Credit: Jennifer Kundrach/Pittsburgh Union Progress

Last year, we never imagined there would be a second issue of this prestigious all-star team, yet here we are.

After an unforgettable season that saw six local teams represented in all six state championship games for the first time ever, it’s time to hand out some hardware to the best players the WPIAL and City League had to offer in 2023. Introducing the second PUP high school football all-star team — a unique assembly of the top players in the area, position by position — and hopefully the last of its kind.

Among these all-stars are a dozen Power Five recruits, eight players who won WPIAL titles this year, and a trio of state champions. Each of these players left an indelible mark on the program they suited up for, and their place in Western Pa. football lore is forever solidified.

All players in the WPIAL and City League were considered, and all selections were decided by the Pittsburgh Union Progress sports staff. And like all head coaches, the PUP had some difficult decisions to make in naming that one starter for each position.


Montour’s Jake Wolfe enjoyed a spectacular senior season as the Spartans’ signal caller in 2023. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Quarterback — Jake Wolfe • Montour • 6-2 • 195 • Senior

Montour had one big, bad Wolfe, as this three-year starter put up huge numbers while helping the Spartans go 10-2 and reach the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals. Wolfe completed 148-of-246 passes for 2,662 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushed for 786 yards and 14 touchdowns. He accounted for six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in a quarterfinal win against Thomas Jefferson. Wolfe finished his career with 4,868 passing yards and 1,426 rushing.

Running back — Donald Barksdale • Steel Valley • 5-10 • 172 • Junior

Barksdale wasn’t all bark this fall. He bit into opposing defenses on a weekly basis. Barksdale fueled Steel Valley’s run to a second straight WPIAL Class 2A final while rushing for 2,061 yards and scoring 35 touchdowns. Barksdale seemed to get better as the season went on, as he ran for 1,158 yards and accounted for 16 touchdowns during a five-game stretch late in the year. Barksdale, who also collected four interceptions, lifted his career rushing total to 3,031 yards.

Aliquippa’s Tiqwai Hayes soared to more than 2,000 yards rushing while leading the Quips to a third consecutive WPIAL Class 4A title and their second state title in three seasons. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Running back — Tiqwai Hayes • Aliquippa • 6-1 • 197 • Junior

A shifty, explosive ball carrier with exceptional vision, breakaway speed and underrated toughness, Hayes helped lead Aliquippa to its third consecutive WPIAL Class 4A title and its second state title in his first three seasons. The Penn State recruit rushed for 2,129 yards and 26 TDs on 235 carries, saving his best for last with 222 yards and three scores in a 60-14 win over District 2 champion Dallas in the PIAA championship game. Now within striking distance of the ultra-exclusive 8,000-yard club, “Tikey” has racked up 5,856 yards rushing and 82 TDs through three seasons.

Wide receiver — Peter Gonzalez • Central Catholic • 6-3 • 200 • Senior

Arguably the toughest receiver in the area to cover in 2023, Gonzalez caused nightmares for opposing defensive backs with his daunting combination of size, strength and speed, coupled with his crafty route-running ability and elite ball skills. The Penn State recruit hauled in 47 receptions for 1,081 yards and 12 TDs as the No. 1 receiving threat for Central Catholic, helping the Vikings mount the WPIAL’s No. 1 scoring offense (45 ppg) while reaching their fifth consecutive WPIAL Class 6A final and 10th in the past 11 seasons.

Wide receiver — Scoop Smith • Woodland Hills • 5-6 • 145 • Sophomore

Here’s the scoop on Scoop: The dynamic playmaker is really good. Catching passes from fellow sophomore Cam Walter, Smith was a must-see attraction, ranking among the WPIAL leaders with 44 receptions for 851 yards and a team-best 17 touchdowns. Smith averaged a robust 19.3 yards per catch. One of Smith’s top performances came in a Week 1 win against Gateway in which he scored three touchdowns. Smith holds Division I football and basketball offers.

Central Catholic’s Cole Sullivan flashed his pass-catching ability with a pair of touchdowns against North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Tight end — Cole Sullivan • Central Catholic • 6-4 • 205 • Senior

Widely regarded as one of the top defensive players in the state, Sullivan could have easily been selected to this year’s team at linebacker. Instead, the multi-talented Michigan recruit earns the nod at tight end after helping Central Catholic make its fifth consecutive WPIAL Class 6A championship appearance with his stellar all-around play. Now a two-time PUP all-star, Sullivan caught 29 passes for 332 yards and eight TDs while tallying 76 tackles, eight TFLs, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two blocked punts.

