Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wpial Playoff Forecast

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wpial Playoff Forecast

Article excerpt

CLASS AAAA

Top seeds: Upper St. Clair (9-0) is first, Central Catholic (9- 0) second, McKeesport (9-0) third and Woodland Hills (7-2) fourth.

The winner will be: Upper St. Clair. It's tough to pick between Upper St. Clair and Central Catholic, but the Panthers are a team without a star that meshes so well. The defense has allowed 30 points all season and the well-balanced ground game will be key in November weather. Quarterback Joe Repischak averages only about 10 passes a game.

On the rise: Woodland Hills (7-2). This looks like a typical George Novak-coached team. The Wolverines start slow but peak the final half of the season. Since losing to Upper St. Clair and McKeesport, the Wolverines have won seven games in a row.

The scoop: You can bet no one wants to play McKeesport. Its flexbone offense seems to be at its best the past few weeks and can be a nightmare to opponents. ... Penn-Trafford is another team on the rise. The Warriors defeated Gateway and Hempfield the final two weeks of the season to finish second in the Foothills Conference. ... What is up with Gateway? The Gators have plenty of individual talent, but they finished the season with two losses and struggled to beat 2-7 Norwin in Week 7. ... North Allegheny, three-time defending WPIAL champion, isn't as good as the past few years but should not be overlooked. ... The best first-round game looks like North Allegheny at Bethel Park. North Hills at Gateway also is a decent first-round game between two coaches in their first years -- North Hills' Pat Carey and Gateway's Don Militzer.

CLASS AAA

Top seeds: West Allegheny (9-0) is first, Thomas Jefferson (9-0) second, Central Valley (8-1) third and Franklin Regional (8-1) fourth.

The winner will be: Thomas Jefferson. It's hard to go against defending champion West Allegheny. But Thomas Jefferson's big, strong lines might be the difference. Injuries at halfback could be a concern for TJ, though.

On the rise: Mars. The Planets opened the season with a 20-13 loss to Franklin Regional. Since then, Mars has won eight in a row and outscored opponents, 365-83.

The scoop: West Allegheny certainly is capable of winning a second consecutive championship and making Bob Palko the first coach in WPIAL history to win seven outright (without a tie). The Indians don't have a 1,000-yard rusher, but they average close to 300 yards a game on the ground and come from the tough Parkway Conference, which has produced the past four WPIAL champions. ... Don't overlook Central Valley, another Parkway team, whose only loss was to West Allegheny, 14-7. ... A 35-0 loss to Thomas Jefferson hurt West Mifflin's reputation, but with the WPIAL's leading rusher in Jimmy Wheeler, the Titans still could have a big impact. ... New Castle seems to be peaking at the right time. …

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