Dreams to play at Heinz Field are still realistic for the 64 WPIAL football teams beginning the playoffs Friday night. Those teams are spread among four classes with 16 teams in action for each class.
Here are some key matchups in each class to watch out for Friday night:
(11) Plum Mustangs at (6) Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils
How They Got Here: The Mustangs got to their first round matchup by finishing with an overall 6-3 record good enough for third in the competitive Quad East Conference. Key wins over fellow play off teams Norwin and Hempfield helped propel them while bad losses to Penn-Trafford and Mckeesport kept them from earning a higher seed. The Blue Devils earned their six seed via an 8-1 regular season with their only blemish coming against Woodland Hills 21-17. Mt. Lebanon averaged 36 points in their eight victories so far this season.
Key Players: Plum: Corey Thomas (QB), Kevin Brown (WR), Nick Coxon (RB/FS). Mt. Lebanon:Eddie Jenkins (QB), Jack Young (WR), Nate Bayer (DB).
What to watch for: Look for Mt. Lebanon to keep their high powered offense led by Eddie Jenkins rolling over Plum. The Mustangs offensive attack will look to get going against a stout Blue Devils defense. Expect Jenkins to hurt the Mustangs with his legs and his arm.
Prugar’s Prediction: Mt. Lebanon 45, Plum 21.
(9) Kiski Area Cavaliers at (8) Bethel Park
How they got here: Kiski enters the first round of the WPIAL Playoffs with a 5-4 record and a signature win against Plum. Bethel Park Black Hawks, with a senior laden team, earned a 6-3 record in the regular season. Key wins for the Black Hawks came against Penn Hills and Chartiers Valley while they lost close games to Woodland Hills and Mt. Lebanon.
Key Players: Kiski Area: Chad Kuhn (QB), Tariq Grant (RB). Bethel Park: Levi Metheny (QB), Terron Murphy (RB), Charlie Davis (WR).
What to watch for: Expect Levi Metheny to lead the Black Hawks through the air en route to victory. In their three losses, Bethel Park went nearly to the wire. Kiski’s defense looks to have a tough time containing Murphy and Davis on the ground or in the air.
Prugar’s Prediction: Bethel Park 42, Kiski Area 17.
Other Class AAAA Matchups: (16) Hempfield at (1) Woodland Hills, (15) North Hills at (2) Penn-Trafford, (14) Penn Hills at (3) Pine-Richland, (13) Norwin at (4) North Allegheny, (12) Upper St. Clair at (5) Central Catholic, (10) Seneca Valley at (7) McKeesport.
(14) Hollidaysburg Tigers at (3) West Allegheny Indians
How they got here: Hollidaysburg makes the trek to Imperial to face Bob Palko’s 7-2 West Allegheny Indians squad. The Tigers were 6-3 in the regular season with quality wins against Franklin Regional and Westinghouse. The Indians are coming off their second loss of the season last week to Central Valley with their other loss coming to an undefeated Woodland Hills team.
Key Players: Hollidaysburg: Jarrett Cavalet (QB), Ryan Adams (DB). West Allegheny: Terrence Stephens, Jr. (RB), Brandon Lipford (WR).
What to watch for: Look for a fired up Indians team ready to avenge their loss to Central Valley last week and let their presence be known early. West Allegheny scored 40 plus points in each of their seven victories this year while Hollidaysburg gave up no more than 33 points in any of their games this season.
Prugar’s Prediction: West Allegheny 49, Hollidaysburg 28
(10) West Mifflin Titans at (8) Franklin Regional Panthers
How they got here: West Mifflin enters their first round game with a potent ground game which boasts three backs over 500 yards rushing on the season. Franklin Regional got their eight seed by way of a 7-2 record with key wins over Mars and Hampton.
Key Players: West Mifflin: Karlyn Garner (QB), Russell Tyree (RB), Howie Reed (RB). Franklin Regional: Santino Birty (QB), Jake Laurer (LB), Jacob Ross (RB).
What to watch for: Both teams boast impressive running games and Franklin Regional plays exceptionally well at home. The Titans gave up an average of 16 points per game with their biggest loss of the season coming at the hands of Thomas Jefferson 35-0. Expect West Mifflin to give the Panthers their first home loss of the season and advance to the quarterfinals.
Prugar’s Prediction: West Mifflin 35, Franklin Regional 14.
