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Week 7 high school football preview

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Top high school sports
By Staff Reports
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 4:16 p.m.
 

Here's a look at some of the top Week 7 high school football matchups:

Class AAAA

Quad Central

Canon-McMillan (1-5, 1-4) at (7-AAAA) Woodland Hills (4-2, 3-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: If the season ended today Woodland Hills would qualify for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, but with games remaining against both Peters Township and Penn Hills, the Wolverines need every victory their can muster if they are to secure one of the conference's five guaranteed slots. Woodland Hills' record is a bit misleading because of just how tough the team has played against a challenging schedule. Canon-McMillan is still trying to find itself this season, and the Wolvarena is not the place to attempt something like that.

The X-factor: Miles Sanders has really taken over the ground game for Woodland Hills and now has three touchdowns.

Keys to victory: CM: Stay aware. Not only is the Woodland Hills ground game rounding into form, quarterback Cody McClelland is becoming a dangerous weapon in his own right. WH: Play mistake-free football. Woodland Hills commits way too many pre-snap penalties that inhibit long drives. Take away the mental miscues and the Wolverines could be undefeated.

Prediction: Woodland Hills, 34-14.

Quad Central

Penn Hills (2-4, 2-3) at Plum (0-6, 0-6)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The longtime conference rivals meet for the 29th time since 1980, and Plum is trying to snap a 12-game losing skid to Penn Hills dating back to 1997. The Mustangs play their final home game of the regular season before hitting the road against Upper St. Clair and Pine-Richland in weeks eight and nine, respectively.

The X-factor: Indians quarterback Darius Holloway has more than 600 yards passing and 300 yards rushing through six games. He isn't afraid to tuck it and run if receivers aren't open or a play breaks down.

Keys to victory: PH: Get Holloway moving and making plays, whether it's with his feet or with his arm. A healthy dose of tailback Aaron Bailey to keep drives moving won't hurt. Pl: Staying positive and focused will be important. Building on positives, offensively, defensively and on special teams will be crucial. Senior linebacker Jake DiGuilio and sophomore Nate Turchick have developed into a steady linebacker tandem for the Mustangs.

Prediction: Penn Hills, 33-14.

Quad Central

(2-AAAA) Upper St. Clair (6-0, 5-0) at (10-AAAA) Bethel Park (4-2, 4-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Upper St. Clair, coming off a 34-3 nonconference win over Butler, is looking to maintain its spot atop the Quad Central Conference and set up a week 9 meeting with Mt. Lebanon for what could decide the conference title. Bethel Park hopes to ruin that plan. The Black Hawks are coming off a dominating 31-7 victory over Penn Hills.

The X-factor: Bethel Park quarterback Levi Metheny appears to be coming into his own. The freshman has adjusted well to Quad-A competition, throwing for 176 yards and two scores last week. He has 606 yards and five TDs this season.

Keys to victory: USC: The Panthers need to rely on their experienced offensive standouts, including quarterback Pete Coughlin, who has thrown for 666 yards and 10 scores this season. BP: Controlling time of possession will be key for Bethel Park, as USC averages 38.5 ppg. Keeping that offense off the field would go a long way toward an upset.

Prediction: Upper St. Clair, 35-24.

Quad East

Altoona (2-4, 2-4) at Latrobe (1-5, 0-5)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Altoona is making a late-season surge and attempting to make the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs under first-year coach John Franco. The Mountain Lions took a first-half lead against Hempfield last week and held on for a victory. Victories against Latrobe this weekend and Connellsville in two weeks should put Altoona in the playoffs. Latrobe has been hampered by injuries and is looking for its first conference victory.

The X-factor: Altoona's running tandem of Mante Barnes and Avery Howsare hope to find running lanes against the Latrobe defense, which gave up two long touchdown runs to McKeesport last week.

Keys to victory: A: Run the football against Latrobe's banged up defense and limit mistakes. Don't turn the ball over or commit costly penalties. L: Latrobe played without quarterback Logan Carns last week. If he returns, look for the Wildcats to attack through the air.

Prediction: Altoona, 24-14.

Quad East

Connellsville (2-4, 2-3) at McKeesport (3-3, 3-2)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: After a slow start to the season, the Tigers have won three of four, including a 34-2 victory over Latrobe last week that pushed the team into fourth place in the conference. The Falcons were outmuscled in a 38-17 loss to Penn-Trafford. The loss dropped Connellsville to sixth place heading into Week 7. McKeesport rattled Connellsville, 58-21, last year.

The X-factor: Much will depend on Connellsville's desperation level as the Falcons try to regroup from last week's defeat that, for the time being, has knocked them out of a playoff position.

Keys to victory: C: Quarterback Jade Maher's ability to scramble, coupled with the play-making ability of running back Jordan McCrae could give the Falcons an edge. M: Quarterback Eddie Stockett has shown he can make plays both in the running game and passing game, so expect him to be a focal point in the Tigers' offensive game plan.

Prediction: McKeesport, 24-21.

