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Written by: Nate Grella on Thursday, November 25th, 2021
After last season’s two day stint at North Hills and North Allegheny, the WPIAL championships are back at Heinz Field (excluding 6A of course). Here’s everything you need to preview five games in two days at the Ketchup Palace.
1A 2 PM Friday November 26th
OLSH Chargers vs Bishop Canevin Crusaders
In 1A, one of these teams is not a surprise. Aside from struggling against Clairton during the regular season, Bishop Canevin has handled whoever has been in front of them. WR Lesae Lacks is one of the most talented wideouts in the area, and whoever is at QB for the Crusaders will be throwing it his way. Canevin has one of the youngest teams in the region as well, only having a senior class 5 strong. A week ago, Jason Cross Jr. went down with an injury, and freshman Kole Olszewski performed extremely well when he played. Look to see who ends up at QB for the Crusaders.
Arguably Canevin’s toughest competition, Clairton, was upended in the second round of the WPIAL playoffs by the Our Lady of Sacred Heart Chargers. The Chargers limped into the playoffs, losing two of their last three (one of which was against Northgate) and then upsetting Cornell just to make it in as a 9 seed. OLSH took down Greensburg Central Catholic handily, then took out the Bears, before beating Rochester in the semifinals. The Chargers defense during that span has averaged allowing 12 points per game.
Final Word: The OLSH defense is tough, but the Bishop Canevin offense has proved to be the best in the classification. If the OLSH offense keeps up with the Crusaders, it could be a shootout but this looks like it will be the Crusaders day. Bishop Canevin: 35-21
2A 5 PM Friday November 26th
Beaver Falls Tigers vs Serra Catholic Eagles
The Tigers come to Heinz Field as defending champs, but at the beginning of the season it sure didn’t look that way. The Tigers dropped their first three of the season (albeit against Blackhawk, Aliquippa and Laurel), but since then have been a class above whoever they have faced. Their road has been fairly easy as well, defeating Western Beaver in the first round, shutting out New Brighton in the second, and outclassing a Jay Burt-less Steel Valley in the semis. Jaren Brickner is one of the top QBs in the WPIAL and the Tigers offense can score points on anyone.
Serra Catholic’s defense is one of the top in the WPIAL. And they’ve proved it three weeks in a row. First they held a high flying Neshannock offense to 21 in the first round (in a game they scored 61 in). In the second round, they shut out one of the top rushers in the region at Laurel, and to cap it off, they held down a Sto-Rox Vikings offense to a 13-12 upset in a revenge situation. The offense is no slouch either, Max Rocco and Pharoh Fisher lead a dynamic passing attack that will give the opposition fits.
Final Word: Both of these defenses might be the top 2 in the WPIAL in 2A. Look for a low scoring game despite both teams being able to throw the ball at will through the entire season. Whoever makes the last biggest play will win this one. I like the Eagles. Serra Catholic: 27-21
3A 12 PM Saturday November 27th
Central Valley Warriors vs North Catholic Trojans
The defending state champs in 3A are back again, and once more they haven’t been touched all season. For good measure they also beat a 4A title contender in the Aliquippa Quips. Landon Alexander is a legitimate division 1 talent and has been embarrassing 3A defenses all season. Central also holds a host of weapons in Jayvin Thompson, Deniro Simpson and Jack Bible. Oh and to make things worse, Sean Fitzsimmons on defense has 15 sacks and a combined TFL yardage longer than a football field.
If Central Valley wasn’t such a juggernaut, North Catholic would have plenty of momentum and hype around them in their own right. The Trojans slaughtered one of the weakest conferences in the WPIAL, then turned around and put the money where their mouth was and beat Keystone Oaks in the second round in a shootout, THEN shut out one of the top young running backs in the area in the semis. If the Trojans want to pull a historic upset, they have a top QB to do so. Joey Prentice has been no stranger to historic moments this year, and he’ll be tasked to find a weakness in a team that hasn’t shown one yet this season.
Final Word: The Trojans might have a long day ahead of them in this one. Central Valley: 56-14
4A 3 PM Saturday November 27th
Belle Vernon Leopards vs Aliquippa Quips
A season ago, these two teams met up in the WPIAL semifinals at the Pit. The Leopards lost 33-25. Two players accounted for every Leps score in that game and they’re both back and hungry for revenge. Devin Whitlock is the most electric player in the WPIAL this season. Quinton Martin is young but has a penchant for brilliance when Belle Vernon needs it. Ben Gedekoh, Evan Pohlot and Chase Ruokenen will all also play key roles. On defense, Cole Weightman has created the highlights, while Martin, Whitlock and Logan Cunningham have locked it down in the back end. If you’re looking for the most complete team in the classification- this is it.
In their game last season, the Leopards went up by 13 at the end of the 1st quarter. The Quips stormed back. Last week in the semis, McKeesport went up by 14 at the end of the half, the Quips stormed back. Aliquippa is led by talented youngsters Quentin Goode, Tiqwai Hayes and John Tracy, all sophomores or younger. On the line, the Quips may be the biggest team in the WPIAL and will wear down any opponent. Don’t overlook the Quips, it’s been an unwise venture to do so. The Leopards know as well as anyone.
Final Word: Despite what fans on both sides may say, this will be a nail-biter. For me, however, this game will come down to desperation. The Leopards are led by seniors who have suffered hard losses, dramatic moments, and heartbreaking defeats. Aliquippa is young, and will be a force in the WPIAL for the next four years at least but the Leopards get their swan song. Belle Vernon 42-31
5A 6 PM Saturday November 27th
Moon Tigers vs Penn Trafford Warriors
Talk about a contrast of styles. Both of these team’s offenses look roughly the same in scheme, but wildly different in execution. The Moon Tigers are still undefeated, in the WPIAL title game, but it certainly hasn’t looked pretty. The Tigers won nail-biters against almost every good team they’ve faced this year. Peters Township, Upper St. Clair, Woodland Hills, Penn Hills, all by 8 points or less. The story for Moon comes on defense. Ben Bladel is a top end line talent and will be in the backfield all day if given the opportunity. If Moon scores 21 points on any team, they can win.
Penn Trafford in the past weeks has been a one man wrecking ball. Cade Yaccamelli on the year is averaging 10 yards a carry, and has been the engine of the offense. QB Carter Green also offers a dangerous dual threat. Penn Trafford, unlike the Tigers, hasn’t been afraid to run up the points on strong competition, beating Pine Richland 24-6 in the semis, and Fox Chapel 42-14 the week before. If the Warriors offense gets cooking, they’re a hard team to beat on any day.
Final Word: Just like 5A all season, this game could go a myriad of ways. If Penn Trafford has success over the Tigers defense early, this could get lopsided. If the Moon defense stands tall against the Wisconsin commit, this war of attrition could lean toward the Tigers. I think it’s close but Penn Trafford comes out on top. Penn Trafford: 17-7
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