WPIAL football championship factoids: A warm welcome back to the North Side

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021 | 5:45 PM


Last year marked the first time a WPIAL football championship game was not played at either Heinz Field or Three Rivers Stadium since 1982.

We’re back!

The district finals from Class A to 5A will be played for the first time ever in a two-day event at Heinz Field.

You can watch the A and 2A title games only on Trib HSSN on Friday, then the 3A, 4A and 5A championships can be heard on the network on Saturday.

History will be made Friday. Since expanding to six classifications, no team in any classification over a No. 3 seed has won a WPIAL title.

In the Class 2A finals, No. 5 Beaver Falls faces No. 6 Serra Catholic. Prior to that kickoff, No. 9 OLSH can beat them to the punch with a win over No. 3 Bishop Canevin in the Class A title game.

So to prepare for the five title games this weekend, we open up a fresh tin of WPIAL football championship factoids.

However, first let’s acknowledge some championship anniversaries.

100 years ago: Rochester and Westinghouse were declared co-champs after they played to a scoreless tie. There was no overtime back in the roaring 20s.

75 years ago: New Kensington was declared champion in AAA, Springdale beat Dormont 21-20 in AA, and East Deer knocked off Bethel Park 14-7 in A in the 1946 championships.

50 years ago: Kiski Area defeated Thomas Jefferson 16-8 in AAA, Jeannette edged Beaver 14-7 in AA, and Chartiers-Houston beat Midland 15-6 in A in the 1971 finals.

25 years ago: Woodland Hills beat North Allegheny 22-15 in AAAA, Blackhawk beat Belle Vernon 24-6 in AAA, Aliquippa defeated Mars 26-16 in AA, and Farrell edged Riverview 26-25 in A in the 1996 championships.

10 years ago: North Allegheny squeaked by Upper St. Clair 28-21 in overtime in AAAA, Montour beat Knoch 42-14 in AAA, Aliquippa defeated Jeannette 14-7 in AA, and Clairton crushed Sto-Rox 42-6 for A gold in the 2011 finals.

PIAA Class 6A

McDowell Trojans (9-2) vs. Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils (12-0)

7 p.m. Friday at Mt. Lebanon on HSSN

• McDowell picked up a victory in the PIAA quarterfinals last year without even putting the pads on. They advanced when WPIAL champion Central Catholic pulled out due to covid-related issues.

• With his victory last week, Mt. Lebanon coach Bob Palko tied Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak for the most WPIAL coaching championships with nine, eight of which he won at West Allegheny. Palko won his only PIAA crown 20 years ago when West Allegheny beat Strath Haven in the 2001 AAA state title game.

• This is only the second PIAA playoff game in the history of Mt. Lebanon football. The Blue Devils lost in the state semifinals to Cathedral Prep, 39-14, in 2000.

• McDowell has reached the PIAA semifinals four times and lost all four times. The Trojans lost to Penn Hills in 1995, Woodland Hills in 1996, Upper St. Clair in 1997 and Central York in 2020.

• This will be the first meeting between the District 7 champion Blue Devils and the District 10 champion Trojans.

WPIAL Class 5A

Penn-Trafford Warriors (9-2) vs. Moon Tigers (12-0)

6 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field on HSSN

• Penn-Trafford is in search of its first WPIAL football championship after settling for silver three times. The Warriors lost a trio of heartbreakers: to Upper St. Clair 28-27 in the AAAA finals in 1997, to Central Catholic 24-17 in the 2015 AAAA championship game and to Gateway 21-16 in the 5A finals in 2017.

• The Warriors have won eight straight games since losing back-to-back contests to Belle Vernon and Peters Township in Weeks 2 and 3.

• Talk about even-steven. Both teams were tied for the top defenses in Class 5A, allowing only 12.2 points per game. The Warriors were second in offense, averaging 33.3 points per game while the Tigers were third at 29.3 points per game.

• Moon is trying to win its second WPIAL football championship and first in 23 years. The Tigers rode a strong defense to the title in 1998, beating Blackhawk, 34-7 in the AAA championship game at Three Rivers Stadium.

