WPIAL playoff breakdown: Class A
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 7:05 PM
Class A Semifinals
No. 4 Cornell (9-1) vs. No. 1 Clairton (9-2)
7 p.m. Friday, Chartiers-Houston Stadium
On the air: TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Winner gets: Sto-Rox vs. West Greene winner in the WPIAL Class A championship game at 11 a.m. Nov. 16
Last week: Cornell 32, California 27; Clairton 41, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart 0
Coaches: Ed Dawson, Cornell; Wayne Wade, Clairton
Players to watch: Zaire Harrison, Cornell (Sr., 5-11, 185, QB); Brendan Parsons, Clairton (Sr., 6-2, 170, QB)
1. One of the best games from opening night of the WPIAL playoffs took place at West Allegheny, where Cornell and California went back and forth, toe to toe for four quarters. California was up by six after the first quarter, but Cornell held an eight-point lead at halftime. The lead shrunk to six after the third quarter and disappeared when Lucas Qualk scored on a 35-yard run to give the Trojans the lead, 27-26. However a Savon Wilson 27-yard touchdown run put the Raiders up for good.
2. Raiders quarterback Zaire Harrison connected on 11 of 15 passes for 160 yards and two second-quarter touchdown passes, plus he scored on a 12-yard run. Amere Hibbler scored on a touchdown run and a scoring pass for Cornell. For the season, Harrison has nearly 3,000 of offense for the Raiders with 2,126 yards passing and 24 touchdown tosses and he has rushed for 667 yards and 15 touchdowns.
3. There were cries of woe from Bears Nation when a banged up Clairton team started 0-2 after nonconference losses to 3A defending champ Aliquippa and 2A power McGuffey. Nine wins in a row and everything seems back to normal. The ninth win was a 41-0 dethroning of 2018 champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals as the Bears put the game away with a 34-point second quarter.
4. Senior quarterback Brendan Parsons did all of his damage in the first half as he completed 6 of 7 passes for 176 yards with two touchdown passes and a 66-yard scoring run. Parsons leads the Bears in passing with 1,535 yards and in rushing with 886 yards. He has thrown for 16 scores and run for 11 touchdowns. Speaking of TDs, junior wide receiver Kenlein Ogletree scored three Friday on two scoring receptions and a 72-yard interception return for a score.
Extra point: This is the 14th straight trip to the semifinals for Clairton. The last time they were not part of the WPIAL Class A final four was when the Bears missed the playoffs in 2005. This is the first trip to the semifinals for Cornell. In fact, the win over California in the quarterfinals was the first playoff win for the Raiders in school history. The last time these teams played was in the first round of the 2012 Class A playoffs with Clairton winning, 54-0. It would be the final game in five years to Cornell as the school did not field a football team from 2012-15. In that four-year span that Cornell did not play, Clairton won three WPIAL and one PIAA championship.
No. 3 Sto-Rox (10-1) vs. No. 2 West Greene (10-1)
7 p.m. Friday, Hillers Stadium in Trinity School District
On the air: WANB-AM 1210, WANB-FM 105.1 and at TribHSSN.TribLive.com
Winner gets: Cornell vs. Clairton winner in the WPIAL Class A championship game at 11 a.m. Nov. 16
Last week: Sto-Rox 15, Jeannette 6; West Greene 36, Greensburg Central Catholic 0
Coaches: LaRoi Johnson, Sto-Rox; Brian Hanson, West Greene
Players to watch: Eric Wilson, Sto-Rox (Sr., 6-3, 190, QB); Ben Jackson, West Greene (Sr., 6-1, 220, RB)
1. The WPIAL football playoff committee did Big 7 Conference co-champion Sto-Rox no favors when the brackets were released. Many felt Jeannette was one of the top teams but had to be seeded against one of the top four because it had to start the postseason on the road. Many felt Sto-Rox drew the short stick by being paired with the Jayhawks, but the Vikings proved them wrong. A great defensive effort not only limited a high-scoring Jeannette team to six points, but they were responsible for the game’s first score on a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brennan Harris and also registered a safety.
2. Senior quarterback Eric Wilson continues to add to his impressive season and standout career. Wilson was 15 of 25 passing for 149 yards against Jeannette. For the season, Wilson has hit on 178 or his 292 passes for 2,736 yards and 25 touchdowns. Vikings leading rusher Zay Davis was limited to 26 yards rushing but scored on a 6-yard run to help seal the deal on the victory.
3. Last season, West Greene finished as tri-champions in the Tri-County South and won a coin flip with California and Monessen to host a quarterfinal. Poor field conditions forced them to move the game to Waynesburg Central. This year, as outright conference champs, the Pioneers were able to play at home and thrilled their fans with a dominating shutout win over Greensburg Central Catholic. All suspense was taken out when West Greene jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, which was increased to 28-0 by halftime.
4. No surprise that the great Ben Jackson led the way last week for West Greene. The senior rushed for 212 yards on only 18 carries and scored on a 70-yard touchdown run. Jackson was one of two Pioneers to score defensive touchdowns as he returned a fumble 12 yards for a touchdown. Austin Crouse also turned a Centurions fumble into a 45-yard touchdown. West Greene senior running back Kolin Walker rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns and is 94 yards away from 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
Extra point: The win for West Greene was the school’s first playoff victory since 1993 when the Pioneers reached the Class A championship game at Three Rivers Stadium only to lose 55-0 to Duquesne. This was only the second playoff win for a team from Greene County (Carmichaels in 2017) since 2006. Ben Jackson needs 33 yards to break the single-season rushing record Armstrong’s Zane Dudek set in 2016 with 2,949 yards. He is 77 yards shy of 3,000 yards for the season. Jackson is two touchdowns away from tying the single-season WPIAL record of 51 set in 2012 by Tyler Boyd of Clairton. Sto-Rox didn’t make the playoff a year ago and is now one win from playing for district gold. The Vikings’ last appearance in a district semifinals game was in 2013 when they knocked off Clairton, 24-19. A week later, the Vikings lost at Heinz Field to North Catholic, 14-0. Sto-Rox reached the semifinals three straight years from 2011-13 in the Lenny Williams at quarterback era.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.