Offensive line — Cameron Chmura • North Allegheny • 6-4 • 290 • Senior

A pillar of North Allegheny’s stout offensive line, Chmura helped the Tigers win their second consecutive WPIAL Class 6A title while reaching the state finals for the first time in 11 years. North Allegheny rushed for 3,485 yards on the season, averaging 232.3 yards rushing per game, and Chmura was a big reason why. Despite missing more than half the season with an injury, Chmura returned just in time for the Tigers’ postseason run, and the Marshall recruit also finished with 22 tackles and two TFLs on defense.

Offensive line — Ryan Cory • Pine-Richland • 6-4 • 285 • Senior

The story on Cory is that he was one of the most dominant players in the WPIAL, regardless of position. This future Wisconsin Badger badgered opponents on the regular through his exceptional play on both sides of the ball, but particularly offensively as he bulldozed paths for wildcat quarterback Ethan Pillar and a rushing attack that pushed Pine-Richland into the WPIAL Class 5A final for the second consecutive season. Cory is expected to play center at Wisconsin.

McKeesport’s Courtney Dunn (55) won the Bill Fralic Award as the WPIAL’s top senior interior lineman in 2023. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Offensive line — Courtney Dunn • McKeesport • 6-3 • 260 • Senior

Dunn was the recipient of the Bill Fralic Memorial Award, given to the top senior interior lineman in the WPIAL. Dunn did a lot at both his offensive guard and defensive end positions. His hunger showed in that he finished with 27 pancakes and was a road grader for a McKeesport run game that produced 7.2 yards per carry and 272 yards per game.  Defensively, Dunn produced 76 tackles and five sacks for a team that advanced to the WPIAL Class 4A title game.

Offensive line — Zach Tomosovich • Penn-Trafford • 6-5 • 310 • Senior

A well-rounded tackle who helped pave the way for Penn-Trafford’s potent rushing attack, Tomosovich was a stud in pass protection for the Warriors in 2023, but the Army recruit was truly at his best while getting downhill in the run game. His blocking helped Penn-Trafford running backs Tasso Whipple (1,388 yards, 17 TDs) and Ben Grabowksi (779 yards, 10 TDs) combine for more than 2,000 yards on the ground in 11 games.

Offensive line — Jack Yatchenko • North Allegheny • 6-3 • 285 • Junior

North Allegheny’s drive to a second consecutive WPIAL Class 6A championship and the PIAA final began on the line, with this standout right tackle and two-year starter helping to keep quarterback Logan Kushner upright while plowing paths for an excellent rushing attack. Yatchenko was named all-conference on offense for the second season in a row (as a center in 2022) and added 29 tackles (8 for loss) and 1½ sacks from his defensive tackle position.

Fort Cherry’s Matt Sieg put together a sensational sophomore season that included 63 total touchdowns and the Rangers’ first WPIAL title. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

All-purpose — Matt Sieg • Fort Cherry • 6-1 • 180 • Sophomore

An electrifying playmaker with a flair for the dramatic, Sieg produced one of the most spectacular sophomore seasons in WPIAL history, fueling Fort Cherry’s run to a 15-1 record along with its first WPIAL title and PIAA championship appearance. He completed 86-of-158 attempts for 1,671 yards and 20 TDs while leading the WPIAL with 2,387 yards rushing and 39 TDs on 257 carries. He also added three interceptions and one pick-six along with two punt return TDs, accounting for 63 total TDs and becoming only the third WPIAL player to rush for more than 4,000 yards by the end of his sophomore year. Sieg already holds offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Nebraska and Syracuse.


Elizabeth Forward’s Charlie Meehleib reacts after scoring a touchdown against West Mifflin in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Elizabeth Forward High School. Elizabeth Forward won, 42-21. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Defensive line — Charlie Meehleib • Elizabeth Forward • 6-4 • 255 • Senior

A Bucknell recruit who required constant double teams from opposing offensive lines, Meehleib helped power Elizabeth Forward to a 10-win season and WPIAL semifinal appearance with a standout senior season and numbers that jump off the stat sheet. Meehleib finished with 64 tackles, 11 TFLs, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, one blocked punt, one blocked field goal and one safety.

