It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

And for fans of WPIAL football, Friday night is essentially Christmas morning.

The WPIAL playoffs get started Friday for five of the six classes. Class 6A, which has just four teams in its bracket, won’t be in action until next week.

As if the regular season didn’t go fast enough, the playoffs will move even quicker. Class 6A and 5A finalists will meet for titles at Norwin High School on Nov. 18, while Classes 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A will play for championships at Acrisure Stadium on Nov. 24.

Here’s a breakdown of each class, along with predicted champions from the PUP high school sports staff:


No. 1 seed: Central Catholic. Outside of a nonconference loss at Class 5A Pine-Richland on Oct. 6, nobody has been able to slow down the Vikings (9-1). Guided by first-year coach Ryan Lehmeier, the Vikings have averaged 45.7 points per game (No. 3 in the WPIAL), and their wins have all come by double digits. Senior quarterback and three-year starter Payton Wehner has been the catalyst. Wehner ranks among the WPIAL passing leaders with 2,456 yards and 32 touchdowns. His top targets have been Vernon Settles and Peter Gonzalez. Gonzalez (Penn State) is one of four Power Five-bound seniors on the team. The others are linebacker Anthony Speca (Penn State), tight end-linebacker Cole Sullivan (Michigan) and lineman Ty Yuhas (Pitt). Central Catholic’s biggest threat is defending champ North Allegheny (9-1), a team the Vikings beat, 50-22, last month.

Sleeper: With just four teams in the playoff field, it’s a little difficult to pick a sleeper. But the call here is No. 3 Canon-McMillan (6-4), which has been strong defensively and features a veteran quarterback in senior and three-year starter Mike Evans. The Big Macs had lost three of four games before closing the regular season with a win against Mt. Lebanon (5-5). The win locked the Big Macs into the No. 3 seed and put them against North Allegheny, which has won five games in a row and has scored at least 43 points in each of those contests. Zach Welsh (1,291 yards, 14 touchdowns) is the leading rusher in Class 6A and is averaging 156 yards in Canon-McMillan’s last seven games.

Keep an eye on … Logan Kushner, North Allegheny. Just like Central Catholic and Canon-McMillan, North Allegheny has a senior and multi-year starter at quarterback. But Kushner is the only one among the three to have a WPIAL title on his resume. Kushner leads North Allegheny in both passing (1,207 yards, 17 touchdowns) and rushing (755 yards, 12 touchdowns). Kushner ran for 184 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in last year’s 35-21 championship win against Central Catholic.

Upset special: Canon-McMillan over North Allegheny. Again, with only two games, there’s not much to pick from. While a heavy underdog, Canon-McMillan could make a game out of this despite falling to North Allegheny, 30-6, in Week 1. The Big Macs give up just 19.8 points a game and do a great job of pressuring the quarterback. Delaware recruit Kaden Singleton has 9.5 sacks and Geno Calgaro 9. The teams met in last year’s semifinals, too, with North Allegheny pulling out a 7-0 win.

Who ya’ got?

Brad Everett: Central Catholic over North Allegheny.

Steve Rotstein: Central Catholic over North Allegheny.

Johnny Santa: Central Catholic over North Allegheny.

Saul Berrios-Thomas: Central Catholic over North Allegheny.

Led by Ethan Pillar, defending champion Pine-Richland is one of the more dangerous teams in the Class 5A field. Pillar had a WPIAL record 56 carries in a game earlier this season. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


No. 1 seed: Peters Township. As the only unbeaten team in the two largest classes, Peters Township (10-0) has been dominant and finds itself three wins away from its first WPIAL title. Bethel Park is the only team to score more than 10 points against the Indians, and those came last week in a game Peters Township won, 68-28. The Indians have surrendered a WPIAL-low 65 points while scoring 405. Sophomore quarterback Nolan DiLucia has been excellent in his first season as the starter, throwing for 1,935 yards and 17 touchdowns. Running back Vinny Sarcone is tied for the Class 5A lead with 18 touchdowns and receiver-defensive back-kicker-punter Carter Shanafelt (110 total points) does a lot of everything for the Indians.

