Big Game Hunting – WPIAL Championships

We’re here! Don’t worry about the back seat we will clean the car out later. Three teams that have never been out of the top spot in their classification get set to defend their WPIAL Championships Friday at Heinz Field. Friday is not just a great day, it caps easiest week of the year for the Big Game Hunting staff. Make sure you stop by and say hello to the MSA Sports gang at the party on the patio. We will have games, prizes, giveaways, and a chance to tell us about your team. Without further ado let’s go Big Game Hunting, championship style!

AAAA Championship
#1 North Allegheny Tigers (12-0) vs #7 Woodland Hills Wolverines (10-2) Friday November 23rd at Heinz Field @ 2:00 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and KDKA-AM 1020 by Lanny Frattare, Bob Orkwis, Don Rebel, Rick Smith and Brandon Showers, also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and the Woodland Hills Sports Network by Adam Gusky and Fred Guy, also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and the North Allegheny Sports Network by Randy Gore and Rick Meister

Art Walker’s Tigers go for the unprecedented three-peat in AAAA after taking care of Seneca Valley in the semi finals. The Tigers have been number one all season long and have won 29 straight against WPIAL competition. Woodland Hills has been a steadily improving team all season long. Here is how much better they have gotten, in week one; they lost to USC, 31-12. Last Friday in the semis they thumped USC 42-20.

North Allegheny last lost to a WPIAL opponent in week nine of the 2010 season falling to North Hills 21-16. That year they defeated Woodland Hills in the Championship game 21-14. The Tigers have won three WPIAL championships, one in 1990 and back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.

The Tigers have tremendous balance offensively rushing for 213.7 yards per game and throwing for 209.6 yards per game.

Through the air senior quarterback Mack Leftwich has been very solid. Leftwich has completed 117 of 182 passes for 2411 yards and 32 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions.

Senior Gregg Garrity is by far Leftwich’s favorite target 30 more catches than any other player on the team. Garrity has caught 47 catches for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. Zach Lyon, another senior has 17 catches for 408 yards and five scores. Junior Elijah Zeise is third on the team in receptions with 16 but his average yards per catch leads the Tigers at 32.63, he has totaled 522 yards and scored four touchdowns.

On the ground senior Alex DeCiantis leads North Allegheny with 167 carries for 971 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Leftwich chips in big time on the ground as well with 441 yards rushing and he has scored seven touchdowns.

The Tiger defense is allowing a AAAA low 6.8 points per game for the season. Chas Smith, Kevin Edwards and Jeremy Gonzales have combined for 193 tackles splitting them almost evenly with 65 for Smith and Edwards and Gonzales each with 64.

North Allegheny has given teams fits rushing the quarterback. They have 38 sacks on the year led by Gonzales who has 11 of them. They create a bunch of turnovers as well, with nine interceptions and a dozen fumbles recovered on their resume. Brett Neugebauer has three interceptions on the season.

Woodland Hills has won five WPIAL championships, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2009. They have done it all with the only coach in school history George Novak at the helm.

The Cody McClelland to Tom Greene connection has been virtually unstoppable this year. The senior pair has hooked up 38 times for 713 yards and nine touchdowns. McClelland has completed 83 of 184 passes for 1640 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year.

The Wolverines have played the past game and a half without their star running back, freshman Miles Sanders. The Woodland Hills running attack suffers in his absence. DeQuan White and Alex Beasley combined for 20 carries and 49 yards against Upper Saint Clair in the semifinals. Now the Wolverines were able to overcome that as they took advantage of six Panthers’ turnovers. You cannot count on getting that many freebies from the Tigers. Mounting some sort of running attack with Beasley and White, if Sanders is unable to play, is very important for Woodland Hills. The best way to control that Tiger offense is to keep Mack Leftwich and company standing on the sidelines watching you grind out first downs. How the Wooodland Hills offensive line and backs step up to this challenge will be a huge factor in this game.

Keep an eye on Beasley as a beastly linebacker for the Wolverines, he and his teammates have a tremendous nose for the football that paid off with those six turnovers produced in the semi final win over USC. Six might be asking a lot, but a couple against the Tigers could pay big time dividends for Woody High at Heinz Field.

AAA Championship Game
#4 West Allegheny Indians (11-1) vs #7 West Mifflin Titans (11-1)
Friday November 23rd at Heinz Field @ 8:00 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and KDKA-FM 93.7 The Fan by Justin McKim, Mike Krcil, Don Rebel, Mark Schaas, and Dan Zangrilli also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WJPA-FM 95.3 by Mark Uriah and Bob Gregg

This is the best game of the day in the humble opinion of the Big Game Hunting staff. The Indians’ defense has been peaking through the end of the regular season and in the playoffs and West Mifflin’s offense has been unstoppable all season long.

