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. Thomas Jefferson

2. West Mifflin

3. Chartiers Valley

4. Trinity


1. Franklin Regional

2. Greensburg-Salem

3. Ringgold

4. Uniontown


1. Montour

2. Central Valley

3. Hopewell

4. Blackhawk


1. Knoch

2. Indiana

3. Mars

4. Hampton

CLASS AAA FINAL MATCHUP: Montour vs. Thomas Jefferson

The higher we go up the WPIAL football food chain, the tougher my decisions become, especially as I look at the Parkway Conference. It’s the best in the district, and picking playoff teams out of it epitomizes the phrase “tough love,” because I have a lot of respect for every coach there, and I know that, inevitably, some really good teams are going to be left out of the postseason. Having said that, I believe the Spartans will be warriors, and that this will be the year Montour’s championship drought ends at Heinz Field. They have one of the most lethal attacks in the area, and one of the best lines in the entire state, and as good as they were in 2010, I don’t think we’ve seen that group at its best yet. Speaking of Warriors, Central Valley, which knocked them off last year, still has speed and toughness, and though I don’t foresee a repeat, I think they’ll prove last year was an omen, not an accident. Meanwhile, when I’m not watching Hopewell’s Rushel Shell chase history, I’ll be watching the battle for Keystone Conference supremacy, which ought to be a good one. I like the work ethic and skill of Franklin Regional, but Salem can run the ball just as well, and Ringgold, coming off one of its best seasons in ages, can do the same. In addition, I think we’re going to see a changing of the guard in the GAC, where Knoch is fielding one of the most athletic teams I’ve ever seen from that program, while defending champ Mars, which should still be a tough team to beat, has a lot of rebuilding to do. But again, the road to the championship goes through Robinson Township…with a detour through Jefferson Hills. TJ remains one of the most well-run and well-peopled programs in the Commonwealth, and the Jaguars’ run of dominance will not end anytime soon. West Mifflin has a solid running game, and perhaps the best chance of upending them, while the race for the other Big Eight playoff spots could get quite convoluted. But for all the parity in Class AAA, I get the very strong feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more black and gold at Heinz Field than normal.

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