West Xtra: It's feast or famine in the MAC
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In the world of sports, there are always the proverbial "haves" and "have nots" when it comes to teams in a given league, with the WPIAL serving as no exception to the rule. With winners must inevitably come losers and the league's standings reflect just that.
There is perhaps no greater discrepancy in the WPIAL, however, between the top and the bottom than in the Midwestern Conference, which has seven of its teams coming from the West Xtra region.
The conference sports two of the top four ranked teams in Class AA -- No. 1 Aliquippa and No. 4 Beaver -- as well as a 6-1 Beaver Falls team that could dramatically alter its season with a win over Aliquippa tonight. Together, those three teams are a combined 20-1, the best mark of any top three teams in any WPIAL conference this season.
Once the attention shifts away from those three teams, though, there is a precipitous drop to the conference's remaining five squads. Taken together, a group that includes Freedom Area, Mohawk, New Brighton, Riverside and Ellwood City has combined for a 7-22 record and a winning percentage of 24.1 percent.
In fact, the difference in winning percentage between the top three teams in the Midwestern Conference and that of all the remaining teams -- 71.1 percent -- is the highest of all WPIAL conferences.
Part of the reality of the situation undoubtedly goes back to scheduling, one that has the teams further behind in the standings getting beat up by those at the top.
Of the five bottom teams in the conference, four of them have played all three of Aliquippa, Beaver and Beaver Falls, with the remaining team -- Ellwood City -- having played two of the three. Non-conference games against tough opponents such as South Allegheny, Seton-LaSalle and Class AA No. 2 South Fayette have also not helped the numbers.
The fact remains, though, that the gap between the competitive teams and non-competitive ones is statistically higher in the Midwestern Conference than any other WPIAL conference.
The 2012 season has been one of high expectations for the Beaver Area football team, with strong results backing up those hopes seven games into the season. For a Beaver offense that is averaging just shy of 40 points a game and is outscoring opponents by an average of almost 20 points per game, Darian Bradley has played an integral role.
In the Bobcats' most recent victory, a 35-14 thumping of Mohawk, Bradley led the way with 177 rushing yards and four of the team's five touchdowns. On the season, Bradley had rushed for 705 yards and accounted for 896 yards of total offense, along with 28 touchdowns.
Bradley's undefeated Beaver team has a game this week against 1-6 Ellwood City before taking on Aliquippa in a regular-season finale that could likely decide the champion in the Midwestern Conference.
Running back Terry Swanson has played an important part in an Aliquippa offense that is averaging 52.1 points per game, the second highest mark of any WPIAL team, but he had never experienced a better individual performance in 2012 than the one he had last week.
While the Quips were in the process of beating Ellwood City, 54-12, Swanson rushed for a season-high 168 yards. He also added two touchdowns, which went for 17 yards and 47 yards.
After a strong sophomore season last year in which he compiled 522 yards on the ground, Swanson has rushed for 638 yards on 51 carries (for an average of 12.5 yards per carry) and scored 12 touchdowns this season.
West Allegheny's game at Montour is the headliner of all games involving West Xtra region teams, with the contest holding major playoff implications. If Montour wins, it will move to 8-0 on the season and clinch the No. 1 playoff spot from the Parkway Conference, even if the Spartans were to get upset by Moon Area in the regular-season finale.
If West Allegheny wins, however, it will create what will likely be a three-way tie atop the conference standings by the end of the season involving West Allegheny, Montour and Central Valley.
First Published October 18, 2012 12:00 am