WPIAL football playoff preview capsules for Nov. 18-19, 2022

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Thursday, November 17, 2022 | 6:34 PM


Let the gold rush begin on the gridiron.

The WPIAL will hold its first two championship games Saturday at Norwin, crowning winners in Class 5A and 6A.

Meanwhile it’s Final Four Friday in the other classifications as eight semifinals games are set for Friday to set the stage for the championship contests Friday, Nov. 25 at Acrisure Stadium.

You can watch all 10 district postseason games this weekend only on TribHSSN.TribLive.com

To prepare for this giant weekend of high school football, here are capsules of all 10 semifinals and championship battles.

Class 6A championship

No. 3 Central Catholic (7-4) vs. No. 1 North Allegheny (10-1)

6 p.m. Saturday at Norwin Stadium, North Huntingdon

On the air: Video stream only at TribHSSN.TribLive.com with audio only coverage on KDKA-AM 1020, FM 100.1 and NA Sports Network at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

How they got here: Central Catholic defeated Mt. Lebanon, 28-7; North Allegheny defeated Canon-McMillan in the semifinals, 7-0. Both teams had a quarterfinals bye.

Winner plays: The WPIAL 6A champion will play the winner of Friday’s McDowell at State College game in a PIAA quarterfinal Nov. 25 or 26

Coaches: Terry Totten, Central Catholic; Art Walker, North Allegheny

Players to watch: Payton Wehner, Central Catholic (Jr., 6-1, 165, QB); Logan Kushner, North Allegheny (Jr., 6-1, 190, QB)

Factoids: This rivalry couldn’t be any closer. In 26 previous meetings, North Allegheny holds a slim lead, 13-12-1, thanks to a 7-3 win over Central Catholic in Week 4 this season. The two have taken turns in the win column back and forth the last four seasons. The last time one of them won two in a row was when the Tigers won in 2018-2019. This is the seventh time the Tigers and Vikings have clashed in the WPIAL playoffs with Central Catholic having won four of the previous six. NA won postseason matchups in 2000 and 2010 while PCC was the winner in 1988, 2001, 2015 and in the 2020 6A championship game, 38-24. Central Catholic is trying to win its ninth WPIAL football championship and third in four years. North Allegheny looks to win its fifth district football crown and first since 2012.

Class 5A championship

No. 2 Pine-Richland (9-3) vs. No. 5 Upper St. Clair (10-2)

Noon Saturday at Norwin Stadium, North Huntingdon

On the air: Video stream only at TribHSSN.TribLive.com with audio only coverage on KDKA-AM 1020, FM 100.1

How they got here: Pine-Richland beat Penn-Trafford in the quarterfinals, 31-17, and Woodland Hills in the semifinals, 23-12; Upper St. Clair defeated Gateway in the quarterfinals, 21-14, and Bethel Park in the semifinals, 17-7.

Winner plays: The WPIAL 5A champion plays District 10 champion Cathedral Prep in the PIAA quarterfinals Nov. 25 or Nov. 26

Coaches: Jon LeDonne, Pine-Richland; Mike Junko, Upper St. Clair

Players to watch: Ryan Palmieri, Pine-Richland (Sr., 5-11, 180, QB/DB); Jamaal Brown, Upper St. Clair (Sr., 5-11, 205, RB/LB)

Factoids: This is only the fifth meeting between Pine-Richland and Upper St. Clair with the two teams splitting the first four clashes. The Rams have won the last two years, 35-14 in 2021 and 34-13 in 2020. The Panthers’ wins also were in back-to-back years, 43-14 in 2009 and 23-14 in 2008. The Rams have won eight straight while the Panthers are winners of four in a row. Pine-Richland is trying to win a sixth WPIAL football championship and second 5A crown in the last three years. The Rams’ previous titles were in 2003 (3A), 2014 (4A), 2017 (6A), 2018 (6A) and 2020 (5A). Prior to its merger with Pine, Richland won WPIAL 2A championships in 1969 and 1970. Upper St. Clair is in search of its eighth district football title and first in 16 years. The Panthers were 3A co-champions in 1974 with Gateway and in 1975 with New Castle. USC won outright 4A titles in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1997 and 2006.

