Game of the Week: Seneca Valley vs. North Allegheny

As Don Holl tried his best to explain his Seneca Valley football team's win against North Allegheny last season, he kept coming back to a single word -- context.

The victory against the Tigers, in a vacuum, was significant.

Though the Raiders have experienced bouts of success over the past decade, North Allegheny always stood as a roadblock. For 11 years, they went without a win against their conference rival before ending the drought last season with a 20-6 win.

It was the kind of moment that sent players into euphoria and fans rushing on the field, but Holl said he doesn't think about it much.

To him, that's where context comes into play. What the game meant in that moment was everything, but with his team opening the season against the Tigers Friday, the win can no longer be seen as a paramount accomplishment.

"While I don't mind talking about it, now, it doesn't matter that much," Holl said. "We haven't talked about that game with our kids."

As opposed to last year when it was trying to end its losing streak against the three-time defending WPIAL champion, Seneca Valley, the Post-Gazette's No. 3 team in Class AAAA, enters this game as anything but an underdog. Following a surprising 9-2 season, the Raiders bring back a solid chunk of their top players, a group led by Holl's son, T.J.

On a team that had to replace several key starters, T.J. Holl emerged as the biggest breakout star. The then-junior primarily a wide receiver and special-teams player until that point, was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the WPIAL, passing for 1,804 yards and rushing for 723.

They're the kind of statistics that might only get better with a full offseason of work.

"Everything you can measure as a quarterback, I think he's improved in those areas," Don Holl said.

Following a down year by its lofty standards -- one in which it went 7-4 -- North Allegheny has only a handful of starters returning on each side of the ball, a group highlighted by linebacker Layne Skundrich and quarterback Jeff Clemens.

Still, the Tigers enter the season as the No. 5 team in Class AAAA for a good reason -- this is a program that, even when it appears to be weaker, can still put out strong teams.

With a loaded early season schedule that also includes games against Pine-Richland, Central Catholic and Upper St. Clair, Friday's season opener becomes that much more important for North Allegheny.

"You're looking at setting the stage for later weeks," Tigers coach Art Walker said. "If you get one in the win column, it makes things a lot easier, especially when it's in Week One. There's more pressure than there has been in the past."

Craig Meyer: and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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