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High school football: Top Week 1 matchups

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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Here's a look at some of the top matchups for Week 1 of the Western Pennsylvania high school football season:

Class AAAA

QUAD CENTRAL

Plum at Bethel Park

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: New Plum coach Matt Morgan will try and help the Mustangs snap a 16-game losing streak dating back to 2011. Bethel Park won last year's meeting, 55-14, and leads the all-time series, 3-0.

Key players: Plum junior quarterback Will Fuhrer served as the backup to Corey DeLoach last season and completed 5 of 12 passes for 109 yards. Bethel Park senior quarterback Levi Metheny returns under center after throwing for 1,071 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.

About the Black Hawks: Metheny is complimented by Zach Enick, the team's leading rusher last year, and the top two receivers from a year ago — Enick and Danny Emma.

About the Mustangs: Morgan said his team will be outsized in the trenches, so being disciplined and quick off the ball.

Prediction: Bethel Park, 28-7

QUAD EAST

Altoona at Norwin

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: The winner of this game will get a leg up on its opponent in the chase for a playoff spot.

Key players: Altoona junior Eli Mencer is stepping in for departed QB Brennan Luciano, who passed for 1,221 yards and seven TDs. Norwin QB Nick Amendola was the leading rusher and passer last season, with more than 1,000 yards and 10 TDs.

About the Mountain Lions: They qualified for the playoffs for the first time since joining the WPIAL in 2010, losing to eventual champion North Allegheny in the first round. ... Altoona lost its top passer, rusher and receiver from last season ... Coach John Franco is in the second year of his second tenure with the team.

About the Knights: They are looking to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2010. ... Allowed about 350 yards per game last season and were outscored, 299-140 ... Three-year starter Kyle Baum caught two TD passes and recovered a fumble in a scrimmage against Mt. Lebanon.

Prediction: Norwin, 20-13

(2-AAAA) Gateway at Latrobe

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Gateway opens the season with one big question: Can new coach Donnie Militzer handle the pressure of replacing longtime coach Terry Smith, who consistently had the Gators vying for the Quad East title. Latrobe wants to show it's ready to compete yearly.

Key players: Gateway senior WR Montae Nicholson returns after catching 25 passes for 653 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. Latrobe senior QB Logan Carns led the Wildcats in rushing (543 yards) and passing (57-103, 692 yards) in 2013.

About the Gators: There are at least five Division I prospects in the starting lineup, including Nicholson, WVU recruit Ricky Rogers and Temple recruits Delvon Randall, Anthony Davis and Brenon Thrift. … Jimmy Moore is expected to replace Tom Woodson at quarterback.

About the Wildcats: Numerous starters return, including Carns. … RBs Lucas Monteparte and Brandon Friedline hope to carry the load.

Prediction: Gateway, 21-7

Kiski at Connellsville

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Even though it's only the first week of the season, the winner of this game could take a significant step toward getting an inside track on a playoff position. Kiski beat Connellsville, 22-14 in the 2012 opener.

Key players: The Cavaliers feature a talented senior class, led by TE/LB Shane Kuhn and WR Joey Brungo. Brungo caught 23 passes for 296 yards last season. … The Falcons' offense runs through senior QB Jade Maher, a third-year starter. Last season, Maher threw for 1,049 yards and seven TDs. Senior Evan Onusko started the season at the bottom of the depth chart, but will start at DB.

About the Cavaliers: Kiski is a team capable of piling up the yards through the air. Sophomore QB Chad Kuhn is expected to run the offense. Sophomore Lincoln Clayton will likely be featured out of the backfield.

About the Falcons: Connellsville will try to churn out yards on the ground. Senior FB Chris Russell is expected to play a key role in the Wing-T offense.

Prediction: Kiski Area, 17-7

(8-AAAA) McKeesport at Hempfield

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Hempfield shocked everyone last season when it went to McKeesport and upset the Tigers. A similar result wouldn't be a surprise with the skill the Spartans return. George Smith also returns to the McKeesport sidelines after a three-year hiatus.

Key player: Hempfield senior RB Joey DeFloria rushed for 418 yards and five touchdowns in less than four games before a season-ending injury.

