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Guido: Road to playoffs doesn't always follow straight line

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By George Guido
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

In the seventh week of high school football play, the playoff picture became more murky than clear.

Leechburg's win over Riverview and Summit Academy breaking through against Valley put potholes in what was looking like a smooth road to the playoffs for some teams.

• In Class A, West Shamokin has all but mathematically clinched a playoff spot and can do so Friday against Leechburg. To prevent the Wolves from making the playoffs, Leechburg needs to defeat West Shamokin on the road Friday then beat North Catholic on Oct. 25 — a tall order.

But if that occurs and Springdale wins its final two games against Northgate and Riverview, it would forge a three-way tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with West Shamokin, Springdale and Leechburg.

The three schools are 1-1 in head-to-head play, the first item in the WPIAL tiebreaking criteria.

Apollo-Ridge clinched a playoff spot in its 46-6 victory over Northgate, but the Vikings clearly want more.

In the postgame huddle, coach John Skiba told his team a playoff berth had been secured and the Vikings responded with a blank stare.

“I told them they made the playoffs, and there was no collective roar,” Skiba said. “They're not satisfied just making the playoffs. The expectations are raised, and that's what I love about being here.”

• In Class AA, Valley was rolling along with a shot at opening the playoffs at home, but the Vikings stumbled against Summit Academy.

Now, the only way Valley can open the playoffs at home is if it defeats Kittanning on Friday and the Wildcats lose to Shady Side Academy in the regular season finale, while the Vikings also would need to defeat Ford City on Oct. 25.

Meanwhile, Kittanning will have something to say about that because the Wildcats will be trying for their first 8-0 start since 1976 at home Friday.

For Summit, the Knights can clinch the first playoff spot in school history if East Allegheny defeats Burrell on Friday.

If Burrell wins its last two games, Summit then has to beat Freeport on Oct. 26 because the Bucs own the tiebreaker with a victory over the Knights last month.

A playoff run is exciting when a public school district comes together, but it's more difficult at Summit, a school for court-adjudicated youngsters who come from different areas of the state.

“Football is a way to pull the campus together,” Knights coach Steve Sherer said. “They've worked hard, and they're starting to understand the game.”

• In Class AAA, Knoch needs a win at Indiana on Friday to keep its playoff hopes from being extinguished.

The Knights are trying to make the playoffs five consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Knoch also made the WPIAL postseason four times in a row from 1978-81. Knoch (2-4 in the conference) also needs to pull for Franklin Regional to win the Root Sports TV game against Hampton on Thursday in order to give the Talbots a fourth loss.

Highlands, which plays a nonconference game against Ringgold on Friday, needs to defeat Knoch on Oct. 25 in order to secure home field for its playoff opener.

• In Class AAAA, Kiski Area still has an opportunity to open the playoffs at home by finishing with two wins. But the Cavaliers have a difficult task Friday, visiting undefeated McKeesport.

Fox Chapel has an outside shot at the 16th spot in the Class AAAA field, but must defeat Butler and Seneca Valley and hope for some help. What's really hurting the Foxes is a nonconference loss to Baldwin, 63-48. Nonconference games are considered in the Class AAAA tiebreaker mix.

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

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