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A-K Valley teams don't want repeat of 2012 playoff performance

| Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Alex Smith (right) catches a touchdown pass in front of Riverview's Tlyer Nigro (7) and Keir Barber (3) on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at Riverside Park in Oakmont.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley's D'Aundre Johnson flips after being hit by Kittanning's Shawn Shaner (35) and Nick Bowers (83) during their game Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, at Kittanning High School.

The 2012 high school football postseason in the A-K Valley ended with an abrupt thud. Seven local teams advanced to the WPIAL playoffs, but none won a game.

The rare occurrence came with some history: It had been 19 years since no local teams advanced to the second round. To boot, local football season ended by Nov. 2 — the earliest that had happened around these parts in a century.

Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba doesn't see the area's qualifiers paying another visit to Wipeout City.

“There are some good teams,” Skiba said. “As far as we're concerned, we know we need to get this thing going, and this is the group to do it. We have that explosive ability.”

The WPIAL will announce playoff pairings Monday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree, and Apollo-Ridge will be one of five local teams that will get seeded in the brackets.

The Vikings (7-2) secured third place in the Eastern Conference with a convincing win Friday over West Shamokin. They'll be traveling in the first round, but their seeding isn't a major concern to Skiba.

“It's anybody's guessing game right now,” he said. “Our conference has shown how good it is. We've played against some of the best in Class A.”

Highlands (6-3) stumbled in its regular-season finale by falling at Knoch, 19-7. Rather than share the Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference title, Highlands was left pondering what-ifs.

Back-to-back losses could ding the Golden Rams' image, but they'll still open the playoffs at home.

Highlands' starters haven't scored an offensive touchdown in two games. Last week, five turnovers helped Knoch play spoiler.

“When it's happening like that, it's tough to rebound. We just didn't make a play when we needed a play,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said. “We had the conference championship sitting there waiting for us. Our kids worked hard this week. We rested them thinking that would help us, and it didn't turn out the way we thought it would.”

Valley (6-3) had a bumpy late-season stretch but made it back to the Class AA playoffs for the second consecutive time. The Vikings also will play away from home Friday.

“Last year, I don't think anybody expected us to get in the playoffs, let alone win six games,” Valley coach Chad Walsh said. “Now, we kind of expected to be in the playoffs this year. So our mentality was a little bit different.”

Kittanning (9-0) figures to draw the best local seed after its first unbeaten regular season since 1976. The Wildcats, who didn't make the playoffs last season, won the Class AA Allegheny Conference outright with a 28-27 thriller over Shady Side Academy on Friday. It will be at home in the first round.

“None of us know what it feels like to be in the playoffs,” Wildcats junior receiver Nick Bowers said. “I think we are ready to make this big step.”

Kiski Area (5-4) secured its first five-win season since 2007 by beating Latrobe, but the Cavaliers likely will face a stern test as a fifth-place finisher in Quad A.

“Most of the kids in the locker room were in the playoffs last year,” Kiski Area coach Dave Heavner said. “They understand playoff atmosphere and what it takes to win in a Quad-A football game. We certainly have some experience there, so we're going to lean on that.”

The possibility exists that Kiski Area could draw Central Catholic (9-0) and quarterback J.J. Cosentino, the Kiski Area transfer who committed to Florida State.

Apollo-Ridge (2007) and Kittanning (1975) each have one playoff win in school history.

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