WPIAL playoff breakdown: Class 2A
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 6:55 PM
Class 2A Quarterfinals
No. 8 Freedom (8-3) vs. No. 1 Washington (11-0)
7 p.m. Friday, Big Mac Stadium in Canonsburg
On the air: WJPA-AM 1450 and at TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Winner gets: Brentwood vs. Neshannock winner in a WPIAL Class 2A semifinals game at 7 p.m. Nov. 15
Last week: Freedom 21, Charleroi 14; Washington 21, Shady Side Academy 7
Coaches: Greg Toney, Freedom; Mike Bosnic, Washington
Players to watch: Cole Beck, Freedom (Jr., 6-1, 180, QB); Zach Swartz, Washington (Sr., 6-3, 205, QB)
1. After some lean years on the football field, including an 0-9 season in 2013, Freedom is in the playoffs for the fourth straight season and one win shy of returning to the semifinals for the second straight year. Last week, the Bulldogs rallied from an early deficit and broke a tie game at the half with the only score of the second half in a seven-point victory over Charleroi to end a three-game losing streak.
2. Bulldogs quarterback Cole Beck hit on 8 of 14 passes Friday for 114 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were caught by senior Noah Valles. With injuries slowing down the running attack, Beck has thrown for 1,135 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Junior wide receiver Reiker Welling caught the other touchdown. He leads the team with 559 yards on 25 receptions with seven touchdowns.
3. Washington is one of only three undefeated teams left in the district after a first-round victory over Shady Side Academy. The game was a competitive one for a No. 1 vs. No. 16 contest as it remained a two-score margin until the fourth quarter as the Little Prexies recorded their 45th playoff win in school history.
4. Little Prexies senior quarterback Zach Swartz continued his outstanding season with a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. The senior has thrown for 1,602 yards and 22 touchdowns, plus he is the team’s leading rusher with 912 yards and 21 scoring runs. In the win over Shady Side Academy, Swartz became the fourth quarterback in WPIAL history to throw for over 5,000 yards and rush for over 2,000 yards for their career, joining Phil Jurkovec of Pine-Richland, Lenny Williams of Sto-Rox and Frank Antuono of Neshannock. He only needs 45 yards to hit the 6,000-yard passing mark for his career.
Extra point: The win in the first round last week at home for Freedom raised its all-time playoff record at home to 2-0. The first win came last fall. Washington has won seven WPIAL football championships with the latest coming two years ago. Freedom has never won a district football championship. The Little Prexies and Bulldogs met two years ago in a first-round clash as Washington won at home, 42-9. The Little Prexies led 28-0 at the half thanks in part to a Dan Walker punt return for a touchdown. Washington has reached the quarterfinals for the sixth straight season.
No. 5 Brentwood (9-2) vs. No. 4 Neshannock (9-2)
7 p.m. Friday, Freedom Bulldogs Stadium
On the air: TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Winner gets: Freedom vs. Washington winner in a WPIAL Class 2A semifinals game at 7 p.m. Nov. 15
Last week: Brentwood 28, East Allegheny 19; Neshannock 31, Serra Catholic 13
Coaches: Kevin Kissel, Brentwood; Fred Mozzocio, Neshannock
Players to watch: Aiden Wardzinski, Brentwood (Jr., 5-10, 185, RB); Braden Gennock, Neshannock (Sr., 5-10, 170, RB)
1. After missing the postseason in 2018, Brentwood’s return to the playoffs led to an exciting first-round victory. Brentwood and East Allegheny went back and forth in the first half with the Spartans leading 14-13 at the half. The Spartans outscored the Wildcats 14-6 in the second half to earn the only victory for a Three Rivers Conference team in the opening round.
2. Running back Aiden Wardzinski was scoring machine in the first round for the Spartans. The junior rushed for 116 yards and scored on runs of 49 and 1 yard, plus he caught a 13-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback John Milcic and returned an interception 44 yards for a score.
3. Like Brentwood, Neshannock also missed the 2018 playoffs, but returned in grand style with an 18-point home victory over Serra Catholic. The Lancers led the Eagles 14-3 at the half, then outscored Serra 17-10 in the second half. Neshannock has won five straight games, a run that helped secure the Midwestern Athletic Conference championship.
4. Lancers senior running back Braden Gennock led the ground attack with 159 yards rushing with a touchdown. Senior quarterback Jason Nativo threw a pair of touchdown passes and scored on a 6-yard run. For the season, Nativo has passed for 895 yards while Gennock has rushed for 1,440 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Extra point: Last year was a rare miss for both Brentwood and Neshannock from the WPIAL playoffs. The Spartans have qualified for the postseason in 10 of the last 12 years, while the Lancers made the playoffs six straight years prior to last fall. The previous meeting between Brentwood and Neshannock occurred in a first-round playoff game in 2013 when the host Lancers routed the Spartans, 40-9. Ernie Burkes led Neshannock with 139 yards rushing and two touchdowns as the Lancers racked up 403 yard in total offense.
