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WPIAL bracketology: Chris Harlan, Don Rebel predict football playoff pairings

November 18, 2018

The WPIAL football brackets will be released Monday and everybody has their two cents.

Many will guess, taking stabs at what they think should be the matchups, before the district makes them official at 7 p.m.

Well the TribLive High School Sports Network is no different. Our two cents will be thrown into the fountain by Chris Harlan and Don Rebel.

See if their bracket wishes eventually come true.

Class 6A

Don Rebel’s bracket

1 North Allegheny (10-0) -- BYE

2 Pine-Richland (8-2) -- BYE

3 Mt. Lebanon (5-5) vs. 6 Canon-McMillan (4-5)

4 Central Catholic (7-3) vs. 5 Seneca Valley (7-3)

Rebel: Why couldn’t they all be this easy?

Chris Harlan’s bracket

1 North Allegheny (10-0) -- BYE

2 Pine-Richland (8-2) -- BYE

3 Mt. Lebanon (5-5) vs. 6 Canon-McMillan (4-5)

4 Central Catholic (7-3) vs. 5 Seneca Valley (7-3)

Harlan: Mt. Lebanon’s victory Friday over Central Catholic shuffled seeds three, four and five. North Allegheny plays the Central Catholic-Seneca Valley winner. Pine-Richland will draw Mt. Lebanon or Canon-McMillan.

Class 5A

Don Rebel’s bracket

1 Gateway (10-0) vs. 16 Kiski Area (3-7)

2 Penn Hills (10-0) vs. 15 Latrobe (4-6)

3 Peters Township (8-2) vs. 14 Armstrong (5-5)

4 West Allegheny (7-2) vs. 13 Shaler (4-6)

5 Penn-Trafford (8-2) vs. 12 Woodland Hills (4-6)

6 Mars (9-1) vs. 11 Franklin Regional (6-3)

7 McKeesport (8-2) vs. 10 Upper St. Clair (8-2)

8 Bethel Park (6-3) vs. 9 North Hills (6-4)

Rebel: There is a clear cut top two with defending champion Gateway and Penn Hills. How will the five representatives from the Allegheny Eight Conference fare? While the Big East and Northern Conference were top heavy this season, the Allegheny Eight was very competitive from top to bottom with very few blowouts.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

1 Gateway (10-0) vs. 16 Kiski Area (3-7)

2 Penn Hills (10-0) vs. 15 Latrobe (4-6)

3 Peters Township (8-2) vs. 14 Armstrong (5-5)

4 West Allegheny (7-2) vs. 13 Shaler (4-6)

5 Penn-Trafford (8-2) vs. 12 Woodland Hills (4-6)

6 Mars (9-1) vs. 11 Franklin Regional (6-3)

7 McKeesport (8-2) vs. 10 Upper St. Clair (8-2)

8 Bethel Park (6-3) vs. 9 North Hills (6-4)

Harlan: Don and I predicted identical brackets here. A Gateway vs. Penn Hills championship matchup could fill Norwin’s stadium on the day after Thanksgiving. But if either of them stumbles, there’s at least another half-dozen teams talented enough to reach the finals.

Class 4A

Don Rebel’s bracket

1 Thomas Jefferson (9-0) vs. 8 Greensburg Salem (4-6)

2 South Fayette (9-1) vs. 7 New Castle (5-5)

3 Blackhawk (9-1) vs. 6 West Mifflin (5-5)

4 Belle Vernon (8-1) vs. 5 Beaver (7-3)

Rebel: Will this be the year we finally get that much-anticipated title game between Thomas Jefferson and South Fayette? Also, will the committee have those two conference champions face teams from their own conference in the postseason opener? My feeling is New Castle is a tougher out than Greensburg Salem, thus the green light on rematches. The committee has a tough call on No. 3 between Blackhawk and Belle Vernon.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

1 Thomas Jefferson (9-0) vs. 8 New Castle (5-5)

2 South Fayette (9-1) vs. 7 Greensburg Salem (4-6)

3 Belle Vernon (8-1) vs. 6 Beaver (7-3)

4 Blackhawk (9-1) vs. 5 West Mifflin (5-5)

Harlan: Who gets to face three-time defending champion Thomas Jefferson: New Castle or Greensburg Salem? That seems to be the biggest question in Class 4A. The WPIAL committee is willing to schedule first-round conference rematches since football expanded to six classes. But why not avoid one here if you can?

