Top seeds: Upper St. Clair (9-0) is first, Central Catholic (9-0) second, McKeesport (9-0) third and Woodland Hills (7-2) fourth.
The winner will be: Upper St. Clair. It's tough to pick between Upper St. Clair and Central Catholic, but the Panthers are a team without a star that meshes so well. The defense has allowed 30 points all season and the well-balanced ground game will be key in November weather. Quarterback Joe Repischak averages only about 10 passes a game.
Varsity Xtra: Picking the WPIAL sleepers, champs
The PG's Mike White and Terry Shields look over the WPIAL high school football pairings and make predictions. (Video by Andrew Rush and Melissa Tkach; 10/29/2013)
On the rise: Woodland Hills (7-2). This looks like a typical George Novak-coached team. The Wolverines start slow but peak the final half of the season. Since losing to Upper St. Clair and McKeesport, the Wolverines have won seven games in a row.
The scoop: You can bet no one wants to play McKeesport. Its flexbone offense seems to be at its best the past few weeks and can be a nightmare to opponents. ... Penn-Trafford is another team on the rise. The Warriors defeated Gateway and Hempfield the final two weeks of the season to finish second in the Foothills Conference. ... What is up with Gateway? The Gators have plenty of individual talent, but they finished the season with two losses and struggled to beat 2-7 Norwin in Week 7. ... North Allegheny, three-time defending WPIAL champion, isn't as good as the past few years but should not be overlooked. ... The best first-round game looks like North Allegheny at Bethel Park. North Hills at Gateway also is a decent first-round game between two coaches in their first years -- North Hills' Pat Carey and Gateway's Don Militzer.
Top seeds: West Allegheny (9-0) is first, Thomas Jefferson (9-0) second, Central Valley (8-1) third and Franklin Regional (8-1) fourth.
The winner will be: Thomas Jefferson. It's hard to go against defending champion West Allegheny. But Thomas Jefferson's big, strong lines might be the difference. Injuries at halfback could be a concern for TJ, though.
On the rise: Mars. The Planets opened the season with a 20-13 loss to Franklin Regional. Since then, Mars has won eight in a row and outscored opponents, 365-83.
The scoop: West Allegheny certainly is capable of winning a second consecutive championship and making Bob Palko the first coach in WPIAL history to win seven outright (without a tie). The Indians don't have a 1,000-yard rusher, but they average close to 300 yards a game on the ground and come from the tough Parkway Conference, which has produced the past four WPIAL champions. ... Don't overlook Central Valley, another Parkway team, whose only loss was to West Allegheny, 14-7. ... A 35-0 loss to Thomas Jefferson hurt West Mifflin's reputation, but with the WPIAL's leading rusher in Jimmy Wheeler, the Titans still could have a big impact. ... New Castle seems to be peaking at the right time. Receiver-defensive back Malik Hooker is an Ohio State recruit. New Castle got the No. 9 seed and plays at No. 8 Highlands, which enters the playoffs on a two-game winning streak.
Top seeds: Aliquippa (9-0) is first, South Fayette (9-0) second, Kittanning (9-0) third and Mount Pleasant (9-0) fourth.
The winner will be: Aliquippa. Although Aliquippa beat Beaver Falls by only 34-28 in Week 8, it still seems to be just about everyone's favorite to win a third consecutive title and fourth in the past six years. Is there a better one-two running punch than the Quips' Terry Swanson and Dravon Henry? If Aliquippa and Beaver Falls meet again, it won't be until the championship game.
On the rise: Seton-LaSalle (7-2). Although the Rebels lost in Week 7, they are a team that can give pass defenses problems. Seton-LaSalle has scored 37 points or more in five of its seven wins.
The scoop: South Fayette led the WPIAL in scoring at 49 points per game but wasn't tested this season. We know the Lions are good, but how good? ... Could this be the year Mount Pleasant makes it to the title game for the first time since 1986? Tyler Mellors is a terrific running back at the Class AA level, and the Vikings averaged 52 points the past six games. ... How good is Kittanning? The Wildcats went undefeated for the first time since 1976, but they come from the Allegheny Conference, which is 1-7 in first-round games the past two seasons.
Top seeds: Sto-Rox (9-0) is first, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (9-0) second, Monessen (8-1) third and Clairton (8-1) fourth.
The winner will be: Sto-Rox. After losing in the final the past two years, the Vikings will get to the top of the ladder this year. Quarterback Lenny Williams, the WPIAL's all-time leading passer, is one reason to like the Vikings, but they have other talented skill-position players. How well the Vikings' defense plays might be the biggest key to their playoff fortunes.
On the rise: Monessen. Since a loss to Fort Cherry in the third game, Monessen has won six in a row and the closest was a 42-24 victory against Clairton.
The scoop: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic is a good pick to win it all, but losing starting quarterback Adam Sharlow in Week 8 to a knee injury will be tough to overcome. ... Clairton has won five consecutive titles and shouldn't be overlooked just because of one loss. Clairton, Monessen and Fort Cherry tied for the Black Hills Conference title. ... Neshannock could be the sleeper. The Lancers have two losses but they are by a combined 10 points against powerhouses Sto-Rox and North Catholic. ... Possible interesting quarterfinal matchups are Clairton vs. Fort Cherry and Avonworth vs. North Catholic. They are rematches of conference games this season.