Kittanning surprisingly seeded 3rd for WPIAL playoffs
Just before the WPIAL lit its drop-down screen with first-round football playoff pairings Monday night, it brought up a photo of Kittanning coach Frank Fabian from its overhead projector.
The shot, meant to be generic, was paired with a good-luck-to-all message from the league.
“I coach in the press box, so I don't even know where they got that,” Fabian said with a laugh.
If someone had snapped a photo of Fabian after the annual playoff meeting at the Green Tree DoubleTree Hotel, he might have been red-faced — a combination of embarrassment and belated excitement.
Kittanning's joyride of a season was met with a sort of reward when the unbeaten Wildcats (9-0) were given the No. 3 seed in Class AA — the highest rating they've had since the league began seeding teams in the early 1990s.
The Wildcats, one of 18 playoff qualifiers that did not make it to the postseason last year, will open the playoffs at home 7:30 Friday night against No. 14 Yough (5-4).
“We didn't understand (the bracket) when we first saw it,” Fabian said. “My assistant got on his phone and looked up the seedings. We wanted to see who the other teams from the Allegheny Conference were playing. We were really surprised when we realized we got three. But we'll take it.”
Kittanning hasn't won a playoff game since 1975.
Four other Alle-Kiski teams also learned who they'll play Friday.
Valley (6-3), which finished three spots behind Kittanning in the Allegheny Conference, will travel to face No. 4 Mt. Pleasant (9-0).
Mt. Pleasant, which averaged 45.1 points per game, returned most of its starters from a team that defeated Burrell in the first round last season.
“Our conference is good; better than people think,” Valley coach Chad Walsh said. “I think it can stack up with anybody.
“The thing now is that everyone is 0-0 and it's a second season. We'll have to be prepared and bring our ‘A' game.”
Highlands got the next-best seed among area teams at No. 7 in Class AAA. The Golden Rams (6-3) also will play at home Friday, against No. 10 New Castle (7-2), the third-place team from the vaunted Parkway Conference.
Kiski Area will play a familiar opponent, namely the same team it faced in the first round last season. The Cavaliers (5-4), dubbed the No. 16 seed in Class AAAA, will travel to No. 1 Upper St. Clair (9-0), which has allowed 30 points all season.
“We're excited to play,” Kiski Area coach Dave Heavner said. “We surely know how to get to their stadium. Playing them before, we know what to expect. That is a very good football team.”
Apollo-Ridge (7-2) is No. 9 in Class A and will visit No. 8 Beth-Center (9-0), the champion of the Tri-County South Conference.
“I don't think they're as explosive as people think,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said.
“They're 9-0, but that's good for us. We don't mind having to play them.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.