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

Between the hash marks

Who: Moon (4-4) at Upper St. Clair (6-2)

Where: Upper St. Clair’s Panther Stadium

When: 7 p.m. Friday

The coaches: Ryan Linn (Moon), Mike Junko (Upper St. Clair)

When they last met: Upper St. Clair manhandled Moon at the Tigers’ home stadium late last season with a 43-6 win on Oct. 21, kickstarting a four-game winning streak that carried the Panthers into the WPIAL Class 5A championship game.

Last week: Moon won an action-packed thriller at home against Bethel Park, 42-34, and Upper St. Clair came from behind to take down Canon-McMillan on the road, 24-17.

On deck: Moon hosts Baldwin (1-7) in the regular-season finale, while Upper St. Clair travels to take on South Fayette (4-4).

This and that: Playoff implications galore in this high-stakes Allegheny Six Conference affair, as Upper St. Clair suddenly finds itself in win-or-go-home territory for the rest of the season after a 4-0 start. The Panthers (6-2, 1-2) are tied with South Fayette for fourth place in the conference, and one more loss would all but doom their playoff hopes in the unforgiving gauntlet of Class 5A, which grants only eight postseason berths. … Moon is on the opposite spectrum, having rebounded from an 0-3 start to win four of its past five games. The Tigers (4-4, 2-1) are knotted up with Bethel Park for second place in the conference, and they earned a head-to-head win against the Black Hawks last week. A win on Friday would go a long way toward securing a playoff spot, but a loss would make things much murkier. … Senior Josh Bladel and junior Nazir Brookins are enjoying big seasons for Moon. Bladel leads the team with 648 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 105 carries, and Brookins isn’t far behind with 611 yards and four scores on 110 attempts. Both are also standout linebackers on defense. … Sophomore Ethan Hellmann is coming off one of the best efforts of his young career in Upper St. Clair’s 24-17 comeback win at Canon-McMillan, where he accounted for all three Panthers TDs in the fourth quarter (two rushing, one passing). For the season, he’s 85-of-129 passing for 884 yards and nine TDs with five interceptions. … Senior Mason Chambers leads Upper St. Clair with 657 yards and eight TDs on 105 carries, and junior Julian Dahlem is making a big impact as both a runner (42 carries, 255 yards, 2 TDs) and receiver (23 catches, 245 yards, 2 TDs). … The Panthers also possess a secret weapon in senior kicker Bennett Henderson, who has converted 28 extra points and five field goals on the year after leading the WPIAL with 10 field goals in 2022.

Expert picks (records in parentheses)

Steve Rotstein (4-4): Upper St. Clair 27, Moon 21

Brad Everett (5-3): Upper St. Clair 24, Moon 21

John Santa (6-2): Moon 41, Upper St. Clair 35

On the radar

Pine-Richland (5-3) at Woodland Hills (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday

Two historic powers will meet at Wolvarena to engage in a rematch of last year’s WPIAL Class 5A semifinal, won by Pine-Richland, 23-12. Both teams have plenty of new faces this year, but several key players still remain — including Rams senior running back Ethan Pillar and Woodland Hills sophomore wide receiver Scoop Smith. Pillar made history when he carried the ball 56 times for 287 yards and three TDs in a 26-19 upset win against Central Catholic on Oct. 6, a performance that may have sparked another second-half surge for the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions. One of the most exciting playmakers in the area, Smith leads the WPIAL with 807 receiving yards and ranks third with 43 receptions to go with 15 TDs.

South Side (8-0) at Union (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday

Two WPIAL Class 1A title contenders collide in a de facto Big 7 Conference championship game, as the unbeaten Rams head to Lawrence County to visit the defending WPIAL champs. South Side has been remarkably consistent so far, allowing only six or seven points in all but one of its first eight games. Meanwhile, the Rams have scored 33 points or more in all eight contests, winning each of them by 27 points or more. Union has faced a bit more resistance from its foes, yet the Scotties appear to be playing their best ball now while riding a five-game winning streak of their own. Both teams are led by dual-threat senior quarterbacks in South Side’s Brody Almashy (486 passing yards, 431 rushing yards, 23 total TDs) and Union’s Braylon Thomas (1,409 passing yards, 873 rushing yards, 34 total TDs).

Western Beaver (5-3) at Mohawk (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday

It may seem like the Class 2A Midwestern Conference is a two-team race between Neshannock and Mohawk, but Western Beaver is hot on both teams’ tails and only getting better as the season goes along. Led by record-setting freshman quarterback Jaivin Peel and a plethora of talented receivers, the Golden Beavers have won four games in a row in extremely lopsided fashion following a 1-3 start. The Warriors are ranked No. 4 in Class 2A and riding a seven-game winning streak into Friday night, and there’s no doubt they will be backed by a raucous crowd lending a sizable home-field advantage. Still, this game is about as close as it gets to a toss-up on paper, so don’t be surprised to see Western Beaver come away victorious.

PUP ‘underdog’ to watch

Canon-McMillan (plays at Peters Township at 7 p.m. Friday)

Nobody in the area can match the sheer dominance Class 5A No. 1 Peters Township has exhibited in its first eight games this season, as the Indians (8-0, 4-0) have shut out four of their first eight opponents and allowed only 27 points all year long — good for a minuscule average of 3.3 points allowed per game. But before you mark this down as another easy win, consider that Class 6A No. 3 Canon-McMillan (5-3, 1-2) held a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter against Upper St. Clair last week, and the Big Macs own impressive shutout wins against Penn-Trafford and Seneca Valley already this year. If Canon-Mac’s defense can win the battle up front and keep things close until late in the second half, standout running back Zach Welsh (1,150 yards from scrimmage, seven total TDs) might just be able to carry the Big Macs to an upset victory.

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.