Defensive line — Ty Yuhas • Central Catholic • 6-3 • 260 • Senior

There weren’t many losses or ties for this Ty when he went up against other top linemen in the WPIAL’s largest classes. His 1-on-1’s typically ended with him winning. One of three Power Five-bound seniors on the Central Catholic defense, the Pitt recruit collected 43 tackles for a Vikings team that went 10-2 and reached the WPIAL Class 6A title game for the fifth season in a row. His 13 TFL’s and four sacks both ranked second on the team.

Westinghouse’s Mike Richardson (15) punished opposing quarterbacks all season long as the leader of the Bulldogs’ dominant defense. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Edge rusher — Mike Richardson • Westinghouse • 6-3 • 205 • Senior

A ferocious pass rusher with a relentless motor and cat-like quickness, Richardson was the most disruptive force on the dominant Westinghouse defensive line in 2023. Tallying 16 sacks and making several game-changing splash plays in big moments, the lengthy edge rusher spent the majority of his time in the opposing backfield while leading the Bulldogs to their second consecutive PIAA Class 2A championship appearance, becoming the first City League team ever to reach back-to-back state finals.

Edge rusher — Alex Tatsch • Latrobe • 6-3 • 210 • Junior

Tatsch made a giant splash while emerging as one of the top underclassmen in the WPIAL and one of the top juniors in the state. Tatsch racked up a team-high 111 tackles (including 9 TFL), 4 sacks, 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a Latrobe team that won a playoff game for the second year in a row. As a running back, Tatsch ran for 501 yards on 73 carries. He had nine total touchdowns. Tatsch’s offers include Pitt, Penn State and USC.

North Allegheny’s Tyree Alualu is a load to bring down on offense and a punishing linebacker on defense. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Linebacker — Tyree Alualu • North Allegheny • 6-0 • 225 • Senior

The son of former Steeler Tyson Alualu helped lead his black and gold to a second consecutive WPIAL Class 6A title. Alualu was an active force in the middle of the North Allegheny defense. His 63 tackles ranked third on the team and he also collected 8 TFL’s, 3 forced fumbles, a sack, interception and fumble recovery. Alualu also led the Tigers in rushing, finishing with 892 yards, and was second with 16 touchdowns. Oregon and Cincinnati are among the schools to offer.

Linebacker — Cameron Lindsey • Aliquippa • 6-2 • 210 • Senior

A two-time PUP all-star and the 2023 PUP Player of the Year, Lindsey led Aliquippa to its second PIAA Class 4A title and third WPIAL Class 4A crown in the past three seasons while finishing his high school career with a record of 52-3 overall. The Pitt recruit struck fear into opposing ball carriers and would-be tacklers with his bone-jarring hits, finishing his senior season with 118 tackles, 13 TFLs, two fumble recoveries, one interception, one sack and a pair of defensive touchdowns. Offensively, Lindsey rushed for 363 yards and seven TDs on 50 carries, adding six receptions for 66 yards and two scores.

Linebacker — Anthony Speca • Central Catholic • 6-3 • 215 • Senior

A rare four-year starter for Central Catholic, Speca wrapped up his outstanding career by becoming the program’s all-time leading tackler. This season, the Penn State recruit amassed a team-best 94 tackles, including a team-leading 17 for loss. Speca’s five sacks also led the team and he added a fumble recovery on his way to all-conference honors. He helped the Vikings reach the WPIAL Class 6A title game in each of his four seasons.

Defensive back — Khiryn Boyd • North Allegheny • 6-0 • 175 • Senior

A shutdown cornerback and dynamic playmaker for the back-to-back WPIAL Class 6A champs, Boyd earns his second consecutive PUP all-star selection after another sensational season. He caught a team-leading 32 passes for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns, rushed eight times for 91 yards and two TDs, and averaged 39.7 yards per kick return and 25.9 yards per punt return. He also tallied two interceptions on defense and finished with five return TDs overall (two kick return, two punt return, one interception return).

Defensive back — Brock Cornell • West Allegheny • 5-11 • 180 • Junior

A hard-hitting safety with a nose for the football and elite athleticism, Cornell did a little bit of everything for West Allegheny in 2023. He registered a team-high 109 tackles to go with four TFLs, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack, and he was equally dangerous on offense. Seeing time at quarterback and running back for the Indians, Cornell passed for 392 yards, caught six passes for 140 yards, rushed for a team-leading 1,043 yards and totaled 21 touchdowns.

