Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fall memories part II

And here we are, the top five, the best sports moments from the recently concluded fall season:

5. Peters Township girls tennis rules Hershey: Whether it was winning PIAA Class AAA doubles or team titles, the Indians had a pretty sweet end to the season, especially Sara Komer, the team's No. 1 player. Komer teamed with Abby Cummings to win WPIAL and PIAA doubles titles -- she did both last year alongside Stephanie Smith, who decided not to play high school tennis this fall -- while also battling through a hamstring injury to anchor the team. Peters Township won a second consecutive team crown with a 3-0 victory over Unionville, the Indians' third in the past four years.

4. Evolution of Brett Brumbaugh: South Fayette's sophomore quarterback went from surprise freshman starter in 2011 to the WPIAL's top passer this season. He completed 154 of 245 passes (63 percent) for 2,823 yards and 37 touchdowns against only nine interceptions and three sacks. Watch South Fayette, and you can tell that Brumbaugh doesn't have it easy; often he'll cycle through three or four reads before finding his guy. Should be really interesting to watch him develop even more over the next two years. He does lose top WR Zach Challingsworth, a Pitt recruit who caught 58 passes for 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns, but Conner Beck (29-457-4TD) and Justin Watson (28-592-8TD) both return.

3. Canon-Mac TOTALLY REDEEMS itself: Catch the Dumb & Dumber reference? Had Mighty Ducks yesterday, another classic today. Anyhow, Canon-Mac boys soccer was the third-place team in Section 5-AAA during the regular season and went 0-4 against Peters Township and Upper St. Clair. But the Big Macs, who lost each of those games by one goal, upset its two biggest rivals en route to the school's first-ever WPIAL Class AAA title for boys soccer ... as a No. 13 seed, no less. The Big Macs also beat Peters Township in the first round of the state playoffs before losing to Upper St. Clair, finishing the year at 19-5. Think head coach Larry Fingers might've started something? Big-time interested in soccer at C-M these days.

2. Wash High football is back: The Prexies went 8-3 in 2011 and nudged their way into the upper echelon of Class AA, but behind Shai McKenzie, Wash High blew past pretty much everyone that's not Aliquippa. Much excitement was generated with a run to the WPIAL Class AA championship, and there's plenty of reason to already look toward next year with McKenzie, who finished with 232 carries for 2,689 yards and 41 touchdowns, coming back. He also has a choice of NCAA Division I schools coming up for the recruiting season. Wash High football is competing for WPIAL titles again, and one would think No. 7 isn't all that far away.

1. Third time is a charm for PT: Not that Nos. 1 and 2 stunk, but the Peters Township girls soccer team claimed its third consecutive PIAA Class AAA title by beating a team -- Cumberland Valley -- that ruined the Indians' perfect season, handing them a 3-2 loss in late September. Emily Franty scored off a feed from Olivia Roberson to beat CV, 1-0, the next time around. Roberson, who had 37 goals, will be at Duquesne next fall, one several seniors the Indians lose. But University of Virginia recruit Veronica Latsko, who scored 36 goals this season to give her 107 in three years, will be back next season. Still plenty of reason to be excitement about the area's most consistently dominant program.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Some fall sports season memories

Guess it's that time of the year, the time when your blog goes dead, your byline disappears and you're spending all your time researching, calling, etc. for season wrap-up and season preview stuff. Thanks, in a word, for actually stopping by. Been a little quiet here lately.

I did want to take a minute to reflect on the top 10 stories, in my opinion, to come out of the fall sports season. Would love to hear what y'all think, and please weight in with your thoughts by leaving a comment or e-mailing me at jmackey@observer-reporter.com.

