WPIAL Class A football championship preview: Fort Cherry vs. South Side

Tuesday, November 21, 2023 | 9:07 PM

It will be a battle of unbeaten teams in the first of four title games at Acrisure Stadium on the North Shore of Pittsburgh in the Class A championship game.

Undefeated and No. 2-seeded Fort Cherry will battle unbeaten and top-seeded South Side in what should be the perfect lid-lifter to Championship Friday.

This is the 95th season of Class A football in the WPIAL.

Oakmont (Riverview school district) was awarded the very first Class A championship in 1928. The first five champions were awarded the title before the first championship game was played 90 years ago when Ramsay (Mt. Pleasant school district) defeated East Pittsburgh (Woodland Hills school district), 20-6, to win the 1933 crown.

The winner of this year’s WPIAL Class A championship game will play in the PIAA semifinals on Dec. 1 or 2 against the winner of the game between District 9 champion Redbank Valley (11-1) and District 10 winner Cambridge Springs (12-1).

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

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

• 75 years ago: An impressive run began in the fall of 1948 as Bridgeville (Chartiers Valley school district) blanked Marion (Marion Center school district), 24-0. It was the first of back-to-back titles for Bridgeville, which outscored its opponents in the two title games, 88-0.

• 50 years ago: Jefferson-Morgan broke a long playoff drought when it reached the Class A postseason. Back in 1973, the Rockets’ red glare produced gold when Jefferson-Morgan defeated Western Beaver in the finals, 35-6. The Rockets shut out Midland the following year to repeat as Class A champs.

• 40 years ago: Ten years later, the Golden Beavers lived up to their name. Western Beaver defeated Frazier in the 1983 Class A finals, 29-16, to win the first of its two football championships. It would win again 11 years later in 1994.

• 30 years ago: It was one of the most lopsided WPIAL championship games ever. In the 1993 Class A title game at Three Rivers Stadium, Duquesne scored early and often on their way to a blowout win over West Greene, 55-0.

• 25 years ago: The battle for the bridge took center stage as the yearly battle between Rochester and Monaca would be played for the bridge name and district gold. In the 1998 offseason, the name was the Rochester-Monaca Bridge after the Rams beat the Indians, 24-18. The two played again in the 2000 title game with Rochester winning again by a touchdown.

• 10 years ago: The black and orange run was finally done. The record-tying five-year district championship run in Class A by Clairton between 2008-2012 finally ended when the Bears lost in the semifinals. (Cardinal Wuerl) North Catholic shut out Sto-Rox, 14-0, to win the 2013 title at Heinz Field.

• Five years ago: Purple power prevailed as onetime-doormat Our Lady of the Sacred Heart became a WPIAL champion when it defeated perennial power Rochester in the Class A title game, 28-6. The Chargers’ Tyler Bradley threw for 169 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for one score.

WPIAL Class A championship

Fort Cherry Rangers (13-0) vs. South Side Rams (13-0)

11 a.m. Friday, Acrisure Stadium

This is the 22nd meeting between Fort Cherry and South Side, and the series is tight. South Side has 11 wins, including the last 10 matchups, while Fort Cherry has nine victories. There was one tie, a 6-6 final in 1987.

These schools first played each other in the fall of 1971 with the Rangers shutting out the Rams, 16-0. Fort Cherry’s last win in this series was in 1977, 14-6. South Side’s most recent victory was four years ago when it earned a shutout in the 2019 season, 26-0.

The only time these teams played each other in a WPIAL playoff game was 24 years ago when South Side eliminated Fort Cherry in a Class A semifinal at Hampton, 44-18.

The Rangers are trying to win their first district title in this, their third WPIAL championship game. Fort Cherry lost to Rochester in the 2001 finals, 27-19, and lost four years earlier to Riverview in the 1997 title game, 19-14.

Fort Cherry has the highest-scoring offense in the WPIAL with 593 points scored for an average of 45.6 per game. The Rangers have done so thanks in part to the play of sophomore quarterback Matt Sieg, who has passed for 1,228 yards and 18 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,619 yards and 31 touchdowns, which is third most in the WPIAL.

You’ll excuse the Rams if they party like its 1999. That season 24 years ago was the last time South Side won a conference championship, a district title and its only state crown. The 2023 Rams won the Big 7 title and are one win from WPIAL gold and three victories from a second PIAA state championship. South Side’s first WPIAL championship came in 1970 when it defeated Chartiers-Houston, 20-12.

South Side has the second-best team defense in the WPIAL, trailing only Class 5A champion Peters Township. The Rams have allowed only 114 points this season for an average of 8.7 per game. This while scoring 43.1 points per game. The Rams only have one shutout, but they have only allowed one score in a game in nine of their 13 victories.

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