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Five things we learned in H.S. football: Home teams rule

November 27, 2018

This was a good week to root for the home team.

There were 38 playoff games Friday night, and only four road teams won, easily the fewest since the WPIAL expanded to six classifications. There were seven first-round road wins a year ago and 10 in 2016.

In fact, only once since 2000 have so few road teams won.

Franklin Regional, Rochester, Seneca Valley and Woodland Hills were the only visitors that celebrated during their bus rides home Friday. Among them, Woodland Hills was the heaviest underdog according to the seeds.

The 13th-seeded Wolverines defeated No. 4 Mars, 14-0, in Class 5A. The win continued a late-season surge for Woodland Hills, which started 0-4 but finished fifth in the Allegheny Eight Conference.

Mars was the runner-up in the Northern Conference.

“In the first three or four weeks, we were missing some kids both injury-wise and academic-wise,” Woodland Hills coach Tim Bostard said. “We got some kids back and moved some pieces around here and there. That makes a big difference once you’re at full strength.”

Woodland Hills faces fifth-seeded West Allegheny next.

In the other upsets Friday, No. 5 Seneca Valley defeated No. 4 Central Catholic, 15-14, No. 5 Rochester defeated No. 4 West Greene, 52-14, and No. 9 Franklin Regional defeated No. 8 Bethel Park, 56-28. The higher seed earns home-field advantage in the WPIAL first round.

This was a statistically bad year for road teams. Since 2000, WPIAL road teams had averaged just under eight first-round wins per season. The most road wins during that span came in 2001 when 11 teams advanced.

The fewest were in 2015, when like this year, only four road teams won.

2. Early exits for Tri-County South, Northern teams

The Class A Tri-County South and the Class 5A Northern had a Friday night to forget. Combined, the two conferences went 1-9 in the first round.

The Tri-County South went winless as California, Monessen and West Greene lost.

The Northern Conference had six qualifiers in the Class 5A bracket, but only second-seed Penn Hills advanced. Mars, Shaler, North Hills, Armstrong and Kiski Area were eliminated.

The conferences that fared best were the Big East in Class 5A and the Big Seven in Class A. The Big East went 4-1 with wins by Gateway, Penn-Trafford, McKeesport and Franklin Regional.

Rochester and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the only Big Seven teams to qualify, both won.

3. Robinson tops 300 yards

Washington’s Zahmere Robinson touched the football just 11 times on offense yet finished with 321 yards from scrimmage.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior playmaker provided 144 yards rushing, 177 receiving and three touchdowns in a 54-20 first-round victory over New Brighton in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. Remarkably, Robinson averaged 28.8 yards on his five carries and 29.5 yards on his six receptions.

His touchdowns covered 82, 61 and 21 yards. If that wasn’t enough, Robinson also intercepted a pass.

The victory advances sixth-seed Washington into a quarterfinal matchup with third-seed Steel Valley. It’s a rematch from last season’s WPIAL final that Washington won 37-10.

4. OLSH’s Bradley joins exclusive club

There now are five 8,000-yard passers in WPIAL history.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart quarterback Tyler Bradley reached the milestone in Friday’s 60-6 victory over Imani Christian. The senior passed for 230 yards, raising his career total to 8,011.

He joins an exclusive list that includes Pine-Richland’s Phil Jurkovec (8,202), Sto-Rox’s Lenny Williams (8,508), Gateway’s Brady Walker (8,816) and South Fayette’s Brett Brumbaugh (11,084).

All five played within the past five years. Williams was a senior in 2013 and Brumbaugh in ’14. Walker and Jurkovec each topped 8,000 last season.

Bradley has 2,899 yards and 40 touchdowns this season for OLSH, which faces Clairton in the WPIAL Class A semifinals Friday.

5. Defending Class 3A champion eliminated

Five of last year’s WPIAL champions remain alive, but there will be a new winner in Class 3A.

Sixth-seeded Quaker Valley, last year’s WPIAL and PIAA champion, was eliminated Friday night with a 31-24 loss to third-seeded North Catholic.

But the Trojans needed a late touchdown to advance.

Tied at 24, North Catholic quarterback Zack Rocco ran 4 yards for the winning touchdown with 38.6 seconds left.

Still seeking a WPIAL repeat are Pine-Richland, Gateway, Thomas Jefferson, Washington and Jeannette. TJ is already a three-time defending champion.

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