So, without further delay. Here we go, counting backwards:

10. South Fayette boys soccer: No titles, I know. But the Lions scored what was perhaps the biggest upset of the fall playoffs by knocking off No. 1 seed South Park on penalty kicks in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals. In PKs, Lions coach Rob Eldridge pulled goalkeeper Alex Gedrys in favor of Andrew Pine ... sort of like Gordan Bombay pulling Goldberg in favor of Julie "The Cat" Gafney to beat Iceland at the end of D2. (Always up for a good Mighty Ducks reference)

9. So close ... yet again: Tom Nettles, a senior on the Peters Township golf team, finished second at the PIAA Class AAA championships for a second consecutive year. He did improve three strokes to shoot a 74-70-144 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, but he missed out on PIAA gold by one stroke ... yet again. Hard to not root for Nettles. Easily one of the most polite kids I've dealt with, and I'm sure he'll be just fine at D-I Campbell University in North Carolina.

8. Hello, Yvon: Canon-McMillan junior tennis player Yvon Martinez moved to Washington County from Columbia, South America this past summer and proceeded to win the Section 5-AAA singles title. She also reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing I'll be writing about Martinez a lot come next season.

7. Avella football: The good side was a 5-0 start and a New York Times story detailing the town's love affair with its winning football team. The bad was a three-game losing streak that knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs. Avella does, however, bring back almost every one of its skill players. Maybe next year will be the year Avella can snap its postseason drought, which dates back to 1976.

6. Take that, Mom: Ringgold cross country runner Kirsten McMichael had a busy couple of weeks. After winning a Mingo Classic title, McMichael set the Mingo course record, which was previously held by her Mom, Jennifer Lejeune-McMichael, en route to claiming the county championship. Jennifer, who's Ringgold's cross country coach, was there to see it ... and obviously became emotional.

Check back tomorrow for the top five.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Links, more Wash High/Aliquippa

A few thoughts from yesterday's WPIAL Class AA championship game at Heinz Field:

***Aliquippa is good. Like really good. Yes, I know 34-7 doesn't exactly constitute a nail-biter -- unless you're me -- but this is a team that might win a Class AAAA title. Seriously. Numbers-wise, it's all there. First downs: 26-5. Yards: 543-114. Rushing yards: 505-91.

Aliquippa, which won its 15th WPIAL title, came in averaging 39.8 yards per game on the ground, 36.8 through the air. We think Wash High, which had run for a WPIAL-best 4,249 yards in 12 games (354.1 per) coming in, got shut down. But the Prexies actually more than doubled what the Quips typically allow and still got beat by 27.

***Booze. I was amazing at the amount of alcohol present at Heinz Field yesterday. Saddened, really. Beer cans strewn all over the parking lot. Bottles of liquor. I get tailgating for college/pro games. And not trying to get on a soap box/high horse. But this is high school football. Is alcohol really necessary? What kind of example are you setting? And don't tell me it's the kids; I'm not naive enough to think that sort of thing doesn't happen, but I have a tough time seeing high school kids doing it so flagrantly.

***Speaking of things that were unsightly yesterday, did anyone notice the bands that took the field? Probably not, considering they weren't allowed. High school marching bands had to play their halftime shows from the sideline. This kills me.

Coming from someone who was in the band -- though not during football, as our high school allowed both -- why take this opportunity away from these kids? They go to band camp. They practice, in many cases, every day. They learn routines and often memorize music. They give up Friday nights as fans, in this case 13 of 'em, to indulge this hobby. Let 'em do their thing.

Is it because we're afraid it might damage the playing surface? Have you looked at that thing lately? Right. Easily a tuba player away from having the best surface in the NFL or NCAA. Just imagine, if a few trumpet players stepped on the 40-yard line, there'd no doubt be a five-foot hole that someone could fall into.

***Here are some links to the O-R's coverage from yesterday's game: My game story; Chris Dugan's column, applauding Wash High for the great run; and the notebook, which touches on Shai McKenzie's pursuit of the WPIAL single-season record, some weather issues and a funny quote from Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More on PT's win over Wilson

Just got back from Chambersburg and my battle with Route 30 (long, dark and windy) and China One (food badly undercooked).

