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“Mr. High School Sports” – Week 9 Preview

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — For the 64 teams who have been fortunate enough to secure spots in the WPIAL Football Playoffs, Week Nine represents the end of an always frantic, fast-paced regular season.

Fifty teams have already punched their ticket entering this weekend, including Washington out of the Class AA Interstate Conference, which the PIAA will allow to play on despite charges of using an ineligible player.

There is a feel-good story in that classification within the Allegheny Conference, as the Summit Academy, a reform school for adjudicated youth in the small Butler County town of Herminie, has made the postseason for the first time ever. Atop the Allegheny is undefeated Shady Side Academy, which hosts undefeated Kittanning for the conference championship tonight.

Most eyes will be on the big game taking place just beyond Kennywood Park, as West Mifflin (7-0, 8-0) hosts perennial Big Nine bully Thomas Jefferson in an effort to steal their conference title. Titans tailback Jimmy Wheeler, who leads the WPIAL with 2,008 rushing yards and 27 TD’s, needs just over 140 yards to break the district’s regular-season rushing record.

One of the teams in the latest MaxPreps Southwestern Pennsylvania Top Ten has already concluded its season. No. 8 McKeesport (8-0, 9-0) secured the Class AAAA Foothills Conference title, as seen on ROOT Sports, Thursday night by going into Antimarino Stadium and whipping arch-rival Gateway, 49-12.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic (6-0, 8-0), the Northern Eight Conference champion, remains at the pinnacle of said rankings as the Vikings wrap things up against Butler (1-5, 1-7). The highest-scoring offense in Quad-A has gotten tremendous help from backup running back Riley Redman and Devin Falloon.

Mount Lebanon (3-4, 3-5) needs a win plus a Peters Township loss or a Baldwin loss when it hosts No. 2 Upper St. Clair (7-0, 8-0). The Blue Devils feature a possible Pitt recruit, former all-conference selection Alex Bookser on their offensive and defensive lines, while the Panthers, the least scored-upon team in Quad-A, boast defensive end Rori Blair, who has already committed to the University of Pittsburgh.

While USC looks to lock up the Southeastern Conference outright, No. 3 West Allegheny (7-0, 8-0) will look to do the same in the Class AAA Parkway Conference when it hosts league rival Chartiers Valley (1-6, 1-7). Tory Delmonico has led Bob Palko’s prolific wildcat offense with 15 touchdowns.

In order for No. 4 Central Valley (7-1, 7-1) to grab a piece of the Parkway Conference crown, it needs the Colts to perform a miracle, plus a non-conference win over visiting Beaver Falls (6-1, 7-1). The Warriors, featuring two-way athlete Jordan Whitehead, are allowing a Class AAA-best 4.1 points per game, while BF tailback Damian Rawl is enjoying a fine season for the playoff-bound Tigers with 940 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Tigers are coming off a heart-breaking loss at home to two-time WPIAL Class AA champion and repeat Midwestern Conference champion Aliquippa. This week the No. 5 Quips, featuring Division I defensive back and Pitt hopeful Dravon Henry, will face Beaver (4-2, 6-2) quarterback Alex Rowse, who leads the WPIAL with 2,041 yards and 33 TD’s, at Gypsy Glen Stadium.

Not only has Henry helped Aliquippa lead Class AA in total defense, but the tailback is also among the leading scorers in the classification with 15 touchdowns–and, last week, a touchdown pass.

No. 6 Seneca Valley (5-1, 7-1) hosts Fox Chapel (2-4, 2-6). The Raiders, the Northern Eight runners-up, are led by dual-threat quarterback T.J. Holl, who ranks among the WPIAL top ten with 1,443 yards in the air, and has also thrown for eight scores.

No. 7 South Fayette (7-0, 8-0) will try to secure another outright Class AA Century Conference championship at South Allegheny (1-6, 1-7) as the Lions get ready for what could be a lengthy playoff run. Junior Brett Brumbaugh, who has thrown for 21 touchdowns, is third in the district with 1,840 passing yards.

After overcoming a traditionally slow start, No. 9 Woodland Hills (6-1, 6-2) will try to keep their slim hopes of a conference co-championship alive when they visit Southeastern Conference rival Penn Hills (4-3, 5-3). Unconventional quarterback Billy Kisner could make the Indians a sleeper once he gets to the playoffs; he’s run for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns.

No. 10 North Catholic (7-0, 8-0) is in control of the Eastern Conference in Class A. The Trojans will conclude an impressive regular season marked by overcoming multiple key injuries at Leechburg (2-5, 2-6). With 14 touchdowns, Jerome Turner will lead the North Catholic attack.

Of course, the big story out of that conference is the amazing turnaround of West Shamokin (5-2, 6-2), which has clinched the conference’s final playoff berth just a couple years removed from setting the record for the WPIAL’s longest losing streak.

The Wolves are at playoff-bound Apollo-Ridge (5-2, 6-2) in further conference play tonight.

Tune into “The Fan High School Football Roundup,” hosted by the Post-Gazette’s Mike White and MSA Sports’ Don Rebel, Saturday 7:00-8:00 A.M. on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan for continuing high school football coverage.

(Contact me at mpopchock@kdka.com and/or follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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