Thomas Jefferson, Clairton have eyes on No. 1
When the regular season ended over the weekend, Thomas Jefferson and Clairton could claim to be the last teams standing in their respective classifications.
Not only did Thomas Jefferson hand West Mifflin a 28-14 defeat in the Big 9 Conference finale for both teams, it assured the Jaguars the only undefeated record in Class AAA. By the same token, Clairton's 52-0 running-clock win in its first-ever meeting with Imani Christian, coupled with Sto-Rox's surprising 25-0 victory at Rochester, made the Bears the only 9-0 team in Class A.
As a four-time defending WPIAL Class A champion riding a nation's best 56-game winning streak, Clairton almost assuredly will be the No. 1 seed in the Class A playoffs when the brackets are unveiled 7 p.m. Monday at the annual WPIAL football pairings meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in Green Tree. The Bears likely will be a top seed for the fifth time in the past six years.
Thomas Jefferson (9-0) has earned the right to claim the top spot, and its argument became much stronger last week not only with its win over West Mifflin. Central Valley, a team considered among the elite in the classification and one that finished in three-way tie in the highly regarded Parkway Conference, dropped a 36-35 decision to Class AA Beaver Falls.
While West Mifflin (8-1) lost to Thomas Jefferson, it remained the second-place finisher in the Big 9 and already had clinched a home game in the first round. Because of this, and the three-way tie involving Central Valley, West Allegheny and Montour in the Parkway, the Titans could be seeded from third to fifth depending on how the Central Valley loss to Beaver Falls impacts the steering committee.
Elizabeth Forward (6-3) will be in the Class AAA tournament for the first time since 2005 but will be the fourth seed out of the Big 9 as it finished tied with Trinity, a team it lost to, 14-7, in Week 1. The Warriors likely will be located between 10th and 13th in the seeding depending on where West Mifflin is placed; two teams from the same conference normally aren't matched up in the first round.
McKeesport (5-4) and Woodland Hills (7-2) had some tough breaks during the regular season, but because they finished third in their respective conferences and had more Gardner Points than Central Catholic in the Quad North Conference, each team will host a playoff game Friday night. Because the Wolverines posted a 29-12 win over the Tigers in a Week 2 nonconference matchup, Woodland Hills likely will be the No. 7 seed and McKeesport No. 8 in Class AAAA.
“Wherever they put you is where you play,” McKeesport coach Jim Ward said a 21-6 loss to Gateway on Friday. “We're going to play a really good football team next week.
“We know that. Whoever we play is going to play a good football team, too — a very young team that's getting better and getting hot at the right time.”
South Allegheny (7-2) could be the most intriguing placement in the Class AA playoffs. The Gladiators should end up slotted between No. 9 and No. 12, but the WPIAL could penalize the team because it will be making its first playoff appearance since 1986.
Still, as the third-place team from the Century Conference, South Allegheny likely will receive a crossover second-place finisher, which means a road date at Jeannette (8-1), Beaver (8-1) or Burrell (8-1).
“Everybody here has won their share, so they're all good teams,” South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe said.
“At this point in time, you just enjoy the ride and try to make adjustments on the fly and prepare with everything you have to stay alive, and that's what we're going to do.”
Steel Valley (4-5) is one of only two teams with a losing record to qualify for the playoffs and likely will draw expected top seed and defending champion Aliquippa (9-0) in the first round.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.