No. 10 New Brighton (8-3) vs. No. 2 Avonworth (11-0)
7 p.m. Friday, Moe Rubenstein Stadium at Ambridge HS
On the air: WBVP-AM 1230, WBVP-FM 99.3 and at TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Winner gets: McGuffey vs. Riverside winner in a WPIAL Class 2A semifinals game at 7 p.m. Nov. 15
Last week: New Brighton 35, Apollo-Ridge 21; Avonworth 41, Southmoreland 0
Coaches: Joe Greco, New Brighton; Duke Johncour, Avonworth
Players to watch: Nyasanu Greene, New Brighton (Jr., 6-2, 230, RB); Jax Miller, Avonworth (Sr., 6-1, 183, RB)
1. New Brighton was one of two road teams to win in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs. The Lions jumped out to a 14-7 lead at the half, extended it to 28-7 after three quarters, then held off an Apollo-Ridge rally to pick up the win, one of four victories in a clean sweep by the Midwestern Athletic Conference.
2. Running back Nyasanu Greene rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-clinching 45-yard scoring run after the Vikings had pulled to within seven points in the final quarter. Greene has 776 yard rushing while quarterback Jackson Hall is closing in on 2,000 yards passing (1,878) and has thrown 21 touchdown passes.
3. Avonworth is one of three remaining undefeated teams in the WPIAL after a 41-point whitewash of Southmoreland, ending the feel-good story of 2019 with the Scotties playing in their first playoff game in 40 years. The suspense was taken out of this one early as the host Antelopes led 28-0 by halftime. The win helps ease the pain of a first-round loss last season to Freedom, 24-21.
4. Antelopes running back Jax Miller rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown. He has rushed for nearly 500 yards in the last three weeks. Senior quarterback Park Penrod has thrown for 1,635 yards and 25 touchdowns this season for Avonworth, including three touchdown tosses last week against Southmoreland.
Extra point: Avonworth, the last of the Allegheny Conference teams, has made the playoffs 12 straight years. Five years ago, the Antelopes made their deepest run when they reached the 2014 WPIAL Class A title game but lost to Clairton. New Brighton has made the district postseason in five of the last seven years, but the win last week was the first in the playoffs for the Lions since 2001. Back in Week 3, these teams met in a nonconference game at Oak Hill Field in New Brighton. The Antelopes won 24-13 as Penrod threw for 141 yards and three touchdowns passes while Miller rushed for 153 yards. The Lions were led by Hall, who threw for 202 yards. The 2018 meeting between the two went to Avonworth by a score of 35-7.
No. 6 McGuffey (9-2) vs. No. 14 Riverside (7-3)
7 p.m. Friday, Montour Spartans Stadium
On the air: WJPA-FM 95.3 and at TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Winner gets: New Brighton vs. Avonworth winner in a WPIAL Class 2A semifinals game at 7 p.m. Nov. 15
Last week: McGuffey 54, South Side 23; Riverside 42, Burgettstown 35 in overtime
Coaches: Ed Dalton, McGuffey; Ron Sciarro, Riverside
Players to watch: Nathan Yagle, McGuffey (Jr., 5-8, 145, RB); Ben Hughes, Riverside (Sr., 6-2, 215, QB)
1. McGuffey won its first Class 2A playoff game with a huge offensive performance sparked by a big second quarter. Leading South Side 7-6 after one quarter, the Highlanders scored 26 second-quarter points to take control with a 17-point halftime lead to the joy of the home fans. McGuffey was hosting a postseason game for the first time in 10 years.
2. He may be small in stature, but 5-8 running back Nathan Yagle was huge in his performance for McGuffey in the first round. He rushed for 150 yards and had a pair of 39-yard touchdown runs. He also caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Marshall Whipkey and returned a South Side kick 87 yards for a touchdown.
3. Perhaps the stunner from the opening night of the WPIAL football playoffs occurred when Riverside outlasted previously undefeated and third-seeded Burgettstown by seven points in overtime. The Panthers trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, 28-13 late in the first half and 35-20 when Seth Phillis returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Riverside scored the final 22 points to pull off the upset.
4. Quarterback Ben Hughes evolved into Big Ben by connecting on 16 of 26 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns, including the overtime game winner to senior wide receiver Nathan Sciarro. Hughes also scored the tying touchdown on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter and caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Sciarro.
Extra point: Riverside is trying to reach the district semifinals for the third time in four years. The Panthers beat Avonworth and Freedom in the 2016 playoffs before losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Steel Valley, 42-0. Then Riverside knocked off Frazier and Avonworth to reach the 2017 final four before losing once again to Steel Valley, 13-10. The victory for McGuffey last week was the Highlanders’ first playoff win since beating Blackhawk, 12-6, in the 1994 Class AAA championship game at Three Rivers Stadium. That Highlanders crown came nine years after the Panthers’ only golden postseason run. Riverside defeated Swissvale 21-15 to win the 1985 WPIAL Class AA championship.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.