About the Tigers: Smith will try to reestablish the flexbone offense that made the Tigers one of the most-potent attacks in the WPIAL. … Transfers, Luke Eckels from Serra Catholic and Jason Chavis from Gateway, both linemen, hope to boost the rushing attack.

About the Spartans: Hempfield started quickly in 2012 by winning three of its first four games, but injuries to two running backs derailed the season. … QBs Ty George and De'Lorian Day will run the offense.

Prediction: Hempfield, 24-22

QUAD NORTH

Pine-Richland at Fox Chapel

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: The Rams defeated the Foxes, 28-5, to open the season last year.

Key players: The Rams return the bulk of their skill-position players, most notably quarterback Ben DiNucci and running back Connor Slomka. The Foxes' offense will run through the versatile talent of Brandon Mitchell, who is a threat to run and throw.

About the Rams: New coach Eric Kasperowicz is known for his offensive prowess. He was the Rams offensive coordinator last season, and has his leading passer and rusher back at his disposal.

About the Foxes: The Fox Chapel team has been bitten by the injury bug and already lost Quintin Wirginis, a Pitt recruit. Although the team sustained some injuries, it does have its biggest roster in the past three seasons and several explosive playmakers.

Prediction: Pine-Richland, 21-3

NONCONFERENCE

(5-AAAA) Mt. Lebanon at (7-AAAA) North Allegheny

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Three-time defending champion NA might not have the same level of Division I talent as last year, but the Tigers are out to prove they can still compete for another WPIAL title. Mt. Lebanon would love to break NA's 30-game winning streak against district foes.

Key players: North Allegheny WR/DB Elijah Zeise is one three returning starters. The Pitt recruit had 23 catches for 677 yards a year ago. Mt. Lebanon is breaking in a new QB in junior Kellan Stout, who has a top-flight WR in Penn State recruit Troy Apke.

About the Blue Devils: Second-year coach Mike Melnyk began his Mt. Lebanon career with a 39-14 loss to NA last year. ... Apke had 1,048 yards and 13 TDs in 2012.

About the Tigers: Senior lineman Nick James and junior linebacker Lane Skundrich join Zeise as NA's lone returning starters. ... The Tigers are the 23rd ranked team in the country in the USA Today Preseason Poll.

Prediction: Mt. Lebanon, 28-21

(9-AAAA) North Hills at

Penn-Trafford

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Longtime North Hills assistant Pat Carey makes his debut as Indians' coach in a nonconference contest at Warrior Stadium.

Key players: LB Corey Bopp anchors a North Hills defense that allowed 18.2 ppg last year. Junior Devin Austin, who rushed for 626 yards and six TDs last season, is one of two returning starters at RB for P-T.

About the Indians: Defeated Penn-Trafford, 28-14, last season. ... Carey was an assistant for 19 seasons, including 15 as defensive coordinator, under Jack McCurry, who won four WPIAL titles in 35 seasons as head coach. ... The offensive and defensive lines should be a strength, led by Colin Murphy, Brandon Malick, Elliott King, Adam Hofmeister and Alex Danis.

About the Warriors: Posted back-to-back winning seasons in 2011 and ‘12, the first time since 2003-04. ... Sophomore Brett Laffoon replaces Dorian Stevens at QB.

Prediction: North Hills, 24-21

Class AAA

BIG 9

(2-AAA) Thomas Jefferson at Ringgold

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Thomas Jefferson rolled past the Rams by a 41-14 margin last season ... the Jaguars have a host of returning starters this year, including nine on defense. ... Ringgold has a young team this year.

Key players: Thomas Jefferson's headliner on defense is 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior linebacker Chase Winovich, a University of Michigan recruit ... Winovich, senior linebacker Austin Boyd, senior linemen Matt Nagy and Cole Costy, junior lineman Jake Guinn, senior defensive back Dalton Dietrich were all-conference selections in 2012. ... Nico Law, a junior quarterback who passed for 620 yards last season, is a key starter back for Ringgold. ... Matt Kirby, a senior fullback/linebacker, was an all-conference player for the Rams last year.

About the Jaguars: Thomas Jefferson's expectations annually center around the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs. ... The Jaguars, who advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinal round for the 15th time in the past 16 years in 2012, are aiming for a championship-caliber season in 2013 under Bill Cherpak, the winningest coach in TJ football history.

