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Week 4 high school football preview

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Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 10:46 p.m.
 

Class AAAA

Quad Central

(6-AAAA) Mt. Lebanon (2-1, 2-0) at Baldwin (1-2, 1-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Mt. Lebanon has won its past two games since opening the season with a nonconference loss to No. 1-ranked North Allegheny. The Blue Devils raced past Plum last week, 49-14. The Fighting Highlanders defeated Plum earlier this season, 35-7.

The X-factor: Baldwin has lost seven straight to Mt. Lebanon dating back to 2005, including last year's 38-7 decision. The big question for Baldwin is can the Fighting Highlanders rebound from last week's heartbreaking 10-8 loss at Penn Hills?

Keys to victory: ML: The Blue Devils need to find a way to contain Baldwin's elusive senior running back Dorian Brown, who has rushed for 536 yards and scored six touchdowns this season. B: The Baldwin defense must focus on Mt.Lebanon quarterback Tyler Roth, an athletic senior who was an all-conference cornerback last season and also is regarded as one of the WPIAL's top punters. He has passed for 539 yards and seven touchdowns, with his favorite targets being wideouts Troy Apke and Mike Briercheck, and tight end Mark Buda. Apke, at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and with a Pitt scholarship offer, is one of the team's most dangerous offensive weapons. He has 11 receptions for 253 yards and four touchdowns.

Prediction: Mt. Lebanon, 21-14.

Quad Central

(5-AAAA) Woodland Hills (2-1, 1-1) at Plum (0-3, 0-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: After two straight weeks of travel to the South Hills, Plum returns home and will try to get into the win column, while Woodland Hills hopes to build on a 35-7 rout of Bethel Park in conference play. The Wolverines are 6-0 against the Mustangs since the current conference series began in 2006.

The X-factor: Wolverines senior quarterback Cody McClelland, in his first year as a starter, completed 8 of 14 passes for 206 yards and four touchdowns last week vs. Bethel Park.

Keys to victory: The Mustangs did well in not turning the ball over last week against Mt. Lebanon, and they will have to protect the ball this week and not give a potent Wolverines offense short fields. Sophomore tailback Kyle Smecker continues to emerge as a reliable offensive threat. He tallied 39 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries last week. WH: The Wolverines offense was balanced last week, and that again will be key for an offense with a number of new starters. Junior Harry Randall had 117 yards rushing on 13 carries against Bethel Park.

Prediction: Woodland Hills, 38- 14.

Quad East

Kiski Area (2-1, 2-1) at Hempfield (2-1, 2-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Both teams will attempt to rebound from their first loss a week ago. Connellsville, their common opponent so far, defeated surprising Hempfield, 14-10, and lost to Kiski Area, 22-14. Hempfield's loss to Connellsville last week prevented the Spartans from starting a season 3-0 for the first time since 1988.

The X-factor: Hempfield RB Joey DeFloria has been a big playmaker so far for the Spartans, who served notice with an eye-opening victory over McKeesport in their opener. DeFloria rushed for 214 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown run, in the loss to Connellsville. A week earlier, in a victory over Latrobe, the junior returned two punts for touchdowns.

Keys to victory: KA: Kiski Area should put the lopsided, 55-14 loss to No. 1 Gateway behind it and turn its attention to Hempfield. H: Hempfield needs to convert its potential high-scoring offense into points and cut down on mistakes. Last week, the Spartans managed just 10 points despite rolling up 460 total yards.

Prediction: Hempfield, 21-20.

Quad East

Latrobe (1-2, 0-2) at Norwin (0-3, 0-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Latrobe moved into the win column with an out-of-conference victory last week over Fox Chapel, while Norwin is seeking to end its team's 13-game skid in the battle to move out of the bottom of the conference standings.

The X-factor: Latrobe quarterback Logan Carns does it all for the Wildcats — he threw two touchdowns and ran for another last week — and he will have to be the offensive leader again for Latrobe to win two straight.

Keys to victory: L: The Wildcats' two losses both came on the road, and each time, they fell behind quickly to give the home team momentum. Latrobe can't allow the same to happen in the stadium of a Norwin team hungry for a win. N: Turnovers have crushed the Knights in the last two games, but their defense has played well to keep games close. If the offense and special teams don't create bad situations, Norwin's defense is strong enough to carry the team to a win.

Prediction: Latrobe, 20-16.

Quad East

McKeesport (1-2, 1-1) at Penn-Trafford (2-1, 2-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: McKeesport finally got in the win column last week with a strong second half against Norwin, while Penn-Trafford and Gateway are the only two teams that remain unbeaten in Quad East play.

The X-factor: Hodari Christian is best known for his skills as a linebacker, but he and the Tigers' other running backs will need to find holes through a Penn-Trafford run defense that has improved steadily since Week 1 and held run-heavy Altoona largely in check last week.