Sleeper: Moon. The Moon Tigers went just 1-9 in 2022. But a year later, they earned a spot in the tight eight-team playoff field and have a legitimate shot to make a run at their first title in 25 years. Moon (5-5), the No. 5 seed, owns wins against No. 2 seed Penn Hills (8-2) and No. 6 Bethel Park (4-6). The Tigers are led offensively by the one-two rushing punch of Josh Bladel (817 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Nazir Brookins (735 yards, 7 touchdowns). Getting past No. 4 Gateway (5-5) in the opening round won’t be easy. The Gators have won five of seven and feature quarterback Brad Birch. And if Moon passes that test, a rematch with No. 1 Peters Township likely awaits. The Indians took the earlier meeting by a score of 40-7.

Keep an eye on … Ethan Pillar, Pine-Richland. It might only be the No. 3 seed, but Pine-Richland (7-3) is a team nobody wants to face in the playoffs. The big reason for that is the emergence of Pillar as the team’s wildcat quarterback. A senior, Pillar made headlines when he had a whopping 56 carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns while handing Central Catholic its only loss earlier this month. His wildcat ways have continued to the point where Pillar has now racked up 1,232 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. This strategy worked for Pine-Richland just last season when Ryan Palmieri’s move to wildcat quarterback propelled the Rams to WPIAL and PIAA titles.

Upset special: Penn-Trafford over Penn Hills. No. 2 seed Penn Hills has been terrific and will be fun to watch with Pitt recruit Julian Dugger under center, but the Indians are not unbeatable. No. 7 Penn-Trafford (5-5), just two years removed from winning a PIAA title, boasts the leading rusher in Class 5A in Tasso Whipple (1,269 yards, 14 touchdowns) and a strong complementary back in freshman Ben Grabowski (668 yards, 10 touchdowns). The Warriors qualified for the playoffs last week by going on the road and beating Franklin Regional (6-4), 27-14.

Who ya’ got?

Brad Everett: Pine-Richland over Peters Township.

Steve Rotstein: Peters Township over Penn Hills.

Johnny Santa: Pine-Richland over Peters Township.

Saul Berrios-Thomas: Peters Township over Penn Hills.

Quarterback Jake Wolfe is a major reason Montour could win its first title since 2011. Wolfe accounted for 515 yards of offense and six touchdowns last week in a win against West Allegheny. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


No. 1 seed: Aliquippa. The Quips (9-0) are the only team aiming for a three-peat. If nothing else, you have to love their chances of at least reaching the championship game. After all, they have gotten there an absurd 15 consecutive seasons. The only unbeaten team in Class 4A is led by junior running back Tikey Hayes, a Penn State recruit who has rushed for 1,178 yards and 14 touchdowns. He ran for 144 yards and two scores in last week’s big 27-17 win at Central Valley. Senior Quentin “Cheese” Goode brings a lot of experience and talent at the quarterback position and Pitt linebacker recruit Cam Lindsey is one of the area’s top players. The Quips have won a record 19 WPIAL titles.

Sleeper: Central Valley. It’s a little funny to ever call Central Valley (7-3) a sleeper, but you could say that this season considering the Warriors have three losses and are the No. 5 seed. Of course, there is no shame in any of the losses, as Avonworth, Montour and Aliquippa are a combined 28-1. Central Valley lost those games by margins of 8, 1 and 10 points. A finalist last season, the Warriors drew Highlands (6-4) in the first round and would likely play No. 4 Mars (8-2) should they advance. Freshman Jance Henry leads Central Valley in rushing with 950 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Keep an eye on … Jake Wolfe, Montour. With the do-it-all Wolfe at quarterback, Montour is a serious threat to win a title for the first time since 2011. Wolfe has thrown for 2,258 yards and a Class 4A-leading 25 touchdowns. He’s also Montour’s top rusher with 698 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wolfe put forth an outstanding performance last week, accounting for 515 offensive yards (397 passing, 118 rushing) and six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in Montour’s 49-17 win against West Allegheny.

Upset special: Trinity over North Catholic. Trinity has gone 16 years without a playoff win, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the No. 10 seed Hillers (6-4) get one Friday when they take on No. 7 North Catholic (5-5) at South Fayette. Trinity closed the regular season with wins in three of its final four games, the biggest triumph coming when they beat Thomas Jefferson, 23-6, to hand the Jaguars their first loss. The Hillers are physical on the lines and have gotten excellent play from dual-threat sophomore quarterback Jonah Williamson (24 total touchdowns).

Who ya’ got?

Brad Everett: McKeesport over Aliquippa.

Steve Rotstein: Aliquippa over McKeesport.

Johnny Santa: Aliquippa over McKeesport.

