By Matt Popchock


With mere hours to go until the start of a new high school football season, it’s time to make some pigskin prognostications. “Mr. High School Sports” thereby offers his picks for the top four teams (i.e.: the playoff qualifiers) in each conference, along with the two he thinks will meet at Heinz Field with a WPIAL championship at stake:


1. Seton-LaSalle

2. South Fayette

3. Keystone Oaks

4. South Allegheny


1. Freeport

2. Burrell

3. Ford City

4. Shady Side Academy


1. Aliquippa

2. Beaver Falls

3. Beaver

4. Laurel


1. Jeannette

2. Greensburg Central Catholic

3. Southmoreland

4. Mount Pleasant

CLASS AA FINAL MATCHUP: Aliquippa vs. Seton-LaSalle

A watered-down Class AA that has seen its best player from a year ago graduate is up for grabs this year…if anyone can figure out a way to beat the Quips in the championship game a third year in a row. No matter who they lose, they’re usually one of the deepest and most well coached programs in the classification, and this season is no different. Plus, you throw in the motivation of those championship losses, and Aliquippa looks like the team to beat, though Beaver Falls has enough talent to pull the rug out from under them if they’re not careful. The MAC will be a brutal conference again, but the same can be said for the Century Conference. I really like Seton-LaSalle’s dynamic offense, and I think if they can figure some things out on the other side of the ball, they too are a real contender. South Fayette has been hit too hard by graduation to win the conference again, though the Lions still have some good athletes who can make them a sleeper. Meanwhile, the turnaround John Gaillot has engineered at Freeport should not go unnoticed; the Jackets seem to have become a very cohesive unit, and my gut tells me this is a breakout year for that program with Ford City losing so many starters and Burrell needing to shore up its defense. I expect the playoff races in all three of those conferences to be exceptionally fun to watch, but not as fun as the one in the Interstate Conference. GCC graduated its top linemen and tailback, which puts Jeannette in the driver’s seat with its outstanding defense, but I’m keeping an eye on Southmoreland. The Scotties have the longest playoff drought in the WPIAL, and knocked on the door last year. I say this is the year they kick the door off the hinges, given they have all their top skill players coming back. In any event, last year’s title game pitted two of the highest-scoring teams in Class AA, and I think 2011 will bring more of the same.

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