Who’s in? Who’s out? Breaking down the WPIAL football playoff possibilities
Chartiers-Houston and players Miles Williamson (19) and Mike Cushma will be headed to the WPIAL Class A football playoffs if the Bucs can defeat Fort Cherry Friday night and get some help from Black Hills Conference rival California.
Mark Marietta / For the Observer-Reporter
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With one week of high school football games to be played, much remains to be decided in the playoff races around the WPIAL. Usually, at this time of year, the questions being asked revolve around top seeds, who plays home games on grass, what happens if this team wins and, of course, how the dreaded Gardner Point system works.
For the first time in recent memory, that last part likely will not be a part of the qualification process. Not that the complicated points system isn’t listed among the criteria, it just doesn’t appear to be needed this time. With the recent passing of former Chartiers-Houston and Washington head coach Don Clendaniel a few weeks ago, it might be fitting that no team will be subjected to the twisted machinations of that system this year.
One question that remains unanswered is: What happens to the Washington High School football team? The Little Prexies had locked up a playoff berth and the rights to host the opening-round contest when it was found that a player on the team was in his fifth year of high school, a semester in excess of the PIAA eight-term limit. While the WPIAL granted a measure of relief for the player, granting additional eligibility, the student’s participation in advance of that decision has caused the team to forfeit those games.
Those wins, which are now losses, leave Washington outside of the playoff picture. However, the school is appealing to the PIAA the effective date of the additional eligibility, hoping that it will be retroactive to the start of the season, saving the wins and putting the Little Prexies back into the playoffs and on the field Nov. 1. The synopsis of possibilities will include both scenarios for the Class AA Interstate Conference.
Just to recap the WPIAL playoff system for football:
Conference record, head-to-head matchups, Gardner Points and the WPIAL tiebreaker system are used, in that order, to determine order of finish. Head-to-head is used whenever possibleto break a tie. In Class AA and Class A, the top four teams in each of the four conferences qualify with the top two in each hosting first-round games. In Class AAAA and AAA, the top five teams in each of the three conferences qualify along with one Wild Card team, the “best” sixth-place finisher. Again, the top two teams in each conference host first-round games along with the two “best” third-place finishers. In Quad-A, non-section games will be used in the calculation of the Wild Card team and hosting rights. In Triple-A, only the original criteria are used unless there is a tie involving teams from all three sections that met head-to-head.
Games listed are those impacting the playoffs. Records listed are conference games only except where noted. WPIAL tiebreaker points are listed where applicable. Let’s get started.
Southeastern – Woodland Hills (6-1) at Penn Hills (4-3), Baldwin (3-4) at Bethel Park (5-2), Upper St. Clair (7-0) at Mt. Lebanon (3-4), Canon-McMillan (1-6) at Peters Township (3-4). Upper St. Clair is first, Woodland Hills second, Bethel Park third. Penn Hills is in, fourth with a win or with Baldwin and Peters Township wins, or with a Mt. Lebanon loss. Baldwin is in with a win, fifth with a win and a Peters Township loss. Peters Township is fifth with a win, in with a loss by Baldwin or Mt. Lebanon. The Blue Devils are in with a win plus Baldwin or Peters Township losses, fifth if both lose.
Foothills – McKeesport (7-0) at Gateway (6-1) Thursday, Hempfield (5-2) at Penn-Trafford (5-2), Latrobe (1-6) at Kiski (4-3). McKeesport/Gateway winner is first. McKeesport is second even with a loss. Gateway is second with a loss if Penn-Trafford loses, third if the Warriors win. Hempfield is third with a win, second if McKeesport also wins, fourth with a loss plus a Kiski win. Kiski is fourth with win plus Hempfield win, otherwise fifth.
Northern Eight – North Allegheny (4-2) at North Hills (4-2). Central Catholic is first, Seneca Valley second. North Allegheny/North Hills winner is third, loser fourth. Pine-Richland is fifth.
The Wild Card will come from the Southeastern Conference because of overall record. Both Baldwin (4-4) and Peters Township (4-4) already have four wins. No possible sixth-place finisher in either the Foothills or Northern Eight can finish with that many.
Quad-A first-round home games will go to two of the third-place finishers. If Gateway (7-1) or Hempfield (6-2) finish third in the Foothills, they’ll have one of those spots, having won seven games. Penn-Trafford (+10), Bethel Park (+12) and the North Hills (+17)/North Allegheny (+18) winner could also be involved in the race, possibly needing the above tiebreaker points to decide. North Hills holds a head-to-head win over Penn-Trafford.
Big Nine – Thomas Jefferson (7-0) at West Mifflin (7-0), Ringgold (5-2) at Trinity (1-6), Albert Gallatin (1-6) at Belle Vernon (3-4). Thomas Jefferson/West Mifflin winner is first, loser second. Ringgold is third, Elizabeth-Forward fourth and Belle Vernon fifth.