Quad East

Kiski Area (3-3, 3-2) at (9-AAAA) Penn-Trafford (5-1, 5-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: These teams haven't played each other since 2003. Kiski Area exploded for 36 points last week against Norwin to snap a three-game losing streak that followed a 2-0 start. Freshman running back Lincoln Clayton ran for a season-high 187 yards and three touchdowns. Penn-Trafford has blazed to five straight wins, by an average of 17.8 points per game. Running back Devin Austin has rushed for 491 yards and six touchdowns and dual-threat quarterback Dorian Stevens has rushed for more than 500 yards.

The X-factor: Kiski Area wide receiver Joe Brungo played offense only last week as he continues his recovery from a high-ankle sprain. He should be healthy enough to play defense and special teams this week.

Keys to victory: KA: Establish a defensive presence early and force the Warriors to sustain long drives. P-T: Force turnovers and shut down the running game.

Prediction: Penn-Trafford, 35-21.

Quad East

Norwin (1-5, 1-5) at (3-AAAA) Gateway (5-1, 5-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Gateway didn't come away with a win against North Allegheny, but the Gators still control their own destiny for a conference title. The Gators are 18-4 all-time against the Knights, including last year's 85-0 rout at Antimarino Stadium.

The X-factor: Gateway junior defensive back Anthony Davis leads the WPIAL with five interceptions. North Allegheny quarterback Mack Leftwich threw only 10 passes and completed three for 27 yards against the Gators' defense and a secondary filled with Division I talent.

Keys to victory: N: Young players on both sides of the ball, including freshman quarterback Nicholas Amendola, have to stay patient and calm against Gateway's speed and play-making ability. G: Set the tempo early and don't let the Knights gain any confidence as the game plays out. The Gators have outscored their six opponents 88-3 in the first quarter this season.

Prediction: Gateway, 45-7.

Quad North

(5-AAAA) Seneca Valley (4-1, 5-1) at (8-AAAA) North Hills (3-1, 5-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: This will be a matchup of the Raiders offense versus the Indians defense, pitting strength against strength for the right to sit alone in second place in the Quad North Conference.

The X-factor: Raiders runner Forrest Barnes and quarterback Jordan Brown are used to running over everyone, while North Hills linebackers Anthony Danko and Branon Malik have spent the season shutting down the opposition. This will be the critical battle in the game.

Keys to victory: SV: Stay balanced. The Raiders will have to attack the Indians effectively on the ground with Barnes and through the air with Brown and receiver Jonathan Dorogy. NH: Run the ball, control the clock, and limit the times the defense has to slow down the high-powered Seneca Valley attack, led by Brown.

Prediction: North Hills, 20-17.

Class AAA

Big 9

Albert Gallatin (0-6, 0-5) at Laurel Highlands (0-6, 0-5)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Colonials and the Mustangs are each looking for their first win of the season. Last week, Albert Gallatin was beaten by Ringgold, 34-6 while Laurel Highlands lost to Thomas Jefferson, 45-6. The Mustangs got the best of the Fayette County matchup last season, 47-26.

The X-factor: Both teams have had their problems defensively, but Laurel Highlands, unlike Albert Gallatin, has shown the ability to put up a decent amount of points in several games this year. The Colonials have not scored more than six points in a game since Week 1.

Keys to victory: AG: The Colonials best source of offense is quarterback Richie Ohler. He'll be the guy that leads Albert Gallatin again this week. LH: Quarterback Raphael Cannon has been solid this season, and running back Jake Kearns has shown break-away ability.

Prediction: Laurel Highlands, 40-27.

Big 9

(9-AAA) Ringgold (4-2, 4-2) at Elizabeth Forward (3-3, 3-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Last week Elizabeth Forward had an opportunity to show the entire WPIAL that it was a force to be reckoned in the upcoming playoffs, and it did … for a half. Then West Mifflin ran away with a 27-0 win that clouded the Warriors' postseason chances. They will still clinch with a win this week or next against Albert Gallatin, along with a Belle Vernon loss to Thomas Jefferson this week. Ringgold continued its assault on every team in the conference not named Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin with a win against Albert Gallatin. Rams receiver Joey Wall caught, rushed and returned a fumble for a touchdown last week against the Colonials, but stopping Ringgold begins and ends with stymying quarterback Nico Law, who is one of the better athletes in the WPIAL.

The X-factor: Warriors quarterback JaQuan Davidson, one of the top rushers in the WPIAL, was held to 36 yards by West Mifflin. He will be motivated to make that performance a misnomer.

Keys to victory: R: Contain. The reason why Davidson is so successful is he has a backfield mate like Rex Pearce who is also a game-breaker. Ringgold has to keep both in check and not let them get outside. EF: Shake it off. Getting dominated by West Mifflin was tough, but the Warriors have to stay focused on the task at hand.

Prediction: Elizabeth Forward, 16-14.

Big 9

(3-AAA) Thomas Jefferson (6-0, 5-0) at Belle Vernon (2-4, 2-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Belle Vernon, which ended a four-game losing streak with a 26-17 win at Trinity last week, has dropped 11 in a row to Thomas Jefferson dating back to the 2001 season. After a season-opening win at Uniontown, BV fell to West Mifflin, Ringgold and Elizabeth Forward in conference action, and Franklin Regional in a nonconference test, prior to last week's results. The Jaguars have won their last four games by scores of 55-0, 40-7, 50-0 and 45-6 against the likes of Hollidaysburg, in a nonconference matchup, Trinity, Albert Gallatin and Laurel Highlands.

