WPIAL Class 5A high school football playoff previews for Nov. 10, 2023

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Thursday, November 9, 2023 | 6:54 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 two WPIAL Class 5A semifinals set for Friday (to go along with two 6A semifinals and 16 quarterfinals in the other four classes).

Here are preview capsules on both 5A matchups.

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 5A semifinals

No. 5 Moon (6-5) vs. No. 1 Peters Township (11-0)

7 p.m. Friday, South Fayette Stadium

Coaches: Ryan Linn, Moon; T.J. Plack, Peters Township

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Moon and Peters Township did not qualify

Last week: Moon 35, Gateway 31; Peters Township 35, Franklin Regional 0

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 5A championship game next Saturday afternoon at Norwin against the winner of No. 3 Pine-Richland vs. No. 2 Penn Hills

Players to watch: Josh Bladel, Moon (Sr., 5-9, 175, RB/LB); Nolan DiLucia, Peters Township (Soph., 6-2, 175, QB/SS)

Team notes

• Moon: The strong finish following a 0-3 start continued last week with the Tigers’ sixth victory in their last eight games. Whether it’s the wing-T or the wildcat offense, Moon’s clear identity is running the ball. Senior running back Josh Bladel rushed for 165 yards and scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 1-yard run as Moon knocked off Big East champion Gateway.

• Peters Township: The Indians might be the most dominant team in the entire WPIAL. They average 40 points per game and have only been held under 31 points once all year, while only two teams have scored double-digit points against them. Sophomore QB Nolan DiLucia threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Franklin Regional. He has 2,168 yards passing this season.

Historic factoids

In Week 6 this season, Peters Township scored 21 points in the final nine minutes of the game to blow open a competitive contest as Peters defeated Moon, 40-7. Indians quarterback Nolan DiLucia threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns while Nazir Brookins led the Tigers with 60 yards rushing.

This is the 11th all-time meeting and the series is deadlocked. Including this year’s victory, Peters Township has five wins and Moon has five wins. The Indians won last year’s meeting, 48-8. The first meeting in the series was won 32-6 by the Tigers in 1967.

This is the second time these programs have met in the WPIAL playoffs. Four years ago, Peters Township eliminated Moon in a 2019 5A quarterfinal, 33-7. Indians senior wide receiver Josh Casilli had 183 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns. Jeremiah Dean had the lone score for the Tigers.

No. 3 Pine-Richland (8-3) vs. No. 2 Penn Hills (9-2)

7 p.m. Friday, Martorelli Stadium in West View

Coaches: Jon LeDonne, Pine-Richland; Charles Morris, Penn Hills

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Pine-Richland defeated Penn-Trafford, Woodland Hills and Upper St. Clair to win the 5A championship; Penn Hills did not qualify

Last week: Pine-Richland 51, Bethel Park 6; Penn Hills 63, Penn-Trafford 28

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL 5A championship game next Saturday afternoon at Norwin against the winner of No. 5 Moon vs. No. 1 Peters Township

Players to watch: Ethan Pillar, Pine-Richland (Sr., 5-11, 200, RB/LB); Julian Dugger, Penn Hills (Sr., 6-3, 200, QB)

Team notes

• Pine-Richland: The district and state championship script from a year ago is repeating itself as the Rams continue to play well after a slow start. In their playoff opener last week, Pine-Richland senior Ethan Pillar continued to lead the offense with 169 yards and four touchdowns in the win against Bethel Park. He has rushed for 1,232 yards and has 22 touchdowns.

• Penn Hills: Senior quarterback Julian Dugger was a big part of the successful WPIAL boys basketball championship run earlier this year and hopes to continue that golden feeling in football. The Indians’ first step came in a 35-point rout of Penn-Trafford in the 5A quarterfinals when Dugger was 6 of 7 passing for 173 yards and four touchdowns, plus he ran for 75 yards and a score.

Historic factoids

In their Class 5A Northeast Conference clash in Week 2, Penn Hills picked up a big conference road win with a victory at Pine-Richland, 26-20. Julian Dugger threw for 68 yards and two touchdowns, plus he rushed for 150 yards and two more scores for the Indians. Ethan Pillar rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown for the Rams.

This is the 10th all-time meeting between Pine-Richland and Penn Hills with the Rams winning six times and the Indians claiming three victories. The last three matchups have been close, with the average margin of victory being 6 points. The average margin of victory in their first six meetings was nearly 33 points.

This is third time the two current conference foes have met in the district postseason and both previous contests were Quad-A playoff lid-lifters. Penn Hills won in the 2008 first round, 37-7, while Pine-Richland prevailed in the 2015 4A opener, 42-7.

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