It hasn't been easy for WPIAL teams to win PIAA team titles since the tournament began in 1999.
Only three teams — Burrell (2008) in Class AA and Connellsville (2005) and Canon-McMillan (2012) in Class AAA — have won titles.
Five local teams, including the defending champion Big Macs, are headed to Hershey for the PIAA team tournament, which begins Thursday at Giant Center.
Burrell, which won its seventh consecutive WPIAL title, and South Fayette are in Class AA, while Franklin Regional, Canon-McMillan and North Allegheny are in the Class AAA tournament.
North Allegheny advanced by defeating City League champion Allderdice, 73-7, on Monday. Chartiers-Houston fell short of a trip to Hershey after falling to District 10 runner-up Fort LeBoeuf, 41-21, in the PIAA opening round. Those losses have become commonplace for WPIAL teams.
“There are such strong teams all over the state,” Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary said. “You have Easton, Central Dauphin; there are a lot of good teams out there with studs. We're going to prepare and go out with a positive attitude.”
Canon-McMillan, which will wrestle 8 p.m. Thursday against Spring Grove, the third-place team from District 3, has its own “studs” — Brendan Price (106 pounds), Dalton Macri (120), Connor Schram (136), Cody Wiercioch (170) and Alex Campbell (220).
Franklin Regional and North Allegheny have matches at 6 p.m. The WPIAL runner-up Panthers face District 4 champion Jersey Shore, while the Tigers, the WPIAL third-place team, will face District 3 champion Central Dauphin, which won consecutive titles from 2008-11.
“It's really hard putting together a full lineup with very few holes or no holes,” said North Allegheny coach Jaime Kyriazis, whose team qualified for the second consecutive year. “Your second-tier guys have to do well, and you have to get the right matchups.
“Everybody says Western Pennsylvania is one of the toughest parts of the state; I don't know. Teams like Easton, Central Dauphin and Northampton are the ones who have had success. I don't know how they do it; they put these incredible teams together. Hopefully things are turning the corner with Canon-McMillan winning.”
Franklin Regional coach Eric Mausser said he's excited about his team's first trip to the state tournament and knows his team can do some damage.
Burrell is making its 10th straight trip to the state tournament, placing third in 2005 and '11.
“When you get outside the district, the talent pool out east and up north is better,” said Chris Como, Burrell's assistant coach who also has served as the team's head coach. “Reynolds and those teams in the Lehigh Valley have solid lineups throughout, and studs. It comes down to winning swing matches. When we won, we had a solid lineup and guys who could win or keep matches close. Then, we had guys we could count on getting big points.”
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