The X-factor: Thomas Jefferson's potent passing attack -- first-year senior starter Joe Carroll has thrown for 1,114 yards and a WPIAL-leading 23 touchdowns -- has been joined by a solid running game. Junior RB Jake Farrell has rushed for 194 yards and five touchdowns on just 16 carries in the past two games for the Jaguars.

Keys to victory: TJ: The Jaguars have an athletic four-pronged receiving corps, led by senior Zach Schademan, with 29 receptions, 599 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has caught touchdown passes in all six games this year, including a team-record five TD catches against Trinity. Schademan, Jake Mascaro, Colton Booher and Dalton Dietrich can go the distance at any time. BV: Belle Vernon needs to get off to a quick start, focus defensively on the Jaguars' punishing air game, and avoid turnovers.

Prediction: Thomas Jefferson, 38-7.

Big 9

Trinity (3-3, 3-2) at Uniontown (1-5, 1-4)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Hillers are holding down fourth place in the Big 9 Conference and a win could go a long way toward securing a playoff spot. Trinity was defeated by Belle Vernon last week, 26-17. Uniontown has been shut out in two straight games, including a 44-0 nonconference loss to Mars last week.

The X-factor: If the Red Raiders can find a little bit of offensive production and the defense steps up, Uniontown could be in position to at least try for an upset.

Keys to victory: T: Quarterback Don McWreath and running back Patrick Frey will look to form a tough one-two punch for the Hillers. U: A few big plays in the passing game from receiver Jucqui Taylor could help Uniontown's cause.

Prediction: Trinity, 39-12.

Greater Allegheny

(8-AAA) Hampton (5-1, 4-1) at Derry (1-5, 0-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Hampton is riding a three-game winning streak since suffering its first loss of the season. Hampton has used a balanced attack, hitting the opposition where it is the weakest either using a run- heavy or passing attack when needed.

The X-factor: Hampton lineman Noah Shulman springs the Talbots runners on offense, while stifling the opposing runners as a defensive lineman. He is the key to success on both sides of the ball.

Keys to victory: H: Head coach Jacque DeMatteo said the way to win is to play as a team in all phases of the game. DeMatteo has a versatile offense and an opportunistic defense that will give Derry problems. DA: The Trojans have struggled this season, but to succeed, they will have to rely on big-play back Josh Wannamaker.

Prediction: Hampton, 24-3.

Greater Allegheny

Highlands (2-4, 2-4) at Greensburg Salem (1-5, 1-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Highlands will try to keep its playoff hopes alive with a victory on the road after defeating Derry, 41-13, last week. The Golden Rams got two field goals from Michael Masarik (27 and 31 yards). Greensburg Salem raced out to a 10-0 lead at Indiana, but was unable to slow down the Little Indians offense. Dom McKinley scored two touchdowns (20 and 30 yards) for the Golden Lions, who will try to spoil Highlands' playoff run.

The X-factor: Highlands running back Elijah Jackson rushed for 151 yards on 11 carries and scored two touchdowns on runs of 86 and 7 yards against Derry.

Keys to victory: H: Quarterback Blake Leri needs to play a solid game. Last week, he ran for a touchdown, threw for one and caught a touchdown pass. Look for the same. GS: Try to play a solid game and limit mistakes. Get the ball in Denzel Jackson's hands. Last week he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score.

Prediction: Highlands, 22-21.

Greater Allegheny

Hollidaysburg (3-3, 3-2) at (6-AAA) Franklin Regional (5-1, 4-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Hollidaysburg's two road trips – at Thomas Jefferson (55-0) and Knoch (35-0) –didn't go well. Now it faces another tough opponent on the road. Franklin Regional hasn't lost since the opening game of the season. The Panthers played last Thursday, so they got an extra day of rest to prepare for Hollidaysburg.

The X-factor: Franklin Regional running back Dane Brown returned to the lineup last week after being limited by an ankle injury, but wide receiver Charan Singh stole the show at Knoch. He had two touchdowns and caught six passes for 144 yards.

Keys to victory: H: Try to find a way to score on the road. Last week, Hampton raced out to a 28-0 lead in the first half at Hollidaysburg. Brian Urban and Reid Miller scored touchdowns in the loss. FR: Don't take Hollidaysburg lightly after an emotional win at Knoch. Use a balanced offense and a rock-solid defense, led by linebacker Carter Henderson.

Prediction: Franklin Regional, 34-6.

Greater Allegheny

(10-AAA) Knoch (4-2, 3-2) at (4-AAA) Mars (6-0, 5-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Reining WPIAL runner-up Knoch hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2010. The Knights will try to rebound after a 23-13 setback against Franklin Regional last Thursday night. It won't be easy against Butler County rival Mars. Aside from Week 1 against Franklin Regional, the Planets have been met with little resistance. The Planets are averaging 44.2 points and 414.5 yards per game.

