WPIAL Football Quarterfinals Preview

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CLASS AAAA

Tonight's games: North Allegheny (10-0) vs. Bethel Park (7-3), 7:30 p.m. at North Hills; Seneca Valley (9-1) vs. Mt. Lebanon (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at North Allegheny; Gateway (9-1) vs. Woodland Hills (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at Norwin; Upper St. Clair (9-1) vs. Central Catholic (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at Baldwin.

Bethel Park vs. North Allegheny: Could comparative scores be an indication of how the Bethel Park-North Allegheny game could go? Bethel Park played one team (Seneca Valley) from the Northern Eight Conference, and Bethel Park lost, 35-14. North Allegheny beat Seneca Valley, 45-3. Bethel Park's best chance is to try to control the clock with a strong running game. But that's easier said than done against North Allegheny's defense. Bethel Park's secondary will be put to the test by North Allegheny's passing game. North Allegheny's Gregg Garrity has emerged as the team's top receiver with 36 catches, and the Tigers like big passing plays. Their top four receivers average better than 20 yards a catch. Quarterback Mack Leftwich needs 81 yards passing to reach 2,000 this year.

Seneca Valley vs. Mt. Lebanon: Seneca Valley-Mt. Lebanon is an excellent matchup between two teams with strong offenses. How well Seneca Valley's defensive backs stand up to the passing of Mt. Lebanon quarterback Tyler Roth could be a key to this game. Roth has thrown for more yards (2,373) than anyone in the WPIAL. There will be pressure on Mt. Lebanon's linebackers to make plays against Seneca Valley's short passing game.

Gateway vs. Woodland Hills: Gateway quarterback Thomas Woodson has thrown for 2,210 yards while Woodland Hills' Cody McClelland has thrown for 1,427. But how well Woodland Hills runs the ball might be the biggest determining factor in the game.

Central Catholic vs. Upper St. Clair: Central Catholic's defense gave up 27 points in a first-round win against Penn-Trafford. How will that defense perform against Upper St. Clair?

Statistically speaking: Seneca Valley's killer B's -- Brown and Barnes -- have 8,111 yards offense between them the past two seasons. Brown has passed for 3,763 and ran for 971. Barnes has rushed for 2,661 and has 716 yards in receptions.

History lesson: What a coincidence. The previous time Seneca Valley made the semifinals was 1997, and the Raiders defeated Mt. Lebanon, 27-10, in a quarterfinal game. Dan Tropf rushed for 135 yards in the game while Mt. Lebanon's Pete DeSantis had 154 yards. Seneca Valley's second-year coach was Rick Shepas, who is now Waynesburg University's coach.

CLASS AAA

Tonight's games: Thomas Jefferson (10-0) vs. Franklin Regional (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at Elizabeth Forward; West Allegheny (9-1) vs. Montour (9-1), 7:30 p.m. at Chartiers Valley; Mars (9-1) vs. West Mifflin (9-1), 7:30 p.m. at Fox Chapel; Central Valley (8-2) vs. Hopewell (5-5), 7:30 p.m. at Ambridge.

Franklin Regional vs. Thomas Jefferson: Franklin Regional's Dane Brown missed a few games this season with an injured ankle, but seems to be getting back to his old form. Brown has back-to-back 100-yard games and surpassed 4,000 yards for his career last week. Franklin Regional needs to have success on the ground. Look for Thomas Jefferson to also try to establish a running game, but the Jaguars have an edge in the passing game with Joe Carroll and receiver Zach Schademan.

West Allegheny vs. Montour: Will West Allegheny or Montour score a touchdown this time? They met in the eighth week of the season and West Allegheny won, 5-3. This one might not be high scoring, either, because both teams play good defense. West Allegheny has allowed only 89 points.

Mars vs. West Mifflin: One of the best matchups in any classification. You won't see much passing in the Mars-West Mifflin game but you will see a terrific matchup of strong running games. West Mifflin junior Jim Wheeler has rushed for 1,856 yards while Mars sophomore Josh Schultheis has 1,637 yards.

Central Valley vs. Hopewell: Central Valley star receiver Robert Foster will be back after sitting out last week because he had two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the final regular-season game. Leading rusher Jordan Whitehead (shoulder injury) also might be back but quarterback Nathan Climo (head injury) isn't expected to play. No matter who is playing, Hopewell will need another terrific performance from its defense, similar to last week when the Vikings defeated Hampton, 14-6.

Statistically speaking: More than a third of Carroll's completions go for touchdowns. He is 99 of 168 and has 34 TD passes. ... Montour's Devin Wilson broke the WPIAL career record for receptions a few weeks ago and now has 228 catches. The old record was 221.

History lesson: Franklin Regional and Thomas Jefferson met in the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2009, and Thomas Jefferson won, 27-14. ... Thomas Jefferson lost in the quarterfinals last year to Knoch, breaking a string of 13 consecutive semifinal appearances.