About the Rams: Ringgold is looking to advance to the WPIAL playoffs for a fourth consecutive season under head coach Matt Humbert. ... The Rams play five of their first seven games, all conference tests, at home.

Prediction: Thomas Jefferson, 35-7

Trinity at (8-AAA) Elizabeth Forward

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Trinity is very much a team in transition, having lost a large and talented senior class last season. Elizabeth Forward, meanwhile, probably boasts its most talented team in a decade. Coach Mike LeDonne expects his Warriors to compete with Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin this season.

Key players: Quarterback JaQuan Davidson is Elizabeth Forward's most important player. He is a two-way threat who was electrifying during conference play last season. Gaage Marry, Steven Iams and Robert West give Trinity three strong defensive players, and they will be counted upon heavily to slow down Davidson.

About the Warriors: Davidson is one of the WPIAL's finest athletes and will be the focal point of the offense this season. LeDonne is also excited about his defense. Long one of the WPIAL's finest defensive minds, LeDonne believes his defensive unit can be very strong this season.

About the Hillers: Trinity is among Class AAA's youngest teams, having lost 17 seniors last season. Things didn't improve any for the Hillers during training camp, as LB/FB John Dobich was lost for six weeks because of a broken ankle.

Prediction: Elizabeth Forward, 24-13

Uniontown at Belle Vernon

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Uniontown lost seven of its first eight games to start the 2012 season, and it all began with a 41-13 home loss to Belle Vernon. The Leopards have been hit hard by injuries in recent seasons, but still expect to get off to a good start in what they hope is the beginning of a big season.

Key players: The Red Raiders are guided by senior quarterback Xavier Ellis, who threw for 668 yards and five touchdowns last year. The Leopards feature strength on the offensive and defensive line thanks to returning all-conference senior Austin Fields.

About the Leopards: Belle Vernon has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in each of the past four seasons under coach Aaron Krepps.

About the Red Raiders: Uniontown is hoping the backfield combination of Tristan Sandrosky and Doug Lewis can help the Red Raiders increase their offensive output. Last year, Uniontown averaged fewer than 13 points per game.

Prediction: Belle Vernon, 24-14

(6-AAA) West Mifflin at Laurel Highlands

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Points could pile up in this game. Last year, West Mifflin advanced to the WPIAL championship game, but during the regular season, no team scored more points against the Titans than the Mustangs. In the 2012 season-opener, West Mifflin won a 52-28 shootout.

Key players: West Mifflin's offense is getting a bit of a facelift, but the Titans still feature explosive senior running back James Wheeler, who rushed for 2,226 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Laurel Highlands quarterback Jimmy Pierce started only three games last year, but still managed to throw for 278 yards and three touchdowns.

About the Titans: With Wheeler in the backfield, the Titans will look to get back to Heinz Field this year after dropping a 34-8 decision to West Allegheny in the 2012 title game.

About the Mustangs: Laurel Highlands hopes an experienced offensive line, led by seniors Will Benesh and Dante Lizza, will go a long way toward helping the team improve on its 1-9 season.

Prediction: West Mifflin, 34-10

GREATER ALLEGHENY

(5-AAA) Franklin Regional at (4-AAA) Mars

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: This season opener could go a long way to determining the conference champ. Mars won, 21-17, last year and won the conference by one game over FR, Hampton and Knoch.

Key players: FR's Charan Singh moves from wide receiver to quarterback after catching 28 passes and five TDs last season. Mars' Josh Schultheis ran for nearly 1,700 yards and 27 touchdowns.

About the Panthers: Franklin Regional returns just two starters on offense and three on defense. ... Senior WR Colin Jonov averaged nearly 35 yards per catch. … They are attempting to make the playoffs for the 10th straight season.

About the Planets: Replacing all five offensive linemen, but the backfield of Schultheis, Owen Nearhoff and Jason Lozzi returns. ... All-conference punter/kicker Matt White averaged 38 yards per punt and boomed 80 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks. … Lost 22 players to graduation.

Prediction: Mars, 27-21

Hollidaysburg at Highlands

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Hollidaysburg's 33-26 win over Highlands in the 2012 season opener gave the Golden Tigers the head-to-head edge that later earned them a playoff berth.