Keys to victory: M: McKeesport allowed three touchdowns in a quarter in both of its losses, and the Tigers were shut out in the first half by Norwin. The Tigers must be more consistent and avoid another one- or two-quarter lapse in play, or else P-T will pull away. PT: With three major running threats — quarterback Dorian Stevens and running backs Tom Stinelli and Devin Austin — the Warriors will want to control the ball and wear down the Tigers' defense.

Prediction: Penn-Trafford, 28-20.

Quad North

Butler (2-1, 2-1) at (8-AAAA) North Hills (2-1, 1-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Butler and North Hills have something to prove. Both are trying to show they're serious playoff contenders in the crowded Quad North standings, where they each have a loss: Butler to No. 7 Seneca Valley, and North Hills to No. 4 Central Catholic.

The X-factor: Butler has far more to prove. The Golden Tornado has spent a decade trying to rebuild the program. It hasn't had a winning record since 1997, but this could be the season under second-year coach Clyde Conti. The team ended its 28-game Quad North losing streak and now has a two-game winning streak. But a year ago North Hills beat Butler, 38-0. And up next for Butler are 2011 WPIAL finalists North Allegheny and Upper St. Clair in consecutive weeks.

Keys to victory: B: QB Jordan Cratty had two rushing TDs last week, and kicker Devin Fitz made two field goals. But a Tornado victory rests on an improving defense that allowed just seven points last week. In the two previous weeks, it surrendered 50 points. NH: RB Josh Hulbert shouldered the work in Week 3. He scored four rushing touchdowns (10, 12, 24 and 2 yards) and caught a 16-yard TD pass. That ground game again will be key.

Prediction: North Hills, 28-14.

Quad North

(4-AAAA) Central Catholic (3-0, 2-0) at Fox Chapel (0-3, 0-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: High-powered Central Catholic is one of only two WPIAL teams that has yet to be scored upon this season. The Vikings have outscored their opponents, 93-0. Fox Chapel couldn't get on track last week at Latrobe, sputtering on offense. The Foxes have managed just 25 points in a trio of losses.

The X-factor: The Vikings' secondary has kept the edges sealed well through three games. Todd Coles and Joe Tindal both returned interceptions for touchdowns last week.

Keys to victory: CC: Test the Foxes' secondary and continue to mix in different ball-carriers to keep the defense guessing. FC: Get all-purpose player Brandon Mitchell involved more offensively, and apply pressure to the quarterback. Win the field-position battle and get something out of positive drives.

Prediction: Central Catholic, 35-7.

Quad North

(1-AAAA) North Allegheny (3-0, 2-0) at Pine-Richland (1-2, 1-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: North Allegheny has looked unstoppable through three games, outscoring the opposition 132-24, and averaging 44 points per game. The Rams on the other hand, average less than that by more than half at 20 points per game.

The X-factor: North Allegheny quarterback Mack Leftwich directs the Tigers' balanced attack. Leftwich sparked the Tigers to early leads in every game, then turned things over to his ground attack to close the game out.

Keys to victory: P-R: The Rams have to control the clock and hope that quarterback Ben DiNucci can continue to find C.J. Jackson and move the chains, thus keeping Leftwich and the NA offense on the sidelines. NA: The Tigers need to continue to play balanced football. Nobody has slowed the Tigers even slightly thus far.

Prediction: North Allegheny, 35-13.

Class AAA

Big 9

Elizabeth Forward (1-2, 1-2) at Belle Vernon (1-2, 1-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Belle Vernon is coming off losses to West Mifflin and Ringgold the past two weeks by a combined score of 82-16, the worst consecutive losses they have suffered since Chartiers Valley and Greensburg Salem outscored them 102-10 in 2008. Division I line prospect Dorian Johnson has not been able to hold back opposing defenses by himself, and Belle Vernon is in a tough spot. On the other side, Elizabeth Forward is coming off what amounts to an impressive two-point loss to Thomas Jefferson and a 35-point blowout victory at Laurel Highlands. It was the first road win for Elizabeth Forward since a 22-14 victory at Derry on Oct. 16, 2009.

The X-factor: JaQuan Davidson is becoming a dangerous threat for the Warriors after a four touchdown performance against Laurel Highlands.

Keys to victory: EF: The Warriors appear to have finally turned the corner, but they need to play as they did the last two weeks if they are to end a playoff drought that dates back to 2005. BV: The Leopards have not scored a rushing touchdown in eight quarters and, for a team that prides itself on winning battles at the point of attack, it is a cause for concern and a necessity against the Warriors.

Prediction: Elizabeth Forward, 18-17.

Big 9

(9-AAA) Ringgold (2-1, 2-1) at Uniontown (1-2, 1-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Red Raiders continue to try to develop a number of young players and will face a stiff challenge this week against the Rams. Uniontown fell to West Mifflin, 41-7, last week while Ringgold ripped Belle Vernon, 34-2. The Rams blanked Uniontown, 42-0 last year.

