High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – Quarterfinal Forecast

Footballs

(Photo credit: KDKA)

By Matt Popchock

(mpopchock@kdka.com)

It’s time to pick our next batch of winners as the Quarterfinal Round of the 2011 WPIAL Football Playoffs gets underway Friday night at 7:30!

The “UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Game of the Week” will not be heard on 93.7 The Fan due to Pitt men’s basketball coverage, but be sure to check out Mr. High School Sports’ live blog from Peters Township Stadium during the Class AA contest between Century Conference rivals Seton-LaSalle and South Fayette.

More on that one in a moment, but first…

CLASS AAAA QUARTERFINALS:

(1) North Allegheny vs. (9) Seneca Valley at Martorelli Stadium, West View – These are two very balanced offenses. North Allegheny has gotten good production from quarterback Mack Leftwich, and their host of tailbacks has pulled its weight all year long. Forrest Barnes is really coming into his own for Seneca Valley, and Jordan Brown mirrors Leftwich with his accuracy. The Raiders kept the Tigers on their toes in the last meeting, but the Tigers’ defense will galvanize and rise to this challenge. WINNER: NORTH ALLEGHENY.

(4) Penn-Trafford vs. (5) Gateway at Hempfield – Gateway got the rematch it wanted with the team that nipped the Gators for the Foothills Conference title. Should they be careful what they wish for? Not this time. Manny Simpson will once again be the folcrum of Penn-Trafford’s offense, but things have changed for Gateway since the first meeting. Darin Franklin is much healthier, and the Gators’ defense is playing its best football of the season. WINNER: GATEWAY.

(2) Pittsburgh Central Catholic vs. (7) Mount Lebanon at North Allegheny – It’s easy to look the toughness of a finesse team like Central Catholic. Bowling Green recruit Logan Dietz anchors a very strong line that matches up well with Mount Lebanon, which is led by counterpart and Wisconsin recruit Arthur Goldberg. Damion Jones-Moore won’t carry the Vikings the way Luke Hagy will carry his own team, but he won’t have to, because Perry Hills will air it out and keep Lebo’s defense off-balance. WINNER: CENTRAL CATHOLIC.

(3) Upper St. Clair vs. (6) Erie McDowell – When you look at these teams, it’s like looking at carbon copies. They’ve both proven they can matriculate the ball exceptionally well, and they’ve both proven they can beat quality teams. Pitt recruit Dakota Conwell is one of the best dual-threat QB’s in the WPIAL, and the same can be said for D-1 prospect Greg Garmon. The biggest difference between these teams is USC’s defense, for which nobody has found an answer. Why should tonight be any different? WINNER: UPPER ST. CLAIR.

CLASS AAA:

(1) Central Valley vs. (8) Ringgold at West Allegheny – Each of these teams will fight the Law…but which Law will come out on top in this playoff rematch? Quad Law couldn’t have picked a better time to regain his health, and he led the Rams to a difficult victory over Highlands last Friday. Our money, however, is on Curtis Law, who has brought great balance and efficiency to the Warriors’ offense, which is overshadowing the stellar play of the defense. WINNER: CENTRAL VALLEY.

(4) West Mifflin vs. (5) Montour at Baldwin – The Titans were playing some of the most inspired football of any Class AAA squad entering the playoffs, though in the First Round they really had to roll up their sleeves to beat a Mars team that was a notch below last year’s. Dillon Buechel has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the WPIAL as of late. As long as he doesn’t turn it over, and as long as Julian Durden gets at least 100 yards, the Spartans can survive. WINNER: MONTOUR.

(2) Franklin Regional vs. (11) Hopewell at Fox Chapel – (This game can be seen on ROOT Sports on tape delay at 11:00 P.M. Friday following Penguins-Stars coverage.) Rushel Shell needs less than 250 yards to become Pennsylvania’s all-time leading rusher. He strapped the Vikings to his back when last these teams met in postseason play. Franklin Regional’s defense, the least scored-upon unit in Class AAA, is vastly improved, though this is its biggest test. The Panthers will pass the test…but not before Shell makes history. WINNER: FRANKLIN REGIONAL.

(3) Knoch vs. (11) Thomas Jefferson at Plum – Although Thomas Jefferson showed a lot of guts in last week’s overtime victory, these just don’t look like the same Jaguars. They’re hungry, don’t get us wrong, but after an emotional win fueled by the passing of Ky Kenyon and the leadership of grief-stricken Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin, the Knights appear just as hungry, if not hungrier. We hate picking against a class act like Bill Cherpak, but we suspect the end of his long WPIAL Semifinal appearance streak is near. WINNER: KNOCH.

CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS:

(1) Aliquippa vs. (8) Washington at Chartiers Valley – These two teams have staged some interesting postseason battles since the turn of the century. This one won’t be quite as interesting. Led by quarterback Josh Wise, Washington’s offense seems to be hitting its stride, but Aliquippa’s defense, one of the best in the WPIAL, has been undaunted since Week 1. Look for a big night from tailback Dravon Henry, who will continue plowing a path to Heinz Field. WINNER: ALIQUIPPA.

(13) Ellwood City vs. (5) Greensburg Central Catholic at Valley – It’s amazing to see the strides Don Phillips has made at Lincoln High School; these Wolverines are one of the most athletic teams we’ve seen from that school in eons, and they proved it with what they did to Freeport. Having said that, Greensburg’s offense is just as balanced, and the Centurions’ defense is as good as any Ellwood has faced this year. Jordan McRae will have room to run, but the real story will be how that group contains the versatile Kyle Crawford in what we think will be a very tight game. WINNER: GREENSBURG C.C.

(2) Jeannette vs. (7) Shady Side Academy at Norwin – The focal point for both offenses will be their dual-threat quarterbacks. Reggie Mitchell looked sensational against Beaver’s tough defense in round one, while Demetrius Cox did enough for the Jayhawks to move forward as well. The key matchup will be Jeannette’s defense, spearheaded by Cox, against Mitchell, and we think that unit will force Mitchell to do too much. WINNER: JEANNETTE.

(3) Seton-LaSalle vs. (11) South Fayette at Peters Township – (Once again, be sure to check out our live blog from Peters Township Friday night!) Joe Rossi isn’t showing all his cards, so we don’t know if regular QB John Lerda will be back. If he is not, then freshman Brett Brumbaugh will once again be under center in what will become one of the most historically significant playoff games in WPIAL history. To our knowledge, no sibling quarterbacks have ever faced one another in the postseason around these parts. The Lions aren’t going away quietly, but Kevin Hart can do enough offensively to spell Luke Brumbaugh and lead the Rebels to a hard-fought win. WINNER: SETON-LaSALLE.

CLASS A QUARTERFINALS:

(1) Clairton vs. (9) Springdale at Yough – This game will be played on Cougar Mountain, and what Springdale is about to do is the equivalent of going into a cougar’s habitat unarmed. The Dynamos’ defense is quietly stifling one opponent after another, and it’s what usually keeps them in the game when they play the Bears. But Clairton, which looks like a team of destiny once again, has had a habit of making close games appear not nearly as close as they are. Tyler Boyd has been a presence on both sides, and he and his mates will win the battle of attrition against Sean Dugan and Chris Liberti. WINNER: CLAIRTON.

(4) Rochester vs. (5) Avonworth at Ambridge – Like the aforementioned Quarterfinal game, this is also a rematch of the 2010 WPIAL Semifinals, in which Rochester’s defense stemmed a hard-hitting tide and led the Rams to victory. Lost in the fact that Ricky Lawniczak is better equipped to run on these guys is the fact that the arm of Brian Vales can’t be overlooked. We don’t overlook the play of the Rams up front, either, as it will open up holes for De’Andre Moon. WINNER: ROCHESTER.

(2) Sto-Rox vs. (7) Brentwood at Dormont Stadium – Going up against the Clairton buzz saw late in the regular season was the toughest test Brentwood will face all year, and there’s no shame in coming up short against that team. Facing a Sto-Rox team that has as many weapons offensively as Clairton isn’t much easier. Justin Vickless has run the ball exceptionally well as of late, but he won’t have as much room against a defense loaded with Division I talent, including Pitt prospect Marzett Geter. WINNER: STO-ROX.

(3) Bishop Canevin vs. (11) Fort Cherry at Chartiers-Houston – There’s something very karmic about the fact the Crusaders are headed to Chartiers-Houston, home of a team that gave them a much tougher time than we anticipated in the First Round. Although Canevin has handled its business to this point, thanks to the running of Casey McCaffrey, that’s a red flag for us against a Fort Cherry squad powered by Tanner Garry, who is coming off a terrific game against a terrific Beth-Center team. We smell an upset. WINNER: FORT CHERRY.

(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)

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