WPIAL playoff picture: Who is in so far

Written by Mike White on .

The WPIAL football regular season wraps up this weekend. Who is in and who is out of playoff contention? Well, so far 53 of the 64 spots have been filled.

There are three conferences in both Class AAAA and AAA. In those two classes, the top five teams in each conference qualify along with one "wild-card" sixth place team.

In Class AA and AA, there are four conferences. So, the top four teams in each conference qualify.

Here is a capsule look at the playoff picture:


Foothills Conference Penn-Trafford is first, McKeesport second. Altoona, Norwin and Plum have clinched spots. Connellsville has a good chance at getting the wild-card spot.

Northern Eight - Pine-Richland is first, Central Catholic second. North Hills plays North Allegheny Friday. The winner is third and the loser is fourth. Fox Chapel is fifth. Butler is alive for the wild-card spot, but must beat Central Catholic.

Southeastern - Woodland Hills, Penn Hills, Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair have all clinched. Woodland Hills plays Penn Hills Friday for the No. 1 seed.


Big Nine - Thomas Jefferson is first, Ringgold second, West Mifflin is third and Belle Vernon also has qualified. Trinity, Elizabeth Forward and Laurel Highlands are all still alive.

Greater Allegheny - Hampton is first, Franklin Regional is second. Nothing else has been settled. Indiana, Mars, Gateway, Hollidaysburg and Knoch are all alive for the final two spots and the wild card.

Parkway - The winner of West Allegheny at Central Valley Friday is first and the loser is second. Montour and Moon also have clinched and play Friday for third place. New Castle also has clinched and could still finish fourth. Ambridge and Chartiers Valley are alive for the wild-card spot.


Allegheny - Highlands is first, Apollo-Ridge second, Shady Side Academy third and Kittanning fourth.

Century - South Fayette is first, Seton-LaSalle second and South Park third. Steel Valley qualifies with a win or a Quaker Valley loss to South Fayette. Quaker Valley can make it only with a win and a Steel Valley loss to South Allegheny.

Interstate - Washington plays McGuffey for first place. Mount Pleasant also has qualified. Either Waynesburg or Southmoreland will be four. If Waynesburg beats Derry, Waynesburg is fourth. Southmoreland can qualify only if it beats Mount Pleasant, and Waynesburg loses.

Midwestern The winner of Beaver Falls at Aliquippa is first. Beaver and New Brighton also have qualified. There could be a three-way tie for second.


Big Seven - Neshannock is first, Shenango second and South Side Beaver third. If Riverside beats Vincentian, Riverside is fourth. If Vincentian wins and South Side Beaver beats Western Beaver, then Vincentian is fourth. If Vincentian and Western Beaver win, then Western Beaver is fourth with more Gardner Points.

Black Hills - This is updated Monday. The wrong info was on the blog earlier. It is now: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic is first, Avonworth second and Brentwood third. Chartiers-Houston is fourth if it beats Fort Cherry. If Fort Cherry wins and Avonworth beats Northgate, then Fort Cherry is fourth. If Fort Cherry and Northgate win, Northgate finishes fourth with more Gardner Points.

Eastern - Clairton is first, Jeannette second. Greensburg Central Catholic and Springdale also have qualified. Monessen and Riverview can't qualify no matter what happens this weekend. If Springdale beats Riverview and Jeannette beats GCC, then Springdale is third and GCC fourth. If GCC wins or Springdale loses, GCC is third.

Tri-County South - Beth-Center is first, Frazier second, Mapletown fourth. There are many scenarios that could happen with the fourth spot. Jefferson-Morgan, Carmichaels, Avella and Bentworth are all alive for the fourth spot.

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Live Friday night blog - Pine-Richland clobbers Central Catholic, 48-28

Written by Mike White on .

Live blog from Pine-Richland vs Central Catholic. To view score updates, look to the right of this blog at the Twitter account for @PGVarsityXtra. If you have a score update, tweet with #wpial.


Wow. What a performance. Yes, Pine-Richland is for real.


Right down the field the Rams go again. 13-yard TD reception by Mike Merhaut from Ben DiNucci. I thought Pine would score. But I didn't think this much.

9:38 Central Catholic has no passing offense.


Connor Slomka scores on 29-yard run. PAT good 38-28.

9:32 Pine-Richland on move again.

Below, Pine-Richland QB Ben DiNucci eludes a defender

DiNucci vs. Central


Here we go with some more scoring. 38-yard TD run by Grant Foster to start second half. His third TD of game.


Wow. Only thing to say about Pine-Richland offense. Rams finish half with Adam Napotnik 36 FG


Central Catholic had the No. 1 defense in WPIAL, but Vikings can't stop Pine-Richland. 48-yard TD drive after INT. Connor Slomka scores on 11-yard TD run. 2:09 left in half.