Key players: Senior Reid Brinkhoff, an all-conference guard, must provide stability for Hollidaysburg as new starters settle in. Junior running back Elijah Jackson should fuel the Highlands offense after rushing for 756 yards a season ago.

About the Golden Tigers: Homer DeLattre replaced John Barton as coach during the offseason and inherited an inexperienced group.

About the Golden Rams: A young Highlands team came on strong late last season, winning four of its final five games. Junior quarterback Blake Leri will guide the offense, First-team all-conference senior linebacker Allan Cratsenberg again is the keystone of the defense.

Prediction: Highlands, 25-12

Knoch at Greensburg Salem

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Greensburg Salem outgained Knoch by 150 yards last year but lost, 28-14, because it failed to contain Knights standout Ben Tackett, who scored four TDs. Tackett graduated. Both teams need new game-changers.

Key players: Junior RBs Cody Milsom and Cory Godlewski aspire to uphold Knoch's proud ground game tradition. Senior Dom McKinley gets his chance to shine in the backfield for Greensburg Salem after splitting time a season ago.

About the Knights: Hit hard by graduation, Knoch needs time to piece together a cohesive lineup. Senior Division I recruit Connor Shinsky's line play could invigorate his teammates.

About the Golden Lions: New coach Dave Keefer, a former assistant, watched as various forms of adversity tripped up Greensburg Salem a year ago. With a deeper team, particularly at the linemen positions, Greensburg Salem should handle hurdles better this fall.

Prediction: Knoch, 10-7

PARKWAY

(7-AAA) New Castle at

(3-AAA) Central Valley

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Friday's winner could be labeled an early challenger to defending Parkway champion West Allegheny.

Key players: Central Valley RB Jordan Whitehead rushed for 156 yards and caught a TD in last year's 31-7 victory. New Castle WR Malik Hooker, an Ohio State recruit, caught a 42-yard TD in that game.

About the Warriors: An overtime semifinal loss to West Mifflin, 36-35, kept Central Valley from reaching Heinz Field a season ago. ... The team graduated star Robert Foster (Alabama), but Whitehead, QB Nathan Climo and a deep roster has them contenders once again.

About the Red Hurricanes: A Week 9 loss to Hopewell kept New Castle from reaching the playoffs last season. With most of its starting lineup back, a similar finish would be surprising. ... In just his second season of varsity football, Hooker will play WR, RB and wildcat QB.

Prediction: Central Valley, 28-21

NONCONFERENCE

Ambridge at (1-AA) Aliquippa

7 p.m. Saturday

The buzz: Separated by the Ohio River and a bridge that's closed for repairs, the two Beaver County schools have been rivals since 1920.

Key players: Aliquippa RB Terry Swanson rushed for 113 yards and RB Dravon Henry scored two TDs in last year's 36-0 win. Ambridge LB Dan Zajac leads an improved defense.

About the Quips: Aliquippa won the WPIAL Class AA title and lost in the state championship last year. ... Henry and Swanson, who were 1,000-yard rushers last season, provide a backfield tandem unmatched in the WPIAL. They both are four-year starters, making the Quips favorites for a third straight league title and potential sixth consecutive trip to Heinz Field.

About the Bridgers: After just missing the playoffs, Ambridge seems poised to challenge for a postseason spot. ... Stephon McGinnis, who rushed for 278 yards and caught 15 passes last season, has moved to QB. He could spark an offense that averaged a conference-low 17 ppg.

Prediction: Aliquippa, 28-14

Class AA

ALLEGHENY

Kittanning at Freeport

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Freeport is coming off a conference championship but graduated all but two full-year starters. Kittanning, also hurt by graduation, hasn't won a season opener since 2007, which also happens to be the same year Kittanning last won against Freeport.

Key players: Kittanning junior WR/LB Nick Bowers is the team's best two-way player. Junior quarterback Andrew Romanchak will take his first snaps as a full-time starter.

About the Wildcats: They have their own speedy new quarterback in junior Braydon Toy. Run defense has been a focus for the Wildcats after giving up 304 yards in last year's game against Freeport.

About the Yellowjackets: Freeport coach John Gaillot said he plans to spread the ball around. Senior tackle Nathan Rummel is the team's only returning starter on offense.