Saul Berrios-Thomas: McKeesport over Aliquippa.

Penn State recruit Quinton Martin will try to help Belle Vernon repeat as WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A champions. The potent Leopards have scored at least 49 points in each of their past five games. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


No. 1 seed: Belle Vernon. Led by the play of Penn State recruit Quinton Martin, Belle Vernon (8-1) will begin defense of its WPIAL and PIAA titles. The Leopards own five wins against playoff teams, including victories against Class 4A McKeesport and Class 5A Penn-Trafford. Class 4A Thomas Jefferson dealt Belle Vernon its lone loss, 24-19, on Sept. 22. Since then, the Leopards have won five games in a row while scoring at least 49 points in each. Martin, a senior running back, scored four touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing, one on an interception return) in last week’s 49-28 win against Elizabeth Forward.

Sleeper: Beaver. Don’t let the fact that Beaver is the No. 7 seed derail you from thinking that the Bobcats can make a deep run. The Bobcats (8-2) have dropped only two games and own the No. 1 scoring offense (40.9 ppg) in the class. One of those defeats was against No. 2 Avonworth, 33-28, on Oct. 6, a game in which Beaver held a third-quarter lead. The Bobcats are paced by running backs Quay Cain and Drey Hall.

Keep an eye on … Charlie Nigut, Elizabeth Forward. When it comes to big-time playmakers, they don’t come much smaller than Nigut, a 5-foot-6, 150-pound junior who makes a major impact in a variety of ways for No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (9-1). Nigut has rushed for a team-high 622 yards and 13 touchdowns, hauled in 20 catches for 320 yards and three touchdowns, has returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns, and has intercepted a pair of passes. Oh, and he’s also the team’s punter.

Upset special: Southmoreland over Deer Lakes. Regardless of who wins this game, history will be made, as neither team has ever claimed a playoff win. But after qualifying for the postseason for the third time in four seasons, this could be Southmoreland’s time to turn the corner. The No. 9 seed Scotties are led by running back Da’sjon Craggette, who leads all of Class 3A with 1,329 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. Craggette set a school record by rushing for 335 yards in last week’s win at Mount Pleasant. 

Who ya’ got?

Brad Everett: Belle Vernon over Avonworth.

Steve Rotstein: Belle Vernon over Avonworth.

Johnny Santa: Belle Vernon over Avonworth.

Saul Berrios-Thomas: Belle Vernon over Elizabeth Forward.

Steel Valley’s Donald Barksdale is the leading rusher in WPIAL Class 2A and will try to help No. 1 Steel Valley repeat as WPIAL champion. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


No. 1 seed: Steel Valley. If Steel Valley successfully defends its WPIAL title, it will be the program’s fourth championship in eight years. After suffering a stunning double-overtime loss to a Seton LaSalle team that didn’t win a game a season ago, Steel Valley found its footing and finished the regular season with seven wins in a row. Each of Steel Valley’s victories have been by double digits, and the Ironmen boast the No. 1 scoring defense in Class 2A (9.7 ppg). Junior running back Donald Barksdale is the top rusher in the class with 1,458 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Sleeper: McGuffey. It has been 29 years since McGuffey won its only WPIAL title, so, if nothing else, the Highlanders are due to win another. As the No. 6 seed, McGuffey (7-3) is a real live sleeper in Class 2A. The Highlanders have won six of their past seven games, the only blemish being a 13-7 setback to No. 3 Washington last week. Well, if McGuffey beats Derry (5-5) in the first round, there’s a good chance it will get a rematch with Washington. Also on that side of the bracket is No. 7 Keystone Oaks (6-4), which lost to McGuffey, 16-14, earlier this month.

Keep an eye on … Jay Wrona, Mohawk. No player in the class has thrown for as many touchdowns as Wrona, whose 30 scoring tosses rank No. 2 in the WPIAL. Wrona, a senior, has also thrown for 1,875 yards, which ranks third in the class. Wrona hopes to lead No. 5 Mohawk (8-2) to a lengthy run. The Warriors’ two losses have come on the road by a combined nine points. They lost at Union, 40-37, in the season opener and at Neshannock, 13-7, in the regular-season finale. 

Upset special: Western Beaver over Serra Catholic. Speaking of the WPIAL’s most productive passers, No. 9 Western Beaver (6-4) has one of those, too, and he’s only a freshman. Jaivin Peel has passed for more than 2,400 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Golden Beavers, who have won five of six heading into their first-round matchup against No. 8 Serra Catholic (4-5). Peel’s favorite receivers both play for Lincoln Park’s PIAA champion basketball team — Mikey Crawford and Dorian McGhee.

