Class AA saw some changes after the WPIAL realignment but the Midwestern Athletic Conference stayed almost entirely intact from 2011. Only the Laurel Spartans dropped back to Class A, leaving the MAC an eight team field for the next two seasons.
Aliquippa has won or shared the conference title for the last three seasons and eight of the last ten, they also reigns as WPIAL champions. The Quips lost some key members, but are always in the hunt for championship gold.
Once again, the MAC teams will cross over with members of the AAA Parkway Conference, that could lead to some interesting match ups and some really ugly games, you be the judge.
Here is a preview of the Midwestern Conference:
The Quips added another MAC title to their list, and also won the WPIAL title with a 14-7 victory over Jeannette at Heinz Field in 2011 with a touchdown drive in the final minute. The win gave Aliquippa it's 14th WPIAL title, the most of any school. Can the Quips make their fifth straight trip to Heinz Field, they fell in both the 2009 and 2010 title games, that is the question. Head coach Mike Zmijanic returns to coach the Quips for another season.
Aliquippa finished 14-1, falling to Tyrone 20-19 at Mansion Park in the PIAA semifinals. The Quips outscored their opponents an average of 35-7 last season, for as talented as the Quips have been offensively over the years, their defense always seems to stand up at the right time.
Also on the line for Aliquippa is a 22 game winning streak in MAC play, the Quips have not been beaten in a MAC game since a 21-14 loss at Beaver Falls on September 18, 2009. The Quips also have not lost a home conference game at the Pit since 2008, also to Beaver Falls.
The Quips suffer two huge losses with Mikel Hall and Kaylan Kenny gone, but Aliquippa has a huge offensive weapon in junior Dravon Henry, who was named first team all conference last season. Junior Terry Swanson will join Henry in the backfield.
On the offensive line, junior Nayo Seaburn was also first team all conference, he will be counted on to open the holes for Henry. Tight end Donovan Cobb is also a junior, he also made the MAC first team as a sophomore. Another tight end senior Dajon Perry also returns. Senior Malik Akins and junior Emanuel Williams also return to the offensive line.
The defense will be strong once again. Four all conference selections return to the Quips Senior linebackers Chris Ingram and Celo Chavis return as does senior Khalil Seaburn and junior Jaleel Fields on the line.
2011 had to be a disappointment for the Bobcats, they finished 6-2 in the MAC and 7-3 overall, but had to have designs on both the MAC championship and a strong run on the Highway to Heinz.
The defense posted five shutouts and only allowed 46 points in conference play, but Beaver fell to Aliquippa 21-12 at the Pit and was shut out by Beaver Falls in the final game of the regular season, forcing the Bobcats to go on the road to Shady Side Academy for the first round of the playoffs.
The Bobcats have made the post-season five consecutive seasons, but they have not won or shared the conference title since 2007. Head coach Jeff Beltz will have the Bobcats attempt to end the Quips run of the MAC over the last few years.
Running back Darian Bradley will have to carry the offensive load, he was an all-conference selection as a junior.
Senior Colin Reese anchors the offensive line, he was also all conference.
Defensively, senior Jayme Tatko received first team mention at inside linebacker.
BEAVER FALLS TIGERS:
The Tigers also had some disappointment in 2011, they rallied to finish second in the MAC with a 6-2 record with the win over Beaver after a heartbreaking loss at Ellwood City. But the Tigers also could not advance out of the first round, falling at Reeves Field to South Fayette to end at 7-3.
Beaver Falls has made five consecutive playoff appearances, under head coach Ryan Matsook. The Tigers won or shared the conference title three straight seasons, from 2007 thru 2009.
The offensive line will be anchored by Brock Boxen, he was outstanding as a sophomore, garnering all conference honors. He'll open holes for junior Damion Rawl at running back.
Dorian Graves stood out on defense, he was first team at inside linebacker. Also receiving first team honors was senior Nick Pettigrew.