Prediction: Freeport, 14-12

(6-AA) Shady Side Academy at Ford City

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Shady Side Academy is considered the conference's team to beat. Ford City aims to bounce back after missing the playoffs for just the third time in 12 years.

Key players: Shady Side Academy returns a pair of dynamic senior RBs in Pitt recruit Dennis Briggs and Jarred Brevard, who is also a D-1 prospect. Junior quarterback Mike Bartosiewicz gives Ford City a dual-threat.

About the Indians: Linebacker Chuck Calabrese, an all-conference pick on both sides of the ball, will start at tight end but also split snaps with fellow senior Tucker Gillman at quarterback.

About the Sabers: Chantz Schrecengost, August Mantini and Garret Virostek had 195 yards of offense between them last year, but all three have become playmakers.

Prediction: Shady Side Academy, 28-14

Valley at Deer Lakes

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Valley beat the Lancers to end a 22-game losing streak and start one of last year's feel-good stories. New Deer Lakes coach T.J. Wiley wants a win in his debut.

Key players:

QB Ty Matthews, who threw the game-winning touchdown in the 2012 opener, will try to start his senior season with just as big of a bang. Senior quarterback Josh Plocki is Deer Lakes' most proven playmaker.

About the Vikings: An abundance of returning starters has Valley's players talking about conference title contention. Watch out for Demetrius Houser, who rushed for 1,200 yards.

About the Lancers: Wiley, who helped Northgate turn around its program, dreams of doing the same at Deer Lakes. Seniors Anthony Sammartino and Brandon Newmaster might provide a spark.

Prediction: Valley, 27-15

Allegheny

Summit Academy at East Allegheny

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Both teams are one year removed from poor seasons, but East Allegheny believes its option offense could thrive behind quarterback Kyle Whipple, who has been strong during training camp. Both teams would love dearly to start the season quickly.

Key players: Whipple is extremely important to EA's attack. He's been forced to learn a new offense but, by all accounts, has picked up the option nicely. A good decision maker, Whipple could be poised for a big season on the ground.

About the Wildcats: EA isn't especially big but does possess outstanding team speed and should showcase a strong running game. Defense will be the key for EA, as the Wildcats struggled in that department at times last season.

About the Knights: Coming off a 2-7 season in 2012, Summit Academy is forced to replace 13 seniors who were lost to graduation. East Allegheny beat Summit Academy in the opener last season, 29-12.

Prediction: East Allegheny, 20-13

CENTURY

South Allegheny at (8-AA) Seton-La Salle

1 p.m. Saturday at Baldwin Stadium

The buzz: Seton-La Salle has defeated South Allegheny by scores of 35-0, 38-14 and 41-14 the past three seasons.

Key players: The passing-receiving combination of junior quarterback Tyler Perone and junior wide receiver Danzel McKinley-Lewis stood out for the Rebels in their preseason scrimmage last week at Montour. Senior Tom Rizza is a top returning player at running back and cornerback, and is joined in the secondary by seniors Dom DelGreco and James Ross. The Gladiators are expected to be led offensively by senior quarterback Ty Cook, junior running back DaVonte Johnson and senior tight end Kordell Thompson.

About the Rebels: There are nine returning starters on defense. ... The starting linebacking corps consists of juniors Rick Mellick, Dequay Broadwater and Adam Ottaviano, and senior Brandon Aiello. ... The defensive line is anchored by senior tackles Trey Imler and Jake Parks, along with senior Mike Kalnas and junior Jacob Blahut, at end.

About the Gladiators: South Allegheny advanced to the WPIAL playoffs in 2012 for the first time in 26 years. ... After a season-opening loss to Seton-La Salle, the Gladiators went on a seven-game winning streak to secure a berth in the Class AA playoffs. ... Senior Mark Tortice and juniors Zack Young and Seth Hitchens are returning starters on the offensive line. ... South Allegheny's only two regular-season defeats last year were to conference foes Seton-La Salle and South Fayette.

Prediction: Seton-La Salle, 28-0

Steel Valley at Keystone Oaks

7 p.m. Friday

Last season: Despite a 4-6 record, Steel Valley got the wins when it mattered and reached the WPIAL playoffs before falling to Aluquippa, 55-0. Keystone Oaks snapped a seven-game losing streak with a pair of wins to end the year.

