Each Wednesday, the PUP high school sports staff will preview the game of the week.

Between the hash marks

Who: Gateway (3-3) at Penn-Trafford (3-3)

Where: Penn-Trafford’s Warrior Stadium

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

The coaches: Don Holl (Gateway), John Ruane (Penn-Trafford)

When they last met: The longtime Big East Conference rivals met at Penn-Trafford’s renowned Warrior Stadium last October, when Gateway took home a 21-10 win to recapture the “Victory Bell.” The Warriors had won the previous three matchups in the series.

Last week: Gateway gashed Hempfield at home, 63-21, while Penn-Trafford pounded Norwin on the road, 56-28.

On deck: The Gators host old rival McKeesport next week in a non-conference contest, and the Warriors will travel to Plum to take on the Mustangs in Big East Conference action.

This and that: There are few better rivalries in the WPIAL than the “Battle for the Victory Bell,” and few better venues to watch a WPIAL football game than Penn-Trafford’s Warrior Stadium. With that in mind, there aren’t many more attractive games on tap than this Week 6 showdown for the top spot in the Class 5A Big East Conference. … Both teams are rolling with plenty of momentum into what should be a physical and explosive battle, with more than just a conference title at stake. This rivalry dates back to 1924, with the winner earning the right to ring the “Victory Bell” after the game. Things are always a bit more chippy, a bit more personal, and a bit more meaningful when the Gators and Warriors collide. And don’t forget, Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane teaches at Gateway. You can bet he has been waiting for a chance to avenge last year’s loss to the Gators. … After an 0-3 start, Gateway has steamrolled its past three foes while steadily raising its offensive output from 44 points against Franklin Regional, to 49 against Plum and 63 against Hempfield. It’s no coincidence that star quarterback Brad Birch is back after a brief absence and playing better than ever, with 1,011 yards and 10 touchdowns to two interceptions on the year. He racked up 368 total yards (247 passing, 121 rushing) and six TDs in the Gators’ 63-21 win against Hempfield last Friday. … Since transferring to Gateway from Woodland Hills in the offseason, senior receiver Steven Jenkins (6-2, 195) is quickly emerging as one of the area’s most dangerous wideouts, with 16 receptions for 433 yards and four touchdowns for the Gators. Senior Kenny Lewis is also having a big year, leading the team with 22 catches for 369 yards and three TDs. … The Warriors employ a run-heavy scheme on offense, and they’ve been finding great success with it in recent weeks. Junior tailback Tasso Whipple rushed for a school-record 300 yards in a 41-18 win against Hempfield on Sept. 22, then followed that up with 194 yards in a 56-28 win against Norwin last week. Not to be outdone, freshman Ben Grabowski rushed for 205 yards and four scores in the win against the Knights. … Penn-Trafford can also pass the ball, too, and senior wideout Carmen Metcalfe (6-1, 185) is the Warriors’ preferred receiving threat. The talented senior has 27 receptions for 353 yards and a pair of TDs on the year, and he is also an all-conference defensive back.

Expert picks (records in parentheses)

Steve Rotstein (3-3): Penn-Trafford 28, Gateway 27

Brad Everett (3-3): Gateway 45, Penn-Trafford 30

John Santa (4-2): Gateway 42, Penn-Trafford 28

On the radar

Moon at Peters Township, 7 p.m. Friday

This might seem like a mismatch on paper, with Class 5A No. 1 Peters Township punishing its competition to the tune of 232 points scored and only 20 points allowed through six games. The Indians (6-0, 3-0) have three shutouts on their resume and have yet to allow more than seven points in a game, but Moon is scorching-hot after an 0-3 start. The Tigers (3-0, 1-0) jump-started their resurgence with a 14-13 upset win at then-Class 5A No. 1 Penn Hills, and have since followed with back-to-back wins against Mars and South Fayette. Moon’s physical and relentless defense could make this a closer game than you might expect.

Montour at Central Valley, 7 p.m. Friday

A top-five matchup in Class 4A with major playoff implications in the Parkway Conference, fans can expect plenty of fireworks when No. 5 Montour (5-1, 2-1) takes on the No. 4 Warriors (5-1, 3-0). In six games so far this season, Montour has scored 228 points, while Central Valley has scored 229. The Warriors have won four games in a row by 28 points or more since a 28-20 loss at Class 3A No. 2 Avonworth on Sept. 1, and the Spartans’ only loss of the season came in a 42-18 defeat at two-time defending WPIAL champion Aliquippa on Sept. 15. Montour has since won back-to-back games by a combined score of 96-21.

Bishop Canevin at Cornell, 7 p.m. Friday

The Crusaders (4-1, 2-1) will look to bounce back from their first loss of the season in a 48-41 barnburner against Fort Cherry last Saturday, but things won’t get much easier when they face Class 1A No. 2 Cornell (6-0, 3-0) on Friday night. A win would put No. 3 Canevin right back in the thick of the Black Hills Conference championship chase, while Cornell can likely make it a two-team race with the Rangers by knocking off the Crusaders at home. But make no mistake, a proven championship-caliber team like Canevin will be tough to beat two weeks in a row.

PUP ‘underdog’ to watch

Shady Side Academy (hosts Knoch at 7 p.m. Friday)

Just a few weeks ago, the Bulldogs found themselves ranked in Class 3A following a thrilling 34-28 overtime victory against North Catholic on Sept. 1. Their stay in the rankings was short-lived, with back-to-back losses against Indiana and Elizabeth Forward in their next two contests. But Shady Side has since rebounded with a resounding 57-14 win against South Allegheny along with a 31-28 triumph against Freeport, and the Bulldogs will have a chance to crack the top-five once again with Class 3A No. 4 Knoch coming to town. Both teams are 1-0 in Allegheny Six Conference play, and this is a game that will go a long way toward deciding the conference champion at the end of the season.

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.