By Matt Popchock
The idea for a bold experiment posed in this very blog last week turned out to be a good one, as Mr. High School Sports correctly picked most of the winners in the 2010 WPIAL Football Quarterfinals. This comes as little surprise to him, as do many of last Friday’s results. The second round of this year’s playoffs produced not as many eyebrow-raisers as the first, but it was still a Friday night filled with excitement.
For a number of the teams across all four classifications the trip to the WPIAL Football Semifinals they earned puts them in extremely familiar territory. However, one Triple-A team might still be riding an emotional high after its surprisingly comfortable victory, and one Quad-A team staged a comeback that will be talked about for a while. Here is the best of the best from Week 11 of the high school football season:
Clairton 47, Bishop Canevin 0 – In case you had forgotten how dominant the Bears (11-0) have been this season, they issued a friendly reminder by dispatching the Crusaders (9-2) with the greatest of ease and taking Matt Butter out of the game. The Clairton defense picked him off six times and held him to 16 yards, while counterpart Desimon Green was responsible for four touchdowns, throwing for 128 yards on 4-of-6 passing and adding 53 on the ground to put Clairton in the semifinals for the fifth year in a row.
Springdale 30, Monessen 6 – The Tri-County South Conference continues to struggle in the later rounds of the WPIAL Playoffs, and the Dynamos (10-1) continue to show why their defense deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Clairton and Rochester. Bill Arch led the charge once again for Springdale’s balanced ground attack, earning 146 yards on 14 carries and becoming one of four different players to score, and QB Joe Killian scrambed for 68 yards and two TD’s to help eliminate the Greyhounds (9-2) for the third time in five years.
Rochester 35, Beth-Center 0 – What has become par for the course for Gene Matsook’s Rams (11-0) happened again last Friday, thanks to a great performance from running back Nick Tapia (pictured left) in a bulldozing of the Bulldogs (8-3). On just 15 attempts Tapia racked up 127 yards rushing and scored two of his three consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter, and quarterback Jason Adamson scored the game’s first TD, adding 91 all-purpose yards, to get Rochester to its 11th semifinal in 13 seasons.
Avonworth 17, North Catholic 3 – This time the Trojans (7-4) did miss Martin Long, as the Avonworth defense recorded eight sacks, made three interceptions, and recovered a fumble in the end zone for the winning points to power the Antelopes (10-1) to their second semifinal in three years. Brian Vales threw for 108 yards on 6-of-12 passing to set up the only offensive touchdown for the ‘Lopes, a short run by Jake Szolis, in a decisive win over their Eastern Conference rivals.
Aliquippa 34, Beaver 0 – It appears the Quips (11-0) learned whatever lessons they needed to from the dramatic regular season meeting between these Midwestern Conference foes, because the Bobcats (8-3) didn’t hang around for nearly as long with the Aliquippa defense limiting them to an incredible two net yards of offense. Mikal Hall connected on six of ten passes for 131 yards and threw three first-half touchdowns to lead his team to its 10th semifinal in 13 years.
Ford City 35, Seton-LaSalle 21 – Maybe it’s time to start talking about the Sabers (11-0), a team notorious for terrific defense that used uncharacteristically terrific offense to overcome the dangerous attack of the Rebels (9-2). Quarterback Cody Gispanski (seen on the right celebrating a touchdown) threw an early touchdown pass, then ran for two scores from short distance, finishing with 118 all-purpose yards, and the Ford City defense made their usual assortment of big plays, which included five interceptions of backup quarterback Luke Brumbaugh.
Beaver Falls 28, Keystone Oaks 0 – Boy, the Tigers (10-1) must really like playing teams from the Century Conference…nah, they’re probably just that good, though I’m sure they’ll take their chances with another team from that section next week after whipping the upstart Golden Eagles (7-4). KO’s Mr. Everything, Matt McCann, did look sharp running for 111 yards on 18 carries in a losing effort, but first-year starter Trey Hall ran roughshod over their defense and one-upped him with 114 on the same number of carries, not to mention three touchdowns.
South Fayette 47, Freeport 13 – Break up the Lions (11-0)–they dare you–who relied on yet another supreme effort from the dynamic duo of Division I recruit Christian Brumbaugh and running back Jeff Davis to sting the Yellowjackets (7-4). Brumbaugh is now the fifth-leading passer in WPIAL history after finishing 12-of-17 for a district-leading 328 yards, running for a score, and throwing TD bombs of 28 and 26 yards to Davis, who gained 145 all-purpose yards, and South Fayette is in the WPIAL Semifinals for the first time since 1999.
