District 8 championship game. University Prep senior quarterback Max Quershi has completed 100 of 197 passes this season for 1,597 yards and 21 touchdowns.

• Meadville: The Bulldogs have won three straight games since losing to McDowell in early October. They defeated Corry last week to win the District 10 Class 4A championship, 45-13. Junior running back Bradyn Miller has rushed for 1,168 yards this season with a team-high 20 touchdowns. Sophomore running back Jordan Lawrence leads Meadville with 1,221 yards on the ground.

Historic factoids

These teams met in the PIAA preliminary round last year with Meadville beating University Prep, 40-12. Brady Walker rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns while teammate Khalon Simmons ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

This is the second meeting between these schools with the first coming last year.

Meadville is 3-0 all-time against Pittsburgh City League schools. The Bulldogs defeated University Prep last season, knocked off South in 1951, 26-6, and shut out Fifth Avenue back in 1914, 20-0.

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