The X-factor: Mars running back Josh Schultheis will be looking to break the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season in this game. He has 954 yards and 19 touchdowns. Last week against Uniontown, he ran for 204 yards and four scores on only 16 carries.

Keys to victory: K: Contain Schultheis, especially when it comes to him running east and west. Force the Planets to throw, which they've done very little of through six weeks. M: Start fast on offense and apply pressure to quarterback Dakota Bruggeman on defense.

Prediction: Mars, 31-21.

Class AA

Allegheny

(10-AA) Burrell (5-1, 4-1) at Ford City (2-4, 1-4)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Burrell is coming off a mostly one-sided defeat against Freeport, 26-7. Three interceptions and early trouble with the oft-unstoppable running game plagued the Buccaneers, who dropped four spots in the Class AA rankings. The Bucs hope to have quarterback James Liput back after he sustained a concussion last week. Ford City appeared headed for a win over long-time rival Kittanning last week, creeping to within 20-14 late in the third quarter. But the Sabers allowed 15 fourth-quarter points and gave away an interception.

The X-factor: Burrell running back Cole Bush has rushed for 1,186 yards, more than some teams, and has 20 touchdowns.

Keys to victory: B: Keep running back Devan Willyard corralled and force the Sabers to throw. FC: Convert third downs and limit big plays by Bush, a task easier said than done.

Prediction: Burrell, 26-16

Allegheny

(9-AA) Freeport (5-1, 5-1) at East Allegheny (1-5, 1-5)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Up a spot in the rankings after an impressive, 26-7 victory over previously-unbeaten Burrell, Freeport will look to add to its half-game lead over the Bucs for first place in the standings. The Yellowjackets picked off three passes and senior quarterback Brendan Lynch accounted for 240 yards of offense and three touchdowns last week, while both lines seemed to play with purpose. East Allegheny is led by quarterback Kyle Whipple, a 1,000-yard passer who is among the WPIAL Class AA leaders in touchdowns (11). Big-play receiver Shawn Adair is a rarity, in that he's accounted for touchdowns via rushing, receiving and passing.

The X-factor: Freeport's linemen are starting to show cohesion, led by Shane McKillop (6-6, 295), Nathan Rummel (6-3, 295), Josh Beale (6-2, 210), Brian Welsh (6-2, 240) and Noah TomKiewicz (5-9, 240).

Keys to victory: F: Force Whipple out of the pocket and limit Adair's production. EA: Don't allow Freeport to get into a rhythm running the ball, and shadow Lynch.

Prediction: Freeport, 28-13.

Allegheny

Kittanning (3-3, 3-2) at Deer Lakes (3-3, 2-3)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Excitement builds in Kittanning, as the Wildcats remain tied with Valley for fourth place in the conference. But Kittanning cannot lose focus. Deer Lakes sits one spot back in the standings, and the Wildcats' final two games are against Valley and third-place Shady Side Academy. Both Deer Lakes and Kittanning had just one conference win a season ago — the Wildcats belonged to the Class AAA Greater Allegheny.

The X-factor: Deer Lakes outscored the two conference opponents it defeated, 25-6, in the fourth quarter — both were comeback wins. The Lancers might have to score earlier in the game to top Kittanning, which holds a 70-20 edge over its opponents in fourth-quarter scoring.

Keys to victory: K: Maintain an offensive tempo that wears down Deer Lakes. Much of the Wildcats' second-half success this season is due to its no-huddle pace, which forces opponents to limit their defensive substitutions. DL: Balance the offense the way it did last week. The Lancers produced a 117-yard rusher (Cody Keenan), and they had a 163-yard passer (Josh Plocki). As a two-dimensional team, Deer Lakes will have options down the stretch.

Prediction: Kittanning, 33-19.

Allegheny

Summit Academy (2-4, 1-4) at Valley (4-2, 3-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Summit Academy will attempt to rebound from a disappointing finish last week. The Knights jumped out to a two-touchdown lead but surrendered three scores in the fourth quarter and lost to Deer Lakes, 18-14. Meanwhile, Valley is riding its first three-game winning streak since 2009 after defeating Yough, 40-28, and will try to win four in a row for the first time since 2008.

The X-factor: Valley senior Jaden Walker and junior Demetrius Houser flipped between fullback and tailback and took turns blocking and carrying the ball last Friday. They form one of the most productive rushing duos in the Allegheny Conference.

Keys to victory: SA: The Knights have to slow down Valley's ground attack, which seems to be improving each week. V: The Vikings committed a slew of penalties but still emerged with a victory last week. They need to eliminate some of those flags.

Prediction: Valley, 35-21.

Century

Quaker Valley (2-4, 2-4) at (6-AA) Seton-La Salle (5-1, 5-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Luke Brumbaugh, Seton-La Salle's senior quarterback, completed 8 of 12 passes for a career-best 261 yards and four touchdowns last week, leading the Rebels to a rousing 49-7 victory at Burgettstown.