CLASS AA

Tonight's games: Aliquippa (10-0) vs. Mount Pleasant (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at Peters Township; Jeannette (9-1) vs. Beaver (9-1), 7:30 p.m. at Hampton; South Fayette (10-0) vs. Beaver Falls (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at Moon; Washington (10-0) vs. Seton-LaSalle (9-1), 7:30 p.m. at Canon-McMillan.

Mount Pleasant vs. Aliquippa: Mount Pleasant is a definite underdog against Aliquippa. For Mount Pleasant to have a chance, it will need the Tyler and Taylor Show to be a hit. Tyler Mellors has 1,426 yards rushing and Taylor Allison 741. Both had 100 yards in a first-round victory.

Beaver vs. Jeannette: Beaver is without leading rusher Darian Bradley (knee injury), but senior Anthony Keriotis filled in last week and rushed for 115 yards. Will Beaver muster enough offense without Bradley? The other big factor for Beaver is stopping big plays by Jeannette.

South Fayette vs. Beaver Falls: Will Beaver Falls be the team to test South Fayette? Slowing down South Fayette's offense (averaging 50.5 points per game) will be Beaver Falls' most difficult task, but Beaver Falls also must play mistake-free on offense. The play of quarterback Dan Stratton will be a key for Beaver Falls, but so will the offensive line. In a first-round victory against Freeport, Beaver Falls running back Damian Rawl found enough room to rush for a season-high 221 yards. Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette's do-it-all player, now has 952 yards receiving, 105 rushing and four interceptions on defense.

Seton-LaSalle vs. Washington: The main question in the Seton-LaSalle-Washington game is will Seton-LaSalle's defense slow down the "Shai Train?" Washington running back Shai McKenzie has seven 200-yard rushing games this season.

Statistically speaking: It has been well-documented how South Fayette and Aliquippa have dominated every opponent this season. South Fayette has forced the mercy rule in all 10 games while Aliquippa has forced the rule in nine of 10. But Washington also has been a dominant team. The Little Prexies have outscored opponents, 457-93.

History lesson: The previous time Mount Pleasant played Aliquippa was in a 1987 first-round game at Mount Pleasant. Don Yannessa, the Aliquippa coach at the time, arrived at the game in a stretch limousine, as was his custom for many playoff games. The limousine was always rented by Aliquippa team doctor Patrick Sturm, who is still the Quips' doctor today. Aliquippa, featuring junior linebacker Sean Gilbert, won the game, 28-0.

CLASS A

Tonight's games: Clairton (10-0) vs. Brentwood (7-3), 7:30 p.m. at Belle Vernon; Neshannock (9-1) vs. Monessen (9-1), 7:30 p.m. at Chartiers-Houston; Sto-Rox (9-1) vs. Union (7-3), 7:30 p.m. at Mars; Rochester (9-1) vs. North Catholic (8-2), 7:30 p.m. at Dormont Stadium.

The backs: These quarterfinals feature four running backs who were among the WPIAL's top 12 rushers during the regular season. They are Rochester's Dante Marsick, Clairton's Tyler Boyd, Brentwood's Justin Vickless and North Catholic's P.J. Fulmore.

Clairton vs. Brentwood: Clairton defeated Brentwood, 42-7, earlier this season. A win puts Clairton's winning streak at 58 games, one away from tying the state record.

Monessen vs. Neshannock: An interesting game because it features excellent, dual-threat quarterbacks. Neshannock's Ernie Burkes has 1,356 yards passing and 740 rushing. Monessen's Chavas Rawlins has 1,253 passing and 546 rushing.

Union vs. Sto-Rox: Union is trying to make the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 1979. But the Scotties must get by a Sto-Rox team that already defeated Union, 48-21, earlier this season. Union must control Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams, who has more than 2,700 yards offense this season passing and rushing.

Rochester vs. North Catholic: A showdown of top running backs. North Catholic's P.J. Fulmore has 1,513 yards rushing while Rochester's Dante Marsick has 1,621. North Catholic often goes as Fulmore goes. He had "only" 128 yards against Northgate and 29 against Neshannock. North Catholic lost both games. Marsick has been terrific the past five games, averaging 170.8 yards.

Statistically speaking: Monessen is allowing 21.8 points a game, the most among all 16 teams that made the Class A playoffs. ... Over 13 WPIAL playoff games in four seasons, Clairton has allowed only two teams to score more than a touchdown. Springdale scored 20 in 2011 and Rochester 13 in 2009.

History lesson: It was only 15 years ago that North Catholic was playing in Class AAA and made it to the WPIAL semifinals. The team was the first at the school to finish the regular season undefeated since North Catholic joined the WPIAL in 1975. The Trojans lost in the WPIAL semifinals to Brownsville, 14-13. North Catholic's quarterback also doubled as the team's kicker that season, but in the loss to Brownsville the kicker missed the extra point in the fourth quarter after North Catholic cut the lead to 14-13. That quarterback-kicker was Luke Ravenstahl, who is now the mayor of Pittsburgh. Ravenstahl threw for more than 1,000 yards that season. Ravenstahl's father, Bob, is now North Catholic's coach.

hsfootball


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