Heck of a game tonight for the Peters Township girls soccer team, which delivered one of its most impressive performances of the season in order to secure a spot in the PIAA Class AAA state final for the third straight year and fourth time in the past five, beating Wilson 5-0.

Had a few extras from the game that I wanted to post here:

>>Wilson was playing without its top two forwards: Jacque Rice, who has a scholarship to Binghamton University, tore her ACL three or four weeks ago, Bulldogs coach Tim Fick said; Ivory Bailey left the game about five minutes into the second half with a calf injury. Together, they had combined for 34 goals.

>>Fick, like many coaches, was extremely impressed with Peters Township's forward combination of Veronica Latsko and Olivia Roberson. Latsko had two goals tonight, Roberson one. Latsko assisted on Roberson's goal in the 13th minute. She later scored on a cross from Emily Franty and on a play where she slithered between a few defenders then beat the keeper. Great goal.

Latsko, as you know, has committed to play at the University of Virginia, Roberson at Duquesne. With tonight's goals, both have 37 on the season, and Latsko has seven this postseason.

"We’ve played against players of that caliber – just not two of them on the field at the same time, which makes it tough," Fick said. "They’re outstanding players."

>>I was sitting in the press box with a few other print reporters, and it was comical to hear them marvel over Latsko, especially after her second goal. This is something that we all take for granted, but it struck me tonight just how lucky we are, to have a player of this caliber here in Western Pennsylvania.

>>Peters Township will play Cumberland Valley for the state title on Saturday in Hershey. I will have a preview of this game and the Indians' quest for a three-peat in Saturday's paper. I'll also, of course, be driving to Hershey to cover it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Leftovers from soccer today

Spent the bulk of my Saturday at Chartiers Valley covering Peters Township girls and Canon-McMillan boys soccer in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.

Peters Township earned a 1-0 victory over Seneca Valley in the early game, the result of an indirect kick from Veronica Latsko that went for a goal in the 15th minute. Canon-Mac saw its magical postseason come to an end.

***From the girls game, what a job by Indians goalkeeper Carly Johns. Megan Parker was supposed to be Peters Township's starting goalkeeper this season, but she's out for the year with a knee injury. Parker has taken on a new position and, while she's not asked to do all that much, has given the Indians a nice presence back there.

"It’s a lot of pressure on someone who has never played that position, but athletically she’s been up for it," Peters coach Pat Vereb said.

(For the record, Vereb did not make any Seinfeld references today, though he did quote Peters boys coach Bob Dyer. So I suppose we'll call it even.)

***How's this for crazy: Canon-Mac (19-5) played a third of its season against Section 5-AAA rivals Peters Township and Upper St. Clair, including four straight to close out the year. Guess that happens when your entire section represents your entire classification in the state playoffs. Hard to believe there was a better section this fall for boys soccer.

***The girls game today was really physical. Several players were bleeding, though not Veronica Latsko, who has an awesome quote that's at the top of my Sunday story.

"I’m not bleeding," Latsko said. "Half the team is though."

***The whole familiarity thing isn't unique to the boys game. Peters Township will be happy to play a few teams from across the state as well, the first being Wilson (near Reading). Guess here is that Tuesday's match will be near Chambersburg, maybe Shippensburg University?

***Lastly, the number of fans Canon-Mac drew to today's game was simply astonishing  Felt and looked like a football game. Seems like all of Canonsburg was there, and it's a point that's certainly not lost on goalkeeper James Hathaway.

"At Canon-Mac, every sports gets decent support," Hathaway said. "But it’s been so nice seeing football-sized crowds at our soccer games finally."

Finally, it's here ...

Wash High and South Fayette was a matchup that most local football fans have dreamed about all season.

It's also the legendary Mike Kovak's favorite local rivalry. (He has already volunteered to help with the coin toss.)

Expect plenty about this excellent Class AA semifinal this week in the Observer-Reporter.

