The lights might always seem bright for teams playing in Class AAAA, the highest level of the WPIAL, but Friday, that shine will be brighter as the classification's top two teams -- No. 1 North Allegheny and No. 2 Gateway -- line up against each other in what could be a possible Class AAAA championship game preview
Even with top billing in Class AAAA at stake, the coaches, are not trying to stress it too much to their players.
"We don't look at the rankings -- we have no say in them, that's something outside of our control," North Allegheny coach Art Walker said.
"We're approaching it like any other week in how we prepare and how we practice."
The Tigers (5-0), the WPIAL Class AAAA defending champion and preseason No. 1 team, have lived up to such billing through five games, outscoring opponents by an average of 37.8 points per game.
The preseason No. 2 Gators (5-0) have had a similarly easy time, while managing an identical average margin of victory.
Though both teams have excelled in shutting down opposing offenses -- each has held its opponents to fewer than 12 points per game -- North Allegheny and Gateway are built around high-powered, pass-oriented offenses.
The Gators have averaged 49 points per game, a mark that places them atop Class AAAA and behind just two others (Aliquippa and South Fayette) in the WPIAL.
Quarterback Thomas Woodson, who has committed to the University of Arizona, has shown strong signs of improvement in his senior season while moving into the top six among WPIAL passers in yards (963) and touchdowns (10).
Gateway coach Terry Smith knows that, Friday and beyond, his team will go as far as its quarterback takes it.
"Thomas has performed extremely well all season long," Smith said. "He's taking good care of the football and making good decisions at the line of scrimmage. For Friday, Thomas just needs to keep doing what he's been doing."
North Allegheny has a strong quarterback of its own in Mack Leftwich, who ranks third among WPIAL quarterbacks in touchdowns (15) and second in passing yards (1,180).
Smith said Leftwich has "played the position as well as any quarterback in Pennsylvania."
This week, the Tigers senior committed to Stephen F. Austin, a Division I-AA school in Texas.
• Game: North Allegheny at Gateway, 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Pete Antimarino Stadium.
• Check this out: The two schools faced off in the semifinals of the Class AAAA playoffs last season, with North Allegheny edging Gateway, 21-17.
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published October 5, 2012 4:15 AM