WPIAL playoff primer: What to watch for tonight

Thursday, November 9, 2017 | 6:42 PM

Penn-Trafford, meet Upper St. Clair.

Among the eight WPIAL semifinals this week, their Class 5A matchup is the only one that's not a rematch from the regular season. Most took place in Weeks 7, 8 or 9, so emotions from those wins or losses are still fresh.

The closest contest was Gateway's 21-18 win over McKeesport in Week 8. McKeesport was 5 yards from the end zone when Gateway's Jeremiah Josephs intercepted a pass in the end zone with 6 seconds left.

Also in Week 8, Quaker Valley defeated Seton LaSalle, 42-7. A week earlier, Belle Vernon defeated Thomas Jefferson, 21-17, when TJ lost the football four times.

In Week 9, Pine-Richland defeated North Allegheny, 48-28; Central Catholic defeated Penn Hills, 21-0; and South Fayette defeated Montour, 49-21.

Aliquippa won 30-10 over Beaver in Week 2.

Avoiding semifinal rematches was never a priority for the WPIAL football committee, but they've become far more common since the playoffs were reduced to eight-team brackets.

A year ago, there were six semifinal rematches in Classes 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A. Twice, the team that lost in the regular season won the rematch.

The two small-school classifications — Class A and 2A — have 16-team playoffs, so they won't reach the semifinals for another week.

A perfect night for diehard fans

Break out the hot chocolate and handwarmers.

WPIAL teams could face frigid temperatures for the first time this season. Forecasts predict Friday's high temperature might not rise above freezing and the low could sink to 18.

Also, this if the first Friday after a return to Eastern Standard Time, so the sun will have set more than two hours before kickoff.

On the bright side, there's little chance of snow and only light winds, so passing offenses won't be affected too much.

Top passing attacks meet

The highest-scoring game Friday could be in Class A, where No. 4 seed Imani Christian faces No. 5 OLSH at Chartiers-Houston. Both teams have a passer among the WPIAL leaders, and each offense scored exactly 52 points last week.

OLSH defeated Springdale, 52-26. Imani won 52-0 over Sto-Rox.

OLSH quarterback Tyler Bradley ranks third among WPIAL passers with 2,526 yards and 30 touchdowns. Imani's Tawan Wesley is sixth with 2,336 with 29 touchdowns.

Quips know path to Heinz Field

Aliquippa sits one win away from its 10th consecutive trip to the finals, extending a remarkable WPIAL championship record it already owns.

No other team in WPIAL history has reached the finals more than six years in a row. Thomas Jefferson reached the finals each season from 2003-08.

Clairton earned five consecutive trips from 2008-12. Braddock was WPIAL champion six years in a row from 1954-59, but it was awarded the trophy in 1955 without a championship game.

Aliquippa has reached Heinz Field every season since 2008. This year's seniors were in second grade the last time the Quips didn't reach the finals. They won WPIAL titles in 2008, '11, '12 and '15.

Will QV derail ‘The Train' again?

Seton LaSalle's Lionel Deanes leads the WPIAL in rushing with 2,058 yards after a 282-yard, five-TD game against Freeport last week.

But the senior now faces a Quaker Valley defense that held him to 19 yards on 17 carries in Week 8, a 42-7 loss for Seton LaSalle.

He also caught one pass for minus-7 yards.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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