Been working today on some possible story ideas. If there's anything you think we should write about this week, please don't hesitate to send an e-mail to jasonmmackey@gmail.com.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quarterfinals: Stats/plan

This was set to publish this morning, but obviously that didn't happen. Won't try that again.

Only three games this week, so that makes figuring out a coverage plan fairly simple. Here's who will be where on Friday, as well as our weekly statistical leaders:

No. 2 South Fayette/No. 10 Beaver Falls, Moon -- Mackey
Story: SF has ended Beaver Falls' season each of the past two years, and the Lions will try to look more like the 2010 team that won a WPIAL title than the 2011 one that didn't make it past the quarterfinals.

No. 3 Wash High/No. 6 Seton-La Salle, Canon-Mac -- Dugan
Story: SLS has a great run defense; Wash High has Shai McKenzie. Which one will win out when these former Class AA Century Conference rivals meet?

No. 5 Monessen/No. 13 Neshannock, Char-Houston -- Jacobsen
Story: Neshannock is not really a No. 13 seed, and quarterbacks Ernie Burks (Neshannock) and Chavas Rawlins (Monessen) are two of the WPIAL's best. Lots of athletes, lot of speed.

Rushing Leaders
(Att-Yds-TD)
1. Shai McKenzie, Wash 143-2,162-36
2. James Duchi, McG         214-1,514-13
3. Mike Minjock, PT         190-1,323-17
4. Josh Mundell, Carm         133-1,202-20
5. Dustin Conti, J-M         128-1,171-15
6. Demetrius Louis, Ring 103-967-12
7. Patrick Frey, Trin          155-901-10
8. Grant Fetchet, SF          108-847-10
9. Cody Durant, BC          88-764-13
10. Koltan Kobrys, FC         114-752-3

Passing Leaders
(Comp-Att-Yds-TD)
1. Brett Brumbaugh, SF 124-187-2,253-33
2. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 64-151-1,253-12
3. Kaleb Susko, C-H        66-121-966-8
4. Santino Paris, Avella 60-127-962-10
5. Gino Faieta, B-C                 72-129-912-8
6. Cory Owen, PT                39-80-715-2
7. Kevin Ridgley, Map         50-104-714-8
8. Nico Law, Ring                43-89-620-4
9. Matt Heslin, FC                 45-105-582-9
10. Brandon Lawless, Carm 32-66-504-4

Receiving Leaders
(Rec-Yds-TD)
1. Zach Challingsworth, SF   46-952-13
2. Zach Thompson, Avella   28-618-8
3. Justin Watson, SF           23-508-8
4. Clintell Gillespie, Mon   21-497-5
5. Jordan Griffin, Map           28-461-3
6. Nic Santoyo, J-M          15-395-6
7. Anthony Gilpin, B-C          19-393-5
8. Conner Beck, SF                  25-383-2
9. Miles Williamson, C-H 24-357-5
10. Eric Johnson, Char          25-351-1

Scoring Leaders
(TD-XP-FG-Total)
1. Shai McKenzie, Wash 37-10-0-232
2. Josh Mundell, Carm         21-24-0-150
3. Mike Minjock, PT         19-0-0-114
4. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 16-2-0-98
T-5. Nic Santoyo, J-M         15-0-0-90
T-5. Cody Durant, B-C         15-0-0-80
T-5. Zach Challingsworth 15-0-0-90
T-6. Dustin Conti, J-M         14-2-0-84
T-6. Matt Riggle, BC         14-0-0-84
7. Demetrius Louis, Ring 13-4-0-82
8. James Duchi, McG         13-0-0-78
9. Clintell Gillespie, Mon 11-10-0-76
10. Brian Coyne, SF         0-63-4-75

More on South Fayette/Beaver Falls

Again, this was supposed to go up today, but we apparently had some technical issues. Sorry for the lateness and the apparent disappearance.

If you go to Beaver Falls, I'm guessing you don't like South Fayette very much, considering the Lions have ended the Tigers' season each of the past two years.

