You have to travel east to get to the PIAA football championships in Hershey.
But for two WPIAL champions, the road to Hershey goes north through Erie.
The four WPIAL champs play in PIAA quarterfinal games Friday. Without question, North Allegheny and West Allegheny have the toughest challenges, playing two teams from Erie. As for Clairton and Aliquippa? I'd say don't be surprised if they force the mercy rule on their opponents (Berlin Brothersvalley and Karns City).
West Allegheny might have the toughest challenge of any WPIAL teams. The Indians play Erie Cathedral Prep at Veterans Stadium in Erie. Cathedral Prep is the No. 2-ranked team in the state. The Ramblers have two Michigan State recruits, including quarterback Damon Terry, the all-time leading passer in District 10 history with more than 6,000 yards. Cathedral Prep hasn't been held below 34 points this season, but you wonder if the Ramblers have a defense as good as West Allegheny.
North Allegheny, meanwhile, will play McDowell Friday night at Seneca Valley. Don't be deceived by McDowell's 7-5 record. The Trojans played some tough teams from Ohio - St. Ignatius, St. Edward, Cardinal Mooney and Mentor. St. Ignatius, St. Edward and Mentor are perennial powers in Ohio. Mentor lost in the Ohio Division I state semifinals last week to Whitmer, 62-34. Mentor also beat St. Ignatius and St. Edward in the state playoffs.
McDowell is no stranger to North Allegheny. McDowell played in North Allegheny's conference the past two seasons. McDowell is led by running back James Conner. He has 1,645 yards on 146 attempts (11.3 average) and had 213 yards last week against State College. He is a Pitt recruit, and the Panthers recruited him to play either linebacker or defensive end. But Conner is having a gigantic season at running back.
McDowell uses the triple-option offense and averages 331 yards rushing a game.
My prediction: The WPIAL will go 3-1 in games Friday night. I say Cathedral Prep knocks off West Allegheny, although it's so hard to pick against West Allegheny with the way they are playing the past five or six weeks.
Leftwich close to 5,000
It's considered a pretty big accomplishment for a WPIAL quarterback to reach 5,000 yards passing in his career. North Allegheny's Mack Leftwich is close to 5,000 yads - IN TWO SEASONS!!
Leftwich (pictured) has completed 258 of 435 for 4,854 yards. He needs only 146 yards passing against McDowell to reach 5,000.
Did you ever wonder if Pitt never hired Todd Graham, would North Allegheny be the three-time WPIAL Class AAA champs? Maybe you are confused by that question. Here is the explanation. Graham was hired at Pitt last year and Graham hired Spencer Leftwich as one of his assistant coaches. Leftwich moved to the Pittsburgh area and brought his family with him. The Leftwichs moved into the North Allegheny district, and North Allegheny suddenly had a star quarterback in Spencer's son, Mack.
Even though Spencer Leftwich is now an assistant at the University of Arizona, Mack and his mother stayed behind so Mack could finish his senior year. Leftwich has been terrific in two seasons and has meant so much to North Allegheny. So, if Graham never got the Pitt job, Spencer Leftwich would not have moved here and Mack Leftwich would've never worn a North Allegheny uniform. Where would that leave North Allegheny? Certainly the Tigers still would be strong, but I doubt they would've been undefeated in the WPIAL the past two seasons.
The final numbers are in for the WPIAL championships, and attendance for the day was 18,601. WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said the league was fairly pleased, considering the weather forecast for that day.
Pour on the Quips
Below, check out the work of Aliquippa teacher Judy Paich. She put this together last week. Heck, the Quips are at Heinz Field so much, they should have their faces on Heinz Ketchup bottles.
State playoff schedule
Here is the entire PIAA quarterfinal schedule for this weekend, courtesy of "The Horse" at the Post-Gazette. In case you didn't know, Southern Columbia was knocked out of the playoffs after losing to Dunmore last week. Many thought Southern Columbia might make it to Hershey again and meet Clairton in a rematch of last year's final. Not so. Dunmore is pretty good, too.
PIAA CLASS AAAA PLAYOFFS
Friday — Quarterfinals: North Allegheny (13-0) vs. McDowell (7-5) at
Seneca Valley, 7 p.m.
Saturday — District 3 Championship: West Lawn Wilson (12-1) vs.
Harrisburg (11-2) at Hersheypark Stadium, 6 p.m.
Friday — District 1 Championship: Coatesville (11-2) vs. Spring-Ford
(12-1) at Downingtown West, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Quarterfinals: La Salle College (11-1) vs. Parkland (11-2)
at Philadelphia Northeast, 1 p.m.
PIAA CLASS AAA PLAYOFFS
Friday — Quarterfinals: Erie Cathedral Prep (12-0) vs. West Allegheny
(12-1) at Erie Veterans Stadium, 7 p.m.; District 3 Championship:
Bishop McDevitt (13-0) vs. West York (13-0) at Hersheypark Stadium, 7
Friday — Quarterfinals: Allentown Central Catholic (8-5) vs.
Selinsgrove (10-3) at Bethlehem Stadium, 7 p.m.; Interboro (11-2) vs.
Archbishop Wood (10-2) at Plymouth Whitemarsh, 7 p.m.
PIAA CLASS AA PLAYOFFS
Friday — Quarterfinals: Aliquippa (13-0) vs. Karns City (10-3) at
Central Valley, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Quarterfinals: Hickory (11-1) vs. Richland (13-0) at
Slippery Rock University, 1 p.m.
Saturday — Quarterfinals: Pen Argyl (11-2) vs. Imhotep Charter (12-0)
at Northern Lehigh, 1 p.m.; Wyomissing (13-0) vs. Danville (11-2) at
Hersheypark Stadium, noon.
PIAA CLASS A PLAYOFFS
Friday — Quarterfinals: Port Allegany (12-0) vs. Sharpsville (11-1) at
Bradford, 7 p.m.; Berlin-Brothersvalley (11-1) vs. Clairton (13-0) at
Somerset, 7 p.m.
Friday — Quarterfinals: Dunmore (12-1) vs. Bristol (9-1) at Valley
View, 7 p.m.; Bellwood-Antis (12-1) vs. Delone Catholic (9-3) at
Mansion Park Stadium, Altoona, 7 p.m.