The scoop on state football championships involving WPIAL teams

Written by Mike White on .

Central Catholic, Beaver Falls, Steel Valley and Clairton are the four WPIAL teams that will play in the state championships this weekend at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey. All games will be televised live by PCN. Here is a breakdown of the games:


Central Catholic (14-1) vs. St. Joseph's Prep (13-0), Saturday at 8 p.m.

Coaches: Central Catholic's Terry Totten (137-20 in his 12th season); St. Joseph's Gabe Infante (63-21 in seventh year).

Championship history: Central Catholic has won four titles and is making its seventh championship appearance. St. Joseph's has won two championships (2013 and 2014) and is making its third appearance in the final.

Statistically speaking: Central Catholic's J.J. Younger has rushed for 1,694 yards on 141 carries and has more than 1,000 yards in the past six games. QB Troy Fisher (pictured) has rushed for 582 yards on 77 attempts and fullback David Green 362 on 33 attempts. ... Fisher has completed 78 of 135 for 1,754 yards. ... For St. Joseph's, University of Georgia recruit D'Andre Swift has rushed for 1,403 yards on 122 attempts, despite missing most of six games with an ankle injury. Marquez McCray has completed 137 of 238 for 1,993 yards. The scoop: Many have been anticipating this final all year. St. Joseph's is ranked No. 13 in the country by USA Today. North Penn had St. Joe's on the ropes last week, but Swift came alive in the second half and the Hawks won by 35-25. ... Both teams are big on the lines and both rely heavily on the run. St. Joe's might go how Swift goes. ... But whoever can make a few big pass plays might be the winner.  ... Run support from Central Catholic's DBs should also be a factor along with CC defensive line play against the run.

History lesson: Two years ago, Swift ran for 226 yards on 23 carries when St. Joe's beat Pine-Richland in the 4A state title game.


Beaver Falls (12-1) vs. Middletown (14-0), Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Coaches: Beaver Falls' Ryan Matsook (100-26 in 11th season). Middletown's Brett Myers (31-14 in fourth season).

Championship history: Neither team has ever played in a PIAA title game.

Statistically speaking: Middletown's Chase Snavely is only 5-10, 150 pounds, but has been big, completing 98 of 151 for 2,112 yards. Middletown has a good one-two punch in the backfield with Brady Fox (1,427 yards on 174 attempts) and Jaelen Thompson (1,595 on 199). Receiver Tyreer Mills has 27 catches for 716 yards. ... Beaver Falls has four runners with more than 600 yards - Malik Shepherd (1,016 on 105 attempts), Derrell Carter (859 on 86), Neshaud Akins (793 on 126) and Torian Leak (602 on 96). Austin French has completed 55 of 106 for 956 yards.

The scoop: Shepherd (pictured) will be a key. Many times, he lines up at QB and takes direct snaps in the wildcat formation. ... Both teams rely on a running game, but more so with Beaver Falls. Snavely gives Middletown a little more versatility on offense. ... Middletown averages 249 yards a game rushing, but Beaver Falls has size on the defensive front and some excellent middle linebackers who might shut down the run.

History lesson: Before this season, the last time Beaver Falls won a WPIAL title was 1984. Athletic director Jim Carbone was on that team.


Steel Valley (14-0) vs. Southern Columbia (15-0), Saturday at 11 a.m.

Coaches: Steel Valley's Rod Steele (50-25 in seventh season). Southern Columbia's Jim Roth (396-62-2 in 33rd year).

Championship history: This is Steel Valley's first championship appearance. Southern Columbia is making its 15th title-game appearance. The first 13 came in Class A and last year the Tigers beat Aliquippa in Class 2A. Southern Columbia has won seven championships, including five in a row from 2002-06.

Statistically speaking: Steel Valley's DeWayne Murray has scored 46 TDs this season, has rushed for 2008 yards and is averaging 13 yards a carry. He has over 6,000 yards for his career. QB Ryan Harper has completed 97 of 155 for 1,977 yards. WR-DB Paris Ford (pictured) has 20 TDs and has five interception returns for TDs. ... Southern Columbia's strong running game is led by freshman Gaige Garcia, who has 1,938 yards on 162 carries (12.0 average). Hunter Thomas has 1,467 yards on 124 attempts (11.9 average). Nic Fetterman has rushed 121 times for 667 yards. QB Stone Hollenbach has completed 100 of 162 for 2,022 yards. Cal Haladay has 141 tackles, 13 for loss.

The scoop: Is there a game with more differing traditions? ... Steel Valley has been one of the most dominant teams from the WPIAL - ever. The Ironmen have invoked the mercy rule in every game this season and the first-team defense has allowed only two touchdowns. But it's hard to believe there will be a blowout in this game. I'd say Steel Valley is still the favorite, but Southern Columbia usually does fine - no matter the opponent. Southern Columbia lost to a strong Clairton team by only 35-19 in 2011. ... Southern Columbia usually has a team that doesn't beat itself with turnovers. Steel Valley feasts on turnovers. Watch for Ford. I have a feeling he will impact this game somehow in a big way. 

History lesson: Although you need two hands to count Southern Columbia's championship appearances, the Tigers went through a stretch of losing in the 1A title game six times in seven years.


Clairton (14-0) vs. Bishop Guilfoyle (14-0), Friday at 1 p.m.

Coaches: Clairton's Wayne Wade (42-2 in third year). Bishop Guilfoyle's Justin Wheeler (65-14 in his sixth season).

Championship history: Clairton is trying for its fifth title. The Bears lost in the championship in 2008 and 2015. The 2015 loss was to Bishop Guilfoyle. The Marauders are the two-time defending state champs and have a 46-game winning streak.

Statistically speaking: Clairton's Lamont Wade has rushed for 2,298 yards on 163 attempts, good for a surreal 14.1 yards-per-carry average. He has 7,005 yards for his career. QB Noah Hamlin has rushes for 712 yards on 59 attempts. Tre'sean Howard (pictured) has carried 52 times for 557 yards. Wade, Hamlin and Howard all average better than 10 yards a carry. ... Bishop Guilfoyle's Andrew Irwin has rushed for 1,565 yards on 171 attempts. QB Josh Trybus has completed 78 of 125 for 1,435 yards.

The scoop: Wade has said all year he is on a mission to get a state title because he doesn't have one in his four years with the Bears. You hate to be so basic, but this game could come down to simply whether Guilfoyle can control Wade, or if he makes a couple big plays. ... Clairton's defense has been superb all season. The Bears' ability to control Guilfoyle's running game will have a huge bearing on the game. ... Watch for Howard. A big play by him here or there has greatly impacted some games.

History lesson: Twenty-seven years ago, Clairton lost in the 1A semifinals to Keystone, 15-14. Wayne Wade was a QB-DB for that Clairton team. He is now the Bears' coach. Keystone scored with 2:52 remaining and then were successful with a fake extra-point kick for the two-point conversion.

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