PAFOOTBALLNEWS

The Ruby Review: Playoff Preview!

All right, ladies and gents! The Ruby Review is back after a month-long hiatus, and ready to get you good and knowledgeable about the PIAA Football Playoffs!

Among the four classes, there are 244 teams still alive for Championships, all the way from our four reigning champs (Bishop Guilfoyle, South Fayette, Archbishop Wood and St. Joe’s Prep, who are a combined 35-2) all the way down to winless Roman Catholic, who draws St. Joe’s Prep this weekend. I’ll give you a brief look at all of the classes the Ruby Review covers (A, AA and AAA for D2, D4, and D11, plus the D2/4/11 AAAA Regional) and let you know what to watch for in the weeks ahead!

SINGLE A

District 2

All four teams in District 2’s smallest classification get to go to the playoffs, meaning Susquehanna (2-8) and Holy Cross (2-8) will each play an eleventh game. A young Lackawanna Trail (5-5), which really improved throughout the year and made a strong run to finish .500, will be a heavy favorite in its first game against Holy Cross, but once again this will be one-loss Old Forge’s to lose.

District 4

The one-seed, the Wellsboro Hornets (8-2), have to be considered the favorite here, despite their relatively poor performance down the stretch. The Hornets will play Muncy (5-5), a team they defeated 33-12 in Week 2. The other matchup faces defending champion South Williamsport (7-3), who have acquitted themselves nicely post-Bragalone, against the Panthers of North Penn (5-5), a squad that many believed would run away with the district but stumbled to a 2-4 start before pulling it together down the stretch. I like North Penn to pull the mild upset and earn the chance to face their bitter rival Wellsboro in the final. The Panthers fell to the Hornets 35-34 in 2 OTs in Week 10, meaning they’ll be out for revenge. I like Wellsboro in another close one.

District 11

All of the preseason hype focused on Marian Catholic (6-4), but it was Tri-Valley (8-2) that snagged top honors in the Lehigh Valley. The Tri-Valley Bulldogs will face Williams Valley (5-5), a team they defeated by 22 points in Week 3. Marian will face Mahanoy Area (6-4); despite the equal records, these teams’ Week 8 meeting was a 35-7 blowout in Marian’s favor. I like the Colts of Marian Catholic, who have played a tough schedule, to take the D11 crown.

District Winner Outlook:

The D2 and D4 winners will meet in the PIAA First Round (Round of 16); if it’s Old Forge vs. Wellsboro, I like the Blue Devils to move on. Marian Catholic will play the D1/12 Regional winner; all the power in Philly is in the higher classes, so it’s difficult to judge how good, say, Delco Christian (9-1) really is. At any rate, Old Forge will have a very good chance to get past this one too, into the State Semifinals, where they’ll likely encounter the buzz-saw that is the winner of defending State Champ Bishop Guilfoyle (10-0) vs. Camp Hill (9-1).

AA

District 2

The Dunmore Bucks (9-1) reached the PIAA Finals last year, their only losses coming in Week 1 to Scranton Prep and Week 16 to South Fayette. The first ten games have been identical this year, as a season-opening loss to Prep has given way to 9 straight victories for the defending District Champions. Lake-Lehman is also 9-1, however, and they boast perhaps the best player in the District, Penn State commit center Conor McGovern. Northwest and Lakeland didn’t get much love coming into the season, but should be proud of 7-3 campaigns; they’ll have difficult times, though, getting past Dunmore and Lehman respectively. When the Bucks play the Black Knights, who are coming off of their first loss of the year, well… call it a hunch, but I think Lake-Lehman will be energized and will snag the victory.

District 4

The AA classification is D4’s real power, and they are rewarded with an 8-team bracket that sends the champion directly to the state quarterfinals. Undefeated Southern Columbia is the clear favorite, although the same was true last year when they lost to Montoursville in the district semifinals. Unlike last year, though, the Tigers are healthy, and that should enable them to get through the district. Southern starts with Troy (7-3), and should then play the winner of Loyalsock (8-2) and Hughesville (8-2). On the bottom half, Athens is 9-1, but it’s unclear just how good their schedule is; they will play Danville (7-3), with the winner of that game getting the winner of Montoursville (7-3) vs. Lewisburg (7-3).

Look for a Southern-Montoursville rematch, with the Tigers exacting their long-awaited revenge over the Warriors.

District 11

Notre Dame (Greenpond) (9-1), winless a year ago, is benefitting from the influx of players from now-defunct St. Pius X. Quarterback Tre Jordan is the real deal; in his team’s only loss, he led Notre Dame back from a 21-point fourth quarter deficit to tie AAA power Saucon Valley in the closing minutes, and would have taken the momentum into overtime but for a stunning 70-some-yard score for Saucon with 30 seconds left. The Crusaders play North Schuylkill (6-4), a squad that snagged four of its six wins on the road. The other matchup is Northwestern Lehigh (8-2) vs. Salisbury (7-3), in a rematch of a Week 6 tilt that Northwestern won 30-21 (neither team has lost since). Look for Northwestern Lehigh to earn a rematch of their Week 1 contest against Notre Dame, and look for Notre Dame to bookend Northwestern Lehigh’s season and advance.