Class 4A semifinals

No. 1 Aliquippa (10-0) vs. No. 5 McKeesport (11-1)

7 p.m. Friday at Big Mac Stadium, Canonsburg

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com with audio only on KDKA-AM 1030, KDKA-FM 100.1, WMBA-AM 1460, WMBA-FM 95.7

How they got here: Aliquippa had a first-round bye, then beat Montour in the quarterfinals, 41-7; McKeesport defeated Mars in the first round, 43-0, then Armstrong in the quarterfinals, 41-21

Winner plays: Winner of No. 3 Thomas Jefferson/No. 2 Central Valley in the 4A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 8 p.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Mike Warfield, Aliquippa; Matt Miller, McKeesport

Players to watch: John Tracy, Aliquippa (Soph., 5-9, 176, RB/WR/DB); Jahmil Perryman, McKeesport (Sr., 5-9, 170, QB/RB/DB);

Factoids: This is the 12th meeting between the teams with Aliquippa leading McKeesport 6-5 thanks to an instant classic victory in the 4A semifinals last fall. The Tigers had leads of 14-0 in the opening quarter and 21-14 after three quarters before the Quips tied and sent the game into overtime. Neither team scored in the first OT, then after McKeesport fumbled in the second overtime, Quentin Goode hit Jayace Williams on a 9-yard touchdown for the game winner. Prior to that game, it had been a while since Aliquippa has faced McKeesport on the football field. The Quips won the previous meeting 19-0 in a clash 63 years ago. The Tigers won the previous year, 13-0 in 1958. They played each other 10 straight years from 1950-1959. In the semifinals this century, Aliquippa has won 14 straight games and is 17-2 in the last 21 years. In the same time period, McKeesport is 2-7 in WPIAL semifinal games.

No. 2 Central Valley (10-1) vs. Thomas Jefferson (8-3)

7 p.m. Friday at Newman Stadium, North Allegheny, Wexford

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

How they got here: Central Valley had a first-round bye, then beat Laurel Highlands in the quarterfinals, 36-7; Thomas Jefferson has a first-round bye, then defeated Latrobe in the quarterfinals, 21-6

Winner plays: Winner of No. 1 Aliquippa/No. 5 McKeesport in the 4A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 8 p.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Mark Lyons, Central Valley, Bill Cherpak, Thomas Jefferson

Players to watch: Bret FitzSimmons, Central Valley (Sr., 5-11, 185, RB/LB); Elias Lippincott, Thomas Jefferson (Jr., 6-2, 220, RB/LB)

Factoids: There haven’t been a lot of games played between these schools, but when they do meet, it seems to always have a big-game feel. That’s probably because this is the sixth all-time meeting and fourth postseason battle with two previous semifinals showdowns and a championship game played between them. Thomas Jefferson holds the slight edge, 3-2, winning the last three games played between the two. That included nonconference wins in 2018 and 2019 along with a 20-7 victory in the 2015 Class 3A championship game. Central Valley won the two previous semifinals, 42-24 in 2010 and 23-13 in 2013. These schools have been two of the most successful programs in the last 15 years. Since opening up in 2010, the Warriors have won five WPIAL football championships, including the last three 3A crowns. Since 2006, the Jaguars have captured nine WPIAL titles.

