High school football notebook: WPIAL faces tough decision in Class AAAA

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The No. 1 seed for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs seems to be a matter of great debate.

High school football fans, media members and even players and coaches seem to differ on whether it should be Upper St. Clair or Central Catholic, both of which are undefeated. It will be a subject the WPIAL football committee will have to settle today.

But if you listen to someone close to the situation, there is little question the No. 1 seed should be Upper St. Clair. And that someone is none other than Central Catholic coach Terry Totten.

"I think it should be Upper St. Clair," Totten said. "They started out the season against the next-highest rated team [current No. 5 Woodland Hills] and they beat them. I think going into the season, Upper St. Clair had the most returning starters. They had beaten us last year in the playoffs, too. I think all of that puts them as the top seed."

The WPIAL football committee meets today and will announce playoff pairings and seeding tonight. The playoffs begin Friday.

Upper St. Clair and Central Catholic have similar resumes. Both are undefeated at 9-0. Upper St. Clair has defeated opponents by 337-30, and Central Catholic by 405-27.

Totten is one who doesn't think it really matters much if a team is seeded No. 1 or 2.

"I don't believe in national rankings," Totten said, "But the four teams that are left by the semifinals, I'd put those four teams in the top 100 in the country.

"If you have to play them one week or the next week, I don't think it really matters."

Central Catholic has had some injuries to key players and Totten said the team will know Tuesday if five players will be back from injuries. One of them is Luigi Lista-Brinza, who has missed a few weeks with an ankle injury.

Playoff questions

The WPIAL football committee will have some other interesting questions to ponder:

* What to do with Beaver Falls in Class AA? The Tigers are the only team to give No. 1-ranked Aliquippa a game, losing by only 34-28. Aliquippa is the likely No. 1 seed. So does the WPIAL seed Beaver Falls No. 4 or 5, which means the Tigers will be on the same bracket as Aliquippa? Or does the WPIAL move Beaver Falls to No. 6 or 7. Beaver Falls didn't help itself when it was crushed by Central Valley, 42-13, in a non-conference game Friday.

* Where should Beth-Center be seeded in Class A? The Bulldogs are 9-0, but play in the Tri-County South, a conference that is widely regarded as the weakest in Class A. The Tri-County South is 0-8 in the playoffs the past two seasons and last year Tri-County South teams were outscored, 161-34. Should Beth-Center be seeded in the top four or five, or should second-place teams such as Clairton, Neshannock or Avonworth be seeded ahead of Beth-Center?

* Should West Allegheny or Thomas Jefferson be seeded No. 1 in Class AAA? Both are 9-0 and have been impressive all season. West Allegheny had two close games while Thomas Jefferson beat every opponent by at least 21 points. But West Allegheny played in the Parkway Conference, which has a much stronger reputation than Thomas Jefferson's Big Nine. Plus, the WPIAL usually gives preference to a defending champ. West Allegheny won the AAA title last year.

Fulmore to QB

Undefeated Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic sustained quite a blow to its offense in the eighth game of the season when talented quarterback Adam Sharlow was lost for the season with a knee injury. So North Catholic moved talented halfback P.J. Fulmore to quarterback.

Fulmore played quarterback in a 35-14 victory Friday against Leechburg and ran for 80 yards on 13 carries. He takes direct snaps while lined up in the shotgun. Ryan Kirby also is playing some quarterback.

"When I was younger, I used to play quarterback," Fulmore said. "Then when I got to high school, I wanted to play quarterback. Obviously I want to play running back, but obviously the team needs me at quarterback and we all have to step up."

Fulmore said the offense won't change all that much with him at quarterback. Sharlow had thrown for 880 yards and rushed for 660 before he was injured.

"Obviously, it's a lot different than playing running back," Fulmore said. "You have to call all the plays, run the no huddle, know all the plays. But we'll be running all of our regular plays with me at quarterback."

Playoff numbers

* Jeannette didn't make the playoffs. That means Aliquippa now has the most postseason playoff appearances with 37. Jeannette is second at 36, Mt. Lebanon third at 33 and Penn Hills and Upper St. Clair tied for fourth at 32.

* This was the 15th time Aliquippa finished the regular season with an undefeated and untied record. That is the second highest in WPIAL history behind Jeannette's 16.

* University Prep quarterback Ron Brown has 2,798 career passing yards and will play in the City League championship Saturday against Allderdice. Only three quarterbacks from the WPIAL or City League have thrown for 3,000 yards in a season (counting playoffs). South Fayette's Christian Brumbaugh threw for 3,726 in 2010, North Allegheny's Mack Leftwich 3,331 last season and Seton-LaSalle's Bill Stull 3,310 in 2004.

For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.

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