• The Tigers are one of five undefeated teams left in the WPIAL with Mt. Lebanon, Belle Vernon, Central Valley and North Catholic. They currently have the second-longest winning streak in the district with 13 wins in a row, dating to last year. That is second only to Central Valley’s 24 in a row. Governor Mifflin is the only other 5A team in the state without a loss.

• This is the seventh all-time meeting between the teams with Penn-Trafford leading the series, 3-2-1. It has been a while since their last meeting, however. Moon won that game 3-0 in 1979. The two programs met five straight years from 1972-1976 with the Warriors winning three of the first four meetings. The game played in 1976 finished in a 6-6 tie. None of the six game were decided by more than seven points.

WPIAL Class 4A

Aliquippa Quips (10-1) vs. Belle Vernon Leopards (10-0)

3 p.m. Saturday at at Heinz Field on HSSN

• Aliquippa continued its mind-numbing WPIAL-record championship appearance streak last week and is playing in the district finals for a 14th straight year. Thomas Jefferson is a distant second at six straight championship appearances, accomplished twice. Aliquippa is 5-8 in the 13 previous championship games.

• The Quips proved that it is best to take the Parkway on the Highway to Heinz. The two-time 4A Parkway Conference champs have kept another streak alive. This marks the 12th straight year that a team from the Parkway Conference has reached the district finals. The last time a team from the Parkway didn’t make it was in 2005. (Before you question my math, which is prudent most times, there was not Parkway Conference for four years between 2016-2019.)

• These were the highest-scoring offenses and best defenses in Class 4A. Aliquippa averages 42.6 points per game while Belle Vernon is second with a 40.5 average points per game. The Quips are also first on defense, allowing only 9.7 points per game while the Leopards have given up an average of 11.4 points per game.

• While Aliquippa has won 17 WPIAL football championships, Belle Vernon is trying to win a second district crown and first in 26 years. The Leopards beat Franklin Regional, 22-6, to win the 1995 AAA championship at Three Rivers Stadium. Belle Vernon returned to the finals three other times, losing to Blackhawk in 1996, West Allegheny in 1999 and Thomas Jefferson in 2019.

• Parkway Conference streak aside, the Big Eight Conference keeps its streak of championship game appearance alive thanks to Belle Vernon. Thanks to six straight trips to the finals by Thomas Jefferson, the last time a championship game was played without a Big Eight Conference team was in 2014.

• This is the fourth meeting between these programs and the previous three were all playoff games won by Aliquippa. The Quips beat the Leopards 8-7 in the 1980 AAA quarterfinals, 14-7 in the 1989 AAA quarterfinals and 33-25 in the 2020 4A semifinals.

WPIAL Class 3A

North Catholic Trojans (12-0) vs. Central Valley Warriors (12-0)

Noon Saturday at Heinz Field on HSSN

• North Catholic is trying to win a second WPIAL football championship and first in eight years. The Trojans captured gold with a 14-0 win over Sto-Rox in the 2013 WPIAL Class A title game.

• Offense shining or defense shining, it doesn’t matter this postseason for the Trojans. They beat Keystone Oaks in the quarterfinals 48-41 before shutting out Avonworth in the semifinals 7-0. It was the seventh shutout of the season for NC.

• In the only battle of unbeaten in the 2021 WPIAL championships, these teams are ranked first and second in average points scored and points allowed in 3A. Central Valley has averaged 47.7 points scored and only 6.3 points allowed in 12 games while North Catholic has averaged 40.7 points and given up only 7.7 points per game in its 12 wins.

• In its 12th year of existence after the merger of Center and Monaca before the 2010-11 school year, Central Valley is trying to three-peat and win a fifth WPIAL football championship after winning district crowns in 2010, 2014, 2019 and 2020.

• The Warriors were also the district runners-up in 2013 and 2015. Mark Lyons has led CV to an all-time record of 122-29 in their 12 years and they currently have the WPIAL and PIAA’s longest current winning streak at 24 in a row.

