Monessen gets nod over Neshannock
A great deal has been made about whether playing in a tougher conference would help Monessen come playoff time.
For all their years in the Tri-County South Conference, the Greyhounds won many conference crowns, yet rarely made it out of the Class A quarterfinals and sometimes failed to get past the first round game.
This year, playing in the Black Hills Conference, Monessen put together an impressive 9-1 season and meets upstart Neshannock (9-1) in a quarterfinal game at Chartiers-Houston tonight.
This is the kind of game the rugged Black Hills competition was supposed to prepare the Greyhounds for.
Even Clairton coach Tom Nola made note of this particular matchup, saying the game between the Greyhounds and Lancers could determine which conference is the toughest, the Black Hills or the Big Seven.
Monessen coach Andy Pacak said his players, particularly his juniors and seniors, have grown weary of hearing how they couldn't compete in the playoffs out of the weak T-C South.
He said they are anxious to show they are worthy of a run at the Class A title.
While Neshannock is a relative newcomer to the postseason and has never played a quarterfinal game in the program's history, the Greyhounds need to be wary of the Lancers.
Neshannock features a quick-strike, quick-paced spread offense that will challenge the Greyhounds' secondary.
In fact, both teams are similar in the skilled positions with big-play quarterbacks, quick, talented receivers and a potent running back.
The area where this game could be won is the line of scrimmage. If the Greyhounds can win the battle at the line, they could disrupt the Lancers' offensive flow.
Monessen's defense has been playing much better down the stretch, even though the secondary has still been a little suspect at times.
I'm not sure Monessen wants to get into a shootout with Neshannock, but the Greyhounds may have no choice.
This one could come down to who has the ball last.
Pick: Monessen, 34-28.
Taking a look at the other Class A semifinals:
• Clairton (9-0) vs. Brentwood (7-3). the first time these teams met, Brentwood's sprinkler system kicked on before the game and the field was a quagmire. Clairton still won, 42-7. The Bears won't be denied as they steamroll their way to a possible fifth consecutive title. Clairton, 54-14.
• Sto-Rox (9-1) vs. Union (7-3). A matchup of Big Seven rivals. Sto-Rox won the first meeting, 48-21. Sounds about right. Sto-Rox, 48-21.
• Rochester (9-1) vs. North Catholic (8-2). Two defensive-minded teams square off in what looks to be a low-scoring affair. North Catholic's lone venture this season against a Big Seven team wasn't so pretty as Neshannock hammered NC, 42-7. Rochester, 20-7.
Last week: 5-0. Season record: 67-14.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or email@example.com.