The X-factor: Seton-La Salle has defeated Quaker Valley in each of the past four seasons, by scores of 7-0, 35-14, 55-13 and, last year, 35-0. Senior Lou Rotunda, a two-way starter at wide receiver and linebacker, leads the Rebels in scoring with seven touchdowns. The QV catalyst on offense is senior quarterback Burke Moser, who is closing in the 1,000-yard mark in passing yardage, and leads the team in scoring with five touchdown runs. Aaron Cunningham, a sophomore running back, is both a running and receiving threat for the Quakers.

Keys to victory: S: Stick with the pass. Behind Brumbaugh, who has passed for 1,049 yards and 12 touchdowns, Seton-La Salle is averaging 36.2 points per game. QV: The Quakers, who are allowing 29.8 ppg, will need a sterling defensive performance to slow down the home team.

Prediction: Seton-La Salle, 42-7.

Century

South Allegheny (5-1, 4-1) at Keystone Oaks (0-6, 0-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: South Allegheny is on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 1986 after defeating McGuffey, 41-14, last week. With a win against Keystone Oaks and a Steel Valley win over South Park, the Gladiators punch their ticket to the postseason. The Golden Eagles are still searching for their first win of the Matt Taylor coaching era after falling to South Park, 28-21, in overtime last week.

The X-factor: The South Allegheny defense has been fierce during its recent five-game winning streak, as the Gladiators are outscoring opponents 34-9.

Keys to victory: SA: Keystone Oaks had trouble stopping South Park on the ground last week. If that happens again this week, expect running back Brandon Murn to run wild. KO: Receivers Cory Sevacko, and senior, and junior Braydon Griffiths have the ability to make big plays and will need to for Keystone Oaks to have a chance.

Prediction: South Allegheny, 28-14.

Century

Steel Valley (3-3, 3-2) at South Park (3-3, 3-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: After South Park's overtime win against Keystone Oaks last week, this game took on a whole new significance in the playoff picture as the winner will likely be able to work itself into the postseason. The Eagles have not played in a postseason game since a 28-17 victory over Wilson Area in the 2005 state championship. Steel Valley played a highly touted West Allegheny team tough and trailed only 14-7 in the third quarter as running back D'Andre Pickens rushed for 166 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown.

The X-factor: Steel Valley quarterback Patrick O'Malley threw for four touchdowns two weeks ago and the Eagles were exploited through the air last week against Keystone Oaks.

Keys to victory: SV: Front is center. The Ironmen have to win at the point of attack to get their running game in full motion from the outset or it will be a difficult night. SP: Eagles running back Jared Becker has to come up big against an athletic Steel Valley defense.

Prediction: Steel Valley, 40-34.

Interstate

Southmoreland (1-5, 1-4) at Brownsville (0-6, 0-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Scotties and the Falcons are both coming off a shutout loss. Southmoreland was blanked by Greensburg Central Catholic, 39-0. Brownsville was beaten by Washington, 53-0. Southmoreland must win all three of its remaining section games and hope for help in order to have a chance at the playoffs. Southmoreland beat Brownsville, 48-28, last season.

The X-factor: After being beaten soundly last week, the team that can regroup the best will likely be the one that earns the “W” on Friday.

Keys to victory: S: Senior quarterback Dakota Datz is Southmoreland's best offensive weapon, so expect him to lead the Scotties up and down the field. B: If quarterback Brandon DeCarlo can lead the Falcons on some scoring drives, Brownsville may have a chance.

Prediction: Southmoreland, 42-21.

Interstate

(3-AA) Washington (6-0, 6-0) at (7-AA) Mt. Pleasant (5-1, 5-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Prexies continue to be a dominant force in the conference and can all but clinch the conference championship with a win at Mt. Pleasant. Washington is coming off a 53-0 pasting of Brownsville last week. The Vikings sit in third place in the conference after a tough double-overtime loss to Jeannette last week. However, Mt. Pleasant could create a three-way tie for first if it is able to hand Washington its first loss of the season. Washington defeated Mt. Pleasant, 30-14, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs last season.

The X-factor: Each team is blessed with a strong running game, so the team that can contain the opponent's ground attack best will likely walk away with the win.

Keys to victory: W: The Prexies will lean on running back Shai McKenzie. The junior running back rushed for two touchdowns and 162 yards on eight carries last week against Brownsville. M: Junior running back Tyler Mellors has been a workhorse all season for Mt. Pleasant and should expect to see a lot of carries again this week. Mellors rattled off three touchdowns and 154 yards on 29 carries against the Jayhawks.

Prediction: Mt. Pleasant, 24-21.

Interstate

Waynesburg (1-5, 1-4) at Yough (2-4, 2-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Cougars have had moments where they have flashed the potential coach Mark Crovak believes he has. Quarterback Tyler Donahue is capable of running the offense and making plays while the defense is sound. Yough needs a win this week and must beat Greensburg Central Catholic in Week 8 to have an opportunity to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2008. Waynesburg can still be a spoiler and played Charleroi tough last week. But that will be a lot different from taking the field at Cougar Mountain.

The X-factor: Cougars running back Christian Williams is a game-breaker and tough to bring down in the open field. He will have a huge impact in this game.