Class 3A semifinals

No. 1 Belle Vernon (8-2) vs. No. 4 Freeport (10-1)

7 p.m. Friday at Pete Antimarino Stadium, Gateway, Monroeville

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com with audio only on WHJB-FM 107.1

How they got here: Belle Vernon had a first-round bye and then beat East Allegheny in the quarterfinals, 55-7; Freeport had a first-round bye then defeated West Mifflin in the quarterfinals, 42-6

Winner plays: Winner of No. 6 Shady Side Academy/No.2 Avonworth in the 3A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 5 p.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Matt Humbert, Belle Vernon; John Gaillot, Freeport

Players to watch: Quinton Martin, Belle Vernon (Jr. 6-3, 200, RB/DB); Ben Lane, Freeport (Sr., 5-9, 160, HB/DB)

Factoids: This is the first meeting between Freeport and Belle Vernon. The Leopards are two wins away from winning their first WPIAL football championship since defeating Franklin Regional, 22-6, to win the 1995 district 3A title at Three Rivers Stadium. The Yellowjackets have been the district bridesmaid six times, but have yet to be the golden bride. Freeport was WPIAL 2A runner-up in 1963 (Montour), 1967 and 1968 (Burrell), 1972, (Beaver), 1981 (Jeannette) and 1989 (Steel Valley).

No. 2 Avonworth (10-1) vs. No. 6 Shady Side Academy (7-4)

7 p.m. Friday at James M. Burke Stadium, Fox Chapel

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

How they got here: Avonworth had a first-round bye then beat Beaver in the quarterfinals, 28-7; Shady Side Academy defeated South Park in the first round, 35-14, and Elizabeth Forward in the quarterfinals, 31-17

Winner plays: Winner of No. 1 Belle Vernon/No. 4 Freeport in the 3A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 5 p.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Duke Johncour, Avonworth; Chuck DiNardo, Shady Side Academy

Players to watch: Luke Hilyard, Avonworth (Sr., 5-10, 205, RB/LB); Joey Bellinotti, Shady Side Academy (Sr., 6-1, 185, WR/DB)

Factoids: This is the 11th meeting between Shady Side Academy and Avonworth with SSA holding a slim lead, 5-4-1. The two have split their four recent nonconference games with the Antelopes winning in 2016 and in 2019, 35-7. The Bulldogs won back-to-back clashes in 2017 and 2018 by a combined score of 65-38. The previous meeting between the teams before 2016 was in 1925 when SSA prevailed, 7-0. The two split the four previous games played between 1917-1924. The first game between Shady Side Academy and Avonworth ended in a 0-0 tie in 1915.

Class 2A semifinals

No. 1 Steel Valley (10-0) vs. No. 4 Neshannock (11-1)

7 p.m. Friday at Thomas J. Birko Stadium, Montour, McKees Rocks

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

How they got here: Steel Valley had a first-round bye then beat McGuffey in the quarterfinals, 46-13; Neshannock defeated Burrell in the first round, 48-6, then Washington in the quarterfinals, 30-27

Winner plays: Winner of No. 2 Beaver Falls/No. 3 Sto-Rox in the 2A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 2 p.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Ray Braszo, Steel Valley; Fred Mozzocio, Neshannock

Players to watch: Cruce Brookins, Steel Valley (Sr., 6-2, 180, QB/S); Jonny Huff, Neshannock (Sr., 6-1, 180, QB/DB)

Factoids: This is only the second meeting between Steel Valley and Neshannock. The first came in the 2016 WPIAL 2A championship game. Ironmen senior running back DeWayne Murray rushed for 213 yards on 16 carries with five touchdowns while SV quarterback Ryan Harper threw for 186 yards and two more scores in a 49-14 win. It was the third of four WPIAL championships for Steel Valley, having won gold in 1988, 1989 and again in 2018. That game six years ago was the first and only time the Lancers have reached the district finals.

