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Football

Breaking down the 2015 WPIAL football playoffs

Chris Harlan
| Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, 11:33 p.m.
Woodland Hills' Miles Sanders carries for a first down in the second quarter against Mt. Lebanon on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, at the Wolvarena.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Woodland Hills' Miles Sanders carries for a first down in the second quarter against Mt. Lebanon on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, at the Wolvarena.
Belle Vernon's quarterback Mike Fine runs for a 43-yard touchdown against Elizabeth Forward on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, at Elizabeth Forward.
Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Belle Vernon's quarterback Mike Fine runs for a 43-yard touchdown against Elizabeth Forward on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, at Elizabeth Forward.
Clairton’s Lamont Wade (38) breaks a tackle by Jeannette's Jefferson Jones en route to a second-quarter touchdown Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, at Jeannette.
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Clairton’s Lamont Wade (38) breaks a tackle by Jeannette's Jefferson Jones en route to a second-quarter touchdown Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, at Jeannette.
South Fayette running back Hunter Hayes eludes Steel Valley's Eliisha Hughes in the third quarter Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Munhall.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
South Fayette running back Hunter Hayes eludes Steel Valley's Eliisha Hughes in the third quarter Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Munhall.
Fox Chapel's Michael Snowball celebrates after kicking the team's first goal during the play-off game against Kiski Area at Penn Hills Middle School on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Fox Chapel's Michael Snowball celebrates after kicking the team's first goal during the play-off game against Kiski Area at Penn Hills Middle School on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015.

Here's a look at the WPIAL football playoff pairings:

Class AAAA

Favorite: Woodland Hills has the best backfield tandem in the WPIAL with seniors Miles Sanders and Jo-El Shaw, who both are 1,000-yard rushers this season. The Wolverines have reached Heinz Field in four of the past six years.

Challengers: Pine-Richland could defend its WPIAL title with sophomore QB Philip Jurkovec, a 1,900-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher. Penn-Trafford QB Brett Laffoon, a 1,500-yard passer, led the Warriors to the semis in 2013 and '14. Central Catholic, last year's runner-up, has a recruit-heavy defense led by senior defensive back Damar Hamlin. North Allegheny shared the Quad North title with Pine-Richland and Central. Lebo's only loss was at Woodland Hills, 21-17. McKeesport lost at Penn-Trafford, 21-7.

Don't overlook: Bethel Park's three losses were against highly-seeded playoff teams: Central Catholic (28-12), Woodland Hills (28-23) and Mt. Lebanon (31-20).

Prediction: Penn-Trafford over Central Catholic

Class AAA

Favorite: Defending champion Central Valley proved its status as the favorite when it downed Parkway Conference rival West Allegheny in the regular-season finale. CV senior Chris Callaghan has thrown for 1,500 yards this season.

Challengers: Belle Vernon was atop the Big 10 Conference as the only undefeated team in Class AAA. However, the Leopards haven't won a playoff game since 2000. West Allegheny was No. 1 all season until Friday's loss. The Indians feature 1,100-yard rusher Terence Stephens, a Bowling Green recruit. The past six Class AAA champions have come from the Parkway, along with four of the past six runners-up. Ringgold and Thomas Jefferson reached the semifinals last season. Mars has won six in a row since a loss at Franklin Regional, the second seed from the Greater Allegheny.

Don't overlook: First-year school Armstrong features the WPIAL's top rusher: Zane Dudek with 2,019 yards. In 2010, Central Valley won a WPIAL title in its first season after a merger.

Prediction: West Allegheny over Central Valley

Class AA

Favorite: South Fayette has won 41 consecutive games and beat Aliquippa two years in a row at Heinz Field. The Lions have a new quarterback ­— sophomore Drew Saxton (1,074 yards and 22 touchdowns).

Challengers: Aliquippa tied a WPIAL record set by Braddock (1954-59) with its sixth consecutive undefeated regular season. Pitt recruit Kaezon Pugh leads the Quips with 17 TDs. Washington, which has a 1,100-yard rusher in Kurt Adkins, is strong but hasn't received as much attention as the other undefeated teams. Beaver Falls, which starts just two seniors, was unbeaten until last week's loss to Aliquippa. Freeport won the Allegheny title, but a 34-7 loss to Steel Valley leaves questions. SV and 1,100-yard rusher DeWayne Murray lost to South Fayette, 37-0.

Don't overlook: Apollo-Ridge junior Duane Brown scored 15 times in the final two weeks and set a WPIAL single-game rushing record with 460 yards on 45 carries in Week 8. He makes the Vikings a tough matchup.

Prediction: South Fayette over Aliquippa

Class A

Favorite: Clairton has won seven of the past nine WPIAL Class A titles, and the Bears had only one opponent come within 35 points of them this season. Aaron Mathews ranks third among WPIAL passers with 1,805 yards and has thrown 22 touchdowns.

Challengers: CWNC is unbeaten behind first-year coach Jason Gildon and 1,200-yard passer Erick Taylor. The Trojans won the title in '13. Avonworth QB Zach Chandler leads the WPIAL with 2,815 yards, but the Lopes lost by 12 to CWNC in Week 7. Frazier allowed a WPIAL-low 31 points all season but hails from a conference that hasn't won a playoff game in four seasons. Shenango won the Big Seven but lost nonconference matchups to CWNC (28-16) and Avonworth (28-20). Jeannette was the closest to Clairton, losing 56-29 in Week 6.

Don't overlook: Neshannock reached the WPIAL semis last season and forced Clairton into OT. The Lancers, with 1,500-yard passer Frank Antuono, have won seven in a row since an early-season loss to Shenango.

Prediction: Clairton over CWNC

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