In 2010, that was a 55-28 win in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals for South Fayette. A year ago South Fayette won, 24-14, in the first round of the playoffs, despite three interceptions from QB Brett Brumbaugh.

I'm hoping this year's game is more like last year's and less like the 27-point win from two years ago, though I don't expect the South Fayette coaches and players to feel similarly.

I talked to South Fayette coach Joe Rossi on Thursday, and he figured the two keys would be stopping the run and getting points when the Lions have the ball. (Magic formula, right? But no, seriously, it's not all boring, coachspeak.)

The Tigers (8-2) rely mostly on a pair of running backs, Damian Rawl (128-987-11) and Robert Bell (115-762-11); last week Rawl and Bell contributed to a 450-yard rushing effort during a 28-14 win over Freeport, with quarterback Dan Stratton contributing two rushing scores. Stratton can throw, too, and has completed 50 percent of his passes for 1,389 yards and 18 TDs.

As for the scoring part, check this out: South Fayette (10-0) ran 31 offensive plays to 70 for Freedom during a 49-13 win last week. Talk about scoring quick.

Quarterback Brett Brumbaugh was just five of 12 for 115 yards, 82 of those coming on a long touchdown -- his only one -- to Justin Watson.

"We can’t have any three-and-outs because we know that’s what teams will try to do to us – keep Brett and the receivers off the field," Rossi said. "We know we’re not going to possess the ball for a long time, but we know, every drive, we need to try and get points out of it."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Some WPIAL playoff numbers

I've never heard a peep about the WPIAL slimming down its playoffs to eight teams per classification -- and nor will I ever champion limiting kids' opportunities to play sports, regardless of which one -- but it's hard to argue that the first round hasn't been competitive of late.

Take a look at last week's results, and you'll find this: 32 games decided by a total of 821 points, an average of 25.65 per contest. Class AA and Class AA were tied at 28.13 points per game, while Class AAA came in at 23.75 and Class AAAA at 22.63.

Overall, three of the games were decided by single digits. They were:

No. 11 Central Catholic 30, No. 6 Penn-Trafford 27
No. 11 Hopewell 14, No. 6 Hampton 6
No. 3 Central Valley 17, No. 14 Belle Vernon 16

Gonna hope the games are close this week, though the statistics don't exactly bear that out. Last year's WPIAL quarterfinals were decided by an average of 16.8 points per game ... 18.5/16.25/15.5/17 splits Class AAAA to Class A.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Video: Canon-Mac boys soccer

The Canon-McMillan boys soccer team has gone from No. 13 seed and a third-place finisher in Section 5-AAA to a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinalist.

There have been plenty of reasons, sure, but one of the biggest has been the play of goalkeeper James Hathaway, who has given up one goal in five playoff matches.

He has also stopped penalty kicks in consecutive games, including one during the Big Macs' 2-0 win over Peters Township in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA Tuesday night at Chartiers Valley.

Here's a video Hathaway talking about the team's latest win.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Final stats needed

Football coaches, stats guys, etc. ... need final stats. Please, if you haven't already, send them to me at jmackey@observer-reporter.com.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Soccer links, Lions WR OK

Hope everybody had an enjoyable Friday and Saturday. Three great soccer games yesterday for local teams. (And an awesome day for me with the plush accommodations at Elizabeth Forward. Man, is that place nice.)

On the boys side, Canon-Mac won its first WPIAL title with a 1-0 victory over reigning champion Upper St. Clair. Love the quote at the end. "It's been a trip." Still makes me laugh. Oh, and the Peters boys made the PIAA tournament, meaning the WPIAL's three participants in the state tournament are all from Section 5-AAA.

The Peters girls secured a dramatic win of their own -- 2-1, in double OT, over Seneca Valley, on a Veronica Latsko header with 27 seconds left. Who else, right? Latsko, as I wrote about, deflected credit for the goal, but this was a good one. Ninety-five percent her.