The X-factor: Uniontown must try to figure out how to stop the run, especially after giving up five rushing touchdowns to the Titans last week.

Keys to victory: R: Expect the Rams to pound the ball with Demetrius Louis, who last week rushed for touchdowns of 53 and 62 yards. U: Quarterback Xavier Ellis and the Uniontown offense must possess the ball for long stretches. Bru Martin was a favorite receiver for Ellis last week.

Prediction: Ringgold, 42-7.

Big 9

(3-AAA) Thomas Jefferson (3-0, 2-0) at Trinity (2-1, 2-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Any concerns about Thomas Jefferson after its near-miss against Elizabeth Forward in Week 2 were allayed with a 55-0 win against Hollidaysburg. This could end up being a much different meeting than many in the past between the two schools, especially considering that Thomas Jefferson has won all six meetings since Trinity dropped down from Class AAAA in 2006. Thomas Jefferson quarterback Joe Carroll threw for five touchdowns last week against Hollidaysburg — it was the second time in three games he's thrown for than many — and now leads the WPIAL with 12 on the season.

The X-factor: Trinity had three returns for touchdowns in last week's win over Albert Gallatin, including a return of the opening kickoff of the second half.

Keys to victory: TJ: Teams had a huge problem covering Zach Schademan in 2011, but add Jake Mascaro into the mix after a 100-yard, three touchdown showing last week, and the Jaguars are that much more formidable. Tr: If the Hillers can't find a way to get into the Jaguars backfield and force them to run the football, it could be a long night.

Prediction: Thomas Jefferson, 30-21.

Big 9

(8-AAA) West Mifflin (3-0, 3-0) at Albert Gallatin (0-3, 0-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: West Mifflin has an arsenal of offensive weapons at its disposal, including current WPIAL rushing leader Jimmy Wheeler, who ran for 203 yards and four touchdowns last week against Uniontown and now has 672 yards and eight scores on the year. The Colonials can't just concentrate on Wheeler either, as dual-threat quarterback Derrick Fulmore ran for one touchdown and threw for another last week and has a combined five on the year. West Mifflin has been able to beat teams at the point of attack and both the offensive and defensive lines have been too dominant for opposing teams. Albert Gallatin has been outscored 96-6 the last two weeks.

The X-factor: West Mifflin has allowed only 14 of its 49 points – all to Belle Vernon – before the running clock.

Keys to victory: WM: Avoid looking ahead. Ringgold will still be waiting after the game. The Titans need to take care of business and get their starters some rest for next week. AG: The Colonials have lost their last 12 games and things are not going to get any easier against an elite team in a tougher conference. Taking care of the football will be key.

Prediction: West Mifflin, 51-6.

Greater Allegheny

Greensburg Salem (1-2, 1-2) at (6-AAA) Franklin Regional (2-1, 2-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Franklin Regional proved it was more than the Dane Brown show last week at Highlands. With the star running back sidelined with an ankle injury, the Panthers still rolled to an easy win. Greensburg Salem got on the left side of the win-loss column by upsetting Hampton. The Golden Lions will need another solid defensive effort to stay with Franklin Regional.

The X-factor: If Brown can't go, look for quarterback Nico Lodovico to carry the load for the Panthers. The senior tossed two scoring strikes and ran for a third score in the win.

Keys to victory: GS: Give freshman quarterback Dan Walters time to make plays. Walters rushed for one score and threw a touchdown in the Golden Lions win last week. FR: Pressure the freshman quarterback and run the ball. The Panthers used a trio of runners last week to bury Highlands.

Prediction: Franklin Regional, 24-14.

Greater Allegheny

Highlands (0-3, 0-3) at (5-AAA) Mars (3-0, 3-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Usually, these teams match up well when they face off in Greater Allegheny play, but Highlands is facing an uphill climb due to inexperience and minimal depth. Mars, meantime, is surging and could be the conference's best team — or at least one of its top contenders. No one has been able to stop the Planets' running game, which has averaged 331 yards per game.

The X-factor: Mars tailback Josh Schultheis ran for 211 yards last week against Indiana and should continue to churn out big plays against a young Highlands defense.

Keys to victory: M: Get runners to the outside and break big plays. But play a clean game. Three fumbles and two interceptions were non-factors last week, but could come back to bite the Planets. H: Strike early and take advantage of any Mars miscues. Turnovers must be cashed in for points.

Prediction: Mars, 32-10.

Greater Allegheny

Hollidaysburg (2-1, 2-0) at (7-AAA) Knoch (3-0, 2-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Both teams get back into conference play after nonconference games in recent weeks. Hollidaysburg struggled mightily to contain Thomas Jefferson's passing attack last week, as TJ quarterback Joe Carroll threw five first-quarter touchdowns, prompting Hollidaysburg coach John Barton to say, “He looks like Peyton Manning.” Knoch rolled to its second straight 40-7 win, at Derry, as tailback Ben Tackett rushed for 253 yards and three scores, and Mike Cunningham added 153 yards and two scores.