Other Class AAA Matchups: (16) Laurel Highlands at (1) Central Valley, (15) Chartiers Valley at (2) Belle Vernon, (13) New Castle at (4) Mars, (12) Ambridge at (5) Ringgold, (11) Armstrong at (6) Thomas Jefferson, (9)Hampton at (8) Montour.
(13) Apollo-Ridge Beavers at (4) Beaver Falls Tigers
How they got here: Apollo-Ridge comes into Friday night’s game with a 6-3 record and are riding a 5-game win streak into their matchup against Beaver Falls. The Tigers are coming off their first loss of the season, a 44-21 drubbing at the hands of Aliquippa.
Key Players: Apollo-Ridge: Duane Brown (RB), Kyle Fitzroy (QB). Beaver Falls: Malik Shepard (RB), Derrell Carter (WR).
What to watch for: Beaver Falls has been dominant all season until their stumble against the Quips, look for them to return to dominant form against the Beavers. For Apollo-Ridge to get past the Tigers, they will need to utilize their strong running game which boasts Duane Brown, a 1,000 plus yard rusher.
Prugar’s Prediction: Beaver Falls 35, Apollo-Ridge 10.
(11) McGuffey Highlanders at (6) Freeport Yellowjackets
How they got here: McGuffey under the direction of coach Ed Dalton, enter their matchup with an 8-1 Freeport team with a 6-3 record. The Highlanders are coming off a 42-7 loss to Washington last week while Freeport is on a 4-game win streak.
Key Players: McGuffey: Marcus Czulewicz (QB), Adam Townsend (RB). Freeport: Ryan Weigold (QB), Ian Miller (RB).
What to watch for: Freeport’s balanced offense will be looking to keep their win streak alive with a solid performance against a young McGuffey team. If the Freeport offense gets rolling, the Highlanders will have a tough time stopping their offensive attack. Ian Miller has 904 yards rushing for the Yellowjackets while quarterback Ryan Weigold has thrown for over 1,600 yards. Marcus Czulewicz has over 1,000 all-purpose yards for McGuffey.
Prugar’s Prediction: Freeport 52, McGuffey 14.
Other Class AA Matchups: (16) Burgettstown at (1) South Fayette, (15) Keystone Oaks at (2) Aliquippa, (14) Deer Lakes at (3) Washington, (12) New Brighton at (5) Steel Valley, (10) Seton-LaSalle at (7) Highlands, (9) Beaver at (8) Mount Pleasant.
(16) Carmichaels Mighty Mikes at (1) Clairton Bears
How they got here: Carmichaels brings a 5-4 record into their matchup with number one seed, Clairton. The Bears are 9-0 on the season and have given up 61 total points all season.
Key Players: Carmichaels: David Morgan (QB), Coty Allen (RB). Clairton: Aaron Mathews (QB), Tre’sean Howard (DB)
What to watch for: Clairton looks to get back to the WPIAL Championships once again and the Mighty Mikes are the first team in their way. It’s not a question of will the Bears win, but how much will they win by in this first round matchup.
Prugar’s Prediction: Clairton 60, Carmichaels 0.
(10) Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions at (7) Bishop Canevin Crusaders
How they got here: Greensburg Central Catholic, sitting at 7-2 on the season, brings a balanced offensive attack to their matchup with Bishop Canevin. Key wins for the Centurions this fall were against Beth-Center and Monessen. Their only loss came at the hands of Jeannette. Bishop Canevin is 5-3 with losses to Fort Cherry, CW North Catholic, and Riverside, while they have wins against three of the Class A playoff teams (Union, Chartiers-Houston, Avonworth).
Key Players: GCC: Tommy Pellis (QB), Alvin Ross (RB). Bishop Canevin: Austin Scott (QB), Amaan Bridgett (DB).
What to watch for: Greensburg Central Catholic takes a 7-2 record to Bishop Canevin for their first round matchup with the Crusaders. Fresh off a loss to Jeannette, look for the Cenurions to avenge that loss in hopes of meeting Jeannette in the future for a rematch.
Other Class A Matchups: (16) Carmichaels at (1) Clairton, (15) Union at (2) Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, (14) Chartiers-Houston at (3) Jeannette ,(13) South Side Beaver at (4) Frazier, (12) Springdale at (5) Shenango, (11) Bentworth at (6) Neshannock, (9)Avonworth at (8) Beth-Center.
Photo credit: Martin Memories