It is the considered opinion of the Big Game Hunting staff that the semi finals produce the best football games of the season on a consistent basis. The bright lights of Heinz Field and the pressure of the championship game often times overwhelm teams. This week produces better games because, it’s the semi’s, you’re rolling, you’re confident and you’re in you’re normal Friday night routine. Four teams in each classification just one trophy to fight for. Tremendous stuff! Let’s start our normal Wednesday routine and go Big Game Hunting!
#3 Upper Saint Clair Panthers (10-1) vs #7 Woodland Hills Wolverines (9-2) Friday November 16th at Baldwin high school @ 7:30 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and KDKA-FM 93.7 The Fan by Lanny Fratarre and Bob Orkwis, also broadcast on The MSA Sports Network, The Woodland Hills Sports Network and WLFP-AM 1150 by Adam Gusky
This is a rematch of a week one game at USC. In that game the Wolverines jumped out to a 12-0 lead then watched as the Panthers scored 31 unanswered points to come away with a 31-12 Southeastern conference win. The general thought that seemed to permeate the post game comments about that one were, that the heat and, the Panthers’ depth at running back and on the offensive line, wore down the Wolverines. I am no meteorologist, but I doubt the heat will be a factor this time.
USC’s only blemish is a week seven road loss to Bethel Park 24-17, a game in which they only allowed three Bethel Park first downs. The Panther’s rolled through the first two rounds outscoring Kiski and Central Catholic by a combined 87-0. Jim Render’s team defense is allowing a second best in AAAA, 7.1 points per game on the season. The shutout of Central in the quarters 38-0 was their fifth of the season.
Offensively the Panthers are led by senior quarterback Pete Coughlin. Coughlin has completed 74 of 100 passing attempts for the year for 1161 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is also the leading rusher for the Panthers with 509 yards and has scored nine touchdowns.
Coughlin spreads the ball around to the USC receivers there are five receivers with at least nine catches but none with more than senior Tim Witenske’s 14 for the year. Mike McGuire has 230 receiving yards to lead the team in that category.
On the ground besides Coughlin the Panthers have some skilled and physical runners. Steve Mackowick, Mac Pope, Phil Saracco and Nick Tancredi lead the charge there. Mackowick has 501 yards and five touchdowns.
The Wolverines have rattled off six straight wins since a 39-36 overtime loss to Mount Lebanon at the Wolvarena dropped them to 3-2. They have a first round win over North Hills 27-7 and in the quarters used great defense to squeak by Gateway 17-14 in a game where neither team managed to score the entire second half.
Senior quarterback Cody McClelland has completed 75 of 171 passes for 1483 yards and 18 touchdowns. His favorite target is senior wide out Tom Greene with 33 catches for 593 yards and Greene has also totaled eight touchdowns on the year.
Freshman running back Miles Sanders is having a great season running the football and he appears to be a future superstar for George Novak’s team. Sanders at 5’11’’ and 163 pounds has garnered 641 yards on 112 carries and scored 11 touchdowns on the year. Sanders though missed the second half of the Wolverines win over Gateway and his status is unknown heading into the semis. If he is unable to go look for a pair of seniors in Alex Beasley and Dequan White to be asked to pick up the slack for George Novak’s team.
This game is a tremendous match up of two head coaches who are living legends. That alone makes it worth the listen this Friday night. The fact that the winner is heading to Heinz Field, just makes it all the better for us.
#1 Thomas Jefferson Jaguars (11-0) vs #4 West Allegheny Indians (10-1) Friday November 16th at Black Hawk Stadium on the campus of Bethel Park high school @ 7:30 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WJPA-FM 95.3 by Mark Uriah and Jason Kern
This is the ultimate “unstoppable force versus immovable object” match of the semi finals.
The top seeded Jaguars have been perfect on the season but they had a tough battle in the quarters. After rolling through the first round thumping the 16 seed, Hollidaysburg 63-19 the Jags got everything they wanted from the eight seed Franklin-Regional in their second round game. TJ Quarterback Joe Carroll tossed three second half touchdown passes as the Jags overcame a 7-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Panthers 24-21.
Carroll has been the focus of the Jaguars offense all season long throwing for 2247 yards and a phenomenal 37 touchdowns on the year. Senior Zach Schademan is Carroll’s favorite target. Schademan is averaging over 20 yards per catch and is up around 1000 yards and 50 catches for the year, and has scored over 20 touchdowns.
Junior running back Jake Farrell is the leading rusher for the Jags. Farrell is averaging nearly seven yards per carry and heading into last week had rushed 108 times for 748 yards and was in double digits with 11 touchdowns.
The Jags defense has been great at getting the ball back for their team with 21 turnovers created on the season including 15 fumble recoveries heading into the quarters. Chase Winovich is their sack master leading the team with seven sacks he has also totaled 50 solo tackles on the year.
Bob Palko’s club has been rolling winning six in a row since a week five loss to Central Valley. They thumped the 13 seed Ringgold in round one 48-7 and last week in the quarter finals they shut down the Montour Spartans for the second time in four weeks knocking off Lou Cerro’s team 14-2.
The Indians are the polar opposite of the Jags, their offense is extremely ground oriented. In fact they are averaging only 66.5 yards per game passing, while grinding out over 230 yards per gameon the ground.
Sophomore Andrew Koester has completed 42 of 94 passes for 701 yards and thrown for four touchdowns.
The ground attack is multi-faceted for West Allegheny. There are four rushers with over 450 yards on the ground. Junior Tory Delmonico leads the charge with 730 yards on 106 carries he is also the team leader in touchdown with 10. Sophomore Chayse Dillon has rushed for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Armonde Dellovade has 618 yards and seven scores on the ground, and senior Nick Halbedl has carried it for six touchdowns and 459 yards.