Montour 36, Indiana 14 – His postseason didn’t get off the illustrious start he was hoping for in Week 10, but tailback Julian Durden didn’t mess around last Friday and neither did the rest of the Spartans (11-0), who earned a running clock in a much more relaxing victory over the Little Indians (8-3). Durden, one of five different Montour players to find paydirt, carried the mail 17 times for 170 yards, and Dillon Buechel, who scrambled for a short TD, completed nine of 13 passes for 125 yards.
Mars 29, West Allegheny 3 – For the second time in as many weeks one of the 2009 WPIAL champions was sent home, this time in even more surprising fashion, as the Planets (10-1) shut down Aaron McKinney and pulled away from the Indians (7-4) late. Austin Miele (pictured left) led the Planets once again with “only” 181 yards on 31 attempts, scored on a ten-yard run in the fourth quarter, and caught what proved to be the game-winning TD in the first from Eric Guzak, and Seth Geyer scored on late runs for 16 and 21 yards to cap off maybe the biggest stunner of the night.
Thomas Jefferson 38, Hopewell 28 – Yawn…TJ wins, again…TJ goes to the semifinals, again…though there was nothing ho-hum about this contest, which saw the Jaguars (10-1) get plenty of great contributions on offense to offset a productive night by the Vikings (6-5) and Rushel Shell. He ran a kickoff nearly end to end for a touchdown and scored the rest of Hopewell’s TD’s on 26 carries for 235 yards, but Ryan Crouse had too many answers, as he threw for four touchdowns and 215 yards on just nine completions to get Thomas Jefferson to its WPIAL-record 13th straight Class AAA Semifinal.
Central Valley 16, Knoch 0 – Now that the newborn Warriors (8-3) have blanked the Knights (9-2) and in doing so, shut down a very capable offense for the second week in a row, can we now call this Cinderella squad a legitimately good football team? Central Valley took away the run and got their own ground attack going throughout, as Lukas Turley raced to 149 yards on 18 carries and raced to the end zone from 69 yards out to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, while Kyler Kenyon racked up an even 100 passing yards on eight completions in defeat.
Pgh. Central Catholic 10, Gateway 0 – Although the Gators (6-5) made the postseason affair a much more competitive meeting than the locally televised regular season one, the Vikings (11-0) were still able to advance, throwing style points out the window in favor of gritty, consistent defense. The Central Catholic defense bent but never broke and delivered four sacks and two crucial turnovers, to say nothing of a great goal-line stand that kept Gateway off the board, and Damion Jones-Moore scored the game’s only TD while rushing for 140 yards on 27 attempts.
North Allegheny 23, Bethel Park 13 – The Tigers (10-1) needed a career night from Alex Papson, who led all WPIAL running backs with 301 yards on 45 carries and scored all three NA touchdowns, to survive the relentless attack of the Black Hawks (5-6) and advance to their fourth semifinal in six seasons. Not surprisingly, Bre’ Ford accounted for Bethel’s lone touchdown while accumulating 61 rushing yards and 124 total yards, but a 62-yard scoring run by Papson in the fourth quarter effectively ended his and the Hawks’ season.
Woodland Hills 29, Mount Lebanon 22 (OT) – With Mount Lebanon tailback Luke Hagy grinding for 160 rushing yards on 42 pops and his third touchdown of the night, it appeared the Wolverines (8-3) would become the third defending champ to go down, but QB Pat Menifee (pictured left) had other ideas. He made two amazing scoring plays, most notably a two-point toss, to tie the game in the closing seconds, and Lafayette Pitts, who ran for 176 yards on 33 carries, scored his third TD in OT to complete a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Blue Devils (10-1). Click here to relive any or all of the action from the 93.7 The Fan Game of the Week.
North Hills 16, Upper St. Clair 14 – Once again, stellar defense was the name of the game for the Indians (10-1), who earned a second consecutive semifinal berth and a rematch with the reigning Quad-A champs by stuffing the Panthers (8-3). Wide receiver Mark DeVita hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass and four other balls for 131 total yards and later booted a game-winning field goal from the same distance, then North Hills stymied Dakota Conwell, who had run for 152 yards and thrown two touchdown passes, on a potential game-tying two-point run.
For all 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 Saturday morning. Due to Pitt’s noon kickoff against South Florida, be sure to join us at a special time of 7:00-9:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!