The X-factor: Hollidaysburg quarterback Brian Urban ran for 148 yards on 24 carries and threw for a score against Highlands. If poised and mistake-free, he could provide a chance against Knoch.

Keys to victory: H: Keep Knoch running backs north and south. Giving up the perimeter will make for a long night. K: Strike early and continue to advance the ball with big chunks of yardage.

Prediction: Knoch, 24-14.

Greater Allegheny

Indiana (0-3, 0-3) at Derry (1-2, 0-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: This is a battle of two struggling programs, though Indiana is young and trying to make up for the loss of several high-profile players from last year's playoff team. Derry will attempt to use home-field to its advantage.

The X-factor: Derry kicker Tyler Matusak gives the Trojans an added dimension that many high school teams lack. If they get in position to kick field goals, it could provide the difference in the outcome.

Keys to victory: I: The Indians have played a tough schedule so far, losing two of three games to Class AAA ranked teams. They're inexperienced at skill positions. Junior QB Dequan West scored Indiana's only touchdown in last week's 40-6 loss to Mars, which got 211 yards rushing from Josh Shultheis. D: Derry, which lost to Knoch (40-7) and Mars (56-0) after opening with a 33-26, nonconference victory over Albert Gallatin, needs a big game from versatile RB/QB Josh Wannamaker, who passed for 121 yards and scored on a 22-yard touchdown run last week against Knoch.

Prediction: Indiana, 24- 19.

Parkway

(2-AAA) Central Valley (2-1, 2-1) at (10-AAA) Blackhawk (1-2, 1-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Both teams began the season with Parkway Conference title hopes, but Blackhawk hasn't yet shown that potential. After a disappointing 7-6 loss to Hopewell last week, the Cougars need to steal a win somewhere to climb back into the race. Central Valley doesn't want to lend them any help.

The X-factor: Both teams have Division I talent at the heart of their offense. Central Valley has senior Robert Foster, a talented WR who carries and catches. Blackhawk has Chander Kincade, a junior QB who committed to Pitt before his sophomore season.

Keys to victory: CV: When you need a spark, go with the wildcat. The Warriors have a solid QB in Nate Climo, who has shown to be accurate. But when Central Valley puts Foster or Jordan Whitehead behind center for a series or two, they might be even more dangerous. B: The defense was outstanding last week, highlighted by a goal-line stand that stuffed four straight Hopewell plays inside the 5. But where was the offense? Six points will never be enough.

Prediction: Central Valley, 21-13.

Nonconference

Laurel Highlands (0-3) at Hampton (2-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: After a tough start in Big 9 Conference play to start the season, the Mustangs will hit the road for their lone nonconference game. The Mustangs dropped a 47-12 decision to Elizabeth Forward last week while the Talbots suffered their first loss of the season, a 20-10 setback to Greensburg Salem.

The X-factor: The Laurel Highlands defense has given up an average of close to 50 points per game through the first three weeks of the season. A nonconference game may give the Mustangs a chance to experiment with some things in terms of trying to limit opposing offenses.

Keys to victory: LH: The Mustangs have a capable offense, which features quarterback Raphael Cannon as well as running back Dontay Jacobs. Both produced a touchdown last week and will be expected to step up again. H: Quarterback Jon Nigro keys the Hampton attack, though he was limited in last week's loss. Hampton will look for more big plays from Andy DeMichiei, who has returned an interception for a touchdown in each of the past two games.

Prediction: Hampton, 40-14.

Class AA

Allegheny

East Allegheny (1-2, 1-2) at Deer Lakes (0-3, 0-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: East Allegheny dropped its past two games and was edged by Ford City, 34-31, in overtime last week. The Wildcats will try to shake off the disappointment and get back on track. Since making the WPIAL playoffs in 2010, Deer Lakes has stumbled to a 2-11 record.

The X-factor: East Allegheny senior wide receiver/defensive back Shawn Adair has emerged as one of the most exciting players in Class AA. Last week, Adair had three catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns and also scored on a 73-yard run.

Keys to victory: EA: Getting the ball to Adair is a key, but the Wildcats will need other players to contribute more if Deer Lakes places heavy coverage on the speedy wideout. DL: The Lancers, who have scored only 14 points this season, must find a spark on offense and contain the explosive Adair.

Prediction: East Allegheny, 23-9.

Allegheny

(7-AA) Freeport (3-0, 3-0) at Valley (1-2, 1-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Freeport notched its first shutout of the season in a 39-0 win against Deer Lakes last Friday. Valley has lost its past two games, but gave Shady Side Academy a battle in a 16-6 loss last week. These teams last played in 2009, and Freeport rolled to a 41-0 victory. Valley competed in Class AAA the past two years.

The X-factor: Freeport senior running back/wide receiver Mike Teorsky had a breakout game when he rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns last week. Teorsky gives the Yellowjackets another option out of the backfield to complement workhorse running back Damon Smith and dual-threat quarterback Brendan Lynch.