Keys to victory: W: Flight time. Not too many teams throw well in the conference, so if quarterback Colby Collins can get into the flow of the game early, it could be interesting. Y: Don't look ahead. Yes the Centurions and a possible playoff berth are up for grabs next week, but the Cougars need to take care of matters at hand.

Prediction: Yough, 30-24.

Class A

Black Hills

(1-A) Clairton (6-0, 6-0) at (6-A) Bishop Canevin (5-1, 5-1)

7:30 p.m. Saturday

The rundown: Clairton had no trouble in keeping its 53-game win streak alive last week as the Bears defeated Brentwood, 45-0. Bishop Canevin rebounded from its first loss of the season with a 41-9 win over Fort Cherry. The two squads' last meeting was during the 2010 WPIAL Class A playoffs, with the Bears walking away with a 47-0 win.

The X-factor: Clairton's Tyler Boyd continues to be one of the top scoring threats in the WPIAL. The senior has recorded 15 touchdowns and eight PATs, which ranks him fourth in total points in the WPIAL.

Keys to victory: C: The Bears defense is surrendering only seven points per game this season. If the defense shows up with its typical intensity, it will pave the way for a win. BC: Senior quarterback Nico DiPaolo has thrown for 830 yards and seven touchdowns. If the Crusaders want to keep up, they will need to rely on him and senior receivers Mike Tambellini and Matt DeCello to make plays.

Prediction: Clairton, 42-14.

Black Hills

(8-A) Imani Christian (5-1, 5-1) at (4-A) Monessen (5-1, 5-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: This is Imani Christian's first real test since an opening week loss to Bishop Canevin. How will is stack up against a Monessen team that bounced back from a beating to Clairton with a pair of conference victories the past two weeks. This is also Imani's playoff game because it is not eligible to participate in the WPIAL postseason for two seasons. Monessen avoided the distraction of three players being arrested last week by rolling over Serra.

The X-factor: Monessen quarterback Chavas Rawlins is showing people why he plans on being a quarterback at West Virginia next season. Rawlins is beating teams with his strong right arm and quick feet.

Keys to victory: IC: Try to contain Rawlins and ride the arm of quarterback Khari Hicks, who passed for 118 yards and rushed for two touchdowns last week. M: Special teams and defense carried Monessen to an easy win last week. The Greyhounds scored touchdowns six different ways: pass, run, a fumble return, a blocked a punt return, a punt return and a kickoff return.

Prediction: Monessen, 27-18.

Black Hills

Serra Catholic (0-6, 0-6) at Fort Cherry (2-4, 2-4)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: During a winless season, Serra Catholic has had to look for some positives to build upon. Losing by 30 to Monessen may not sound like much, but consider that the Eagles scored relevant points in the first half against one of the top teams in the WPIAL and that turns a loss into a glimmer of hope. Fort Cherry, meanwhile, still has an outside shot at the postseason, considering that Imani Christian will not get a slot because of its two-year probationary period. The Rangers need a victory and must win out while hoping Brentwood loses two of its final three because the Spartans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The X-factor: Zac Quattrone is the only Serra Catholic player to score two touchdowns in a game this season. He did it against Chartiers-Houston and Monessen after the running clocks had begun.

Keys to victory: SC: Build. The Eagles haven't had much to crow about this season, but coming up with a season-high in points scored against the Greyhounds is a coup. FC: The Rangers can't win all three games they need at once, so they have to be patient and take it one game at a time.

Prediction: Fort Cherry, 37-7.

Eastern

Apollo-Ridge (3-3, 3-2) at (9-A) Northgate (5-1, 5-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Tied with Avonworth for fourth place in the conference, Apollo-Ridge meets an opponent with a winning record for the final time this regular season. The Vikings, who scored at least 23 points each week through Week 5, look to bounce back after a shutout loss to Springdale, but Northgate likely will not surrender much, as it allows just 11.7 points per game and averages a conference-high 32.8.

The X-factor: Can Apollo-Ridge junior quarterback Jesse Zelonka get the Vikings' offense back on track? The Vikings averaged 30 points per game before they were blanked by Springdale, which held Apollo-Ridge to 66 yards in the first half. Zelonka has almost 800 yards passing and more than 250 rushing this season.

Keys to victory: AR: Contain Northgate senior do-it-all Cody Walter. A danger as a thrower (374 yards this season), runner (538 yards) and returner, Walter has 15 touchdowns. N: Stop Apollo-Ridge's spread attack. The Vikings thrive when they get playmakers Tre Tipton, Alex Smith and others in space.

Prediction: Northgate, 38-20.

Eastern

Leechburg (1-5, 1-4) at Riverview (1-5, 1-4)

Noon Saturday

The rundown: The lone win for both Leechburg and Riverview was against Wilkinsburg. Leechburg beat the Tigers, 16-6, in its season-opener, and Riverview edged the Tigers, 15-12, in Week 5. Riverview has scored 30 points in its last two games combined after tallying 14 in its first four outings. This season, Leechburg has scored only 23 points – the second lowest total in the WPIAL behind Class AA Burgettstown's 20.

The X-factor: This game is a fairly even matchup so confidence could play a big role. Riverview might have the edge since the Raiders have won the last eight meetings after Leechburg won, 21-0, in 2003.

