Football Class 5A First Round Preview
The WPIAL held its pairings meeting on Monday and with an expanded Class 5A from a year ago, had its work cut out for them. With three sections, the 16-team field will feature no byes and all eight first round matchups occurring tonight at the location of the higher seed. All games will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
No. 1 Gateway Gators (10-0) vs. No. 16 Kiski Area Cavaliers (3-7)
The defending Class 5A WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up were back at it again this year, blowing away its competition in every game. The Gators averaging 49.5 points per game and gave up an astounding 4.3 points per game. They scored over 50 points in five games, including a season-best 76 against Connellsville. The Gators have also recorded five shutouts on the season. Senior Brendan Majocha was second in 5A with 1,916 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes. Senior Courtney Jackson hauled in 27 catches for 771 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sophomore Derrick Davis rushed for 1,005 yards and 18 touchdowns on 90 carries. The Gators had a bye in in the first round last year…Kiski only one three games the whole season, but was able to qualify for the playoffs. The Cavaliers lost their last six games after starting the season 3-1. They are averaging 20.6 points per game and are allowing 33.1 points per game. Senior Ryne Wallace was third in Class 5A with 1,666 passing yards. He also threw for 14 touchdowns. Senior Jack Colecchi led the team with 34 receptions and 636 yards and eight touchdowns. Kiski Area last made the playoffs in 2015, a 34-26 lost to Bethel Park in the first round…This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams.
No. 2 Penn Hills Indians (10-0) vs. No. 15 Latrobe Wildcats (4-6)
The move down to Class 5A has benefitted Penn Hills this season, who was able to run the table with an undefeated record, including picking up win No. 500 in program history. The Indians averaged 40.5 points per game and only allowing 10 points per game. Penn Hills have recorded three shutouts, including its past two games. Senior Hollis Mathis was the top passer in Class 5A with 2,097 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. Senior Daequan Hardy was the top receiver with 610 yards and 27 receptions and 15 touchdowns. The Indians stayed balanced with a stellar ground game led by senior Terry “Tank” Smith with 1,043 yards on 122 carries and 16 touchdowns…Latrobe finished below .500 but were able to qualify for the playoffs. The Wildcats enter the playoffs with momentum on their side, winning their last three games of the regular season. Offensively, Latrobe is averaging 24.6 points per game and is allowing 27 points per game. Junior Branden Crosby threw for 961 yards for the Wildcats this season. Senior Zakharee Williams found the end zone more than any other Wildcat with 14 touchdowns. Latrobe last made the playoffs in 2009…In the first matchup of the season, Penn Hills defeated Latrobe, 50-13, on Aug. 31 at home.
No. 3 Peters Township Indians (8-2) vs. No. 14 Armstrong River Hawks (5-5)
For the first time since 1975, Peters Township can call themselves conference champions in football. The Indians did so by winning their last seven conference games after starting 0-1. Overall, they enter tonight’s game on a four-game win streak. Like Penn Hills, Peters Township also benefitted from dropping down to Class 5A this season. Sophomore quarterback Logan Pfeuffer has stepped up this year, passing for 1,487 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior Josh Casilli was his top receiver with 34 receptions for 614 yards. Junior Ryan Magiske led the team with 17 touchdowns. On the season, the Indians are averaging 33.1 points per game and are allowing 14.5 points per game…Armstrong finished fourth in its conference to qualify for the playoffs. The River Hawks do have some momentum heading into tonight’s game, winning their last two games. Armstrong is averaging 26 points per game and are allowing 23.3 points per game. Senior Jalen Price has led the offense with 686 yards on 134 carries. He also leads the team with nine touchdowns. Armstrong is back in the playoffs after missing it a year ago…This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
No. 4 Mars Planets (9-1) vs. No. 13 Woodland Hills Wolverines (4-6)
Although Mars only suffered one loss, they still finished in second place in its conference to Penn Hills. Since their loss to the Indians, the Planets have rattled off six straight wins entering tonight’s game. On the season, Mars is averaging 30.2 points per game and is only allowing 12.3 points per game. Senior Tyler Kowalkowski threw for over 1,000 yards this season, going for 1,059 yards and 11 touchdowns. Senior Garrett Reinke was the leading rusher in Class 5A for the Planets, accumulating 1,747 yards on 226 carries and 22 touchdowns, which also led Class 5A. Mars made the jump up from Class 4A a year ago and has shown they can hang with the big boys…Normally one of the top teams, Woodland Hills has struggled the last couple of years but the Wolverines were still able to claw their way into the playoffs by finishing fifth in its conference. The Wolverines have won their final two games of the regular season entering tonight. They are only averaging 16.8 points per game, but have been able to rely on its defense, giving up 15.9 points per game. Woodland Hills were led on the ground by the duo of junior William Clark and senior Anthony Meridith. Both have amassed over 700 yards on the ground this season. Clark leads the team with seven touchdowns…This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams.