Who ya’ got?

Brad Everett: Neshannock over Steel Valley.

Steve Rotstein: Neshannock over Steel Valley.

Johnny Santa: Neshannock over Steel Valley.

Saul Berrios-Thomas: Steel Valley over Neshannock.

Fort Cherry’s Matt Sieg (3) has had some monster games this season and has accounted for 33 touchdowns overall. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)


No. 1 seed: South Side. The last time South Side won a WPIAL title, we were in a different century. Not since 1999 have the Rams claimed the district crown, but that could change in a few weeks. A tremendous regular season saw South Side win all of its games by at least 26 points. The Rams own the No. 1 scoring defense (8.1 ppg) and No. 2 scoring offense (44.6 ppg) in Class 1A. And they are the only team in the WPIAL that has three players with more than 500 yards rushing, as Ryan Navarra, A.C. Corfield and Brody Almashy are the top rushers in South Side’s wing-T offense.

Sleeper: Greensburg Central Catholic. There are sleepers and then there are deep sleepers. This one fits in the second of those categories. The Centurions (7-3), seeded No. 8, have three losses (Bishop Canevin, Washington and Clairton) and give up 21.6 points a game, but they also have a potent offense (32.2 ppg) led by Tyree Turner and Samir Crosby that could allow them to hang with many of the higher-seeded teams. They also get a first-round matchup with West Greene (8-2), which they defeated, 48-30, on the road back on Sept. 8. 

Keep an eye on … Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry. Sieg has been sensational this season for Fort Cherry (10-0), the No. 2 seed and Black Hills Conference champion. A sophomore, Sieg has passed (1,011 yards, 15 touchdowns) and rushed (1,335 yards, 18 touchdowns) for more than 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Sieg’s first playoff run as a freshman ended in the quarterfinals, but it would be no shock if his second one ends with a championship.

Upset special: Rochester over Cornell. There are usually at least one or two 10-7 upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament, and we could see one of those in the WPIAL playoffs when No. 10 Rochester (5-4) takes on No. 7 Cornell (8-2) at Moon. Sure, those four losses might not make Rochester look like an appetizing upset pick, but this team is battle tested, has a strong defense, and a coach (Gene Matsook) with more than 200 career wins.

Who ya’ got?

Brad Everett: Fort Cherry over South Side.

Steve Rotstein: Fort Cherry over Clairton.

Johnny Santa: Clairton over Bishop Canevin.

Saul Berrios-Thomas: Fort Cherry over South Side.




Friday — Franklin Regional (6-4) at Peters Township (10-0); Moon (5-5) at Gateway (5-5); Penn-Trafford (5-5) at Penn Hills (8-2); Bethel Park (4-6) at Pine-Richland (7-3).


First Round

Friday — Latrobe (7-3) at West Allegheny (6-4); Chartiers Valley (3-7) at Mars (8-2); Highlands (6-4) at Central Valley (7-3); Trinity (6-4) vs. North Catholic (5-5) at South Fayette; Kiski Area (5-5) at Thomas Jefferson (8-2).


First Round

Friday — Southmoreland (6-4) at Deer Lakes (7-3); South Park (6-4) at Knoch (8-2); Shady Side Academy (5-5) at Beaver (8-2); Mount Pleasant (6-4) at West Mifflin (6-4).


First Round

Friday — Serra Catholic (4-5) vs. Western Beaver (6-4) at Norwin; Waynesburg (7-3) at Imani Christian (7-2); Burrell (4-6) at Mohawk (8-2); Beaver Falls (5-5) vs. Keystone Oaks (6-4) at Dormont Stadium; Ellwood City (5-5) at Washington (9-1); Derry (5-5) at McGuffey (7-3).


First Round

Friday — Monessen (4-6) at South Side (10-0); West Greene (8-2) vs. Greensburg C.C. (7-3) at Plum; Laurel (4-6) at Clairton (8-2); Burgettstown (5-4) at Union (8-2); Jefferson-Morgan (6-4) at Fort Cherry (10-0); Rochester (5-4) vs. Cornell (8-2) at Moon; Leechburg (6-4) vs. Bishop Canevin (7-1) at North Allegheny; Jeannette (7-3) at California (9-1).

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at