When Beaver Falls and Steel Valley met at Acrisure Stadium last year, it was a tale of two quarterbacks.

This year’s rematch will look a bit different. Defending champion Steel Valley (10-1) will again face Beaver Falls (8-5) in the WPIAL Class 2A championship at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Ironmen won the title a year ago, 34-14.

Last year’s starting quarterbacks, Cruce Brookins for Steel Valley and Jaren Brickner for Beaver Falls, both graduated.

Both teams have relied on heavy ground attacks this year. Da’Talian Beauford has led the way for Beaver Falls with 185 carries for 1,417 yards and 19 touchdowns; Donald Barksdale has paced Steel Valley with 243 carries for 1,965 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Donald’s brother Da’Ron was the new starting quarterback coming into the year, but he suffered a season-ending injury against Seton LaSalle on Sept. 8.

“When Da’Ron got hurt, it kind of set us back a little bit because he’s such a good player,” Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo said. “We just ended up depending a lot more on Donald. And now, obviously some games he got a lot more carries than you want to give your running backs, but it was needed to win some of those games. He’s just such a great back. So, he’s kind of taken a lot on his own shoulders trying to get us to win another one.”

Beaver Falls also went through adversity this season, losing non-conference games to Beaver and Knoch. The Tigers then lost three more Midwestern Conference games to Neshannock, Mohawk and Western Beaver. They are the lowest seed to reach a WPIAL championship this year. 

“I think they’re just playing good, hard-nosed football,” Braszo said. “Seems like maybe some of those early games they were making a few more mistakes and having penalties get themselves in bad situations. But in the playoffs so far, they seem to have straightened those things out and they are just playing good disciplined football.”

To reach the title game, Beaver Falls topped No. 7 Keystone Oaks, No. 2 Neshannock and No. 3 Washington.

Steel Valley got the bye and then knocked off No. 9 Western Beaver and No. 5 Mohawk to reach Friday’s final. 

Steel Valley has won six WPIAL titles (1982, 1988, 1989, 2016, 2018, 2022). Beaver Falls has won five WPIAL titles (1928, 1960, 1984, 2016, 2020). 

With such familiarity between the two teams, Friday’s championship is sure to be a physical matchup.

“We both kind of stay with what we’ve done,” Braszo said. “Both teams run their offenses through the years here and they do what they do, we do what we do. So there won’t be a big change. I know last year they had a lot more of a passing game. Now they’re going back to a little bit more of the running game. So, I think both teams will do what they’ve been doing.”

Asked what back-to-back titles would mean for Steel Valley, Braszo replied: “That’s your goal every year when you coach: make the playoffs. … The games are different. The players play harder and more intense. There’s more pressure. And, that’s what it’s all about.”

Saul works in sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at saulbt2009@gmail.com.

Saul Berrios-Thomas

Saul works in sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at saulbt2009@gmail.com.