Keys to victory: F: With their bigger linemen and bruising rushing attack, the Yellowjackets could wear down a smaller Valley team. V: The Vikings have to cut down on costly turnovers and penalties and develop a consistent running game to take heat off of junior quarterback Ty Matthews.

Prediction: Freeport, 28-7.

Allegheny

Kittanning (1-2, 1-1) at Summit Academy (1-2, 0-2)

12:30 p.m. Saturday

The rundown: Another late-game rally fell a bit short for Kittanning, which lost to Greensburg Central Catholic, 21-16, last week. The Wildcats have outscored opponents, 55-6, in the final quarter. Summit Academy gave unbeaten Burrell a scare last Saturday during a 28-22 conference loss. The Knights' last two games were decided by seven points combined.

The X-factor: Kittanning sophomore wide receiver Nick Bowers added another great performance to his resume last week, as he grabbed two passes for 84 yards and two scores. In Week 2, Bowers had four receptions for 152 yards.

Keys to victory: K: Don't let a Saturday afternoon game lead to a start that's even slower than usual. Kittanning must score early. SA: Place trust in junior quarterback Chris Harp, who completed 9 of 13 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns a week ago.

Prediction: Kittanning, 42-20.

Century

(2-AA) Seton-La Salle (3-0, 3-0) at Steel Valley (2-1, 2-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Rebels clipped Keystone Oaks in their home opener last week, 45-0, after blanking South Allegheny, 35-0, and McGuffey, 42-0, in their first two games. Steel Valley lost at South Fayette last week, 50-0. The Ironmen had started off with impressive 35-7 and 41-0 wins against Keystone Oaks and McGuffey, respectively.

The X-factor: Seton-La Salle hasn't been scored upon this season — outscoring the opposition by a 122-0 overall margin — and is averaging 40.7 points per game. Senior quarterback Luke Brumbaugh has passed for 621 yards and six touchdowns. It's a home game for Ironmen. Rebels coach Greg Perry said they will be tested by Steel Valley's run game.

Keys to victory: SLS: The Rebels, who blanked Steel Valley last season, 28-0, and have defeated the Ironmen three times in the past four years, are motivated to toss a fourth consecutive shutout. SV: The Ironmen need to bounce back defensively to keep it close, and must take advantage of any Seton-La Salle turnovers.

Prediction: Seton-La Salle, 28-0.

Century

South Allegheny (2-1, 1-1) at South Park (1-2, 1-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: It may be difficult to believe, but South Allegheny is entering the easiest part of its schedule and, with a couple of key wins, could push itself into the WPIAL Class AA playoffs for the first time since 1986. South Allegheny is riding a two-game winning streak for the first time since opening the 2008 season 2-0 and the school has not won three consecutive games in more than 15 years. The Gladiators have a solid quarterback in Dustin Anderson and talent along the offensive line. South Park finally broke out with a win over last place Burgettstown last week, but that's a difficult barometer as Burgesttstown has yet to score a point this season. Mike McLaughlin scored two touchdowns and grabbed a two-point conversion pass in that game.

The X-factor: Both South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe (lost while at Duquesne) and South Park's Tom Loughran (won against Wilson) coached in state championship games in 2005.

Keys to victory: SA: Don't change a thing. The Gladiators are on a rare streak for the school and need to keep their heads in the game and not worry about keeping it going. SP: If the Eagles cause a turnover or two early in the game, South Allegheny could see its recent good fortune fall away with their renewed confidence.

Prediction: South Allegheny, 20-16.

Interstate

Greensburg CC (0-2, 1-2) at Waynesburg (1-1, 1-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Greensburg Central Catholic faces its second-consecutive long road trip this week. Last week, the Centurions headed north to Armstrong County. This week they head southwest to Greene County. They hope their second long trip produces a victory after two home losses. Waynesburg looked strong in a 21-0 win against Brownsville. The Raiders ran the ball with success against the Falcons.

The X-factor: Greensburg Central Catholic quarterback Chase Keller is proving he's more than just a runner. He threw two more touchdown passes last week, giving him four on the season.

Keys to victory: GCC: Try to establish a running game with someone other than Keller. Zack Guiser, Tyler Balla and Nate Stone need to prove they can run hard. W: Build off last week's win at Brownsville. Run the ball against GCC's defense, which has some holes.

Prediction: Greensburg C.C., 34-14.

Interstate

(3-AA) Jeannette (3-0, 3-0) at Brownsville (0-2, 0-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: There was a time that this was the biggest game in the conference. Jeannette just has too many athletes in running backs Jordan Edmunds, Shavonta Craft and Anthony Canady for the Falcons. Brownsville is off to a slow start and things don't look good. After Jeannette, the Falcons play Greensburg Central Catholic and Washington.