Dellovade, another sophomore is also the leading tackler for the Indians’ defense with 79 total tackles.
West Allegheny has 20 sacks as a team and their secondary has accumulated eight interceptions on the season.
#1 Aliquippa Quips (11-0) vs #4 Jeannette Jayhawks (10-1) Friday November 16th at Peters Township high school @ 7:30 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WHJB-FM 107.1 by Ralph R. Conde and Jimmy Lee Santorella , also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WMBA-AM 1460 by Bob Barrickman and Kerry Lacey
These two teams have combined for 22 WPIAL championships between them, and this is a rematch of last year’s Championship game won by the Quips 14-7. Since 2003 this will be the fifth post season meeting between the two clubs with the previous four being split 2-2. In 2007 they met in an incredible semi final with Jeannette and Terrell Pryor winning 70-48.
The Quips have been the definition of dominant for the year especially on defense. They are allowing a WPIAL low 3.8 points per game on the season and have recorded five shutouts. They have allowed a team to score more than seven points in a game just once. That “defensive slump” came back in week seven when they shellacked Ellwood City 54-12. Oh and by the way the offense is also posting the top number in the league, scoring 51.6 points per game on the year. They have been held under forty just twice, defeating Ambridge in week one 36-0, and in week nine thumping Beaver 39-7. In the first two rounds of the playoffs they have outscored their opponents, Steel Valley and Mount Pleasant by a combined 98-6. Here is the kicker they are still very young.
The Quips will run the ball and then run the ball, and then later run the ball some more. They have rushed for 3567 yards as a team in 2012 and thrown for 561. To make that a little more stark for you they are averaging passing for 51 yards per game, while rushing for 324.27 yards in that same game. They are led by a pair of juniors on the ground, and by the time this game is over most likely they will both be thousand yard rushers. Dravon Henry is already there with 1054 yards on 100 carries. Terry Swanson is close behind with 960 yards on only 79 carries. The duo has combined for 39 touchdowns.
When they do throw they turn to one of their few seniors in quarterback Malik Shegog who is efficient completing 26 of 47 passes (55%) for 495 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Jayhawks only blemish this season was a three point loss (18-5) to Wash high in week five.
(*Editor’s note: This is the third semi finalist in Big Game Hunting with a week five loss hmmmm? Mid-season blues?)
Since then they have cruised to six straight wins including South Allegheny in round one and Beaver, 47-15 in the quarter finals.
The Jayhawks are very similar to the Quips. They emphasize the run over the pass, and have a pair of fantastic running backs, there is one big difference. Jeannette is much more senior oriented for head coach Roy Hall.
Jeannette does throw it a bit more than Aliquippa, senior quarterback Seth Miller has completed 50 of 107 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. Miller is a dual threat as well rushing for 442 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
The two Jayhawk running backs of major import are Jordan Edmunds and Shavonta Craft. Edmunds has amassed 909 yards on the ground, caught a team high 15 passes and scored 14 touchdowns for the season. Craft has 849 combined rushing and receiving yards and he too has scored 14 touchdowns on the season. Keep your eye on another senior for the Jayhawks in Anthony Canady he has amassed more than 350 all-purpose yards and scored eight touchdowns this season.
#2 Sto-Rox Vikings (10-1) vs #6 North Catholic Trojans (9-2) Friday November 16th at Dormont Stadium @ 7:30 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network by Mike Sackley and Adam Hoerner
The Vikings have won eight straight since their only loss of the season in week three on the road at Neshannock 35-34. They had a very smooth trip to the semi finals rolling the 15 seed Carmichaels 40-7 and the 10 seed Union last week 33-8.
The Rox has a great dual threat at quarterback in junior Lenny Williams. Williams has completed 108 of 187 passes, for an impressive 58% mark, totaling 1947 yards and 24 touchdowns. He is also the leading rusher for the Vikes with 996 yards and 11 touchdowns on 117 attempts. So it is almost certain that after Friday he will be in the books as a thousand yard passer and a thousand yard rusher in the same season. That will put him in some pretty elite company.
Senior wide out Ben Shackelford is the go-to receiver for Williams with 41 catches for 709 yards he has eight touchdowns as does the second leading receiver for the Vikes, sophomore Javelle Kirkland.
Junior Brendon Blair will get a bunch of hand offs as well. He has accumulated 747 yards and 17 touchdowns on 109 carries for the year.
The Trojans losses came to Northgate in week three 21-7 and a non-conference tilt in week eight at Neshannock 42-7. Champions of the Eastern conference they were given the six seed by the committee. They blanked a tough Canevin club 21-0 and then got everyone’s attention with an upset of the three seed Rochester in the quarters 22-15.
North Catholic has a big rising star in sophomore running back P.J. Fulmore who has rushed for 1616 yards and scored 22 touchdowns this year. You will see him lined up in the Wildcat, at the top of the eye, as a split back and as a receiver in the slot.
Same alignment story is true for Ryan Kirby, Adam Sharlow and in short yardage situations Jarred Fragapane for Bob Ravenstahl’s Trojans. They are all very skilled at what they do. It is a very impressive offense with a lot of guys handling the football smoothly and then when it comes time for physicality Fragapane is just a monster. It is tough for anyone to stop him in short yardage situations.
He (Fragapane)and Ryan Long and Devon Howard lead a very solid well-coached defense for North Catholic. Despite what the seeds say it is really the Trojans and not Neshannock that wears Cinderella’s slipper into the semi finals in single A.
Another heads up from the Big Game Hunting gang here, the Trojans are very young, they clearly have things they would like to accomplish for this season but they are already a team that will be firmly on the radar for the 2013 season.