ELLWOOD CITY WOLVERINES:
What a season for Don Phillips and his Wolverines in 2011, one of the better stories in Class AA and maybe the entire WPIAL. Ellwood City, just a couple of years removed from a 31 game losing streak, finished with a 7-4 record, including back to back wins in the slop over Laurel and Beaver Falls and a playoff win at Freeport.
The Wolverines finished 5-3 in the MAC last season, they will have to rebuild if they hope to make it three straight playoff appearances.
Lincoln High suffered a huge loss with Kyle Crawford's graduation, he was named the conference MVP last season. Senior Beau Ewing will likely take over in the backfield.
Last year's starting quarterback Jared Cox has transfered back to New Castle. The only returning Wolverine to throw a touchdown pass was Jared Myers, who tossed a halfback pass for a score in the playoff win over Freeport.
Juniors Seth Mley and Justin Vetica, who starred for the baseball team this past season will be counted on.
The Bulldogs continued their stretch of hard times in the MAC in 2011, winning just one game overall. Freedom allowed 385 points, most in the conference and second to only West Shamokin, an average of 42 points per game. That number has to change drastically if the Bulldogs look to get back into the MAC playoff battles.
Senior Brandon Heckman was named first team all-conference last season at outside linebacker, he will also start on the offensive line.
Senior quarterback Forrest Petcovic returns for the Bulldogs, along with a main target in senior Sam Beckey. Another senior, Allen-Michel Conforti will be in the backfield.
Freedom last made the post-season in 2003. The Bulldogs are led again by Frank Hernandez.
The Warriors suffered from a rash of injuries last season, forcing many freshman and sophomores into the lineup ahead of their time. Mohawk has lost 14 consecutive games and scored only 61 points all season, second lowest of any team in Class AA, behind West Shamokin.
Junior Shane McFarland will take over at running back, he was forced into duty last season due to injuries. Also pressed into duty last season was junior quarterback Gio Menichino, he will get the call full time in 2012.
A player to watch this season for the Warriors is junior tight end Travis Giardina, he started both ways last season and has bulked up his fram to prepare for the upcoming season.
Mohawk last made the playoffs in 2004, but that came as a member of the defunct Tri-County North. Joe Lamenza is in his second season at the helm in Bessemer.
NEW BRIGHTON LIONS:
The Lions made great strides in 2011 under head coach Joe Greco, who returned for his second stint at Oak Hill Field. While the Lions finished 3-6 overall and 2-6 in the MAC, they were competitive throughout the season, including a wild 54-40 home loss to Ellwood City in week 2.
The Lions last made the playoffs in 2001 with Greco as head coach. That is the longest streak of missing the post-season in the conference.
Running back Kellen Mackey made a huge impression in 2011, he was named first team all-MAC as a sophomore. Senior tight end Travis Strobel was honorable mention.
Senior Zach Mooney will help to anchor the offensive line.
The Panthers missed the post season by one game in 2011, finishing 5-4 overall and 4-4 in the MAC. However there are those in the North Sewickley and Franklin Township areas that consider the season a success.
Why, you may ask, it's because the Panthers won the Backyard Brawl against playoff bound Ellwood City 14-7 at Memorial Field in the final game of the regular season.
The Panthers had an interesting stat from last season in MAC play, they scored 168 points, they also allowed 168 points in conference play.
Riverside has not made the playoffs since 2007, that also came as a member of the Tri-County North. Head coach Tom Liberty returns for his second season at Riverside.
Senior quarterback Devin Kelosky will return to run the offense. Senior tight end Gig Jewell also returns as does senior wide receiver/running back Bob Gould. Senior Fred Phlugh will anchor the offensive line.
MSA Sports Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Aliquippa Quips
2. Beaver Bobcats
3. Beaver Falls Tigers
4. Riverside Panthers
5. New Brighton Lions
6. Ellwood City Wolverines
7. Freedom Bulldogs
8. Mohawk Warriors