After a couple days of recuperation Mr. High School Sports has emerged from the darkroom and is happy to report the WPIAL Football Playoff picture has come into much sharper focus. The number of hopefuls has dwindled, and after all the happenings of Week 8, only 12 postseason berths out of 64 are still up for grabs. It turned out to be the most important week of the year for a lot of schools, and for some, one of the most memorable Week 8′s in quite some time.
The field is almost completely locked into place in Single-A, while the next chapters in two of the feel-good stories this season were written in Double-A and Triple-A, and in Quad-A, several teams set the stage for a thrilling finish to the 2010 campaign. Here’s some of the best–and most crucial–highlights from last Friday:
Sto-Rox 38, Shenango 31 – Despite not having the services of 15 players who fell victim to the district’s new academic policy, the playoff-bound Vikings (4-2, 6-2) held off the Wildcats (2-4, 3-5), who are eliminated from the postseason chase, in Big 7 Conference action. Running back Anthony Koscuiszko needed just 13 carries to rack up 222 yards, including a 79-yard score in the midst of a 23-point 4th quarter by Shenango, and although Josh Beverly only managed 105 yards on 21 carries for the home team, he also managed four touchdown runs to provide the difference.
Brentwood 40, Serra Catholic 20 – In a must-win situation Brentwood’s offense found a second gear to propel the Spartans (4-2, 6-2) to a playoff berth out of the Black Hills Conference and effectively end Jamie Eckles’ first year on the opposing sideline by eliminating the visiting Eagles (3-3, 3-5) from playoff contention. Brentwood QB Cory Bauer turned in another fine performance, throwing for two touchdowns and connecting on ten of 15 passes for 164 yards, while running back Justin Vickless put the game out of reach with three short TD runs in each of the first three quarters.
Clairton 42, Fort Cherry 7 – The good news for the Rangers (4-2, 4-4) is that they will make the WPIAL Playoffs, and they scored more points against Clairton than any other team this season…the bad news is, the Bears (6-0, 8-0) put up 35 more, as the proud owners of the No. 1 scoring offense and defense in Class A rolled to another Black Hills Conference title. Desimon Green ran for an early 15-yard score and added two more in the air, throwing for 192 yards on 11-of-14 passing, and speaking of the Clairton defense, they held Fort Cherry to 29 rush yards and returned an interception for a touchdown for the fourth straight game.
Carmichaels 29, Geibel 7 – The Mighty Mikes (4-3, 5-3) lived to fight another day in pursuit of the last available playoff spot in the classification, eliminating some of their Tri-County South Conference competition in the process. To see a struggling program like Geibel chase that spot was a nice story, but the Gators (3-4, 3-5) were knocked out Saturday afternoon thanks to Josh Mundell, who led Carmichaels with 117 yards and one TD on 17 rushes, and brother Zach Mundell, who ran for 77 yards on 17 carries and provided the winning points on a goal-line plunge in the 2nd quarter, the first of his two scores.
Deer Lakes 23, Burrell 21 – Russelton rejoice, the streak is over, and the Lancers (5-1, 6-2) are in the WPIAL Football Playoffs for the first time in school history after winning an Allegheny Conference nail-biter over the Buccaneers (3-3, 4-4) on senior night that prompted green-and-gold clad students to storm the field en masse. Unheralded fullback Mark Wesolek surprised Burrell by rumbling for 167 yards on 22 runs, which allowed DL to score all its points in the first half and offset a great effort by Burrell QB Zach Middleby, who led all Class AA passers with 228 yards and two TD’s in a 16-of-32 outing.
Steel Valley 76, Quaker Valley 26 – In any other week this would be the lead in Class AA, but at any rate, the playoff-bound Ironmen (4-2, 6-2) went all Oakland Raiders on the Quakers (1-5, 1-7), as tailback Delrece Williams played one of the greatest games you’ll ever see in the WPIAL. Williams scored eight touchdowns, seven of them on the ground, and seven in the first half alone, carrying the pigskin 26 times for 339 yards to lead all District 7 backs in Week 8, while QV’s Pat Conlan threw for 202 yards and scored three times in an offensive clinic that also featured 250 penalty yards and six player ejections.
Greensburg C.C. 14, East Allegheny 13 – Back into Interstate Conference play, the WPIAL champions once again struggled, but once again, the Centurions (7-0, 8-0) did what they had to do to outlast the feisty Wildcats (5-3, 5-3) on the road. South Allegheny QB Jody Harris scrambled for 136 yards on 25 carries and threw a pair of first-half TD passes, but his counterpart, Terrance Stepoli, made his 97 pass yards count with a scoring toss of his own before halftime, and tailback Andy Biros (picutred above) rescued GCC by running 51 yards to paydirt with four minutes left in the game.
Beaver Falls 10, Ellwood City 3 – The Midwestern Conference title may be out of reach, but the Tigers (6-1, 7-1) at least put themselves in position to clinch second place and earn one more home game in the opening round of the playoffs by gutting out a victory over the improved Wolverines (4-3, 5-3), who now must win in Week 9 or stay home themselves. Defensive lineman Trey Collier’s 39-yard interception return for the winning touchdown in the 4th quarter was just one heroic effort on a night of many by the Beaver Falls defense, which stopped Ellwood City on four straight plays from the one yard line before time expried.