• This is the fifth meeting between the two programs. They tangled for four straight years in nonconference games with Central Valley winning in 2016 (42-13), 2017 (52-28) and in 2019 (35-14). North Catholic’s lone win came in 2018 (14-13). The Trojans did have a winning record against the two schools that merged to form Central Valley. They were 3-2 against Monaca and 1-0 against Center. The win over Center was in a 1980 playoff game, 14-9.

WPIAL Class 2A

Serra Catholic Eagles (13-1) vs. Beaver Falls Tigers (9-3)

5 p.m. Friday at Heinz Field on HSSN

• Serra Catholic is trying to win a third WPIAL football championship. The Eagles soared to gold in 1981, beating Clairton in the Class A finals, 12-0. Twenty-six years later, Serra again won the Class A district crown, beating Springdale in the 2007 finals, 10-6.

• The Eagles are now 37-17 in five years under coach Jose Regus. In the five previous years, the program was 10-38.

• Serra Catholic is eighth in 2A in scoring, averaging 28.6 points per game, but fourth in points allowed with an average of 8.8 points per game, including only 12 points given up in back-to-back playoff wins over unbeaten Laurel and Sto-Rox. Beaver Falls was fourth in offense in 2A, averaging 35.4 points per game while the defense was sixth, yielding an average of 15.1 points per game.

• Beaver Falls has won five WPIAL football championships. For the first two, the Tigers were declared WPIAL champions in 1928 and 1960. Beaver Falls beat Riverside in the 1984 AA finals 14-13, rival Aliquippa in the 2016 3A title game 35-22, then last year rolled past Sto-Rox in the 2A championship game 43-30

• The Tigers’ title defense started out slow this fall, losing their first three games to Blackhawk, Aliquippa and Laurel by a combined score of 109-66. However, the black and orange have turned it around with nine straight wins by an average of nearly 32 points per game.

• This will be the first meeting between No. 6 seed Serra Catholic and No. 5 seed Beaver Falls. This is also the first championship since before the expansion to 6A in 2016 where both teams are lower than a No. 3 seed.

WPIAL Class A

Bishop Canevin Crusaders (12-1) vs. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers (9-3)

2 p.m. Friday at Heinz Field on HSSN

• Bishop Canevin is making its first WPIAL title appearance in 31 years. The Crusaders stunned Washington in the 1990 WPIAL Class AA championship game at Three Rivers Stadium, 21-20, when reserve quarterback Paul Bell hit Dan Dohmlo on a fourth-down pass for a 42-yard touchdown with two minutes left in regulation to tie the game. Eric Handlow’s extra point proved to be the game winner.

• Richard Johnson is in his second year as Crusaders coach and the team has an overall record of 17-4. In the two previous years, Bishop Canevin was a combined 4-16. This is the third title game for the program. Besides the victory in 1990, the Crusaders lost to Jeannette in the 1983 AA finals, 6-0.

• Bishop Canevin finished third in Class A in offense, averaging 34.2 points per game. The Crusaders have the top defense in the classification, allowing only 6.9 points per game. OLSH is 12th in Class A in offense with an average of 21.8 points per game and eighth in defense, yielding 17.3 points per game.

• Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is trying to win its second WPIAL championship. The first came three years ago when the Chargers knocked off rival Rochester, 28-6, to win the WPIAL Class A championship.

• The OLSH football program is 12 years old this season. The Chargers did not make the playoffs until their seventh season in 2016. Since then, they have made the playoff six straight years and have a district playoff record of 7-4.

• This is the seventh scheduled meeting between the two programs; however, only five games have been played. The 2019 regular season scheduled game became a 1-0 OLSH win when Bishop Canevin forfeited. The Crusaders won the first two meetings by a combined score of 94-0 in the Chargers’ first two years of existence. Since then, including the forfeit, OLSH has won three of the last four meetings. The last time they played, the Chargers won 42-0 in 2018. None of the five previous meetings were close, with a 21-point OLSH victory in 2014 the closest margin in the series.

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