Lastly, I talked to South Fayette football coach Joe Rossi earlier today, wanting to check on WR Zach Challingsworth before I head out with the wife for a bit.

Challingsworth didn't finish the game Friday, but Rossi told me it was precautionary; he was actually cleared at halftime, yet Rossi feared Freedom players might take a run at Challingsworth and didn't want to get his best player hurt.

Be that as it may, Challingsworth should be out there Friday when South Fayette plays Beaver Falls. (Been hearing the game's at Moon, though the WPIAL hasn't released anything yet.)

Have a good rest of the day, folks, and enjoy the Steelers game.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday soccer preview

I asked Peters Township girls soccer coach Pat Vereb after his team's 3-0 victory over Gateway in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals whether there was anything different about this one, as opposed to the other 18  ... or the four previous trips to the WPIAL finals.

"We treated this game like the marble rye," Vereb said, making a fantastic Seinfeld reference.

But while no one will be stealing bread from the elderly, Vereb did have a point, which he got to later. That point was that playoff soccer is different. And it has meant different things to our two WPIAL finalists, the Peters girls and Canon-McMillan boys.

For the Peters girls, that has meant having teams pack it in against them, essentially shifting their strengths to the defensive end while hoping for a close game and a late goal.

Worked during a 1-0 win over Hampton in the quarterfinals. Not so much against Gateway in the semis.


"Playoff soccer is more win at all costs," Vereb said. "I think teams get a little bit more defensive, hold on and see if they can steal the game at the end."

The Canon-McMillan boys suffered a pair of 1-0 losses to Peters Township  during the regular season, but Big Macs coach Larry Fingers made a few tweaks for Wednesday night's championship match against the Indians.

Fingers changed seven positions total and inserted three new starters into the lineup, though he declined to tell me exactly who was coming and who was going. The result was a 2-1 win behind second-half goals from Jake Wilcox and Ivan Viveros.

The goal, Fingers said, was to put "more hungry players" up top while ensuring there was good distribution in the midfield. Basically, he gambled and traded defense for offense.

"Usually when you play Peters or St. Clair, the big-name teams in the WPIAL, teams tend to ride it out and go for a counter-attack or a win on PKs or whatever," Fingers said. "This year, I made a promise to the kids that we’re not going to lay down for anybody. That we’re going to push, play our game and see what happens.

"I think our guys were nervous playing with so many players on the attack and conceding so much in the back."

We'll see if it works again. Lots of great soccer Saturday, with all of our teams at Elizabeth Forward. The Peters girls will play No. 2 seed Seneca Valley at 4:30 p.m. Seneca Valley is also 19-1 and has won 19 straight after a season-opening loss to Hampton.

The Canon-Mac boys (17-4), meanwhile, will take on No. 2 seed Upper St. Clair at 6:45 p.m. Similar to Peters Township, Canon-Mac suffered a pair of one goal losses to this section rival: 2-1 on 9/11 and 1-0 on 9/29.

The consolation match features the Peters boys playing Pine-Richland with a trip to the PIAA state playoffs on the line. So, yes, it's conceivable that all three PIAA slots could come from Section 5-AAA. See you at EF.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ready for the playoffs?

Gonna jump away from the traditional weekly preview format. In lieu of that, here's a little bit to go along with the capsules that will run in Friday's Observer-Reporter:

No. 15 Peters Township at No. 2 Gateway
Peters Township RB Mike Minjock has 173 carries for 1,150 yards and 15 touchdowns. ... Indians are 4-1 on the road. ... Gateway has won or shared four WPIAL titles, the last in 1986. ... Gators went 8-1 to win Class AAAA Foothills Conference and lost to top-seeded North Allegheny by 11 points in Week 6. ... Peters Township LB Matt Loether has 105 tackles, including four for a loss, to go along with four sacks and three forced fumbles.