Montour 28, West Allegheny 20 – There’s an old saying that to be the man you have to beat the man, and it’s safe to say the Spartans (6-0, 8-0) are “the man” in Class AAA after mounting an impressive 13-point comeback to knock off the WPIAL champion Indians (5-1, 6-2) for the Parkway Conference crown on senior night. It was also a memorable night for one of the juniors, tailback Julian Durden (pictured left), who carried the mail 28 times for 251 yards and all four Montour TD’s, including an 86-yarder to get them on the board first, while West A’s Aaron McKinney made things interesting by running for 184 yards on 24 carries and all three of the Indians’ touchdowns in a losing cause.
Ringgold 24, Franklin Regional 13 – Not many of us thought it was possible, but one of the Keystone Conference newcomers has clinched at least a share of the title, as Matt Humbert’s Rams (6-0, 8-0) are perfect through eight games for the first time since 1972, when their quarterback was some kid named Montana. Tailback Derrick Fiore ran for 116 yards on 15 carries and put the Panthers (5-1, 6-2) behind for good with a 60-yard score in the 3rd quarter, and he was part of a terrific group effort by the Ringgold defense, as evidenced by the depicted tackle of Dane Brown, who they held to 55 yards.
Thomas Jefferson 14, Belle Vernon 13 – In a game much closer than most outside Rostraver would have imagined, a blocked extra point attempt in the waning minutes allowed the Jaguars (6-0, 7-1) to slip past the host Leopards (4-2, 4-4) and get back to the bus with another Big Eight Conference title. Once again, Bill Cherpak seemed to push the right button by going with Ryan Crouse at QB, and Crouse threw for 70 yards and both Thomas Jefferson touchdowns to Tom Grieves, while the defense forced two picks by Matt Naylor, who threw for 186 yards and one TD, completing ten of 19 throws.
West Mifflin 33, Chartiers Valley 21 – This criticial win by the host Titans (4-2, 4-4) assured them of a playoff spot in the Big Eight Conference, while leaving the Colts (3-3, 3-5) in need of some big-time help in order to salvage what has turned out to be a disappointing campaign for Char-Valley. West Mifflin running back Shamar Greene led his team’s charge with 222 rush yards on 30 attempts and three TD’s, including a 62-yard jaunt, and took a kickoff 95 yards to the house; meanwhile, Char-Valley’s new quarterback, Bryan Leipold, fought hard, throwing for 186 yards and two TD’s.
Baldwin 27, Canon-McMillan 14 – Sorry, folks, I just can’t help myself…the Baldwin offense ran “Wild” over the Big Macs (0-4, 1-7) in Great Southern Conference play, which puts the Highlanders (2-2, 3-5) a Week 9 victory away from guaranteeing a playoff spot. Now that Mr. High School Sports is done with the cheesy puns, he can tell you that Garrett Wild totaled 120 rush yards on 14 carries, including a 59-yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter, then Nathan Reed threw a game-winning 15-yard TD pass to Zach DiNardo, then found him again for a 17-yard score to provide insurance. Click here to relive any or all of the action from the 93.7 The Fan Game of the Week.
North Allegheny 45, Shaler 0 – So much for all that “Game of the Week” talk from yours truly…it’s gotten to the point where any game the Tigers (5-0, 8-0) play is no contest, as they gave themselves a shot at an outright Northern Seven championship by whipping the Titans (3-2, 5-3). Alex Papson (pictured left), as he often does, led all running backs in Quad-A with 289 yards on 19 pops and found the end zone from 61 yards away, one of thee first-half TD’s, and Mike Buchert passed for 62 yards and one touchdown and ran for another in NA’s 24th win over Shaler in its last 25 tries.
North Hills 35, Seneca Valley 14 – While NA was having its way with Shaler, their hated rival took advantage of Seneca Valley’s collective youth, not to mention some breakdowns in that team’s secondary, to set up the other half of the Northern Seven Conference title tilt in Week 9. Second-string quarterback Steve Dutkowski led the Indians (4-1, 7-1) to an easy road win over the Raiders (0-5, 2-6) and led all WPIAL passers in Week 8 with an even 300 yards, including touchdown passes of 61 and 74 to Mark DeVita, who caught four balls for a whopping 186 of those yards.
Norwin 24, Latrobe 7 – A tip of the cap is a couple days overdue to new coach Art Tragesser, whose Knights (3-2, 4-4) clinched a playoff berth out of the Foothills Conference and knocked the Wildcats (1-4, 4-4) out of the picture with a convincing triumph last Friday. The one-two punch of quarterback Tim Petro and receiver Andy Carter proved too much for the ‘Cats to handle, as Petro hurled three TD passes to Carter, who ended the night with 130 yards receiving on eight catches, and finished a most impressive 17-of-20 for 225 total yards.
Perry 34, Brashear 13 – The Commodores (6-0, 6-1) coasted over the Bulls (4-2, 4-3) at Cupples Stadium in Week 8 to become the first team in the League to clinch a playoff berth, thanks to the arm of Greg McGhee, who connected on seven of his 17 passes for 170 yards and two of his four TD’s, and Eric Frye, who accounted for 132 of those yards, caught both of McGhee’s touchdown tosses.
For more of the latest news and views on and off the gridiron, be sure to check out The Post-Gazette High School Football Show Presented by First Commonwealth Bank with the Post-Gazette’s Mike White and MSA’s Don Rebel. Due to Pitt’s noon kickoff against Louisville, catch us at a special time this week: Saturday morning 7:00-9:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!