8:40 I think Central has jumped offside five times now from DiNucci hard count. 

8:38 Frerotte has pass tipped and INT by Mike Merhaut at own 48.

8:35 Central gets a defensive stop, although DiNucci almost nailed another long pass to Gastion. Threw back across his body, deep and hit Gastion in stride, but Gastion couldn't hang on.


What is this game going to end up in the 50s? Three plays after the kickoff Grant Foster goes 48 yards for TD. PAT good by MacZura. 7:01 in half.

8:26 Gunnar Frerotte now in at QB for Central Catholic


With this game being on Root Sports TV, and with TV timeouts and all the scoring, it might end until 11. First play after kickoff, D'Ondre Gastion catches 75-yard TD pass from DiNucci. 


Damar Hamlin has D-1 offers as DB, but catches 47-yard TD pass from Mike Navaro. PAT good and we're tied, 14-14.

8:13 End of first quarter and Pine-Richland leads, 14-7. Central with ball only 39. DiNucci is winging it for P-R. Meanwhile, Central has yet to throw a pass.


After Grant Foster fumbled ball away, Pine-Richland moves for a score. DiNucci impressive. 29-yard pass set up TD, which came on Connor Slomka 6-yard run.

7:59 After Pine-Richland goes 3 and out, Central takes over and Grant Foster fumbles ball away on second play. Pine-Richland recovers at own 49. 5:09 left in first quarter.


Two touchdowns in less than four minutes. Five plays 80 yards and Grant Foster scores on 1-yard run. PAT good, 7-7. Lot of scoring in four minutes. But I bet both defenses will settle down.


What an impressive opening drive. 75 yards in eight plays. Maybe P-R saw something in Central D where QB keeper could work. Ben DiNucci gained 33 yards on one run. 10 yards on another, which went for TD.


This game is sold out. Highmark Stadium might not be the biggest place for one of the top games in the WPIAL, but you can't argue the view.


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Pine-Richland-Central likely a sellout ..... A dozen predictions

Written by Mike White on .

If you want to go to the Pine-Richland vs. Central Catholic showdown and don't have a ticket, don't bother going to Highmark Stadium tomorrow night.

The game will likely be sold out. This much is known: There will be no tickets sold tomorrow night at the gate for adults or students. That comes straight from Central Catholic. Central Catholic has a limited number of tickets to sell during the day tomorrow and AD Chuck Crummie said there will not be any left to sell at the game. Pine-Richland is not selling tickets tomorrow.

The capacity crowd for the game is expected to be about 4,000. Both teams are undefeated. has the game as one of the top 10 in the country this weekend.


Now onto this week's picks. I just got back from a late-night run to the bakery and picked up a dozen predictions to go.

Last week: 9-3 (.750 pct.). 

Season: 62-22 (.738 pct.)


Pine-Richland vs. Central Catholic - One of the most interesting matchups of the season. Pine-Richland's passing offense has been superb, but the Rams haven't faced defensive backs as talented or as physical as Central's. I think Pine-Richland's offense will move the ball some and no one should be surprised if Pine-Richland wins. But I will still go with Central Catholic. Winner: Central Catholic

Norwin at McKeesport - Shoutout to Norwin coach Dave Brozeski for turning around the Knights in his first season as coach. But second place in the Foothills Conference will belong to McKeesport. Winner: McKeesport.

Woodland Hills at Mt. Lebanon - Both teams are coming off non-conference losses. Woodland Hills will bounce back. Winner: Woodland Hills.


Hollidaysburg at Mars - There is a five-way tie for third in the Greater Allegheny. Mars and Hollidaysburg are part of it. Mars bounces back from a loss last week. Winner: Mars

Knoch at Indiana - I'm all about bouncebacks this week. It's Indiana's turn after losing to Gateway. Winner: Indiana.

Thomas Jefferson at Franklin Regional - This is a non-conference game, but it might be Thomas Jefferson's toughest game so far. Winner: Thomas Jefferson.


South Fayette vs. Seton-LaSalle - Seton-LaSalle would have had trouble winning with Danzel McKinley-Lewis. Without him ... Winner: South Fayette.

Shady Side Academy at Kittanning - Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said he has some banged up players. But Kittanning can still hobble to a win. Winner: Kittanning.

South Park at Steel Valley - A key game in the Century Conference standings. The winner gets third place and will avoid playing a first-place team in the first round. Winner: Steel Valley.

Waynesburg at McGuffey - Third place is on the line in the Interstate in this one. Winner: McGuffey.

Mount Pleasant at Aliquippa - This is a non-conference game. In conference, out of conference, it's the same old thing with Aliquippa. Winner: Aliquippa.


