Steel Valley is the No. 1 seed and defending WPIAL champion in Class 2A, but longtime coach Ray Braszo knows there are no easy games once you make it this far.

No. 9 Western Beaver made that clear on Friday, giving the Ironmen all they could handle in a WPIAL quarterfinal clash at Campbell Field in Munhall. In the end, though, the difference in the game came down to one variable — Steel Valley has Donald Barksdale, and the Golden Beavers don’t.

“We’re fortunate Donald is a tough runner,” Braszo said. “He leads us, and our line did a good job.”

An electric junior tailback with a knack for big plays, Barksdale has taken on an even bigger role for the Ironmen after his younger brother, star quarterback Da’Ron Barksdale, went down with a season-ending knee injury against Imani Christian on Sept. 15. That was never more evident than Friday night, when Barksdale pounded the ball down Western Beaver’s throat to the tune of 41 carries for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 21-18 triumph. He also made a big splash on special teams as a kick returner and came down with a clutch interception on the Golden Beavers’ final drive to seal Steel Valley’s win.

“He’s been doing it last year and this year. He’s a heck of a runner,” Braszo said. “And he plays both ways. He plays good, hard defense. He doesn’t get too much rest.”

Western Beaver’s record-setting freshman quarterback Jaivin Peel did his best to will his team to victory, tossing three touchdown passes on the night — one to Dorian McGhee and a pair to Mikey Crawford. Peel came into the game as the leading passer in the WPIAL, having already shattered the WPIAL record for passing yardage by a freshman.

“They have a very good team. They’ve got a lot of talented players there, especially the quarterback and receivers,” Braszo said. “They’re pretty nice-sized kids and athletes. We knew we were going to be in a battle, and it was. It could have gone either way.”

Now, the Ironmen find themselves one win away from a return trip to Acrisure Stadium for the WPIAL championship game. Standing in their way are the No. 5 Mohawk Warriors, who took down No. 4 Imani Christian on Friday, 17-12.

“A lot of kids who were there last year got a taste for it, and now there are some new ones,” Braszo said. “That’s their goal. They want to get back down there. It’s everyone’s goal once you get this far. You want to get down to Acrisure [Stadium].”

Thomas Jefferson’s Nino DiMichele tackles Montour’s Keino Fitzpatrick II during the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Montour High School in Robinson. Montour toppled Thomas Jefferson to reach the WPIAL semifinals with a commanding 51-21 win. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Other Class 2A quarterfinals

• In one of the night’s biggest upsets, No. 10 Beaver Falls (7-5) went on the road and took down No. 2 Neshannock, 14-13, to avenge a hotly contested overtime loss from earlier this season. The Lancers (9-2) came into Friday night having won nine games in a row, but these two Midwestern Conference rivals know each other well, and the Tigers were ready for everything Neshannock’s offense tried to do. Beaver Falls held the Lancers to 98 yards of total offense and racked up 206 yards on the ground, but it took a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Michael Blackshear followed by a go-ahead 2-point conversion run by Da’Talian Beauford in the fourth quarter to lift the Tigers to a come-from-behind victory.

• Jahvon Woods scored on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs for No. 3 Washington (11-1), breaking open a close game between Century Conference rivals as the Little Prexies went on to eliminate No. 6 McGuffey (8-4) with an 18-7 win at Canon-McMillan High School. Elijah Thomas finished with four receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown for Washington.

• In a low-scoring affair at Moon High School, No. 5 Mohawk (10-2) used a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to eke out a 17-12 win against No. 4 Imani Christian (8-3). First, Dante Retort caught a 34-yard TD from Jay Wrona, then Connor Hart hauled in a 32-yard TD reception from Bobby Fadden. David Davis scored on an 80-yard TD scamper for Imani in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late for the Saints.

Class 1A quarterfinals

• No. 1 South Side (12-0) kept its perfect season alive with a 48-21 win against No. 8 Greensburg Central Catholic (8-4) at Peters Township High School, pummeling the Centurions with a grueling rushing attack led by Ryan Navarra (113 yards, 3 TDs) and Brody Almashy (59 yards, 3 TDs). The Rams totaled 280 yards on the ground and seven rushing touchdowns on the night. For Greensburg Central, Samir Crosby and Tyree Turner each split time at quarterback and receiver, and both put up noteworthy stat lines in the defeat. Crosby completed 5-of-9 attempts for 152 yards with a passing TD and a rushing TD, and he also caught four passes for 67 yards and another score. Meanwhile, Turner completed 8-of-12 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions while also catching four passes for 125 yards and a TD.

• Stellar sophomore Matt Sieg was up to his usual tricks for No. 2 Fort Cherry (12-0), rushing for 213 yards on 18 carries to go with 98 yards passing and four total TDs (three rushing, one passing) in a 42-0 rout against No. 10 Rochester (6-5) at West Allegheny High School. Ethan Faletto added 94 yards rushing on 13 carries and Evan Rogers caught two passes for 72 yards and a score to help send the Rangers to the WPIAL semifinals.

• No. 6 California (10-2) hung tight with No. 3 Bishop Canevin (9-1) for most of the first half, but the second half was a much different story as the Crusaders pulled away for an eventual 34-8 win at Norwin High School. Marquis Carter ran for 182 yards and a touchdown as Canevin took a 14-8 lead into the break before scoring 20 unanswered points in the second half, setting up a rematch against No. 2 Fort Cherry for a trip to the WPIAL title game. The Rangers defeated the Crusaders in a 48-41 thriller in their first meeting on Sept. 30.

• No. 4 Clairton (10-2) trailed No. 5 Union, 6-0, going into halftime, but the Bears came out of the locker room on a mission and posted a second-half shutout against the defending WPIAL champs. Clairton quarterback Michael Wright completed 12-of-20 passes for 203 yards and two TDs, propelling the Bears to an 18-6 victory at Armstrong High School. The win marks the 10th consecutive victory for Clairton after an 0-2 start, sending the Bears to the WPIAL semifinals to take on top-seeded South Side.

PIAA Class 2A regional championship

• One of only six unbeaten teams left in the area, City League champion Westinghouse (10-0) continued its march toward a potential return to the PIAA championship game with a 37-20 win against District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley (10-2) at Somerset High School. Junior quarterback Khalil Green put his dual-threat talents on full display, passing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more as the Bulldogs raced out to a 37-6 lead before taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. Senior Ty Abram also rushed for a pair of scores in the win for Westinghouse.

West Mifflin’s Armand Hill tries to get past Elizabeth Forward’s Charles Nigut in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Elizabeth Forward High School. Hill rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns in the final game of his phenomenal freshman season, but Elizabeth Forward got the win thanks to three defensive touchdowns, 42-21. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)




Beaver Falls 14, Neshannock 13

Mohawk 17, Imani Christian 12

Steel Valley 21, Western Beaver 18

Washington 18, McGuffey 7



Bishop Canevin 34, California 8

Clairton 18, Union 6

Fort Cherry 35, Rochester 0

South Side 48, Greensburg C.C. 21


Districts 5-8 regional championship

Westinghouse 37, Berlin-Brothersvalley 20

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

Steve Rotstein

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