A clash of stars, a clash of contrasting styles, and a clash of Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia will be featured this weekend in the PIAA state football championships at HersheyPark Stadium.MaxPreps' Pennsylvania football playoff brackets
Every game promises something, beginning with the Class A and Class AAA title games on Friday, followed by the Class AA and Class AAAA championship games on Saturday.
Three Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) teams from Pittsburgh are in: North Allegheny (Wexford)
(Class AAAA), South Fayette (McDonald)
(AA), and Clairton
Both Clairton and La Salle College (Wyndmoor)
(AAAA) are returning state champions.
La Salle, from the Philadelphia Catholic League, will be looking to make more history in becoming the first two-time state champion from the Philadelphia Catholic League, while West Catholic (Philadelphia)
, another Philadelphia Catholic League representative, will look to win its first state title in its second trip in three years to the state finals.
The stars will be out, too.
Allentown Central Catholic junior quarterback Brendan Nosovitch
could be the biggest. He was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year with good reason, becoming the first player in Pennsylvania history to throw for more than 2,000 yards and run for more than 1,000 two years in a row.
Nosovitch will be opposed by quite possibly the best tailback in the state, the
Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg)
Pittsburgh-bound Jameel Poteat
in the Class AAA title game.Video of Jameel Poteat
Another gleaming light is South Fayette senior quarterback Christian Brumbaugh
, who has almost every major WPIAL passing record there is.
Then there are the subplots: Can La Salle's vaunted offense move the ball against North Allegheny's stingy defense in the Class AAAA title game? What will McDevitt do to stop Nosovitch in the Class AAA championship? Can anyone stop Brumbaugh, and how will South Fayette combat West Catholic's speed in the Class AA title game? Can Riverside break Clairton's 30-game winning streak in the Class A final?
Here's a breakdown and times of each of the games:CLASS AAAALa Salle (13-1) vs. North Allegheny (14-1), 5 p.m. Saturday
La Salle, the defending PIAA Class AAAA state champion, is coming off a classic where there were seven lead changes before the Explorers finally prevailed, 38-35, over rugged North Penn in the Eastern finals.
La Salle tailback Jamal Abdur-Rahman
is a serious threat. He rushed for a game-high 142 yards on 21 carries, as the Explorers scored more pounts on North Penn than any team this season. The 35 points scored against the Explorers was also the most they've given up in a game this year — and it came particularly from the pass.
This game marks the first time North Allegheny's been in the state championship since 1990, when the Tigers beat Ridley in the state finals. The Tigers had a relatively easy time with Cumberland Valley in the Western finals, winning 35-17. North Allegheny features a stubborn defense, which held Cumberland Valley, a team that averaged 260 yards rushing a game, to a scant five yards in the Western final.
Another key for the Tigers is the return of Matt Steinbeck
, who had been plagued for a month by an ankle injury, before returning to rush for 161 yards against Cumberland Valley.
This game will come down to what team can stop the run. Adbur-Rahman is a slick, speedy back who can dart through traffic, while Steinbeck coupled with sophomore Alex Deciantis
, who scored three times and ran for 98 yards against Cumberland Valley, could be the best one-two tandem La Salle has seen this season. And with North Allegheny there is no mystery. The Tigers are running—and they're going to try to run it down your throat. Is La Salle physical enough to stop it?CLASS AAAAllentown Central Catholic (15-0) vs. Bishop McDevitt (13-2), 7 p.m. Friday
This could be the best game of the weekend. It pits two of the best players — if not, the two best players — in the state opposing each other: McDevitt senior tailback Jameel Poteat, who's bound for Pittsburgh, and Allentown Central Catholic junior phenom quarterback Brendan Nosovitch.
Poteat ran for 110 yards on 29 carries, including scoring the game-winning touchdown, in the Crusaders' come-from-behind 24-21 victory over Erie Cathedral Prep in the Western final. McDevitt climbed out of a 21-3 halftime hole to win, led by senior quarterback Matt Johnson
, who threw for 211 yards in the comeback, with no play more important than Johnson's 28-yard run on a fake punt that chewed up valuable time and helped preserve McDevitt's victory.
The Crusaders, however, haven't faced anyone this season like the 6-3, 190-pound Nosovitch. He blistered previously unbeaten Archbishop Wood, which some were touting as possibly the best team in the state, for 417 yards passing and 184 yards for a incredible 601 yards of total offense.
Wood tacklers bounced off Nosovitch like pellets hitting a tank. He was 17-for-28 passing against Wood, tossing five touchdowns, and to top that off ran for two more scores in Allentown Central Catholic's 49-27 Eastern final victory.
Over the Vikings' last nine games, they're averaging 48.1 points a game, and in the PIAA playoffs, they're scoring an average of 52.6 points a game. The hub is Nosovitch, who's scored 16 touchdowns and amassed 1,103 total yards (353 yards rushing, 750 yards passing) by himself in three playoff games, averaging 367.6 yards of total offense per game.CLASS AAWest Catholic (12-2) vs. South Fayette (15-0), 12-noon Saturday
This should be a fun, explosive game between two teams that can score from anywhere on the field. For West Catholic, playing in the PIAA Class AA state finals for the second time in three years, it's simple: Stop South Fayette all-everything quarterback Christian Brumbaugh. For South Fayette, it means curtailing West Catholic tailback Brandon Hollomon.
Neither task will be easy.
Brumbaugh threw six touchdowns and completed 21 of 31 passes for 362 yards in South Fayette's 49-12 destruction of Forest Hills in the Western finals last week. Committed to William & Mary, though he seems to have the ability to play anywhere he wants to in the country, Brumbaugh owns almost every major WPIAL passing record there is.
His 7,054 career passing yards tops the WPIAL, as does his 3,617 yards passing this season — another WPIAL mark for yards thrown in a season. His six touchdowns established a state record for touchdown passes in a game and he's tied the state record for single-season touchdown passes with 50.
As for South Fayette, the Lions have mercy-ruled (which means a running clock in the second half when an opponent holds a 35-point lead or better) five of their six postseason opponents.
West Catholic enters the game off a 21-7 Eastern finals victory over Lewisburg. Holloman rushed for 208 yards and a touchdown.
West Catholic has blazing speed at a number of positions, and the Burrs also possess a gaping chip on their collective shoulders from a number of seniors that played as sophomores two years ago in the Burrs' 35-34 state final loss to Wilmington in 2008.
Keeping Brumbaugh off the field will be a priority. He's been almost impossible stop, and he spreads the ball around.Class ARiverside (Taylor) (14-1) vs. Clairton (15-0), 2 p.m. Friday
Riverside's Skylar Lavage
has big-play capability, but that may not be enough in what seems like waves of talent for undefeated and defending state champion Clairton.
The Bears rolled over Farrell, 48-8, in the Western finals to reach the state title game for the third-straight year. Clairton, led by quarterback Desmion Green
, senior receiver Josh Page, junior Trent Coles, and sophomore running backs Karvonn Coles and Tyler Boyd, is averaging 47.3 points a game while giving up a mere 2.2.
Riverside quarterback Corey Talerico
, running back Nick Rossi
and Lavage will be faced with a formidable task.
Riverside's defense did a solid job in its 34-20 Eastern finals victory over Bishop Carroll, holding Carroll's Ryan Woo, a 2,000-yard rusher, to 84 yards on 23 carries — and just 37 yards rushing over the first three quarters.Joseph Santoliquito can be contacted at JSantoliquito@yahoo.com