No. 5 West Allegheny Indians (7-2) vs. No. 12 Shaler Titans (4-6)
West Allegheny was co-conference champions in the Allegheny Eight Conference with Peters Township. It was another productive year for the Indians, their last one under future Hall of Fame head coach Bob Palko. West A averaged 25.3 points per game and allowed 19.4 points per game. Its lone section loss of the season came against Peters Township. Senior Dante Flati led the Indians’ ground attack with 734 yards on 139 carries and nine touchdowns…Entering the season, Shaler was in the midst of a 24-game losing streak, spanning over three years. While the Titans may not have a winning record, four wins shows a lot of growth from their recent struggles. The Titans clinched their playoff spot with a 62-0 win against Fox Chapel at home. Shaler is averaging 22.7 points per game and are allowing 28.2 points per game. Junior quarterback Darin Mizgorski was fourth in Class 5A with 1,514 passing yards. The Titans also had the top receiver in Class 5A in senior Brennan Fugh. Fugh caught 43 passes for 695 yards. Shaler also had a 1,000 yard rusher in senior Joe Kremer. Kremer rushed for 1,012 yards on 189 carries and 10 touchdowns. This is Shaler’s first playoff appearance since 2011…This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
No. 6 Penn-Trafford Warriors (8-2) vs. No. 11 North Hills Indians (6-4)
Its been awhile since Penn-Trafford has lost a game. After starting the season 0-2, the Warriors have rattled off eight straight wins to finish in second place behind top-seed Gateway in the Big East Conference. Penn-Trafford is averaging 37.6 points per game, but are led by its defense who is allowing 11.9 points per game. Junior Gabe Dunlap eclipsed the 1,000 passing mark with 1,102 yards and 12 touchdowns. Senior Dmitri George was his top receiver, accounting for 646 yards and 33 receptions. Junior Caleb Lisbon has the opportunity to go over 1,000 rushing yards on the season tonight, as he enters the game with 963 yards. He also leads the team with 13 touchdowns…North Hills has slipped a little bit since starting the season 4-0. They finished the regular season with a 38-0 loss against No. 2 Penn Hills, finishing in third place in the Northern Conference. The Indians are averaging 18.4 points per game and are allowing 23.5 points per game. Most of the Indians success on offense has come via the ground game, led by senior Tyler Brennan. Brennan has 784 yards on 109 carries and 18 touchdowns on the season. North Hills has returned to the playoffs after missing out on it last year…This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
No. 7 McKeesport Tigers (8-2) vs. No. 10 Upper St. Clair Panthers (8-2)
McKeesport had one of the top offenses in Class 5A during the regular season, but they couldn’t even keep up with Gateway in a 34-6 loss to end the regular season. The Tigers finished in third place in the Big East Conference. They are averaging 41.8 points per game and are allowing only 13.7 points per game. The Tigers stayed balanced on offense this year with seniors Devin Sims and Konota Gaskins scoring 12 and 10 touchdowns, respectively, and junior Devari Robinson scoring nine…Upper St. Clair had an opportunity to claim a piece of the section title, but stumbled against Bethel Park in the final game of the regular season, 20-14. The loss dropped them to third place in the Allegheny Eight Conference. The Panthers are averaging 24.3 points per game and are allowing 19.2 points per game. Senior Jason Sweeney led the offensive onslaught this season with 1,458 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. The Pantellis brothers, senior Chris and sophomore David were his main targets. Chris Pantellis was second in Class 5A with 40 receptions for 628 yards. David Pantellis was sixth in Class 5A with 34 receptions for 497 yards. Senior Antonio Orsini balances out the attack on the ground with 948 rushing yards. He also leads the team with eight touchdowns…This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams.
No. 8 Bethel Park Black Hawks (6-3) vs. No. 9 Franklin Regional Panthers (6-3)
Bethel Park benefited from a win last week against Upper St. Clair to help its seeding and earn a home playoff game. The Black Hawks finished in fourth place in the Allegheny Eight Conference. They won four of their last five games after starting the season 2-2. They are averaging 28.8 points per game and are allowing 17.9 points per game. Behind their big offensive line, Bethel Park relies on the ground game with three running backs rushing for over 500 yards. Senior Luke Surunis leads the team with 692 yards. Junior Sean McGowan is second with 619 yards and junior Jehvonn Lewis rounds it the three-headed monster with 524 yards. Lewis leads the bunch with 11 touchdowns. Surunis has 10 and McGowan with eight…Franklin Regional has cooled off after a hot start. The Panthers have lost three of four games entering tonight’s game after starting the season 5-0. They finished in fourth place in the Big East Conference. They are averaging 29.4 points per game and are allowing 20.7 points per game. Offensively, senior quarterback Adam Rudzinski has led the Panthers with 1,196 yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior Nick Leopold leads the team with eight touchdowns…This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams.
For a complete look at the Class 5A bracket, click here.