WPIAL Playoff Preview

The road to Heinz Field will once again travel through Brodhead Road, as Central Valley and Aliquippa both wrapped up undefeated seasons and Parkway and Midwestern conference championships, respectively. Both teams finished 9-0, and Aliquippa also notched its 51st consecutive regular season win. Beaver County will be well represented in the 2014 tournament. Let’s take a look, by classification, which teams will be dancing in the post-season.

Class A

South Side Beaver and Riverside are headed back to the playoffs after long hiatuses. South Side finished 3rd and Riverside, which dropped from AA to A this year, clinched a playoff spot after a week 9 thrashing of Vincentian.

South Side coach Glenn McDougal has turned back the clock for Rams fans, bringing back memories of the dynasty era of the late 1990s and early 2000s, presumably before some of the current South Side players were even born. It should also be noted the stunning turnaround for Riverside is quite an accomplishment. The Panthers have been perennial doormats over the past few years in AA.

I have a feeling this is only the beginning of good things to come for Riverside. By finishing 3rd and 4th in the Big 7, both teams will hit the road in the first round, as the top two teams in each conference are awarded home playoff games.

Prediction: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic over Clairton

Class AA

It’s the usual suspects in the class AA Midwestern conference who will be participating in the WPIAL playoffs. Aliquippa, Beaver, Beaver Falls, and New Brighton finished 1 through 4, with Aliquippa and Beaver hosting first round playoff games.

The toughest question the WPIAL football committee might face, in any classification, is who to seed number 1 overall in AA: Aliquippa, or defending WPIAL and PIAA champs, South Fayette. My guess is that it will be South Fayette, who finished another regular season undefeated, and captured the Century conference championship.

Fans will remember it was South Fayette who stunned a loaded Aliquippa team last year at Heinz Field. Losing never goes over well in Aliquippa, and they will be looking for revenge. Another Aliquippa vs. South Fayette championship match-up is almost inevitable, as the two teams have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack in AA.

After a sizzling start, New Brighton cooled down over the second half of the season, clinching back-to-back playoff berths under Coach Joe Greco’s second term in office. A win over Beaver Falls in week 8 would have given New Brighton their first home playoff game since 2000, but the Lions came up short, losing 36-22.

Look for Beaver to make a run to the semifinals, and a young Beaver Falls team will gain more experience on the road in the playoffs.

Prediction: South Fayette over Aliquippa

Class AAA

Over the past five years, Central Valley has racked up more wins than any other AAA program. The Warriors ran the table in the top-heavy Parkway, going 9-0, including a 28-17 win over rival West Allegheny in the final week of the season. They are the only AAA school in the county headed to the playoffs, and they will do so as the #1 overall seed.

The Warriors have size, speed, and an abundance of skill, headlined by Pitt recruit, Jordan Whitehead, and their catalyst, QB John “Johnny Football” George. Central Valley has been to two championship games in four years. They’ve been to at least the semifinals every year.

Last year, the Warriors lost 16-6 to West Allegheny at Heinz Field. CV has the 2010 AAA championship on their resume. They will add another in 2014.

Prediction: Central Valley over West Allegheny

Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz

Marc is a lifelong resident of Beaver County. A 2001 graduate of Center High School and 2005 graduate of Point Park University, Marc is employed by the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and officiates high school and college football. Follow Marc on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram @marcgrando