Class 3A

Don Rebel’s bracket

1 Aliquippa (9-1) vs. 8 Freeport (5-4)

2 Derry (9-1) vs. 7 Central Valley (5-5)

3 Beaver Falls (8-2) vs. 6 Elizabeth Forward (8-1)

4 North Catholic (9-1) vs. 5 Quaker Valley (5-4)

Rebel: While Beaver Falls could be at No. 2, I believe in most cases there is little difference between seeds 2 and 3. In this case, instead of dropping tri-champion Elizabeth Forward down to No. 7, the above setup solves that. Despite a Week 9 loss, Aliquippa is still a heavy favorite to win district gold.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

1 Aliquippa (9-1) vs. 8 Freeport (5-4)

2 Derry (9-1) vs. 7 Central Valley (5-5)

3 North Catholic (9-1) vs. 6 Quaker Valley (5-4)

4 Beaver Falls (8-2) vs. 5 Elizabeth Forward (8-1)

Harlan: If the higher seeds win, the semifinals would feature two conference rematches -- Aliquippa/Beaver Falls and Derry/North Catholic -- with a trip to Heinz Field awaiting the winners.

Class 2A

Don Rebel’s bracket

1 Shady Side Academy (9-0) vs. 16 Serra Catholic (6-4)

2 Steel Valley (8-1) vs. 15 Seton LaSalle (5-5)

3 Burgettstown (9-0) vs. 14 Beth-Center (7-3)

4 Charleroi (8-1) vs. 13 Riverside (6-3)

5 Mohawk (8-2) vs. 12 East Allegheny (6-4)

6 Washington (9-1) vs. 11 New Brighton (5-5)

7 Freedom (9-1) vs. 10 McGuffey (8-2)

8 South Side Beaver (7-3) vs. 9 Avonworth (7-3)

Rebel: After two years of dominant 2A playoffs with little suspense as Steel Valley in 2016 and Washington in 2017 cruised to district crowns, this may be the deepest and toughest bracket to put together. The Ironmen and Little Prexies are still major players in the chase for gold with upstarts like Burgettstown, Charleroi, Mohawk and Freedom adding new and fresh looks to the title chase.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

1 Shady Side Academy (9-0) vs. 16 Serra Catholic (6-4)

2 Charleroi (8-1) vs. 15 Seton LaSalle (5-5)

3 Steel Valley (8-1) vs. 14 Riverside (6-3)

4 Washington (9-1) vs. 13 New Brighton (5-5)

5 Burgettstown (9-0) vs. 12 Beth-Center (7-3)

6 Mohawk (8-2) vs. 11 East Allegheny (6-4)

7 Freedom (9-1) vs. 10 Avonworth (7-3)

8 South Side Beaver (7-3) vs. 9 McGuffey (8-2)

Harlan: Where to place Burgettstown? An argument could be made to seed the undefeated Three Rivers Conference champion anywhere from first to fifth. Here I jumped one-loss Steel Valley, Charleroi and Washington ahead of Burgettstown based on strength of schedule.

Class A

Don Rebel’s bracket

1 Jeannette (10-0) vs. 8 Tri-County South (third)

2 Clairton (8-1) vs. 7 Tri-County South (second)

3 OLSH (9-1) vs. 6 Imani Christian (7-3)

4 Tri-County South (first) vs. 5 Rochester (9-1)

Rebel: Can Our Lady of the Sacred Heart crack the stranglehold that the Eastern Conference has had on the championship game and the eventual winner? The Tri-County South is the focus with a rare coin flip Monday morning to break the three-way deadlock (California, Monessen, West Greene), but will any of the three still be alive the following Monday heading into the Class A semifinals?

Chris Harlan’s bracket

1 Jeannette (10-0) vs. 8 Tri-County South (third)

2 Clairton (8-1) vs. 7 Tri-County South (second)

3 OLSH (9-1) vs. 6 Imani Christian (7-3)

4 Tri-County South (first) vs. 5 Rochester (9-1)

Harlan: The WPIAL cut the Class A bracket from 16 teams to eight since last season. In part, the move was made because most first-round games in recent years were blowouts. Now, they’ll jump directly to the quarterfinals.

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