No. 12 Trinity at No. 5 Montour
Trinity RB Patrick Frey has 155 carries for 901 yards and 10 touchdowns. ... WR Corey Hunsberger has scored nine touchdowns five different ways. ... Montour WR Devin Wilson is the WPIAL's all-time leading receiving in terms of receptions (222) and yards (3,120). For the season he has 57-922-13TD. ... Spartans went 8-1 and tied Central Valley and West Allegheny atop the Parkway Conference. ... Only loss was a 5-3 defeat at home vs. West Allegheny.

No. 13 Ringgold at No. 4 West Allegheny
Rams earned their first playoff victory since 1999 by knocking off Highlands, 14-10, in the first round last year. ... QB Nico Law didn't finish last week's game against Trinity (undisclosed) but is expected to return. WR/DB Joey Wall, who was treated by medical personnel on-site, is questionable. Also undisclosed. ... WA's Tory Delmonico, Armand Dellovade and Chayse Dillon have combined for  1,648 yards and 19 touchdowns.

No. 14 Shady Side Academy at No. 3 Wash High, at W&J's Cameron Stadium
Prexies went undefeated and won the Interstate Conference, the first perfect regular season and conference crown since 2001. RB Shai McKenzie (127-1,902-30TD) was the WPIAL's No. 1 rusher and broke Brian Davis' single-season school record. ... Watch for backup RB DaRon Whitaker, who has 41 carries for 373 yards and seven touchdowns while spelling McKenzie. ... Shady Side gave up the fewest points per game (13.6) in the Class AA Allegheny Conference.

No. 15 Freedom at No. 2 South Fayette
South Fayette's offensive is one of the WPIAL's best, but its defense hasn't allowed points in four straight weeks or a passing touchdown all season. ... WR Zach Challingsworth has two defensive scores to go along with 46-952-13TD on offense. ... Conner Beck (24-378-2TD) and Justin Watson (21-421-7TD) are also dangerous threats out wide and provide matchup problems for opposing teams. ... Lions closest game was 39 points -- a mercy rule win over No. 6 seed Seton-La Salle.

No. 15 Carmichaels/No. 2 Sto-Rox, at North Hills
Sto-Rox reaches the WPIAL final at Heinz Field last year where it lost to Clairton. ... Carmichaels has won six straight, scoring 50 or more points three times while averaging 47.7 per contest. ... Carmichaels didn't make the playoffs and lost in the first round eight consecutive times before that. ... Vikings have a first-year coach in Dan Bradley, who replaced Ron Butschle. ... Mikes beat Bishop Canevin (42-7) and Fort Cherry (32-0) to reach the WPIAL semifinals in 2002.

No. 4 Jefferson-Morgan/No. 13 Neshannock, at Waynesburg High School
Neshannock is sort of the Avella of the north, the surprise story of the year. The Lancers haven't been in the postseason since 2004, but returned thanks to QB Ernie Burkes, who's 95-153-1,251-14TD and 68-625-11TD rushing. ... J-M is averaging 281 rushing yards per game with first-year coach Liam Ryan's offense. ... J-M was the second seed out of the Tri-County South, with wins over Carmichaels and Frazier. ... Neshannock has a 35-34 win over No. 2 Sto-Rox on its resume.

No. 5 Monessen/No. 12 Apollo-Ridge, at Charleroi
Greyhounds have rolled since a 52-7 loss to Clairton in Week 4, winning four straight, two of those by 30 or more points. ... QB Chavas Rawlins is 53-123-1,085-11TD passing and has also run for nine TDs. Rawlins scored on a long run, a punt return and an INT return last week. ... A-R is in the playoffs for the first time 2007 after going 9-27 the four seasons prior to this one. ... Greyhounds have lost in the first round three of the past six years.

No. 7 Beth-Center/No. 10 Union, at California High School
This is the 10th consecutive year Beth-Center has made the playoffs, though the Bulldogs have lost in the first round five times during that span. ... RB Cody Durant (77-740-12TD) gets the most touches, but RB Matt Riggle and RB Jason Stay also play prominent roles. ... Union is coaches by Stacy Robinson, whose son, Drew, is the team's starting tailback. ... Scotties are in the playoffs for the first time since 2003. ... B-C's only loss was 21-14 to Frazier at home in Week 7.

