PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The regular season has come and gone, but the action will only continue to intensify in the battle to be one of eight teams standing and running out of the tunnel at Heinz Field. That battle continues throughout western PA at 7:30 Friday night.
After sitting in on the annual playoff pairing meetings in Green Tree, “Mr. High School Sports” has decided to bring back his Friday afternoon podcast. He’ll review all 32 First Round matchups, highlighting his own most fascinating games, including his featured game between WPIAL Class AAAA No. 10 seed North Hills and No. 7 seed Gateway.
The Gators (7-2), the runners-up in the Foothills Conference, feature an excellent passing attack made possible by top receiver Montae Nicholson, one of several Division I prospects typically boasted by that program. He has pulled in 32 passes for 671 yards and scored a team-leading 13 touchdowns.
Nicholson has also tried to help Gateway keep its reputation as one of the most stubborn defensive squads in Quad-A; 247Sports rates him as one of the top 15 safeties nationally, and the third-best overall prospect in the state.
The Indians (5-4), the fourth-place qualifier out of the Northern Eight Conference, are a more resourceful, blue-collar bunch. Under new head coach and longtime assistant Pat Carey, style points have not mattered, and North Hills, at its best, doesn’t give up many points, period. The question is, can this team, which shares a rich postseason history with Gateway, and has pulled some eyebrow-raisers in recent years, play its best football at the right time.
For North Hills, a solid running game is necessary to keep its own defense rested enough to handle the Gators. Montae Frank leads a committee of ball-carriers with 205 yards and five touchdowns.
Hear what Don Militzer had to say earlier this week about entering his first playoff tournament as Gateway’s new head coach:
Plus, hear “Mr. High School Sports” break down the other three classifications:
Listen to “The Fan High School Football Roundup,” featuring the Post-Gazette’s Mike White and MSA Sports’ Don Rebel, Saturday 7:00-8:00 A.M. on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan for a complete recap of Friday’s First Round action.
(Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)