The buzz: The Ironmen have won three straight in the series, grounding the Golden Eagles, 35-7, last season.

Key players: Keystone Oaks quarterback Kobe Phillippi returns after a sophomore season where he threw for 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns. Steel Valley running back D'Andre Pickens ran for 881 yards and eight touchdowns despite a shoulder injury in 2012.

About the Ironmen: Steel Valley is in search of a fifth straight WPIAL playoff berth. … The line is boosted by the returns of center Vincenzo Steele, tackles Corey Pinkerton and Tyrell White and guard Shane King. … Derek Taylor returns as a receiving threat after picking up 376 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

About the Golden Eagles: Jimmy Canello is moving into the tailback role after filling at fullback in 2012. … Canello is also the top returning tackler with 64. … The defense is moving from a five-man front to a 4-3 scheme.

Prediction: Steel Valley, 28-21

(2-AA) South Fayette at

(10-AA) McGuffey

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: McGuffey is looking for its first playoff berth since 2009 and starts the trek against defending conference champion South Fayette. The Lions walked away with a 42-6 win last season in the first game between the teams since 2007.

Key players: Lions junior QB Brett Brumbaugh threw for 2,823 yards and 37 TDs last season. The Highlanders return James Duchi, who had 1,514 yards on the ground. He is joined by Trinity transfer Patrick Frey, who ran for 901 yards in 2012.

About the Lions: Tailback Grant Fetchet is coming off a 932-yard season. … Receiver Justin Watson is a Penn commit. … Gateway transfer Roman Denson adds a speedy option to an already talented receiving corps.

About the Highlanders: McGuffey has an experienced secondary with Frey and cornerback Kendrix Reed. … The offensive line has four returning starters, led by tackle Nick Mathney and guard Ryan Ward.

Prediction: South Fayette, 35-21

INTERSTATE

Charleroi at Yough

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Last year, Yough blasted Charleroi, 43-12, in the first game for Charleroi coach Ed Jenkins. Both teams enter the season with high expectations, but Charleroi already received a big blow when QB Matt Carr broke his collarbone in the first scrimmage.

Key players: Charleroi returns junior Brennan Matthews to the QB position.

Matthews opened last season as the starter and threw for a team-leading 501 yards and 5 TDs. ... FB/LB Brandon Bowman will be a leader on both sides of the ball for Charleroi ... Yough coach Mark Crovak, meanwhile, considers the QB position to be one of strengths with senior Tyler Donahoe, who passed for 1,254 yards and 11 TDs last season.

About the Charleroi Cougars: Jenkins is preaching improvement with his Cougars, and there is room for that after a 2-7 campaign a year ago that included a season-ending 35-7 romp over Brownsville. ... Chase McKevitt is a four-year starter up front and Greg Arnold, who rushed for 400 yards a year ago, will be counted on.

About Yough Cougars: Donahoe's top weapon from a year ago, WR Clay Waldron (25 receptions, 398 yards, 3 TDs) is back. ... The Cougars came within one game of reaching the WPIAL playoffs and Crovak says getting the team there this season is the goal.

Prediction: Yough, 21-14

(7-AA) Greensburg C.C. at

(5-AA) Washington

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: This could be quite a showdown, pitting Washington RB Shai McKenzie against the stout GCC defense, featuring LBs Nate Stone and Seth Warburton.

Key players: Washington's McKenzie rushed for 2,689 yards in 2012 in helping the Prexies reach the WPIAL Class AA final. GCC's Stone, who also plays tight end, is getting looks from some Ivy League schools.

About the Centurions: Senior QB Chase Keller rushed for a team-high 577 yards and scored four touchdowns in 2012. He also completed 86 of 151 passes for 1,378 yards and 15 scores. ... Keller will be throwing to a new crew of receivers after the graduation of leading pass catcher Zach Herman.

About the Prexies: McKenzie scored 43 touchdowns in 2012. ... If Washington wants to make it back to Heinz Field, LB Chase Caldwell and others must step up to replace some key losses to graduation.

Prediction: Washington, 20-14

Jeannette vs. Southmoreland at California (Pa.) University

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Because of flood damage to Russ Grimm Field, Southmoreland school officials were forced to move the game. These conference rivals will have a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball.

