2012 WPIAL Football Playoffs Semifinals Preview
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Breaking down the eight games of the penultimate stop on the road to Heinz Field ...
North Allegheny (11-0) vs. Seneca Valley (10-1), 7:30 p.m. at North Hills: Both teams have high-scoring offenses, but when they met earlier this season, North Allegheny won, 45-3. It was the Tigers' 11th win in a row against the Raiders. If Seneca Valley is to have any chance against the No. 1-ranked team in the state, the Raiders must play error-free. In the first meeting, the score was tied, 3-3, in the second quarter before North Allegheny scored off a blocked punt and steamrolled the Raiders from there. A key battle will be Seneca Valley's offensive line against North Allegheny's defensive front. Also, North Allegheny must stop Seneca Valley from turning short passes into big gains.
Woodland Hills (9-2) vs. Upper St. Clair (10-1), 7:30 p.m. at Baldwin: These two met in the first game of the season and Upper St. Clair won, 31-12, despite trailing, 12-0, in the first half. A key will be how well Upper St. Clair's secondary defends against the pass and what kind of pass rush the Panthers get on Woodland Hills quarterback Cody McClelland. Woodland Hills must keep Upper St. Clair quarterback Pete Coughlin contained in the pocket.
Statistically speaking: Seneca Valley has three players with at least 22 receptions -- Jonathon Dorogy, R.J. McCauley and Forrest Barnes. Dorogy leads with 37 catches. ... It's "running back by committee" for Upper St. Clair's offense. Six players have at least 26 carries, including quarterback Coughlin, who leads the team with 509 yards. ... North Allegheny's Mack Leftwich has thrown for more than 2,000 yards two consecutive seasons. In North Allegheny's 11 consecutive victories against Seneca Valley, NA has outscored the Raiders, 439-91.
History lesson: This is the 25th anniversary of Woodland Hills' first year as a school. The Wolverines also made it to the semifinals in their inaugural season in the WPIAL (1987), but lost to Mt. Lebanon, 27-20, on a snowy field at Baldwin High School. Mt. Lebanon got 187 yards passing from Scott Clements and standout receiver Dan Prunzik caught five passes for 143 yards and scored three touchdowns, one on a run. The win overshadowed a tremendous performance by Woodland Hills running back Craig Thomas, who would go on to play at Michigan State. Thomas rushed for 297 yards on 26 carries.
Thomas Jefferson (11-0) vs. West Allegheny (10-1), 7:30 p.m. at Bethel Park: It's hard to believe there is a team in the WPIAL playing defense better than West Allegheny in recent weeks. In the past six games, West Allegheny has allowed only 7, 0, 3, 7, 0 and 2 points. But not since the season opener against Blackhawk has West Allegheny faced a passing attack as potent as Thomas Jefferson's. Quarterback Joe Carroll threw for 396 yards last week and has more than 2,200 yards passing for the season. Thomas Jefferson needs to force West Allegheny to throw.
West Mifflin (10-1) vs. Central Valley (9-2), 7:30 p.m. at North Allegheny: Due to injuries, Central Valley quarterback Nathan Climo (head) and leading rusher Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) haven't played the past two games. But the Warriors are still in the semifinals for the third year in a row. West Mifflin will rely heavily on its running game. Central Valley needs to get star receiver Robert Foster the ball not only with passes, but also on some running plays.
Statistically speaking: In Climo's absence, John George has been more than serviceable in the past two games, completing 10 of 13 for 176 yards. ... Foster has 43 catches for 376 yards. ... West Allegheny's Chayse Dillon missed a few contests with injuries, but has back-to-back 100-yard games. West Allegheny has four players with at least 450 yards rushing -- Tory Delmonico, Dillon, Armand Dellovade and Nick Habedl. ... West Mifflin's Jim Wheeler has 2,000 yards rushing and quarterback Derrick Fulmore 754.
History lesson: Fifteen years ago, West Allegheny earned its first trip to a WPIAL title game with a 20-12 victory against Blackhawk. West Allegheny was led to the win by 5-foot-6 quarterback Jim Capozzoli. After completing only 2 of 9 passes for 5 yards in the first half, Capozzoli was 8 of 14 for 81 yards in the second half and threw for two touchdowns. The win earned West Allegheny a trip to Three Rivers Stadium. A day before the semifinal win against Blackhawk, while on the way to practice at Mt. Lebanon, West Allegheny coach Bob Palko had the team bus driver go to Three Rivers Stadium and the team walked onto the field.
