WPIAL football championship factoids: From the North Side to the North Hills
Thursday, November 12, 2020 | 6:47 PM
With district football championship games being split between Newman Stadium at North Allegheny and Martorelli Stadium in West View, this is the first time no title games have been played at either Heinz Field or Three Rivers Stadium since 1982.
Thirty-eight years ago, the district crowned North Hills the Division I and Ringgold the Division II champs in Class AAAA, while Steel Valley in AAA, Beaver in AA and Monaca in A were the other 1982 football champions.
Four years after playing two title games at the home of the Steelers and Pirates, the WPIAL moved all four championship games to Three Rivers Stadium in 1986 and played all of the title games there or at Heinz Field every year until the 2016 expansion to six classifications.
At least four title games were still played at Heinz Field after expansion until the pandemic made it impractical to hold the finals on the North Shore this weekend.
So to prepare for the five title games this weekend, we open up a fresh tin of WPIAL football championship factoids.
First, let’s acknowledge some championship anniversaries.
100 years ago: Washington beat Fifth Avenue, 14-7 in the lone 1920 title game.
75 years ago: Donora beat New Kensington, 38-6, in AAA, Dormont beat Derry Township, 30-19, in AA, and Chartiers knocked off Masontown, 6-0, in A in the 1945 championships.
50 years ago: Mt. Lebanon defeated Kiski Area, 35-12, in AAA, Richland edged Beaver, 8-7, in AA, and South Side beat Chartiers-Houston, 20-12, in A in the 1970 finals.
25 year ago: Penn Hills over Upper St. Clair, 20-13, in AAAA, Belle Vernon beat Franklin Regional, 22-6, in AAA, Burrell edged Washington, 14-13, in overtime in AA, and Farrell cruised past Monessen, 30-14, in A in the 1995 championships.
10 years ago: North Allegheny knocked off Woodland Hills, 21-14, in AAAA, Central Valley beat Montour, 24-7, in AAA, South Fayette upset Aliquippa, 19-6, in AA, and Clairton shut out Rochester, 12-0, for A gold in the 2010 finals.
Central Catholic Vikings 38, North Allegheny Tigers 24
• It was the eighth WPIAL championship for Central Catholic and the first time it ever played North Allegheny in the title game.
• Only three coaches have won more WPIAL championships than Vikings coach Terry Totten. They are Bill Cherpak of Thomas Jefferson (8), Bob Palko of West Allegheny/Mt. Lebanon (8) and Phil Bridenbaugh of New Castle (7).
• This marks the third time Central Catholic has won back-to-back WPIAL football championships. They did it in 2003-04 and again in 2015-16.
• The Vikings are the only team in WPIAL history to win back-to-back outright titles three times in the league’s highest classification. They were in a tie at two with New Castle, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.
• The title win moves Central Catholic from a tie for third to a tie for second place on the most WPIAL football championships this century. Clairton leads with 10, followed by Thomas Jefferson and Central Catholic with eight, then Aliquippa with seven and West Allegheny with six.
Pine-Richland Rams (8-0) vs. Peters Township Indians (8-0)
7 p.m. Saturday at North Allegheny
• Pine-Richland hopes to become the first school to win a WPIAL football title in five classifications. Richland won the AA title in 1969 and 1970. Pine-Richland won AAA gold in 2003, the AAAA championship in 2014 and 6A crowns in 2017 and 2018. This is their first season in Class 5A.
• The Rams are 3-1 in WPIAL title games under head coach Eric Kasperowicz, winning in 2014 over Central Catholic, 21-13, in 2017 over Central Catholic, 42-7, and in 2018 over Seneca Valley, 34-7. The Rams’ lone loss was to Central Catholic in 2019, 10-7.
• Pine-Richland was one of three WPIAL teams to average over 50 points per game. The Rams scored an average of 50.5 points per game.
• Pine-Richland and Peters Township had the top two defenses in all of Class 5A. The Rams allowed 10.3 points per game while the Indians yielded 10.9.
• Peters Township has never won a WPIAL football championship. In fact, their loss to Gateway in the 2019 5A finals was the first district title game in school history.
• After falling in the school’s first four semifinals football games, the Indians have won two straight final four contests. Peters Township upset top-seeded Penn-Trafford last year, 28-10, and edged Gateway in a rematch of the 2019 finals last week, a 20-19 triumph.
• The Indians have reached the playoffs four straight years. Not bad when you consider they only qualified for the district postseason eight times total before 2017.