Stats/plan: First round

Just finished updating our stats and firming up the coverage plan with Chris Dugan. Here's what we're looking at for the first round of the football playoffs, as well as the statistical leaders after the regular season. All games are Friday night at 7:30.

No. 7 Beth-Center vs. No. 10 Union, at California High School -- Mackey
The story: How will the Tri-County South stack up against the rest of Class A?

No. 3 Wash High vs. No. 14 Shady Side Academy, at W&J -- Kevin Jacobsen
The story: RB Shai McKenzie plays his first game on a college field, though chances are the real ones will be a much, much bigger venue.

No. 4 Jefferson-Morgan vs. No. 13 Neshannock, at Waynesburg High School -- Matt Shetler
The story: Don't let the seeds fool you, Neshannock finished tied for first in the Big Seven with Sto-Rox and Neshannock. The Lancers, in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, have beaten second-seeded Sto-Rox.

No. 12 Trinity at No. 5 Montour -- Joe Tuscano
The story: Congrats, Hillers. Back to the playoffs. Your reward? The reigning WPIAL Class AAA champs.

Rushing Leaders
(Att-Yds-TD)
1. Shai McKenzie, Wash 127-1,902-30
2. James Duchi, McG 193-1,185-8
3. Mike Minjock, PT 173-1,150-15
4. Josh Mundell, Carm 106-1,088-19
5. Dustin Conti, J-M 100-1,017-13
6. Patrick Frey, Trin 115-901-10
7. Demetrius Louis, Ring 86-883-11
8. Grant Fetchet, SF 100-758-7
9. Koltan Kobrys, FC 114-752-3
10. Cody Durant, B-C 77-740-12

Passing Leaders
(Comp-Att-Yds-TD)
1. Brett Brumbaugh, SF 119-175-2,138-32
2. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 53-123-1,085-11
3. Kaleb Susko, C-H 66-121-966-8
4. Santino Paris, Avella 60-127-962-10
5. Gino Faieta, B-C 65-115-954-8
6. Kevin Ridgley, Map 50-104-714-8
7. Cory Owen, PT 36-67-690-2
8. Nico Law, Ring 39-81-588-4
9. Matt Heslin, FC 45-105-582-9
10. Brennan Matthews 42-79-501-5

Receiving Leaders
(Rec-Yds-TD)
1. Zach Challingsworth, SF 46-952-13
2. Zach Thompson, Avella 28-618-8
3. Clintell Gillespie, Mon 18-470-5
4. Jordan Griffin, Map 28-461-3
5. Justin Watson, SF 21-421-7
6. Nic Santoyo, J-M 14-397-6
7. Anthony Gilpin, B-C 19-393-5
8. Conner Beck, SF 24-378-2
9. Miles Williamson, C-H 24-357-5
10. Eric Johnson, Char 25-351-1

Scoring Leaders
(TD-XP-FG-Total)
1. Shai McKenzie, Wash 31-8-0-194
2. Josh Mundell, Carm 20-24-0-144
3. Mike Minjock, PT 17-0-0-102
4. Zach Challingsworth, SF 15-0-0-90
T-5. Nic Santoyo, J-M 14-0-0-84
T-5. Cody Durant, B-C 14-0-0-84
T-5. Matt Riggle, B-C 14-0-0-84
T-6. Dustin Conti, J-M 13-2-0-80
T-6. Chavas Rawlins, Mon 13-2-0-80
7. Demetrius Louis, Ring 12-4-0-76
T-8. Brennan McMinn, Carm 10-8-0-68
T-8. Clintell Gillespie, Mon 10-8-0-68
T-8. Brian Coyne, SF 0-56-4-68
9. Jason Stay, B-C 10-4-0-64
10. Zach Thompson, Avella 10-0-0-60