Aliquippa (11-0) vs. Jeannette (10-1), 7:30 p.m. at Peters Township: The previous time these two met in a semifinal was 2007, and they set a WPIAL record for most points scored in a game when Jeannette defeated Aliquippa, 74-48. This one won't be that high scoring, but both teams have high-powered offenses. Aliquippa has a strong one-two running punch in Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson. They alternate in the backfield in most series, but don't be surprised if they play together more in this contest. Jeannette's one-two running punch of Jordan Edmunds and Shavonta Craft also is strong.
South Fayette (11-0) vs. Washington (11-0), 7:30 p.m. at Chartiers Valley: It's pass vs. run in this game. South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh led the WPIAL in passing yardage in the regular season while Washington's Shai McKenzie was the leading rusher. South Fayette uses a no-huddle offense and Washington's defensive backs will be in the spotlight against South Fayette's talented group of receivers. Pitt recruit Zach Challings-worth is South Fayette's leading receiver. Keep an eye on Washington's Jaylin Kelly, a standout linebacker who has a few Division I college scholarship offers.
Statistically speaking: Aliquippa is the only team in the WPIAL with two running backs rushing for more than 950 yards. Henry has 1,054 on 100 carries (10.5 average) and Swanson 960 on 79 (12.2 average). ... South Fayette's Challingsworth has 134 yards rushing on 19 attempts and 1,087 yards receiving on 54 catches. He also averages 16 yards on punt returns, 33 yards on kickoff returns and has intercepted four passes. ... McKenzie has eight 200-yard games this season.
History lesson: This year is the 40th anniversary of one of the strangest semifinal games in WPIAL history, and it involved Jeannette. In 1972, Jeannette played Monessen at Three Rivers Stadium, and the score was tied, 14-14, after regulation. Back then, there was no overtime in the WPIAL. So the game was decided by which ever team had more total yards on offense. Joe Mucci was Jeannette's coach then and remembers both teams looking up to the press box when the game ended.
"Apparently, there was someone up there from the WPIAL. Between that person and the various sports writers covering the game, they came up with the total yardage," Mucci said. "Then somehow or other, they announced it on the public address system."
And Jeannette won, 254-177.
Clairton (11-0) vs. Neshannock (10-1), 7:30 p.m. at Chartiers-Houston: Is there anyone in the WPIAL that can slow down this runaway Clairton train? Clairton has won 58 consecutive games and a victory ties the state record for the longest winning streak. Clairton's Tyler Boyd is a do-everything offensive player and preventing him from making a handful of big plays has to be Neshannock's top priority. But not making mistakes will also be paramount if Neshannock is to have any chance in this game. Neshannock would like to establish a running game, but will need to have some success throwing also.
Sto-Rox (10-1) vs. North Catholic (9-2), 7:30 p.m. at Dormont Stadium: Sto-Rox's run defense against North Catholic's running game is the key matchup. Sto-Rox's defense has been superb since the middle of the season, allowing only 15 points the past five games. North Catholic will rely on its running game, led by sophomore P.J. Fulmore (1,616 yards on 258 attempts). North Catholic's defense will be put to the test by Sto-Rox junior quarterback Lenny Williams, who has almost 3,000 yards offense.
Statistically speaking: Clairton's Boyd has 1,850 yards rushing and averages 14.3 yards a carry. But the Bears have other playmakers. Terrish Webb has carried the ball only 13 times, but is averaging 28.5 yards a carry. He has 370 yards rushing. ... Neshannock quarterback Ernie Burkes has thrown for 1,495 yards and rushed for 787. ... Sto-Rox's Williams had more than 400 yards offense in one game this season. He has thrown for 1,947 yards and rushed for 996. Sto-Rox's Brandon Blair has rushed for 747 yards. He is a cousin of NBA player DeJuan Blair.
History lesson: This is the 25-year anniversary of Sto-Rox's previous WPIAL championship team. This week in 1987, Sto-Rox knocked off Beaver, 13-9, in a WPIAL Class AA semifinal at Mt. Lebanon. Darnell Young's 2-yard touchdown run with 3:33 left in the game provided Sto-Rox with the winning points. His touchdown came five plays after Milton Banks recovered a Beaver fumble at the Beaver 33. It was one of three lost fumbles by Beaver.
First Published November 16, 2012 12:00 am