• This is the eighth meeting between these teams and the second postseason clash. Pine-Richland holds a 6-1 edge with regular season wins in 2005, 2007, 2014, 2015 and in the most recent matchup, a 56-7 rout in 2017. The lone victory for Peters Township came in 2016, a 32-27 Indians victory. The Rams won the only other playoff matchup, 56-20, in the 2002 Class AAA first round.
Aliquippa Quips (9-0) vs. Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (7-1)
1 p.m. Saturday at North Allegheny
• Both Aliquippa and Thomas Jefferson reached the playoffs for a record 26th straight year.
• Aliquippa is tied with Central Valley and Beaver Falls for the longest current win streak in the WPIAL at nine straight. Thomas Jefferson had the longest streak at 21 straight before a Week 7 loss to McKeesport.
• The Quips’ record consecutive championship game streak has become a teenager. This is Aliquippa’s 13th straight WPIAL title game appearances. The black and red are 5-7 in the previous 12 championship contests.
• Aliquippa has qualified for the district postseason in 39 of the last 41 years, only missing out since 1979 in 1986 and 1994.
• The Quips have the most WPIAL playoff wins, 93, along with the most district football crowns, 17.
• Thomas Jefferson led Class 4A in defense, allowing 9.8 points per game, while Aliquippa led the classification (their first year in 4A) in offense, averaging 45 points per game.
• A win breaks a tie with Bob Palko and puts Thomas Jefferson head coach Bill Cherpak alone atop the district coaching championships list with nine.
• The Jaguars are trying to repeat as champions for the third time. TJ won three straight from 2006-08 and repeated in 2016-17. The Quips have also repeated three times, winning three straight from 1987-89 along with back-to-back titles in 1984-85 and 2011-12.
• This is only the second football meeting between Thomas Jefferson and Aliquippa, and the previous meeting was also for WPIAL gold. Forty years ago, the Jaguars defeated the Quips, 28-8, at Pitt Stadium to win the district Class AAA championship. Two legendary coaches squared off with Bap Manzini besting Don Yannessa. It was the final game in the 30-year coaching career of Manzini and TJ’s first championship.
Central Valley Warriors (9-0) vs. Elizabeth Forward Warriors (8-0)
7 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny
• In its 11th year of existence after the Center-Monaca merger before the 2010 school year, Central Valley is trying to win a fourth WPIAL football championship.
• Central Valley has qualified for the district playoffs in 10 of its 11 years, missing out only when this current group of seniors were freshmen in 2017.
• The CV Warriors have dominated their first nine games and are trying to follow the 2016 Steel Valley Ironmen as the only team to win all of their games with the mercy rule in effect. The mercy rule kicks in when the leading team has a 35-point lead or more in the second half, and the game is played with a running clock.
• Central Valley finished second in the WPIAL in scoring, averaging 53.6 points per game.
• These two Warriors were first and second in the entire WPIAL in scoring defense. Central Valley allowed only 8.6 points per game while Elizabeth Forward gave up an average of 9.1 points per game.
• It has been a year of firsts for the EF Warriors: first playoff win in 20 years, first home playoff win ever, first unbeaten and untied regular season, second unbeaten regular season since going 8-0-1 in 1966 and first title game appearance.
• Elizabeth Forward has qualified for the district football playoffs in each of the last four years, a program record.
• The EF Warriors are trying to pick up their third playoff victory this fall. In over 100 years of Elizabeth Forward football, the program had only five playoff wins prior to this season.
• This is the third all-time battle of the Warriors with Central Valley winning the two previous meetings over Elizabeth Forward, in 2016 by a score of 56-13 and again in 2017, 42-26.
Beaver Falls Tigers (9-0) vs. Sto-Rox Vikings (8-1)
5 p.m. Saturday at Martorelli Stadium
• In this, their 20th playoff season, Beaver Falls picked up WPIAL playoff victory No. 30 last week in the district semifinals victory over Apollo-Ridge.
• Beaver Falls has won four WPIAL football championships with large gaps between them. The first title came in 1928 and the next one was 32 years later in 1960, then a 24-year gap before the Tigers claimed gold in 1984, then another 32 years before BF won the first 3A championship after the six class expansion in 2016.
• For their first two championships, the Tigers were declared WPIAL champions. BF beat Riverside in 1984 and Aliquippa in 2016.
• The Tigers, who won the Midwestern Athletic Conference by the widest margin of any district conference this season, two full games, had the highest average offense by scoring 45.7 points per game.
