“Mr. High School Sports” – PIAA Semifinal Preview
By Matt Popchock
One round down, two more to go, and three western Pennsylvania teams still alive in their respective quests for PIAA football gold. Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…oh my…they’re all just one win away from a trip to Chocolate Town, U.S.A. for a shot at the sweetest prize of them all.
How can they get there, and which teams can possibly stop the remaining WPIAL representatives from bringing home state championships? Mr. High School Sports now looks ahead to this weekend’s PIAA Semifinals, but first he’d like to take a quick look back at what happened in the PIAA Quarterfinals:
PIAA CLASS A QUARTERFINALS:
Clairton 52, North Star 0 – There couldn’t have been much doubt Clairton would win its 29th football game in a row last Friday, and the Bears (14-0) erased whatever doubt lingered when they made the Cougars (9-4) cry for mercy in a mercy-rule victory at Somerset High School. Tailback and second-string QB Capri Thompson ran for 94 yards and a two-pointer on just five carries and book-ended the win with long scoring runs of 30 and 47, and the Clairton defense, posting its tenth shutout, held North Star to minus-five net yards of offense.
PIAA CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS:
South Fayette 62, Brockway 28 – The showdown between the PIAA career passing leader and the 2010 WPIAL passing leader lived up to the hype until the fourth quarter, when Christian Brumbaugh led his charging Lions (14-0) past Derek Buganza and the Rovers (12-1) at West Allegheny’s Joe P. DiMichela Stadium last Friday. Buganza finished 25-of-45 for 358 yards, three TD’s, and two crucial INT’s, ending his career with 9,771 yards, but Brumbaugh finished 22-of-26 for 380 yards and five TD’s, marking the following achievements:
- The 380 yards were a single-game PIAA Football Playoff record.
- The five touchdowns tied the single-game PIAA Football Playoff record, according to multiple sources.
- The five touchdowns also gave Brumbaugh 80 career TD passes, moving him past Sto-Rox’s Adam DiMichele as the WPIAL career leader in that category.
- Brumbaugh now has firm command of second place on both the WPIAL career passing yards list and the WPIAL single-season passing yards list.
PIAA CLASS AAA QUARTERFINALS:
Erie Cathedral Prep 31, Central Valley 21 – The dream season finally came to an end for the first-year Warriors (10-4) at Erie’s Veterans Stadium last Friday, as the Ramblers (9-4) rolled past them in a sloppy game that saw Central Valley beat itself just as much as ECP did. The Warriors committed six of the 11 turnovers in the contest, and though Lukas Turley ran for a game-high 149 yards on 26 carries, he was responsible for four of those miscues, one of which was a 53-yard fumble return TD by Dearis Williams, who recovered another fumble and also returned an interception 63 yards.
PIAA CLASS AAAA QUARTERFINALS:
North Allegheny 21, State College 6 – The sequel was understandably closer than the original meeting between these schools in Week 1, but the NA offensive line made life a heck of a lot easier for Alex Papson’s beleaguered backups, who helped the Tigers (13-1) hold off the Little Lions (7-7) for a second time this season. Vinnie Congendo (pictured here with the ball) led the way with 142 rush yards on 24 attempts and two of NA’s three touchdown runs to overshadow a valiant individual effort by State College QB Josh Weakland, who ended 14-of-28 for 179 yards.
Now let’s look ahead to this week’s action:
CLAIRTON BEARS (14-0) VS. FARRELL STEELERS (13-1)
FRIDAY @ 7:00, NEWMAN STADIUM, NORTH ALLEGHENY HIGH SCHOOL
LAST WEEK: While Clairton routed North Star for its Pennsylvania-leading 29th consecutive win last Friday, Farrell defeated Curwensville, the visiting District 9 Class A champions, 35-14 in other PIAA Quarterfinal action.
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Friday night’s game between District 6 champion Bishop Carroll and District 2 champion Taylor Riverside in the PIAA Class A Championship next Friday afternoon at 2:00 at Hershey Park Stadium.