Shenango at Riverside - Shenango wraps up second place with the win. Winner: Shenango.


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West Allegheny has top-notch defense - I'm Just Sayin'

Written by Mike White on .

It's time for another version of ...

I'm Just Sayin'

Look at the scoreboard after last Friday's West Allegheny-Woodland Hills game and you'd think West Allegheny's defense struggled. West Allegheny defeated Woodland Hills, 42-41, in overtime. But if ever a score was not indicative of a game, this was it.

West Allegheny's defense was absolutely superb, despite what the scoreboard said. There is no question the Indians have one of the best defenses in the WPIAL.

Yes, Woodland Hills scored 41 points, but one touchdown came in overtime, after starting at the 10-yard line. Woodland Hills also scored on an 80-yard interception return. West Allegheny also fumbled the ball away once, allowing Woodland Hills to take over at the West Allegheny 18. West Allegheny also had a punt blocked, allowing Woodland Hills to start another scoring possession at the West Allegheny 13.

Think of it: West Allegheny did not allow a 100-yard rusher and gave up only 103 yards passing. And this came against a much-bigger Woodland Hills team. Woodland Hills' offensive line is massive. Get this: The Wolverines average 6-2, 294 pounds from tackle to tackle.

There are some tough kids on that West Allegheny defense, no matter their size. Let's just say if I'm in a dark alley, I'd be more than happy to have one of those West Allegheny defenders at my side.

Let's look ahead. The West Allegheny defense going against Central Valley's offense next week? What a matchup.

**** Clairton's Lamont Wade averaged 39.3 yards per carry against Serra last Friday. Seriously. He had 275 yards on seven carries.

**** Neshannock might not be known by many fans in the WPIAL because it is located on the outskirts of the league. But what Fred Mozzocio has done there in three years as coach deserves recognition. For a number of years, Neshannock's program struggled. After two playoff years, Neshannock is now sitting two wins away from the first undefeated regular season in school history.

**** A feel-good storyline also is at Norwin this year. The Knights have struggled in recent years. But in his first year as coach, Dave Brozeski has the Knights at 5-2 and headed to the playoffs. Brozeski was an assistant for 17 years.

**** I intrigued by Apollo-Ridge's Eric Moran. When the heck was the last time Apollo-Ridge had a Division I college lineman? But this kid is 6-6, 322 pounds and is only a junior. He is fairly athletic and is impressive looking. I like him.

**** I also really like Woodland Hills' Amon Baldwin-Youngblood. He's 6-4, 325 pounds and is only a junior. Plus, he starts both ways for Woodland Hills.

**** The top three teams in Class AAA - West Allegheny, Thomas Jefferson and Central Valley - can play with any team in Class AAAA. I'm not saying they would win all the time, but they could play with the best in AAAA. Besides West Allegheny beating Woodland Hills, Central Valley won impressively against a pretty good Penn Hills (AAAA) team.

**** I better get the aspirin ready for this weekend. Time to figure out WPIAL playoff picture heading into the final week of the regular season. The Class AAA Greater Allegheny could be a mess. Five teams are tied for third place.

**** Woodland Hills' Miles Sanders is rated by scouting services as one of the top junior running backs in the country. In no way am I questioning George Novak's offense. Just merely pointing out that Sanders carried the ball 15 times against West Allegheny, which was only the second time this season he carried more than 10 times in a game.


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McGuffey's Duchi reaches 4,000 ..... Soccer coach Perry gets 500th win

Written by Mike White on .

On the gridiron and the pitch, two milestones were reached today in WPIAL sports.

McGuffey running back James Duchi surpassed 4,000 career yards rushing when he ran for 159 yards on 20 carries to help the Highlanders defeat Burgettstown, 35-0. Duchi becomes the 60th running back in WPIAL history to run for 4,000 yards.

Meanwhile in soccer, Central Valley girls soccer coach Mark Perry became one of the few coaches in WPIAL history - boys or girls - to get 500 wins when Central Valley beat Hampton, 3-1.

Duchi is a 6-foot, 200-pound senior who has 4,014 career yards. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons and has 1,031 on 109 carries this year. He had 1,065 on 128 as a junior, 1,514 on 214 attempts as a sophomore and 404 on 58 as a freshman.

"He's a big, strong kid," said McGuffey coach Ed Dalton. "I think he's a college scholarship player. At what level, I don't know. I think he has really become a good defensive player, too, and I think that has helped him with some colleges."

Duchi is the second McGuffey running back to reach 4,000 yards. Jason Barr, a 1994 graduate, holds the school record with 5,749 yards.

As for Perry, he has been coaching boys and girls teams for 30 seasons. His record is 500-115-26 and has coached at Fox Chapel, Hampton, Center and now Central Valley.


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