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Guido: New faces dot WPIAL playoff picture

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Nineteen new teams will be part of the 64-team WPIAL football playoff field when the postseason gets underway Friday night.

Apollo-Ridge, Kiski Area and Valley are among the teams that haven't made the playoffs for several seasons, but posted strong 2012 campaigns.

Among the 45 repeat teams from last season is Springdale, which has qualified for its 11th straight playoff trip, best in Alle-Kiski Valley history.

Burrell, Freeport and Knoch are the other schools that return to the playoffs.

One school ending a long drought is South Allegheny, which is in the postseason for the first time in 26 years.

The most recent Gladiators playoff game was in the '86 Class AA semifinals, a 14-0 loss to Burrell at Jeannette's McKee Stadium.

“We knew before the season we'd have a chance if we stayed healthy,” South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe said.

Monroe has a number of local acquaintances following his lengthy coaching stint at Duquesne, which closed in 2007.

Quarterfinal action is set for Nov. 9-10 and the semifinals Nov. 16-17. Saturdays will be used as a backup date, if needed.

The finals will be Friday, Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, at Heinz Field.

“We're so fortunate and grateful to get into Heinz Field,” said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley during Monday night's playoff rollout in Green Tree.

Pitt has a home game against Rutgers on Nov. 24 at Heinz Field.

Here are other playoff sidelights:

• Freeport has made the playoffs 25 times, more than any other area school. The Yellowjackets also have qualified for the playoffs all five seasons under coach John Gaillot.

• The Penn Hills streak of 14 straight playoff trips came to an end with a 27-0 loss to Woodland Hills last week. Coach John Peterman had 12 starters missing from the lineup at one time or another.

Meanwhile, some playoff streaks were maintained:

• Aliquippa and Thomas Jefferson have qualified for the playoffs 18 years in a row, a WPIAL record. Woodland Hills is next at 17 consecutive seasons.

• Jeannette is in the playoffs for the 36th time, a record it shares with Aliquippa. The Jayhawks have had only one losing season since 1968, that coming in 1993.

Some schools will be facing opponents for the first time.

Knoch never has played West Mifflin, and Apollo-Ridge has never played Monessen.

Springdale has played Brentwood in the past, splitting decisions as Eastern Conference rivals in 2008-09.

Freeport last played Beaver Falls in the 1991 first round, with the Tigers routing the Yellowjackets, 58-7, at Geneva College's Reeves Stadium.

Burrell and Mt. Pleasant are foes from the old Keystone Conference during much of the 1970s, when the Vikings won four of five games.

In the last meeting between the two schools, the Bucs defeated Mt. Pleasant at home, 10-0, to begin the 1998 Class AAA playoffs.

Burrell is 8-2 when it opens the playoffs at home.

Valley has played Beaver twice in the playoffs, losing narrow decisions in opening-round games at home in 1981 and 1988.Kiski Area has played Upper St. Clair once, losing 35-10 in the 1982 playoff opener.

Speaking of Upper St. Clair, the Panthers are in the playoffs for the 26th time in the last 27 seasons, missing only in 1999.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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