McKeesport (1-1, 1-2) at Penn-Trafford (2-0, 2-1) - Foothills Conference
(Coverage begins at 7:00 P.M., with kickoff at 7:30, on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA; Lanny Frattare and Bob Orkwis have the call.)
Each of these teams stubbed its toe right out of the tunnel, but were able to put a foot down and run their way to Week 3 victories. Essentially this contest comes down to the play of two dual-threat quarterbacks. Akron recruit Ed Stockett marched McKeesport to its first win of 2012 with 96 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries last Friday, and has posted over 500 total all-purpose yards in three outings, with six TD's. Penn-Trafford senior Dorian Stevens scrambled for 77 yards on 11 attempts and accounted for three scores against Altoona, and has totaled 382 all-purpose yards.
McKeesport has another D-1 recruit at linebacker in WVU commit Hodari Christian. Christian told us he believes the Tigers' physical play can wear down the Warriors, while Stevens said his team wants to control this game with its ground attack. Given their propensity to run, whichever team controls the clock and values possessions the most probably has the edge.
Mount Lebanon (2-0, 2-1) at Baldwin (1-2, 1-2) - 7:30 - Southeastern Conference
Although the Blue Devils still have a propensity for out-muscling the opposition, they had better be careful against the Highlanders, who will be eager to host this important game, because Baldwin has proven it can take a punch and punch right back. Senior Dorian Brown leads Quad-A with 560 yards rushing, averaging over ten yards per try, and has racked up six touchdowns. Mount Lebanon has found balance with Mike Melnyk's new-look offense, and senior quarterback Tyler Roth could be a difference-maker after throwing for 538 yards and seven TD's without a pick through three games.
Central Valley (2-1, 2-1) at Blackhawk (1-2, 1-2) - 7:30 - Parkway Conference
The Cougars need to regroup and regain their pride after stumbling against hungry Hopewell in Week 3. Fortunately, it just demonstrates they play in perhaps the least predictable section in the WPIAL, and they have a terrific opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the playoff picture this particular Friday. Like last week's competition, the Warriors must take the big play away from junior quarterback Chandler Kincade, who leads the classification with 706 yards and five TD's against just two INT's on 60% passing. Kincade's counterpart, fellow junior Nate Climo, has given Central Valley a new dimension on offense with his own arm, but primarily, Blackhawk must limit the playmaking ability of tailback Jordan Whitehead and senior D-1 prospect Robert Foster, who has amassed over 300 all-purpose yards and five TD's.
Thomas Jefferson (2-0, 3-0) at Trinity (2-0, 2-1) - 7:30 - Big Nine Conference
The Jaguars, notorious for uniquely stubborn defense, will try to protect their perennial stronghold against a team that seems to have made some big strides defensively in the early stages of the season. The key matchup in this contest will be Trinity's secondary against TJ's senior quarterback, Joe Carroll, who leads the WPIAL with 12 touchdown tosses, having thrown for 587 yards on 61% passing. The Hillers will try to test Thomas Jefferson's front with the running of junior Patrick Frey, who has gained 335 rushing yards, averaging six per carry, and scored three times.
Beaver Falls (2-0, 3-0) at Beaver (3-0, 3-0) - 7:30 Saturday - Midwestern Conference
This homecoming game will determine which team stands the best chance of taking home at least a portion of the MAC crown, as defending district champion Aliquippa has yet to step off the gas. Boasting one of the better lines in Class AA, the Tigers threaten to step all over Beaver with a powerful running game that features senior Rob Bell and juniors Marcus Cleckley and Damian Rawl, who have combined for 573 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Bobcats might have been caught napping against Freedom in Week 3, but they'll be out to rudely awaken BF with their own old-school running attack, led by seniors Anthony Fidurski and Darian "Bubba" Bradley, who ranks second in the WPIAL with ten TD's. This game comes down to which defense keeps its poise longest, and which quarterback--Dan Stratton of BF or Alex Rowse of Beaver--can best mix in the pass to set up the run.
Shady Side Academy (3-0, 3-0) at Burrell (2-0, 3-0) - 7:30 - Allegheny Conference
Three weeks into the season this conference is as crowded as we anticipated, but now both these squads have a chance to create some separation Friday night. The story of this one will be attrition and team defense; the Indians have allowed just 19 total points, and the Buccaneers 35. Senior all-conference, all-purpose back Cole Bush, who is tied with second in the WPIAL with ten touchdowns and has racked up 623 yards, will lead the charge for Burrell. Bush, by the way, has averaged nearly ten yards per attempt. Shady Side will counter with a balanced running game that includes senior Jared Brevard, who has scored five times and run for 254 yards, averaging seven per carry.
Imani Christian (2-1, 2-1) at Chartiers-Houston (1-2, 1-2) - 7:30 - Black Hills Conference
We already know Clairton has extended its historic winning streak to 51, so we'll focus on the other story arc in this conference, which involves the newcomers. The Saints are shaping up to be a player in this playoff race, led by senior quarterback Khari Hicks. He has thrown for 599 yards on 72% passing to rank second in the classification, and has contributed four touchdowns in the air, along with 127 yards and one TD on the ground, and will draw more college attention if he simply keeps trending upward. The Buccaneers, in contrast, have put team toughness ahead of finesse, and will rely upon senior QB Kaleb Susko, who has thrown for 344 yards and two TD's on 62% passing, to set up their steady, diverse running game.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (1-2, 1-2) at Sto-Rox (2-1, 2-1) - 7:00 - Big Seven Conference
We still think highly of the Chargers, who certainly have not gotten off to the start they envisioned, and the Vikings, despite last week's heart-breaker against Neshannock, are still very much a factor in the conference title chase. This game will highlight two of the premier individual talents in the WPIAL, and will feature a lot of intensity, as OLSH can't afford to fall too far behind. Senior running back Isaiah Neely ranks third in the classification with 502 yards rushing, and has scored six touchdowns while averaging over eight yards per carry. Sto-Rox needs to negate him and get more big plays from junior quarterback Lenny Williams, who became the fifth QB from his school to throw for 4,000 career yards last week. He ranks in the WPIAL top five with 669 yards in the air on 65% passing to go with six TD's.
"Mr. High School Sports" picks: Sto-Rox, Imani Christian, Beaver Falls, Shady Side Academy, Central Valley, Thomas Jefferson, Mount Lebanon, Penn-Trafford.
For more WPIAL football content, check out the "Mr. High School Sports" blog, and visit brother website KDKA.com after tonight's games to see how your team fared.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)
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