No. 2 Beaver Falls (10-1) vs. No. 3 Sto-Rox (9-2)

7 p.m. Friday at Moe Rubenstein Stadium, Ambridge

On the air: Audio stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

How they got here: Beaver Falls had a first-round bye then beat Ligonier Valley, 52-0; Sto-Rox defeated Riverside in the first round, 29-0, then Keystone Oaks in the quarterfinals, 50-0

Winner plays: Winner of No. 1 Steel Valley/No. 4 Neshannock in the 2A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 2 p.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Nick Nardone, Beaver Falls; Marvin Mills, Sto-Rox

Players to watch: Jaren Brickner, Beaver Falls (Sr., 6-2, 180, QB/DB); Josh Jenkins, Sto-Rox (Sr., 6-3, 185, QB)

Factoids: This is the seventh meeting between Beaver Falls and Sto-Rox and the third time they are colliding in the WPIAL playoffs. The most recent meeting was in the 2020 2A championship game, won by Beaver Falls, 43-30. The previous meeting between the Tigers and Vikings before that title game was also a postseason clash won 35-22 by the Tigers in a 2009 2A quarterfinal. Beaver Falls also won in 1996, 1997 and in 2007. The only victory for Sto-Rox in the series came during the 2006 regular season, 27-20. While the Tigers hope to win their third district crown in the last six years, the Vikings are out for their first football title since 1987.

Class A semifinals

No. 1 Bishop Canevin (11-1) vs. No. 5 South Side (11-1)

7 p.m. Friday at Confluence Financial Partners Stadium, McMurray

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com

How they got here: Bishop Canevin beat Jeannette in the first round, 63-14, then Clairton in the quarterfinals, 29-6; South Side defeated California in the first round, 34-3, then Mapletown in the semifinals, 47-6

Winner plays: Winner of No. 10 Union/No. 14 Rochester in the Class A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 11 a.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Rich Johnson, Bishop Canevin; Luke Travelpiece, South Side

Players to watch: Marquis Carter, Bishop Canevin (Jr., 5-9, 165, RB/LB); Ryan Navarra, South Side (Jr., 5-10, 185, RB/LB)

Factoids: This is the seventh meeting between South Side and Bishop Canevin but first in 15 years. The Crusaders lead the Rams, 4-2. After losing the first four matchups, South Side has won the last two games, 24-14 in 2006 and 12-0 in 2007. The first meeting between the two was in 1990 with the Crusaders winning, 34-6. Bishop Canevin also won regular season games over South Side in 1994 and 1995. The only other postseason meeting between the two teams took place in the 2005 Class A quarterfinals with the Crusaders shutting out the Rams, 14-0. While Bishop Canevin won its second district championship last fall, these schools won their only other crowns as bookend titles in the 1990s. Canevin won AA gold in 1990 while South Side won the Class A championship in 1999.

No. 10 Union (9-3) vs. No. 14 Rochester (7-4)

7 p.m. Friday at Bulldogs Stadium, Freedom

On the air: Video stream at TribHSSN.TribLive.com with audio only on WBVP-AM 1230, WBVP-FM 99.3

How they got here: Union beat Burgettstown in the first round, 32-7, then Laurel in the quarterfinals, 30-28; Rochester defeated Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round, 36-15, then Fort Cherry in the quarterfinals, 30-14

Winner plays: Winner of No. 1 Bishop Canevin/No. 5 South Side in the Class A championship game at Acrisure Stadium at 11 a.m. Nov. 25

Coaches: Kim Niedbala, Union; Gene Matsook, Rochester

Players to watch: Braylon Thomas, Union (Jr., 6-2, 180, QB/DB); Antonio Laure, Rochester (So., 5-8, 175, RB/LB

Factoids: This is the 32nd meeting between these longtime Big 7 Conference rivals. Rochester has a lopsided edge in the series, but Union has tilted the scales a bit in the last nine years. The Rams are 25-6 against the Scotties, but consider Rochester won the first 21 head-to-head meetings. It all started in 1982 with Rochester winning, 32-13. Victory No. 21 in a row for the Rams was in 2012, 21-19. Union won its first game against Rochester in 2013, 33-0, and the Scotties have won six of the last 10, including a win in Week 6 this season, 6-0. This is the first time the Rams and Scotties are meeting in a postseason game.

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