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High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – WPIAL Football Semifinal Matchups

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By Matt Popchock

(mpopchock@kdka.com)

And then there were two…two more rounds to go, that is, in the 2011 WPIAL Football Playoffs. The Quarterfinals are in the books, and the 32-team herd has been thinned once more, leaving 16 across four classifications to continue their march toward Heinz Field in the WPIAL Semifinals next Friday.

Mr. High School Sports went a sparkling 15-1 in his Quarterfinal forecast, and would have run the table if not for Bishop Canevin’s victory.

All Semifinal games will kick off at 7:30, at sites to be determined. Here are next week’s matchups, along with some instant analysis from Mr. High School Sports:

CLASS AAAA SEMIFINALS:

(1) North Allegheny vs. (5) Gateway

(2) Pittsburgh Central Catholic vs. (3) Upper St. Clair

MR. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SAYS: Gateway might be the toughest test the Tigers have faced all year–even tougher than Upper St. Clair in Week 4. I say that only because the Gators are playing better football now than USC was back then. Defensively, both teams seem to be peaking, which could make for a low-scoring war of attrition, much like N.A.’s Semifinal contest against Central Catholic a year ago. That’s a tough one to call, and speaking of Central, the Vikings now prepare for the team I originally predicted they would meet at Heinz Field. The key for the Panthers will be if that defense, one of the best in the WPIAL, can contain Damion Jones-Moore like N.A. did the previous playoff, and how much more gas Dakota Conwell has in the tank. USC grudgingly gives up yards on the ground these days, so the Vikings need to come with balance, which means a big effort from Perry Hills.

CLASS AAA SEMIFINALS:

(1) Central Valley vs. (5) Montour

(2) Franklin Regional vs. (3) Knoch

MR. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SAYS: The 2010 WPIAL Class AAA Championship rematch will be a learning experience for the Spartans. How much have they learned from their tough regular season loss to their Parkway rivals? Clearly, what they learned after falling short at Heinz Field wasn’t enough. We’ve learned not to take them lightly, even though they didn’t take the easiest path to the 2011 playoffs. If Robert Foster can continue to be the dangerous playmaker he has been, and if Central Valley’s defense plays its own game, the third time won’t be the charm. But if Montour can protect the football, and its own defense steps up, the Warriors could be in trouble. Franklin Regional and Knoch used to meet each year in the Greater Allegheny Conference before biennial realignment. The statistical battle between Dane Brown and Andrew Rumberg-Goodlin, respectively, will be fun to watch, but the most important matchup will be the Panthers’ top-notch defense against Knights quarterback Ky Kenyon.

CLASS AA SEMIFINALS:

(1) Aliquippa vs. (5) Greensburg Central Catholic

(2) Jeannette vs. (3) Seton-LaSalle

MR. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SAYS: The first of the two aforementioned games is a rematch of the 2009 WPIAL Class AA title affair, which saw Muzzy Colosimo pick up his program’s first-ever district championship in football. My instinct is to give the edge to Aliquippa because of its depth and athleticism, but both these teams have run well, thrown well, and defended well, so an upset doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility. In the other game, Jeannette’s two-way star, Demetrius Cox, squares off against Seton-LaSalle running back Kevin Hart in an intriguing battle of highly-touted Division I prospects. Each of those players has become such an integral part of his team’s success, which was especially true in Friday’s Quarterfinal round, that whoever wins that matchup likely wins the game. The x-factor will be the accuracy of Luke Brumbaugh.

CLASS A SEMIFINALS:

(1) Clairton vs. (4) Rochester

(2) Sto-Rox vs. (3) Bishop Canevin

MR. HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS SAYS: Now that Clairton has survived Springdale for win number 42 in a row, I think the worst is behind the Bears, at least until Championship Saturday. The Dynamos did find a chink in their armor, but that was more a matter of the matchup than any obvious weakness Clairton has. Rochester, which has been owned by that team in the playoffs, will be jacked up for this one for sure, but that defense doesn’t have the same swagger as before, so as long as the state champs stay disciplined, they should be fine. After playing exceptionally in a brutal conference, more explosiveness was to be expected from Bishop Canevin’s offense in the postseason, though the Crusaders are still looking good on the other side of the ball. Points won’t come any easier against Sto-Rox, however, given that team’s toughness and Division I talent, including Pitt recruit Marzett Geter.

Keep reading the “Mr. High School Sports” blog for continuing coverage of the 2011 WPIAL Football Playoffs!

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