By Matt Popchock
Last Saturday Clairton, South Fayette, Central Valley, and North Allegheny were crowned WPIAL football champions. Where do they all go from here? Why, the PIAA Quarterfinals, of course, and Mr. High School Sports is following District 7’s best, near and far, every step of the way.
How much does North Allegheny have left after a costly title bout at Heinz Field? Are there any chapters remaining in Central Valley’s Cinderella story? Will South Fayette’s dynamic offense take it where no Lion has gone before? What does Clairton, the only repeat champion, have to do to find its way back to Hershey? And what obstacles await all four schools this Friday night at 7:00? It’s time to find out, starting with a few quick words on the western portion of the state playoff bracket:
CLAIRTON BEARS (13-0) VS. NORTH STAR COUGARS (9-3)
@ SOMERSET AREA STADIUM, SOMERSET HIGH SCHOOL
LAST WEEK: Clairton won its third straight WPIAL Class A title with a 12-0 win over Rochester at Heinz Field, its second straight championship victory over the Rams, as quarterback/defensive end Desimon Green finished 5-of-10 for 82 yards and a touchdown, while running for the winning TD and contributing ten solo tackles. North Star captured its third District 5 title in four years and second in that span as a member of Class A with a 36-20 upset of host Northern Bedford County in which quarterback Max Strasiser finished 7-of-15 for 162 yards and two TD’s, and ran for another.
WHO TO WATCH:
QB/DE Desimon Green, Clairton: 66-of-106 (62.3%), 1,582 yds, 25 TD; 86 rush, 602 yds, 11 TD
WR/DB Josh Page, Clairton: 39 rec., 903 yds, 14 TD; 17 total TD, 2 XP (104 pts.)
QB/LB Max Strasiser, North Star: 112-of-185 (60.5%), 1,967 yds, 21 TD; 96 rush, 473 yds, 11 TD
RB/LB Dylan Friedline, North Star: 144 rush, 1,015 yds, 12 TD; 102 tackles
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Friday’s game between District 10 Class A champion Farrell and District 9 Class A champion Curwensville in the PIAA Semifinals next Friday.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Cougars have enjoyed a commendable run, but since the second-ranked Class A team in the state failed to put points on the board against the amazing Bears, it’s hard to imagine anyone stopping Clairton.
PIAA CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS:
SOUTH FAYETTE LIONS (13-0) VS. BROCKWAY ROVERS (12-0)
@ JOE P. DIMICHELA STADIUM, WEST ALLEGHENY HIGH SCHOOL
LAST WEEK: South Fayette won its third WPIAL football championship in school history and first since 1964 with a 19-6 victory over Aliquippa, the Quips’ second consecutive Heinz Field loss, in which quarterback Christian Brumbaugh finished 12-of-23 for 147 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Brockway, the District 9 Class AA champion, defeated Oliver, the fifth-place team in the City League, 44-14 in the First Round of the PIAA Playoffs at Clarion University’s Memorial Field, as quarterback Derek Buganza finished 17-of-24 for 159 yards and a touchdown en route to the team’s unprecedented 12th win.
WHO TO WATCH:
QB/DB Christian Brumbaugh: 183-of-285 (64.2%), 2,875 yds, 39 TD
RB/DB Jeff Davis: 176 rush, 1,323 yds, 13 TD; 38 rec., 564 yds, 9 TD
QB/LB Derek Buganza: 159-of-234 (67.9%), 2,665 yds, 27 TD
WR/LB Mike Vervoort: 48 rec., 815 yds, 10 TD; 101 rush, 922 yds, 17 TD
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Friday’s game between District 10 Class AA champion Sharon and District 5/6 Class AA champion Forest Hills in the PIAA Semifinals next Friday.
THE BOTTOM LINE: This is a matchup of the leading passer in western Pennsylvania (Brumbaugh) and the PIAA career passing yardage king (Buganza), so what does this game come down to? Whichever team can establish the run and keep the opposing QB off the field.
CENTRAL VALLEY WARRIORS (10-3) VS. ERIE CATHEDRAL PREP RAMBLERS (8-4)
@ VETERANS STADIUM, ERIE
LAST WEEK: In its first year of existence Central Valley earned the WPIAL Class AAA Championship at Heinz Field with a 24-7 upset of previously unbeaten Montour, which was seeking its first title since 1964, as wide receiver Robert Foster returned a punt 35 yards for the winning touchdown, caught a 70-yard TD pass, and finished with 56 rushing yards. Erie Cathedral Prep defeated Grove City 28-16 for its second straight District 10 Class AAA championship at Slippery Rock University’s N. Kerr Thompson Stadium, led by running back Anthony Jordan, who carried 11 times for 96 yards and two scores and also caught a TD pass.
WHO TO WATCH:
WR/DB Robert Foster, Central Valley: 23 rec., 546 yds, 8 TD; 41 rush, 377 yds; 12 total TD (72 pts.)
RB/TE/LB Lukas Turley, Central Valley: 138 rush, 835 yds, 7 TD
QB/DB Damion Terry, Erie Cathedral Prep: 82-of-158 (51.9%), 1,470 yds, 15 TD; 81 rush, 441 yds, 7 TD
RB/DB Anthony Jordan, Erie Cathedral Prep: 86 rush, 683 yds, 12 TD; 26 rec., 563 yds, 6 TD
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Friday’s District 3 Class AAA Championship game between No. 3 seed Bishop McDevitt and No. 13 seed Cocalico in the PIAA Class AAA Semifinals next Friday.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Numbers just don’t seem to matter the way the Warriors play defense, and throughout the playoffs Jordan has put up critical numbers for the Ramblers, so if CV can contain him and get a couple more big plays from Foster, the feel-good story of the year in WPIAL football should continue for at least one more week.
NORTH ALLEGHENY TIGERS (12-1) VS. STATE COLLEGE LITTLE LIONS (7-6)
@ PINE-RICHLAND STADIUM, PINE-RICHLAND HIGH SCHOOL
LAST WEEK: North Allegheny won just its second WPIAL Class AAAA championship in program history, ending a 20-year drought with a 21-14 victory over defending champ Woodland Hills at Heinz Field, as running back Alex Papson, despite missing the second half with a collarbone injury, carried 22 times for 123 yards and the winning touchdown. State College, which had won the District 6 Class AAAA title despite starting 0-5, defeated City League champion Perry 35-26 in the First Round of the PIAA Playoffs at Cupples Stadium on the South Side, thanks to Jack Haffner, who ran 13 times for 109 yards and a game-clinching touchdown.
WHO TO WATCH:
QB/DB Mike Buchert, North Allegheny: 54-of-112 (48.2%), 999 yds, 11 TD
WR/DB Dan Slivka, North Allegheny: 25 rec., 599 yds, 4 TD
QB/DB Josh Weakland, State College: 182-of-267 (68.2%), 2,001 yds, 21 TD
RB/LB Jack Haffner, State College: 67 rush, 463 yds, 12 TD; 66 tackles
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Friday’s District 3 Class AAAA Championship game between No. 7 seed Cumberland Valley and No. 8 seed Red Lion in the PIAA Class AAAA Semifinals next Friday.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The absence of Alex Papson for the remainder of the season will make this game closer than the Tigers’ decisive victory over the Little Lions in Week 1, but it’s going to be just as difficult as it was back then for State College’s offense to avoid getting manhandled by NA’s defense.
For more of the latest news and views on and off the gridiron, be sure to tune into the season finale of The Post-Gazette High School Football Show Presented by First Commonwealth Bank, Saturday morning 7:00-9:00 on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan and 937thefan.com!