Five things to watch in Week 9 of WPIAL football
As other teams count Gardner Points, Armstrong, Beth-Center, East Allegheny, Frazier, Greensburg Salem, Indiana, Kiski Area and Valley have math-free routes to the postseason.
“You call it, ‘Win and you’re in,’ ” Armstrong coach Frank Fabian said. “We call it, ‘Win or turn your pads in.’ ”
There are four head-to-head matchups in Week 9 in which the winner advances to the WPIAL playoffs and the loser is left at home.
Among them, Armstrong (4-5, 2-4) hosts Kiski Area (3-6, 2-4) at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner clinches an automatic playoff berth as the fifth-place team from the Northern Conference.
It’s possible the loser earns the Class 5A wild card, but that’s a risk neither wants to take.
“We want to keep this thing going,” Fabian said on This Week in the WPIAL on TribLive HSSN. “We want to spend another week together, so that’s how we’re approaching this football game. You don’t want to put it in anybody’s hands.”
Elsewhere, Valley (3-6, 2-3) visits East Allegheny (5-4, 2-3) for fourth place in the Class 2A Allegheny. Greensburg Salem (3-6, 3-3) visits Indiana (3-6, 3-3) for fourth in the Class 4A Big Eight. Beth-Center (6-3, 4-2) hosts Frazier (4-5, 3-3) for fourth in the Class 2A Interstate.
Only 12 of 62 playoff spots remain unclaimed.
2. Two passers chase WPIAL record
The WPIAL regular-season passing record could be broken twice in a week.
Avonworth’s Zach Chandler set the mark in 2015 with 2,812 yards, a number Sto-Rox’s Eric Wilson and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s Tyler Bradley could reach Friday.
Wilson leads the WPIAL with 2,673 yards (145 of 246) and Bradley is second with 2,574 (156 of 234). That means Wilson needs only 140 yards to break the record. Bradley needs 239.
3. WPIAL saves best for last
Week 9 is rivalry week around the WPIAL, a tradition that for many years included a heated North Allegheny-North Hills clash in the regular-season finale. But since the WPIAL expanded to six classifications, Pine-Richland has quickly supplanted North Hills as NA’s rival.
“I think it definitely took that over, just because of the competitiveness of the games,” said Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz, a former North Hills quarterback. “They’re a good program year in and year out. We’re a good program. It comes down to that last game for all the marbles. You couldn’t draw it up any better.”
This year, there is more than bragging rights up for grabs. When Pine-Richland (8-1, 7-0) visits North Allegheny (9-0, 7-0) on Friday night, the winner earns the conference title and the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs.
But that’s not the only rivalry with repercussions this season.
In Class A, Clairton (8-0, 5-0) visits Jeannette (9-0, 5-0) for first place in the Eastern Conference and the top seed in the WPIAL playoffs.
In 5A, Gateway (9-0, 6-0) hosts McKeesport (8-1, 5-1) in a battle for the Big East title. In 4A, West Mifflin (5-4, 5-1) visits Thomas Jefferson (8-0, 6-0) with a chance to share the Big Eight crown.
4. Long waits nearing end
After waiting almost a decade, Canon-McMillan is a win away from clinching its first WPIAL playoff berth since 2008. Canon-Mac (3-5, 2-5) visits winless Butler (0-9, 0-7) on Friday.
If the Big Macs win (or Norwin loses to Seneca Valley), they’ll clinch one of the six playoff spots in 6A. But they’re not the only team looking to return to the postseason after a few years away.
Latrobe is returning for the first time since 2009, and Greensburg Salem could earn spots after six seasons without making the playoffs.
5. Start slow, finish fast
Woodland Hills and Montour are proof it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters. Woodland Hills started its season with four consecutive losses, and Montour was 0-5.
Yet, both teams rebounded and have a chance to reach the postseason.
Woodland Hills has a strong chance. The Wolverines can qualify with a victory over Chartiers Valley, or if Baldwin loses to Peters Township.
Montour has a taller task. The Spartans must defeat South Fayette, or have New Castle lose to winless Ambridge.