Bob Palko’s West Allegheny club goes in search of their sixth WPIAL championship with crowns coming in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2009. The Indians only loss of the season came back in week five at Central Valley 28-14.

West Mifflin has one WPIAL title back before West Mifflin North merged with West Mifflin South, North won the 1963 AAA crown. The Titans would like they can call their own. Their only loss of the season so far came in week nine at Thomas Jefferson 28-14.

So these two teams have helped each other out West A knocked off the only team to beat West Mifflin when they beat TJ in the semis, and West Mifflin returned the favor knocking out the only team to beat West A when they beat Central Valley in an overtime thriller 36-35 on a Derrick Fulmore quarterback sneak for the two-point conversion and the win Friday night in the other AAA semi final.

They won’t be trying to help each other out Friday night at Heinz Field. This will be a battle of two tremendous rushing attacks and two very athletic and smart defenses.

West Allegheny’s rushing attack is varied and impressive. It starts with a great offensive line that makes holes for a tremendous four-headed monster out of the wildcat formation. Sophomore Chayse Dillon has rushed for a team high 747 yards and nine touchdowns on 96 attempts. Junior Tory Delmonico, who missed the semi finals due to injury, has rushed for 730 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 attempts. The Indians are hopeful he can return for the championship game. Sophomore Armand Dellovade has amassed 678 yards and seven touchdowns on 91 attempts for the year. Their “big package” features Nick Halbedl who has 475 yards and eight scores on 124 carries. Add them together and that is a very impressive 417 carries for 2630 yards 32 touchdowns for the season. They can literally take the game over from a time of possession standpoint because of that. Thereby limiting what even the best opposing offenses can do against their tremendous defense.

They don’t throw a lot, but they can be very effective throwing when teams over commit to defending the run. Sophomore quarterback Andrew Koester has completed 46 of 102 passes for 825 yards and five touchdowns. In the semis he threw a 56 yard touchdown pass to Zach Medved and a 54 yard strike to Dillon that set up another touchdown. 

The Indians’ defense is frankly fantastic. They have in the last month shut down completely a very powerful Montour offense twice and did the same to Thomas Jefferson’s offense last Friday night.

Up front Dustin Windemaker and Jordan Diven are big and fast, their athleticism gives opposing offensive linemen nightmares. The duo has combined for 131 tackles and a dozen sacks on the season.

Halbedl and Dellovade anchor the line backing corps that is as good as you will find in the WPIAL, and the secondary led by Medved and Lewis Walls has 10 interceptions.

The Titans rushing is more concentrated but no less potent. Junior Jimmy Wheeler has been near the top of the WPIAL in rushing yards all season long, he is currently second behind Washington’s Shai McKenzie. Wheeler has rushed for 2144 yards on 276 carries and scored 28 touchdowns for the Titans this year.

The Titans quarterback is a big part of their rushing attack as well, senior Derrick Fulmore has carried it himself 114 times for 910 yards and 17 touchdowns. Fulmore will throw it just enough to keep you honest completing 37 of 72 passes for 731 yards and seven touchdowns. His favorite target is Marcus Martin with 13 catches for 375 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensively the Titans are very stout up front and the secondary is strong as well. Junior Jeff Foreman leads them with three interceptions on the season. They say defenses and running games win championships, in this game they will be correct about that regardless of which team prevails.

AA Championship
#1 Aliquippa Quips (12-0) vs #3 Washington Little Prexies (12-0)
Friday November 23rd at Heinz Field @ 5:00 pm broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and KDKA-AM 1020 by Sam Hall, Steve Nagler, Matt Vandriak, Mike Azadian and Adam Horner also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WKPL-FM 92.1 The Pickle by Rob Matzie and Jim Frederick also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WBVP-AM 1230 and WMBA-AM 1460 by Bob Barrickman and Tom Hays also broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and WJPA-FM 95.3 by Bob Gregg and Mark Uriah

A pair of tremendously storied football teams in WPIAL history meet in the AA championship game, and hey you get your pick of five different radio stations on the Network to make sure you hear the call you are looking for! Aliquippa has won a record 14 championships, and Washington has bunch as well with seven championship footballs in their coffers. The Quips have stood atop the AA ranking all season long and have done nothing in the playoff to incite anyone to question their number one ranking.

This game will feature the number one rusher of the football overall against the number one defense in the WPIAL overall.

The Quips have rolled all-comers this year they have outscored their opponents 52 to 3.5 points per game. Both of those numbers are tops in the entire WPIAL. And probably the most astonishing thing about Aliquippa is their youth. Both their leading rushers are juniors as well as a star wide out and a pair of tight ends and defensive standouts everywhere will be back for Mike Zmijanac next season. But championship number 15 is out there for the taking right now.