Key players: Southmoreland sophomore linebacker Jake Beistel is expected to be a force on both sides of the ball. He also plays on the offensive line. Jeannette senior lineman Matt Howard hopes to lead a young offensive line.

About the Jayhawks: Junior QB Julian Batts will be counted on to lead Jeannette's diverse offensive attack. … Senior RB/WR Damone Morton and junior DB Zack Altieri were sidelined with injuries in the West Mifflin scrimmage last week.

About the Scotties: New coach Mark Adams has been impressed with his team's progress in the preseason scrimmages. … RB Jake Pisula will be the team's featured back.

Prediction: Jeannette, 23-14.

Waynesburg at (3-AA) Mt. Pleasant

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Mt. Pleasant is considered to be a strong contender in Class AA and the Vikings will be looking to continue their dominance of Waynesburg. In their three previous meetings, the Vikings have outscored the Raiders, 114-24, all Mt. Pleasant wins.

Key players: The Vikings have several weapons on offense, including senior RB Tyler Mellors, who rushed for 1,490 yards and 25 TDs last season. Waynesburg has 10 returning on offense, including backs John-Glenn Davis and Hunter Cenname.

About the Raiders: Waynesburg finished 1-7 in the conference last year, but the Raiders are hoping that another year of experience will push the team closer toward the top half of the conference.

About the Vikings: Mt. Pleasant has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past four seasons and will be looking to make a deep postseason run with an established group of veterans.

Prediction: Mt. Pleasant, 34-14

Class A

BLACK HILLS

Chartiers-Houston at (1-A) Clairton

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Clairton will put its nation-long 63-game winning streak on the line against the only team that had the Bears on the ropes last season. Chartiers-Houston hung around before the Bears pulled out a 22-20 win.

Key players: Many believe Aaron Mathews will become Clairton's next star. The sophomore will play quarterback, wideout and safety. Ryan Williams will start his first career game at QB. Chartiers-Houston QB Kaleb Susko threw for nearly 1,000 yards in 2012.

About the Bears: This is one of the youngest teams in history. Only three of Clairton's 22 starters are seniors. The Bears believe their offensive line is among the best in Class A.

About the Buccaneers: Chartiers-Houston has playoff hopes and a solid quarterback in Susko. The Buccaneers lost all of their running backs to graduation and/or transfers. Chartiers-Houston certainly did not look intimidated by Clairton last year.

Prediction: Clairton, 27-7

(6-A) Monessen at California

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: New California coach Bo Teets will try to get his team ready for his old team, Monessen. Teets was an assistant coach for seven seasons for the Greyhounds and was hired to take over at California during the offseason.

Key players: Monessen senior LB Justice Rawlins is expected to be a force on defense for the Greyhounds.

About the Greyhounds: RB Clintell Gillaspie led the team in rushing with 642 yards and receiving with 24 catches for 561 yards last season. He scored 14 touchdowns. … Another player who could play a key role is RB Javon Brown, who had an impressive TD run against Jeannette in the first scrimmage.

About the Trojans: Despite a small roster, Teets will be counting on QB Austin Hunter and LB Austin Wingo to lead the team. … Other possible playmakers include RB Cory Adams, RB Malik Jackson and WR Nate Harris.

Prediction: Monessen, 26-14.

Serra Catholic at Brentwood

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Brentwood will kick off the 2013 season playing on a newly installed turf field. ... The Spartans have defeated Serra Catholic by scores of 48-0, 50-7 and 40-20 the past three years. ... Tony St. Angelo, formerly an assistant at Elizabeth Forward, has taken over as head coach at Serra Catholic.

Key players: Brentwood senior Justin Vickless, a four-year starter at running back, is close to eclipsing 3,000 yards rushing for his career. ... Vickless, senior center/linebacker Jeremy Cenci and senior lineman Josh Gallagher are returning all-conference players. ... Under St. Angelo, the Eagles are utilizing a spread offense behind junior quarterback Zac Quattrone.

About the Spartans: Junior quarterback Connor McWilliams will be making his starting varsity debut for Brentwood. ... The Spartans have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for five consecutive years, and in six of the past seven seasons.

About the Eagles: Serra Catholic was one of seven winless teams in the WPIAL last year. ... The Eagles' roster is loaded with athletes from the junior class.

