For much of the 2012 season, Upper St. Clair and Thomas Jefferson have shared an obvious commonality -- simply, they have been among the best and most dominant teams in their respective classes in the WPIAL.
While both teams were able to continue their winning ways and advance to Friday's WPIAL semifinals, they did so in very different fashions -- the Panthers with a dominant 38-0 victory against a talented Central Catholic team and the Jaguars with a narrow 24-21 decision against Franklin Regional.
Since losing to Bethel Park, 24-17, on Oct. 12, few teams have played as well as Upper St. Clair, with the Panthers (10-1) shutting out three of their past four opponents while scoring 118 points on offense. In the one game that they didn't shut out their opponent, they registered a big 21-19 come-from-behind victory against a ranked Mt. Lebanon team that entered that game winners of its previous seven contests. That earned USC a share of the Southeastern Conference title.
In their rout of the Vikings (8-3), the Panthers limited Central Catholic to fewer than 100 yards of total offense (97 to be exact), as well as forcing four turnovers. Central Catholic had been shut out just once prior to last week's game, a 28-0 loss against top-seeded North Allegheny.
With a prolific offense, Thomas Jefferson has made a habit of blowing teams out this season -- it has scored 40 or more points in eight of its 11 games -- but the Jaguars (11-0) received a stiff test from Franklin Regional Friday, trailing 7-3 at halftime before outscoring the Panthers, 21-14, in the second half to pull off the win.
The 24 points were the fewest that Bill Cherpak's team has scored since Sept. 7, when it beat Elizabeth Forward, 21-19. Despite that, though, Thomas Jefferson still had an outstanding offensive performance, statistically speaking, as it racked up 426 yards of total offense (more than doubling Franklin Regional's 198 total yards), with 396 of those yards coming from the arm of quarterback Joe Carroll, a season-high.
Both teams are now just a game away from appearances in their respective championship games, with Upper St. Clair taking on Woodland Hills (9-2) and Thomas Jefferson facing West Allegheny (10-1).
The Panthers defeated Woodland Hills, 31-12, in their season opener, while the Jaguars will be facing West Allegheny for the first time since the Indians ruined Thomas Jefferson's perfect season, 28-21, in the 2009 Class AAA semifinals.
By almost any measure, this season was one of significant progress and success for the Monessen football team.
After finishing 6-4 last season, the Greyhounds responded with an 8-1 regular season, finishing second in the Class A Black Hills Conference, with their only loss of the season coming to Clairton.
Monessen, the No. 5 seed in Class A, suffered a 24-21 upset against Neshannock, the No. 13 seed, Friday, a loss that was made all the more painful because of how it happened. Leading, 21-17, late in the game, Monessen gave up a 1-yard touchdown run to Lancers quarterback Ernie Burkes with four seconds remaining, abruptly ending its season.
Next season will feature at least some rebuilding for the Greyhounds (9-2), as they lose dual-threat quarterback Chavas Rawlins, who will graduate. Rawlins, a West Virginia commit, threw for 13 touchdowns and ran for 16 more, and also led the team in passing and rushing.
With its 39-0 romp against Brentwood, Clairton extended its winning streak to 58 games heading into the Class A semifinals. If the Bears defeat Neshannock Friday, they will tie the state record for consecutive wins, set by Central Bucks West.
There will be a considerable amount on the line when Washington and South Fayette meet Friday at Chartiers Valley -- a berth in the Class AA semifinals, a chance for championship dreams to live another week, among other things, one of which is the chance to maintain an unblemished record.
Neither the Lions (11-0) nor Little Prexies (11-0) have suffered a loss. The other undefeated Class AA team, top-ranked Aliquippa, plays Jeannette Friday, with the winner of that game moving on to play the South Fayette-Washington winner in the Class AA title game.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @craig_a_meyer