The X-factor: Jeannette nose tackle Nathan Childs' sack of Yough quarterback Tyler Donahue keyed a defensive surge that led to 21 points in a two-minute span by the Jayhawks last week. Opposing centers are having a tough time keeping Childs out of the backfield.

Keys to victory: J: This should be a cakewalk as long as the Jayhawks play a fundamental game. Jeannette has Washington next week, so looking past Brownsville would be easy. Quarterback Seth Miller should use this game to work on accuracy. B: Force turnovers and hope Jeannette's focus is on the following Friday. Use your big-play potential to catch Jeannette napping and force turnovers.

Prediction: Jeannette, 42-6.

Interstate

Mt. Pleasant (3-0, 3-0) at Charleroi (0-3, 0-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Vikings appear to be a team clicking on all cylinders after defeating Southmoreland, 41-20, in Week 3. Meanwhile, Charleroi remains winless after falling to Washington, 64-14. Mt. Pleasant got the best of Charleroi, 24-7 in the season opener a year ago.

The X-factor: The Vikings must guard against a letdown, especially after coming off big wins against Greensburg Central Catholic and Southmoreland.

Keys to victory: MP: Mt. Pleasant's ground game continues to be a staple of the offense, with Taylor Allison, Ryan Ballew and Tyler Mellors each rushing for two touchdowns last week. Expect Mt. Pleasant to keep plugging away on the ground. C: The Cougars will likely have to score a lot of points because their defense gives up a lot. With that in mind, quarterback Brennan Matthews needs to make play after play.

Prediction: Mt. Pleasant, 41-7.

Interstate

(5-AA) Washington (3-0, 3-0) at Yough (2-1, 2-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Washington has been rolling since opening the season with a win at Greensburg Central Catholic. This will be the Prexies second test of the season. Yough made too many mistakes its 45-13 loss at Jeannette. The Cougars had a two-minute span that saw Jeannette score 21 points to break open the game.

The X-factor: Yough running back Christian Williams, who rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown last week, is a player who can control the game with his running ability. He's rushed for 391 yards this season.

Keys to victory: W: Give the ball to running back Shai McKenzie, who rushed for 214 yards and four touchdowns on only nine carries last week against Charleroi. His backup, DaRon Whittaker, rushed for 122 yards. Y: Don't make the same mistakes as last week against Jeannette. A close game got out of hand quickly. Also, give quarterback Tyler Donahue time to throw. Washington could be primed for an upset if it's looking ahead to Jeannette next week.

Prediction: Washington, 27-22.

Midwestern

(6-AA) Beaver Falls (3-0. 3-0) at Beaver (3-0, 3-0)

7:30 p.m. Saturday

The rundown: This was supposedly a down year for the MAC behind Aliquippa, but Beaver Falls and Beaver have proven that assumption wrong. Both are undefeated entering a Saturday night matchup that could draw a large Beaver County crowd for what's always a good rivalry game.

The X-factor: Beaver Falls has scored 134 points with a quick-strike attack. Beaver has scored 64 behind a ground-and-pound approach. Both styles work. Which will prevail?

Keys to victory: BF: TE Sage Curry has caught just four passes in three games. However, the junior also has 191 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Curry caught an important 49-yard TD pass from QB Dan Stratton a week ago. The Tigers already have a strong running game, so Stratton-to-Curry gives opponents another reason to worry. B: Colin Reese (6-4, 280) anchors an oversized O-line that has been a strength for the Bobcats. Behind them, RB Darian Bradley already had 10 rushing TDs. Key will be blocking Beaver Falls DT Brock Boxen (6-4, 285), a junior with a Pitt scholarship offer.

Prediction: Beaver Falls, 21-14.

Nonconference

Ford City (1-2) at Southmoreland (0-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Ford City narrowly avoided its first 0-3 start since 1995 by beating East Allegheny, 34-31, in overtime last week. The offensive output exceeded the Sabers' previous best by 20 points. Southmoreland allowed more than 40 points for a third straight week during its 41-20 loss at Mt. Pleasant last Friday.

The X-factor: After two fairly average performances, Ford City senior and star running back Devan Willyard broke through for a big performance against East Allegheny, as he finished with 137 yards rushing and 92 receiving. He had two touchdown carries and a touchdown catch.

Keys to victory: FC: Frustrate a Southmoreland offense that's averaging just 11 points per game. A shutdown performance might do wonders for the Sabers' defense. S: Force turnovers, which will throw off the rhythm of a Ford City offense that has sustained long drives this season.

Prediction: Ford City, 28-14.

Class A

Big Seven

OLSH (1-2, 1-2) at (8-A) Sto-Rox (2-1, 2-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: OLSH and Sto-Rox lost conference games a week ago after long road trips to Lawrence County. OLSH lost at Laurel, 24-13. Sto-Rox lost at Neshannock, 35-34. Neither ventures far this week; it's fewer than 10 miles from OLSH's Moon campus to McKees Rocks, but the Vikings won't make the Chargers feel at home.

