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Birdie nests on odds, experience

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Birdie is all for picking upsets. He's famous — sometimes infamous — for going out on a limb.

But the A-K's foreshadower of football fortunes wants his readers to know that upset-calling is a science.

Sure, there's a go-with-your-gut aspect to it, but the Birdie never should be branded with the “homer” label.

He'll never pick a local team just to pick a local team.

“My picks are unbiased and fact-driven; I'm not about politics or public relations,” said the mustard-yellow madcap, still dazed in a euphoric state of playoff madness. “When we get down to a couple of teams left in the WPIAL brackets, I can't just drop my game plan, ignore the facts and throw local teams a bone. I take my job seriously.”

Birdie expects Highlands and Apollo-Ridge to make strong showings Friday night in the quarterfinals, but he's hard-pressed to conjure a pair of full-fledged stunners.

Thomas Jefferson and Sto-Rox are 10-0 for a reason.

He thinks Highlands and Apollo-Ridge have upset potential, but he's also realistic and believes in playing the odds.

“Let's face it, Highlands' defense can growl like Cujo on certain weeks, and Apollo-Ridge's offense can go pop-pop-sparkles like Zambelli Fireworks,” he said. “But Thomas Jefferson has ruled the WPIAL playoffs with presidential power, and Sto-Rox has been around the block a few times.

“This is a clear case of big-game experience getting the upper hand.”

The Birdie didn't hazard a guess that Yough would shock Kittanning last week.

Then again, he never quite knew this Kittanning team.

“They got away from me early,” he said. “Every so often, a team comes along that baffles even the best of us prognosticators. Kittanning fit that billing. I pick them to lose, they win (and win and win). I pick them to win, they lose. It was a match made of misery.”

Now, his WPIAL quarterfinal breakdown:

Highlands (7-3) vs. Thomas Jefferson (10-0)

As the Birdie has stated, Highlands' defense can be a bear.

It has 56 sacks and 11 interceptions this season. But Thomas Jefferson's rushing attack has plowed its way to 47 rushing touchdowns.

“Thomas Jefferson is on two-dollar bills, which are rare,” Birdie said.

“A Jaguars' loss in the playoffs is rarer.”

Thomas Jefferson, 31-20

Apollo-Ridge (8-2) vs. Sto-Rox (10-0)

There are plenty of similarities here.

Both teams are called the Vikings, both have scored 40 or more points seven times and both have dual-threat quarterbacks.

If there ever was a team that the Birdie would pick in a shootout, it's Apollo-Ridge, but Sto-Rox has a tendency to wear down its opponents.

“Plus, Sto-Rox has been in the championship game two years in a row,” Birdie said. “Remember, experience is like a good credit score. It keeps you in good standing.”

Sto-Rox, 42-35

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