Prediction: Brentwood, 42-7

EASTERN

(5-A) Apollo-Ridge at

(3-A) North Catholic

7:30 p.m. Friday

The buzz: There's speculation that the winner of this game might grab the inside track to a conference title. North Catholic prevailed, 40-21, a season ago on its way to the Eastern crown, while Apollo-Ridge tied Springdale for second.

Key players: Senior quarterback Jesse Zelonka returns after leading Apollo-Ridge in passing (1,457 yards) and rushing (671). North Catholic junior running back P.J. Fulmore wowed the WPIAL a year ago by rushing for 1,824 yards and 24 TDs as a first-year starter.

About the Vikings: Zelonka is a one of several major playmakers back for Apollo-Ridge. Juniors Tre Tipton, Alex Smith and Jonah Casella might wreak havoc on opposing defenses.

About the Trojans: Four starters return on the offensive line, and the leading passer (Ryan Kirby), rusher (Fulmore) and receiver (Ronnie Meder) are back, so expect North Catholic to keep scoreboard operators busy.

Prediction: Apollo-Ridge, 28-26

Leechburg at Wilkinsburg

1 p.m. Saturday

The buzz: Both teams have spent considerable time near the bottom of the conference standings. Leechburg secured its only win by toppling the Tigers, 16-6, last season.

Key players: Leechburg senior running back Kris Smith, responsible for a team-high 348 rushing yards last season, can punish defenses if creases exist up front. Senior quarterback Ryan Cox returns after succeeding as a dual-threat last season.

About the Blue Devils: Alex Kalmar, Taylor Oberdorf, Matt Rzewnicki, Alex Sipolino and Smith must work together in Leechburg's Wing-T to surpass last year's 6.2 points-per-game average.

About the Tigers: Wilkinsburg won three of its final four games in 2012 to head into the offseason with confidence. That was the most the Tigers had won since posting three victories in 2003.

Prediction: Leechburg, 13-9

Northgate at Riverview

Noon Saturday

The buzz: Northgate shut out Riverview, 25-0, to start a four-game win streak, but the Flames stumbled late in the year. Riverview last beat the Flames in 2010.

Key players: Senior Mark Lodge led the Flames in receiving last season with 14 receptions for 215 yards. Junior Tyler Nigro again earned the nod to start at quarterback for Riverview.

About the Flames: Graduation stripped Northgate of star quarterback Cody Walter, and defensive standout Mack Quinn. New coach Brandon LeDonne plans to rebuild by spreading the ball around to multiple ball carriers.

About the Raiders: Experienced linemen Joe Brown, Jake Paradise, Chris Jarrett and Yianni Tsambis — three seniors and one junior, respectively — will give Riverview a chance to grind out wins.

Prediction: Riverview, 15-8

West Shamokin at

(10-A) Springdale

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Springdale, a team with 12 straight WPIAL playoff appearances hosts West Shamokin, which has a history of struggle but has high hopes this fall.

Key players: West Shamokin's offense is led by junior RBs Andrew Wingard and Zac Horner, who combined for more than 1,500 yards rushing. Powerful Springdale senior FB/DL Cory English is back after missing 2012 with a knee injury.

About the Wolves: Nine starters return on each side, including junior QB Alex Lasslo, who still has his top target in senior WR Brady Cornman.

About the Dynamos: The Dynamos return four of five starters on the offensive line around senior C Tyler Igo, and all five starters weigh more than 220 pounds. Springdale has won four straight openers.

Prediction: Springdale, 21-14

Tri-County South

Geibel at Frazier

7 p.m. Friday

The buzz: Both teams will be anxious to renew their rivalry after not playing last season. The teams were scheduled to face off in the season opener last year, but the Gators were forced to forfeit due to low numbers.

Key players: Geibel sophomore Jake Nace will play a versatile role on the offense as a tight end and fullback. Frazier will look to senior quarterback Charlie Manack for a big season. Manack threw for 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns last year.

About the Gators: After a winless season in 2012, Geibel is looking to rebuild. New coach Pete Nace is dealing with low numbers, which is not unusual for the Gators.

About the Commodores: Frazier will be trying to qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive season under coach Mike Steeber. A strong start against Geibel could set the tone for a big year.

Prediction: Frazier, 49-7

 

 
 


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