Belle Vernon’s Quinton Martin is a Penn State recruit who helped lead the Leopards to back-to-back WPIAL and state titles. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Defensive back — Quinton Martin • Belle Vernon • 6-3 • 205 • Senior

The No. 1-ranked senior in the state put an emphatic final stamp on his Belle Vernon career by leading the Leopards to WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A championship repeats. Martin was best known for his big-play ability offensively (he rushed for 1,181 yards, had 53 receptions for 764 yards, and scored 28 total touchdowns), but his talents defensively showed on a weekly basis, as well. The Penn State recruit finished his career with 5,301 yards from scrimmage and 82 total touchdowns.

Defensive back — Jackson Pons • Norwin • 6-2 • 185 • Senior

There were no cons when this Pons kid took the field, only pros. Pons was a three-year starter who doubled as Norwin’s top receiver and defensive back. As a senior, Pons hauled in 34 receptions for 588 yards and eight touchdowns while totaling 84 tackles and two interceptions. Pons picked off eight passes over his final two seasons. He will continue his career at Miami (Ohio), which this season won the Mid-American Conference championship.

Avonworth’s Andrew Kuban was an integral piece of the Antelopes’ run to back-to-back WPIAL Class 3A championship appearances. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

All-purpose — Andrew Kuban • Avonworth • 5-10 • 195 • Senior

One of the most versatile players in the WPIAL, Kuban lined up at wide receiver, running back and even wildcat quarterback for Avonworth while playing safety and linebacker on defense. He caught 58 passes for 895 yards and 11 TDs, rushed for 663 yards and seven TDs and passed for 46 yards and two TDs, adding 52 tackles with two interceptions and one forced fumble to propel the Antelopes to an undefeated regular season and their second consecutive WPIAL Class 3A championship appearance.


Kicker — Grant Argiro • Pine-Richland • 6-2 • 195 • Junior

Argiro was as clutch as they come for Pine-Richland in 2023, helping the Rams to their second consecutive WPIAL Class 5A championship appearance with his reliable right leg. He made 7-of-10 field-goal attempts with a long of 49, converted 47-of-48 extra-point attempts, booted 53 touchbacks on 71 kickoffs, and punted 28 times for an average of 37.1 yards per punt. Most importantly, his game-winning extra point with two seconds remaining lifted Pine-Richland to a dramatic win over Penn Hills in the WPIAL semifinals.

Punter — Carter Shanafelt • Peters Township • 5-11 • 180 • Senior

Few players had a better all-around season than Shanafelt, a jack-of-all-trades for an Indians team that won their first WPIAL Class 5A title. Sure, Shanafelt was consistent as a punter (he averaged 33.9 yards a punt), but he also converted 7-of-12 field-goal attempts and 67-of-74 extra-point attempts. And if that wasn’t enough, he led the team in receiving (44 catches, 814 yards, 10 touchdowns) and scoring (154 points), and even had a pick-six from his safety position.


Westinghouse’s Taymir O’Neal made a slew of big plays on offense and defense to help the Bulldogs become the first City League team to reach back-to-back state finals. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Union Progress).

Although the 26 players listed above comprise the official PUP all-star team, positional limitations made it next to impossible to include everybody worthy of selection — and each of the players listed below were simply too good not to be recognized. With that in mind, these are the 10 players voted as the “Best of the Rest” in the WPIAL or City League, regardless of classification or position (players listed in alphabetical order).

Brandon Banks • Aliquippa • 5-11 • 173 • Wide receiver-defensive back Senior

Dayshaun Burnett • Imani Christian • 6-4 • 220 • Running back-linebacker Junior

Julian Dugger • Penn Hills • 6-4 • 200 • Quarterback Senior

Logan Kushner • North Allegheny • 6-1 • 200 • Quarterback Senior

Charlie Nigut • Elizabeth Forward • 5-6 • 150 • All-purpose Junior

Taymir O’Neal • Westinghouse • 5-11 • 175 • Wide receiver-defensive back Senior

Daniel Sellers • North Allegheny • 6-3 • 220 • Tight end-edge rusher Senior

Braylon Thomas • Union • 6-2 • 180 • Quarterback Senior

Mickey Vaccarello • Peters Township • 6-3 • 215 • Tight end-linebacker Junior

Payton Wehner • Central Catholic • 6-0 • 180 • Quarterback Senior

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

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