• Five years ago, Sto-Rox finished the season 1-8. Now they are making their second straight trip to the WPIAL championship game despite moving up this season from Class A to 2A.
• After a forfeit loss to Carlynton in Week 1, the Vikings have rolled off eight straight wins. While dominating the regular season to earn a share of the Three Rivers Conference, Sto-Rox has earned two tight victories in the postseason, winning 21-20 over Laurel in the quarterfinals and 49-38 over Serra Catholic in the 2A semifinals.
• Sto-Rox is in a championship funk. In the 33 years since winning it all, the Vikings have lost five title games in a row, taking home silver in the 2003, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2019 Class A finals. In 2003, they lost to Springdale, 2013 was to North Catholic, and the other three were to Clairton.
• Sto-Rox won WPIAL football championships in 1966 and 1987 while the combination of Stowe and McKees Rocks won three crowns between 1935-37.
• This is the sixth all-time meeting between Beaver Falls and Sto-Rox and the second in the postseason. The Tigers won back-to-back games in 1996-97 by scores of 28-6 and 28-27 and 10 years later beat the Vikings, 28-6, in 2007. The lone victory for Sto-Rox was a 27-20 conquest in 2006. The only other time the Tigers and Vikings squared off in the playoffs was in a 2009 Class AA quarterfinal game won by Beaver Falls, 35-22.
Clairton Bears (8-0) vs. Jeannette Jayhawks (8-1)
11 a.m. Saturday at Martorelli Stadium
• This is the third time in the last five years Clairton has faced Jeannette in the WPIAL Class A championship game. The Bears have won both and outscored the Jayhawks by a combined 66-6. Clairton won the 2015 finals, 40-0, at Heinz Field. They a year later, the Bears rolled past the Jayhawks at Robert Morris, 26-6, to win 2016 gold.
• Clairton is now second on the most district football championships list behind Aliquippa (17) with 14 thanks to a dominant decade and a half. Since 2006, the Bears have won 10 WPIAL Class A championships.
• Clairton was declared champions for each of its first three crowns in 1929, 1931 and 1954. Prior to 2006, the only championship game the Bears won was 31 years ago when they edged Laurel, 27-20, to win the 1989 WPIAL Class A crown at Three Rivers Stadium. Current head coach Wayne Wade was the starting quarterback of that team.
• While Clairton has won 10 straight WPIAL championship games, there was a time when they were the silver Bears. In the 25 years between 1980-2005, Clairton was 1-6 in Class A title games, including three straight losses from 1980-82.
• If the Bears win, it will be their 70th WPIAL playoff victory, second most behind Aliquippa (93). It will also be the program’s 703rd win. Clairton is fifth in the WPIAL in all-time wins.
• Jeannette is first on that district all-time wins list. The Jayhawks are in search of victory No. 765. They are ahead of New Castle (747), Aliquippa (743), Washington (715) and the Bears.
• Jeannette is tied for fourth most WPIAL football championships with Thomas Jefferson at nine each. A 10th title would put them one behind third-place New Castle.
• The Jayhawks’ first championship came in 1932 when the WPIAL declared tri-champions with Jeannette, McKeesport and New Castle. Since then, they’ve beat Ambridge (1939), Charleroi (1956), Beaver (1971), Freeport (1981), Canevin (1983), Greensburg Central Catholic (2006), Beaver Falls (2007) and Imani Christian (2017) for their other eight crowns.
• Jeannette has the top scoring defense in Class A, allowing only 12.1 points per game. The Jayhawks have allowed more than two touchdowns in a game twice this season: in the opening night 34-28 loss to Clairton and in a 36-28 triumph over Springdale. The Bears, by the way, have the top offense in the entire district, averaging 54.3 points per game.
• Counting the two previous title matchups, this is the 12th meeting all-time between these football powers with 11 of the matchups coming since 2014. In the last seven years, Clairton is 8-2 against Jeannette. The Jayhawks’ wins came in the 2017 semifinals and the 2018 regular season. The only other meeting between the schools was 105 years ago, a 0-0 tie in 1915.
More Football• Chartiers Valley cornerback Lamont Payne commits to Penn State
• High school roundup for Sept. 18, 2021: LeFebvre leads Western Beaver past Beaver
• 5 things we learned in Week 3 of H.S. football: Bishop Canevin joins Class A conversation
• George Guido: Valley’s ‘Dirty 30’ 1996 football team to be honored
• Latrobe’s Brewer has been a touchdown machine