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

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Thursday, November 9, 2023 | 7:25 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 A 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 Class A quarterfinals. A preview of Greensburg Central Catholic against South Side 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 A quarterfinals

No. 5 Union (9-2) vs. No. 4 Clairton (9-2)

7 p.m. Friday, David ‘Red’ Ullum Field at Armstrong Stadium at Armstrong

Coaches: Kim Niedbala, Union; Wayne Wade, Clairton

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Union defeated Burgettstown in the first round, Laurel in the quarterfinals, Rochester in the semifinals and Bishop Canevin in the Class A championship game; Clairton defeated OLSH in the opening round, then fell to Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals

Last week: Union 51, Burgettstown 37; Clairton 44, Laurel 7

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL A semifinals next week to play the winner of No. 8 Greensburg Central Catholic against No. 1 South Side

Players to watch: Braylon Thomas, Union (Sr., 6-1, 190, QB/DB); Michael Wright, Clairton (Sr., 5-10, 180, QB)

Team notes

• Union: Last week was a good start for the defending champion Scotties. Even though they trailed by 13 points in the third quarter to Burgettstown, 27 unanswered third-quarter points helped Union win the first-round contest by two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Braylon Thomas accounted for seven touchdowns, throwing for 223 yards and three TDs while rushing for 109 yards and four scores.

• Clairton: Following an 0-2 start to the season, the Bears have won nine in a row after eliminating Laurel in a first-round home playoff game. The Wright brothers had the right stuff for Clairton in Week 10 as Michael Wright threw for 75 yards and three touchdowns while Donte Wright rushed for 101 yards and a score and the Bears defense limited the Spartans to 136 yards of total offense.

Historic factoids

This is the first meeting between Union and Clairton.

The 2022 WPIAL Class A football championship for Union was the first outright title in program history. The Scotties reached the 1959 championship game and tied Avonworth, 13-13, thus earning Class A co-championship honors with the Antelopes.

Clairton has won the second-most district football championships with 14. Only Aliquippa with 19 has more. The golden years for the Bears are 1929, 1931, 1954 in 3A, and 1989, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019 in Class A. The last three-year drought without a title began 20 years ago from 2003-2005.

No. 10 Rochester (6-4) vs. No. 2 Fort Cherry (11-0)

7 p.m. Friday, Joe Pe DeMichela Stadium at West Allegheny

Coaches: Gene Matsook, Rochester; Tanner Garry, Fort Cherry

2022 WPIAL playoffs: Rochester defeated Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round and Fort Cherry in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Union in the semifinals; Fort Cherry defeated Monessen in the opening round, and then lost to Rochester in the quarterfinals

Last week: Rochester 20, Cornell 19; Fort Cherry 50, Jefferson-Morgan 16

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL A semifinals next week to play the winner of No. 6 California against No. 3 Bishop Canevin

Players to watch: Amari Curry, Rochester (Sr., 6-1, 190, RB); Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry (Soph., 6-1, 170, QB)

Team notes

• Rochester: Even though they struggled down the stretch, the Rams know how to turn it on in November as they won in overtime on the road in the playoff opener last week at Cornell. Senior running back Amari Curry led the way for Rochester with 151 yards. Fellow senior back Dom Guido scored two touchdowns, including one in OT, before Felipe Gomes Castilho booted the PAT for the winning point.

• Fort Cherry: The Rangers didn’t mess around in their playoff opener, turning a six-point lead after one quarter into a 27-point cushion over Jefferson-Morgan by halftime. Sophomore quarterback Matt Sieg threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns for Fort Cherry, while rushing for 71 yards and a score. Nathan Heirendt and Ethan Faletto each had a pair of rushing touchdowns for the undefeated Rangers.

Historic factoids

These teams met in the quarterfinals a year ago with Rochester beating Fort Cherry, 30-14. Antonio Laure scored four touchdowns for the Rams on runs of 3, 15, 30 and 3 yards. Matt Sieg ran for a 62-yard touchdown and threw an 18-yard scoring strike to Shane Cornali for the other Rangers TD.

This is the 17th all-time meeting between Rochester and Fort Cherry. The Rams have won 12 times and the Rangers have won four times.

This is the fifth playoff meeting between the teams with Rochester winning last year and in the previous three postseason clashes. The Rams won 31 years ago, 35-6, in a 1992 postseason game. Nine years later in 2001, the Rams prevailed over the Rangers, 27-19. Finally in 2007, Rochy eliminated Fort Cherry, 35-6.

No. 6 California (10-1) at No. 3 Bishop Canevin (9-1)

7 p.m. Friday, Norwin Stadium

Coaches: Ed Woods, California; Richard Johnson, Bishop Canevin

2022 WPIAL playoffs: California lost to South Side in the first round; Bishop Canevin defeated Jeannette in the first round, Clairton in the quarterfinals and South Side in the semifinals before losing to Union in the Class A championship game

Last week: California 44, Jeannette 6; Bishop Canevin 49, Leechburg 6

Up next: The winner advances to the WPIAL A semifinals next week to play the winner of No. 10 Rochester against No. 2 Fort Cherry

Players to watch: Spencer Petrucci, California (Sr., 6-0, 190, RB/MLB); Kyle Olszewski, Cornell (Jr., 5-11, 175, QB)

Team notes

• California: The Trojans picked up a postseason victory for the Tri-County South Conference in improving their winning streak to eight in a row. Senior running back Spencer Petrucci continued his strong season with 205 yards rushing and four touchdowns, including a 67-yard kickoff return. For the season, Petrucci now has 1,529 yards rushing with 22 touchdowns, two behind quarterback Jake Layhue who has 24 TDs.

• Bishop Canevin: The Crusaders took a successful first step toward a possible third straight WPIAL Class A title-game appearance with a win in the opening round over Leechburg. Junior quarterback Kyle Olszewski connected on 7 of 9 passes for 210 yards and four touchdowns while teammate Marquis Carter ran for 160 yards and scored two touchdowns last week.

Historic factoids

This is only the fifth meeting between California and Bishop Canevin. The two split the first four contests with the Trojans winning in 2013 and 2017 by a combined score of 79-21, while the Crusaders claimed victory in 2012 and 2016 by a combined score of 95-35.

California picked up its first playoff victory in the 1949 championship game. The Trojans completed a perfect 10-0 season and its only WPIAL football championship with a win in the Class 2A finals over Dormont, 38-6.

Bishop Canevin’s first WPIAL playoff win was in 1983. Seven years later, they stunned Washington to win the 1990 2A championship, 21-20. The Crusaders’ second district title came two years ago when they defeated OLSH, 42-7, to win 2021 Class A gold.

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