The second week of the WPIAL playoffs have come and gone, and the WPIAL championships are on deck in the two largest classifications, while the other four classes gear up for the WPIAL semifinals. Here’s an early look at this week’s matchups:
WPIAL CLASS 6A CHAMPIONSHIP
North Allegheny (10-1) vs. Central Catholic (7-4), 6 p.m. Saturday at Norwin — Two of the WPIAL’s preeminent powers meet again in the granddaddy of ’em all, with the Tigers seeking their first WPIAL title since 2012 and the Vikings going for their sixth championship in the past 10 years. The teams met in the 2020 title game when Central won, 38-24, avenging a regular-season defeat from earlier that season. Will history repeat itself this year? North Allegheny won the regular-season meeting, 7-3, on a 7-yard TD run by quarterback Logan Kushner with 6:41 remaining. The Vikings appeared to be having a down year when they fell to 3-4 on Oct. 7, but they have since rebounded with four quality wins in a row against Penn Hills, Seneca Valley, Gateway and Mt. Lebanon.
WPIAL CLASS 5A CHAMPIONSHIP
Pine-Richland (9-3) vs. Upper St. Clair (10-2), noon Saturday at Norwin — The first of six WPIAL championship games to be contested this year will feature the No. 2 seed Rams squaring off with the No. 5 Panthers on Saturday afternoon. Pine-Richland is one of the hottest teams in the WPIAL, having won eight games in a row by a combined score of 302-101 since Ryan Palmieri took over as the team’s starting quarterback in late September. But Upper St. Clair has been a model of consistency all season, owning wins against Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, Gateway and Bethel Park. Senior running back Jamaal Brown ranks second in Class 5A with 1,471 yards rushing after notching his third consecutive 100-yard game in a 17-7 WPIAL semifinal win vs. top-seeded Bethel Park.
WPIAL CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
Aliquippa (10-0) vs. McKeesport (11-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Canon-McMillan — It doesn’t get much better than this. The defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Quips will face off with the Tigers almost one year to the date of their legendary battle in last year’s semifinals, won by Aliquippa in double overtime, 27-21. McKeesport appeared to have won the game on a field goal in OT, but referees ruled the kick no good as players stormed the field to celebrate. After clearing the field and restarting the game, the Quips won on a touchdown pass in the second overtime on their way to a record 14th consecutive WPIAL championship appearance. Aliquippa carries a 22-game winning streak into the rematch vs. the Tigers, who feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Jahmil Perryman and Bobbie Boyd.
Central Valley (10-1) vs. Thomas Jefferson (8-3), 7 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny — These two juggernauts meet for the first time since a 28-3 win by the Jaguars during the 2019 regular season, and this time, there’s a trip to Acrisure Stadium at stake. Thomas Jefferson has captured five WPIAL championships and a pair of state titles since 2015, while the Warriors own three WPIAL titles and two state titles during that span. Both of Central Valley’s championship streaks are still ongoing, as they attempt to win a fourth consecutive WPIAL crown and third consecutive PIAA title in their first season after moving up from Class 3A to Class 4A. After stumbling to a 3-3 start this season, the Jaguars have won five games in a row by a combined score of 186-26.
WPIAL CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
Belle Vernon (8-2) vs. Freeport (10-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Gateway — Everybody has been pointing to this finally being “the year” for Belle Vernon after dropping down from Class 4A to Class 3A, and the pieces appear to be falling into place for that to happen. Belle Vernon faced a grueling non-conference schedule and started the season 1-2, but seven consecutive wins by a combined score of 328-42 have the Leopards roaring into this semifinal matchup with a ton of momentum. The Yellowjackets will be a heavy underdog, but they are also playing their best ball at the right time while riding their own seven-game win streak.
Avonworth (10-1) vs. Shady Side Academy (7-4), 7 p.m. Friday at Fox Chapel — Shady Side pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the second week of the WPIAL playoffs, avenging a 42-21 regular-season defeat vs. Elizabeth Forward with a stunning 31-17 win at the Warriors’ home stadium. The Antelopes, meanwhile, took care of business with a 28-7 beatdown against Beaver to earn a second consecutive trip to the semifinals. Avonworth hopes to advance to the WPIAL finals for the first time since winning the Class 2A title in 2019, while Shady Side is making its first semifinal appearance since 2008.
WPIAL CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
Steel Valley (10-0) vs. Neshannock (11-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Montour — One of only two undefeated teams left in the WPIAL, the Ironmen are hoping to get back to the WPIAL championship game for the first time since winning the 2018 Class 2A title. Steel Valley also took a perfect record into last year’s WPIAL semifinals before losing to Beaver Falls, 21-8. Senior quarterback Cruce Brookins is the unquestioned star of this year’s team, with 1,380 yards rushing and 29 rushing TDs after his 332-yard, six-touchdown performance in a 46-13 quarterfinal win against McGuffey. The Lancers also feature one of the WPIAL’s most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in Jonny Huff, who has 1,797 yards rushing and 22 rushing TDs.
Beaver Falls (10-1) vs. Sto-Rox (9-2) at Ambridge, 7 p.m. Friday — Other than Aliquippa-McKeesport, this might be the most anticipated matchup of this week’s semifinal round. The teams last met in a 43-30 win for the Tigers in the 2020 Class 2A championship game that was not as close as the score would indicate, as the second half was played under a running clock after Beaver Falls activated the mercy rule. The Tigers are seeking a third consecutive championship appearance, while the Vikings hope to reach the title game for the third time in four years. Both defenses allow less than 10 points per game, and senior quarterbacks Jaren Brickner (Beaver Falls) and Josh Jenkins (Sto-Rox) are two of the top passers in the WPIAL. Something has to give.
WPIAL CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
Bishop Canevin (11-1) vs. South Side (11-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Peters Township — The defending champion Crusaders are one of three teams that still have a chance to repeat as WPIAL champs, along with Aliquippa and Central Valley. Canevin has won 11 games in a row since a season-opening 21-14 loss vs. Steelton-Highspire, outscoring its foes by a combined score of 481-71 during that stretch. The Rams, meanwhile, are attempting to reach their first WPIAL title game since losing to Steel Valley in the 2018 Class 2A finals. South Side handed Mapletown its first loss of the season in a 47-6 blowout Friday in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Union (9-3) vs. Rochester (7-4) at Freedom, 7 p.m. Friday — The most unlikely pairing of the weekend, and nothing else comes close. The No. 10 seed Scotties advanced to the semifinals with a 30-28 upset win vs. No. 2 seed Laurel last Friday after knocking off No. 7 Burgettstown in the opening round, 32-7. Meanwhile, No. 14 seed Rochester has picked up back-to-back upset wins against No. 3 Greensburg Central Catholic and No. 6 Fort Cherry, winning both by 16-plus points. These teams finished in third and fourth place in the Class 1A Big 7 Conference, with Union winning the regular-season matchup at Rochester on Oct. 7, 6-0.