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WPIAL football conference preview: Class 2A Three Rivers

Bill Hartlep
| Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 8:36 p.m.
Steel Valley's Todd Hill fires out to hit the sled during practice on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Steel Valley's Todd Hill fires out to hit the sled during practice on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.

The favorite

Steel Valley (15-0 overall, 7-0 Three Rivers in 2016)

The Steel Valley football team was unbeatable last season and dominating en route to claiming WPIAL and PIAA titles in Class 2A. The Ironmen enacted the 35-point mercy rule in every game, including a 49-7 win over Southern Columbia in the state final. Back are senior defensive back Amonte Strothers and junior linebacker Todd Hill Jr., a pair of first-team all-conference performers who will anchor a defense that allowed just 8.1 points per game last season. The Ironmen will need to replace star RB DeWayne Murray (2,094 yards, 46 TDs) and QB Ryan Harper (2,081 yards, 33 TDs), who graduated.

The contenders

East Allegheny (7-4, 6-1)

East Allegheny averaged 28.5 points last season and returns senior QB Tamaine Underwood, who threw for 1,547 yards and 17 scores, as well as senior TJ Banks, who was a first-team all-conference selection at defensive end and a key factor in the passing game at tight end.

Brentwood (8-3, 5-2)

Fueled by a six-game winning streak mid-season, Brentwood rolled into the playoffs and earned a 46-19 win over Frazier before falling to Washington in the quarterfinals. Senior QB Michael Trent returns after completing 79 of 142 passes for 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Avonworth (5-5, 4-3)

The Lopes reached the playoffs after finishing with three wins to end the regular season. They will need to replace QB Garrett Day, who threw for 1,339 yards and ran for 810.

Serra Catholic (5-6, 3-4)

The Eagles return five starters on offense and eight on defense, led by QB Evan Honick (1,099 yards, 14 TDs) and RB Khalil Smith (1,425 yards, 14 TDs). WR JaQuae Jackson had 582 yards and 10 scores.

Carlynton (2-7, 2-5)

Carlynton snapped a 24-game losing streak last season and will look to take the next step toward a playoff berth. The Cougars have four starters back on offense and defense, including RB/LB Dallas Paolino, WR/DB Hunter Crown and QB/LB Maclaine Greiner.

South Allegheny (1-9, 1-6)

Mike Crown, who was Carlynton's head coach from 1998-2004, replaced Pat Monroe as coach at South Allegheny, which returns three starters on both sides of the ball. The Gladiators will be led by RB Juwan Mitchell, WR Derek Lockhart, QB Brandon Nolder, LB AJ Yarborough and DL Nick Stecak.

Vincentian (0-10, 0-7)

Because of low participation, Vincentian was unable to field a team this season. Opponents will not receive forfeit victories.

Players to watch

TJ Banks

East Allegheny, sr., TE/DE

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound end has scholarship offers from Pitt, West Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse and Temple, among others. He caught 34 passes for 475 yards and 10 scores.

Todd Hill Jr.

Steel Valley, jr., LB

Hill shared Three Rivers Defensive MVP honors with teammate Paris Ford (Pitt). He is already receiving Division I interest, including Penn State.

Amonte Strothers

Steel Valley, sr., WR/DB

The 6-2, 170-pound senior is one of the WPIAL's top cornerbacks. He has offers from Kent State, Toledo, Syracuse, Purdue, Georgetown and Buffalo.

Games to watch

9.22 Avonworth at Brentwood

Brentwood won a shootout at Avonworth last season 48-40 to help clinch third place.

9.29 South Allegheny at Serra Catholic

Coaches Mike Crown (SA) and Jose Regus (Serra) are hoping to make a splash in their first season, and this mid-season matchup could factor into their playoff chances.

10.13 Steel Valley at East Allegheny

East Allegheny is looking for revenge after a 66-0 loss last season on its home turf.

Fast facts

• Steel Valley averaged 53.7 points last season and posted five shutouts. The Ironmen defeated Neshannock, 49-14, in the WPIAL title game.

• East Allegheny's regular-season losses came to Class A runner-up Jeannette, Class 2A runner-up Neshannock and WPIAL champion Steel Valley.

• Brentwood achieved its 400th win against Carlynton in Week 8 last season.

— Bill Hartlep

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