WPIAL high school football don’t-miss matchups for Week Zero
Thursday, August 22, 2019 | 10:40 PM
Here’s a look at some of the top matchups for Week Zero of high school football in Western Pennsylvania.
Class 6A vs. 5A
Class 6A No. 5 Mt. Lebanon at Class 5A No. 1 Gateway
7 p.m. Friday, Antimarino Stadium, Monroeville
Coaches: Bob Palko, Mt. Lebanon; Don Holl, Gateway
Players to watch: Mason Ventrone, Mt. Lebanon (Sr., 6-1, 190, RB/LB); Derrick Davis (Jr., 6-0, 195, RB/DB)
Last year: Mt. Lebanon (5-3, 6-6) finished fifth in Class 6A, lost in the WPIAL semifinals to Pine-Richland; Gateway (12-1, 7-0) won the Class 5A Foothills Conference, lost in WPIAL semifinals to West Allegheny
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Four downs: 1. Bob Palko will make his debut in blue and gold after spending the past 24 years as coach at West Allegheny. He resigned in the offseason and brought a resume filled with eight WPIAL titles to Mt. Lebanon to replace Mike Melnyk. 2. Gateway is looking to bounce back into title contention after falling short in the WPIAL semifinals, 42-28, coincidentally to Palko’s West Allegheny Indians. The Gators won the 2017 WPIAL title and have a team built to return. 3. Ventrone moved from wide receiver to running back this season and should see a bulk of the carries for the Blue Devils. 4. Davis, who ran for 1,229 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2018, is one of the WPIAL’s most sought-after recruits, featuring offers from Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia, along with Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Michigan, among others.
Extra point: Gateway won this Week Zero matchup 31-8 last season to start a 12-game winning streak.
Class 5A vs. 4A
Upper St. Clair at Class 4A No. 3 South Fayette
7 p.m. Friday, South Fayette Stadium, South Fayette
Coaches: Mike Junko, Upper St. Clair; Joe Rossi, South Fayette
Players to watch: David Pantelis, Upper St. Clair (Jr, 6-1, 190, RB/WR/DB); Drew Franklin, South Fayette (Sr., 5-11, 200, RB/LB)
Last year: Upper St. Clair (8-3, 5-2), finished third in Allegheny 8 Conference, lost in WPIAL first round to McKeesport; South Fayette (12-2, 7-0), won the Northwest 8 Conference, won the WPIAL championship over Thomas Jefferson, lost in the PIAA quarterfinals to Cathedral Prep.
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Four downs: 1. For the first time in 40 years, a new head coach will walk the Upper St. Clair sideline as Mike Junko takes over for Jim Render. He inherited a team that returns just five starters. 2. South Fayette is still riding high after winning the WPIAL Class 4A title, but the Lions will have to replace a hefty portion of the offensive skill. Junior Naman Alemada and sophomore Landon Lutz have competed at quarterback. 3. Pantelis had 38 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns last season and also intercepted four passes, forced a fumble and returned a punt 55 yards for another score for USC. 4. Franklin ran for more than 800 yards out of the South Fayette backfield last season.
Extra point: Upper St. Clair won last year’s Week Zero meeting, 34-33, and South Fayette proceeded to go on a 12-game winning streak.
Class 5A vs. 4A
Moon at Montour
7 p.m. Friday, Thomas J. Birko Memorial Stadium, Robinson
Coaches: Ryan Linn, Moon; Lou Cerro, Montour
Players to watch: Dante Clay, Moon (Sr., 6-0, 175, QB/S); George Padezanin, Montour (Sr., 6-3, 280, OL/DL)
Last year: Moon (2-8, 1-6), finished seventh in Allegheny 8; Montour (3-7, 3-4), finished sixth in Northwest 8
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Four downs: 1. After a forgettable 2018 season, both teams are looking to get off to a good start in 2019. 2. Clay threw for nearly 900 yards a year ago but also will make an impact on the ground this season. 3. Montour put together a three-game winning streak last season with conference wins over Knoch, Highlands and Ambridge, but it wasn’t enough to reach the playoffs. 4. Padezanin earned first-team all-conference honors as both an offensive and defensive tackle last season. But he was so disruptive on defense that coaches in the Class 4A Northwest 8 voted him as the conference’s Defensive MVP.
Extra point: Moon won the Week Zero meeting a year ago, 32-6.
Class 3A vs. A
Class 3A No. 1 Aliquippa at Class A No. 1 Clairton
6 p.m. Saturday, Neil C. Brown Stadium, Clairton
Coaches: Mike Warfield, Aliquippa; Wayne Wade, Clairton
Players to watch: Zuriah Fisher, Aliquippa (Sr., 6-3, 240, TE/LB/DE); Brendan Parsons, Clairton (Sr., 6-3, 185, QB)
Last year: Aliquippa (14-1, 6-1), won Tri-County West Conference, WPIAL and PIAA titles in Class 3A; Clairton (9-2, 5-1), finished second in the Eastern Conference, lost to OLSH in WPIAL semifinals
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Four downs: 1. Aliquippa begins defense of its WPIAL and PIAA titles with quite a nonconference test in Clairton. The Quips will look to junior running backs Isaiah Towler and Vernon Redd, who will try and replace graduate Avante McKenzie and his 1,600 yards. 2. Clairton, which didn’t play in Week Zero a year ago, opened with eight straight wins before suffering losses to Jeannette in the regular-season finale and OLSH in the WPIAL semifinals. 3. Fisher had 72 tackles, including 10 for a loss and four sacks, last season. The inside linebacker also intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. He has offers Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia regionally, among many others. 4. Parsons will be one Clairton’s top playmakers. The senior QB threw for 1,357 yards and 17 touchdowns, while rushing 325 yards and seven scores in 2018.
Extra point: These teams last met during the 2017 season, and Aliquippa won 28-0.
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.
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