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. Springdale

2. Avonworth

3. Bishop Canevin

4. North Catholic


1. Clairton

2. Fort Cherry

3. Chartiers-Houston

4. Brentwood


1. Sto-Rox

2. Rochester

3. Western Beaver

4. Cornell


1. Beth-Center

2. Monessen

3. California

4. Carmichaels

CLASS A FINAL MATCHUP: Clairton vs. Sto-Rox

It almost sounds heretical to pick against Rochester, a team that traditionally reloads with great ease and success, and a team that has dominated WPIAL Class A for much of my lifetime. But I really think this could be the Vikings’ year. The Rams have some big cleats to fill, especially on defense, whereas Sto-Rox has rising stars, not to mention Division I talent, coming back on both sides of the ball. The race for the Eastern Conference crown should be equally compelling because all three of last year’s co-champs have suffered significant graduation hits. Springdale seems to be a little bit stronger defensively and can really play power football, though Avonworth does have a good offense coming back. Meanwhile, Monessen is usually the team to beat in the TCS, but this time I think the target is on Beth-Center’s back, just because of the Bulldogs’ experience and offensive potential. The Greyhounds are an athletic team, but younger than last year. In the meantime, I look for Fort Cherry to take a step forward this year, but no step is big enough to get that team, or practically any other, out of Clairton’s shadow. If you’re a Division I coach who wants to recruit in this classification, the Bears are the gift that keeps on giving. Their 31-game win streak might be tougher to maintain this year, but they are still easily one of the deepest and most college-ready teams in Class A. It’s a pretty strong possibility that the two-time PIAA champs tack on a fourth straight WPIAL title and add to the legacy of the district’s latest dynasty.

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