The X-factor: Sto-Rox attempted two-point passes after all five if its touchdowns last week and converted just two. In close games, that can be a problem.

Keys to victory: O: The Chargers are best when running the football with senior RB Isiah Neeley, a 1,500-yard rusher last season. To play their game they can't fall behind early by multiple touchdowns, like they did in the first half a week ago. SR: QB Lenny Williams threw three TD passes and rushed for another to lead the high-scoring Vikings. They'll need another solid game from the junior.

Prediction: Sto-Rox, 27-21.

Black Hills

Carlynton (0-3) at Serra Catholic (0-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Both teams enter the Friday matchup looking for their first win of the season. The Cougars are coming off a 38-0 shellacking from Bishop Canevin, while the Eagles fell to Chartiers-Houston, 44-13. Carlynton won last season's showdown, 28-0.

The X-factor: The Cougars use three quarterbacks – senior Nick Lang and juniors Freddie McKissick and Kevin Schuster. After struggling the last two weeks against Clairton and Bishop Canevin, it will be interesting to see if Serra Catholic can figure out a way to keep the Carlynton offense one-dimensional, as well.

Keys to victory: C: Get the ground game going. The Cougars have a good rushing attack with a pair of tailbacks -- junior Evan Ban and freshman Isiah Canton. If the line can make the blocks it should, it could be a long night for the Eagles. S: Keep the offensive momentum going. The Eagles quarterback – sophomore Zac Quattrone – scored two late rushing touchdowns last week. If Serra can continue that momentum and get an early score, it could provide the spark the team needs.

Prediction: Carlynton, 28- 7.

Eastern

Apollo-Ridge (1-2, 1-1) at Leechburg (1-2, 1-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Traditional rivals, the teams' all-time series is tied at 19 apiece. Leechburg and Apollo (pre-Apollo-Ridge) have played each other in one form or another 87 times since 1919. Apollo-Ridge rallied but fell short against Western Beaver, but returns to conference play looking to rebound. Leechburg couldn't produce any points against Avonworth, despite a few strong defensive stands.

The X-factor: Apollo-Ridge wide receiver Tre Tipton has been a big-play threat for quarterback Jesse Zelonka. If he can get behind the Blue Devils' secondary, the Vikings can set the tone.

Keys to victory: AR: Test the corners early and use the pass to set up the run in the red zone. L: Get the ball in the hands of Jake Iellimo, whether via the wildcat, or on dump-off passes. And bat down passes at any opportunity.

Prediction: Apollo-Ridge, 20-14.

Eastern

North Catholic (2-1, 2-1) at Riverview (0-3, 0-3)

Noon Saturday

The rundown: North Catholic suffered a 21-7 setback against Northgate last week. Meanwhile, Riverview will try to rebound from one of the most disheartening losses in the program's history. Last week, West Shamokin ended a state-record 46-game losing streak with a 25-6 win over the Raiders.

The X-factor: Last Friday, North Catholic sophomore running back P.J. Fulmore got plenty of work, rushing for 128 yards on 28 carries. The speedster could present major problems for a beleaguered Riverview defense.

Keys to victory: NC: The Trojans should be able to lean on their greater depth and experience as well as Fulmore. R: The Raiders must try to forget last week's loss and shake things up with trick plays to keep North Catholic off balance.

Prediction: North Catholic, 20-0.

Tri-County South

Frazier (2-1, 2-1) at West Greene (1-2, 1-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Last week, the Commodores finally got to win a game on the field. Frazier received a forfeit victory over Geibel in Week 1, lost to Carmichaels in Week 2, then bounced back to beat Bentworth, 27-9. The Pioneers were beaten by Jefferson-Morgan last week, 52-12.

The X-factor: The Pioneers are looking to put together their first strong road performance of the season and can't afford to look past West Greene, a team that also has a win against Bentworth this season.

Keys to victory: F: Frazier quarterback Charles Manack and receiver Jaime Fell continue to dazzle. Last week, Manack threw three touchdowns passes and two of them went to Fell. The ground game also has been solid with Chaise Bertocci, who rushed for a score against the Bearcats. WG: The Pioneers will likely try to ride Donald White to victory. Last week, White carried 19 times for 103 yards and was West Greene's main offensive threat against the Rockets.

Prediction: Frazier, 35-14.

Tri-County South

Geibel (0-3, 0-2) at Mapletown (1-2, 0-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: In Week 3, the Gators, after two forfeits, were finally able to take the field. However, the results were far from impressive as Vincentian Academy came to Geibel and walked away with the program's first-ever victory, a 62-8 triumph. It also marked the debut of coach Bob Petrella, who replaced Sean Benjamin, who resigned prior to last week's game. Mapletown also struggled last week, dropping a 40-14 decision to Avella. Mapletown beat Geibel a season ago, 40-20.