Keys to victory: L: The Blue Devils have played relatively well on defense, losing 22-0 to Springdale and 20-0 to Northgate, but must find an offensive spark. R: The Raiders displayed flashes of improvement recently and must continue to build around playmakers Greg and Tim Wagner.

Prediction: Leechburg, 9-8.

Tri-County South

Frazier (4-2, 4-2) at (3-A) Beth-Center (6-0, 6-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Commodores are holding down the fourth and final playoff spot in the conference after defeating previously-unbeaten Avella, 20-13, last week. The Bulldogs are looking to stay perfect and take a big step toward securing the conference championship. Beth-Center beat Frazier, 33-21, last season.

The X-factor: With a conference title and a playoff spot on the line, the team that shows the most desperation and is willing to take a few chances could emerge on top.

Keys to victory: F: Zach Mastowski ran hard last week and was rewarded with two touchdowns. He and quarterback Charlie Manack will likely be called upon again to have a big game for the Commodores. BC: Cody Durant, Matt Riggle and Jason Stay are all explosive runners out of the backfield that will try to give Frazier's defense some problems.

Prediction: Beth-Center, 35-21.

Tri-County South

Geibel (0-6, 0-5) at Bentworth (1-5, 0-5)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The Gators and Bearcats are both out of the playoff race, but each team has something to play for this week. Geibel is looking for its first win of the season and Bentworth is trying for its first conference victory. Last week, Geibel lost to Carmichaels, 48-15, and Bentworth was defeated by Mapletown, 38-22.

The X-factor: The Gators are starting to find a rhythm when it comes to their offensive ground game. If they can run the ball, they could be in line to earn a win.

Keys to victory: G: Brandon Kushnar and Martin Berish each scored a rushing touchdown last week, so expect the Gators to try to plow their way to a win. B: Quarterback Dante Sicchitano will be the offensive catalyst that will try to put points on the board for the Bearcats.

Prediction: Bentworth, 39-20.

Nonconference

Baldwin (1-5, 1-5) at Fox Chapel (1-5, 1-4)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Fox Chapel jumped out to an early 7-0 lead against Quad North Conference power North Hills, as Brandon Mitchell raced to an 80-yard touchdown in the first quarter. But the roof then caved in for the visitors, as North Hills answered with 31 points and won, 31-7. Baldwin lost its fourth consecutive Quad Central game last week, falling at home to Woodland Hills, 35-7.

The X-factor: Baldwin opened the past two seasons with 35-10 and 30-7 nonconference victories against the Foxes, as senior running back Dorian Brown ran for 316 yards and five touchdowns in those two games. Mitchell, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound junior, finished with 131 yards rushing on 17 carries for the Foxes last week. Both teams have allowed 181 points this season, an average of 31.2 ppg.

Keys to victory: FC: If the Foxes can take advantage of their size advantage on the offensive and defensive lines, they may be able to wear down the visitors. B: Jumping out to an early lead would be a big boost for the Fighting Highlanders, who have been outscored by a 110-20 margin in the first half this year.

Prediction: Baldwin, 24-14.

Nonconference

Butler (2-4, 2-3) at Hempfield (3-3, 3-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: These teams are having surprisingly good seasons. It's been awhile since these teams have been competitive and both are in the playoff chase in their conferences. This game, however, won't affect the standings in their respective conferences.

The X-factor: Hempfield quarterback Tyler George and wide receiver Tyler Handlan connected 11 times for 127 yards in a loss at Altoona. With running backs Joey DeFloria and Skylar Carkuff sidelined with season-ending injuries, the duo will be counted on to carry the offense.

Keys to victory: B: Scoring points has been a problem the last three weeks, all losses. Butler was shutout twice and only managed a 30-yard field goal by Devin Fitz in last week's loss against Upper St. Clair. H: With their top two running backs out, the Spartans turn to Tyler Straka to carry the load in the running game. George and DeLorian Day need to have solid games, too.

Prediction: Butler, 24-21.

Nonconference

(4-AA) Jeannette (5-1, 5-1) at Shady Side Academy (4-2, 4-2)

2:30 p.m. Saturday

The rundown: Jeannette rebounded from a tough loss at Washington with a thrilling, 28-27 double overtime win, against Mt. Pleasant. These teams met in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals last year with Jeannette winning, 35-14. Shady Side Academy hasn't lost at home and would love to upset the Jayhawks.

The X-factor: The Jeannette offensive line needs to play better than it has the past two weeks to give running backs Jordan Edmunds and Shavonta Craft room to get loose.

Keys to victory: J: Play solid defense and be prepared for anything from Shady Side Academy in this nonconference game. Also, spread things out on offense and utilize the team speed. SSA: Get the ball in Jarred Brevard's hands. He rushed for 127 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns on runs of 56 and 66 yards. Dennis Briggs also scored twice last week against East Allegheny.

Prediction: Jeannette, 27-14.

