No Heinz Field rematch in WPIAL Class A final
Clairton coach Tom Nola smiled and shrugged after learning that his Bears had received the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
That placed the five-time defending WPIAL champions on the same side of the bracket as Sto-Rox, the team Clairton had beaten at Heinz Field the past two seasons.
“Maybe they didn't want us to play in the finals again,” Nola said. “It doesn't matter who you are. Whoever they say you play, that's who you play. ... You've got to play 'em sometime.”
Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley echoed that sentiment, as his Vikings (9-0) expected to play Clairton (8-1) eventually.
“I think there's a lot of flexibility in the seedings,” Bradley said. “Some matchups you could see coming.”
The WPIAL announced its football playoff pairings Monday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree.
All first-round games will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the 64 postseason participants, which includes 12 undefeated teams, only five with losing records and 18 who didn't qualify last year.
The top seeds were Upper St. Clair in Class AAAA, and defending champions West Allegheny (AAA) and Aliquippa (AA) and Sto-Rox in A.
All four No. 2 seeds also were undefeated: Central Catholic, Thomas Jefferson, South Fayette and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.
“All four Nos. 1 and 2 were interchangeable to a point,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said.
The WPIAL finals are Nov. 23 at Heinz Field, with Class A at 11 a.m. and Class AAAA at 2 p.m. — both of which will be televised live on Root Sports — followed by the AA final, which will be on tape delay, at 5 p.m., and AAA at 8 p.m.
The WPIAL football steering committee determined the seedings, starting with the smallest classification before figuring out the rest.
“We spent more time on ‘A,' ” O'Malley said. “It was first, and the others kind of fell into place.”
With both Sto-Rox and North Catholic undefeated, the debate centered around the three-way tie for first place in the Black Hills Conference among Clairton, Fort Cherry and Monessen.
Given that Monessen beat Clairton to end its winning streak at 66 games, the Greyhounds earned the third seed even though Fort Cherry beat Monessen and lost to Clairton.
“You couldn't put Clairton higher than Monessen,” O'Malley said, “and they're not going to be lower than No. 5.”
The fifth seed was awarded to Fort Cherry, in a roundabout way. The Rangers, who finished third by way of tiebreaker, officially drew the 12th seed because they have to play at Carmichaels.
The surprising draw went to Beth-Center (9-0), which won the historically weak Tri-County South and received the No. 8 seed. If Beth-Center wins, it likely will meet Sto-Rox in the quarterfinals. The winner of that game could face Clairton in the semifinals.
Either way, Sto-Rox won't be meeting Clairton in the WPIAL Class A final for the third consecutive season.
O'Malley, however, said that it wasn't by design that there will be no rematch.
“Clairton has represented this league in such a great way, and so has Sto-Rox,” O'Malley said, “so that didn't factor into it.”