KEY MATCHUP: Clairton QB/DE Desimon Green against Farrell RB/DB Kevin Brodie. Last week Green threw for 96 yards and a touchdown on just four attempts and led a Clairton defense that held North Star to minus-31 rush yards, while Brodie tore up Curwensville for 198 yards and three TD’s on just nine carries. Green’s widely-respected prowess on defense will be tested, as will his ability to protect the ball and make plays in the air, as Brodie has nine interceptions and isn’t bad at catching the ball out of the backfield either.
OUTLOOK: This is the third consecutive PIAA Semifinal meeting between the two, and Farrell pushed Clairton to its limit last year. Much ado has been made about the improvements in this year’s Farrell squad, though the same can be said for Clairton, which should win again as long as they tackle Kevin Brodie and don’t turn the ball over.
SOUTH FAYETTE LIONS (14-0) VS. FOREST HILLS RANGERS (13-1)
SATURDAY @ 1:00, SPARTAN STADIUM, HEMPFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
LAST WEEK: The day after Christian Brumbaugh made his mark in district and state record books in a blowout win over Brockway, Forest Hills outlasted District 10 Class AA champion Sharon 21-7 at Slippery Rock’s N. Kerr Thompson Stadium in other PIAA Quarterfinal action.
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Saturday afternoon’s game between District 12 champion West Catholic and District 4 champion Lewisburg in the PIAA Class AA Championship next Saturday at noon at Hershey Park Stadium.
KEY MATCHUP: South Fayette WR/DB Tyler Challingsworth against Forest Hills WR/DB Jared McCombie. Last week Challingsworth caught nine of Christian Brumbaugh’s passes for 108 yards and ran for a 45-yard touchdown late in the game, while McCombie led Forest Hills with seven tackles, including four solo, and has multiple receptions in every game this year. He’s been quiet lately but McCombie averages over 21 yards per catch with 12 TD’s, though defensively he may have his hands full with the one they call “Smurf,” South Fayette’s leading receiver with 912 yards and seven TD’s.
OUTLOOK: Justin Gdula doesn’t have the same raw talent as Christian Brumbaugh, but he too excels at playing mistake-free football, and he too gets a lot of help from his backfield in the form of 2,000-yard rusher Nick Dudukovich. The Rangers’ defense lately has been as unrelenting as its offense, so when these teams line up, it’ll be like looking in a mirror, and if the wind is blowing Saturday, South Fayette will need a stellar effort from its own defense to advance.
NORTH ALLEGHENY TIGERS (13-1) VS. CUMBERLAND VALLEY EAGLES (12-2)
SATURDAY @ 1:00, MANSION PARK STADIUM, ALTOONA
LAST WEEK: Even without Alex Papson North Allegheny didn’t need his help beating State College for a second time, and the next night Cumberland Valley didn’t need much help dispatching of Red Lion 35-7 to win back-to-back District 3 Quad-A titles at Hershey Park Stadium.
LOOKING AHEAD: The winner of this game plays the winner of Saturday afternoon’s game between District 12 champion LaSalle and District 1 champion North Penn in the PIAA Class AAAA Championship next Saturday at 5:00 at Hershey Park Stadium.
KEY MATCHUP: North Allegheny RB/DB Vinnie Congendo against Cumberland Valley FB/LB Dan Flynn. Last week Congendo did his best Alex Papson impression, running for 142 yards on 24 carries and scoring twice, and the next night Flynn ran for 53 yards and one TD in the District 3 title game while also catching a TD pass. Congendo is coming off a career night, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does for an encore with the Eagles likely game-planning against the run, though the Tigers will probably do the same, as Flynn not only leads Cumberland Valley with 108 tackles, but he has also run for 885 yards and has a rush TD in each of his last eight games.
OUTLOOK: This is a very deep offense the NA defense must hold in check, so their mettle will truly be tested, as will the ability of the Tigers’ offense to answer back, without its best player, against a cohesive unit that tackles well. The real key for the Eagles will be how well they can run the ball against NA’s defensive line, because so far no one else has.
For continuing coverage of the PIAA Football Playoffs be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports next week at 937thefan.com!