The first state football rankings have been released and two WPIAL teams hold No. 1 spots.
The Pennsylvania Football News, which has a new web site this year, published its state rankings today. South Fayette is No. 1 in Class AA and Clairton No. 1 in Class A.
The first Post-Gazette state rankings will be released Friday along with WPIAL and City League rankings. Our Varsity Xtra preview of the season will come out Friday. Check out our suburban editions Thursday for previews of many WPIAL and City League teams.
Now, for the predictions on what teams will make the WPIAL playoffs.
Today: Class AAAA
Five teams from each of the three conferences will make the playoffs, plus one wild-card team. Here are the top five picks of each conference:
Northern Eight Conference
1. Central Catholic - In terms of talent, the defending WPIAL champion Vikings lost a lot, but still have a lot. John Petrishen is one of the WPIAL's best defensive backs, Eric McAllister one of the best offensive lineman and defensive coordinator Dave Fleming said this might be the best defensive line he has ever coached. But Central Catholic will most likely start an inexperienced Gunnar Frerotte at quarterback and there is now a big question mark at tailback.
Riley Redman, a 1,000-yard rusher, is a senior, but is too old to play. PIAA rules state a student-athlete can't play sports as a senior if the athlete turns 19 before July 1. Redman turned 19 in late June. Without Redman, the Vikings would look to Grant Foster and Ron George. But Foster is still recovering from knee surgery and George was hurt in the Vikings' preseason scrimmage and is likely to miss much of the season. So now what?
2. Seneca Valley - The Raiders weren't supposed to be all that good last year because of an inexperienced team, but went 9-2. A number of starters return, including lineman Tyler Hudanick (Division I college offers) and QB-LB T.J. Holl (pictured), who made the Fabulous 22 last year as a junior. Holl had more than 2,500 yards offense in 11 games last season.
3. North Allegheny - Many starters graduate, but this is still NA. Look for the Tigers to be a challenger for the conference title. QB Jeff Clemens and LB Layne Skundrich return. The best game on the first night of the season could be North Allegheny at Seneca Valley.
4. Pine-Richland - The Rams return almost all of their starting lineup from a year ago, including QB Ben DiNucci, RB Connor Slomka and receiver D'Ondre Gaston. The Rams are talking big, but they must prove it. They haven't done much since moving up to Class AAAA.
5. North Hills - Don't be surprised if this team makes some noise. QB Jake Bruder returns from an ankle injury and there is some talent at other positions.
1. Woodland Hills - The Wolverines and Central Catholic met in the WPIAL title game last year and are undoubtedly the top two teams in Class AAAA heading into the season. The question many seem to be asking is who should be No. 1? Woodland Hills returns a slew of starters and their backfield has two future Division I college players. Miles Sanders (pictured) is only a junior, but already has committed to Penn State. Art Thompkins is headed to Toledo.
2. Upper St. Clair - I know, USC has only one returning starter. But you're crazy if you put the Panthers below second or third in this conference - just based on tradition.
3. Penn Hills - Coach John Peterman definitely has his best team in three years as coach. Billy Kisner is a top-notch running QB. The first night of the season brings Upper St. Clair and Penn Hills together. That game might tell us a lot about both teams and could end up deciding second place in the conference.
4. Bethel Park - Player numbers might be low at the school (45 out for the team), but you can bet coach Jeff Metheny still has high expectations. His son, Levi, is back for his third year at QB.
5. Mt. Lebanon - Things should be much better for the Blue Devils after a down season.
1. Penn-Trafford - QB Brett Laftoon, running back Devin Austin and receiver Tim Vecchio lead a large cast of returning starters.
2. McKeesport - Khaleke Hudson could have a breakout year at running back.
3. Hempfield - The Spartans have inexperienced skill-position players, but they feature 6-7, 300-pound tackle Tony Pilato, a Pitt recruit.
4. Kiski Area - QB Chad Kuhn threw for 1,007 yards last season.
5. Altoona - The Lions have Pitt recruit Kevin Givens at linebacker.