Guido: Pick 6 football games to watch
Half of the high school football season has elapsed — or 56 percent if you want to be exact.
One takeaway thus far is the return to prominence of the Class A Eastern Conference.
From 1980 to 2007, at least one Eastern Conference team reached the WPIAL finals 17 times.
But with Clairton moving out of the conference and Duquesne High School closing in 2006, the Eastern Conference was somewhat diminished.
Now, three Eastern Conference schools — North Catholic, Avonworth and Apollo-Ridge — occupy spots in the Trib Total Media Class A top 10 poll.
Since Clairton's 66-game winning streak was halted, Avella, a school that nearly disbanded its program several years back, has the WPIAL's longest winning streak at six in a row.
Avella also has the WPIAL's longest playoff drought. The Eagles haven't made the WPIAL playoffs since 1976.
Highlands has made it through the Franklin Regional, Mars and Indiana buzz saw, winning two of three.
The Golden Rams can start the playoffs at home if they can avoid a stumble.
With all that in mind, here's a super six-pack of must-see games featuring Alle-Kiski Valley schools during the second half.
Keep in mind that in Class AAAA and AAA, the top five teams and the best sixth-place team from the conference make the playoffs. In Class AA and A, it's the top four:
• Burrell at Freeport, Friday: With Shady Side Academy, Valley and Kittanning out of the way, Burrell (2-3, 2-2) has to run the table to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Freeport (1-4) will be trying to avoid the program's worst start since 1994, when the Yellowjackets were 0-6.
• Penn-Trafford at Kiski Area, Oct. 11: When was the last time Kiski Area won a signature game? Hmmm? Yes, it's been a while. But whether you consider the 2003 win at McKeesport or the 2001 win against Gateway, the Cavaliers have an excellent opportunity for a statement.
• Valley at Summit Academy, Oct. 12: Many observers mention that West Shamokin has never made the WPIAL playoffs, but Summit Academy hasn't either since coming onto the scene in 1998. Valley often has trouble getting untracked Saturday afternoons, and the Knights are one of the few teams that can mirror Valley's speed.
• Valley at Kittanning, Oct. 18: Kittanning has a chance to go into this game 7-0 for the first time since 1997. Home field for the opening round of the playoffs is likely on the line.
• West Shamokin at Apollo-Ridge, Oct. 25: No doubt the biggest athletic event thus far between the two schools. The Wolves were humbled the past two weeks but will be favored over the next three weeks. Extra motivation? The loser of this game will probably have to open the playoffs at Sto-Rox, Clairton or Monessen.
• Kittanning at Shady Side Academy, Oct. 25: This could be a collision of undefeated teams for the Allegheny Conference crown. Kittanning hasn't finished a regular season undefeated since 1976; Shady Side since 2008. A classic battle between a prolific offense and a brick-wall defense.
George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.