The X-factor: Geibel will be looking for improvement, and it will be a test to see if there is growth on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Keys to victory: G: Somehow, Geibel needs to slow the Mapletown run game while making some surprising plays of its own, perhaps on special teams. Matt Mammarella proved he is more than just a kicker by hauling in a touchdown pass from Jake Ciaccia. M: Pound the ball with Adam Hein, who rushed for a score in last week's loss.

Prediction: Mapletown, 65-6.

Nonconference

Laurel (2-1) at Springdale (2-1)

The rundown: A break from conference play sometimes means a less-intrusive opponent, but that won't be the case for Springdale, as it faces a strong Laurel team. Laurel plays in arguably a much stronger conference, the Big Seven, which houses No. 3 Rochester and No. 7 Neshannock. Springdale needed some breaks to get past Wilkinsburg last week, and the Dynamos know they could have played a more complete game, especially with some key Eastern Conference games ahead.

The X-factor: Springdale's Sean Dugan is one of the top running backs in Class A, but will need to spearhead a resistant effort from his fellow linebackers to slow Laurel.

Keys to victory: L: Contain Dugan, and force the Dynamos to win via the pass. S: Control the clock with extended drives and limit the production of Laurel tailback Josh Dando.

Prediction: Laurel, 26-15.

Heritage (District 6)

Ligonier Valley (3-0, 3-0) at Marion Center (1-2. 1-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Ligonier Valley continues to score points in bunches, last week taking down unbeaten Blairsville, 49-15. The Rams are doing it with a balanced offense and a stingy defense. They did give up their first points of the season last week. Marion Center has been inconsistent in its three games. The Stingers are averaging 17.3 points per game, but allowing 28.1. This will be their first big test.

The X-factor: Ligonier Valley's one-two punch of quarterback Scott Fennell and running back Ryan Torrance have pounded opponents. Fennell rushed for two touchdowns and tossed a scoring strike last week, while Torrance rushed for 229 yards and three scores.

Keys to victory: LV: Continue to share the ball offensively and play strong defense. Connor Maust, who rushed for 163 yards last week, is capable of carrying the load in the ground game. MC: Throw the ball if possible. Blairsville passed for 280 yards in a loss last week. Brodey Thompson scored twice in a loss last week; one came on an 87-yard kickoff return.

Prediction: Ligonier Valley, 42-14.

City League (District 8)

University Prep (1-1, 1-0) at Brashear (1-2, 1-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Brashear and University Prep want their strong starts to continue. Both opened City League play last week with a victory. Brashear beat Westinghouse, 30-3. University Prep beat Carrick, 56-0. In the new six-team City League, each victory carries added weight.

The X-factor: University Prep's defense and special teams matched the scoring of the team's offense a week ago when the Wildcats returned three fumbles and a punt for touchdowns. Lamont Buckner scored the game's first points with a 44-yard fumble return.

Keys to victory: UP: QB Akil Young threw touchdowns last week to three different receivers: Marcus Johnson (48 yards), Clay Moorefield (27 yards) and Abner Roberts (2 yards). Roberts also had a rushing TD. That diversity is key. B: A year ago, Brashear beat University Prep, 22-13, with three defensive touchdowns. Two were by Deshaun Roberts, now a senior, who had another fumble-return TD last week.

Prediction: University Prep, 22-20.

District 9

Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference

Non-division

Union (3-0) at Karns City (2-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Union beat Redbank Valley, 35-6, last week and improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1985. The Golden Knights are allowing just 8.7 points per game. Karns City trailed by a touchdown early against Moniteau but scored 20 points unanswered to claim a KSAC Large School division win. The Gremlins are averaging 23.3 points per game.

The X-factor: Karns City senior running back Glenn Toy might make his return this week. A 1,300-yard rusher as a junior, Toy spent the first three weeks of this season recovering from a knee injury. His return would add more depth to an already explosive backfield.

Keys to victory: U: Contain Karns City's speed, and force the Gremlins to gain their yards between the tackles. A grind-it-out game likely benefits the Golden Knights. KC: Continue to utilize the screens and short passes that allow Karns City ball carriers to operate in space.

Prediction: Karns City, 24-21.

Nonconference (District 9)

Farrell (2-1) at Redbank Valley (0-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: District 10's Farrell opened the season with a pair of wins, both of which were decided by a touchdown or less. Last week, the Steelers fell to West Middlesex, 38-6. Redbank Valley remains winless after losing to Union for the first time since 1997. The Bulldogs have averaged just 8.6 points per game.

The X-factor: Farrell junior Dewayne Burns entered the season with high hopes after averaging 5.1 yards per carry as a sophomore. He scored two touchdowns in a season-opening, 21-14 victory against Sharon, including the game-winner in double overtime.

Keys to victory: F: Count on the big-play abilities of Burns and others to challenge Redbank Valley's young secondary. RBV: Lean on senior fullback Bam Bailey in an effort to control the clock. The Bulldogs cannot afford to start a back-and-forth thriller.

Prediction: Farrell, 19-10.

 

 
 


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