District Winner Outlook

The D2 and D11 winners play in the PIAA First Round; if it’s Notre Dame vs. either Dunmore or Lake-Lehman, the margin will be a hair’s breadth. I suspect Notre Dame will squeak past the D2 winner and eventually make its way to the State Semifinals. There, they’ll meet the D4/D3 winner, which will likely be either Southern Columbia or Wyomissing (10-0). I expect the winner of that game to blow past Notre Dame and land in the PIAA Championship to represent the eastern half against South Fayette, Aliquippa, Sharon, or whoever else the west has to offer.

AAA

District 2

It’s the end of an era in Berwick, but the 8-2 Bulldogs are where they always seem to be: the postseason. They’ll play Coughlin (7-3), who they defeated 20-6, for the second time in three weeks as they look to extend Coach Curry’s career. The top seed, though, is Scranton Prep, whose only loss came by a point to AAAA rival Scranton. The Cavaliers have pitched a shutout for two straight weeks, and they’ll look to make it three against Dallas (6-4), winners of four straight to turn slim playoff hopes into consecutive trips to the D2 bracket. Scranton Prep’s offensive and defensive lines are both supremely dominant, and that’s why I think they’ll take care of Dallas and edge Berwick in the District finals.

District 4

The Seals of Selinsgrove, coming off their first loss of the season (21-14 to Southern Columbia), look to be heavy favorites and will play Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech (4-6) in the first round. The other matchup is between Jersey Shore (8-2) and Shikellamy (5-5), a rematch of a Week 2 contest won by the Jersey Shore Bulldogs 43-28. Shikellamy’s won four of their last five, but Jersey Shore’s high-powered offense will likely prove too much for them. Selinsgrove defeated Jersey Shore and Shikellamy by a combined 87-19 this year, so the Seals are the odds on favorites to repeat as district champs.

District 11

This might be the best set of four playoff teams in the entire state. Undefeated Lehighton takes on one-loss Blue Mountain in a Saturday night matchup, and undefeated Saucon Valley faces perennial power Bethlehem Catholic (9-1) in the day game. Whoever gets out of this set will be primed to make a deep run. I like an experienced Saucon Valley squad to control Becahi’s phenomenal offense, and then limit Lehighton runner Wyatt Clements en route to a D11 championship and beyond.

District Winner Outlook

The D2 and D11 winners will meet in the first round and, as you may have guessed, I don’t think it augers well for the squad from the Northeast. The D4 champ will look to get past the winner of Clearfield (9-1) and last year’s surprise quarterfinalist Somerset (8-2), and unfortunately for my Seals I think they’ll come up just short. Look for the D11 winner to rush their way into the PIAA Semifinals, where the winner of Archbishop Wood (9-0) vs. Imhotep Charter (9-0) will be waiting.

AAAA

Districts 2/4/11 Regional

These three districts pool their talent at the highest level, with D11 sending six and D2/4 supplying the final two of an eight team bracket with a spot in the PIAA Quarterfinals at stake. On the top half of the bracket sits undefeated Wyoming Valley West, a team with more options than nearly any I’ve ever seen at the high school level. They’ll face Nazareth (5-5), a team led by standout Sophomore WR Jahan Dotson. The winner of that matchup will face the winner of Bethlehem Liberty (7-3) vs. Stroudsburg (8-2). On the bottom half, a one-loss Bethlehem Freedom squad hosts perennial power Easton (7-3), and the second D2 squad, Delaware Valley (7-3) runs into powerhouse Parkland (9-1), who’ve won the District three consecutive times and are led by QB Devante Cross and WR Kenny Yeboah.

Look for Valley West, having been tested by Liberty, to face a Parkland team coming off a grinding contest with Easton. The Spartans of Valley West will play the Trojans of Parkland tough, but the line play of Parkland will be too much, and they’ll make it four-in-a-row.

District Winner Outlook

Parkland will once again almost certainly play St. Joe’s Prep in the PIAA Quarterfinals. Last year, Parkland nearly took Prep down; this year will be their best opportunity to do so. I’m going to be bold and predict the upset here, with Parkland squeaking past to face the D1 winner, likely Downingtown East. And, from there, who knows?

Thanks for reading, everyone! I know I’ve been missing for the past month, but I’m kicking things into overdrive and making up for lost time during these playoffs! This weekend, I’ll be seeing D2 AA #2 LAKE-LEHMAN vs. #3 LAKELAND on Friday night, then swinging down to Bethlehem for D11 AAA #2 BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC vs. #3 SAUCON VALLEY early Saturday afternoon. Check back to see what went down in these games, across the region, and across the state!

One Comment

  1. Joe Ruby

    November 13, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Do note that Connor McGovern’s name is spelled with two ‘n’s, not one like I have in the article. Sorry dude!

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