The Fumbler: Finals day stirs memories

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When The Fumbler arrives Downtown Saturday morning for the WPIAL championships, he'll park on the Boulevard of the Allies, march across the Fort Duquesne Bridge, stroll down North Shore Drive and enter Heinz Field via the Gate A entrance.

Today, he'll simply take a walk down memory lane.

The Fumbler remembers when the first WPIAL championships were played at Heinz Field. It was Nov. 24, 2001, but it seems like yesterday.

That night, a skinny-legged quarterback from Woodland Hills named Steve Breaston stole the show, rushing for 219 yards in his team's win against Central Catholic. West Allegheny also had an outstanding day, as Tyler Palko -- one of the top prep quarterbacks in the country -- led the Indians to their third title in a row.

Whoever coined the phrase "The more things change, the more they stay the same" was certainly on to something. Twelve years after those inaugural games at Heinz Field, Woodland Hills is back playing Central Catholic for the title, and West Allegheny will also be there. George Novak is still roaming the sideline for the Wolverines, and Tyler's dad, Bob, has guided yet another strong Indians' team to the title game.

Over the past few months, the eight remaining teams have won a lot of games -- they're a combined 93-3 to be exact -- all while their communities have come together to show support for what they hope will be a WPIAL champion.

Only four teams will win titles, but all eight will forever remember the day in November of 2013 when they played for a championship at Heinz Field.

Years from now, when The Fumbler is old and gray, he'll remember it, too.

Let The Fumbler know your championship picks by emailing him at thefumbler@post-gazette.com.

The Fumbler slipped up a bit last week, going 5-4 in his selections, including 4-4 in his WPIAL semifinal picks. That moves his season record to 528-117 (.818).

Here's his take on the WPIAL title games.

Class AAAA

Central Catholic (12-0) vs. Woodland Hills (10-2), 2 p.m. -- The Fumbler believes this one will be decided by the play of the quarterbacks. Both teams like to pound the ball, but both are also excellent at stopping the run. That will put Central Catholic's J.J. Cosentino and Woodland Hills' Harry Randall in the spotlight. Cosentino is good -- heck, he's going to Florida State -- but The Fumbler believes Randall's elusiveness and ability to get outside the pocket and make plays will be the difference. Winner: Woodland Hills.

Class AAA

West Allegheny (12-0) vs. Central Valley (11-1), 8 p.m. -- Central Valley has the talent to win this game. The Warriors have a tough defense and an explosive offense led by standout junior running back Jordan Whitehead. The Fumbler, however, can't look past the fact that West Allegheny held Central Valley to just two first downs and 51 total yards in a 13-7 win in September. That defense, paired with a big game from running back Chayse Dillon, will make it two titles in a row for the Indians. Winner: West Allegheny.

Class AA

Aliquippa (12-0) vs. South Fayette (12-0), 5 p.m. -- The last quarterback to lead a team to a win against Aliquippa in a WPIAL playoff game was former South Fayette star Christian Brumbaugh. Three years later, his brother, Brett, has a chance to match that feat against the two-time defending champs. The Fumbler picked Aliquippa to win the title before the playoffs began, so it's very difficult for him to change his mind now. But you know what? He will. Winner: South Fayette.

Class A

Sto-Rox (12-0) vs. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (12-0), 11 a.m. -- Sto-Rox sure did exorcise some demons when it edged Clairton last week, didn't it? The Vikings used a second-half rally to top a team that had beaten them in the final the previous two years. That begs the question: Are the Vikings emotionally drained after that big win? They better not be, as North Catholic represents their biggest challenge of the season. Look for this one to be tight in the closing minutes. That's when Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams will work his magic. Winner: Sto-Rox.


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