The Aliquippa rushing attack is something to behold, a pair of thousand yard rushers behind a very big, very strong, very athletic offensive line. Juniors Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson pack a powerful one-two punch with Henry rushing for 1316 yards, and Swanson 1028 yards, the duo has combined to score 41 touchdowns on the season.

Senior quarterback Malik Shegog runs the powerful offense for Aliquippa. The senior signal-caller has completed 28 of 53 passes for 526 yards and seven touchdowns while only throwing a single pick. Shegog has also rushed for 381 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Hassahn Thompson, Shaquere McBride and Devon Walker are the go-to receivers for Aliquippa.

Yes the Quips rushing game is potent but you cannot talk about potent running games without talking about the top rusher in the WPIAL. The Wash High Prexies junior Shai McKenzie has carried the ball 214 times on the year rushing for a WPIAL high 2656 yards. He has scored 42 touchdowns. He stands 84 yards “Shai” of Rushel Shell’s single season record for rushing yards of 2740. The Prexies have an impressive win in the semis over South Fayette on their resume. McKenzie carried it 41 times in the win. If they are able to get him 41 carries in this game they will have a chance against the Quips.

Quarterback Josh Wise, like Shegog has not thrown it much, why would they? Wise has completed 36 of 63 passes for 575 yards and five touchdowns. He too is a threat to run with nearly 200 yards on the ground. Senior running back Daron Whitaker has had a solid year running for the Prexies as well, rushing for 464 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Prexies have only allowed slightly over 10 points per game defensively for the year. Despite McKenzies amazing season Wash High might have been overlooked by some because of the dominance of Aliquippa and South Fayette through the regular season. Winning their eighth title overall and first since 2001 would change all that in a heartbeat.

Single A Championship
#1 Clairton Bears (12-0) vs #2 Sto-Rox Vikings (11-1) Friday November 23rd at Heinz Field @ 11:00 am broadcast on the MSA Sports Network and KDKA-FM 93.7 The Fan by Paul Paterra, Josh Rowntree, Don Rebel, Matt Vandriak, and Greg Kuntz

The Bears will look to continue their best in the nation current winning streak to 60. If they do so they will also establish a brand new Pennsylvania state record for consecutive wins. Tom Nola’s team is looking for their 5th WPIAL championship in a row, 7th since 2006 and 10th title overall. They have scored 47.1 points per game on the season and allowed just 6.3 points per game. Tyler Boyd their all-everything running back is attempting to break Rushel Shell’s record for touchdowns in a career at 110, Boyd so far has scored 107 career touchdowns. This season he has rushed for 1979 yards on 148 carries and scored 40 touchdowns. He also is one of the top receivers for the Bears with 25 catches on the year.

Senior quarterback Armani Ford has been stellar leading the Bears offense completing an outstanding 63% of his passes at 52 of 82 for 1354 yards, that is an average of over 16.5 yards PER ATTEMPT, for the year. He has thrown for 19 touchdowns, while only throwing five interceptions.

A pair of seniors in Terrish Webb and Titus Howard are formidable challenges outside for opposing secondaries. The duo has combined to catch 38 passes for 937 yards and has scored a total of 16 touchdowns on the season. The Bears defeated the Vikings in the WPIAL championship game last season in dominating fashion.

The Vikings won WPIAL championships in 1966 and 1987 both of those titles came in the AA classification. They lost a lot of division one talent to graduation following last season’s run to the title game and while many folks thought they would be solid this year with Lenny Williams at quarterback I think a lot of people are surprised they are back in Heinz Field.

The Vikes lone loss came at Neshannock in week three 35-34. They closed out the regular season with six straight wins including posting shutouts in their final three games, one of which was against Rochester in week nine to get a piece of the Big Seven title.

They bring a nine game winning streak into this contest, led by one of the best dual threats in the WPIAL. Junior quarterback Lenny Williams does it all for Dan Bradley’s team. Williams has completed 120 of 205 passes for 2131 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 1086 yards and another 13 touchdowns on the year.

Williams favorite target is senior Ben Shackelford who has 49 catches for 864 yards and has scored nine touchdowns on the year.

On the ground the Vikings have gotten solid play from junior running back Brendan Blair who has carried it 116 times for 787 yards and scored a team high 18 touchdowns on the season. Also for the Vikes keep an eye on sophomore Javelle Kirkland he will make some big plays if the Vikings are going to have a chance in this game. Kirkland has 18 catches for 536 yards and has scored eight touchdowns on the season.

Cards on the table, the Vikings go into this game a heavy underdog, not many people give them much of a chance against the Bears. The job Dan Bradley does this week leading up to, and Friday morning at Heinz field convincing his team that they are ready to play with the myth that has become the Clairton Bears will have a lot to say about how this game turns out. It could be a tremendous appetizer to a fabulous day of football at Heinz Field, and on the MSA Sports Network.