Greater Allegheny – Franklin Regional (6-1, +47, head-to-head over Mars) at Derry (0-7), Hampton (3-4) at Mars (6-1, +53, head-to-head over Highlands), Highlands (6-1, +47, head-to-head over Franklin Regional) at Knoch (2-5), Indiana (3-4) at Hollidaysburg (3-4). Franklin Regional, Mars and Highlands have clinched. Head-to-head and tiebreaker points likely will determine final order of finish. Hollidaysburg (-11)/Indiana (-4) winner is fourth. Hollidaysburg also clinches a berth with a Mars win. Hampton (-4) is fifth with a win, or with a Hollidaysburg win, and also would be alive in the Wild Card race.
Parkway – Montour (4-3) at Moon (4-3), Ambridge (2-5) at Blackhawk (2-5). West Allegheny is first, Central Valley second and New Castle third. Montour/Moon winner is fourth, loser fifth. Ambridge (-27)/Blackhawk (-22) winner is alive in the Wild Card race.
The Triple-A Wild Card will be either the Blackhawk/Ambridge winner or the Greater Allegheny sixth-place finisher.
Triple-A first-round home games will go to two of the third-place finishers. If all three Greater Allegheny leaders win, the third-place finisher takes one of them because of a 7-1 conference record. Ringgold (+30) claims the other spot with a win. New Castle (+19) needs a win, a Ringgold loss and make up the 11-point differential in the tiebreaker points.
Century – Seton-La Salle (5-2) at South Park (5-2). South Fayette is first, Quaker Valley second. Seton-La Salle/South Park winner is third, loser fourth.
Interstate (without Washington) – Jeannette (5-2) at Greensburg Central Catholic (5-2, +4), Southmoreland (4-3, -7) at Yough (5-2, +12). Mount Pleasant is first. Greensburg Central and Jeannette have clinched. Jeannette is second with a win. GCC is second with a win plus a Southmoreland win. Yough clinches with a win, second if GCC also wins. Southmoreland is fourth with a win of 10 points or more, or with any win plus a GCC win. If Jeannette and Southmoreland win, tie-breaker points will determine third and fourth between GCC, Yough and Southmoreland.
Interstate (with Washington) – Jeannette (4-3) at Greensburg Central Catholic (4-3), Southmoreland (3-4) at Yough (4-3). Mount Pleasant is first, Washington second. Yough clinches with a win, third if Greensburg Central also wins. GCC/Jeannette winner clinches, Jeannette is third with a win. Jeannette also clinches with Yough loss. GCC is third with win plus a Yough loss.
Allegheny – Kittanning (7-0) at Shady Side Academy (7-0), Ford City (2-5) at Valley (4-3), Freeport (2-5) at Summit Academy (4-3). Kittanning/Shady Side Academy winner is first, loser second. Summit, gaining its first-ever WPIAL playoff berth, is third with a win or a Valley loss. Valley is third with a win plus a Summit loss, otherwise fourth.
Midwestern – Aliquippa (6-0) at Beaver (6-1, +15, head-to-head over Mohawk), New Brighton (4-2, +18, head-to-head over Beaver) at Mohawk (3-3, -7) Saturday night. Aliquippa is first, Beaver Falls second. New Brighton is third with win. Mohawk is fourth with a win plus a Beaver win, or with a win plus a Beaver loss that leaves the Bobcats with enough tiebreaker points to take third. Beaver has clinched, takes third with win plus a Mohawk win, or with loss coupled with Mohawk win that enables the Bobcats to win points tiebreaker with New Brighton. If Beaver loses by 8 or more points, Mohawk is eliminated.
Black Hills – Brentwood (4-3, +20) at California (3-4, 0), Chartiers-Houston (4-3, +6) at Fort Cherry (6-1, +52, head-to-head over Monessen), Carlynton (2-5) at Monessen (6-1, +50, head-to-head over Clairton). Fort Cherry, Monessen and Clairton (7-1, +58, head-to-head over Fort Cherry) have clinched. Head-to-head and tiebreaker points are likely to determine final order of finish. Fort Cherry clinches first with win of 7 points or more. Monessen clinches first with a win plus a Chartiers-Houston win, or by making up 2-point deficit in tiebreaker points with Fort Cherry. Clairton is first if Monessen loses, or both Monessen and Fort Cherry fail to catch the Bears in points. Brentwood is fourth with a win, or with a loss of less than 9 points plus a Chartiers-Houston loss. Chartiers-Houston is fourth with a win plus a California victory. California is fourth with a win of 10 points or more plus a Chartiers-Houston loss.
Tri-County South – Bentworth (1-6) at Avella (4-3), Frazier (5-2) at Mapletown (4-3). Beth-Center is first, Carmichaels second. Frazier has clinched and is third with a win, or with an Avella win, but is fourth with a loss to Mapletown. Avella is fourth with a win, or with a Frazier win. Mapletown is third with a win plus an Avella loss.
Eastern – West Shamokin (5-2) at Apollo-Ridge (5-2). North Catholic is first, Avonworth second. West Shamokin/Apollo-Ridge winner is third, loser fourth. West Shamokin has clinched its first WPIAL playoff berth.
Big 7 – Sto-Rox is first, Neshannock second, Laurel third and Westen Beaver fourth.
Bob Gregg is sports director of WJPA Radio.