Nonconference

West Shamokin (1-5) at South Side Beaver (1-5)

12:30 p.m. Saturday

The rundown: After scoring at least 12 points in each of its first three games, West Shamokin's offense sputtered in its last three performances. Turnovers tortured the Wolves a week ago when they scored a season-low six points in a 21-point loss to previously winless Wilkinsburg. South Side Beaver secured its first victory of the season last week by beating Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 28-7.

The X-factor: What's the mood of each team? West Shamokin snapped a 46-game losing streak in Week 3, but it struggled in the games that followed. South Side Beaver just ended a 14-game losing streak, so its confidence likely is off the charts. Rams senior Cameron McCoy, responsible for 226 rushing yards last week, and company will try to sustain the momentum.

Keys to victory: WS: Eliminate the giveaways. Coach Josh Gilliland worried about fumbles early in the season. Now interceptions factor into the equation as well. West Shamokin's methodical wing-T offense cannot afford either form of turnover. SSB: Establish a lead early. Force West Shamokin to look for big gains in the first half.

Prediction: South Side Beaver, 24-13.

District 6

Heritage

Ligonier Valley (6-0, 5-0) at Penns Manor (5-1, 4-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: The top spot in the Heritage Conference will be on the line between these two rivals. Ligonier Valley brings in an offense that has overwhelmingly outscored opponents. Penns Manor has won five consecutive games since opening the season with a loss at Northern Cambria. Both teams have explosive offenses.

The X-factor: How will the Ligonier Valley defense deal with Penns Manor quarterback Danny Ferens? If Ferens has a big game, Penns Manor could walk away with a victory. He rushed for 204 yards and four touchdowns last week.

Keys to victory: LV: Frustrate Ferens and force him to win with his arm. A good way to help the defense is to control the ball with long drives on offense. Get the ball in running back Ryan Torrance's hands. PM: Keep Ferens on the field. Use running back Cody Bytner to take the pressure off the star quarterback. Bytner rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns last week against Blairsville.

Prediction: Ligonier Valley, 27-21.

District 8

City League

Perry (4-2, 3-0) at Brashear (2-4, 2-1)

7 p.m. Thursday

The rundown: On paper, this appears to be a contest between evenly-matched teams. Perry, which is coming off a 43-2 pounding over Westinghouse, is averaging 24.5 ppg and allowing 22. Brashear, a 35-6 winner over Carrick last week, is averaging 21.8 ppg and allowing 24.5. The Bulls' lone loss in league play was a 40-12 loss to defending champ University Prep in Week 4.

The X-factor: Each team will play just one more league game after this week, so this matchup will go a long way toward determining playoff seeding. Brashear will play Allderdice (2-4, 1-2) in Week 8, while Perry will take on University Prep (3-1, 3-0).

Keys to victory: P: Ride Curtis Edmonds. The Perry tailback had 164 yards last week, including an 84-yard TD run. B: Deshaun Roberts rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries last week for the Bulls. His production will play a key role this week.

Prediction: Perry, 20-14.

District 9

Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference

Large School Division

Punxsutawney (4-2, 2-0) at Karns City (4-2, 2-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Punxsutawney won its third in a row last week, as it toppled Clarion-Limestone, 41-7. The Chucks relied on close calls to remain unbeaten in KSAC Large School division play, as they edged Brookville, 26-23, in the season opener and beat St. Marys, 21-20, in Week 5. Karns City, meanwhile, outscored its two KSAC Large School opponents (St. Marys and Moniteau) by a combined total of 58-32.

The X-factor: How will Punxsutawney's pass-heavy offense fare against Karns City's secondary? The Gremlins grabbed seven interceptions in the last two weeks. Chucks senior quarterback Garrett Zimmerman last threw a pick in Week 4, and he passed for seven touchdowns and almost 400 yards in his past two games.

Keys to victory: P: Turn Karns City into a pass-first team. When the Gremlins get their multi-back spread run game moving, they're incredibly difficult to defeat. KC: Win the possession battle. Turnovers led to trouble for Karns City early this season. Of late, they've been takeaways rather than giveaways.

Prediction: Karns City, 27-14.

District 9

Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference

Small School Division

Clarion (6-0, 3-0) at Redbank Valley (0-6, 0-3)

7 p.m. Friday

The rundown: Clarion is closing in on an outright KSAC title. The Bobcats have won every game by at least double-digits. Their closest victory, 40-28, came last week against St. Marys, and they actually led, 33-7, at halftime. Redbank Valley fell, 32-8, to Moniteau in a match-up of then-winless teams last week. The Bulldogs average just 7.83 points per game.

The X-factor: Clarion creates mismatches with its bevy of explosive ball carriers. T.J. Armstrong, Damien Slike, Camron Kirkland, Tyler Allen and Ian Corbett each have more than 100 yards rushing this season. Armstrong leads the group with 460 yards on the ground, but his yards-per-carry average actually ranks lowest among the five players.

Keys to victory: C: Avoid penalties and turnovers that allow Redbank Valley to hang around in the game. Clarion cannot let overconfidence produce lazy mistakes. RBV: A win will require nothing less than a near-perfect effort from Redbank Valley. The Bulldogs need to capitalize on any all Clarion errors.

Prediction: Clarion, 35-6.

 

 
 


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